TPW Commission

Work Session, January 20, 2021


TPW Commission Meetings


January 20, 2021






COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Okay. I'm low tech. I'm not high tech. I apologize. Good morning, everybody. Hopefully, I'll be around long enough so that we can have a regular meeting at some point in time. I know everybody is tired of doing it the way we're having to do it, but that's just the way it is.

Before we begin, I need to take a roll call. I know our Chairman Reed is out. He got his COVID shots and is not -- he's fine, but he's not feeling well and so, that's why he's not here today.

Vice-Chair Beaver, are you there?

VICE-CHAIRMAN APLIN, III: Yeah, Dick, I'm here. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Okay. Commissioner Abell, are you there?


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Okay. I know Commissioner Bell is not. Commissioner Galo is going to be here, but I don't think she's here yet, are you, Anna? I don't think so.

I know Commissioner Hildebrand is here. I'm sitting next to him. And I know Commissioner Latimer is here.

Bobby, are you here yet?

MR. SMITH: He -- you know, he is -- he is on listen-only mode, Mr. Chairman. And so he's -- he's -- he's listening.



COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Okay, Bobby. Well, hopefully we'll hear from you soon. And then I guess I can say that I'm here.

Let's call the meeting to order at nine -- (inaudible) what was that? I heard somebody talking. That's the only -- I looked. Let's call the meeting to order at 9:47 a.m.

Before we proceed, I believe Carter has a -- has a statement to make.

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

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

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: All -- all my fellow Commissioners, as a reminder before you speak, please announce your name and speak slowly so that the court reporter can get all your comments recorded.

Let's see. Carter, we talked about this. I don't think we have a quorum; so we need to come back to the approval of the minutes, correct?

MR. SMITH: Well, actually I think we can go through them. I've got Commissioner Patton's proxy and so -- so I'll share his --


MR. SMITH: -- vote when you come to that. I think we can go through it. Yeah, thanks.


So that being the case, I need a motion to approve the minutes from the previous Work Session of November 9th. Do I have a motion?




COMMISSIONER LATIMER: -- Commissioner Latimer.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Thank y'all. All in favor, please say aye. Aye.


MR. SMITH: Chairman, unfortunately we have to go through the bureaucracy of going through the names.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: We're going to have to -- I know we're going to have to go through it. Yep. Well, I know -- I know Reed is -- Chairman Morian is not here.

Aplin, we've got your vote. Thank you.


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Commissioner Abell?


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Commissioner Bell is not here. Commission Galo is not on yet, I don't think.

COMMISSIONER GALO: I approve. I'm on. Hi.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Oh, you're on. Oh, good morning. How are you doing, Anna?

COMMISSIONER GALO: Good. How are you?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Other than a little cedar fever, I can't complain.


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Okay. Commissioner Hildebrand?


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Commissioner Latimer?


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Cater, you've got Commissioner Patton's proxy?

MR. SMITH: Yeah. Commissioner Patton let us know that he approves the minutes.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Okay. And I vote aye.

Any opposed?

Not hearing any opposition, then the motion is approved.

Okay. Next order of business is the approval of the minutes from the Annual Public Hearing held November the 9th, which have already been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?


COMMISSIONER LATIMER: Commissioner Latimer.




COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Voting will be by the roll call again. I know Chairman Morian is not here.

Vice-Chair Aplin?


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Okay. Commissioner Abell?


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Commissioner Bell --


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Oh, Galo, yes. Okay, Anna. Thank you.





COMMISSIONER SCOTT: And Carter has Bobby's -- or Commissioner Patton's proxy and I vote yes.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, Patton approved.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Any -- any opposition?

Hearing none, the motion carries.

Okay. Now, we move on to Work Session Item No. 1, Update on the Parks and Wildlife Department's Progress in Implementing the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Plan. Carter, please make your presentation.

MR. SMITH: Great. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Carter Smith with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Obviously, have a chance to share a few words on this update this morning related to items germane to the Land and Water Plan.

Andra, if I could get the next slide?

Just as a point of departure on Internal Affairs, Mike and Johnny and Mark and Patty and the team continue to do an excellent job in that function, critically important function for the Agency. I do want to let the Commissioners know that I believe as of today, the Internal Affairs Director position will be formally posted. That will be open to qualified internal applicants, either State Park Police Officers or Game Wardens who meet the requisite qualifications and experience and tenure and so forth. And so we'll have that application open for a couple of weeks to interested and qualified candidates and then we'll review those, interview them, and then hope to make a selection in February is my timeframe on that. So we'll -- we'll let you know as that progresses; but, obviously, that's the successor to Jonathan Gray and in the interim, Mike Durand's been doing a terrific job in an acting capacity as supported by his team.

So, Andra, next -- next slide.

I'm very pleased to announce our new Chief Financial Officer, who's here with us today, Reggie Pegues.

Reggie, raise your hand here so at least the Commissioners here can see you.

Reggie brings a terrific background to this job and he's no stranger to the Parks and Wildlife Department. He was here in 2008 when I first came back to the Department, and then he was lured away to Family and Protective Services by our CFO at the time; but Reggie was our Chief Budget Officer for, I guess, five years and so he knows our finances inside and out. The Fund 64, the Fund 9, the sporting goods sales tax, all the dedicated funding streams that we have and the complexity of our different revenue and budgeting streams.

He's got great relationships with the team already, be it Justin or Lance or Julie, and has got a lot of experience that he brings to us from DPS and DIR and other agencies; but he's a great asset. He's a CPA, a proud graduate of UT Tyler, and has already made a huge contribution with getting us prepared for the session budgetarily and financially and worked through issues with the Governor's Office on COVID-related funding reimbursements and so forth.

And so, Reggie, welcome to the team formally. Thrilled to have you.

I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge Justin Halvorsen here in the room with us. Justin, no stranger to the Commission, has done an extraordinary job in an acting capacity and I want to thank him for his service and leadership of which he will continue to provide as a member of our Financial Resources leadership team.

And so, Justin, thanks for helping to carry the ball while we were able to go through the process of filling this position and so thank you.

And again welcome, Reggie.

Andra, let's go to the next -- next slide.

Each year our friends at the Shikar-Safari Club, which as y'all know is that organization compromised of international sportsmen and conservationists, select a Wildlife Officer of the Year and this year's Officer of the Year is Justin Solis from down in Rockport and Aransas County. Justin's been with us as a Game Warden for seven or eight years.

