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TPW Commission

Commission Meeting, May 22, 2019

Transcript

TPW Commission Meetings

TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION

May 22, 2019

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

COMMISSION MEETING

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Good morning, everyone. I'd like to call our meeting to order May 21, 2019, at 9:06 a.m.

Before we proceed with our business, Carter needs to make his open --

MR. SMITH: I do --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: -- Government Code statement.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, I'm Carter Smith. 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, just want to join you and the Commission in welcoming everybody. We've standing room only today. We must have a few special recognitions and I know that folks have come in from all around the state to be with us and so welcome. We're honored to have you.

For those of you who's first time it is to be at one of our meetings, let me just give you a little rundown of the schedule. We're going to start off with, again, some special acknowledgments and recognitions of friends and colleagues inside the Agency. After that is done, the Chairman will call for a brief recess and so for those who don't plan to stay for the rest of the meeting, feel free to leave at that time.

For those of you who do plan to stay for the remainder of the meeting and there's an action item that you wish to speak on, just as a reminder, please sign up outside and at the appropriate time, the Chairman will call you forward to share your name and who you represent and your position on the item that's being considered. And just as a general reminder, you'll have three minutes to share all your thoughts and wisdom with the Commission. So please try to keep it succinct.

With that, Mr. Chairman, I'll turn it back over to you and we'll move ahead. Thanks.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you.

The first order of business is to approve the minutes from the previous Work Session held March 19th. Do I have a motion?

Commissioner Scott. Second Commissioner Aplin. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All -- okay. We had -- hearing no opposition, the motion carries.

Wait a second. I'm on the wrong -- sorry, my apologies.

Before we proceed, I want to announce that Briefing Item 15, Land Conservation Assistance Network Website will be heard after Briefing Item 1.

And so the next action item is to approve the minutes of the Commission Meeting held March 20, 2019, which have been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?

Commissioner Scott. Second Commissioner Aplin. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries.

And I would also like to announce before we go to the next item, that I'm going to -- we are going to take up Briefing Item 12 on Red snapper after the -- after we take up Briefing Item 15. So before we take up Action Item 2, we'll have Robin Riechers present the Red Snapper Briefing.

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

Commissioner Latimer. Second Commissioner Aplin. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries.

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

Commissioner Scott. Second Commissioner Latimer. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries.

Now, we'll go to the special recognitions, retirement, and service awards. Carter, will you please begin your presentations.

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

Yesterday, obviously, the Commission and many others around the state celebrated the Senate's passage of the legislation that calls for the potential permanent dedication and appropriation of funding for our state parks and historic sites and so we are thrilled about that legislation headed to the Governor and hopefully there will be a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot in November to help make that possible.

While we're on the subject of state parks, I will remind the Commission that in a few short years -- four, in fact -- we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the State's state park system. Those 95 state parks that help tell the life history and story of our great state, the places that were helped start by, of course, by Governor Pat Neff with the donation of Mother Neff State Park, donated in honor of his mother in which he reminded us all that every Texan now and to come needs a place to get out and away from the hustle and bustle of life and hear the birds sing and the butterflies fly around and the bees hum and the flowers bloom. And so your state parks have done that for almost a hundred years and a whole lot more, and so we're proud of that upcoming centennial.

In advance of that, Dr. Andy Sansom -- obviously, no stranger to this group as a former Executive Director and head of the Meadows Center for Water and Environment at Texas State -- had a terrific idea to help commemorate that, that he would pair-up 31 of Texas best-known artists to go out to state parks across the state and capture their beauty and richness in art. Have Texas A&M Press publish a book on the centennial celebration of the state parks that feature all of that wonderful artwork. The Bullock Museum has agreed to have the inaugural showing of that artwork. Proceeds from the sale of that -- or some of that artwork will help go to the Parks and Wildlife Foundation to support your state parks and we're just thrilled about that.

He's partnered with Bill and Linda Reaves here in Austin, longtime patrons and collectors and purveyors of Texas art. And today, we have got a number of our state artists that are going to participate in this program and so I'm going to call out the ones that are here, share with you where they're from, and what parks that they're going to have a chance to be able to depict on behalf of the state and so awfully proud to welcome them. And so when I call your name, please stand and then I'm going to ask all of you to come forward and get a picture with the Chairman.

Margie Crisp is here from Elgin. She's going to be doing her artwork at Franklin Mountains State Park and South Llano River. Margie, welcome. Delighted to have you.

Fidencio Duran from Austin is with us. Welcome. He's going to be responsible at Lockhart State Park and LBJ State Park and Historic Site.

Malou Flato from Austin is going to do -- hi, Malou, nice to see you -- is going to do Lost Maples and Pedernales Falls and so exited about that, Malou.

Clemente Guzman, no stranger to Parks and Wildlife, is going to do Government Canyon and Lake Somerville. Clemente, welcome back. Clemente a longtime artist. Was with Parks and Wildlife for many years and so fun to see him.

Billy Hassell from Fort Worth, is going to do Caddo Lake and Daingerfield and Powderhorn. Where is Billy? Is Billy not here? Billy anywhere? Billy didn't make it in. Okay, all right.

How about Hailey Herrera from Bryan? Is Hailey with us? Hi, Hailey. How are you? Hailey is going to be responsible at Huntsville and Mission Tejas and so we're excited about that.

Lee Jamison from Huntsville is going to do Martin Dies and San Jacinto. So, Lee, are you with us? Yeah, welcome. Thank you for coming.

Janet Krueger from Encinal is going to do Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park and Old Tunnel. And so, Janet -- do you see Janet -- welcome. Thank you for coming in.

William Montgomery from Elgin is going to do Fort McKavett and Hueco Tanks. And so, William, yeah, welcome. Thanks for being here today.

Jeri Salter from Austin is going to do Caprock Canyons and Palo Duro up in the panhandle. So welcome. Two of our prettiest spots in the state.

Terri Wells from Austin is going to do Mother Neff, our first state park, and Palmetto State Park. Terri, welcome, yeah.

So -- and I think -- did I miss anybody? Anybody? Any other artists come that I left out? And sorry. You're going to have to tell me your name.

MR. JOEL EDWARDS: That's all right. I'm Joel Edwards.

MR. SMITH: Joel, welcome. And so which parks are you going to be responsible for?

MR. JOEL EDWARDS: I'm going to be Fanthorp Inn.

MR. SMITH: Fanthorp Inn, okay.

MR. JOEL EDWARDS: And Monument Hill.

MR. SMITH: And Monument Hill, Kreische Brewery in La Grange. Good, welcome. Yeah, delighted you're here.

Anybody else? Did I anybody else, Andy? Nope, nope.

Okay. Usually I'm notorious for leaving people out in long lists, particularly when I ad lib. So if we can ask all of our artists, Andy and Bill and Linda to come forward. Chairman, Rodney, if you'll come forward as well and Brent. Let's get a picture with everybody. Let's thank them for the work they're going to be doing.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: That may be the hardest thing we do all day is organizing that big group. So, artists are known for not being easy to herd at times and so that was good. That was good.

We've now got a very special award from the American Fisheries Society. As y'all know, that's the scientific association of fisheries biologists and fisheries managers and each year, the American Fisheries Society grants three special awards across the country for individuals, entities, nonprofits, state agencies that have demonstrated exemplary and outstanding work that contribute, obviously, to the health and vitality of our country's fisheries and it should be no surprise to the Parks and Wildlife Commission that one of the honorees this year is your Department's Inland Fisheries Division and we're excited about them getting honored for their outstanding work in biological research and surveys.

We've got our neighbor from Arkansas, Jason Olive, who is the Assistant Fisheries Chief in Arkansas, works for the Arkansas Fish and Game, who's also the Treasurer for the American Fisheries Society who has come down to present this award to our Inland Fisheries team. And so let's give Jason a big warm welcome to Texas. And, Jason, if you'll come forward.

(Round of applause)

MR. JASON OLIVE: Thank you, Director Smith, Commissioners. Appreciate the opportunity to come before you today. I also want to recognize your own Ken Kurzawski, who is our past President of our organization, the Fisheries Administration Section of AFS.

On behalf of the Fisheries Administration Section of the American Fisheries Society, I'm pleased to be here to present the 2018 Sport Fish Restoration Outstanding Project Award to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Alligator Gar Research Team. The Alligator Gar Research Team conducts research on all aspects of Alligator Gar and surveys Texas' Alligator Gar populations. But before I dive into their work and their accomplishments that we're recognizing, I just want to take a few moments to highlight the importance about the Sport Fish Restoration Program because that's what this award program is about, is we recognize outstanding projects that have used sport fish restoration funding and so we -- the point is to highlight the importance and effectiveness of this program and recognize excellence in these areas.

The Sport Fish Restoration Program obtains revenues through a federal excise tax collected on fishing tackle, boats, and motor boat fuel. Revenues are returned to the states to enhance fisheries and boating activities. This is a true user pays/user benefits program. The program was created in 1950 and was expanded in 1984 and together it has provided over $8 billion nationwide for better fishing and boating. So it's a very significant program.

Texas sport fish restoration allocation for the current fiscal year was $18.3 million and for the entire program period from 1950 to 2019, allocations to your state have totaled $487.7 million. So, again, a pretty significant program, significant funding source over that time period.

So the Fisheries Administration Section recognizes the critical importance of this program to state fisheries agencies, but also knows that the program is subject to periodic reauthorization by Congress and ongoing scrutiny by the users who pay the excise tax. This annual award program helps identify and showcase outstanding fisheries projects from across the country and it is hoped generates greater appreciation and continued support for the program. So thank you for allowing me a couple of moments to highlight the importance of the program in general, and now I'm going to dive into the details of the award-winning project conducted by your staff.

And it is Texas Parks and Wildlife Department From Persecuted to Popular: How Research Has Helped Change Perceptions of Alligator Gar in Texas. Historically, Alligator Gar were thought to negatively affect populations of more, quote, more desirable fishes, including bass, sunfish, and catfish species. Because Alligator Gar have traditionally been considered a rough fish, they have received little attention from anglers or fisheries scientists. Until recently, little was know about the largest freshwater fish in Texas and one of the largest species in North America.

In 2007, using research and survey grants through the Sport Fish Restoration Program, TPWD scientists began to conduct research on all aspects of Alligator Gar and survey Texas populations. This work has involved multiple grants and staff from throughout the Inland Fisheries Division, including researchers, managers, ecologists, and geographic information specialists. In addition, TPWD has leveraged additional funding sources, forming partnerships with anglers, university scientists, landscape conservation cooperatives, and the Texas Water Development Board. Research and surveys from 2007 to 2018 have revealed much about Alligator Gar. And I'll just add that our state has a similar research program that we're really following the lead of your staff and using a lot of this great research to try to better manage Alligator Gar in Arkansas.

So the high quality science produced by this team of TPWD scientists has greatly increased the understanding of Alligator Gar life history, ecology, and population dynamics, particularly in Texas rivers and reservoirs. This knowledge has been disseminated to scientists outside of Texas through presentations at regional and national conferences and through multiple peer reviewed publications. TPWD scientists and Communication staff have also developed a media blitz to inform anglers and the general public of what we have learned. The research has contributed to changing public attitudes toward the species, so now anglers consider it a prized species to catch.

So the American Fisheries Society applauds these extraordinary efforts and, again, congratulations to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's Alligator Gar Research Team, recipient of the 2018 Sport Fish Restoration Outstanding Project Award.

Accepting the award on behalf of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Inland Fisheries Division are Dave Buckmeier, Director of the Heart of the Hills Fisheries Science Center; Dan Daugherty, research biologist at Heart of the Hills; Greg Binion, Regional Supervisor in Mathis; Dusty McDonald, Assistant Regional Supervisor in Mathis; and Karim Aziz, with the River Studies Program. Congratulations again to this impressive team and thank you, Commissioners and Director Smith, for giving me the time to recognize their achievement.

(Round of applause)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Go Alligator Gar.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Okay. Craig, we've got another one for Inland Fisheries here. I see -- I'll tell you, you're making these guys in Wildlife and Coastal and State Parks kind of sweat a little bit. You guys are racking up all these awards. Very nice.

So the next one is from the Reservoir Fish Habitat Partnership. And so that's a really creative national partnership with a network of 19 different coalitions representing industry and sport fishing groups, conservation organizations, state fishing agencies that have really looked holistically across the country at how do we improve habitat for fisheries and fishing in our aging reservoirs and as reservoirs -- most of which as y'all know -- built in the 45s, 50s, and 60s, as they have aged, the habitat condition in those reservoirs have changed dramatically and that's had an impact on our sport fisheries, as well as our nongame fisheries.

And so this organization was formed really to help invest back in the reservoirs and make sure that we're providing the suitable habitat and recreational opportunity in those reservoirs and they've done a great job.

Every year, they give an annual Friends of the Reservoir Award and so it's for somebody that has really stood out across the country in terms of their contributions to helping improve reservoirs and fisheries and habitat and fishing in their area of interest and emphasis and I'm thrilled that Marcos DeJesus is our award winner this year from Inland Fisheries.

Marcos has been our longtime District biologist here in Central Texas. Commissioner, worked very extensively in the Highland Lakes on a bunch of very difficult boating and fishing and management related issues and whether it was exotic invasive species and conflicts with the sport fishermen on the lakes, Zebra mussel issue, Marcos has just done a fabulous job.

Also, we're going to congratulate Marcos. Yesterday, he was promoted to our new Regional Director in Tyler for Inland Fisheries. So yesterday he gets a promotion. Today he gets a big, fancy national award. And so, Marcos, you better not retire on me after this.

So I want to ask our longtime friend Jeff Boxrucker -- Jeff is from Oklahoma. He's the Coordinator for the National Fish Habitat Partnership, worked for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation for many years. Has worked with our team for a long time. He's no stranger to this Agency. We welcome him back to Texas to present this award. And so, Jeff, thanks for coming here.

(Round of applause)

MR. JEFF BOXRUCKER: Commissioners, Director Smith, again, it's a pleasure to be asked back to Texas. We have had a longstanding working relationship with Parks and Wildlife and I want to really will give a shout out to former Inland Fisheries Director Phil Durocher, who the reservoir partnership would not have been formed if it hadn't been for the tireless efforts of Phil to get a nonnatural fisheries opportunity ingrained into the program and it was one of the last things Phil did before he retired and we all -- in habitat restoration business and reservoirs -- all feel a real debt of gratitude.

And Craig Bonds and Dave Terre have just picked up where Phil left off and continued the great working relationship that Parks and Wildlife has with the Reservoir Partnership and because of these close ties, we have put in the neighborhood of $200,000 of partnership funds into Texas habitat programs and that being matched with other partner funds for each of these projects has put about a million dollars on the ground for reservoir habitat restoration projects in Texas.

And Marcos certainly has been a big part of that, but I would be remiss if I didn't point out that two former Texans have also received this award: Tom Lang with Parks and Wildlife for his efforts on the Lake Wichita Restoration Project and Tom McDonough who is an angler on Lake Livingston, started the restoration project on Livingston which was really kind of a unique effort in that he brought together six independent school districts to work on growing native aquatic vegetation and the students not only grow the plants, they do the whole process of the nursery operations and then work with the bass clubs and local municipal folks to plant those plants into Lake Livingston and it gives them an ownership into their resource, which is -- this is -- this whole effort is going to be a multigenerational task and unless we get youth involved in these efforts, we will ultimately be unsuccessful in making -- well, restoring the great fisheries that we currently have and protecting them for future because we're not building new reservoirs.

We have to take care of the ones we have and that's going to require partnerships and a lot of money and it's just the way it is and no agency alone can do this. So it's just critical that we have -- we partner with all reservoir users -- public, private, conservation groups, anglers -- to get this job done. And I just want to give a shout out again to Marcos.

We have somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 friends of reservoir partners in Texas. Marcos has been instrumental in developing four of those in -- well, in the Austin area. And for that, we are going to present Marcos the 2018 Friends of Reservoirs Award. Marcos?

