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TPW Commission

Commission Meeting, May 21, 2020

Transcript

TPW Commission Meetings

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: All right. Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the Thursday meeting. I'm going to call this meeting to order May 21st, 2020, at 9:37. And I'd like to start with a roll call.

Is the Vice-Chairman on?

VICE-CHAIRMAN APLIN, III: Yes, Chairman, I'm here.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Abell?

COMMISSIONER ABELL: Present.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Bell?

COMMISSIONER BELL: Here.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Galo?

COMMISSIONER GALO: Present.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Hildebrand?

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Here.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Latimer?

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Here.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Patton?

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Here.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Scott?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: (No response).

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Before proceeding with any business, I believe Mr. Smith has a statement to make.

MR. SMITH: I do, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. Good morning. For the record, my name is Carter Smith.

The 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. I'd like for this fact to be noted in the official record of the meeting.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you.

Commissioners, a housekeeping item. Just a reminder, before you speak, please announce your names just for the record.

The first item is approval of the minutes from the Commission Meeting held January 23rd, 2020, which have previously been distributed. Do I have a motion?

Commissioner Scott.

Do I have a second?

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Latimer second.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Latimer, thank you.

Again, I need to individually call the roll. I vote yes.

Commissioner Aplin?

VICE-CHAIRMAN APLIN, III: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Abell?

COMMISSIONER ABELL: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Bell?

COMMISSIONER BELL: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Galo?

COMMISSIONER GALO: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Hildebrand?

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Latimer?

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Patton?

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Scott?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Any opposed?

Hearing none, the motion carries.

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

Commissioner Scott, thank you.

COMMISSIONER GALO: Second Commissioner Galo.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: I'm sorry. Who seconded?

COMMISSIONER GALO: Commissioner Galo.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Oh, thank you, Commissioner Galo.

Again, I need to call the individual roll.

Vice-Chairman, your vote? You're muted.

VICE-CHAIRMAN APLIN, III: You're right. Sorry. Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you.

Commissioner Abell?

COMMISSIONER ABELL: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Bell?

COMMISSIONER BELL: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Galo?

COMMISSIONER GALO: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Hildebrand?

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Latimer?

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Patton?

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Scott?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: And I also vote yes.

Any opposed?

Hearing none, the motion carries.

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

Commissioner Scott again, thank you.

Is there a second?

COMMISSIONER BELL: Bell seconds.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Bell, thank you.

And I've learned Robert's rule of order. Even if you make the motion, you have to vote on your own motion. So that's why I'm calling, even though you made motion or you seconded it, so.

Commissioner -- I vote yes.

Commissioner -- Vice-Chairman Aplin?

VICE-CHAIRMAN APLIN, III: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Abell?

COMMISSIONER ABELL: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Bell?

COMMISSIONER BELL: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Hildebrand?

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Latimer?

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Patton? Commissioner Patton?

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: I'm sorry. You got me? Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you.

Commissioner Scott?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Any opposed?

Hearing none, the motion carries.

And before we go to an action item, I want to just alert the Commission that last night I received a phone call. Former Commissioner George Bolin died. George -- George had been sick for some time. He was a Commissioner from '83 to '89 and was Vice-Chairman for two years. He was appointed by Governor Mark White. But I told Carter that whenever I saw George and over the years, I would see him several times a year, the first thing he would ask me is, "How is the Department doing?"

He loved this place. He loved the people. He loved what he did. He was an avid fisherman and a bird hunter and he served this Department well when he was a Commissioner. So just a moment of silence for George.

All right, thank you. I'll move on to Action Item No. 1, Temporary Commission Meeting Policy Regarding Meeting Procedures. Mr. Sweeney, please make your presentation.

MR. SWEENEY: Good morning, Chairman. Good morning, Commissioners. As we discussed yesterday, it is necessary in order to conduct the public comment portion of this meeting by teleconference. It is necessary to suspend some of the normal Commission rules that we use for public participation in Commission Meetings, and that's what this presentation is about.

Next slide, please?

Governor Abbott issued his Disaster Declaration on March 13th, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And at the request of the Office of the Attorney General, the Governor's Office then waived certain portions of the Texas Open Meetings Act as the Governor has the authority to do. And the goal of this waiver was to allow State agencies, municipalities, counties to conduct their essential business and preserve transparency while protecting public safety by avoiding, as much as possible, in-person and face-to-face contact -- contact.

So the waiver expands the authority of the Parks and Wildlife Commission to hold a meeting by teleconference -- as we are doing, or about to do -- and establishes criteria for public participation from remote locations, and we're going to go over those shortly.

Next slide, please?

The challenge we have is that the current Commission policy, CP-001, does establish procedures for in-person public comment and submission of paper copies; but those things are not appropriate for this particular meeting due to the pandemic. So we are needing to suspend temporarily parts of CP-001 and adopt alternative procedures consistent with the Governor's Office's direction.

Next slide, please?

So today when public comment is received, we are not going to receive paper comments; but online written comments have been encouraged. Registration and call-in processes have been set up for public comment. The public will be able to hear the meeting and address the Commission in accordance with these rules. The meeting will be recorded and available for public access. All speakers must identify themselves before speaking. If there are technological issues with the conduct of this meeting, we'll recess the meeting and resolve those issues, if necessary. And the rules of conduct that normally apply to public comment before Commission Meetings, apply just as strongly to public comment in this forum.

Next slide, please?

So staff recommends the Commission adopt the following motion: The TPW Commission adopts temporary revisions to Commission Policy CP-001, rules for public participation in Commission Meetings, as published in the -- on the TPWD website on May 8th, 2020.

I'm available for questions. I believe we do have one person signed up for public comment.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you, Mr. Sweeney.

Is there any discussion by the Commission?

We have -- if not, we'll hear from those that are signed up to speak. We have -- no? Okay.

MR. SMITH: I don't think she signed up to speak now. She's not going to speak.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Okay. We don't have a speaker then.

Are there any other comments?

Then I'll entertain a motion for approval.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: So moved.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Scott.

COMMISSIONER GALO: Second Galo.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you, Commissioner Galo.

Again, we have to call roll. Please say aye. I vote yes.

Vice-Chairman?

VICE-CHAIRMAN APLIN, III: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Abell?

COMMISSIONER ABELL: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Bell?

COMMISSIONER BELL: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Galo?

COMMISSIONER GALO: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Hildebrand?

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Latimer?

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you.

Commissioner Patton?

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you.

And Commissioner Scott?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Any opposed?

Hearing none, the motion carries.

Action Item No. 2, Designation of Nonprofit Organization for the Help Feed Hungry Texans Program. Mr. Justin Halvorsen, please make your presentation.

MR. HALVORSEN: Yes, sir. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And good morning, Commissioners. For the record, I'm Justin Halvorsen, Director of Revenue with the Financial Resources Division presenting Action Item No. 2, the Designation of the Nonprofit Organization for the Help Feed Hungry Texans Program.

Next slide, please?

First, just to provide you a bit of background. Legislation was passed a few years ago, specifically Senate Bill 1978 that requires the Commission to designate a single nonprofit organization who runs a statewide program that allows hunters to donate legally harvested deer to food banks. That program is financially supported, in part, by voluntary donations when one of our customers purchase their recreational license. The Agency then passes those donations to the designated nonprofit.

The Commission designated the nonprofit Feeding Texas who manages the program known as Hunters for the Hungry as the first nonprofit in August of 2015. Since program inception, TPWD has passed through about $460,000 in customer donations. In their last fiscal year running from October 2018 through September 2019, Feeding Texas reported that they processed just over 2,700 deer, which translated to about 105,000 pounds or just over 400,000 servings of venison and that served about 82,000 hungry Texans. The contract with Feeding Texas will expire near the end of this fiscal year.

Next slide, please?

TPWD staff recently rebid the contract and our recommendation is to once again designate Feeding Texas and their Hunters for the Hungry Program as the Commission designated nonprofit. This is a very well-established program with strong name recognition among hunters. The program has provided over 10 million servings in the program's history. Their size, scope, and experience and strong fiscal controls all point to them being well-suited to carry out the functions and responsibilities as set forth in statute.

Now, I will pause here to see if I can answer any questions that you may have and I'm prepared to read the motion into record as soon as I'm given the green light.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you for your presentation.

Is this any discussion on this issue?

We have no one signed up to speak.

So I'll entertain again a motion for approval.

Commissioner Scott.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Latimer moves.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Latimer seconded it. Thank you.

Again, roll call. All in favor say aye. I vote yes.

Vice-Chairman?

VICE-CHAIRMAN APLIN, III: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Abell?

COMMISSIONER ABELL: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Bell?

COMMISSIONER BELL: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Galo?

COMMISSIONER GALO: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Hildebrand?

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Latimer?

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Patton?

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Scott?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Well, there can't be any opposed since everybody votes yes. So I guess the motion carries.

Moving on to Action Item No. 3, Statewide Recreational and Commercial Fishing Proclamations, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes, Mr. Kurzawski and Mr. Geeslin.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good morning, Commissioners. I'm Ken Kurzawski of TPWD's Inland Fisheries Division. Today I'm presenting the proposed changes to the freshwater proposals -- freshwater fishing regulations, along with summary of public comments. The first proposed -- next slide, please?

The first proposed change is on Moss Lake which is near Gainesville in Cooke County. It has a Largemouth and Spotted bass fishery. Current regulations consist of a 14-inch minimum length limit for Largemouth bass and no length limit for Spotted bass. These two species combine for a five-fish daily bag limit.

The proposed change for Largemouth bass would implement a 16-inch maximum length limit, which means anglers would -- wouldn't be able to harvest any Largemouth bass over 16 inches. There is an exception for bass over 24 inches that exceed 13 pounds which would allow you to retain a bass of that size for submission to the ShareLunker Program during January through March.

Next slide, please?

The bass regulations are being modified to encourage more bass harvest. Lake anglers surveyed support that approach. Additional harvest could reduce interspecific competition and that could have some improved benefits for bass growth and combining regulations for Spotted and had Largemouth bass would also lessen some of the identification concerns between these two species.

Next slide, please?

Next are Brushy Creek Lake and Brushy Creek, which flows out of the reservoir. The lake and part of the creek are in Cedar Park and the creek extends farther into Williamson County. Brushy Creek Lake is regulated as a community fishing lake, or CFL. That's the definition we have on smaller waterbodies 75 acres or less that are within city or county parks. For CFL's, there are special harvest regulations Blue and Channel catfish, no minimum length limit, and a five-fish daily bag. There are also gear restrictions which are pole-and-line angling and anglers are limited to poles.

Separate from the CFL regulations on Brushy Creek Lake, there's an 18-inch minimum length limit for Largemouth bass. Brushy Creek is under statewide rules. For Blue and Channel catfish, there is a 12-inch minimum length limit with a 25-fish daily bag and a 14-inch limit for Largemouth bass.

The proposed changes would extend the CFL regulations on Brushy -- on Brushy Creek from the dam downstream to the Williamson County line, which is about 50 miles. The minimum length for Largemouth bass on Brushy Creek Lake would return to the statewide limit of 14 inches.

Next slide, please?

Our goal is to manage the creek and reservoir as one system. The creek also has excellent public assess and this area has experienced substantial population growth. Anglers are using both the reservoir and the creek sometimes during the same day. Not bass are being -- not many bass are being harvested. So removing the 18-inch minimum for Largemouth bass will have little impact.

At the creek, we are seeing some cast netting for harvest of smaller fish, which in these smaller systems could have some impacts. Gear restrictions in these smaller waterbodies are intended to direct whatever harvest is occurring to pole-and-line anglers.

Next slide, please?

Lake Nasworthy is a reservoir within San Angelo that has a relatively stable water level, especially for that part of the state. The reservoir has good bank access and White crappie fishing is popular. Crappie are abundant; but most of them, they're smaller than the 10-inch minimum length limit. Anglers have to catch seven or eight sub-legal fish to keep one legal size fish. Most of these are 10 to 11 inches. We are proposing to remove the minimum length limit and maintain the 25-fish bag, which would allow anglers to harvest some of the 12-inch fish.

Next slide, please?

Our goal is to improve the population structure by encouraging more harvest. Anglers surveyed expressed support for removing the minimum length limit and being able to harvest the smaller crappie. Harvesting some of the sub-legal crappie may benefit growth among the remaining crappie and over time, alter the population.

Next slide, please?

Our goal on Lake Texoma and the Red River is to have the regulations standardized in both Texas and Oklahoma waters to facilitate enforcement and understanding by anglers. Blue and Channel catfish are under a 12-inch minimum length limit and a 15-fish daily bag limit, which differs from the statewide daily bag of 25. Additionally, anglers are allowed to harvest only one Blue catfish 30 inches or larger.

The minimum length for Flathead catfish is slightly different from the statewide limit in Texas, 20 versus 18 inches.

Next slide, please?

On the Red River below Texoma in Texas waters, our statewide regulations for Blue and Channel catfish apply. Flathead catfish regulations are as the same as on the reservoir. These regulations are in effect in the area depicted on the map and that includes an area that covers about three-quarters of a mile from the dam downstream to the mouth Shawnee Creek. If you're fishing on the bank or in the water in that area, you're in Texas. If you're downstream from that, even if you're fishing from the bank, you're fishing in Oklahoma and have to follow Oklahoma regulations.