When he got of the Academy, Commissioner Galo, he spent three years down in Webb County and then transferred back to Rockport, where he has deeply embedded himself in the community and is making a difference in all kinds of ways. As an aside, his dad works for us in Infrastructure. So nice to have a father-son team working for the Department, albeit in different functions and divisions. But Justin has really shown himself in the community. He's set up a kid's program encouraging kids to, you know, go for fish, not drugs, and try to deal with rural drug issues and been a great role model. Worked very effectively with one of our conservation partners in Aransas Bay, FlatsWorthy, to help work on issues related to all of the boater and user conflict that we see out in the bays and work with them to design a new patrol boat that our Game Wardens could use in the area that FlatsWorthy raised upwards of $80,000 to buy and purchase and then donate to our Law Enforcement team down there.

He's also a member of our Region 8, our kind of South Texas Coast Fishing Team that works on everything from interdiction of illegal Mexican vessels coming into U.S. and Texas waters to helping to lead operations to address all of the commercial and recreational fishing related pressures that we see in that area. So Justin has really distinguished himself and a very deserving honoree and awardee of the Shikar-Safari Club Officer of the Year and I'm sorry he's not with us today to be recognized in person, but we'll extend the Commission's gratitude to him.

Andra, next -- next slide.

Similarly, the Midwestern Association of Fish and Game Officers will select an Officer of the Year from all the member states and no surprise that John Kocian out of Victoria County was this year's Midwest Officer of the Year. John's been with us for almost 18 years. He spent the entirety of his career down at Victoria County, where he's developed terrific relationships with the ranching community and also the local law enforcement community and just the citizenry at large. Any number of hallmarks from his service and leadership there, from, you know, apprehending armed bank robbers that he was able to locate to saving some kayakers who had been washed away in floods in the Guadalupe River. He organized and led a major aquatic patrol effort called Tres Bahias in a five-county area to organize our Game Wardens on a special operation in the bays to work on water safety and fishing-related violations.

And most recently, John has been very involved in helping to develop and launch our FTO Program, or our Field Training Officer Program, for our State Park Police Officers and our Game Wardens. And so proud of John's leadership and he's doing a terrific job down there. Very well respected and proud of him for this recognition as the Midwest Officer of the Year.

So again, Chairman, we'll pass on the congratulations and the thanks from the -- from the Commission.

Andra, next slide.

Tomorrow y'all are going to have a chance to hear a detailed presentation from Craig Bonds on the development of our statewide R3 plan and this is our part of a much bigger nationwide effort aimed at recruiting, retaining, and reactivating hunters, anglers, boaters, and shooting sports enthusiasts. This is a national priority not just for fish and wildlife agencies, but for conservation organizations; but also the recreational sporting industries from firearms manufacturers to boat manufacturers and dealers and others that are in this space and as we confront the challenges of changed and evolving demographics, as well as the competition for leisure time and the lack of mentors in the outdoor space, we're all having to redouble our efforts to make sure that we can continue to expand and grow and diversify our hunters and anglers and shooting and boating enthusiasts.

One very relatively simple and low-cost way that we can help achieve those goals has been worked on by our Communications and specifically our Marketing team, Darcy Bontempo and Carly Montez and others, to target new anglers that are buying fishing licenses for their first time with sending them a series of introductory e-mails introducing them to the sport of fishing, giving them links to new resources, and helping do everything we can to make their new fishing experiences successful and easy and seamless and that's been very well received.

Also in working on these issues associated with churn -- which is a term that's used for purchasers of hunting and angling licenses who don't renew their licenses on a every-year basis -- they have been sending reminder e-mails to purchasers of the year-to-date all water fishing licenses to encourage them to purchase their license again and that's been very successful. Also one of the priorities of the Commission has been for the Agency to acquire more e-mail addresses of licensed hunters and anglers so we can reach them, again, with specific information and, again, work on all of these retention and reactivation related efforts.

Historically, we would secure e-mail addresses when hunters and anglers would buy their licenses online. Now, when somebody buys a license in an over-the-counter related environment, be that Walmart or Academy or a local sporting goods store, the are asked to provide their e-mail address when they're buying their license. Now, that's not a condition of getting a license. If they either don't have an e-mail or they choose not to give it, that's fine. They can still get their license, but we've significantly increased the acquisition of e-mails and being able to target and reach our hunting and angling constituents. And in a pilot project last year, Darcy and the team sent out reminder e-mails to over 230,000 hunters and anglers about renewing their licenses and you can see a little table there on the slide that shows the results of their targeted efforts versus a control group that did not get any reminder e-mails and the lift was, you know, anywhere from 2.4 to upwards of 6 percent, depending on the license type. And ultimately, they generated over 400 -- almost $400,000 more from renewals from the test group as opposed to the control group. And so as the number of e-mails expand and we can reach more individuals, this again is going to be a very low-cost way in which we can work on retention and reactivation in a very smart, thoughtful, and strategic way. So very proud of our Communications team, Michelle and Darcy and Carly and that whole bunch.

Andra, next -- next slide.

We're in the, I think, the 22nd year, Clayton, I guess of the Big Time Texas Hunt Program in which hunters can buy a chance at exclusive guided hunts around the state and these are, you know, special hunts. Maybe it's for, you know, trophy White-tailed deer or Mule deer or Pronghorn or Nilgai or alligator and for $10 a chance, you know, a hunter can buy as many as they want for any of these types of hunts around the state. Some of which are on wildlife management areas, but most of which are on private lands that we contract with, as well as guides to run the hunts.

The funds that are generated support wildlife conservation and habitat for our Wildlife Division. So it's a great generator of funds for conservation and stewardship. 2020, perhaps no surprise, we had the largest number of entries ever. Over 135,000 entries. And as you can see, we had the greatest gross sales in the 22-plus-year history. A 30 plus percent increase and generated on -- or a little over a million two dollars in sales. So we were proud of that.

We were also able to offer up kind of the first of its kind a blast-and-cast package down there at the Powderhorn Ranch there at Port O'Connor and so the winning hunter gets to come down. They can hunt waterfowl, get a chance at a trophy Sambar deer, an Axis, White-tailed deer. They can duck hunt. Then they can also wade for Redfish and trout on that ten miles of shoreline there on the Powderhorn Ranch shoreline. So that proved to be a very, very popular one. But, again, just another terrific partnership between our Communications and Marketing teams and Wildlife Division and proud of the efforts of providing to offer more hunting opportunities, but also to generate revenue for conservation and stewardship.