(Round of applause)

MR. JEFF BOXRUCKER: And I'd also ask Dave Terre to come up. This is a framed print by Al Agnew, who's an artist out of Missouri. He does these for us every year.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: As we go into the Memorial Day weekend, the Agency has really made it a priority just to remind all of the millions of Texans that are going to be out on our lakes and reservoirs and our creeks and streams and bays to be safe. And really, Memorial Day kicks off our water safety season. We want to remind all of our boaters and anglers and swimmers out there to watch your kids, make sure you know how to swim. If you're operating a boat, take boater education. Don't drink and drive. Make sure that you've got your PFDs and be as safe on the water and respectful as you can.

And so also would encourage folks to look at our website. We've got some terrific boater safety and water safety information out there, including a video that our Communications team put together with Law Enforcement entitled "Never Happens" and it is the story of teenagers growing up who lost friends or family members to swimming and boating related incidents and it tells their stories very poignantly and very personally and very important reminders for all of us as we're out on the water.

The matter of water safety and helping to keep our public safe in no small part falls to your Texas game wardens. And so it's fitting that today we have a chance on behalf of the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, or NASBLA, to honor one of our game wardens, Darrin Peeples, who has been a leader not only in his community, but across the state and really across the country in helping to lead the way on making sure that our Agency is doing everything we can to help address these critical concerns of boating safety.

Darrin has been a game warden with us for 12 years. He's a proud graduate of Texas A&M.

(Round of whoops)

MR. SMITH: A little quiet. A little quiet. It's sounding a little bit like sleep camp in here for the Aggies. I'm worried about you, you little church mice. It -- and so, God, I'll tell you -- yeah -- no, I've got to, Darrin. That's just pitiful.

So a proud Texas Aggie. I didn't even get a rise out of them, Commissioner. Been with us for 12 years. He's been stationed up in Harrison County on the Louisiana border. Of course, right there at Caddo Lake. And in his duty station, he is awfully busy there in the woods and waters. He's a community leader in many ways across his district; but one of the ways, many ways, in which Darrin has distinguished himself has been as a member of our STORM team. And our STORM team is a specialized group of game wardens that are involved in the forensic mapping and reconstruction of boat accidents.

And so when there is a boat accident -- and as you know, those are very difficult to investigate. They're often in very remote, hard to get to places. Sometimes they're in very visible places with lots of people. Oftentimes, that evidence is underwater. Unfortunately, many times there are fatalities. Sometimes there is alcohol involved and so it's a very, very difficult scene to come in and investigate and it requires specialized training.

Darrin, in addition to his normal duties there in the county, just in the last few years since joining the STORM team, has been involved or responsible for 15 or 16 of these very high profile boating accidents across the state. Incidents like the tragic loss of a father and his toddler son up in Denton Creek or the collision of two bass boats and the death of anglers there at Lake Conroe or more recently, just the horrific accident up at the Lake O' the Pines in which three boyscouts on their sailboat and their mast hit a high-voltage electric line and those boys were all electrocuted and Darrin has had the very, very difficult job of being on the front lines to investigate those incidents and accidents and help reconstruct what happened.

As part of that incident on Lake O' the Pines, Darrin was able to bring in some new mapping tools to help us better reconstruct what happened. He partnered with a company called FARO that produces this very important and sophisticated kind of digital mapping and scanning software in which they can map an area very quickly to help reconstruct the accident. Darrin then got the Division to help invest in new technology to help us with boating accident investigations around the state.

He is a trainer for other game wardens and cadets on boating accidents there at the Academy. So he's helping to share all of his skill sets with our other game wardens who are put in place of having to investigate boating accidents around the state. He's a field sobriety coordinator. And then back home in his district, he is very active there in the woods and waters of Harrison County and whether it's water safety issues on Caddo Lake or poaching incidents out in the woods of East Texas, Darrin is front and center. He's a great community representative for us, chairs the county youth livestock association, puts on water safety seminars for kids and adults, puts together and sponsors what I'm told is the largest fishing event for kids with physical disabilities to help introduce them to teaching and -- to fishing. And so he's just a great ambassador for Parks and Wildlife as a game warden. We're proud of his recognition as the 2018 NASBLA Officer of the Year. Let's honor Darrin Peeples. Darrin, please come forward.

(Round of applause)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: 2019 Award.

MR. SMITH: 2019. Did I --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Caught you.

MR. SMITH: Thank you.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: That was great, y'all.

Well, we've only got one retirement today. We've got a couple of service awards; but our retirement, it is a bittersweet one, Billy Tarrant. And so Billy has been with the Department for nearly a quarter of a century. I said that, Billy, just to make you feel old, by the way, just to get back at you for retiring on us.

Billy's had a very long and storied career in both Law Enforcement and Wildlife. Got of New Mexico State, worked in Arizona for the Game and Fish as a wildlife biologist and game warden and then came to work for Parks and Wildlife 23 years ago as a biologist for us out in Van Horn. He was in over in Wichita Falls for a period of time, came back to Fort Davis, was promoted to our District wildlife biologist in Alpine in the Trans-Pecos and then in 2012, he was promoted to be our Regional Director overseeing wildlife activities in the Trans-Pecos and the Texas panhandle and so our wildlife management areas, all of our wildlife biologists and technicians and working on a wide range of game and nongame and private landowner and conservation issues throughout that very, very large country.

Billy's leadership has just been unassailable really, not just for Wildlife team; but as a representative for the Agency as a whole, particularly out in the Trans-Pecos. Many, many notable achievements. You know, a couple that come to mind -- actually, one up in the panhandle. Billy was the Chair of Playa Lakes Joint Venture and really helped to emphasize the importance of conservation of Texas playas. Those shallow depressional wetlands that serve as recharge features for the Ogallala Aquifer and, of course, provide critical habitat for waterfowl and a whole lot more; but really even more importantly, drinking water for a lot of people across Texas and Oklahoma and New Mexico.

When our Pronghorn populations crashed in the Trans-Pecos, it was really Billy Tarrant who had the idea to bring together the ranching community, the university community there at Sul Ross, veterinarians, the Department and other partners, the Parks and Wildlife Foundation, to embark on a multiyear restoration project to bring back the Pronghorn to really their historic stronghold and it was due in no small part to Billy's leadership and trust and creditability.

And that's really the segue to the last thing I want to say about Billy. In that ranching community of far West Texas, trust is an earned commodity and it can be quickly lost. Billy earned the trust of the ranching community out there just with his candor, his honesty, his communication. Even when he was having to tell folks things they may not have wanted to hear, but needed to hear, they always trusted Billy to shoot them straight for Parks and Wildlife Department and has forever earned the trust and respect of landowners across millions of acres across Texas. He's just been wonderful leader.

While he's retiring from Parks and Wildlife, he's not going far. He's going to work for Sul Ross and the Border Lands Research Institute. He's going to be working on some important energy and conservation and landowner issues out in West Texas and so we're going to have a chance to continue to work with him; but we're excited today to thank Billy for his very proud service to Texas, to Texas Parks and Wildlife, and Texas conservation. Twenty-three years of service, Billy Tarrant. Billy, thank you.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague is not retiring. Let me make that abundantly clear. Chris Hunt with our Communications team. Chris has got some fans out there, I see. I like that. Chris has been with us 25 years, and I love this story that they shared about how she was kind of introduced to Parks and Wildlife. She was actually on a hike over here at McKinney Falls State Park and gazed across the field, I'm sure, at the architectural splendor of the State office building; but was inspired to wander over and apply for a seasonal job with our word processing team. Everybody remember word processing? And Chris was hired to work as a seasonal. Then she got a full-time job as a graphic designer and the rest is history, shall we say.

She's been part of our creative services team where she's brought her creative genius and artistic talents to work every day with helping to put together some really cool stuff and, you know, whether it's the "Outdoor Annual" or special ads that we have in publications, displays like we have now in the back on artists that used to work for Parks and Wildlife, she just brings a lot of imagination and creativity to her work and helps just to, again, bring the important efforts of this Agency to life.

We're excited about all she's done for the Agency and with the Agency. And today, we formally thank Chris for 25 years of service. Chris, please come forward. Thank you.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague, Gelinda Flores, has also been with us 25 years with our Law Enforcement team and I'm proud to say we actually poached her from Texas A&M. She worked for them for eight years in College Station and then saw the light and came to work for Parks and Wildlife there in our Law Enforcement office out of Bryan and College Station and Gelinda has really been just kind of the front face of that office. If you're going in there to get a license or boat registration and title, Gelinda's the one that greets you, makes you feel at home, helps you with whatever need that you have. She's just constantly recognized again for her tireless and exemplary customer service.

She has worked through her fair share of majors and captains during her proud 25 years of service. Always available to help the game wardens in the district with making sure that their citations are appropriately filed, that they get letters submitted to the court and others and any kind of administrative or other help that the Law Enforcement team needs over there. Her colleagues just think the world of her. She's been a great ambassador for Parks and Wildlife inside and outside the Agency. And so today, we're very honored to honor her for 25 years service of service. Gelinda, please come forward. Bravo.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague, Nancy Gillespie, has been with us 20 years in the Wildlife Division. And Nancy, too, is just one of those wonderful spirits inside the Agency. She started out as an Administrative Assistant in our Nongame and Wildlife Diversity Program. As she likes to recall, she thinks she got the job when she strategically told the interviewers who happened to be bat biologists that in her current job, she was responsible for taking care of a bat. So they hired her on the spot.

She joined the Wildlife team and worked with our Nongame team with all of their many, many administrative functions. And then in 2007, Nancy moved over to work for our Private Lands and Public Hunting Program. So she has been instrumental in all of the public hunting related efforts, important programs that we have had: Big Time Texas Hunts, Lone Star Land Steward Award, just a myriad of things Nancy has helped to put together.

And I love what Justin Dreibelbis had to say about her. Justin's her supervisor. He said, "Nancy is a crucial part of the Private Lands and Public Hunting team and is always willing to help those around her get their job done. Her institutional knowledge is extremely helpful for our program and her friendly personality makes her a person that people inside and outside the Agency look forward to interacting with."

No truer words spoken. Twenty years of service, Nancy Gillespie. Nancy, please come forward. Thank you.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Okay. Last, but not least, Michelle Haggerty, also with our Wildlife team. Michelle has also been with us 20 years. Michelle came to us from Michigan. She's a proud graduate of Michigan State. I think we have more Michigan State alums than Aggies after that little weak outburst this morning. I know at least we have one intern coming, Brent, this summer from Michigan State. So -- three we've got coming? Okay, all right. So Michelle will not be alone.

She worked for the D and R up there, came to Texas. She was a wildlife technician, Clayton, for four and a half months I'm told. And at that time, the Texas Master Naturalist Program was launched. That's that statewide citizen science program in which people in communities all across Texas will take basically a yearlong course to introduce them to Texas natural history and biology and fish and wildlife conservation and native plants and animals and then they become really ambassadors for nature and wildlife out in their communities and they also conduct public service projects to help wildlife and so it's an incredible volunteer army. And so when you think of the Texas Master Naturalist Program across the state, you've got to think about Michelle Haggerty, who really has been with that program. Has led it since its inception. She's grown it to, I think, 48 chapters around the state, more than 12,000 volunteers. They've contributed more than 5 million hours of community service, 425,000 hours a year. They have helped build and restore 2,000 trails, given presentations to almost 6 million Texans about wildlife and fisheries and nature and conservation. And so not surprisingly, all of that under Michelle's leadership.

She and the Master Naturalist Program have been recognized from everybody from the Governor for the Volunteer Award for Community Leadership, our partners over at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, who honored the program and Michelle for the Environmental Excellence Award. Michelle has been honored by the Department with one of our Employee Recognition Awards. She does a great job.

She also, I will say, carries the great burden in life of having to look after her husband Pablo Gutierrez. And Pablo and I go way, way back. Pablo has also been with this Agency for a long time. Works out at the Kerr Wildlife Management Area. So fun to see that husband-and-wife team and let me assure you that Michelle has her hands full with Pablo. So let's honor her for that fact alone. Michelle, 20 years of service. And so, yeah, bravo.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, that wraps it up. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. Everybody is welcome to stay. We hope you will, if you'd like to, for the remainder of our meeting; but if you do wish to move on, this would be a good time. We'll take a couple minutes to let people who wish to leave depart.

(Recess taken)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. We'll resume the meeting at 9:58 a.m. and start with Briefing Item No. 1, Non-Traditional University Partnerships by our own David Buggs. Welcome, David.

MR. BUGGS: Good morning, Commissioners, Director Smith. For the record, my name is David Buggs. I'm the Chief Diversity of Inclusion Officer here at Texas Parks and Wildlife. I'm extremely excited to be here this morning to talk about a subject that is not only near and dear to my heart, but I believe will add tremendous value to Texas Parks and Wildlife.

Our subject this morning is non-traditional university partnerships. And when you hear the word "non-traditional," that means there are traditional university partnerships. Texas Parks and Wildlife has had a number of partnerships with major universities in Texas and throughout the nation for a number of years, but one of the things we recognize is that we needed to be a little more inclusive of different demographic groups within some of our relationships.

Now, just to give you a little highlight of where we are right now -- and this is some stuff that you already know -- the State of Texas has led the nation for a number of years in population growth. You probably recognize that in your own communities. We're also the second largest population in the entire United States, with a little over 29 million folks that have come to Texas. And you've heard about the number of folks that are coming to just the Austin area on a daily basis and these are people from all different types of backgrounds, different faiths, different religions and all of that. And we also have been a majority minority state for a number of years and with that knowledge, we've decided to strive to make sure as we try to sustain the efforts to be good stewards of our natural resources and looking at this growing population, make sure that we're inclusive as we grow. And being inclusive doesn't mean just inclusive of customers, but also being inclusive of the different population and the skill sets that we have in the State of Texas.

One of the things that I talk to Carter about, from time to time, is: How do we make Texas Parks and Wildlife the agency of choice?

Well, the way you do that is to make sure that there is a reflection of all the people across the State of Texas that are a part of this Agency. So a little summary of some of the things that we are doing, and this is just one aspect of the things that we've taken into consideration here at Texas Parks and Wildlife. We've taken action to promote a little more workforce diversity within our organization, so that we can do several things to increase our sustainability, to be a better servant to all of our citizens because we are a service organization and that service is to all the folks across the state. Also, to better the economy and one of the other things that's very important nowadays is to make sure that we are relevant to those people that we serve and to that broader audience that we intend to serve.

So the way that we decided to do that was develop a strategic plan. We partnered with the Wildlife Division, Human Resource Division, Law Enforcement Division, State Parks, and Communications to develop something called a non-traditional university partnership and through this partnership, we decided to develop some strategic relationships with universities that are historically African-American or historically Hispanic serving or women serving universities.

Now, some of our goals were to develop these partnerships with these universities; but also we desire to increase the number of folks that we have in the pipeline that are from different backgrounds, different studies, different schools, and so on and so forth. Increasing that diversity within that pipeline also helps us as an organization serve the public better because we've got a population that can reach out and develop strategic plans to serve our population better. Also, develop better ideas.

Dr. Scott Page of the University of Michigan -- I know there's some Michigan folks here -- that said that the best way to develop a really outstanding product and be more innovative is to have more diversity within your organization. So that's what we've decided to do. So we want to increase the number of folks that are in the pipeline, folks that have the qualifications we're looking for. Also, we want to increase the number of folks that we have participating in our internship program. Increase that amount of diversity in that program. Also, one of the feedbacks that I've been getting from our volunteer folks are that we don't have a lot of diversity in our volunteer staff. So we wanted do that as well through that and increase the number of folks -- and this is very important -- increase the number of folks that are majoring in natural resource management or the natural resource fields.

Some of the other information that I received is the fact that all the other STEM fields are growing at around 11 percent. Natural resource STEM field is growing at around 6 percent. So we've got to do a better job of making sure that everybody understands the value of natural resource fields.

Some of our current partnerships are Sul Ross University, Huston-Tillotson University, Prairie View A&M University, Hardin-Simmons University, and recently, Texas Southern University has decided that they would like to partner with us and I'll tell you a little bit more about each one of those.