Next slide, please?

Our proposed changes focus on catfish and would align the regulations for both Texoma and the downstream waters of the Red River and Oklahoma and Texas. For Blues and Channels, the minimum length limit would be removed and the 15-fish daily bag limit and limit of one Blue catfish 30 inches or greater would be retained. For Flathead catfish, the minimum length limit would also be removed and the five fish daily bag would be the same. Oklahoma would reciprocate on these changes through their regulation process.

Next slide, please?

In 2015, the Commission approved the bag limit of five Alligator gar on Falcon Reservoir, directed staff to monitor the Alligator gar population to determine any -- if affects of the five-fish daily bag and placed an expiration date of September 1, 2020, on the five-fish bag. Our staff has conducted monitoring of that Alligator gar population in 2014 and again in 2016 and 2018. That biological information was used in making management recommendations for Alligator gar in that reservoir.

The information collected continues to support the determination that the Falcon Reservoir Alligator gar population can safely be -- can safely be sustained under the five-fish daily bag.

Next slide, please?

Our proposal is to eliminate the time constraints so that the five-fish bag can be continued and treated like all other regulations. Staff will continue to monitor the Alligator gar population for any changes.

And finally to discuss our public input on the proposed -- next slide, please? Thank you.

All public input received on proposed freshwater fishing regulations came through our online comment pages. Totals increased substantially from approximately 50 to eight -- in the 800s and late April when a fly fishing shop in Round Rock encouraged through e-mail and social media anglers to support the changes proposed for Brushy Creek Lake and Brushy Creek. Some of the persons also commented on the four other proposals.

Starting with Moss Lake, 94 percent of the people agreed with that proposed change. Among those that disagreed, nine had comments. Reasons given for disagreement with the proposed regulation include a preference for different limit or questioning whether the proposed limit will work. For Brushy Creek Lake and Brushy Creek, 93 percent agreed and 7 percent disagreed. Among those that disagreed, 29 had comments. The most frequently mentioned reason for disagreement, which was about 20 comments with the proposed regulation, was the desire to continue to be able to use cast nets or seines to collect bait fish, primarily minnows from the creek. Two persons objected to these regulations be extended downstream to the Williamson County line. An additional seven persons disagreed with the change of the minimum length limit on the lake itself from 18 to 14 inches, expressing a preference for the 18-inch limit.

For Lake Nasworthy, 91 percent agreed and 9 percent disagreed. Among those that disagreed, four made comments. Reason given for the disagreement with the proposed regulation include a preference for a different limit or questioning whether the proposed limit would work.

On Texoma and the Red River, 94 percent agreed and 6 percent disagreed. Among those that disagreed, five made comments. Reason given for the disagreement with the proposed regulation includes keeping the minimum length limit for catfish and a preference for a different regulation.

On Falcon, 94 percent agreed and 6 percent disagreed. Among those that disagreed, three made comments. Primary reason for the disagreement was that they preferred a lowly day -- a lower daily bag limit for Alligator gar.

In summary for all the proposals -- support for all the proposals exceeded 90 percent. Based on this input, staff does not have any changes to the proposal as presented.

Next slide, please?

That concludes my presentation. I can address any of your questions or comments at this time.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you, Ken.

Are this any questions or comments so far?

If not, we'll move on to Dakus. Would you make your presentation?

MR. GEESLIN: Absolutely. Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Dakus Geeslin. I'm the Director of the Science and Policy Branch within our Coastal Fisheries Division.

There we go. And my presentation today will include recommended changes to the saltwater fishing regulations.

Next slide, please? Thank you.

The recommended regulation changes I'll be presenting today include changes to the flounder regulations and changes to our paddle craft all-water guide license requirements.

Next slide, please?

And just as a reminder, our current flounder regulations that went into effect in 2014, include a 14-inch minimum size limit and bag limits for the recreational sector of a five-fish bag and a 30-fish bag for the commercial sector. There's also seasonal adjustment for both the commercial and recreational sectors, which includes a two-fish bag from November 1st through December 14th, with no gigging allowed during the month of November. However, gigging is allowed during the December seasonal adjustment to the bag limit.

Next slide, please?

Commissioners, we're here before you today out of concern for the State's favorite flatfish, the Southern flounder. Over time we have observed declines in Southern flounder collected in both our fall and spring gill net samples. Our gill nets are designed to catch adult and subadult fish. This fishery independent data -- meaning that the fish are collected by our team of biologists along the coast as part of our routine long-term monitoring efforts -- this type of data reflects the overall status of the population and consequently, fish available for harvest through commercial and recreational sectors.

Two things I'd like to point out on this graph. One is the -- as you see down near the end of the graph, in 2019 you'll see increases in that adult -- in those adults collected in our gill nets. We've heard anecdotal reports from the commercial sector, the recreational anglers, the guiding community that they had a -- they observed a very good year in this last 2019 fall fishing season through the winter.

What I'd like to point out, that although that increase is evident in our data and through anecdotal reports, those overall declines are still prevalent in the context of the long-term monitoring data that we've been a part of.

Next, I'd like to point out that those regulation changes highlighted on the graph, while they've led to temporary increases in our catch rates, they have not been sustained and have not achieved our desired impact of those recommendations. Our goal is to achieve historic levels of catch rates and our proposal that will be presented today, our recommendation, will take steps towards achieving that goal.

Next slide, please?

Similarly, our bag seine data also shows the declining trend in catch rates. Bag seines are an indicator of recruitment as this year collects young-of-the-year flounder.

Next slide, please?

Now, this slide shows bag seine catch rates from both the upper coast and the lower coast. Naturally, flounder are more abundant in the upper coast from Sabine Lake down through Galveston Bay. And while this past fall and winter may have been a better than average year for flounder fishing, this graph clearly shows declining recruitment trends for both the upper and the lower coast. If you'll follow the solid line through the -- the orange solid line, this is the upper coast bag seine catch rates over time. And the dash line of both the orange and the blue, the dash lines running across the graph, those are the trend lines. Now, these are clearly headed in a downward direction.

Those intermittent peaks that you see every three to five years, those are indicators of good recruitment of these are the young-of-the-year fish spawned in the winter.

Next slide, please?

Now, moving on to our fisheries dependent data. This is information we gathered through our harvest surveys of the recreational angler, particular on this slide. This trend also mirrors the declines observed in our fisheries independent data. This slide shows number of fish landed through private angling, that's anglers fishing off their own private boat, in the orange line and our party boat landings, that's anglers fishing from a charter or a guide boat.

And I want to note that our fisheries management regulations implemented in the past, may have led to declines in the harvest numbers of fish; but they haven't had the desired impact of increased catch rates in our routine monitoring that I presented in the previous two slides.

Next slide, please?

This graph shows our commercial landings in pounds. This also continues to decrease over time. This trend mirrors the fisheries independent catch rates and the recreational landing trends. It's also worth noting that our commercial finfish license buyback program implemented in the year 2000 and previous regulatory actions, may have also contributed to lower commercial landings. But even with the declines in the number of flounder harvested in the commercial and the recreational sectors, both the catch and the landings, we just haven't seen the increased catch rates in our resource monitoring samples and that's our gill nets, our bag seines, and our bay trawls.

Next slide, please?

As part of our effort to increase our flounder hatchery enhancements, I'd like to share just a few of the highlights of our increased efforts to produce more flounder. We have a dedicated staff and team of professionals led by Dr. Chris Mace. Over the past couple years, we've constructed two dedicated flounder production buildings at each of our primary hatcheries facilities. One building at the Sea Center Texas down in Lake Jackson and also at the Marine Development Center down in Flour Bluff. Those pictures down on the bottom, those are the facility down at the Marine Development Center.

Of note, we've also double downed in our production cycles per year for flounder, going from one to two cycles per year, and hoping to increase those cycles in the future. So far this year, we've produced approximately 115,000 flounder. We have used these both for stocking and for research purposes, which will help us better understand the specific needs for flounder during the multiple phases of our production.

Next slide, please?

This slide describes our public input process. In order to gather input from stakeholders and constituents, we held public scoping meetings in early December and formal public hearings in March following the publication of our proposal, our recommendation in the Texas Register. Meetings were held along the coast at five locations, starting in the upper coast at Port Arthur, then the Galveston area at Texas City, and the middle coast in Port Lavaca and Rockport and Corpus Christi. We gathered lots of comments through our public comment portal, our e-mails, public hearing testimony, letters, phone calls, and through our Facebook live event.

Next slide, please?

We've also met with our Coastal Resource Advisory Committee back in early January and in mid March and while the Committee does support the staff proposal, they really felt that the proposal didn't go far enough or wasn't restrictive enough and made the following two motions at their March meeting. Each of these motions were passed and resulted in the following recommendations from this Advisory Committee.

The first motion that passed and subsequent recommendation was they felt that we should classify flounder as a game fish. And the second recommendation is a more restrictive approach to management options and this includes a closure from November 1st to December 15th, a 15-inch minimum size limit, and bag limit reductions across both sectors of the fishery. Three-fish bag limit for recreational sector and a ten-fish bag limit for the commercial sector. They also felt that we should clarify our commercial harvesting reporting requirements.

Next slide, please?

Our recommendation consists of the following: To close November 1st to December 15th to all flounder fishing, increase the minimum size limit to 15 inches, and also to strengthen the language in our codes regarding who is required to report under commercial -- under a commercial finfish license. We believe that language in the commercial harvest reporting section is already there and requires folks to report, but we're seeking to strengthen and clarify that language.

Next slide, please?

This slide really depicts the benefits of the proposal and I think it's key to -- that I communicate to you-all that this fishery is entirely dependent on the females. The male flounder rarely reach 14 inches and nearly all the flounder harvested legally are those females. That's why it's imperative for us to protect the large percentage of the females if we hope to achieve our fisheries management goals. At 15 inches, nearly all the flounder are females and every one of those females are sexually mature. So this proposal or recommendation today, would allow more females to reach sexual maturity before entering into the fishery for harvest. Reducing flounder harvest prior to and during the fall spawning migration as these fish move out of the bay inlets and passes, will increase escapement of adults into the Gulf and can only increase the potential spawning population and, therefore, increase recruitment.

Since most of the flounder harvest is comprised of those females and occurs during the spawning, the proposal is projected to increase our spawning stock biomass up to 58 percent over one generation or approximately five years of the flounder.

The harvest reporting requirement and recommendation will make it abundantly clear that all aquatic products, including flounder, taken under their respective licenses must be reported, regardless of whether that product is sold or not.

Next slide, please?

This slide shows the summary of the public comments we've received through the public comment process. As you can see, we've received over 1,100 comments. A breakdown of the comment categories, 52 percent of the comments -- commenters support the proposal. This includes the Coastal Resource Advisory Committee, the Coastal Conservation Association, the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation, and just late yesterday we received another letter of support from Safari Club Houston.

Of note, of those in support, over a quarter of the comments felt that the proposal also didn't go far enough. We also received a letter from Representative Cyrier also in support of the proposal, but he requested an exemption to delay the closure until 2021.

Now, I'd like to -- I'd like to draw your attention to this next category because this is something we don't see very often. This next category is those folks that oppose the proposal because it simply didn't go far enough or wasn't restrictive enough. The most common additional desired regulations were for a longer closure, a full closure from November 1 through December 31st; banning of the gigging; and a closure of the commercial fishery altogether.

Percentage of comments received opposed to the proposal is 36.6 percent. A third of those comments that we received in opposition were simply opposed to any or additional closures. We also received two letters of opposition from Representative Middleton. He expressed concerns regarding economic impacts of the closure and then again reiterated those concerns in light of the COVID-19 pandemic in a second letter to us. Only 3.3 percent of the comments were neutral to the proposal.

Next slide, please?

We're also seeking to change regulations associated with the Paddle Craft All-Water Guide License. This proposal the will remove specificity associated with current course requirements. A few of the required courses are no longer listed or available or simply renamed. Our proposal would require those seeking this license to take a paddle craft leading course from the American Canoe Association or any other Texas Parks and Wildlife approved course.

Next slide, please?

The comment summary breakdown for the paddle craft all-water guide license, we also received 1,032 comments. Most of those arriving at our public comment portal seeking to comment on the flounder proposal. And those in support of the all-water paddle craft license, 25.2 percent. Those opposed, 10.3 percent. Those in opposition felt like this license shouldn't be regulated by Parks and Wildlife or we should ban the license entirely or the courses should be free and vast majority, 64.5 percent of the folks, were neutral on this proposal as they arrived at our public comment portal to comment on the flounder.

Next slide, please?

And with that, staff recommends the adoption of the proposed changes to flounder regulations and the paddle craft all-water guide license requirements as published in the February 21st, 2020, issue of the Texas Register.

And that includes my presentation, and I look forward to any questions you may have for me today.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you, Dakus.

I think the next step we're going to take is to listen to speakers that have signed on to talk. We have a number of them. I'm going to read the first three so that they'll know that they're in line. The first is Shane Bonnot, second is Mr. Harvey, and third is Mr. Hammond.