Next slide, Andra.

I want to provide a quick overview of essentially the last year of the partnership that we've had with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to implement the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund and as some of the Commissioners that have been here for a while will recall, one of the silver linings out of that terrible Deepwater Horizon tragedy was the resources that were made available to invest in restoring and enhancing and protecting resources that were impacted from that Deepwater oil spill in the Gulf.

And as you will recall, there were a variety of different funding streams set up that the responsible parties had to pay into. One were the civil-related funds that were paid into the Natural Resource Damage Assessment Program, which Parks and Wildlife, along with the General Land Office and TCEQ administer; the RESTORE Act funding, which set up a whole new federal agency to oversee to invest in a wide series of conservation and restoration research projects; and then there were the criminal penalties that were assessed against the responsible party of roughly $2.4 billion. In the settlement decree with the Department of Justice, those funds were given to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to act as the fiduciary for those funds. Every dollar had to be spent on conserving or restoring or enhancing resources specifically impacted by the spill. So meaning that funds would have to be invested in to protect things like migratory birds or seagrass or oysters or shoreline habitats, again that were impacted.

That portion of the award that was allocated for Texas was $203 million. We were, you know, clearly impacted by the spill; but the least impacted of all the Gulf states. And the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation is opposed to setting up a big bureaucracy to oversee that grant program, did something that I think was very prescient and strategic and that was to partner with their state agency partners to decide how best to allocate and distribute those funds to meet the terms of the criminal settlement decree with the Department of Justice. And so in Texas, that agency was really Texas Parks and Wildlife Department with support from our partners at GLO and TCEQ. And so what NFWF, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, asked of Parks and Wildlife during this seven- or eight-year partnership, was to identify the priority geographies for investments; to identify target resources that needed to be invested in, whether it be species or habitat types; and then essentially to oversee the grant application process for getting nonprofit and other public conservation agencies to apply for those grants.

Our team scored and vetted those projects and then ultimately we made recommendations to the NFWF Board for funding and I want to specifically acknowledge the leadership of Robin Riechers and Ted Hollingsworth, who have just done a masterful job leading this effort for the State of Texas over the last seven or eight years. This has been the most efficient and I think effective program coming out of the Deepwater Horizon effort in terms of quickly getting dollars on the ground to benefit the natural resources that we're charged to protect and that's in no small part due to Robin and Ted's leadership. Really, really proud of them.

This is the last year of funding for the program. We had roughly $19 million to invest along the coast. And so as you can see here, we invested in things like purchasing a conservation easement on, you know, roughly 11,000 acres of the remaining Powderhorn Ranch to the west of the big property that we acquired. Working on shoreline protection and restoration projects there in Matagorda Bay or doing more hydrologic restoration down at the Bahia Grande. So some excellent projects to finish off this effort.

But let me give you just a very quick snapshot of what was accomplished in this seven- or eight-year partnership.

Andra, if you'll go to the next slide?

You can see this slide, it depicts all of the projects that were invested in up and down the Texas coast, from Sabine Lake all the way down to Boca Chica. You can see the yellow or orange dots represent land conservation projects where we invested in acquiring land to add to state parks or wildlife management areas or national wildlife refuges. You see habitat restoration in purple. That kind of pinkish color is for avian habitat restoration like rookery island related things, but also you see beach and habitat restoration projects.

There were sixty projects that were -- that were funded with this partnership. That $203 million was essentially doubled in its impact with matching funds from the other entities besides Parks and Wildlife that were recipient of funds. There were over, I think, you know, 35 or so and that ranged from entities like, you know, Ducks Unlimited, Nature Conservancy, Texas Agricultural Land Trust, Fish and Wildlife Service, Galveston Bay Foundation, Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program, Conservation Fund, and a host of other nonprofits that just really did some terrific work around the entire Texas coast.

Next slide, Andra.

This is a shot just of the upper coast related projects and you'll see Sabine Lake and Salt Bayou and Galveston Bay.

Chairman Scott, you'll of course remember the big project that we worked on there in Jefferson Bayou to help restore Salt Bayou and help bring freshwater back into the marsh and restore that massive marsh complex influence. That, you know, over 18,000 acres of wetlands. You know, the roughly 20 miles of shoreline that were restored upward -- up there at Bolivar Peninsula, the Keith Lake Fish Pass, the acquisition of the Big Ranch to add to the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, Chairman, that again, that local area and specifically Judge Branick was so very supportive of.

Down out in Galveston Bay, you know, we were able to invest in over a hundred acres of oyster reefs, added a major land acquisition there at Chocolate Bayou through the Galveston Bay Foundation, lots of shoreline protection, some great bird rookery related projects.

Next slide, Andra.

Going down to the mid coast, we were able to do projects, of course, like the big Powderhorn Ranch project there on Matagorda Bay and other projects there on the Matagorda Peninsula. A lot of rookery island projects in San Antonio Bay and Matagorda Bay to help protect our threatened water birds who've had a lot of pressures in recent years and some -- also some really good private lands related work with our partners at Ducks Unlimited and the Texas Ag Land Trust and the Nature Conservancy.

Let's go to the next slide down south.

And then down on the very lower coast, our projects were largely focused on restoring that massive Bahia Grande complex there between Brownsville and Port Isabel, which is essentially a 12- to 15,000-acre former tidally influenced wetland; but with the construction of the Brownsville Ship Channel, those tidal waters were no longer providing wetland habitats and that essentially wetland habitat had dried up into a big dust bowl and so with the NFWF funding, we were able to help restore that hydrologic regime down there, acquired a number of key tracts at South Padre to add to the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge and also to provide critical protection of wetland and brush tracts to connect the Laguna Atascosa with the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

So all in all, Commissioners, I'm very, very proud of the conservation work that came out of this tragedy and I'm very grateful to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for their trust in Parks and Wildlife and the State of Texas as a whole to help lead these conservation efforts. And, again, Robin and Ted and many others on the team, along with our partners at TCEQ and GLO, just did a terrific job of implementing this. So good, good stuff there.

Next slide, Andra.