Well, first of all, here's some of the things that we've pledged to do with these universities. First of all, we've developed some MOUs, MOAs, and other types of agreements so that we know that we're on track, that everybody is on the same page with what we plan to deliver and what's required of the university. Also, we've assisted those universities that have the capacity with developing some type of biology degree program. We also set in place some outdoor skill certifications and we've also committed to have some of our staff come out and talk with the different groups within those universities so they can understand a little better about what it is that we do and the importance of natural resource conservation.

Now, the relationship with Sul Ross was established in 2017. And I'm glad that Billy Tarrant is here today. Billy, along with Matt Wagner, were very instrumental in putting this relationship together. They were able to get a professor from a school in Chihuahua to come and do the instruction there and actually the thing that was so remarkable about her, not only is she very bright, but she was working down in Mexico, speaks fluent Spanish, very intelligent; but she's originally from the Netherlands. So she brings a different aspect to it. They have three graduate students that are participating in that program and they have some dollars that came from the Pittman-Roberts fund so they can do research on the possible effects of invasive exotic grasses on winter -- wintering grassland sparrows. Say that three times real fast.

The next relationship is with Huston-Tillotson University, and we're excited about this one. This is a university that's right in our backyard. Huston-Tillotson has been around for a long time and actually, Huston-Tillotson is the oldest university in this Austin area, believe it or not, for you UT folks. Just wanted to pass that knowledge onto you. We were able to go over there and have a conversation with them, meet with some of their folks from their science program. And to our very surprise, but also to our delight, they were very close to being able to offer a degree plan in wildlife biology. So we were able to work with them.

They were actually willing to fund bringing in an additional professor to help fill whatever the gaps were. We currently have three undergraduate students that are participating in this program and their focus is on the rise of urban coyote sightings and this has been very exciting. We've actually seen quite a bit of press from this relationship, and I'll tell you a little bit more about some other things that have come out of this; but we're excited about this program.

The next program is with Prairie View A&M University. With Prairie View, we actually reached out to their recreational education department. We've been able to establish some training there and some certifications around hunter education, boater education, archery, angler education, paddling, and we've also introduced them to Project Wild. And what Prairie View has done -- because they've done some things on campus and they're doing some things out in their community. Every time they do something, they display the Texas Parks and Wildlife banner, which is excellent. It's great advertisement for us and they're also sharing information about different things that we do, talking about things that we have out on our website and different programs and facilities that we have across the State of Texas. So this has been a very good relationship.

If you look at the picture there, there's some of the students that are actually getting certified in paddling and we're very excited about this relationship, as well.

The next one is with Hardin-Simmons University. Hardin-Simmons has developed an outdoor adventure curriculum, thanks to our Outreach staff. They've worked with them to help this curriculum get started. They have a number of students that are participating in this particular program and they're doing some certain certifications similar to those that we're doing at Prairie View and they also have conducted classes promoting TPWD education program. So this is very good, as well.

Last, but certainly not least, is Texas Southern University, which we're very excited about. Commissioner Bell was a previous board member for this university. We've already established their outdoor curriculum program. We sat down with them a couple months ago and the thing that I really like about this is they've already gotten students engaged. We got an e-mail the other day saying that there have already been at least 20 students that have gone out and signed up to be volunteers. And on May 28th, we have 10 to 15 students and faculty that are going to go through our archery certification program. So this has started off with a bang. But the other thing that's very exciting about Texas Southern University, they're interested in starting a natural resource biology program and we're going to go down with Elsa Haubold from U.S. Fish and Wildlife within the next month or so and talk about how we can develop that program and we're going to also partner with Clear Lake, who also has a fisheries program. So we're very excited about that relationship.

And on the docket, so to speak, is developing a relationship with University of Texas at San Antonio. We're looking at developing a wildlife biology program there. Now, they already have some different biology science related/natural resource related programs there. Dr. Tuggle from U.S. Fish and Wildlife, who just retired from U.S. Fish and Wildlife, is working with that program; but he's also reached out to me to understand how they can develop a program similar to the one that we have with Huston-Tillotson. So we're very excited about that.

Now, just an accolade that I wanted to share with you. Recently, Huston-Tillotson had a public recognition for all of their different -- what they call IDEAL partners and IDEAL stands for inclusion, diversity, excellence, accountability, and leadership. And we were one of the partners that were chosen and we were very excited about it and they gave us this award; but one of the things that I was really excited about, is Representative Watkins from this area met me when I came off the stage receiving the award on behalf of Texas Parks and Wildlife, talked about how great the relationship was and how excited he was about it and then he immediately opened his phone and called Carter Smith while I was standing there and I'm thinking, "What in the world is going on?"

But it was an exciting time. I was very proud of our organization that we stepped forward to develop these types of relationships that are going to benefit us not just right now, but also in the future. Do you have any questions?

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Members, questions or comments?

Well, David, this is fantastic work. Thank you so much for this presentation and for your efforts in these respects. I'm curious about one -- you said that one aspect of this involved trying to incent more volunteers from these areas to participate in whatever. I think that's fantastic. I mean, what better way to get people to put a toe in the water, so to speak, than to say consider coming out and helping with whatever it is, crab trap removal, abandoned crab trap removal, something like that. Anyway, this is an exciting presentation and we really appreciate your efforts on behalf of the Department.

MR. BUGGS: Thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. Next, we're going to take Briefing Item 15, Land Conservation Assistance Network Website, Justin Dreibelbis.

MR. DREIBELBIS: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name's Justin Dreibelbis. I'm the Private Lands and Public Hunting Program Director in the Wildlife Division. This morning, I'm going to give you a briefing on a new land management resource available to Texas landowners called the Land Conservation Assistance Network or LandCAN.

It's no surprise to anybody on this Commission or in the room that Texas is a private land state. Private lands is important to all the citizens of Texas, whether they know it or not. We're 95 percent privately owned. Eighty-three percent of the land mass is in rural working lands. Texas is a leader in a number of different agricultural commodities and beyond these food and fiber products, the majority of our natural resources that Texas citizens depend on are located there on private lands. And so the management decisions that private landowners make are crucially important to the health of our state.

So Parks and Wildlife has always had a role in private lands management and technical guidance, but that role became more official in 1972 when the Parks and Wildlife Commission stood up the technical guidance program in the Wildlife Division. A year later, five technical guidance biologists were hired. Their work went on for about 20 years, moving the needle for private lands conservation and then some big things happened in the early 90s that we're still seeing the benefit of today. One is that there was a priority shift in the Wildlife Division to where all of our field biologists were now focusing primarily on private lands technical guidance. Also very helpful, ten additional private lands biologists were hired around this same time period. And then last, but not least, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation granted Parks and Wildlife a grant that addressed specific private lands outreach and habitat projects. And so all these things combined really helped accelerate our private lands efforts here in the state.

As you can see from this graph, our folks haven't turned back to look back since then and those numbers have steadily increased other the years to where this last year, we had a little over 7,100 wildlife management plans on 31.2 million acres cross the state. And so it's something that we worked very hard on and will continue to do so.

An interesting connection between that 1993 grant from NFWF and why we're here this morning, was the Executive Director at the time in 1993. His name is Amos Eno and Amos is actually here in the room with us this morning all the way from Maine. So in -- Amos brings a 45-year career in the conservation policy arena. He's done a lot of things, both in the private and public eye. He's been a leader in conservation and he's always had a very clear understanding of the value of private lands management. And so for these reasons, Amos founded the Land Conservation Assistance Network in 2000 to connect private landowners to the resources they need to make smart, sustainable decisions on their properties.

Along with the national website that serves as an information clearinghouse for private landowners, LandCAN hosts 11 state networks of which this newly launched Texas website is one them. So the Texas LandCAN website includes over 6,200 different informational sources. Basically, anything you can think of private lands management, there's probably an article or a list of service providers to deal with those items.

This information can be searched both by ecoregion and through one of these 12 land management categories. So we very much appreciate Amos' work, his team's work to provide this resource for Texas landowners. And at this time, I would like to call Amos up to the microphone to offer just a few words.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Welcome, Amos.

MR. ENO: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. Last time I was in this room was in '96 or '97 when I gave the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's Chuck Yeager Award to Andy Sansom and Perry Bass for setting up your private lands program. So I'm very happy to be back.

I also, as an aside, want to say I work nationwide. The Texas site is the eighth state site that we've built. And Carter Smith, your Executive Director, is head and shoulders the best Parks and Wildlife Director in the country. There's nobody that comes even close to his belt buckle.

So why private lands? 71 percent of the lower 48 states is private. 82 percent of the wetland habitat nationwide is on private lands. 80 percent of the endangered species habitat nationwide is on private lands. Texas leads the nation in farms and ranches. It's 95 percent private land. I mean, it's emblematic of this natural resource conundrum. Your state's biggest industry is oil and gas production, which a number of environmental groups are suing to try and list endangered species, Lesser Prairie chicken, Dunes Sage lizard, endangered mussels, Monarch butterflies.

If you don't engage private landowners on a scalable basis, you're never going to solve the T and E problem. During my 15 years of running National Fish and Wildlife, I did 140 grants to try and keep endangered species off the list. One of my favorites was actually a grant to Texas A&M -- I have to give you that nod -- for the King Ranch which opened up for ecotourism in the early 90s and the Audubon Society went out there, found Ferruginous pygmy owls, and immediately sent in a listing petition.

Our grant proved the obvious that that's the most popular raptor. It goes from Tierra del Fuego to South Texas and it doesn't warrant listing. But the lesson I learned is you need to be proactive, you need to be preemptive, and the more so you are, the more successful conservation is. And the key to that is harnessing private landowners. But you have to recognize your target audience. Private landowners are individualistic, idiosyncratic. You can't assume or dictate what their needs are, which are multifarious.

So our solution is, first of all, we don't do any environmental advocacy and that has made our site a trusted information source even in the most conservative parts of the country. And secondly, we provide the full spectrum of resources for a private landowner. Every federal program that touches private landowners, mostly USDA; NRCS; FSA; Forest Service; the Partners for Wildlife Program in the Interior, which I started with NFWF grants. We support the comparable programs at the state level. We support what I call the non-advocacy/nonprofit community. Every land trust in the country is on LandCAN. Every conservation district of which there are almost 5,300 and half of them don't even have a website. So we actually design the algorithms so an underfunded conservation district can upload on our site for free.

We also host almost 40,000 businesses in the for-profit sector, tax and estate lawyers, consulting foresters, veterinarians, et cetera. It's all there. It's all accessible. It's configured regionally and subjectively. If you don't like a lawyer in Houston, you can go to Dallas or you can go to Steve Small in Boston. I'll leave that --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Or Fort Worth.

MR. ENO: -- as my introduction. Any questions?

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Members, any questions?

Great presentation. Thank you very --

MR. ENO: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: -- much for your efforts. I don't know how you survive in Maine. I'm joking.

All right. At this time, we'll take up Robin Riechers' presentation on Red snapper, which is Briefing Item 12. Welcome, Robin.

MR. RIECHERS: Good morning, Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Robin Riechers. I'm Director of Coastal Fisheries, and I'm here to present to you a Red snapper briefing specifically dealing with some changes that occurred in the recreational fishery in most recent years and times and as we move forward.

I'll remind everyone that what has led us to much chagrin regarding the Red snapper seasons is the graphic you see up there. I'll kind of refer back and I'll point you to a couple of particular figures there. From 2000 to 2007, we typically had a season that ran from April to October, 194 days. Everyone was fairly happy with that as we were moving through time and that time period. We kind of refer to those as the good old days in Red snapper language.

As you can see after that, the season started shortening. We were in the 70s for three or four years, then we went to 40 something days, then we got down into slightly into two-digit territory -- 9, 10, and 11 days. And you'll all recall or many of you will recall on the dais when we went to three days in 2017. That was the projected season was three days of the fishery.

As you all will recall, the Secretary of Commerce stepped in and worked with the five Gulf states, along with the Congressional delegations of each state, and allowed us to have a weekends-only and added 39 extra days to that season. Well, so then that takes us forward to last year where we had an 82-day season and I'm going to explain now how we got to that 82-day season.

So as we've explained before, there was a -- in the Appropriations Act, a call for National Marine Fisheries Service to work with each of the five Gulf states to try to create an approach that would be more regional management based. And I might say regional management is a long time coming. Many of you recall me briefing you in the past on Amendment 39, which was an amendment going through the Council process that would have established regional management. By the time we got to the end of that amendment, all five state directors and fortunately enough people on the Council no longer supported that amendment because of all the constraints it put on states and so we were able to table that amendment.

We also had House Resolution 3094 by Representative Graves from Louisiana for a while that was in -- filed in two Congressional sessions, which would have established true regional management, giving the states control of their waters off their state so that you could manage for the biomass off of your state alone. That has not been successful in moving, but ultimately is still the way to go if you want to truly get control of the population off of your state.

But like I said, the Appropriations' language that set this up allowed us to start working towards somewhat of a regional approach. We requested in 2018 16 percent of our overall quota. That quota included private recreational anglers that fish off their own vessel, as well as the share of the quota that we thought we should be able to manage which also included the share of the quota that people caught on federal for-hire vessels or charter boats or party boats is what we call them.

Ultimately, we were not allowed to manage that sector of the private recreational fishery and we were only given the percentage share that was dealing with the private rec that fished off their own boats and that's about 6 percent.

So what the exempted fishing permit allowed us to do, is basically go to a regional approach, each state having very their own allocation; and then we were required to monitor those catches and close the quota when we thought that it was reached. Of course, our concern was in trying to determine the number of days that we would have in 2018, which we projected to be 82 days, was that it had been so long since we had a season length like that, we truly didn't know what the demand for that fishery was going to look like.

So we did our best to use the modeling from 2010, the last time we had a season length like that. All during this time, the biomass of the fishery in the western Gulf has increased and increased in the size of each fish has increased. So we also had to account for that in our projection. Ultimately, we prosected that 82-day season and we closed the season with our estimate of an in-season allocation to be at 77 percent of the allotted poundage.

I might add that we've now finished up our entire season of sampling that we do at our private boat ramps and we are much closer to that allotted pound than the 77 percent. We believe it's now 95 to 97 percent. We just got that as of a closed April 15th. We're just looking at those numbers. We're trying to determine how that will impact the projections that we have for this year.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Now just to be clear, you're saying that we -- that private anglers caught 77 percent -- now you think it may be slightly higher -- of the quota for the private anglers. That doesn't include charter boats, party boats, and certainly doesn't include the commercial sector.

MR. RIECHERS: That's correct.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Yes.

MR. RIECHERS: That's correct. So for 2019, the good news is we did have about a 23,000 pound increase in our overall state allocation. That's because the overall allowable catch across the Gulf increased, and that's our proportional share. Again, as we have some seasons where these longer seasons are there, we think it will improve our ability to project and so we've included the 2018 data into that.

We still are maintaining our year-round open state water season. I want you all to be -- make sure you understand that, that we're still open 365 days inside of nine nautical miles. We've had a lot of people who support that. As we went into 2019, we did want to go out to our anglers -- in 2018, we really didn't have time the way this all progressed -- to really get feedback from our anglers on what they may want the season to look like. So we did three scoping meetings. We had web presence where we got feedback and we basically let them choose or talk to us about different opening dates, as well as the notion of split seasons where you'd be open part of the season earlier in the year, you may close, and then you'd be open later in the year.

What we found is that -- and this was a little bit of a shock to us because of the way the wind blows in June and the difficulty it is in getting out. But when we went out to the public -- at least for this next season, 2019 -- they wanted to go with a status quo June 1 opening date and as you can see here, it was Option A as we talked about it. But as it stands now, it will run from June 1 through September 5th, giving us a 90-day -- 97-day season is what we projected.