So with that, Shane Bonnot, would you like to give us your comments?

MS. SUNVISON: Your three minutes begins now.

MR. SHANE BONNOT: Yes, sir. Good morning, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Good morning.

MR. SHANE BONNOT: Can you hear me okay?

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you. Yes.

MR. SHANE BONNOT: Good morning. My name is Shane Bonnot and I am the Advocacy Director for the Coastal Conservation Association, or CCA. And we're a marine nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving and enhancing our fishery resources for current and future generations. We have a long history of involvement with the management of our coastal fisheries. And throughout, we've had continued concern for the status of Southern flounder.

Now, prior to coming to work for CCA, I worked for the Department from 2006 to 2016, where I was a hatchery manager and biologist for Sea Center Texas in Lake Jackson. So I come to you to this morning speaking as an advocate for the resource, a biologist, and most importantly a recreational angler with a houseful of kiddos that also like to fish.

CCA asks this Commission adopt the management strategy that increases spawning stock biomass and conserves the spawning aggregate of Southern flounder. We'd like to see the minimum size raised to 15 inches and that all flounder fishing be closed from November 1st through December 31st, to fully realize the benefits of spawning aggregate conservation. The combination of these actions should result in a projected 68 percent increase in spawning stock biomass.

Furthermore, we ask that the Department address the underreporting of flounder landings by commercial finfish license holders. We need to improve the reporting, the accountability, the enforcement, and the tracking of landings. All flounder landed under commercial finfish license should be reported to the Department.

We also ask that the Department investigates opportunities to determine the effort level of the entire gigging fishery, both recreational and commercial. It's clear this method of harvest has increased in popularity and improved in efficiency during these observed declines. Better estimates of harvest pressure from the gigging fishery can help the Department make future management decisions.

And yesterday there was discussion about delaying action until 2021 citing concerns of lost fishing revenue due to this current pandemic. I'd like to add to that conversation by stating earlier this month, the Secretary of Commerce announced the allocation of $300 million in fisheries assistance as a part of the CARES Act. A portion of those funds will be awarded to the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission and will be distributed to address direct and indirect fishery related losses for both commercial fishermen and fishing guides. So CCA asks that the Commission take this into consideration when deciding on whether taking action now or a year from now.

The data collected and analyzed by the Department clearly indicates that some action is needed immediately and as always, we should use the best available data and science to drive our fishery management decisions. And in closing, I'd like to say that we remain committed to supporting the efforts that will help improve this fishery. Over the past 15 years, our membership has donated over $1 million to support larvae research and flounder stock enhancement. We're willing and able to do more if the need arises.

And thank you for the opportunity to provide these comments. We appreciate the efforts made by the Department to develop management actions that will provide meaningful benefits to Southern flounder. And with that, I will close and I thank you for the time.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: I was muted. Sorry about that.

Shane, thank you for your comments. We appreciate them as always.

And with that, I'll move to Shawn Harvey.

MR. SHAWN HARVEY: Good morning.

MS. SUNVISON: Your three minutes begins now.

MR. SHAWN HARVEY: Good morning.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Good morning.

MR. SHAWN HARVEY: Hello? Oh.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Yeah, we can hear you.

MR. SHAWN HARVEY: Good morning, Chairman Morian -- Chairman Morian, Executive Director Carter Smith, and fellow Commissionaires. My name is Shawn Harvey. I would first like to thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today and I hope and pray that your families are doing well during these current times.

I'm a flounder gigging guide in Port O'Connor and I'm here representing several other guides, commercial giggers and a large part of the gigging community around the central coast that are looking to me to represent their interests. I was able to attend two scoping meetings in December, two proposal meetings in March, and during that time I've made dozens of phone calls, e-mails, texts, and spent many hours visiting with many -- as many folks as I could that would speak to me throughout this process.

With regards to the current proposal, current proposed final regulation, we are in favor of the season closure as this gives the most benefit to the flounder with the least amount of impact to the fishermen. However, we do oppose the increase in minimum size to 15 inches. This will drastically reduce angler success during January through April. Most of the flounder during this time are in the 14- to 15-inch size range. We would like to ask that the minimum be kept at 14 inches and as a trade, close an additional week or all of December to maintain the 58 to 59 percent increase in the spawning biomass.

One -- another negative affect we would see with the December 15th opening will be the certain adjustment in fishing pressure, creating a slaughter of the mature spawning flounder that have not yet left the bay. These larger egg-bearing flounder are far more valuable to the fishery as they are seasoned to the spawning process. The benefit from protecting these flounder will far outweigh the benefit from protecting the 14-inch class flounder, assuming it makes it through the year.

I recently found out that a slot limit may be up for consideration. This will challenge both the gigging and hooking line fishermen as there is a high mortality rate on released flounder that have been gigged or hooked outside of any proposed size parameters. If this is the direction we are headed, I would like to see an exception allowing one oversize and possibly one undersize flounder per day to offset any dead loss that we may see when trying to release a fish. But since none of this has yet been presented to the public, I would ask that you please table any discussion on that until further public consideration and research could be considered.

Again, thank you for your time today. I will be happy to assist with any further considerations regarding flounder and please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of any help. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you. We do appreciate your feedback.

Next up is Mr. Hammond.

MS. SUNVISON: Your three minutes begin now.

MR. RICK HAMMOND: Good morning, Commissioners. Thanks for allowing me to speak to you today. I am Captain Rick Hammond. Owner and operator of NightStalker Guide Service in Rockport, Texas. I have been full-time guiding for the last 19 years. I average 250 nights a year on the water targeting flounder. My whole life and livelihood depends on this often misunderstood species.

In over 20 years, I have seen flounder populations fluctuate. Some years, bad. Other years, good. But I firmly believe that fishing pressure has little affect on these fish. If I really thought there was a problem with the flounder fishery, I would be the first to recommend tighter regulations. That simply isn't the case.

The flounder population in Texas is thriving and sustainable at current levels. Texas Parks and Wildlife's current data on flounder is flawed by not reporting nighttime recreational catch in any dockside surveys and using outdated gill net and bag seine sampling methods. Texas Parks and Wildlife's own data shows that a decline in juvenile fish numbers shows a decline in juvenile fish numbers, but a steady adult population. But you can't have adults without juveniles.

I recommend the best course of action is for Coastal Fisheries to develop flounder specific survey methods and revisit this topic in four or five years, making no change to the current regulations until better data can be gathered. Texas Parks and Wildlife's own data has shown that previous regulation changes have had little effect on the population numbers moving forward and staff biologists have publicly admitted that fishermen are not the problem. So why change regulations again if it is unlikely to work?

In regards to the current proposal, I am against the increase to a 15-inch size limit. This would essentially shut down flounder harvest during January through March when only smaller fish are in the bays. There's very little fishing and gigging efforts January through March, so why take away what we do have for those months? I'm okay November and partial December closures as outlined in the current proposal to protect the spawning females, but please don't change the size of bag limits. Thank you for your time.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Mr. Hammond, thank you. And we do appreciate your feedback.

Next up is Marisol De La Garza.

MS. SUNVISON: Your three minutes begins now.

MS. MARISOL DE LA GARZA: Good morning. Like the beginning speaker mentioned, with the plenty of data, they are showing the numbers that have declined throughout the years of the Southern flounder and I just wanted to ask for your support in always protecting the Southern flounder. CCA Texas has proposed to the Texas Park and Wildlife to close all flounder fishing from November 1st through December 31st to fully realize the benefits of spawning aggregate conservation during the most critical point of their stage life.

I wanted to recommend a change to include a two-month no fishing flounder instead of the month and a half proposed, which is a two-week longer closure to protect the Southern flounder. I ask today for your support on the new change proposed to protect the Southern flounder. Thank you for your time.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you very much.

Next commentator is Terry Stelly.

MS. SUNVISON: Your three minutes begin now.

MR. TERRY STELLY: Good morning, Chairman Morian, Commissioners, and Director Smith. My name is Terry Stelly, concerned citizen, a lover of everything Texas outdoors. Thank you for this opportunity to comment on the management and conservation of Texas Southern flounder. The proposed Southern flounder regulations, they're only delaying a harder management action required just years down the road. There is no data disputing the downward trend of flounder populations between Texas to North Carolina. Although every state is losing marsh habitat, reversing this trend even for states with more marsh does not appear to help flounder.

There are obviously other issues involved in the decline. At the top of the list is climate. Research has showed temperature plays a major role in the life history of flounder in determining sex. By regulation and natural desire, anglers target and remove the larger of the species, females. Regulations too tend to protect the smaller males due to their growth size differences. The effect of temperature is already evident of several species moving south to north along the coastal regions of Texas.

Fish showing this movement include Gray snapper and Common snook. Other than fish, bird movement showing similar changes include White-winged doves, Whistling tree ducks, and Crested caracaras. One must ask: In ten years if the flounder stock does not change direction, how low will the population get?

By the time actions are taken, it may be too late to address reversing the decline. The proposal should include the reclassification of flounder as a game fish, limiting the take to rod-and-reel only. Even dropping the recreational take to less than five will need to be considered too. Length restrictions seem reasonable. However, length limits are pointing to the removal of females only, accenting the importance of limiting the take.

With the removal of flounder from the commercial catch by listing it as a game fish, it is suggested state hatchery personnel should be working closely with private commercial fish hatcheries to enhance their technology and development of flounder aquaculture. This action will fill the gap opened by such a rule change. This action would allow the public, anglers, and restaurants to meet the table demand for this much-loved species, while adding more protection for recovery of natural stocks. Much of commercial aquaculture of Red drum has filled the gap since being listed as a game fish. Once again thank you for this opportunity.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: And thank you for your comments.

Next is John Lester.

MS. SUNVISON: Your three minutes begin now.

MR. PAT LESTER: Good morning, Chairman, fellow board members, and Executive Director Carter Smith. My name's Pat Lester. I guide commercial flounder trips. I hold two commercial finfish licenses. I've attended both scoping meetings here in Port Lavaca. I've had multiple calls with flounder guides, commercial fishermen from Sabine to Corpus.

In regard to the current proposals, we're all in favor of the November and all of December closure to protect the spawning mass. We know we need to give something up. However, in regards to the 15-inch minimum, we are not in favor. If you take us to 15 inches, you basically shut down flounder fishing from November through April. Most the flounder we harvest in January, February, and March are in that 14-and-a-quarter to 15-inch range, which happens to be the range of the flounder the restaurants want. They want a flounder that's a pound, pound and a half. That's the commercial preferred size.

If you take that away from us, you've basically taken away a lot of our commercial market. If you take that away, you also force restaurants to go to outside sources. Go to other states where they can legally get those fish. We want what's best for the fishery, and we're here to help. We'll help collect data, put biologists on our boats, take you out and show you.

A lot of the flounder guides that I speak with, 400, 500 hours a year on the water. These are some of the best years we've seen in years. All I'm doing is asking is please don't make a knee-jerk reaction, a feel-good regulation that's going to put a lot people out of business and take business away from our coastal community.

I appreciate y'all's time. I know y'all are doing the best y'all can. I just ask that you please look for better data. We're here to help. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you, Mr. Lester.

Next speaker is Mark Wong.

MS. SUNVISON: Your three minutes begin now.

MR. MARK WONG: Yes. Good morning, Commissioners, and thank you very much for this opportunity to speak. My name is Mark Wong and I'm a native Houstonian. I've been a fisherman all my life. My father taught me at a very young age, and I've appreciated that. I've been a great support of Texas Parks and Wildlife and other organizations that support the fishing, the fishery as well.

I'll admit that I do have a soft spot for flounder as I was introduced to saltwater fishing on a wade fishing trip to Sea Wolf Park, so I'll admit a bit of bias there and that was about 25 years ago. I will say that I both, I guess, support and oppose the current regulations that are recommended. I do support that the minimum size is larger. I would even suggest that if 16 would buy us more in future stock, that that would be achievable as I'm just regular, everyday recreational fisherman. Okay?

However, I do not support the closure of the season entirely through the months of November and December. And so while I do appreciate the impact, the positive impact to the fishery itself, there are also other impacts which I think have been recognized; but not necessarily stated on this call and presentation.

And so local economies would be negatively impacted. I know that during this time of the year, November through December, at the end of the year, tourism is down and other things and bait shops, hotels, restaurants, gas stations, icehouses, things of that nature, this fall flounder season provides a tremendous economic boost to those businesses.

I'll also say that accessible fishing is negatively impacted. It's already hard to find accessible fishing on the coast. You know, we've had various things like the closure of Rollover Pass, many piers have been destroyed by storms and the like. Flounder are much more accessible than any other species, in my opinion, from the bank or for wade fisherman and closure of this season would contribute to less accessible fishing.

I'll say over the last 17 years, I've also tried to give back. And so I've taken underserved men and children on flounder fishing trips on the weekends in the fall. I believe that being in the outdoors teaches good sportsmanship, good moral values, and also respect. And so this proposed change would not only impact me, but countless other recreational anglers across the great State of Texas.