Last slide and I put this in primarily really because Chairman Morian was interested in this, but this is the second year of the experimental four-doe-day season in the Post Oak belt, essentially extending from kind of Fayette and Lee County down to Cuero there in DeWitt County. So roughly 21 counties in which an experimental four-day-doe season was put in place around Thanksgiving in those counties to help with the management of antlerless deer numbers. One of the conditions of that was that anybody that harvested antlerless deer had to report that harvest through the My Texas Hunt Harvest app and we provided an update to the Commission last year on that. I think we had a very successful rollout and I'm proud of our Wildlife and IT teams and LE teams for getting all that up and running.

And kind of here are the results from the second year and by and large, they -- they really mirrored what happened in year number one.

Next slide, Andra.

This table just shows kind of where the largest numbers of does were harvested. As you can see, almost 75 percent of them were killed during those four doe days during the general season around Thanksgiving and then 20, 21 percent were killed during the archery season. Hunters also had an opportunity to harvest them during the special youth season at the end of October and then also during the muzzleloader season, but the largest numbers were harvested during that four-doe-day season.

Next slide.

Out of the, you know, roughly -- the 3,600, 35, 59 or so antlerless deer that were harvested, you can see here by county the reporting. You know, largest numbers and perhaps not surprisingly, you know, down in DeWitt County around Cuero, large numbers of deer there. Colorado, Bastrop County having good numbers. You know, Comal County, only that portion east of I-35 was included in this area. So that doesn't include harvest of does in that Hill Country part of Comal County, which I think explains why that number is so low. Last year, I think there were one or two deer killed east of 35 there.

Next slide.

Those are the counties here. You can see, you know, not surprisingly, you know, places like Lavaca or Lee County, Gonzales County, decent numbers of does harvested.

Next -- next slide.

And then last but not least, you know, Wilson County around Stockdale, Nixon, that area decent numbers of does that were -- that were harvested.

Next -- next slide.

Total numbers of does harvested compared to last year interestingly was down about 9 percent. So perhaps that was a bit of a surprise. About what our biologists expected, roughly 80 percent of those that hunted antlerless deer in these counties harvested one deer; but, you know, we had roughly 20 percent of the hunters take two.

Next -- next slide.

And then in terms of reporting -- and I think this is important as we continue to think about how we very strategically and robustly use digital devices to help with communication with our constituencies, you know, roughly 80 percent of the hunters reported their harvest on their mobile devices and so with the Apple being one -- the most preferred, but android also being a popular device and then roughly 20 percent of the reporting came in through the -- through the web.

Chairman and Commissioners, in terms of, you know, problems with the reporting was minimal at best. I think our Game Wardens and Wildlife biologists reported nine individuals in all of this that had some issue. They had -- you know, it timed out on them or they weren't able to find the deer management unit to report it in or inadvertently put in the wrong county. I mean, really kind of minor related issues. So I think we can call this program a success by any means or measure with the -- with the first two years of the rollout and, again, the use of the digital reporting through the -- through the app. So real pleased with that, Chairman, and how that's turned out for the second year of this program.

With that, Mr. Chairman, that concludes my presentation and if anybody has any questions for me on any of those topics, I'm happy to address them.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Are there any questions by the Commission?

Having heard none, thank you, Carter.

MR. SMITH: Thank you.

MR. MONTEMAYOR: Chairman? Commissioner, you're muted.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: What do I hit? Oh, I see it. Like I said, I'm low tech.

Okay. Work Session Item No. 2, Financial Overview. Is Justin doing it, or who's going to do it?

MR. SMITH: Yeah, it's --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: And welcome back, by the way.

MR. HALVORSEN: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good morning, Commissioners. For the record, I'm Justin Halvorsen, the Director of Revenue here to present the financial overview.

Next slide, please?

There are three topics that I'm going to be covering today. The first is the FY '20 year end revenue summaries. So that's going to be the revenue ending on August 31st. The second topic will be the FY '21 revenue summaries, which will cover revenue from 9/1 through December 31. And the final topic will be the FY '21 budget adjustments, also through December.

Next slide, please?

Okay. To kick it off, the year end summaries. Again, this is for fiscal year 2020, which is going to be ending on August -- that did end on August 31st. And I'm going to be covering the three largest revenue sources that we have, which in order is license revenue, state park revenue, and boat revenue. Now the slides that I'm going to be presenting, represent revenue that goes into the Treasury and so as such, this is going to be on a cash basis. It's not an accrual. This is on a cash basis.

Next slide, please?

Okay. This is license revenue 2020. You can see the total revenue was 114 million and by month, as far as the trend, it goes exactly like what we expect it to. So 40 percent of the total revenue we acquired through the end of September and then by the end of December, then we had gotten 65 percent of the revenue. So in terms of the overall flow by month, it ran exactly like what we expected. We did have a larger than expected bump in the spring associated with fishing.

Next slide, please?

So this is a comparison of license revenue across the previous five years. You can see again fiscal year 2020 at 114 million. It was just under 10 percent higher than what we had in fiscal year 2019 at 104 million. Again, that was 9.5 percent higher than it was in fiscal year 2019.

Next slide, please?

So this next slide compares fiscal year '19 and '20 by license type. That bump that I had talked about just a few minutes ago, you can really see that presented in the resident fishing license, which was 28.4 percent higher. The nonresident fish was reflectively flat. Negative by just a little bit at half a percent. The nonresident hunting was down 5.8 percent. Most of that was attributed to the spring because of the lockdowns with COVID. That did have a negative impact on spring turkey. But, again, overall total revenue was up 9, 9.5 percent.

Next slide, please?

Okay. Shifting to state parks. Again by month, the total revenue was 47.1 million and again on this slide, you could -- this really presents well. You can see the impact of the -- of COVID-19. You can see the decline in revenue in March and in May. Although we did have a nice recovery in the spring and summer. Again, 47.1 million closed out the revenue for state parks.

Next slide, please?

Okay. This compares the state park revenue over the last five years. We were down 13 percent in fiscal year 2020 compared to fiscal year 2019; but, again, considering how bad things were looking in March and April, the recovery was actually quite strong.

Next slide, please?

Okay. So this slide, again we're looking at state park revenue comparing '19 to '20 kind of by category. I'm going to point out the day use entrance and park pass was impacted the least. You can see that was negative 8 percent and 7.5 percent respectively. Facilities and activities, concessions -- activities would be things like horseback riding or something like that -- those were impacted more substantially. Negative 17 percent for facilities and activities and concession down 37.4 percent. But, again, overall comparing '19 and '20, we were down 13.2 percent.

Next slide, please?