Now, as I've said before, that's the projected season date. We will continue to do the in-season monitoring like we've done last year and really the year before and we do that in two ways. We basically use our traditional 40-year length program that we've had in place for about 40 years where we're on the docks measuring fish, encountering people, and seeing what they're catching and the size of their catch and we do that basically on a weekly basis in some locations along the coast. In addition to that, about three years ago, we went to a voluntary catch reporting system here at the Agency, as well at the same time unbeknownst to us, Harte Research Institute was kicking one off as well for Red snapper.

So since that time, we basically put iSnapper in front of ours and we took ours down. We have angler self-reporting data voluntarily to those sites and we're using that to create a barometer of how well that's doing versus our other survey. I will tell you, they mirror each other. They're directionally the way they're supposed to be. ISnapper should be higher in landings because it's encountering people who aren't leaving from -- who are leaving from their own private slips that we will not be able to encounter and so directionally it's correct and seasonally and movement from year to year, it's mirroring one another very, very well. So we're optimistic that in the future, we may be able to use iSnapper as part of our tools here, especially as we go into this kind of in-season monitoring.

The next slide basically deals with what happens after 2019. The EFPs were for 2018 and 2019. And I am glad to share with you that a different set of the amendments dealing with regional management -- basically, bringing up the concept again -- Amendments 50 through 56. Amendment 50 sets the umbrella notion of regional management and then each of the five states has an amendment of their own; but basically, those amendments do delegate for the private recreational fishery only the ability of the states to manage much like we've done under the EFP.

It allows us to adjust seasons and days. Allows us to adjust bag limits and size limits to some degree. Again, for Texas because we're different in that we wanted to keep our state waters open, it allows us to close federal waters while still having our state season open and it does have postseason quota adjustments in it where you either pay back if you go over or you can carry poundage forward. That was passed at the last Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council meeting. Those are on their way to the desk of the Secretary of Commerce, and we fully expect that the Secretary of Commerce will approve that; but we don't have approval at that time. But we won't need that until truly the 2020 season.

So with that, I certainly would be happy to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Members, any questions or comments?

I have one question and one comment, Robin. What is the justification that you have been given by NMFS and I presume Dr. Crabtree for not extending the regional management to the party boat/charter boat group?

MR. RIECHERS: The reason they didn't do it, I believe, under the EFP is there were going to be some states that wanted to include charter boats and others that did not and it basically split on a western Gulf/eastern Gulf kind of split. And so even as we move forward with Amendments 50 through 56, that same notion occurred.

Ultimately, to be candid, is given the way the seasons are structured, given the way that frankly we're subsidizing biomass to the eastern Gulf, charter boats and party boats would get fewer days than they're getting now if we went to that system and our folks would get more. And so that's they -- we've not been successful at getting that through either the Council level and I think that has something to do with why National Marine Fishery Service didn't accept it under the EFP application, as well.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Well, I hope you'll continue to press for that because there's -- in my judgment -- no justification for that carve out and I hope you'll also continue to make clear that we, as a state, oppose any further privatization of the Red snapper fishery. This is a public resource, and it should remain a public resource without quotas being given away in perpetuity. So I just want to make sure that that message is delivered since you're our -- one of our three -- you're the leader of our three-member delegation to the Council.

MR. RIECHERS: I can assure you the Texas delegation attempts to do that almost at every meeting, if not every meeting.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Well, we have your back on that because it's the right thing to do and it's been endorsed by Senator Cornyn, as you know, in a very strongly worded letter to Secretary Ross. So I think we should continue to resist the efforts to any further privatization of this fishery or any other segment of the Gulf fishery. Anyway, we appreciate your presentation.

Anybody else have any comments or questions?

All right. Thank you.

MR. RIECHERS: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: And good luck down at the Capitol.

All right. I think that takes us to Action Item 2, Public Lands Proclamation, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes, Justin Dreibelbis.

MR. DREIBELBIS: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, for the record, I'm Justin Dreibelbis, Private Lands and Public Hunting Program Director in the Wildlife Division. In 2018, the Commission made certain arrow guns and airguns lawful for the take of game animals and nonmigratory birds.

Staff has determined that because of the current rules governing the use of public hunting lands are silent on the subject of arrow guns and airguns, changes were necessary with respect to possession, display, and use of these pneumatic sporting arms. At the March Work Session, the Commission authorized staff to publish a list of proposed amendments to the public lands proclamation. This morning, I will go back over those amendments.

The first set of amendments to 65.199 would prohibit the possession of arrow guns and airguns on public hunting lands except for permitted hunters, permitted researchers, commissioned law enforcement officers, or Department employees in the performance of their duties. The amendments to 65.201 would make it unlawful for a person to possess a loaded arrow gun or airgun in a vehicle unless the person falls into a certain category of disabled hunter that may hunt from a stationary vehicle. And the last group of amendments to 65.203 would require hunters using an arrow gun or airgun to comply with provisions regarding the wearing of hunter orange and the discharge and display of sporting arms.

We received two public comments on this item: One in favor, one against. There was no explanation with either comment. And so staff is requesting approval of the following motion: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts amendments to 65.199, 65.201, and 65.203 of the public lands proclamation concerning the possession, display, and use of pneumatic weapons on public hunting lands, with changes as necessary to the proposed text as published in the April 19th, 2019, issue of the Texas Register. I'll be glad to answer any questions you might have.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: What is -- members, any questions?

What is -- on your PowerPoint where you list the three sections -- yes. You say 65.201 says motor vehicles.

MR. DREIBELBIS: Correct.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: And then the bullet point says "in or on a vehicle."

MR. DREIBELBIS: That's --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Which do we use? Motor vehicle and or vehicles and how is "vehicle" defined?

MR. DREIBELBIS: That's a question that I don't have off the top of my head, but I can certainly get for you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Well, I think we need to know that. I'd like to know that before we vote on this.

MR. DREIBELBIS: Okay.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Well, we'll come back to a vote on this; but I would like to know how the word "vehicle" is defined and whether these proposed changes apply to a motor vehicle or a vehicle. And you can get back to us on that, and we'll vote after you get back to us.

MR. DREIBELBIS: Okay. Will do.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: We'll go forward with Action Item 3, Public Hunting Proclamation, Establishment of an Open Season on Public Hunting Lands.

MR. SWEENEY: Mr. Chairman, I think we've got motor vehicle in the existing rule. Bob Sweeney, from General Counsel. Just --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: We use the term "motor vehicle"?

MR. SWEENEY: Yes, it is motor vehicle.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: And how is it defined, Bob?

MR. SWEENEY: It is not defined in this section. So I would have to look for a different section to see how it's defined.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Well, the reason I'm asking is I'd like to know would it apply, for example, to a Mule or a Can-Am, a four-wheeler? Is that considered a motor vehicle?

MR. SWEENEY: I would think so, yes; but I'll determine that based on the definition elsewhere in --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: If you could --

MR. SWEENEY: -- the regs. Sure.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: -- check on that, please.

MR. SWEENEY: Thank you, sir.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. So let's go forward with Item 3, the Establishment of an Open Season on Public Hunting Lands.

MR. DREIBELBIS: Commissioners, again my name is Justin Dreibelbis, Private Lands and Public Hunting Program Director. Each year in May, we come to the Commission to ask for action on two items related to the public hunting. One is to adopt the open season on public hunting lands, and two is to approve the public hunting activities on state parks for the following year.

In order to provide hunting activities on public hunting land, the Commission must provide for an open season. The open season is typically from September 1st to August 31st each year. The Commission is also asked to approve specific public hunting activities on units of the state park system, which are included in your briefing materials.

Staff proposes hunts on 48 units of state park lands for the 2019-20 hunting season. There are a total 1,478 proposed hunt positions, of which 424 are youth positions. There are also 44 groups proposed, which can include one to four hunters. I'm very glad to say that each one of these categories is up this year and there's -- we appreciate Rodney and his State Parks team and their support of public hunting on state parks and looking forward to another good season.

At this time, staff is requesting approval of the following motions: One, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorizes an open season on public hunting land to run from September 1st, 2019, to August 31st, 2020; and, No. 2, Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorizes the public hunting activities continued in -- contained in Exhibit A to take place on units of the state park system. With that, I'd be glad to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Members, any questions or comments?

I have a question. Is the proposed public hunt to apply to the same properties that were in this program in '18, or have there been any properties dropped or added?

MR. DREIBELBIS: There's always here and there added hunts. This year, we actually have some new hunts that have been added at -- Lake Mineral Wells actually has an all-season dove hunt this year, both splits for annual public hunting. And then we also have increased numbers and some actual new category hunts that have been added to a number of different state park units.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: And have we eliminated any properties from what was in the 2018 package that you're aware of?

MR. DREIBELBIS: No, sir, not that I'm aware of. If there were any eliminated, it would have to do with weather-related issues, population issues, those kind of things. It's certainly not anything that's been pulled from a lack of interest.

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: Mr. Chairman?

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Yes, sir. Commissioner Aplin.

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: Is there much effort spent by the Agency to manage some of these drawn hunts? I'm trying to get a feel for the effort versus what's available. I mean as an extreme, Copper Breaks has one hunt, Choke Canyon four; but I don't understand the effort that we put towards the amount of hunts.

MR. DREIBELBIS: I can definitely speak to that. So State Park staff generally work with their local Wildlife Division staff in putting together population surveys to go ahead and come up with their harvest recommendations for the year. Then state parks obviously have different challenges than what we might have on a state wildlife management area, having to deal with high visitation rates and those kind of things. And so then those different variables are considered to come up with these numbers. Some state parks are a lot bigger, higher populations; and, therefore, have a lot more hunts or a lot more permits.

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: No. My question is there -- the effort involved from soup to nuts for four hunts, has that -- have you ever considered some --

MR. SMITH: Is it a reasonable expenditure or resource, and are we getting a good return on that investment?

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: And not that I have any interest --

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: -- in cutting it short. It's just --

MR. SMITH: Sure, yeah. No, that's a fair question and we can come back.

I don't know, Rodney, if you want to talk about that again. I think Justin's point to the balance question is really good. We've really prided ourselves in the fact that about half of our state parks have been open for some kind of hunting, again, with biologically based recommendations. The park staff do have a plurality of users that come out there at different times for different purposes, and so trying to balance those closures with that is important; but it has been really important to us to make sure that we're sending the signal to our state's sportsmen and women that their parks are accessible and available for hunting according to the best biological recommendations. Even if in some cases, you know, it may only be one or two hunts at a park every year. But we think that's well received in the local communities and beyond as sportsmen have seen parks as being assessable to them to be able to hunt and fish, not just for other kind of nonconsumptive users. Is that a fair characterization?

MR. FRANKLIN: For the record, Rodney Franklin, State Parks. That is absolutely correct, Carter.

So to your point, we constantly evaluate the success of each of our hunts and determine staff-wise and staff time, along with the wildlife biologists in the area, to make sure that the sustainability of the hunt and the success rate is -- it meets the effort we're putting in. So we're evaluating that prior and then after each hunt.

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: Thank you, Rodney.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. Is there anybody in the audience who wishes to speak on this item? I don't show anybody, but I'm just checking.

All right. Is there a motion for approval? Commissioner -- or Vice-Chairman Morian. Second Commissioner Bell. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, Action Item 3 carries.

On two, do we have an answer yet on --

MR. DREIBELBIS: We do have some follow up on that.

MR. SWEENEY: Yes, Mr. Chairman. Bob Sweeney again, General Counsel. The definition that we're using here in the wildlife -- in the Texas Administrative Code Chapter 65 is incorporated from the Transportation Code and that is a very broad definition of motor vehicle which includes a self-propelled vehicle or a vehicle that's propelled by electric power from overhead trolley lines. So any self-propelled vehicle, which would include Mules and the other things that you described.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Very good. Thank you for confirming that.

All right. Is there a motion for approval of Action 2?

Commissioner Scott. Second Commissioner Latimer. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, Action Item 2 carries.

MR. DREIBELBIS: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. That takes us to Action Item 4, Disease Detection. This is a recommended action item on extending the containment zone boundaries, Mitch Lockwood. Welcome, Mitch.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Thank you and good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Mitch Lockwood. I'm the Big Game Program Director. And the slide before you illustrates the current CWD zones or Chronic Wasting Disease zones that are established in this state and staff have proposed amendments to the delineation of CWD Containment Zone No. 3, which is located in portions of Bandera, Medina, and Uvalde Counties.

As a refresher, the area that is shaded in yellow on the map before you is known as the surveillance zone, which is an area that has relatively high risk for Chronic Wasting Disease. And the area shaded in red is known as our CWD containment zone, which is an area in which CWD is known to exist. Both of these zones involve mandatory testing of hunter-harvested deer, testing for Chronic Wasting Disease, and there are restrictions on the movement of carcasses from those zones. There's also restrictions on the movement of live deer from those zones and within these zones.

The boundaries of this particular containment zone form a 2-mile buffer from any property in which CWD has been detected in a permitted deer breeding facility or its associated release site and a 5-mile buffer from the approximate location of a CWD confirmation in what I will refer to as a free-ranging deer. A total of three CWD positive deer in this area are classified as free ranging, which is simply a term that we use to identify deer that exists on a property in which breeder deer have not been released.

Now, this term "free range" might imply that these deer are native to this area. However, it's important to note that genetic analyses have indicated that those particular three deer in which CWD was confirmed, were actually genetically more related to breeder deer than they are to the native -- the deer that are native to that area. In fact, those analyses indicate that there's actually a low probability of any recent ancestry to free-range deer native to that area.

Nonetheless, out of an abundance of caution, a 5-mile buffer from any confirmed case of CWD on sites that are not registered as breeder deer release sites, are used -- it is used as a factor in delineating the containment zones in this particular area. The 5-mile buffer resulting from a free-range positive that was harvested last hunting season, necessitates a slight expansion of this containment zone, as is illustrated in the darker red area on the slide before you now.

Now, this change will not result in any new requirements for hunters or landowners in this area. This -- again, this is an area in which both the containment and the surveillance zone have restrictions on the movement of carcasses. In both these zones, there's mandatory testing requirements of hunter-harvested deer and there's not any deer breeding facility that is located in this new area that -- this area that we propose for an expansion of the containment zone. So really there's -- this proposal doesn't have any new regulatory impact on anyone.

We have received two comments on this proposal: One in support, and one in opposition. And the person who opposed the proposal did not provide any reasoning for the opposition. And so with that, staff recommend that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts an amendment to 65.81 concerning disease detection and response, with changes as necessary to the proposed text as published in the April 19th, 2019, issue of the Texas Register. And that concludes my presentation. I'll be glad to entertain any questions you might have.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Members, any questions?

Commissioner Aplin.

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: Mitch, how do -- how does the public and the landowners that are within these shaded areas, how are they aware? I don't know if it follows fence lines. It looks like it's a radius. How are these people aware if they're in this area or not and what the restrictions are?

MR. LOCKWOOD: That's a very good --

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: Or the obligations are?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Very good question, Commissioner. The yellow zone is delineated by three -- by four major roadways. We have from Tarpley down to Hondo, we have a county road, and then we have Highway 90 forming the southern boundary. We have FM -- I believe it's 187 going up the west side from the south end being Sabinal up to Utopia on the northwest corner and then from there back to the northeast corner is another Farm-to-Market road that's -- that goes from Utopia to Tarpley. Within that surveillance zone, that red area right there, that's not a clearly defined -- that's not based on roadways or creeks. For the most part, it's not. And so in that case, the only individuals that would be impacted by rules in the red that would be different than those in the yellow, would be permit holders. And so we would contact those individuals to let them know that they fall within that red zone, that containment zone, and remind them what the rules are associated with that.

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: What's a permit holder mean?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Like a permitted deer breeder. And actually, that's -- that would be the only permit holder that comes to mind in that area. Possibly a holder of a Deer Management Permit or DMP Permit.

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: But if you just own the land and you're hunting on your land, you still have those testing restrictions, movement of carcass restrict -- you still have those same restrictions, correct?

MR. LOCKWOOD: That is correct.

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: And how are those people made aware of the restrictions? And now I'm seeing an additional radius, which I think is probably wise. I'm just wondering --

MR. LOCKWOOD: Sure.