So I do support increasing the minimum size. I do not support closure as it's proposed. And I appreciate your consideration of my comments, and I look forward to your decision. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you Mr. Wong.

Next speaker is Scott Maxwell.

MS. SUNVISON: Your three minutes begin now.

MR. SCOTT MAXWELL: Thank you, Commissioners, and appreciate this time. My name is Captain Scott Maxwell. I attended the meeting back in February where they discussed this proposal. And at that time, what Les -- what was talked about today by Mr. Geeslin was in it. I sent in a video to Dee Halliburton that she was supposed to have shared with all the Commissioners and that was a video of our scoping meeting. Four different points during that scoping meeting the Texas Parks and Wildlife people basically refuted the fact that we have a shortage of flounder. Clearly stated.

And so I sent that video in, hoping you'll review it. I've also spent hours and hours on the phone with countless other guides, commercial fishermen, and Dr. Mark Fisher, the head biologist through Texas Parks and Wildlife, collecting more data that proves that in reality the upper coast does not have a flounder problem, just like they state in this video. He actually stated on the phone with me, which I have recorded, that Galveston is the center of abundance of flounder. That there is not shortage. He also provided me with a graph that wasn't provided to y'all initially that separated upper coast from lower coast showing the bag seines from 2019 were equal or better to what they were in '18. So there wasn't a decrease in the upper coast, yet we're being pushed to think that there is an increase.

While I do agree with the minimum size up to 15 -- and I understand why some commercial fishermen would not want this, and I understand that completely -- I don't have a problem with that. But when you're talking about taking away six weeks of fishing from people that have been doing this their entire lives, people that make a living doing this like I do, I stay booked the entire six weeks, you're taking away 100 percent of that business from me.

You're closing bait shops because most of these baits camps only survive winters because they sell so many mullet during that time. During that scoping meeting, something was brought up about the fact that the lower coast is where the problem was on the flounder, not the upper coast. I immediately responded in that meeting and you can hear that on the video, "Why don't you make a change that will affect the lower coast if that's where the problem is?"

All three of the people in the meeting agreed that was a great -- that was a great suggestion, we'll write that down. From what I was told, it was never even considered. They did that with trout years ago when they had a problem with trout on the lower coast. They made a change. They didn't change trout in Galveston until this last year. So there's no reason why you can't have a separate regulation for lower and upper if the problem is in the lower.

So, you know, I -- like I said, Dr. Mark Fisher provided me with significant amount of data that I presented Dakus Geeslin, Lance Robinson were copied on that data as it was sent in to them for them to review. I made a separate proposal asking that they not close flounder fishing during that period, but allow people to harvest two fish during that six-week period from the size 15 to 17 inches. This would stop the rehydrating of flounder, which people are taking flounder off their stringer to put a bigger one on there. It would make the Game Wardens' jobs easier because now they're not having to sit there and watch and see the people that are hydrated. They can sit in different areas -- at both ramps, at Texas City Dike, at Sea Wolf Park -- and all they have to do is check those flounder as people come in.

I've spoken with several Game Wardens. They said this would make their jobs a lot easier. But this full closure is going to make their jobs almost impossible because people will fish 24 hours a day, and they are not out there to try to address this. So the impact this is going to have on Galveston as a community will be substantial and after everything we've gone through over the last two and a half months with COVID, most guides have not been able to run any kind of trips. So now you're talking about taking an additional six to eight weeks away from them and being able to make a living for their family.

There's lot of people coming to Galveston during that period to be able to harvest flounder to put in their freezer to feed their families. I literally heard a Commissioner up there in February say we go every year to flounder fish. There's going to be a lot people upset about this. Well, there is. And the biggest key is the impact it will have on our community. You know, emotionally everything about this is just wrong. I've been doing this 30 years. I've never seen more flounder in our bay than we have right now and when you're out there as much as I am -- I'm not making it up. It's just facts.

I've talked to 94 different guides and commercial fishermen up and down the Gulf Coast that all agreed we do not have a flounder problem and to make this kind of regulation change that's going to last for at least -- what -- five to seven years from what I was told by Lance Robinson, you know, it just -- it makes no sense. If we'd had a huge decline, people would have seen the decline, they maybe would agree. But the hundred people that spoke in the meeting, all disagreed. There was maybe two people were in favor of any change at that meeting that spoke up. So I think my personal feeling --

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: I appreciate your -- I appreciate your comments. And believe me, we take into account everybody's comments and I appreciate yours.

And with that, I think I'm going to ask Dakus if he would like to respond to any of the comments that any of the speakers made.

MR. GEESLIN: Yes. Yes, sir. Mr. Chairman, I appreciate that opportunity.

First, we recognize -- we recognize that there's occasionally good years in the fishery. That doesn't negate the fact that these clear and significant trends of declining populations of flounder over time both in the upper -- upper and lower coast.

I'd like to point out also within the Galveston -- within the Galveston Bay fishery, our harvest -- our harvest surveys indicate that while 60 -- while the November and December flounder fishery is very popular, 60 percent of those that are coming to Galveston Bay, they're coming to fish for other fish besides flounder. They're targeting Red drum, Black drum, Spotted seatrout. Only 20 percent of those that are coming to Galveston Bay to fish are targeting flounder only. And then we have another 20 percent that target flounder -- they target everything. They target Red drum. They target flounder. They're kind of indiscriminate.

Also I'd like to say that our -- the bait sales -- the bait sales within Galveston Bay, while they are -- especially the finger mullet are a significant component of the bait sales, for most of the year that ex-vessel value or those sales are about 20,000 -- 20,000 -- I'm sorry, $10,000. In October and November, those sales go up to $20,000. So they simply double, double in October and November the bait sales, specifically for finger mullet in Galveston Bay.

And, again, I appreciate that opportunity to respond to the public comments.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Yeah, thank you very much and appreciate, not only your comments, but I do appreciate all of the people that called in and took the time. It's very important for me and I suspect the rest of the Commissioners to hear everybody's opinion.

With that, I will move to questions and comments from the Commission.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Well, this is Bobby Patton.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: I guess in light of some of the comments and my own reservations about taking action on this, I'd like to make a motion that we -- that we table it and not vote on it at this time, which I guess would require a second and a vote. But I think I'd feel better personally and in my role as a Commissioner to give this more time than I feel like we have.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: All right. So have you made a motion?

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Do I hear a second?

Not hearing a second, the motion does not move forward.

With that, I will entertain the motion recommended by the Department?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Mr. Chairman, this is Dick Scott. I would like to make the motion and change it a little bit off of what the staff did. I move that we adopt the freshwater and saltwater regulation changes as proposed in the Texas Register, but I would move that we defer the effective date of November 1st to December 15th for closing the season for flounder fishing to become effective September 1, 2021.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: This is Jeanne Latimer, and I second that motion.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you, Commissioner Latimer.

Now, I'm going to call for a roll call vote. I vote yes.

Vice-Chairman?

VICE-CHAIRMAN APLIN, III: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Abell?

COMMISSIONER ABELL: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Bell?

COMMISSIONER BELL: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Galo?

COMMISSIONER GALO: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Hildebrand?

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Latimer?

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Patton?

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: No.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Scott?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: We had one opposed. Motion carries.

And I would like to add a comment that Commissioner Patton raised an interesting question about slot limits and I would like to ask the Department to study that issue and report back to us whenever you've gotten some data that you can present.

MR. SMITH: We'll follow up on that, Chairman.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you. I thought it was a very good piece of information.

In addition, I would also like the Department to look at their reporting requirements for all landings under commercial licenses. I ask Coastal Fisheries to work with Law Enforcement, Legal, and other divisions as appropriate to determine what steps can be taken to improve reporting of any commercial landings and to consider the practicality, feasibility, efficiency, and enforceability of moving to a more real time commercial landing reporting mechanism and come back and report on your findings and recommendations to the Commission.

Carter, that was addressed to you, I think.

MR. SMITH: You bet. I was -- I had you on mute there. I apologize. I'm not very quick with my finger. Yeah, we'll follow up on that too, Chairman, and I'll give you a report on when we'll be ready to come back and talk about that.

VICE-CHAIRMAN APLIN, III: Mr. Chairman, can I make a comment?

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Yes.

VICE-CHAIRMAN APLIN, III: This is Beaver Aplin. I appreciate everybody, all the effort staff, the public, all the comments on this challenging issue very much. I want the public to know that past Commissions and I believe this Commission are committed to not only what happened today, but to try to improve the flounder population through our hatchery efforts.

We have built two new hatcheries. One in Corpus and one at Sea Center. As Dakus said, we have basically doubled down some of the production and I believe this Commission is committed to improving the hatchery program and the supplemental stocking of this fish. So I want the public to know that we're very much in tune on this and plan on trying to improve much like we did with the Redfish and the Speckled trout.

So thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you. I agree completely.

With that, we'll move on to Action Item No. 4, Statewide Hunting and Migratory Game Bird Proclamations, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. Mr. Shawn Gray and Mr. Shaun Oldenburger, please make your presentation.

MR. GRAY: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name's Shawn Gray and I'm the Mule Deer and Pronghorn Program Leader and this morning I'd like to seek adoption to the proposed Mule deer and Pronghorn regulation changes.

Next slide, please, Andra?

As I shared with your yesterday, the Land Management Assistance online application, or LMA, is currently used to facilitate the MLD Program. Biologists, landowners, and agents use this application to provide harvest recommendations, identify specific tracts of land and management units geospatially, print MLD tags, and report harvest and habitat management practices for the MLD Program.

Staff have begun the process of including antlerless Mule deer and Pronghorn permits into the LMA system. Staff believe including these permits into the LMA online application will significantly reduce the administrative burden of issuing these permits, as well as increase efficacy of permit issuance and the harvest reporting process. Proposed regulation changes that support this transition involve several new definitions for Pronghorn permits, application and harvest reporting deadlines, and the requirement of a daily harvest log for both permits.

Next slide, please?

Proposed changes to Subsection 65.24 will set forth the application requirements and conditions for the issuance of Pronghorn and antlerless Mule deer permits using the LMA system. This proposal will provide the ability for multiple landowners to combine multiple tracts of land to create an aggregate acreage for issuance of these permits. However, tracts of land aggregated for antlerless Mule deer permits must be contiguous. Staff believe this promotes a more conservative harvest strategy for female Mule deer.

Applications and harvest reporting for both permits shall be submitted electronically by LMA. And because landowners will be required to print their own tags, a daily harvest log will be mandated. Information such as name of hunter, driver's license or customer number, permit number, date of kill, and location of kill will be required to be collected and maintained until the last day of permit validity.

Next slide, please?

Public comments made online indicate that about 70 percent of the respondents agreed with the proposal. With only about 20 percent disagreeing completely. Germane comments disagreeing with the proposal were one person thought the proposed changes would add more complexity and another believed we should allow landowner agents to participate in these permits for landowners. In such a case, the proposal does allow for landowner agents.

And next slide.

And this concludes my portion of the statewide hunting regulation changes. And before I turn it over to Shaun Oldenburger, I'd like to address any questions you have on my items. And for clarity, Shaun Oldenburger will provide the staff recommendation slide.

MR. OLDENBURGER: All right. Good morning, Mr. Chairman and fellow Commissioners. For the record, my name is Shaun Oldenburger. I am the Small Game Program Director for the Wildlife Division. This morning staff are respectfully requesting adoption of the proposed changes to the migratory game bird proclamation for the 20-21 hunting seasons.

Next slide, please?

I should also note today's Commission presentation will be a truncated form of the more thorough presentation that occurred during yesterday's Work Session. Staff have proposed four substantial changes to the 20-21 migratory game bird proclamation. They are the following: Decreased scaup daily bag limits from three per day to one per day; decreased light goose daily bag limits during the regular season from 20 per day to 10 per day; shift hunting season dates from the Western Zone for geese one week later than the previous hunting seasoning during the regular season; and shift hunting season dates for snipe two weeks later than the previous hunting season.

Next slide, please?

We will start with the proposed hunting season dates and daily bag limits for dove seasons. As explained yesterday during the Work Session, Texas has three dove zones -- the North, Central, and South Zones -- which are all allowed one split during their regular season dates under federal frameworks. Additionally, all proposed season dates are primarily calendar shifts from the previous hunting season. This slide in front of you shows the proposed hunting season dates.

As a reminder, the regular season is 90 days long with a daily bag limit of 15 birds in the aggregate. However, we do have some daily bag limit restrictions and special shooting hours at the bottom of the slide for the special White-winged dove days in the South Zone due to being a special season.

Next slide, please?

Now, onto proposed duck seasons for the 20-21 waterfowl hunting season. The slide in front of you shows the proposed hunting season dates and daily bag limits for the statewide teal season. Once again for all duck seasons, including the special teal season, season dates are calendar progressions from the previous hunting seasons. With a special teal season, we are allowed six birds in the aggregate for the daily bag limit.

Next slide, please?

Moving on to the proposed season dates for the regular seasons for ducks, mergansers, and coots. This slide shows the proposed season dates for both the High Plains Mallard Management Unit represented in orange on the map to the right and the North Zone represented in green on the map to the right. Once again, no proposed changes except calendar progression.