Okay. Looking at boat revenue, the total boat revenue -- again, this is for fiscal year 2020 -- ended at 22.9 million. As far as comparing it by month, again you can see the impact of COVID in the early spring months in April; but much like state parks, you can see a fairly nice recovery as we headed into the summer months.

Next slide, please?

Okay. Comparing boat revenue across the previous five years, you can see it's very consistent. 2020 ended slightly up 1.5 percent; but, again, quite consistent for the last five years.

Next slide, please?

Okay. A little bit more detail on boat revenue comparing fiscal year '20 with '19. The titling you can see is negative, which indicates that there are fewer boats being purchased and transferred in 2020 compared to 2019. However, you'll notice that the sales tax retained was higher at 5.2 percent. So that's indicating that there were fewer transactions, but the transactions that did take place were a higher value.

Next slide, please?

Okay. So that closed out the summary of fiscal year 2020, which ended on August 31st. And I'm going to be -- the next slides, next series of slides are going to be revenue starting on 9/1 through December 31st. Again, this is in order: License revenue, state park revenue, boat revenue.

Next slide, please?

Okay. License revenue, again from 9/1 through December 31st, closed at 79.2 million. As far as the trend, the trend is trending exactly like what we would expect to it to.

Next slide, please?

Okay. This is -- this next slide is comparing license revenue through December 31st through the previous five years and we're up approximately 10 percent over where we were in license year '20. So, again, it started out quite strong.

Next slide, please?

Okay. So this slide again is additional detail on license revenue and now we're comparing fiscal year 2021 to 2020 and that strong increase that we had in resident fishing is also carrying forward. Now, we're at 30 percent. Nonresident fishing, which was flat in fiscal year 2020, is now at 9.6 percent. And the nonresident hunting, which was down close to 6 percent in 2020, has recovered and now it's down at approximately 1.7 percent. But, again, overall license revenue is quite strong at 9.9 percent up 2021 comparing that to 2020.

Next slide, please?

Okay. State park revenue -- again, this is from September 1st through December 31st -- ended at 19.2 million. If you look at it by month, you'll see that there's not a lot of variation. Really quite consistent and quite strong.

Next slide, please?

Okay. So now we're comparing state park revenue back for the previous five years. Very, very, very strong for fiscal year 2021 comparing it back to 2020. We're almost 25 percent higher than where we were at this point last year.

Next slide.

Okay. So this next slide provides that approximately 25 percent increase in a little bit more detail. And, again, I'll point out the entrance and park passes are up approximately 30 percent. The facilities, which were down in fiscal year 2020, have recovered and now they're up approximately 20 percent and even activities and concessions, which closed out 2020 down by about 30 percent, is now down just 3.2 percent.

Next slide.

Okay. Now, we're looking at boat revenue, closing out through December 31st was 6.1 million. And as far as the trend by month, it's flowing exactly like what we would expect it to.

Next slide, please?

Okay. Comparing it at this point to the previous five years, boat revenue is also very strong. It's up almost 44 percent year over year.

Next slide, please?

Okay. This provides a little bit more detail on the boat revenue. I'll go ahead and, again, start out with titles, which were negative at the end of fiscal year 2020. Now, through December 31st of 2021, it's up 52.4 percent and sales tax is up 95.6 percent. So comparing at this point this year to where we were at last year, there are more boats being purchases -- being purchased and the sales price of those is also higher.

Next slide, please?

Okay. So that wrapped up my revenue summaries and now I'll be talking about the fiscal year 2021 budget adjustments.

Next slide, please?

Okay. This first slide was taken right off of the August Commission Meeting that I did. So we started out the year, the Commission approved budget was at 444.6 million.

Next slide, please?

Okay. Since that time, we've done approximately $191.2 million of adjustments. I'm just going to go through a few of these and give you some highlights. The operational noncapital UB -- UB is just a budgetary term for moving funds forward from one year into the next. We have the authority within the biennia to move operating and noncapital funds from the first year of by the biennia to the second, which so far we have done to the tune of about 5.8 million. That ranges anything from some operating for the Legal Division for a thousand dollars all the way up to a million dollars for a local park grant.

The federal and UB at 63.3 million, that's approximately 30 grants. Two-thirds of which is in the wildlife and sport fish restoration. The appropriated receipts and UB at 28.5 million, approximately 16 million of that represents donations that were moved forward from 2020 to 2021, with an additional one million dollars of donations that have been received in '21 and so from 9/1 through December 31st. The capital construction UB of 80 -- 84.7 million, that's approximately 140 construction projects. One of which is about $12 million for the Palo Pinto construction development. Employee fringe of about 8.9 million that we get to our subtotal adjustments of 191.2. So we closed out December 31st with an adjusted budget of 635.8 million.

Next slide, please?

And that concludes my presentation. I'm happy to answer any questions you may have.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Commissioner -- Commissioner Hildebrand. Question for you. Go back to that last slide. Increase of $191 million on your budget.


COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: That's almost a 40 percent increase. I mean -- I mean, I assume all of these line items are, you know, reasonable and viable. But why the big -- how did we just adjust our budget by 40 percent? The budget was set on August 2020. How could things have changed this much? I mean, another item for employment fringe, unemployment, et cetera.

MR. HALVORSEN: Sure. There's a couple things that I'll say on that. First of all, keep in mind that with State government, again we have the ability to move funds forward from one year into the next. So a big portion of this is a function of the way that State government works and a rider that we have that allows us to carry funds available from one year into the next. So that's a big portion of why you're seeing when we started budget at 444 million, that was only the beginning original budget that we had in the General Appropriations Act for fiscal year '21. That didn't include any of the money that we had the ability to move forward.

Because our Agency does a lot in construction, that's a big amount that gets moved forward, as well as federal funds. So the combination of those just means that there's a lot of money that is sitting in the previous year that we have the authority to move forward.

Now, with respect to your question on fringe, that's a really good question and there's a couple of points that I'll make. No. 1 on fringe when we start out, the estimate on fringe in the General Appropriations Act, it is actually estimated by the LBB and that's done a couple years ago. So their estimate is always very conservative. We have a better estimate as time goes on. Also with that fringe number, I don't have the ability to budgetarily move any of that fringe budget to any other category. So we have the authority to increase our budget in fringe when we need it; but if we have any additional fringe, we can't move it anywhere. We can only decrease it. So we have the authority to increase it and decrease it as needed. And as time goes on and we have those fringe expenses, then the estimate for our budget will get better and better. At the end of the day, our estimate for fringe will be exactly what we spent in fringe.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Okay. I'm getting a lot of feedback on the microphone here, but can you hear me?