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: -- how you're communicating that to the --

MR. LOCKWOOD: So the restrictions that apply to hunters regarding testing and carcass movement for the -- they apply the same whether you're in that containment zone in red or the surveillance zone in yellow. So as long as you're in -- between Utopia and Tarpley and Hondo and Sabinal, the same rules apply to everyone when it comes to testing requirements --

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: Okay.

MR. LOCKWOOD: -- for harvested deer and carcass movement restrictions. So we use news releases and the Outdoor Annual actually has these maps and other means to help everybody within that whole yellow area know that they have these requirements.

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: Thank you.

MR. SMITH: Yeah. In fairness, Commissioner, it's a great question.

And, Mitch, if I can add on just a little bit?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Please.

MR. SMITH: I think our Wildlife team has been very proactive about public meetings in that area, as well, and making sure there's been a lot of visibility and opportunity for landowners to engage, be familiar. We have a very prominent CWD check station there in Hondo, in particular, that you can't miss if you drive on Highway 90, which is where most hunters are coming through that area. And so I do want to compliment Mitch and the team and Clayton in terms of that very public outreach, making sure it's, you know, not just a notice in the paper or a notice in the Outdoor Annual. There have been a lot of proactive efforts to reach landowners in the area and so Mitch has done a great job, as has that team over there.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Thank you. That is a significant oversight. I appreciate that.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: So I think that this raises a good point and I would say in addition to those efforts, which are good, we should make certain that this is prominently posted on our website and on the app so that somebody out in the field, particularly with the telephone app, they can check it and I would suggest put those roadways predominant -- with the predominant markers. So that's -- the exterior of the yellow zone is readily apparent to people if they fall within it or not.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Yes. And all of that actually has been done, and it's out there today.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Thank you for that.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay, good.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: I would also say it's not being expanded, but the containment zone and surveillance zone in far West Texas in the panhandle, the same thing, that the effort is made for everyone to be communicated to. And I'm sure you've been doing it, but --

MR. LOCKWOOD: Absolutely. Yes, ma'am.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. Is there a motion for approval?

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: I'll make the motion we approve the modification of the containment zone.

MR. SMITH: Chairman, I think we have one speaker.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Oh, I'm sorry.

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: I did overlook that. My mistake.

Tim Condict -- beg your pardon, Tim -- please come forward and share your remarks. My apologies.

MR. TIM CONDICT: Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission, staff. For the record, my name is Tim Condict. I'm the Executive Director of the Deer Breeders Corporation. I was just coming to speak today on -- in support of the action, but I also would like to commend the staff for their hard work on Senate Bill 810 and I would like to say that through all the years that I've been here and worked with them, that we have always been able to come to a resolution.

We normally don't get it right the first time or maybe not the tenth time, but I would like to commend you guys and the staff here for working until we do get something right and I just wanted to say thank you for allowing us to participate and always trying to work out the best solution for everything possible. And, again, I support this action.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Thank you very much for your compliments to staff, and we appreciate your close involvement in the task force and other efforts to deal with this. We really thank you for coming today.

MR. TIM CONDICT: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. With that, we have a motion by Vice-Chairman Morian. Is there second?

Second by Commissioner Bell. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries.

All right. Action Item 5, Texas Statewide Recreational Trail Grants Funding, Trey Cooksey.

MR. COOKSEY: Good morning, Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Trey Cooksey. I manage the Recreational Trail Grant Program for State Parks. The National Trail Fund grants are federal funds from a rebate of off-highway vehicle federal gasoline tax. In 2019, our apportionment remains $3,954,874 from the U.S. Congress. Of that, we use 7 percent, which is $279,638 for program administration. And this year, we have about 700,000 available from previously failed projects or cancellations.

This year, we had 55 project applications that were submitted for a February 1st annual deadline for nearly $10 million and the State Trail Advisory Committee reviewed these projects, project proposals, in March of this year and there's some the qualities that they looked for: Cost effectiveness, quality, recreational opportunity impact, and geographic distribution.

We're going to utilize up to $700,000 this year to fund state park trail improvements, and here's some of the state parks that we'll be doing work in this year. So the recommendation is for funding for 22 projects recommended in Exhibit A in the amount of $3,817,376 and state park trail improvements in the amount of $700,000 is approved.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Members, any questions?

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: I guess I do. Is there --

MR. COOKSEY: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: If the total is 3.8, but you're recommending spending 700 of it?

MR. COOKSEY: Yes, sir. 700,000 from previously -- so they're federal funds of previously failed projects or projects that came in under budget.

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: Right. So you're going to use that?

MR. COOKSEY: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: And the 3.8 or --

MR. COOKSEY: Yes, sir. Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: In addition to and these are the parks that you've identified that you're going to do the work in?

MR. COOKSEY: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: I think the 700,000 is for trail grants in the parks that you delineated. The balance of the funds I think are for motorized, aren't they?

MR. COOKSEY: Well, there are motorized projects on the list that make up a little over 30 percent of the fund. That's a requirement of the program actually on a national level. 30 percent has to go to motorized projects. 40 percent is diversified or can be any two uses and then the 30 percent has to go to nonmotorized projects.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: You good?

All right. Is there a motion for approval?

Commissioner Latimer. Second Commissioner Scott. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries. Thank you.

MR. COOKSEY: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. Action Item 6, Acquisition of Land, Aransas County, .33 Acre at Goose Island. Trey Vick, welcome.

MR. VICK: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name's Trey Vick. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. Today I'm going to present to you a possible acquisition of land in Aransas County. It's about a third of an acre at Goose Island State Park.

Goose Island State Park is in Aransas County, about 9 miles northeast of Rockport. Goose Island consists of 625 acres on Saint Charles and Aransas Bays. The park was acquired in the early 30s. The facilities were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Today the park is known for fishing and birdwatching and the huge oak trees.

Staff has negotiated terms and conditions for a purchase of the last inholding within the Goose Island State Park boundary. This is a .33-acre tract within the Big Tree Ranch Unit. The acquisition of this tract will ensure protection of Whooping crane habitat and eliminate the possibility of this third of an acre being developed by a private individual.

Here's a map showing the Big Tree Unit in relation to the main body of the park, and here's a closeup of the .33-acre tract. We've received no comments on this transaction and if the Commission has no questions, I recommend that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorize the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to acquire approximately .33 acre in Aransas County for addition to Goose Island State Park.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Members, any questions?

It looks to me from the aerial photo that this proposed tract has some improvements on it?

MR. VICK: Yes, sir. This tract was one of the only private individuals that held out throughout all the transactions of that proposed subdivision. Staff -- local staff has been in contact with the owner for decades and has identified this tract as something that we really want to add to the park and not let it turn into a duplex or a private home again.

When the park was hit by Harvey, that was kind of the final nail in the coffin and the owner contacted us and said she just -- she didn't want to see it like that. She wanted it to go to the park and gave us the opportunity -- the first right of refusal for it, so.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: So would we plan to raze the improvements?

MR. VICK: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. We'll raze the improvements, and it will go back to natural habitat.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. Is there a motion for approval?

Commissioner Scott. Second Commissioner Aplin. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries.

Will you go forward then with --

MR. VICK: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: -- No. 7, the Granting of a Pipeline Easement in Parker County at Lake Mineral Wells State Park Trailway.

MR. VICK: Again, good morning. For the record, my name's Trey Vick. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. I'm presenting today a grant of a pipeline easement in Parker County. It's approximately a tenth of an acre at Lake Mineral Wells State Park and Trailway.

Lake Mineral Wells Park and Trailway crosses Parker and Palo Pinto Counties. It sits about 6 miles east of Mineral Wells. Lake Mineral Wells Park and Trailway consists of about 3,200 acres on Rock Creek, a large tributary of the Brazos River. The trailway travels approximately 20 acres from Weatherford all the way over to the downtown district of Mineral Wells and it crosses -- the trailway itself crosses both Parker and Palo Pinto County.

The trailway was once part of the Texas and Pacific Railway. That line was used to carry thousands of Texans to the crazy waters or the healing waters of Mineral Wells, back when it was a resort type community. The line was abandoned and purchased by the City of Mineral Wells in 1989, and then it was conveyed to Texas Parks and Wildlife in 1996.

ONEOK Corporation requests that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department grant an easement to install a 24-inch natural gas line underneath the trailway. The pipeline will be directionally bored with no surface expression and no ground disturbance -- or surface disturbance. ONEOK will compensate Texas Parks and Wildlife for damage and use of the land consistent with the rates established in the current Texas Parks and Wildlife damage and fee schedule.

Here is an overall map of Lake Mineral Wells State Park and showing you the trailway crossing the two counties and the approximate location of this crossing. We've received no public comment on this transaction, and I'm happy to answer any questions. If there's no questions, I'd ask that the Commission adopt the resolution attached as Exhibit A.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Members, any questions?

I have a couple.

MR. VICK: Okay.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: When did we last revisit our fee schedule?

MR. VICK: The fee schedule was put in place in 2014.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: So don't we need to update that? It's been five years ago.

Ted?

MR. VICK: I'll let Ted speak to that.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: I would suggest we do that.

MR. SMITH: We certainly can look at that, Chairman, if you would like for us to.

Ted?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir. We've been -- I have been monitoring going rates for pipelines, transmission lines, and so forth. After 2014, things were very flat for a while because of the price of oil and gas. Things have started up. The prices have started up, and it's just about time to go back and revisit that schedule. Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Well, why couldn't the motion be amended to say the easement would be granted at fair market rates, as opposed to tying it to a five-year-old schedule? Is there any reason we couldn't do that?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: No, sir. No reason at all.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. And, Trey, are we -- are we dealing with Percheron as the agent for ONEOK here? Isn't this the liquid's line?

MR. VICK: I have representatives here from ONEOK that would be glad to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. I'm just curious what type of line it is. If the ONEOK representative wouldn't mind answering that.

MR. JAMES MIKLES: It's the liquid's line.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: It is the liquid's line?

MR. JAMES MIKLES: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. And what about the depth under the --

MR. JAMES MIKLES: 5-foot minimum.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. And would the clause have indemnity obligations?

MR. VICK: Yes. Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Well, let's let ONEOK --

MR. VICK: Okay.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: -- please. Thank you for coming up and answering a couple -- these few questions.

MR. JAMES MIKLES: Yes, sir. James Mikles is my name.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: And are you with Percheron or ONEOK?

MR. JAMES MIKLES: Contract Land Staff out of Houston.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. So the proposal would include an indemnity agreement, and it would be five -- did you say 5 feet?

MR. JAMES MIKLES: 5-foot underneath the trailway. Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay.

MR. JAMES MIKLES: And there will be an indemnity or hold harmless agreement.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: And it will be a liquid's line?

MR. JAMES MIKLES: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. Thank you very much.

MR. JAMES MIKLES: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Is there a motion for approval?

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: I'll make a motion to approve.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Commissioner Morian -- Vice-Chairman Morian has a motion. Second Commissioner Bell. All in favor?

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: As amended?

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Yes, as amended. Let me back up.

For the record, is your motion to adopt the proposal with "at fair market value"?

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Yes.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: And I second.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. And we have second of that motion. Let's vote again. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries. Thank you very much.

MR. VICK: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. Action Item 8, Disposition of Land, Montgomery County, 6 Acres at Lake Houston Wilderness Park, Ted Hollingsworth.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good morning. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This item is essentially a housekeeping item. It pertains to Lake Houston Wilderness Park, which at one time was Lake Houston State Park. It straddles Harrison and Montgomery -- Harris and Montgomery Counties just north of Houston. It's 4,900 acres of undeveloped bottomland forest, upland forest.

Back in 2006, the City of Houston requested that we transfer that park to them. They had more resources for developing the park and managing it and the Commission did transfer it. But in the deed, it is required that any conveyance of any of that land, any encumbrances on that land require the approval of this Commission.

About three years ago, this Commission authorized the City to divest itself of 10 acres that would go to TxDOT for -- mostly for off-ramps and feeder roads for the outer loop, the Grand Parkway Loop around the City of Houston and you approved that. We determined in the meantime that six of those acres were covered by a reverter clause in the deed to the City of Houston. The property has actually reverted to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The Commission did not at that time contemplate that or authorize the transfer of that land from the Department to TxDOT and we're simply asking now that the Commission consider doing that.

It's that little red sliver of land, again, that would be primarily occupied by feeder road. It would be sold to TxDOT at fair market value. It's been appraised by TxDOT. We've received no comments regarding the -- this proposed transaction. And the staff does recommend that the Commission adopt the resolution attached as Exhibit A. I'd be happy to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Commissioners, any questions or comments?

I have one. Is -- are we able to include in this proposed arrangement a reverter that would say if TxDOT ceased using it for a road or related purposes, that it reverts back to us?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: We've actually attempted that working with the attorneys at TxDOT and they have said that that's -- that they will not include a reverter because they're paying full market value for the property and because they're going to put a road on top of it and can't anticipate the situation under which it would revert.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Well, I get the former and you could discount the price to some degree against -- on this slight possibility that it stops being used as a road. But I don't think you just -- because you say we don't have any current plans to abandon it as a road --

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: We've had the discussion, and that's the response we've gotten. I would also add that this particular tract straddles a ravine. Has little, if any, development or recreation value in that location. If it did, I would be more concerned about making sure that it came back and became a part of the park if it were not used for the purpose for which it's being purchased. We can push that again if you would like for us to.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: I just throw it out as an observation.

Okay. Is there a motion for approval?

Commissioner Aplin. Second Commissioner Scott. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries.

All right. Ted, take up No. 9, the Acceptance of 25 Acres in Aransas County at Goose Island State Park.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good morning. For the record, my name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This particular item is in regard to an offer of a donation of an undivided interest of land near Goose Island State Park.

Goose Island State Park is in Aransas County. An extremely, extremely popular park, especially in the wintertime. It's about 10 miles north of Rockport. It was -- it's another one of our CCC parks, Civilian Conservation Corps parks that was developed in the 1930s. We added 78 acres to it in 2012. We added another 216 acres in 2018, bringing that acreage up to 625. The park entertained more than 190,000 visitors in 2017. So, again, for the size of the park, it's an intensely popular park.

We've been offered an 11-48ths interest in a deeded 125-acre tract, which includes Newcomb Point proper, which I will show you in a map in just a moment. This tract has extremely high conservation value, including the fact that it's used regularly by Whooping cranes. The tract is about 800 feet west of the Newcomb Point Unit of Goose Island State Park.

You can see in this map the original body of the park outlined in yellow. The Newcomb Point Unit which was added two year -- or added last year in red and then the location of that 125-acre tract, 11-48ths of which we've been offered. There are some pros and some cons to accepting undivided interest in lands. The biggest pro and what the field staff feel strongly about is that our ownership of an interest in that property would make it extremely difficult for anyone in the future to put together a hundred percent ownership interest in that and develop that property.

It's on a point overlooking two bays. It would be an obvious place to put a condo or an apartment complex or something if somebody were to own the entire property and our ownership of a portion of that should prevent that come occurring. It might also encourage owners -- there are nine other owners with smaller interests in the property. It might encourage the donation of some of those interests.

Cons are that there is a gas well pad on the property. It's producing. It's simply a, again, Christmas tree. Some of the tract is now submerged and has reverted -- or is under the ownership of the General Land Office. We don't know exactly what that acreage is. And partial ownership would not prevent the use of the tract by others. It would simply prevent someone from putting together 100 percent ownership and possibly developing that property.

We have received no public comments regarding the proposed transaction, and the staff does recommend that the Commission authorize the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to accept the donation of interest in undeveloped land adjacent to or near the Newcomb Point Unit of Goose Island State Park. I'd be happy to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Commissioners, any questions or comments?

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: I've got one. Did you check the mineral ownership because --

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: No, sir, I did not. I got back. I stayed busy all afternoon and I apologize. I told the Chairman I would do that, and I have not done that.

VICE-CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Okay. I'm just curious. Thanks.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. Is there a motion for approval?

Commissioner Aplin. Second Commissioner Bell. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries. Thank you.