Next slide, please?

Moving on to the final zone for regular duck seasons. The South Zone as you can see in yellow on the map, as stated previously, no proposed changes except for calendar progressions with this zone as well.

Next slide, please?

Finally for regular duck seasons, this slide gives a summary of the daily bag limit restrictions. We are allowed six days -- six birds per day in the daily bag limit for ducks with species-specific restrictions listed on the slide in front of you. The only proposed change is for scaup, where we are proposed to go from three per day to one per day for 20-21 hunting season. As stated yesterday during the Work Session, this is a result of a decline in the breeding population of scaup indicated during the 2019 May Waterfowl Breeding Population Survey conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Canadian Wildlife Service.

Due to this decline, the respected U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service harvest strategy called for a restrictive harvest package for this upcoming hunting season. I should also note for all migratory game birds, the possession limit is three times the daily bag limits unless explicitly stated otherwise.

Next slide, please?

Next, staff are moving on to proposed daily bag limits and season dates for goose seasons. As you'll see on the map, the Western Goose Zone is in red and the Eastern Goose Zone is in blue. As explained yesterday during the Work Session, there are no proposed changes to the Eastern Goose Zone hunting dates for the regular season and conservation order except for calendar progression.

Moving on to season dates for the Western Goose Zone, staff are recommending to start the regular hunting season a week later than the previous season to allow more hunting opportunity towards the end of the season when more geese may be available for hunter opportunity. This change occurred based on public comment from the previous hunting season to both staff and the Migratory Game Bird Advisory Committee. Based on this change, the proposed season dates would begin on November 14th and run to February 14th, with the Conservation Order beginning directly after the regular season. This season, as proposed, would then open on February 15th and run to March 14th, similar to the Eastern Zone.

Moving on to proposed daily bag limits for both dark and light geese. For dark geese the proposed daily bag limit is five dark geese, to include no more than two white-fronted geese in both zones. For light geese, staff are proposing to decrease the daily bag limit from 20 per day to 10 per day, with more information in the following slide on this proposed change.

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Yesterday during the Work Session, staff presented a thorough explanation of the reasons for the proposed decrease in daily bag limits for light geese during the regular hunting season. As you see on the graph in front of you, the Midwinter Waterfowl Survey has indicated an increase in light geese across both the Mississippi and Central flyaways in the last 40 years. However, simultaneously, the wintering population of light geese in Texas, especially coastal Texas, has declined from approximately 1 million in the early 2000s to less than 250,000 in the latest years based on TPWD aerial surveys conducted in this area.

Without a doubt, this is not only a harvest issue; but rather a habitat issue as well with declines in winter flooded rice acreage and the near evaporation of undisturbed roost sites along coastal Texas. Earlier this year, the Commission received a letter from Migratory Game Bird Advisory Committee which complimented the Department's new program to assist in the establishment of new, undisturbed roost ponds along the Texas coast. Staff believe that both changes in habitat and harvest regulations are required to potentially reverse the wintering light goose population trend; but also decrease the amount of disturbance on the landscape for our wintering duck population, which continues to show signs of stress in the coastal areas of Texas.

Due to these reasons, staff are recommending the decrease on daily bag limits on light geese from 20 per day to 10 per day during the regular season.

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Moving on to proposed season dates for the regular seasons for Sandhill cranes. This slide shows the proposed season dates in all three zones: Zone A in blue, Zone B in green, and Zone C in red. Once again, no proposed changes except calendar progression for season dates and no proposed changes to daily bag limits.

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This slide shows the proposed hunting season dates for rails, gallinules, moorhens, snipe, and woodcock. Once again, no proposed changes for the rail, gallinule, and moorhen hunting seasons except calendar progression. Moving on to snipe, this proposed season change -- there is a proposed season change by staff. During this last spring, we received some public comment from hunters wanting to move season dates to allow more hunting opportunity in February after duck season closes, especially in flooded pastures and wetlands on coastal Texas areas. Due to the limited number of snipe hunters in Texas, staff have recommended delaying snipe seasons by two weeks and putting those on the end of the hunting season in February. As such, proposed dates are November 7th through February 21st for the 20-21 hunting season. Finally for woodcock hunting season dates, this is no proposed change from the previous hunting season.

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For falconry seasons, all proposed hunting seasons on this slide are calendar progressions compared to the previous hunting seasons.

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Now, moving on to public comment for the proposed changes for daily bag limits on scaup from three per day to one per day. We had a total of 37 commenters as of yesterday on this proposed change, with most agreeing. Most people that agreed -- disagreed with the proposed change were bay hunters and didn't want to see a decreased harvest opportunity with only one scaup and two redheads in the daily bag limit. TPWD agrees with these commenters; but as stated prior, this is a change in federal frameworks and thus the Commission cannot be more liberal under federal law.

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For public comment on the proposed change from the daily bag limit on light geese from 20 per day to 10 per day, we had a total of 50 commenters, with 52 -- 42 percent agreeing with the staff proposal. Most of the commenters that disagreed specifically stated that this is a habitat issue, not a harvest issue. As stated previously, staff agree that there is a habitat issue for wintering light geese in Texas, especially on the coast; but we believe that a combination of increased undisturbed habitat along with the decreased daily bag limits, allows the best opportunity forward for managing this continued decline of light geese in Texas.

Additionally, commenters still wanted the opportunity to harvest above ten when this occurred during the regular season. But based on harvest data, this is a rare opportunity for most hunters. We had multiple commenters also wanting the daily bag limit further reduced to five birds during the regular season. However, staff believe the reduction to ten in the daily bag limit warrants the best first step in dealing with this resource issue.

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For public comment on the proposed change for shifting of Western Goose Zone hunting seasons a week later than the previous season, we had 26 commenters, with 88 percent approving this proposed change. Those that disagreed wanted the previous year's season to continue.

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For the public comment on the proposed change for shifting of snipe hunting season a week later than the previous season, we had 24 commenters, with 100 percent approving the proposed change.

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For the comment on the entire migratory game bird hunting proclamation, we had 44 commenters that disagreed with the proclamation. For nearly all the commenters who disagreed with the staff proposals, most of the suggestions were outside of the allowed U.S. and live -- Fish and Wildlife Service federal frameworks. So TPWD doesn't have alternative choices. For instance, multiple commenters wanted daily bag limits on pintails to be two for this next hunting season. As much as TPWD agrees with this position, once again it's not a possibility under federal frameworks. Other commenters wanted duck hunting seasons in February, which is not an option since ending federal frameworks for ducks are on January 31st and those frameworks actually have been extended multiple times in the last 20 years.

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In closing and summary, all proposals came out of the Migratory Game Bird Technical Committee and all staff proposals were approved by the Migratory Game Bird Advisory Committee, with the exception of the reduction of light geese daily bag limits to ten. This Committee's recommendation was to match the daily bag limits with dark geese at five per day.

That concludes my presentation on the proposed changes to the migratory game bird proclamation. Before taking any questions, I would like to read the staff recommendation for the proposed changes to both the statewide hunting and migratory game bird proclamations.

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As such, staff recommend the adoption of the following motion: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts amendments to Subsection 65.3 and 65.24 concerning the statewide hunting proclamation and amendments to 65.314 through 65.320 concerning the migratory game bird proclamation, with changes as necessary to the proposed text as published in the February 21st, 2020, issue of the Texas Register.

With that, I'll be happy to answer any questions that Commissioners may have on the proposed changes to the migratory game bird proclamation. As always, thank you for your time.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you for your presentations.

Any discussion by the Commission?

No one has signed up to speak.

Therefore, I'll entertain a motion for approval.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: So moved.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Scott.

Do I have a second?

COMMISSIONER BELL: Bell seconds.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Bell, thank you.

And, again, I have to -- I've been told I have to through individually to get your vote recorded. I vote yes.

Vice-Chairman?

VICE-CHAIRMAN APLIN, III: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Abell?

COMMISSIONER ABELL: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Bell?

COMMISSIONER BELL: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Galo?

COMMISSIONER GALO: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Hildebrand?

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Latimer?

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Patton?

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Scott?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: There being no opposed, so the motion carries.

With that, we'll move on to Action Item No. 5, Public Hunting Program, Establishment of an Open Season on Public Hunting Lands and Approval of Public Hunting Activities on State Parks. Mr. Justin Dreibelbis, please make your presentation.

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.

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Each year in May, we come to the Commission to ask for action on two items. One is the adoption of an open season on public hunting lands and No. 2 is to approve the public hunting activities on state parks for the following season.

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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.

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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 46 units of state park lands for the 20-21 hunting season. There are a total of 1,337 proposed hunt positions, of which 392 are youth positions. There are also 66 groups proposed, which can include one to four hunters.

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And with that, staff is requesting approval of the following motions: No. 1, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorizes an open season on public hunting lands to run from September 1st, 2020, to August 31st, 2021; and, second, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorizes public hunting activities contained in Exhibit A to take place on units of the state park system.

Thank you and I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you. Thank you for you presentation.

Is there any questions by the Commission?

No one has signed up to speak.

Regarding the first motion, authorizing an open season on public hunting lands to run from September 1st, 2020, to August 31st, 2021, is there a motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Commissioner Latimer so moves.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: All --

COMMISSIONER GALO: Galo seconds.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Latimer. And who seconded?

COMMISSIONER GALO: Galo.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Galo, thank you.

And, again, I need to call the role. I vote yes.

Vice-Chairman?

VICE-CHAIRMAN APLIN, III: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Abell?

COMMISSIONER ABELL: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Bell?

COMMISSIONER BELL: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Galo?

COMMISSIONER GALO: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Hildebrand?

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Latimer?

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Patton?

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Scott?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Motion carries.

Regarding the second motion authorizing the public hunting activities contained in Exhibit A to take place on units of the state park system, is there a motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: So moved.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Scott moved.

Is there a second?

COMMISSIONER BELL: Bell second.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Bell, thank you.

I vote yes.

Vice-Chairman?

VICE-CHAIRMAN APLIN, III: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Abell?

COMMISSIONER ABELL: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Bell?

COMMISSIONER BELL: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Galo?

COMMISSIONER GALO: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Hildebrand?

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Latimer?

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Patton?

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Scott?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Mr. Sweeney, are you sure I have to do that? I can't just ask if anybody is opposed? He's thinking about.

All right. Action Item No. 6, Chronic Wasting Disease Detection and Response Rules, Containment and Surveillance Zone Boundaries, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes, Mr. Mitch Lockwood.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good morning, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Mitch Lockwood. I'm the Director of the Big Game Program and this morning I'm seeking adoption to proposed amendments to rules regarding the creation and delineation of CWD or Chronic Wasting Disease zones in the state.

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This map shows all four CWD zones currently established in Texas. With these zones come mandatory testing requirements for hunter-harvested deer, as well as restrictions on the movements of carcass parts and the movements of live deer under a permit, such as deer breeders or Triple T, or DMP permit.

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I'll begin with a proposed amendment for a slight expansion to the containment zone located in Medina and Uvalde Counties, which is in response to two new CWD detections last season. Now, those two deer were very close to a facility or a location where CWD is known to exist in both breeding facility and the associated release sites. Nonetheless, those two deer were on the other side of the fence in open range, which necessitates this slight expansion in order to be compliant with our protocol for this particular area, which is for the containment zone to extend 5 miles from any known free-ranging positive.

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Next, we'll move to Val Verde County where CWD was detected in a free-ranging White-tailed deer located in a rural subdivision just south of Lake Amistad on the west side of Del Rio.

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By emergency rule, we established a containment zone and a surveillance zone in that immediate area while the hunting season was still underway. In fact, just a week before Christmas. Those rules recently expired and now we're following the standard rule-making process to reestablish these zones. We were able to take advantage of an easily recognizable transmission line on the east and north side of this surveillance zone in order to keep this zone from being extremely large.

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This slide shows all of Val Verde County to give you a better idea of the geographic extent of the proposed CWD zones for this area.

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We collected 473 samples from those zones during the last hunting season, and we did find one additional positive. The pink dots on this slide represent the not-detected test results that we received and the positive or detected test results are represented by the green dots. These two green dots are within about a mile and a half of each other. We do have plans for additional surveillance in this immediate area to get a better idea of the prevalence.

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Now, we'll move to Kimble County where CWD was detected in a permitted deer breeding facility last winter. This facility is located about a couple of miles southeast of Segovia, Texas, which of course is just a few miles southeast of Junction down Interstate 10.

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This map illustrates the area that we have proposed for Surveillance Zone 5. You know, the red star on this map indicates the approximate location of that CWD positive deer breeding facility. And at this time, I'd like to remind the Commission about a typographical error in the proposed proposal that was published in the Texas Register that I shared with you yesterday. I believe you'll see on page 225 and 226 of your booklet in Section 65.82 Subsection 1(e), it labels this particular area that's illustrated on the map before you now as "Containment Zone 5" and it should read "Surveillance Zone 5." In fact, you will notice that we have not proposed a Containment Zone 5 --

(Background noise)

MR. LOCKWOOD: Mr. Chairman, can you still hear me?