MR. HALVORSEN: Yeah. Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Okay. I mean, $9 million is quite a bit more than what I'd define as fringe, one thing. And, two, just because you can do it, doesn't mean you should spend the money. And I'm still not -- I still don't quite understand. You say you can move money from one year to the next; but last year, why wouldn't you have budgeted in the 2021 cycle this $191 million? I mean, this just doesn't fall from the sky in order to put together a project and a timeline for $84 million worth of construction. That requires, you know, a lot of thought. So why weren't we thinking about this last year, this construction we were needing this year?

MR. HALVORSEN: Sure. A couple other things I'll add. Again, with some of the nuances of State government, we're talking about authority and the authority to spend money or the authority to move money forward. And, again, the original budget that we had in the GAA from even last year from 2020, also didn't include a lot of the construction projects that we would have had the previous year as well. And so the way that State government works is that the General Appropriations Act is your starting point and it's kind of like starting a football drive at the 20-yard line and then as you move, as you progress forward, as you get more information, as additional authority comes because of donations that happen, because of new federal grants, then all of those things are factors in adjusting the budget.

So that's -- that's why your budget is going to be higher at the end of the year than what it is at the beginning of the year. And then compounded, again, now we're talking about the second year of the biennia. So we always start lower and then we have the ability to increase it for things like donations, for federal grants, all of those kind of things even -- even in and of themselves within that year, they allow us to be able to increase our authority. But then on top of that, we have all of these other projects that the authority was sitting back in these previous years and now the Legislature allows us to move that authority forward.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Okay. I'm going to stop there because I don't quite fully understand your answer and I don't want to take up the Commission's time any longer; but I would ask that you come to Houston, we sit down, and you explain this process because it's a bit foreign to me. I have been involved in State government before and I've not seen these significantly large increases in a budget year on year. So just, if you will, come to Houston, we'll sit down for a couple of hours and go through it. Okay?

MR. SMITH: Commissioner, I do want to add just one thing just to clarify construction (inaudible) schedule to get all of our funding encumbered and so it is rigorously planned out from the scoping, planning, engineering, design, construction, post-construction, and inspection before we sign off on those projects. And on our construction budgets, which is, of course, the lion's share of the funding here that you see that's being UBed from the first year to the second year, we always expect that roughly to 80 to 85 percent of our biennial budget appropriation is not going to be encumbered by us until the last two quarters of the second year. So this is not a surprise at all.

The second thing I'll say on the federal funding, it vacillates greatly from year to year just depending upon the amount of federal funding that we get through federal excise tax and grants. And so the Legislative Budget Board when setting our budget, will give us an estimated amount of federal funds; but usually it -- it -- it misses the mark, not deliberately; but just because of the wide amount of variability because of the nature of the different federal funding streams we get. So, again, not a surprise here; but I do think it would be great if we were able to --


MR. SMITH: -- sit down with you and walk through it. Thanks.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: I'm not -- I'm not really concerned about the federal budget, understand the -- about the lax nature of the feds in terms of how they would handle a project. But it's really the other issues that -- so anyway, we'll do it offline just so I have a better understanding of how this 40 percent, I mean --

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: -- it's a big number.

MR. SMITH: It is. It is a big number, and I look forward to going into more granularity with you on that.


MR. SMITH: Thanks for raising that.


Oh, I had one. I could not see it. And sorry. I don't want to take up the mic fully. But visitations went from what to what? I couldn't read it here. Are the visitations way up this year just COVID and consequently, revenue is going to be way up for park fees, et cetera?

MR. HALVORSEN: Yeah. Yes. To answer your question, paid visitation is up about 33.8 percent.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Got it. That's fantastic. The folks, the citizens of Texas are using the resources. That's what we -- it's what we get --

MR. SMITH: It's what we want.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: What we get paid to do, right?

MR. SMITH: Yep. Well, and I think that it's critical, Commissioners, when going into the Legislative Session, we think about what constitutes a, you know, healthy, strong, vibrant Texas making sure that we continue to provide these services and that we invest in those services to make sure that they're meeting the needs and expectations of the constituents and as you can see from really all facets of the outdoor recreation amenities that we help support and provide, they have really increased during this time of COVID and, you know, candidly our hope is that they will continue to increase once we get past this; but it's also critical that we sustain these investments in the parks and the WMAs and with our Law Enforcement and biologist team to make sure, again, that we continue to support these. So really important trends, but important facts to be considered we hope by the Legislature as they're thinking about the subsequent budgets for us too.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: You bet. Let's bring this up to them. I mean, visitation, more hunting and fishing. I mean, this is -- this is what we're charged to do and so -- but it takes money to do it.

MR. SMITH: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: And, you know, hopefully the trend on the boat and all that, hopefully we're getting people out into the -- into the countryside, which is what you just said. That's our charge. Short and sweet, you know. We need -- life's better outdoors, right, Carter?

But anyway, any other questions or comments about that item?

Not hearing any, thank you very much for the presentation.

And we'll go on to Work Session Item No. 3, the Internal Audit Update. Ms. Brandy Meeks, please make your presentation.

MS. MEEKS: Good morning, Chairman, Vice-Chairman, and Commissioners. For the record, my name is Brandy Meeks and I'm the Internal Audit Director. This morning, I'd like to update on you the status of our fiscal year '20 and '21 internal audit plans, our recent peer review results and recommendations, and our recent and upcoming audits and assessments. And I'm going to -- there we go.

Next slide, please?

Next slide, please? Thank you.

This -- the next slide shows the status of our fiscal year '20 internal audit plan. All of our performance audits have been completed with the exception of the mobile devices cybersecurity audit, which is currently in the reporting phase.

Next slide, please?

Next slide, please?

This slide shows the status of the 25 fiscal control state park audits on the fiscal year '20 audit plan.

If we go back, please, a slide? Actually, go back two slides. And then -- I'm sorry. Yeah, one more slide. If you go back one more slide? Thank you. And actually, if you go forward now one more slide, please? Okay. There we go. Perfect.

This slide shows the status of our 25 fiscal control state park audits on the fiscal year '20 audit plan. As of today, 19 projects are complete; three are in the fieldwork phase; and three are in the quality assurance phase. And we hope to have the entire fiscal year '20 audit plan complete by the end of this fiscal quarter.

Next slide, please?