All right. Action Item 10, an Acquisition of Approximately 110 Acres at Caddo Lake WMA, Stan David.

MR. DAVID: Good morning, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. For the record, Stan David with the Land Conservation Program. This presentation is about approximately 110 acres at the Caddo Lake Wildlife Management Area in Marion County. It's a proposed acquisition.

It's very northeast Texas in Harrison and Marion Counties. It's approximately 20 miles northeast of Marshall, Texas. Caddo Lake WMA consists of 6,821 acres in Marion and Harrison Counties. The state acquired the core WMA in 1992. And in 1993, it was selected as wetland of international importance, especially as waterfowl habitat by the Ramsar Convention. Today the WMA is a very popular destination for wildlife viewing, hunting, and fishing.

TPWD holds a conservation easement on approximately a 220-acre tract of land on the west side of the WMA adjacent to the Goat Island Unit. The Nature Conservancy owns an undivided 50 percent interest in the surface estate of that tract. There are approximately six other undivided interest owners in the remaining 50 percent surface interest.

Currently, TPWD and the public have no road access to the 900-acre Goat Island Unit of the WMA. The 220-acre tract is the only land in which TPWD has an interest that connects the Goat Island Unit to a public road. In August of 2018, staff briefed the Commission about this matter in Executive Session. Ownership of all or a portion of the subject 220-acre tract would help facilitate the construction of an access road from County Road 3419 to the Goat Island Unit.

Alternatively or in conjunction with the acquisition, staff could pursue deeded access from County Road 3419 into the WMA. The exact boundary of the subject tract needs to be established. We currently contracted a surveyor who is researching historic records and will conduct fieldwork as soon as the land is dry enough to get on the land. Right now, it's all underwater. They can't really do anything.

There is the outline of the WMA. You can see the Goat Island Unit in blue. The red star is where the subject tract is located. There's somewhat of a closeup of the area. White private road label is the road we historically used. We no longer have access to use. The red line, the proposed access road is the access road we would propose to construct if we get interest in the subject tract and are able to construct the road due to the conservation easement amendments.

Here's more of a closeup showing how the county road in black would actually travel through the subject tract, and that would be the area that we would try to construct the access road. We received no public comment on the transaction to date. And staff recommends the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorize the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to acquire approximately 110 acres in Marion County for addition to Caddo Lake WMA. And I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Commissioners, any questions or comments?

If not, I'll entertain a motion for approval.

All right. Motion by Vice-Chairman Morian. Second by Commissioner Bell. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries. Thank you.

MR. DAVID: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. Action Item 11 is yours as well.

MR. DAVID: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: 286.5 Acres at the Richland Creek WMA, another proposed acquisition.

MR. DAVID: Good morning, Chairman and Commissioners. For the record, Stan David with the Land Conservation Program. This presentation is an acquisition of land in Navarro and Freestone Counties. It's approximately 286 and a half acres. It's at the Richland Creek Wildlife Management Area. Northeast Texas location in Navarro and Freestone Counties. It is 25 miles east of Corsicana, Texas.

Richland Creek WMA was created to compensate for habitat loss associated with the Richland-Chambers Reservoir construction. The mission of this WMA is to develop and manage populations of resident and migratory wildlife species. The WMA provides quality public recreation in a manner that sustains and conserves native habitats.

Available for purchase are three adjacent tracts, including a large inholding, totaling 286 and a half acres. Part of this acreage is undivided interest currently. I'll show you that on a map in a couple slides. The tracts have been owned by the same families and undisturbed for several decades. Acquiring these tracts will eliminate inholdings within the WMA, add strategic operational value without requiring additional staff or resources for the management.

That's the outline of the northern unit of the WMA. The blue tract's outlines are where the subject tracts are at. The northern tract is two separate tracts. They are not undivided interest. It's a 19-and-a-half and a 17-acre tract. The southern tract is the larger tract. It's 332 acres. It's currently undivided interest and within discussions with the family members, they are indicating they would partition the land for us, a friendly partition. And TPWD would acquire the willing seller's partitioned acreage. So we would end up owning 100 percent fee simple interest in the partitioned tracts of the willing sellers that would sell their portion to TPWD.

We received no public comments regarding the proposed transaction to date. Staff recommends the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorize the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to acquire approximately 286 and a half acres in Navarro and Freestone Counties for addition to the Richland Creek WMA. And I'll answer any questions you might have.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Commissioners, any questions or comments?

If not, I'll entertain a motion for approval.

Commissioner Scott. Second Commissioner Latimer. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries.

MR. DAVID: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. Our final two items are briefings, beginning with Issues Arising from Abandoned Fishing Gear and Fish Mortality Tied to the Choice of a Hook, Craig Bonds and Lance Robinson.

MR. BONDS: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, I'm Craig Bonds, Director of the Inland Fisheries Division; and I'll be tag-teaming this presentation with my colleague Lance Robinson from Coastal Fisheries. I'm going to brief you on some issues related to abandoned passive gears in public freshwaters in Texas. Then shift gears figuratively and literally and provide an update on our plan to investigate hooking mortality of rod-and-reel caught Alligator Gar in Texas waters before passing the baton over to Lance, who's going to brief you on some hook type choices that are employed in some saltwater applications.

So when I use the term "passive gears" in freshwater context, I'm mainly referring to throw lines, which are also limb lines, juglines, and trotlines. These mainly target catfishes and to a lesser degree some nongame fishes. These gears are set, baited, and fished passively. Meaning that anglers don't typically actively tend those. They set them, bait them, let them fish passively, and then come back later and remove the fish that are caught.

Current regulations require gear to be tagged with the name and address of angler, as well as the date deployed. They also must be attached for trotlines within 3 feet of the first hook at each end of the trotline. For juglines and trotlines in freshwater, properly marked buoys or floats qualify as valid gear tags and gear tags are valid for ten days. And that last fact is important and germane later on in my presentation.

There have been chronic concerns about potential impacts of abandoned derelict gear. There are biological concerns about ghost fishing or the continued catching of fish after abandonment. This includes target fish, as well as nontarget fish and other organisms such as turtles and birds. Trotlines have the most notoriety as a derelict gear out in our public waters.

Current statutes make collection and disposal of derelict gear very onerous. Even abandoned gear is considered private property. Only law enforcement can confiscate, but they must post notice for two weeks at the county courthouse for the owner to claim before discarding. It's very unlikely that an angler is actually going to go to the courthouse and claim illegally fished gear and another reason is these gear types are relatively inexpensive to purchase or fabricate and deploy.

This slide depicts the three freshwater passive gear types in action, from a throw line or a limb line in the upper left corner, which is a line that's attached, in this case, to some standing timber and they're limited to five or less hooks and then in the middle picture, we have a jugline. You can see the weight and the baited hook that's suspended from that capped PVC pipe that serves as the float. Then in the lower right-hand picture is a trotline, where you have a long horizontal main line with a series of hooks that drop vertically from that.

Little published information exists on these gears, including unintended mortality of fish and other organisms, as well as potential impacts to safe boat navigation and the associated litter. Especially as river and reservoir water levels rise and fall, which often exposes these gears. Our staff, led by biologist Dusty McDonald in our Mathis district office, conducted a series of collaborative studies that progressed sequentially and concurrently as we gain new knowledge.

In the interest of time, I won't dive too deeply into the methodology of each one; but at a high level, the first study involved a fact-finding component at one of our freshwater hatcheries, Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens, where we had some ponds with some catchable sized Channel catfish. We deployed trotlines across them in series and investigated catch rates of baited and non-baited hooks, as well as fish escapement once they're hooked.

The second part of the study was conducted on Sam Rayburn Reservoir, where we investigated bait retention and catch based on morning versus evening sets. And a third and final component was a long-term evaluation of catch and durability of trotlines set in Lake Corpus Christi in spring and winter months.

Summarizing all three study components, we've discovered some preliminary findings. No. 1, catfish escapement from hooks is fairly high. Retention in winter is higher, averaging about 16 days and lower in the summer, averaging about three days. It's likely because these are cold-blooded fish. They pull, tug, twist more during warm water and probably able to pull off the gear.

Secondly, bare hooks do catch fish. More than you might expect. They also catch nontarget fish and other organisms such as turtles and to a lesser extent, diving birds. These latter nontarget animals are often impaled rather than caught in the mouth. For example, catfish, 95 percent roughly of catfish are caught in the mouth by these gear types. Whereas turtles, from our research, approximately half of them were not caught in the mouth; but were impaled somewhere outside the mouth.

Bait retention is higher during the winter and is often effective within the first 12 hours of setting. More fish died when left on J-style hooks as opposed to circle hooks. Whereas circle hooks generally caught more fish on the gear. Trotline catchability declines over time due to hook loss, the gear tangling on itself and being covered by algae after about three to four weeks is when algae really starts to cover the gear. And about a little over 50 percent of the catch occurs within the initial week or two and then it really tapers off after that.

The picture in the upper left of this slide depicts what a derelict trotline looks like weeks or months after abandonment and it gets covered in algae as you can see and you might imagine why catch rates would go down. The picture in the upper right depicts different shapes of J and circle hooks, and I will just call your attention to what makes them different. On a J hook, the hook point is parallel with the shank. Whereas on a circle hook, the gaff is wider and the hook point is actually perpendicular to the shank. And the reason that it's designed that way is so that if a fish swallows the bait and the angler lifts up on the rod tip, the hook point won't immediately grab in the throat or the gut and will slide up into the mouth and hook into the corner of the mouth. That's what it's designed to do.

Interestingly, the industry standard for commercially available trotlines is to be affixed with J hooks. Although, trotlines can be self-fabricated with the right materials and the hooks can be interchanged.

Our team intends to complete the trotline study field trials of long-term trotline sets and finalize the data analysis for publication. Some potential strategies for addressing this issue may include both short-term and longer term statute -- a short-term rule proposals and then longer term statute modifications.

The Commission may want to consider potential rule changes that involve, one, potentially reducing the number of days that a valid gear tag can be deployed without it being updated. So, you know, we've learned through our research that fish mortality on these gears increases rapidly after about three to four days. And so one thing that this body could consider in the future, is reducing the valid gear tag duration from ten down to say three or four days.

No. 2, the Commission may want to consider requiring all trotlines and throw lines be marked with floating gear tags. This would increase the visibility of these gears, thereby making enforcement easier. It could lead to less abandonment as the gears would be easier to locate by anglers that deploy them. It also would help boaters avoid them when navigating and would allow Inland Fisheries biologists to better assess passive gear effort and something that is difficult for us to do in the field now when some of these gears are deployed in a concealed manner.

And finally, from a more longer term fix on -- within our Parks and Wildlife Code, to better aid in the removal of derelict passive gears from public waters, a statutory change could enable a more streamlined process. If illegally fished passive gears could be designated as litter, then Law Enforcement personnel could confiscate and discard more easily. This would be the most simple fix.

Of course, there's also another maybe more complex fix that could mirror our crab trap cleanup process, where the statute could give this body the authority to set a short closed season and then any gear fished during that closed season would be designated as litter and then we could partner with Law Enforcement or our staff or even an army of volunteers to go out and clean up the litter during that closed season. We would need to work closely with our angling community to try to figure out what temporal time period or season would be less impactful to them. Also, looking at periods of year when reservoir levels and river flows are lower that might expose the gear and make clean up a little bit easier. So anyway, those are two statutory ideas for addressing that issue.

Now, let me shift gears a bit and we're going to switch topics and focus on hooking mortality for Alligator Gar caught and released --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Maybe before you go to that, we could have --

MR. BONDS: Sure.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: -- questions or comments --

MR. BONDS: You bet.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: -- about the first part. Does anybody want to make any comments or have any questions?

I have a couple I would like to raise with you.

MR. BONDS: Sure.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: On the tag, is there any reason we couldn't, by rule, go ahead and consider your suggestion of requiring a float so that it's visible, one; and, two, in addition to the name and address, require a Texas driver's license number?

MR. BONDS: We could certainly look into that. We'll raise the issue certainly for us to consider as a potential rule change. That is within your authority to require floating gear tags for those gear. As far as the driver's license being a component of that, I might ask Bob to --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Well, he may not know; but I would request that you come back with a recommendation on the tagging to enhance the visibility from a safety perspective and a law enforcement perspective, regardless of the ability to seize it. I think we should have that, and I think the information ought to -- we ought to consider it's very simple to put your driver's license number down, if we can do so. We may not, and we may not want to. But I just say let's come back with that.

MR. BONDS: Okay.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: And then what about -- would we have the ability through rule making to issue a citation, as opposed to seizing the equipment, to somebody who leaves one of these three devices out there?

MR. BONDS: Right. I would prefer to let the Law Enforcement handle that question.

MR. BARKER: Hi, good morning. I'm Jarret Barker with Law Enforcement. So as it stands right now, we do have the ability to issue citations to individuals who leave their gear out for longer than the ten-day period, assuming that they mark the gear. What we find in a lot of situations is the gear is unmarked, the lake level goes down, so the trotlines are exposed, and so we'll go check it and it's never been tagged.

In that situation, we'll seize it and remove it; but, obviously, we don't have anybody to write the ticket to. The current statutes require us to post notification at the courthouse that we seized this gear and give an opportunity for the individual who owns it to come forth and claim it, should they want it.

To my knowledge, we've never had anybody come forward and claim a trotline just because it's such a nominal cost. If we seize something like crab traps prior to the clean up -- let's say a commercial fisherman has left them out there -- we're probably going to seize maybe a hundred of his traps and there's a tremendous amount of cost with that, but only a Class C violation. So he's going to come forward and claim that gear in order to retrieve it and then he'll pay the criminal fine for being in violation of that closure.

But going back to the illegal fishing gear -- the juglines, the trotlines, and such like that -- nobody comes forward to claim it, but we're still obligated to go through that process of posting at the courthouse.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Yeah, but I'm not talking about the statutory provision, which I recommend next session we try to seek some relief from that or adjustments to it; but I think we should explore being able to issue a citation to somebody who leaves the gear out there longer than the ten days.

MR. BARKER: We do that currently, yeah.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: We are doing that?

MR. BARKER: We are doing that. Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Well, just to me that reinforces the need to have good, visible information on the tag. So I would ask that you come back at the -- if you can with the August meeting with some recommendations on the tagging side.

MR. BARKER: Expanding the identification.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Yes, expanding and making it more visible, like a float as Craig suggested. And I think that having a closed season -- I just make the observation -- that really doesn't solve the problem because that's just one short period of time when this is an ongoing -- there's ongoing damage occurring throughout the rest of the year. So I think we've just got to --

MR. BARKER: Well, if we change --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Talk to the --

MR. BARKER: Craig and I discussed it a little bit. If we change a little bit of the language around the gear itself to where if we deemed that untagged gear was litter, well, then it's no different than a beer can or anything else. I can go collect it and throw it away. The public could collect it if it was a nuisance and throw it away. The only time it would actually be personal property would be is if it's properly tagged by gear -- you know, that we define through the Commission.

And in that situation if it was there longer than the ten-day or the three-day window, we would issue them a citation for being in violation. But just allowing to kind of free up the process of that unidentified gear, just pull it out and throw it away is kind of what we're looking for.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Well, what I would ask is that the two of you and your teams collaborate and come back with some recommendations on how to tighten this and strengthen it and provide some protection to the fish and by-catch that are getting that and plus, you have a public nuisance when you have that in the water and a boater doesn't know that or a swimmer doesn't know a --

MR. BARKER: Absolutely.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: -- trotline is there and that's not good either.

MR. BARKER: Absolutely.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: So if you can, let's get back to us hopefully in August. If not, maybe in November.

MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman, would you be okay if we really just folded that into the statewide? Because, you know, we are talking about gear types and some changes there and it would just, I think, fit probably more neatly with our kind of normal and customary timeline.

We can certainly come back with some information in August; but, you know, this is information we're going to want to get out there in the Outdoor Annual soon and get passed. And just, it's up to you. We can handle it however you want, but --

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: If you do that though, you're not -- it wouldn't be effective until March at the earliest.