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Yes, I can hear you.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Okay. I received a message that the conference was ending.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: I heard it, but I can still hear you.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Okay, thank you.

So, again, this -- we did not propose a containment zone for this particular area. Rather we're following a similar approach that we used in the Medina County area where we're allowing the quarantine order and the herd plans that are issued by Texas Animal Health Commission to serve the function of that containment zone. So we're only proposing a surveillance zone for this particular area.

You'll see that Highway 83 makes up most of the western boundary of this zone and then the Kimble County/Kerr County line, as well as U.S. 290 make up the southern boundary and then a series of county roads make up the northern and eastern boundary of this proposed zone.

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This slide shows all of Kimble County again to give you a better idea or another perspective to see what the geographic extent of this proposed zone is.

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As of this morning, we've received a total of nine comments on this proposal. Eight of which were in support. The one opposing comment was from an individual in the Val Verde County area who felt like it was a bit premature to establish permanent containment/surveillance zone in that area based on a single CWD positive. But, again, as I just shared with you, we did find CWD in a second deer during the last hunting season, which indicated that that first one was not an isolated incident and we really do believe that there's a need for much more surveillance to get a much better idea of what the geographic extent and prevalence of the disease is.

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So with that, before I take questions, staff recommend that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts amendments to 65.81 and 65.82 concerning disease detection and response, with changes as necessary to the proposed text as published in the April 17th, 2020, issue of the Texas Register.

Mr. Chairman, that concludes my presentation. I'll be glad to entertain any questions that you may have.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you very much, Mitch.

Are there any questions by other Commissioners?

Again, no one has signed up to speak.

So I'll entertain a motion for approval.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: So moved.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Scott.

Could I have a second?

COMMISSIONER ABELL: Second, Abell.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Abell, thank you.

Again, I'll roll call. I vote yes.

Vice-Chairman?

VICE-CHAIRMAN APLIN, III: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Abell?

COMMISSIONER ABELL: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Bell?

COMMISSIONER BELL: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Galo?

COMMISSIONER GALO: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Hildebrand?

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Latimer?

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Patton?

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: And Commissioner Scott?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: It's unanimous. The motion carries. Thank you-all.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: And with that, we'll move on to Item No. 7, the Alligator Rules, Proposed Amendments to the Alligator Proclamation and the Statewide Hunting Proclamation, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. Mr. Jonathan Warner, please make your presentation.

MR. WARNER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good morning, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Jon Warner and I'm the Alligator Program Leader. And today staff intend to seek adoption of proposed changes to the Alligator Proclamation and the alligator section of the Statewide Hunting Proclamation.

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As I shared yesterday, proposed changes to the Alligator Proclamation include amendments and definitions and additions to the definition section and relate primarily to commercial alligator egg collection activities and the export and import of alligators and alligator parts in Texas. Additionally, in the general provision section, verbiage has been added to clarify permit privileges for all classes of permittees.

Notably under this proposal, alligator wholesale dealers would now have the ability to sell what we define as partially processed alligators to the public as a food product.

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Proposed amendments to the general provisions section also includes a requirement that alligator farmers submit notification to the TPWD Law Enforcement Communication Center not less than 24 hours, nor more than 48 hours prior to transport or receipt of live alligators. If transport or receipt cannot take place after the notification, a cancellation notification to the Department is required. This notification requirement will allow staff to be better informed of when and where alligator transactions occur in Texas.

Also under this proposal, reporting requirements would be reduced for alligator farmers that only operate alligator egg incubator facilities and are, therefore, inactive for most of the year. We also seek to clarify that hunting is not allowed in permitted alligator farm facilities.

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Similar to the notification requirement for farmers, proposed changes to the alligator egg collections -- collector's Section 65.358 in the alligator proclamation, existing requirements would be replaced and we require notification to the Department by egg collectors before initiating collection activities. This will allow Law Enforcement staff to be cognizant of the collection timeframe and location.

In this section, staff also seek for safety and enforcement reasons to only allow egg collection during daylight hours. Under this proposal, egg collectors and alligator farmers are required to provide geospatial data for farm and alligator egg incubator facilities and for wild nest locations where collection activities occur. This GPS data will help staff to identify exact nest locations and reduce confusion caused by more rudimentary methods. Also facilitate better datasets for our resource management. Temperature requirements within alligator egg incubators are also stipulated under this proposal.

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Staff have received six public comments, all online for this proposal. Three in support, and three in partial disagreement. Supportive comments indicated a desire for greater regulation of the alligator farming and egg ranching industry so that the resource is not overexploited. One commenter in partial opposition to the proposal suggested that there remains ambiguity around how to identify an alligator nest in the field. Two commenters partially against, voiced concern about potential logistical and safety issues and resource waste because of the rigidity of the 24- to 48-hour notification requirement.

I would like to note that as a result of a public comment earlier from one of our constituents, staff would recommend two minor amendments to the language as proposed. The first would be to allow initial issuance of nest stamps to egg collectors for properties that have historically received nest stamps based on biological factors and compliance history, but with no further issuance until the Department has received a complete nest GPS data for that property. The second simply would be to change the wording of the egg collection notification requirement to clarify that the notification is the responsibility of the person to whom the next stamps were issued, not for every person within the egg collection party.

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Staffs' only proposed change to the alligator section of the Statewide Hunting Proclamation concerns the CITES hide tag fee for alligators currently harvested during the spring season and peripheral or what we refer to as non-core counties. Under this current rule, it's not clear that the fee for a hide tag should be submitted with the application for the tag. And this amendment simply seeks to clarify that the tag fee must also accompany that necessary documentation.

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There was no public comment for this proposed amendment.

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With that said, staff suggests the following recommendation: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts amendments to Section 65.49 concerning the statewide hunting proclamation and amendments to Sections 65.352, 65.353, 65.357 through .362 and Section 65.365 concerning the alligator proclamation, with changes as necessary to the proposed text as published in the April 17th, 2020, issue of the Texas Register.

Thank you for your time and attention this morning. I'd certainly be happy to address any questions the Commissioners may have at this time.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Jon, thank you.

Is there any discussion by the Commission?

If not, I'm going to ask for a brief timeout here. We've had a technical issue. So give me a couple minutes here.

(Recess taken)

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Okay. Thank you.

Is there a motion for approval of Action Item No. 7, Alligator Rules?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: So moved.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Scott.

Who was the second? Do I have a second?

COMMISSIONER ABELL: Second, Abell.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Abell, thank you.

Again, following Mr. Sweeney's rules, I vote yes.

Vice-Chairman?

VICE-CHAIRMAN APLIN, III: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Abell?

COMMISSIONER ABELL: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Bell?

COMMISSIONER BELL: Following Mr. Sweeney's rules, yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Galo?

COMMISSIONER GALO: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Hildebrand?

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Latimer?

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Patton?

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Scott?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yeah.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Hearing no opposition, the motion carries.

We'll move on to Action Item No. 8, Oyster Mariculture Rules, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Rules, Mr. Lance Robinson.

MS. CLARK: Lance, this is Andra. You need to unmute your microphone, please.

MR. ROBINSON: Sorry about that.

Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, for the record, my name is Lance Robinson with the Coastal Fisheries Division. I'm here this morning to present to you a proposal that would create a cultivated oyster mariculture program for Texas coastal waters.

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As you may recall yesterday, we briefed a little bit on the background here. The last session of the Legislature, a bill was filed that would allow the Commission to establish a program governing oyster mariculture in Texas. The program also sets aside 20 percent of any fees that may come into this program that would be used exclusively for the removal of abandoned or lost gear in the event that the Department was unable to identify the owner of this equipment. And also the bill specified that the Department must coordinate with other appropriate State agencies in the development of this program.

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Through the process of development, the elements of this program, the Department utilized resources that were available from other states that have active programs, as well as and other countries. We also relied very heavily on stakeholder input that was provided to the Department through Representative Hunter's Oyster Aquaculture Task Force, as well as Parks and Wildlife's ad hoc Oyster Mariculture Workgroup.

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Within the cultivated oyster mariculture program, there will be three activities that would be permitted. I'm going -- the next couple of slides I will walk through each of these permitted activities. The first deals with grow-out facilities, which is -- would allow a permittee to grow oysters to a harvestable size that would then be taken directly to a dealer for market. The application process would allow the applicant to nominate or recommend a site that they are interested in. It could be deepwater or a shallow water site, depending on the type of operation they wanted to utilize.

There is no limit on the number of acres that an individual could permit, but the Department does include an active-use criteria that would require a certain number of seed oysters to be planted every year to ensure that the acres that are permitted are being --

(Background noise)

MR. ROBINSON: I'm sorry. I'm getting playback.

MS. CLARK: Lance, this is Andra again. Hang on.

MR. BRAD LOMAX: Hi. This is Brad Lomax. Am I messing something up?

MR. SWEENEY: Brad, Lance, we're trying to sort this out. This is Bob Sweeney. We're trying to sort this out. It's a technical issue. So we'll figure it out, and let everybody know what they need to do. Thanks for hanging on.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Bear with us here.

MS. CLARK: Lance, this Andra. What slide were you on?

MR. ROBINSON: Slide 4.

MS. CLARK: Okay, Andra again. I think we're good. Go.

MR. ROBINSON: Thank you, Andra.

As I was saying, there are three permitted activities that will be allowed under this program. The first being a grow-out operation, grow-out permit. This would allow applicants to harvest -- grow oysters to a harvestable size and then take them to market. As I was saying, the applicant can nominate a site that they are interested in establishing their operation. It could be a deepwater or a shallow water location, depending on the specific type of gear and operation they choose to use.

There is no acreage limitation on the permitted site, but the Department does require that the applicant or the permittee utilize a minimum quantity of oysters every year that they -- as seed oysters in order to ensure that the acreage that is being permitted for oyster mariculture are, in fact, being used for that purpose. The term of the permit is ten years and the fee structure for that permit would be $450 per acre per year.

This permit would allow year-round harvest of oysters from sunrise to sunset and for these particular operations, a minimum harvest size would be set at two and a half inches. Because the two and a half inch size is smaller than the current legal size for oysters harvested off of public reefs, especially during the public season during the fall, the Department will be requiring any movement of oysters that fall under that 3-inch size to carry with it a transport document that would stay with that product until it reached its particular destination.

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The next type of operation is really an intermediate step in the production of commercial oysters in this -- in these mariculture operations. It is a nursery facility. These could be, again, nominated sites. It could be land based or it could be water based. These are much, much smaller than the grow-out facilities, usually only taking up maybe a few hundred square feet at most. They are for the -- again, having a ten-year permit term for these operations, $170 annual permit fee, and one thing I will note that the public water surcharge that applies for those facilities that are located on public waters, typically adjacent to a private pier, so that the permittee has access to electricity to run pumps and other equipment in that nursery operation. I will point out that the public surcharge fee, public water surcharge fee as published in the proposed rules was incorrectly listed and the number you see here would be -- is the correct number and so any motion for adoption would need to reflect this change as well.

Maximum harvest size for some of the oysters grown in a nursery operation would carry a 1-inch maximum size. The rules would allow an individual to establish a nursery operation in a restricted or prohibited area as determined by the State Health Department, who classify shellfish growing waters. These restrictions or prohibited areas are there because of bacteria levels in the water, which oysters being filter feeders will incorporate into their body and, therefore, in order to safely harvest that product, it has to undergo a declaration process for a period of time. Some of these -- and so this 1-inch maximum size is designed to require that this oyster be moved out to an approved or conditionally approved area such that 120 days will pass and allow that oyster to depurate before it reaches a legal harvestable size. And, again, transport documentation would accompany any oysters that are being moved from a nursery area out to a grow-out facility.

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And finally the last type of operation that could be incorporated or involved in an oyster mariculture program would be hatchery facilities that would be producing seed oysters that would then be made available for grow-out or nursery operations. These facilities are primarily going to be located on private property. They already are under the requirement of getting or obtaining a Texas Department of Agriculture Aquaculture permit. That would still apply. But where the Department's involvement would carry on is in the use of a broodstock permit, which would allow these facilities to obtain wild oysters from Texas public waters and to use in their spawning operations. That broodstock permit fee is $25, plus restitution for the oysters that are collected and used in these operation. The term of the permit is 60 days.

One thing I will note too is that -- I've got it listed here -- is a broodstock permit; but in the proposed rule text, that permit is currently identified as a broodfish permit and so some of the language is being modified to be more reflective of a wider diversity of animals that could be used in these aquaculture operations. And then finally, again, the transport documentation would accompany oysters moving from hatcheries to nurseries or to grow-out facilities.

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Texas is in a unique situation among other U.S. coastal states by having two different genetic populations of Eastern oysters. A southern population that exists from the Lower Laguna Madre through Corpus Christi Bay and culminating in a transition zone that's in Aransas Bay and then a northern population that runs from San Antonio Bay up across the Texas coastline, across the Gulf of Mexico, and terminates around Apalachicola, Florida.

Additionally, Aransas Bay serves as a transition zone for that northern population. So if sampling oysters in that system, you would find both southern population as well as northern population disbursed in the system.