So the next three slides show the status of our fiscal year '21 audit plan. This slide shows the status of our performance, IT, advisory, and follow-up projects. And as you can see, the boater, hunter, education system, IT project is now in the fieldwork phase. We completed the Q1 follow-up project, and the Q2 follow-up project is in process. Additionally, I am seeking the Audit Committee and Chairman's approval to revise this year's audit plan for the loss of one auditor, resources needed to train a new auditor, and the possible purchase and implementation of audit software this fiscal year. This slide shows the proposed changes to our IT and advisory projects if we are able to purchase and implement audit software. So I am proposing the elimination -- you can see on the right-hand side. I'm proposing the elimination of the employee off-boarding process audit and the FLSA classification advisory project, again, should we be able to purchase audit software this year.

Next slide, please?

Next slide, please?

Next slide, please. Thank you.

As far as the fiscal year '21 fiscal control audits are concerned, the original plan included 18 fiscal control audits.

And if we could go back one, please?

MR. SMITH: Brandy, this is Carter. I think we've got a lag --

MS. MEEKS: Hey, Carter.

MR. SMITH: -- in what you're seeing and what we're seeing and so maybe if you just say --


MR. SMITH: -- which slide you want to see and then she can keep it on there. What's the title of the slide that you'd like to have up right now?

MS. MEEKS: Okay. Yeah, if we could go to Slide 5, Internal Audit Plan Fiscal Year 2021 Continued.

MR. SMITH: Okay. We can see that here now and so when it comes up --

MS. MEEKS: Oh, you can? Okay.

MR. SMITH: -- you can start. Uh-huh, yep.

MS. MEEKS: Okay. I can go ahead and start. If y'all can see it, great. That's good.

MR. SMITH: All right. Thanks.

MS. MEEKS: Okay. As far as the -- thank you, Carter. As far as fiscal year '21 fiscal control audits are concerned, the original plan included 18 fiscal control audits. That would include 14 state parks and four law enforcement offices. And as you can see, two state park fiscal control audits are currently in the quality assurance phase. Changes proposed to the plan to account for our auditor vacancy and the training of a new auditor, include cutting the number of fiscal control audits by the number that was assigned to the auditor that we lost. I propose doing this as the Auditor II position is an entry level auditor position and considerable training time to train that auditor will be required to bring them up to speed. So I propose reducing our state park fiscal control audits from 14 to 10 and eliminating the four law enforcement offices -- office audits.

So I've actually e-mailed the Audit Committee these proposed changes and I received approval from Commissioner Latimer and I look forward to receiving Commissioner Bell's and the Chairman's feedback and according to TPWD's Internal Audit Charter, those proposed changes will require the Chairman's approval.

Next slide, please?

So --

MR. SMITH: Brandy, we have that up. Yep.

MS. MEEKS: Okay. Thank you, Carter.

We've also completed some special projects and administrative tasks this fiscal year as shown in No. 3 above under administrative duties and as already discussed, we are working to fill an entry level auditor vacancy. We've completed all interviews and we hope to have this position filled this quarter. As also discussed previously and as shown in No. 4 under administrative duties above, we were exploring the possibility of purchasing audit software. Currently, our audit shop still operates using a manual paper-based process and procurement of audit software, if approved, will help us work more efficiently by streamlining -- streamlining the audit process among all auditors and quality assurance reviewers. Audit software will also allow collaboration among all audit -- all audit team members -- excuse me -- even for those that are working in diverse remote location. So it would be a huge benefit to our shop.

Next slide, please?

So now I'd like to discuss the result of our peer review. The peer review was completed at the end of the first quarter and we received the highest rating possible, which -- which was a pass. This means that we are operating our audit shop in compliance with the GAO's Yellow Book standards and the International Professional Practices Framework Red Book standards, as well as in compliance with the Texas Government Code 2102, the Texas Internal Auditing Act. The peer review team also made three recommendations for improvement, which we agreed would enhance our (inaudible) audit shop strategic planning (audio cuts out), two, to work with the Commission to define the Commission's expectations regarding communication and the monitoring of the internal audit function and to ensure audit strategic plan aligns with the Agency's strategic plan.

And lastly, to update the Internal Audit Charter to clearly define my responsibility to perform analysis of audit resources needed to cover Agency risks. As of today, we've not started work on these improvement opportunities; but I do plan to work with Executive management and the Audit Committee to address all of these recommendations this fiscal year.

Next slide, please?

MR. SMITH: Brandy, we have External Audits, Reviews, and Process, Slide No. 8 up in front of us.

Mr. Chairman, it looks like we may have lost the connection with Brandy.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Like I said, I'll sure be glad when we get back to regular meetings.

MR. SMITH: So, Clayton, or if you want to jump in here. But these are external audits. These are the kind of audits that, you know, we report on the Commission pretty regularly, whether it's the Office of Inspector General, Fish and Wildlife Service, or the Comptroller auditing things. And so, you know, Brandy just mainly wanted to give y'all a heads up of the schedule and the fact that these were going on and so let you know I don't think there's a lot to report here at this juncture; but we'll keep you -- keep you apprised.

Andra, can you go to the next slide, please? Slide No. 9?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: And, Carter, tell Brandy thank you very much. We understand the technological problems.

MR. SMITH: Yeah. No, you bet. You bet. And then this next slide, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, has to do with external audits that are being conducted by the State Auditor's Office. They're not really an audit, per se, like the position classification plan or the SAO releasing their report on the Schedule C salary schedule for Law Enforcement officers across the state that are paid in that particular band. But, again, just wanting to make you -- make you apprised of that.

Andra, let's go to the next slide.

I'm not sure if I'll be able to answer any of your questions; but if not, I'll happy -- happily delegate those to Clayton. But if...

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: And, Clayton, you thought you were sitting here just keeping --

MR. WOLF: I see everyone found that very amusing. Thank you, Carter.

MR. SMITH: Chairman, I think the only thing I'll add just on Brandy's behalf is, you know, I had a chance to participate with the peer reviewers that took a look from the outside looking in and our Internal Audit Program and Commissioner Latimer heard some of feedback as well. We had some very experienced auditors from other agencies that gave feedback and overwhelmingly just were effusive in their feedback about Brandy and her leadership, her enthusiasm, her eagerness to learn. They were very pleased with the program as a whole. Obviously, they had some constructive suggestions on how to polish the proverbial gold; but all in all, I think the Commission ought to feel really good about that, about that look, and also how Brandy is performing in her -- in her role.