MR. SMITH: That's correct.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: And to me, I wouldn't wait that long.

MR. SMITH: Okay.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: I'd prefer to move -- wouldn't you?

MR. SMITH: You want to move quicker?

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Yes, sir.

MR. SMITH: Okay. All right. We'll come back in August with a proposal. All right.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Good deal.

All right. Now, please go on to hooking mortality.

MR. BONDS: All right. We're going to switch topics now and focus on hooking mortality of Alligator Gar caught and released by rod and reel. This issue was raised as a concern during the most recent regulatory cycle when a number of Alligator Gar rule proposals were being considered and this Commission asked us to look into the issue and as you well know, Alligator Gar fisheries can consist of substantial rod and reel angling effort that involves catching and releasing these large, long-lived fish to hopefully survive that catch experience and maybe even thrill another angler with a subsequent catch; but most importantly, survive and perpetuate the fish population.

An individual fish throughout a multi-decade long life could potentially be recycled through several catch and release experiences if post-release survival is high. In other species, catch and release survival can be high or lower, depending on a variety of factors. The concern with bony mouthed fish like Alligator Gar is the hooking techniques often employed include intentionally or inadvertently allowing the fish to pick up a bait presentation off the bottom and then swallow that hook, so when the angler sets the hook into the fish, oftentimes it's not into the bony mouth parts of the fish; but whether it's in the throat, esophagus area, or even lower into the gut.

Little is known beyond anecdotes about catch and release survival of Alligator Gar and potential impacts to populations. We know that post-release survival could be influenced by the hook type and hook setting techniques. We desire to develop a set of best management practices that maximize survival of hook-caught Alligator Gar.

Our plan is to look into this issue, which would include, No. 1, a comprehensive literature review of hooking mortality of similar large or bony mouthed fishes. There's virtually nothing in the public literature on Alligator Gar at this point. But think about other species such as White Sturgeon in the Pacific northwest or Pike and Musky. Also, some of the bill fishes in the marine environment.

We have a research scientist right now working on this presently. We also became aware just this past week that our colleagues up at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife is working on a hooking mortality study on Alligator Gar. They're from Lake Texoma and also at Tishomingo Fish Hatchery. So we're going to be in close communication with them and follow along with their study.

Secondly, we're going to conduct a comprehensive review of hook type regulations among U.S. states, especially for the most relevant species that I've previously mentioned to you. We have one of our management biologists assembling this information right now and both of those briefing papers, we're going to share with this Commission body as soon as they're completed.

We also plan to solicit input from our list of rod and reel Alligator Gar guides and avid anglers, and this list of contacts has grown to approximately 30 individuals. So that's a pretty robust group of very, very avid rod and reel anglers for Alligator Gar. We'll administer a survey to ascertain the hook types that they use, their hook setting techniques, whether these have evolved over time, and what impact that has had on their hook-up success and any observations that they have on fish health. This survey will be administered this summer.

And finally, we would like to develop a set of best practices for hook selection and fish care that anglers can access and use to minimize fishing related mortality. These products could include digital brochures, other web aids similar to some of the successes that we've had in educating our Largemouth bass anglers in adopting fish care practices in their discipline.

So now I'm going to -- unless you have any specific questions or comments for me, I'm going to pass the baton over to Lance Robinson and I'll be available for questions as well after as he's finished.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Commissioners, any questions or comments?

I guess I would make one casual observation, Craig, is that in part of your future evaluation of these issues, I would include in that best -- do we -- do -- as a part of what we ultimately might recommend as best practices, look at barbless? I mean, if most of these fish we think may be swallowing the hook, it's a lot -- you're not going to rip their gut out if you don't have a barb. So I'd just say let's consider that if you weren't already. You may be.

MR. BONDS: That's a variable that we'll take into account. Yes, sir. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: All right. Good deal. Let's have Lance come -- all right, Lance.

MR. ROBINSON: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Lance Robinson with the Coastal Fisheries Division. Kind of segueing off of Craig's presentation, I'm here today to kind of give you a little bit of an undate on the use of circle hooks, especially in the marine environment and marine fisheries.

As you may recall in one of the last Commission meetings, we -- this body passed a regulation requiring circle hooks when fishing for -- with live or dead bait for sharks and this is what prompted this further discussion. So today, what I would like to kind of give you is a little background, a little information on circle hooks and how they're used in marine fisheries.

Circle hooks are not anything new. In fact, circle hooks have been found in archaeological digs in Latin America over 500 years ago. So it is a concept. It's something that's been used for a long period of time. It's only been in the last 10 to 15 years or so that circle hooks have become more prevalent and used more readily in some of the fisheries in the marine fisheries. A lot of that has been driven by to kind of address catch and release fisheries or to address by-catch take using conventional gear, conventional hooks types, and also mortality that may be associated with using J-style hooks for undersized fish. So this kind of being -- using circle hooks can actually allow some preservation of these undersized species.

Striped bass has been probably the most studied marine species in the use of circle hooks primarily off the east coast of the United States, driven almost exclusively because of the by-catch issue related to that particular fishery. Undersized, regulatory discards because in so many cases in some of these fisheries in some years, the discard mortality is higher than the actual -- pound-wise is higher than the actual recreational take. And so circle hooks have been used and looked at in that fishery and that's where a lot of the literature originally started from.

Kind of playing off of Craig's presentation, again, I just -- as a reminder of the two types of hooks we're talking about here are the J hooks, conventional J hooks, and the circle hook. As you see depicted in the picture here, again, the unique design element of the circle hook is the fact that the point points back to the shank and as Craig indicated, in those conditions where a fish is -- swallows the bait and it's pulled back, the hook is not able to catch on the lining or in that tissue and so it's designed to kind of twist as it comes out and it usually catches in the jaw.

Another element of circle hooks that oftentimes you will see is a reference to what we call non-offset versus an offset hook. And the picture on the right kind of shows you on end how those two hooks would look. They're both circle hooks; but in the one on the right, the shank, the metal is bent out. So it really exposes that hooking tip. And, in fact, using a circle hook that has an offset like that, actually has a pretty high hooking and mortality element associated with it, very similar to the J hooks.

There are a number of -- there are a number of issues that affect the use of these hooks and one thing that anglers have commented on and certainly in some of the literature that we looked at, is that there's a lot of missed catches, if you will, in using the circle hook and that comes down really to the fishing behavior of the angler because if you try to set a circle hook, because of the way that hook is pointed back to the shank, there's nothing for that to set against. It's almost a self-hooking type of gear. You have to -- so the fisherman's presentation in how they make that catch, they're going to have to change their behavior a little bit because if you yank and try to set that hook, you're going to yank the hook right out of the fish's mouth. And so -- and so -- and also fish behavior can have an affect on the effectiveness of circle hooks. If a -- the strike behavior of the fish can actually self-hook the animal and in a lot of the commercial longline fisheries in marine waters, in fact, circle hooks are required and desired by the angler or the fishermen because it is somewhat self-catching.

Some of the studies that we looked at in the literature and I teased out just a couple of examples just for your information and I tried to look at species that we would have some familiarity with here in Texas. On the table, on the graph before you or the table before you are the results of two studies that were done. One in Louisiana and one in North Carolina. They were both studying Red drum, which is obviously one of the main species we have here in Texas. And one of the things I want to point out to you is that as you look at the effect of the different responses that were measured in these studies, at first blush you look at it and there seems to be some ambiguity or some conflict in the results that came up; but I want to kind of speak to that and really speaking at the -- looking at the first response regarding hooking depth and you'll see one study indicated that circle hooks resulted in a deeper hooking depth, further into the gullet or into the fish. Whereas the other study showed that the hooking depth was much less and so that seemed to be a little bit contradictory.

But as we look at the literature and compare the two studies, what we found is that it's really -- that observation is really more qualitative and so shallow versus deep. And so how they measured that, you know, it could be a -- what they determined in one study was a deep hook, but it was actually still in the mouth. It wasn't in the gut. And I think the elements that follow below here or the responses below are really more indicative of what you would expect to see in the use of circle hooks in this particular case for Red drum.

Size selectivity, they found no difference between circle hooks and J hooks. Size selectivity is speaking to if you use the same hook style or size, are you going to see a different catch of -- in the size of the fish. And then what they found was there was no selectivity. The sizes were not affected by the use of a circle hook versus a J hook.

The degree of bleeding which certainly can lead to mortality and most of these other elements down here have some contribution toward a short-term mortality of fish that are caught with the different hook types. Degree of bleeding is just a measure of how that hook may cause injury into the mouth and in both cases, both studies, circle hooks reduced that level of injury. Also, you'll see that in both of the studies, the incidents of jaw hooking -- kind of that desired function and what the hook was designed for -- was certainly higher in the use of circle hooks versus J hook. Gut hooking into the gullet and into the stomach was reduced in both studies using circle hooks over J hooks.

And then capture efficiency, which kind of speaks to the part of the angler element there, they showed that there was really no difference -- once they learned how to use these hooks -- no difference in the efficiency or the effectiveness of those two -- circle hooks over J hooks. Ease of hook removal is oftentimes an element. Certainly in J hooks, if you get one that's gut hooked or very deep in the gullet, if the angler is, you know, adamant about trying to get that hook back and pulls and tugs on it, then you can certainly -- because it's difficult to get out, you can invoke additional injury and trauma to the fish that could lead to mortality. So with the case of the circle hooks because it typically ends up residing in the mouth, the ease of removal is much more improved.

And then finally, one of the studies kind of drilled down and looked at tissue and organ damage. These would be very, very deep hooked where you're getting into perhaps even into the heart injury and some of the internal organs from a gut hooked. And in that study, it clearly showed that circle hooks decrease tissue and organ damage, you know, in those Red drum that were studied.

I'll draw your attention to the bottom left-hand corner, which is again a little bit -- I think can be a little bit confusing when you look at it. This is the overall mortality that resulted from the use of the two different hook types. So in the first case, the one study, it showed that the circle hook resulted in a 3 percent mortality. Whereas the J hook resulted in 7 percent mortality of Red drum. And then correspondingly, the next study kind of find that flip opposite. A 9 percent mortality associated with circles versus three and J. And I think some of that is probably explained more about, you know, just the way the studies were done weren't identical and how they measured mortality was a little different; but the main take-home message here is that certainly mortality using these hooks is relatively low and certainly the ease of removal by anglers is a big element there.

Another species that we kind of looked at -- although we don't have Summer flounder here in Texas, we do have a flat fish species. But here's a couple of studies and results that were done on Southern -- Summer flounder off the Atlantic coast and in pretty much all comparisons, the two studies found no difference in hooking depth between a J hook and a circle hook. Degree of bleeding, no difference. Gut hooking, one study showed that the gut hooking was reduced with a circle hook versus the J. And then no difference in ease of removal or tissue and organ damage.

So I think really what this -- you know, kind of an opposite end of the spectrum, if you will -- that some species lend themselves maybe much better in utilizing this type of gear and improving survivability. Others may not bode as well. And, again, you look down at the bottom left. They found mortality, short-term mortality at least, was pretty equal for both hook types in those two -- both of those studies.

So as we continued looking at the use of circle hooks in the marine environment, we looked at what is currently being used by coastal states in the United States, as well as the six U.S. territories around the world. And out of those 26 to 29 different entities -- management units, if you will -- there were ten states that actually had some requirement for the use of circle hooks in state waters. Now, I'll say that in many of the fisheries where there's a federal fishery component to it, in some of these elements they already require circle hooks, for instance, in reef fish and Red snapper and things like that in federal waters and in some of the coastal pelagics in federal, they already require that. What I'm speaking to here are actual state water fisheries: What do they do in their state waters?

And so you'll see that Striped bass, along -- four states have regulations in place requiring the use of circle hooks when used with live or dead bait, natural baits. Snapper grouper, large species group, probably about two dozen different species encompass that Snapper grouper complex. Two states have regulations requiring the circle hooks in their state water fisheries. Halibut, again, a flat fish up on the east coast. Atlantic highly migratories, South Carolina, Louisiana, those are going to be your bill fish, your sharks, things like that that make up the highly migratory species. Reef fish, again, Red snapper and grouper complex. And then lastly and certainly not least, Texas, we have a requirement for the use of circle hooks in state waters when fishing for Red snapper with natural or live baits and then recently the shark regulation that requires it also in state waters.

So if we wanted to take the step forward and look at what species we might consider if the Commission wanted to look at adding that element to other fisheries, this would kind of -- this is a -- the species complex that we have right now where we have current bag and size limits in place. This is certainly not all inclusive. There are other species that may not have a bag limit or size limit, such as a Gray snapper; but maybe one that wanted to added. But you can see kind of the break up both for reef fish and pelagics.

The one missing on pelagics is the shark. We already have that one in place, but -- and, again, for a lot of these pelagics, the marlins and things likes that, circle hooks are typically used in those federal waters under that highly migratory species permit requirements already.

So with that, I think that's the end. I will certainly try to answer any questions you may have as it relates to circle hooks in the marine environments.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Commissioners, any comments?

Commissioner Bell.

COMMISSIONER BELL: As I was reviewing or observing the information, is there -- does the data say that there's a strong argument for -- it seems like we're advocating circle hooks over J hooks; but when we look at the mortality rate, there wasn't a significant difference. I mean, common sense to me seems to say that it's better to use a circle look, that it's less damaging, that you have just as much competitive fishing opportunity; but I didn't see where it -- you might save just -- was significantly different, not from this bit of information here in this case. So how do you -- how do you evaluate that?

MR. ROBINSON: No, that's an excellent question. And I think, you know, the studies that we looked at, certainly there's a variability in that short-term mortality. I think one of the elements that -- and one of the reasons why circle hooks seem to be looked at more frequently now, is really not as much about -- although, there is some value in some cases for some species in that short-term mortality. But the issue is really the -- you know, that -- you know, targeting that undersize. You know, if you're catching those undersized species and trying to -- you know, those discards and giving them a better chance of surviving. Anything you can do to kind of help that element I think is something that may be something from a conservation standpoint that may be looked at.

But the studies varied, and I only showed two examples. There's a number of studies out there over the last 10 or 15 years. I just picked out two, you know, really specific because they were species that we have here; but there's a whole suite. Some freshwater species, as well. And the mortality rates associated with these studies vary, depending on the species. A lot of it has to do with the -- you know, the strike behavior of the fish itself and how it takes the bait and holds it in its mouth before it tries to swallow it or whether it just takes it and grabs and go, which is going to hook it pretty much quicker.

COMMISSIONER BELL: Okay, thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Comments?

Vice-Chairman Morian and I are both interested in one other aspect of this and that is material of the hooks because I think we wanted to get some feedback from you on whether stainless, for example, ought to be evaluated as a hook material. So I would like for you to ask your group to come back perhaps part of the normal regulation cycle with recommendations on this. It seems like -- as Commissioner Bell pointed out, it seems like from what you did show us, that circle hooks should be preferred and recommended, if not required.

We're already requiring it on Red snapper and shark and it's apparently already required in federal water. So it would make us consistent with federal water. So I'd say come back with recommendations on these Texas species, on each one of them, and Tarpon are -- hopefully, are catch and release. So you would surely want a hook that's easy to remove there. The others maybe not. But so would you --

MR. ROBINSON: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: -- as a part of the normal evaluation of rule changes, let's look at hook material and should we either mandate or do something with respect to circle hooks on these various Texas species.

MR. ROBINSON: Yes, sir. Will do.

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: Lance, are you talking about -- most of the species, you're talking about kind of a terminal tackle. You're not talking about artificial lures in your mind?

MR. ROBINSON: No, sir. What I referred to here is use of circle hooks only when using live or natural baits.

COMMISSIONER APLIN, III: Okay.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. Thank you very much.

Last, but not least, we have a briefing from our colleague Steve Hall on Hunter Ed and potential ways to reduce the burdens here and so look forward to hearing from you.

MR. HALL: You bet. Mr. Commission -- Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission, my name is Steve Hall. I'm the Hunter Education Coordinator, and today's briefing is on Hunter Education Program. Kind of a where we've been, where we are, and where we're heading.