So as such, the cultivated oyster mariculture program would require that oyster seed that is produced in hatcheries that would use broodstock obtained from the southern population, for example, those seed oysters could only be placed into the southern waters south of Aransas Bay. Similarly, for the northern hatchery or permitted operations in the northern part of the state, must use seed that are produced from oysters originating from that northern population.

There's also currently no oyster hatcheries located in Texas and since we don't know how many permits will ultimately be issued, we're really unable to predict what the initial demands for seed oysters will be and, again, until Texas oyster hatcheries become operational, we really don't know their capabilities in meeting that demand for seed.

So as a temporary solution, the Department proposes to allow permittees to utilize existing oyster hatcheries located on the Gulf Coast to obtain seed for use in Texas under the following conditions: Broodstock must be Texas oysters; broodstock must originate from either the northern or southern population, depending on the location of those receiving grow-out or nursery facilities; and any out-of-state hatchery that is producing the fertile diploid oysters, must provide the Department with disease testing results from a Department approved laboratory before those seed oysters could be shipped into Texas.

However, the mariculture industry throughout the country relies fairly heavily on the use of triploid or polyploid oysters in their operations. Polyploid oysters are simply oysters that through a chemical or selected breeding processes or a combination of, are afforded additional chromosomes which in many cases will lead to those oysters being, for the most part, functionally sterile. So with a sterile oyster, all of the energy that they are picking up from feeding is going directly into meat production, instead of being diverted to -- and growth -- instead of being diverted to reproduction. So the quality of meat is much better and it provides a product that is available, at least from a harvestable standpoint, year-round.

The -- certainly the industry desires those traits, the fast growing in Texas. With a triploid oyster, you could expect to see harvestable oysters from seed to a two and a half inch size in less than a year. Whereas in a public reef natural oyster, you're looking at 18 to 24 months. And, again, because those oysters are not putting energy into reproductive material, you have a uniform and a product, meat product, available for market year-round. And, again, as a temporary solution, the Department proposes to allow the use of these polyploid oysters in Texas under the following conditions: Diploid females or Texas females used in the hatchery breeding, must come from the northern stock of Texas; disease testing results from the Department approved laboratory must be approved and provided to the Department prior to the seed oysters being shipped into Texas; and hatcheries producing these triploid oysters must provide documentation to the Department on how the triploids were created and the ploidy testing results.

Though the genetic risks to natural oyster populations in Texas by allowing these triploid oysters to be placed into public waters of the state is low, there is a desire to utilize a pure Texas line of triploids. Creating this line of triploid oysters can take up to seven years and, therefore, the Department proposes to require the exclusive use of Texas oysters -- polyploid or diploid -- after December the 31st, 2027.

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The application process is basically a two-step procedure. The first step includes the application that would be provided to the Department, with coordination with Parks and Wildlife staff on the siting and the location and different elements and I'll speak to that in just a minute. There would also be the requirement of providing an operation plan, which would include specific details about the proposed operation, such as the type of operation, whether they're going -- the applicant is going to be using floating cages or some type of adjustable longline system. They would include details about the layout of the operation, the density of equipment used in the array, and additionally information about their plans in the event of a hurricane or tropical storm on how they may secure that equipment and those oysters to prevent them from being distributed across the bay and adjacent shorelines.

Applicants would not be locked into this operation plan. As you recall, the term of this permit is ten years. So several years down the road, if the applicant or the permittee wanted to modify their operation plan to use a different type of gear or equipment, they could certainly do that by providing an amendment to that operating plan to the Department.

The applicant will also be required to complete a natural resource survey that is designed to provide qualitative information regarding the presence or absence of sensitive habitat within the proposed permitted area and the associated buffers associated with seagrass, natural oyster habitat, or bird rookeries. Once -- and then an application fee would accompany that -- that -- those documentation. Upon receipt of that information, the Department would then proceed with collecting public comment on the proposed site.

This would be facilitated through the use of online comments where the public could actually see the proposed location, what type of gear they're planning to use, and the Department would also schedule a public meeting in the municipality or city closest to the proposed site, again, to provide an opportunity for the public to weigh in and to provide any input into this proposed site.

Once those -- that information has been received and any concerns or any issues that were raised during the public comment period are addressed, the applicant would be issued a conditional permit.

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With the addition -- with the conditional permit, the applicant would then be authorized to pursue obtaining any other permit, leases, or other authorizations that may be required by other state or federal agencies that have regulations that would apply to these types of operations. I've got them listed on this slide in front of you. Once the Department receives acknowledgment or notification that these clearances have been received and we have that documentation, then the permittee or the applicant would be issued the permit, allowing them to move forward with putting gear into the water and putting oysters in and also the payment of that annual fee.

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So I mentioned before coordination with the Department in the application process is something the Department feels very strongly and encourages applicants to do and what we look to do in that process is really sit down with the applicant, look at their proposed site, and look at it in relation to certain site selection goals that the Department have established. These goals include to avoid impacting natural resources and sensitive habitats within our Texas bays, minimize wherever possible user conflicts, and also to consider environmental conditions that would be conducive to their survival and growth of oysters.

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I think we've seen this slide before, but this just gives you an idea of the Tier 1 considerations that we would be visiting with the applicant about. Any of these items that fall within the proposed permitted area, would result in a denial of that permit or at least a reconfiguration of the permit to avoid these habitat impacts and as you see on the left-hand side of the screen or perhaps may have to relocate to another site if a user conflict arises, such as the site is already permitted by the General Land Office or another agency.

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Tier 2 considerations are really primarily informational in purpose and they're designed to provide the applicants with information that may be important in their decision to locate a mariculture site in a particular area. For example, environmental conditions that can affect the growth of oysters, that may be important information if your site is located or proposed site is located in an area that has highly fluctuating salinity, which could affect growth rates over the course of the year or in a worst case scenario, if salinities are prone to dropping, you're in a -- near -- receive a lot of river discharge in that area, dropping salinities low, you could result in mortality of oysters in your -- in your permitted area.

Also user conflicts are items that the site if it is located in an area that is traditionally a high commercial or recreational fishing area, knowing that ahead of time certainly can provide some input and at least make the applicant aware of potential cur -- I'm sorry -- potential concerns that could come up during that public scoping process.

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So through the public comment process that we've received thus far, 15 comments related to this proposed mariculture program. Eleven in support with letters from the Pew Charitable Trusts, as well as the Texas Aquaculture Association stating their support for the program or the proposal. In opposition we've received four speaking in opposition. Of those comments that we received that provided some specificity, one was -- two were for related to the cost of the permit, that it was too high and also there was concern raised about the movement of seed that may be produced at a hatchery using Lower Laguna Madre broodstock; but produced at a hatchery, say, along the upper -- in the northern zone, that seed coming back into the Lower Laguna and potentially transmitting or carrying disease elements that would be introduced to the system. And then we also received some concerns voiced about seagrass and waterfowl impacts in the Lower Laguna Madre.

Additionally, Representative Middleton provided a letter early in the process that raised some concerns about locating these sites within 900 feet of the shoreline unless the permittee received written authorization from the adjacent landowner that authorized the location of that site.

As we've worked with the General Land Office and discussed with them their permitting process through the submerged land lease, they already have protocols in place and requirements in place that stipulate that a submerged land lease that is within a thousand feet of any shoreline must have written authorization or acknowledgment by the adjacent landowner. So we believe the GLO's procedures will address Representative Middleton's concerns.

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So with that, staff recommends that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts new Sections 58.350 through 58.361 to 31 Texas Administrative Code concerning cultivated oyster mariculture and amendments to Section 53.13 concerning business licenses and permits, Section 53.15 concerning miscellaneous wildlife and fisheries licenses and permits, and Sections 57.391, 57.392, 57.394 through 57.398, 57.400, and 57.401 concerning collection of broodfish from Texas waters, with changes as necessary to the proposed text as published in the April 17th, 2020, issue of the Texas Register.

And I'll remind the Chairman that we do have one item on the public water use on the nursery that we would need to modify if this proposal ends up being adopted. And with that, I believe there are some speakers; but I'm happy to answer any questions whenever needed.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: All right. I think now we'll see if we can -- we have three speakers signed up and let's see if we can -- you got them? Great.

Okay. The first speaker is Shane Bonnot. Second is Sharon McBreen, and Brad Lomax is third.

So, Shane Bonnot.

MS. SUNVISON: Your three minutes begin now.

MR. SHANE BONNOT: Yes. Good morning again, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. I'm Shane Bonnot with CCA Texas. CCA has participated in both the Texas Parks and Wildlife Oyster Mariculture Workgroup and Representative Todd Hunter's Oyster Maricultural Workgroup to provide feedback on the oyster mariculture program development. We are supportive of oyster mariculture in Texas bays and will continue to work with the Department to develop and fine-tune this program that addresses the concerns of the angling community, that helps to redefine the Texas half shell oyster market, and puts more oysters in our waters to benefit the coastal ecosystem.

And I'd like to thank the Coastal Fisheries staff and supportive Parks and Wildlife staff in the development of these program rules. The Department thoroughly reviewed oyster mariculture rules from the East Coast, from the West Coast, the Gulf Coast, and even our friends up in Canada to develop a set of rules that considered the successes and the failures of other programs, all the while remaining sensitive to the protection and conservation of our coastal resources.

And specifically, I want to take a moment to acknowledge Lance Robinson, Mr. Robinson, for his efforts over the last year and an half to two years. I mean, throughout all of these discussions he's remained fair and considerate of the stakeholders, while holding true to his responsibility to take care of our public trust resources. And with that, I'd like to conclude my comments and I thank you for this time.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Appreciate your comments.

Sharon McBreen.

MS. SUNVISON: Your three minutes begin now.

MS. SHARON MCBREEN: Okay. Can you hear me? I got muted and unmuted.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: I can hear you.

MS. SHARON MCBREEN: Thank you. Okay. Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Vice-Chairman, and Commissioners. Thank you for the opportunity to comment. My name is Sharon McBreen and I'm an Outreach Officer in the Gulf of Mexico for the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Pew has worked for more than a decade with managers and stakeholders in the U.S. to establish policies that protect, maintain, and restore the health of marine ecosystems. In the Gulf of Mexico, we're advocating for protecting and restoring habitats such as deep sea corals, natural oyster reefs, and seagrass meadows.

So after reviewing the proposed regulations, we're encouraged that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is crafting rules that develop this new industry while protecting habitats that are critical to productive fisheries and we recommend you adopt the regulations developed by your staff.

As you know, oysters provide ecosystem services such as water filtration and habitat for estuarine species, including the Texas Red drum. Oyster mariculture operations can augment those services with nutrient filtering and they have the potential to economically benefit coastal communities. So in our April 18th -- April 15th letter to the Commission, we contained suggestions for ensuring mariculture regulations, safeguard vulnerable ecosystems. Today we'd like to just highlight just a few of those.

We're pleased that regulations require only the native Eastern oyster to be cultivated, purchased, or obtained from certified hatcheries and that protocols are included to prevent the spread of disease to wild oyster populations. The proposed regulations also include appropriate setbacks from natural resources such as seagrass, mangroves, salt marsh, and bird nesting sites and these are important because activities that generate excessive filtration and boat wakes can damage these habitats.

We applaud the requirement for growers to develop an operations plan and to describe how they will keep their gear from becoming a hazard in an impending storm. We also suggest that site monitoring be performed regularly to document habitat changes and if any damage is found, managers should work with operators to make adjustments such as shifting gear.

Growers should use nonlethal methods to control predators such as birds and mammals and work with authorities on a controlled strategy if a problem develops. Chemicals like bleach or toxic paint to control predators and pests should be prohibited. By following the new regulations and best practices, Texas' oyster mariculture operators can be good neighbors, while also providing income, jobs, and another source of seafood to restaurants and communities.

So our compliments, like Shane said, to the Department on developing a mariculture program that protects Texas' natural resources. They really spent a lot of time looking into this and listening to suggestions and developing something that we feel is going to be a good program. So thanks for your time and the opportunity to comment.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Well, thank you for your comments.

With that, we'll go to Brad Lomax.

MS. SUNVISON: Your three minutes begin now.

MR. BRAD LOMAX: Hello, Commissioners. Can you hear me?

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Yes, I can hear you.

MR. BRAD LOMAX: Okay, great. Good morning. It's just barely morning. My name is Brad Lomax and I have owned and operated Water Street Seafood Restaurants in Corpus Christi since 1983 and I'm also a partner in a new venture -- Texas Oyster Company, LLC -- which was formed to develop oyster mariculture operations here in the Coastal Bend Corpus Christi area.

And I want to start today by echoing the previous speakers and thanking Texas Parks and Wildlife staff for their courtesy, their flexibility, and frankly their forbearance as we have worked through this multiyear process. Everyone involved, including the Commission members that I've had the opportunity to meet, have been professional and purposeful in their approach to launching the oyster mariculture industry in Texas.

I have further input today on two issues related to the topic. First is the permitting process. With five State agencies involved, plus the Army Corps of Engineers, the process whereby oyster farmers apply to receive proper documentation to beginning the actual farming operation has the potential to become a laborious time and money consuming process. I believe that we -- we meaning TPWD -- and the industry have done the very best we can at this very early stage. I ask, however, that as we grow and learn and build oyster mariculture as a viable industry in Texas, that we continuously move toward creating a one-stop permitting shop system that will allow interested farmers to complete the administrative process at a reasonable cost and within a reasonable timeframe.