The mission of the program is to preserve the hunting heritage by teaching safe, knowledgeable, responsible, and involved hunting and shooting practices. It's a historic program. It goes back to the 40s and 50s. The NRA had their hunter safety program and in our -- New York, the State of New York, took that and adapted it to their state as the first mandatory program in 1949. By the mid 70s, most of the states had an official program. In Texas, that was in 1972 when we began or voluntary program. Mostly, this was due to Colorado passing a law that required everyone born on or after January 1 of 1949 to have a hunter education course and so we had to quickly scramble to get a course up and running so that the Texans that go to Colorado had the course or could get the course here prior to departing to Colorado.

In 1988, we went to a mandatory program. This was the 1987 Senate Bill 504 passage that allowed for mandatory statute and it impacts those born on or after September 2nd of 1971. That is our proverbial grandfather date, and it's still the date that we live with today.

We've certified about 1.3 million students and trained about 1.6 million students in the program. Right now we're averaging about 58,000 students per year. That's 10 percent of the U.S. population of graduates. We've trained over 30,000 instructors in the program. Most of whom are volunteers. We do currently have 3,100 active instructors. These are comprised of TPWD staff, game wardens, professional educators in the schools, and then volunteers.

Certainly, the course topics are safe handling and use of sporting arms, hunting laws and regulations, hunter safety and ethics, respect for landowners and resource, and then the hunter's role in our wildlife management and conservation practices. The outcomes essentially are if you're going to hunt with me and I hunt with you, I'm going to ask, you know, that you be safe, you be legal, you take a good shot to reduce wounding, and that you take care of the game that we harvest and then certainly present a public image and beyond that, mainly fair chase and some of the other ethical aspects of the hunt.

In 2013, this Commission did pass three new rules. One was the provision of an online-only course for those 17 years of age and older. This is the bulk of the certifications today. You streamlined the classroom courses from ten hours and two days back to six hours in a one-day format and then exempted military from live-fire requirements. This was based on a statute back at the time. A subsequent statute has exempted most military and law enforcement now from having to complete hunter education prior to hunting in Texas.

The course options as they stand now are three: Classroom, internet plus field, and internet only. The classroom and internet plus field are instructor led options. The classroom is, by and large, the most instructor led courses in the state. Mostly in schools, but also by the volunteers. And then there's the internet plus field option where you can study online for the knowledge portion and then go to a field course to get the skills portion of the course. Most of those are at safe shooting ranges. So they are more limited than the classroom versions. And then certainly the online-only is available through Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

The main accomplishment from the program over almost 50 years in Texas, is this right here and that's -- it can't be understated and that is that the reduction of accidents has been phenomenal and significant because of hunter education across North America and especially here in Texas. We've kept the same data since the mid 60s. We've investigated accidents the same way and these show you the nonfatal in red and fatal in yellow, reductions of hunting incidences with the rise of students trained in the program in the green line. Upwards of 1.6 million students.

Another way of showing those data are nonfatal data in the 70s and the voluntary error was about 7.5 incidents per 100,000 accidents and now today's current incident rate is around 1.4 incidents per 100,000 participants. So hunting is safe. It's getting safer because of hunter education and, of course, we want to continue that trend.

Our major partners in the program, a really nice win-win situation that we developed with the passage of the mandatory law was also getting into the -- at the time, vocational agriculture program in the high schools. Great win-win because their enrollments were sagging and hunter education came on and all of a sudden, their enrollment went back up and it really -- it was a nice relationship that we developed there in 1988 and that continues throughout today.

Another one was with the Ag Extension Service back then in 1994 and that's the 4-H Shooting Sports Program. Today, there's 10,000 youth in the 4-H shooting sports chapters. All of them go through hunter education as a result of this partnership. Another partnership -- and David Yeates is in the room with the Texas Wildlife Association -- but certainly the Texas Youth Hunting Program partnership has been a really strong relationship of graduating kids in hunter education and sending them on to youth hunting opportunities, especially on private lands. Right now, over 1,200 youth hunters go afield in that program alone. And finally, Outdoor Tomorrow Foundation. We developed a partnership with them in 2014 with their Outdoor Awareness Programs. These are outdoor education teachers in the high schools and middle schools that teach hunter education. And as you saw with David Buggs' presentation, also in the universities we have a high presence of hunter education being taught at those levels and certainly with those partnerships. Right now 10,000 students graduate each year just in the school curricula alone.

The last two years, we've invested a lot of time and energy into a new registration system. It's all online right now -- right now an instructor -- to essentially set up a class, monitor it, and close it and then pay for it, it all happens online now. So they don't send any records back into Texas Parks and Wildlife. I remember a time where I was looking up records manually on a data printout and telling people on their way to Colorado if they had a hunter education card or not. So we've come a long ways, but we've certainly got a long ways to go.

The education registration system is in play right now and certainly we continue to try to make enhancements to that system to make it even more understandable. So moving forward, we do plan to essentially improve instructor led course numbers and locations. This has always been an issue with hunter education. Convenience is always a factor. When and where somebody needs a course is just one of those things that we've dealt with continually, and we have a good way to address that. Another -- and I'll talk about each of these individually. But another one is -- of course, what David Buggs mentioned as well -- is that's the whole diversity and inclusion and really trying to make a better effort and an enhanced effort to really reach down and drill down with new partners, especially in hunting which is a more complicated introduction into the outdoors.

Enhance online courses. That's the interactivity of the online courses plus the videos on websites and things that make it a little bit more user friendly and especially towards the millennials and Z generation. And finally, these new offerings that we've put out there called "Hunting 101s" and I'll talk about that a little bit more. The instructor led course convenience, for example, in field courses and making sure there's plenty of them in the areas and naturally the urban areas get the biggest draw; but certainly even in the rural areas, do we have enough courses.

We do have kind of a 1-2-3 step strategy to identify when we don't have enough field courses. No. 1, we've developed a new form online that essentially gives us the opportunity to say, "Hey, there's not a field course near me. Where can I get one?" And this also applies to classroom courses, as well; but mostly classroom courses are more numerous. So it's mostly the field courses, and they get to play. So we have them essentially contact us and then I find a volunteer -- excuse me -- my staff or I find a volunteer in the area, an area chief, sometimes a game warden; and then finally, if we have to, send staff out to give a course in a more routine fashion. I've even given classes myself on the statewide level when there was just the urgency and I've done that personally because I believe that if somebody wants to go to Idaho to hunt and they need to do it next week, we're going to get them certified and that's my mission, that's my pledge to them. And I think by and large, we do a good job with that.

The diversity and recruitment piece that David Buggs mentioned this morning is very important to us. We're the only state that offers routine Spanish speaking courses. Certainly, we want to work with more partners. I work personally here in Austin with Austin Afro Network that essentially tries to -- and Calvary Baptist Missionary Church -- and tries to get some of those mentors and leaders in those churches and in those groups as instructors because there's no better way to recruit in terms of student diversity than if an instructor is involved as well. We certainly have done that with Outdoor Woman since 1993 and it's been a really great program for us to reach women instructors who then teach and hold women events and it's just the way to go.

We've held numerous hunter education and hunts for those with disabilities. And on the bottom picture there with the big group is a recent effort of ours with the Hunting for Conservation. That's for our own employees and our partners to learn more about hunting and its role in conservation when they deal with hunting constituents and yet they didn't -- they weren't raised hunting and they weren't -- they don't really know a lot about hunting and its accomplishments in terms of conservation. So that pilot effort has turned into a routine program for our own employees, and I think it will reap big dividends in the future.

Our online and website enhancements, certainly we can always do better in terms of people's understanding of, okay, where do I go and get a card, what do I do to get a course, and these kinds of things. And I think that this new registration system has really helped us a bunch, but certainly we're always mindful to try and improve that even more.

These "Hunting 101" offerings are a part of our advanced hunter education network. So where do they go after a basic hunter ed certification course? And so they go to a Hunting 101, which is a species and methods approach. Species: Deer, turkey, hog hunting 101. Do you want to learn about dove hunting? Well, come to this class. If you want to learn about muzzleloading, crossbows, the new airguns, any of those kinds of programs are a secondary wave of hunter education we call Hunting 101s. On the right is -- on your right -- on the left, excuse me, is the Dove Hunting 101 that we did. We brought in Dave Miller with CZ-USA to train a bunch of trainers so that we could turn around and train a bunch of dove hunters in the Dove Hunting 101 on the right.

I personally have worked on Deer Hunting 101 as a preface to the mentored deer hunts up there at the Inks Lake State Park, three per year; and two of them being for those with people with disability. So it really works out well to give them a better understanding of the behavior, natural history of deer, where to take a good shot, and those kinds of things as part of their preparations for that hunt at Inks Lake State Park. This is where our Hunting 101s shine, and that is with a known audience.

And we'll continue our big partnerships certainly. On the left, we've got our Super Hunt, which is part of the Texas Youth Hunting Program I already mentioned. And then on the right is our Ag Clays Tournament down there at the San Antonio Rodeo, which is the biggest tournament in the nation in terms of things like grants and scholarships. And scholarships are so numerous at that one that it does attract a lot of kids towards the college -- collegiate level.

And then finally, we are involved in our R3 efforts. That recruitment, retention, and reactivation that you'll hear time and time again going forward. And R3, as we develop the big issues like access, you know, where does hunter education fit into that? Certainly, it fits into all of these types of issues that we face going forward in the future and hunter education has carried the water for a long time and have no plans to ditch that effort. In fact, we really want to get more and more involved in everything that this Agency does in terms of recruitment, reactivation, retention.

The last thing I would say down that list are the gateway activities, such as archery, airguns, and others. We did start National Archery in Schools Program. We've just recently started the Student Air Riflery Program, which is an airgun program both in the schools and those will -- as you can see with the archery program this day, it just grew gangbusters and I have no doubt that the airguns will do the same thing. But those plant the seeds. Those are the gateways to the kinds of activities that we're talking about.

Certainly, we work with BassPro, Cabela's, Academy, Gander, all the different retailers and teach at most of the sites throughout the state. A lot of them in Academy and, of course, Cabela's and Bass Pro, as well. And then finally, we do send out our instructors a lot to the wild game dinners that we do with our Central Market here. Within the Agency, we work with Central Market to put on these wild game dinners; but also to give them a flavor as to who the Department is and why we're involved in that. And the locavore movement is going to be strong. It is strong already and it's going to grow even bigger and certainly being a part of that effort is something that we're looking forward to in hunter education.

With that, I can handle any question that you may have about the Hunter Education Program.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Commissioners, any questions?

Commissioner Latimer.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Does funding come through programming or it's -- I know through that and then through the private partnerships?

MR. HALL: Yeah. Well, for hunter education, it's through the Wildlife Restoration Funding Account and we actually have a specific hunter education part of that account which was created in 1972. Hence, why we created the voluntary program. That's when the amendment came with the Dingell-Hart Amendment and we were able to get hunter safety funds to fund all these efforts.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: But to grow the -- grow it, you need increasing all these partners through these R3 things that --

MR. HALL: Yes, especially the Hunting 101s and advanced hunter ed and the youth hunting and the mentor opportunities. All are done primarily through these big partnerships that we have with those organizations. And it's better to reach the Ag Extension and kind of the extension agent network through them, right? It's better to reach the youth hunting -- or private landowners through the Texas Wildlife Association. And so, of course, those partnerships make sense.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Okay, thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Two questions or a comment and question. One is going back to David's presentation earlier about trying to promote more classwork on natural resources at universities and schools. I sure think that's an opportunity to consider at the same time making -- trying to make an option available for some of these kids and youth to get certified that might otherwise not even think about it because they've never had access to -- known anything about it or had access to the outdoor -- to a hunting opportunity and it just -- we have such a challenge and it seems to me in getting inner city, urban -- I don't necessarily mean inner city -- but urban youth exposed to hunting, fishing -- as you said, Steve -- is a whole lot easier, less challenging.

But the hunting, I just think that's something I would encourage maybe David and you to discuss how we might promote once a year having hunter ed at Prairie View A&M. Just have a day where somebody can get certified. That's one thought.

And then is there a possibility for the class -- for the -- excuse me, going back to the requirements where you've got to have field, some sort of fieldwork if you're under 17. Can we -- is there a way to offer that through partners such as Cabela's and Bass Pros or Walmart or Academy?

MR. HALL: The way it's currently set up is that a lot of those classroom courses do still require skills. It might be through crossing a fence over a bunch of chairs in the classroom versus an actual fence out in the field. The field courses are designed for live fire. The -- I think -- I think the problem that we've had essentially with what I would call a traditional field course where they actually get to fire a firearm, is in the schools because we're -- you know, we're training 10,000 and there's so many teachers, they can't -- they haven't overcome that obstacle of finding -- or figuring out a way for the kids to get a live-fire opportunity during the course. So they get them certified. They run them through the skills, but they don't -- they miss out on some of that hands on. And, of course, that's why we offer the field course to try to get them to come to that as kind of the -- it's really the funner of the two processes, you know? They actually get to shoot, and they like that. But, yeah, requiring it would be a trick though because I think we'd lose schools over that one.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Well, I would ask that -- I don't know how the other members feel about it. But I think 17 being the threshold for internet only, we should look at: Do we change that to 16? I mean, you can drive a car at 16. Should you be able to take this, get certified without the fieldwork at 16?

I'd say come back as a part of the -- a future presentation and let's hear from staff on should we change that to -- and maybe we don't, but I just think we ought to discuss it. I know we discussed it when we landed on 17. There was -- former members of this Commission talked about, well, you know, people can drive a car at 16. So it's --

MR. HALL: I think the convenience for us has been the 17 with the youth license. I mean, it coincides and getting away from that would represent a lot more questions from the public; but certainly we could always look at it.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: I just think we ought to look at it.

MR. SMITH: We can do that.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. Steve, great presentation.

Yeah, Oliver.

COMMISSIONER BELL: Just -- also just in terms of the live-fire piece, I have a question. Because it seems that, you know, you're talking about trying to get, you know, access to ranges. I don't know how people might do that necessarily in the city or at a school; but I do know that we have a lot of technology that allows simulations.

Does the regulation allow the use of a live-fire simulator perhaps? Because maybe what we could do -- if it did, maybe we could have things where we're sponsoring or assisting with classes at a school; but there could be a trailer with a simulator and people could be run through the simulator for the equivalent of their live-fire experience. Unless we have -- you know, the other option would be maybe trying to partner with a landowner that's nearby and you could have a field trip to, you know, some place where people could fire; but that's -- again, that's complicated. Thoughts?

MR. HALL: Well, both of those actually exist as we speak and live -- and simulation live fire through our Laser Shot system, which is such a simulator, is an --

COMMISSIONER BELL: And that's considered --

MR. HALL: -- acceptable substitute.

COMMISSIONER BELL: Okay, okay.

MR. HALL: Yeah. Except for the cost. It's just cost prohibitive in terms of the equipment itself is real expensive and simulation is real expensive. But certainly we've gone down that road and we've attempted to do it, you know, on at least a little bit of a major level and were somewhat successful with it in some of the urban areas. Especially in Houston. But we've got a lot more to go in that, you bet.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Okay. Thank you, Steve.

MR. HALL: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN DUGGINS: Carter, the Commission has completed its Commission Meeting business. So I declare us adjourned at 12:24 p.m.

MR. SMITH: Thank you.

(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

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S. Reed Morian, Vice-Chairman

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Arch "Beaver" Aplin, III, Member

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Oliver J. Bell, Member

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Anna B. Galo, Member

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Jeanne W. Latimer, Member

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James H. Lee, Member

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Dick Scott, Member

C E R T I F I C A T E

STATE OF TEXAS ) COUNTY OF TRAVIS )

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

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

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my

hand and seal this Turn in date _____ day of ________________, ________.

___________________________________

Paige S. Watts, CSR, RPR

CSR No.: 8311

Expiration: December 31, 2020

7010 Cool Canyon Cove

Round Rock, Texas 78681

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