My second issue relates to TPWD's suggested buffer between any oyster mariculture operation and even a single blade of seagrass. While it's not outlined in the Texas Register rules and regulations that you have before you, this 200-foot separation has been specifically mentioned in my conversations with TPWD scientists that are involved in assessing potential oyster farm sites in our area.

We in the industry believe that 200 feet is restrictive and significantly narrows the opportunities to locate farms in favorable growing locations. I would just add that there are many studies that have indicated that bivalve aquaculture can have a positive affect on surrounding seagrass and then reduces turbidity and adds nutrient biodeposit. We would respectfully ask that the seagrass buffer be reduced to 50 feet as a practical matter in the process.

Thank you-all very much for allowing me to address you.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you very much and I'm sure we'll monitor -- see the affect on the seagrass.

Are there any comments from the Commission or staff?

Then I'll entertain a motion for approval.

Commissioner Scott.

Do I have a second?

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Second.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Commissioner Latimer second.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: I'm sorry. Commissioner Latimer, was that -- was that you?

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: I think Commissioner Hildebrand said it.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Hildebrand? All right, we'll go with Hildebrand. Thank you.

And again, the Sweeney rule. I vote yes.

Vice-Chairman?

VICE-CHAIRMAN APLIN, III: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Abell?

COMMISSIONER ABELL: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Bell?

COMMISSIONER BELL: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commission Galo?

COMMISSIONER GALO: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Hildebrand?

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Latimer?

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Patton?

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you.

Commissioner Scott?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Hearing none opposed, the motion carries unanimously.

With that, we'll move to Action Item No. 9, Accessibility Advisory Committee and Urban Outreach Advisory Committee Formation Rules, Recommended Adoption of the Rules -- of New Rules. Mr. David Buggs, please make your presentation.

MR. BUGGS: Good afternoon, Mr. Chair and Commissioners. For the record, my name is David Buggs. I am the Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer for Texas Parks and Wildlife and I am coming today seeking approval for the formation of the Urban Outreach Advisory Committee, as well as the Accessibility Advisory Committee.

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The Urban Outreach Advisory Committee will focus on a number of programs that are provided by Texas Parks and Wildlife and how those programs affect our growing urban population. The Advisory Committee will consist of a large slice of people from different demographics in those urban areas. It was created with the idea of creating relevance for Texas Parks and Wildlife amongst our large urban population.

The Advisory Committee is also consistent with the different programs that we're focused on to create more outreach, such as R3, diversity and inclusion education strategy, as well as the Natural Agenda.

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The Accessibility Advisory Committee will focus on the interest of people with different abilities that are a part of or want to participate in different Texas Parks and Wildlife activities and operations. It will also consist of different people with interests in accessibility in the outdoors and it also will help us with our ADA audit, which will help us focus on compliance and it will be managed by our ADA Coordinator Sandy Heath.

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We received ten public comments. Eight in favor, two opposed. One of the opposed did not provide any information. The other opposed assumed that -- and mistakenly assumed -- that the advisory committee would have rule-making authority.

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Commissioners, do you-all have any questions at this time?

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Are there any questions?

No. But I would like to make a note for the record. Archer Hadley has been working with the -- has been working with the Commission and he's a partner and he wants to make sure that the Commissioners know that he is for this item.

MR. BUGGS: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER BELL: Mr. Chairman, this is Commissioner Bell. I did have one comment.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Bell, please.

COMMISSIONER BELL: One, I think the idea around our Urban Advisory Committee to enhance potential diversity participation, as well as the Accessibility Committee are very -- are very good and I know it's something that the Commission has been pushing for a while. So it's nice to see us to be able to try to bring this to formation to closure. I know we had hoped to do it sooner, but COVID slowed us down a bit.

And along with the way the items are written, I had one comment just on the selection and criteria. I think on the Urban Advisory Committee, it talked -- it referenced under membership kind of living in -- living or being a resident in the greater metro area. I would just like suggest we also say live or work in the greater metro area because I think also there's also an opportunity to have people from diverse backgrounds that are also landowners that may have ranches or farms in the vicinity of a city that may not -- they may not actually live in the city, but the work -- there's a tie-in to land use, park use, hunting, fishing regulations. So just that little minor one-word expansion, so to speak, live or work in that area to allow selection of membership for clarity might be suggested. And I'm sorry I missed that before in the read of those documents. That's just a thought.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: It's a good catch.

COMMISSIONER BELL: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Well, it's exciting. So I'm glad we're moving forward.

MR. BUGGS: All right. Next slide.

With that, if there are no further questions, we'd like to recommend that the Commission approve the formation of these particular advisory committees.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Is there a motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: So moved.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Moved by Commissioner Scott.

Who is the second?

COMMISSIONER BELL: Bell will second.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: All right. Thank you.

Again, we'll have a roll call. I vote yes.

Vice-Chairman?

VICE-CHAIRMAN APLIN, III: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Abell?

COMMISSIONER ABELL: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Bell?

COMMISSIONER BELL: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Galo?

COMMISSIONER GALO: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Hildebrand?

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Latimer?

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Patton?

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Scott?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: It carries unanimously.

We'll move on to Action Item No. 10, Disposition of Land, Blanco County, Approximately Three and a Half Acres --

MR. BUGGS: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: -- at Blanco State Park.

MR. VICK: Good morning, Commissioners, Mr. Chairman. For the record, my name is Trey Vick. I'm with the Land Conservation Program and today I'm here to present the disposition of land at Blanco State Park.

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Blanco State Park is located in central Blanco County.

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It sits within the City of Blanco.

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The park was acquired back in nine -- in the 1930s. It runs approximately 2 miles through the City of Blanco. It currently occupies approximately 100 acres, 101 acres. It's an extremely popular park for its size. It attracts more than 100,000 visitors per year. It attracts families looking for a safe place to swim too and general day use. It's also a very popular park as far as RV sites and winter Texans.

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Here recently, Texas Parks and Wildlife staff has plotted state park and wildlife management area deeds to verify site boundaries, with the priority on the older sites. While plotting these deeds for Blanco State Park, it was discovered the land owned by Parks and Wildlife is not contiguous. On the far west part of the park, Texas Parks and Wildlife owns a disjunct tract of approximately three and a half acres. It's a long, narrow tract roughly 1,100 feet long and approximately 130 feet deep on average.

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This subject tract really adds no operational value to the state park. It's considered more of a liability than an asset. Staff believes it's in the best interest of the Department that the subject tract be sold and the land sale proceeds be used to acquire state parkland with greater strategic value.

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Here's a map showing the approximate location of the subject.

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And here's a close-up of the subject tract showing the gap between the boundary and the subject tract.

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Here are a couple images of the subject tract. You can see it's very steep river bank. It runs along the FM road just past where River Road -- River Road merges into FM 1623, I believe. It also has a utility easement run along it.

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If approved, staff would like to require deed restrictions regarding vegetation and site use. We would obtain an opinion of value from a local broker or brokers. We would then establish a minimum sales price. Per policy, we would start with the adjacent landowners and contact those landowners. If no adjacent landowner is a willing buyer at or above the minimum sales price, we would consider placing the property on the market.

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As of the beginning of the meeting today, we have received four comments against the proposed transaction. Just on a side note, we had a local meeting back in March in downtown Blanco and we had approximately 15 citizens attend. We did this just to lay everything out, make sure we had maps, and gave a presentation just like this one and once the attendees realized the location and which tract it was, some of the opposition had calmed down.

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With that, the staff recommends the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion: The Commission adopts the resolution attached as Exhibit A.

And that's the conclusion of my presentation. I'd be happy to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you, Trey.

MR. VICK: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Is there any discussion by any of the Commissioners?

No one has signed up to speak.

So I'll entertain a motion for approval.

Commissioner Scott, thank you.

Second? Do I have a second?

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Commissioner Latimer.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Latimer, thank you again.

And we'll have a roll call again. I've got the thumbs up from Legal counsel. I vote yes.

Vice-Chairman?

VICE-CHAIRMAN APLIN, III: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Abell?

COMMISSIONER ABELL: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Bell?

COMMISSIONER BELL: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Galo?

COMMISSIONER GALO: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Hildebrand?

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Latimer?

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Patton?

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Scott?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Motion carries unanimously.

And our last item on the agenda is Action Item No. 11, Texas State -- Texas Statewide Recreational Trail Grants Funding, Recommended Approval of Trail Construction, Renovation, and Acquisition Projects. Mr. Trey Cooksey, please make your presentation.

MR. COOKSEY: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and fellow Commissioners. For the record, my name is Trey Cooksey and I manage the Recreational Trails Program for Texas Parks and Wildlife. I'll be presenting the National Recreational Trail Fund Grants.

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These funds are federal funds from a rebate of off-highway vehicle fuel tax. The 2020 Texas apportionment was $3,954,874. Of that, we plan to utilize up to 7 percent, which is $279,638 for program administration and then we also have about $700,000 available from project savings and cancellations from the previous years.

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This year we received 43 project proposals, requesting $7.8 million. The State Trail Advisory Committee reviewed all of the project proposals in March, and there's some of the criteria that they utilized to score those grants.

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We also wish to utilize 700,000 -- up to $700,000 to fund state park trail improvements and here is a list of some of the parks that we plan on doing work in the following year.

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Finally, the recommendation from staff is funding for 22 projects recommended in Exhibit A in the amount of $3,711,400 and state park trail improvements in the amount of $700,000 is approved.

I'd be happy to answer any questions that you might have. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Okay. We're asking 700,000. Any questions or comments?

Is there a motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: So moved.

COMMISSIONER GALO: So --

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Oh, Scott. Commissioner Scott. Second by --

COMMISSIONER GALO: Second Galo.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Galo, thank you.

All right. I'll -- I'm going to vote yes, I guess.

Vice-Chairman?

VICE-CHAIRMAN APLIN, III: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: I'm going to go back and look at Action Item 1, Bob, before -- in case we ever have to do this again.

Commissioner Abell?

COMMISSIONER ABELL: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Bell?

COMMISSIONER BELL: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Galo?

COMMISSIONER GALO: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Bob told me you could actually make a motion and vote against your own motion, which is why you have to vote even though you seconded the motion, so.

Commissioner Hildebrand?

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: That's a fascinating fact. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: All right. Commissioner Latimer?

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Patton?

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: And Commissioner Scott?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yes.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Okay. Hearing no opposition, the motion carries.

That concludes our business, but I just want to say I wish y'all could see the activity behind the scenes here. We've had phone lines up. We've had phone lines down. We've had computers up, computers down. People coming and going. It's a beehive behind the scenes and I hope that August we're in person because this is a lot of work for the staff and a lot of work for the Commissioners. So I appreciate you-all hanging in there.

With that, I'll --

COMMISSIONER BELL: Mr. Chairman, this is Commissioner Bell. Can I make one comment before we exit?

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Absolutely.

COMMISSIONER BELL: I do know that a lot of us have had a very interesting experience with the COVID-19 factor in the background and while we've not been able to see each other in some time, that everyone has been very active in their own respective communities helping people and since we're not able to get together, I just want to take one opportunity. I'm -- because I'm always thrilled to serve on this Commission with such talented people and also the support we have. But in addition to our Commission work, sometimes our folks get picked up to do other things and I just wanted to take a personal moment to recognize Commissioner Hildebrand and his selection to the State Return to Work Task Force, which I think is a very critical activity for the State of Texas. And so we're glad to have people like him and others who are serving on that task force helping us try to return to normal. And so you might say this is a form of a shout out to him and his participation and also to those who are on that committee helping us get back to being Texas.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Well, that's very important and thank you and thank you Jeff for --

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Yeah.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: -- tackling that. It's great.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: So as a point of order out of that study, I am hopeful that this is the first and then the last of remote board meeting that we'll have at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. So we really do, Mr. Chairman, need to get the State of Texas back to work. We can have meetings safely, and we need to move on with life. So I would push very hard to have our next meeting in person, and we can all do that responsibly.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you. And I think we all -- we all hope that that's what happens. I'm getting some nods here, so.

Mr. Smith, this Commission has completed its business and I declare us adjourned at 1:23.

MR. SMITH: 12:23.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: I'm sorry. 12:23 p.m. Thank you.

MR. SMITH: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: All right. Thank you, everybody.

(Commission Meeting Adjourns)

In official recognition of the adoption of

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 ______________, ________.

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S. Reed Morian, Chairman

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Arch "Beaver" Aplin, III, Vice-Chairman

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James E. Abell, Member

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Oliver J. Bell, Member

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Anna B. Galo, Member

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Jeffery D. Hildebrand, Member

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Jeanne W. Latimer, Member

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Robert L. "Bobby" Patton, Jr., 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

CSR No.: 8311

Expiration: December 31, 2020

7010 Cool Canyon Cove

Round Rock, Texas 78681

(512)779-8320

TPW Commission Meetings