So I wanted to just add that editorial comment for the Commission to consider. I'm sorry we had some technical issues and we'll work to fix those; but I think that wraps up that issue, Mr. Chairman.

COMMISSIONER LATIMER: This is Commissioner Latimer, and I concur with all of that in participating with the peer review group. I think especially since Brandy has been the Internal Audit Director for, I guess, about a year, maybe a little over, and jumped in and COVID and trying to do audit work remotely, especially without software, had to present an overwhelming challenge that I can't imagine how she's -- she's done a magnificent job and in communicating with those of us who are the ex-officio Audit Committee and I just want to commend the whole Audit Division and the job they have done and it looks like with her plan, that it will only improve from here.

MS. MEEKS: Carter and Commissioner Latimer, thank you. Do -- would -- do y'all have any questions over the presentation?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I think -- I think you've done a good job and I think all the reports that we get speak -- speak for themselves. So I think just keep doing what you're doing. Obviously, you must be doing something very right to have all these people happy with you.

MS. MEEKS: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: That's not easy when you're doing audits.

MS. MEEKS: Will do and I have a great team. So, thank you.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Well, you do and that's -- and that's wonderful.

Any other questions or anything from any Commissioners?

Well, that being the case, we'll move on to Work Session Item No. 4A, Rule Review, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register, Chapter 57 Fisheries; 58 Oysters, Shrimp, and Finfish, and 63 [sic] Wildlife. James, please give your presentation.

MR. MURPHY: Good morning, Commissioners. I'm James Murphy, General Counsel for the Department and today I'm here to present the rule review on Chapters 57, 58, and 65.

Next slide, please?

I will begin with just a brief summary of the rule review process. You've seen this in the last couple meetings that we've had, but I just want to run through this briefly for the record. All State agency regulations must be reviewed no less frequent -- frequently than once every four years. This review must include an assessment of the reasons for initially adopting a rule and whether those continue to exist. We do provide public notice of the proposed review in the Texas Register and solicit public comment and then we must either readopt, adopt with changes, or repeal the rules based upon this review.

Next slide, please?

We do this on a chapter-by-chapter basis to keep it organized. We use a three-meeting process. The first meeting is a notification to the Commission of the beginning of the process and then we publish notice of that in the Texas Register. The second meeting is we seek permission to publish any proposed rule changes and, again, that goes into the Register for public comment. That is the meeting that we're here today on this group of rule chapters. And then the third meeting, we seek adoption of any proposed rule changes and repeals and then adoption of the completed rule review, which means that we are retaining the remaining rules without changes.

Next slide, please?

Here is just to orient you on the calendar. You can see the chapters highlighted in yellow. We're at the permission-to-publish stage on these three chapters.

Next slide, please?

And we have no changes to recommend to you on Chapter 57 or Chapter 58. We will only be focusing on proposed changes to Chapter 65.

Next slide, please?

The first of our two changes to Chapter 65 is in Subchapter H on our public lands proclamation. This is related to competitive hunting dog events. We have determined that we can make an amendment to the Social Security number requirement for these. Previously, we had required a Social Security number to all participants and spectators involved in the event. We have determined that we can request a Social Security number only from the permit applicant now. Social Security numbers, as you know, are a requirement associated with collection of child support both under federal and state laws and, however, we do not think that that requirement means that every attendee at these events needs to provide a number.

Next slide, please?

This one is a very small one. We caught an unnecessary internal reference on means and methods that really was not appropriate to be included in that. In this section, there's no change to the effect on law from this -- from this recommended edit.

Next slide, please?

And so our request is to -- permission to publish the proposed amendments to Title 31 Texas Administrative Code Chapter 65 in the Texas Register for public comment. I'm available for any questions you may have.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: I've got one. Can you hear me?

MR. MURPHY: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Can you go back to the field trial? Keep going. Yeah. So what purview and regulatory authority do we have to have any involvement in a competitive hunting dog event, a field trial event? And why do we get involved in the business of trying to regulate it?

MR. MURPHY: Commissioner, you know, to be honest I'm not sure I have the background to answer that question effectively. I'm certainly open to any guidance from Clayton on that.

MR. WOLF: Right, Commissioner. For the record, Clayton Wolf. Those -- these are for events on our WMAs and possibly state parks. So it's -- this is only on state lands that we own and manage.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Okay. Understand. I was hoping that this -- you weren't trying to create a regulatory process on private lands for competitive hunting dog events. Thank you for the clarification.

MR. MURPHY: Thank you, Clayton.

Any other questions for me or for Clayton?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Any other discussion by the Commission? And I'm actually with Commissioner Hildebrand on that. I don't think we need to bite off anything else and that we've got to regulate. But anyway, so any -- any other questions by the Commission?

Okay. Since there's no other discussion, I authorize staff to publish the proposed changes in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.

That gets us to Work Session Item No. 4B, Rules Review, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes and Completed Rules Review, Chapter 53, 59, and 69, Finance, Parks, and Resource Protection. James, you're still up.

MR. MURPHY: All right. Thank you, Commissioners. For the record, I'm James Murphy, General Counsel for the Department, and I'm here to present the adoption of the rule review for Chapters 53, 59, and 69.

Next slide, please?

For the record, I will give a brief review of the item, the basics of our rule review process. This is -- comes from Texas Government Code Section 2001.039. This is a review that occurs no less frequently than every four years and includes an assessment of whether the reasons for initially adopting a rule continue to exist. We do put a notice of the proposed review in the Texas Register and solicit public comment and then the rules must be readopted, adopted with changes, or repealed based upon the review.

Next slide, please?

As on the last item, we use a three-meeting process for this. The first is a notification to the Commission of the beginning of the rule review process and publication in the Texas Register. That second meeting is the permission to publish any proposed rule or appeals revolting -- resulting from the review, again, published in the Texas Register for public comment. And then this third meeting where we are here today on these three chapters is seeking adoption of any proposed rule changes and repeals and adoption of the completed rule review, which means retention of the remaining rules.

Next slide, please?

And to orient you on the calendar, Chapters 53, 59, and 69 are highlighted and we are in the third and final meeting associated with these three chapters.

Next slide, please?

We have no changes to the Chapter 59 or to Chapter 69 and we are only focused on changes to Chapter 53 today.

Next slide, please?

The first one is in Chapter 53 Subchapter A for fees related to vessel, motor, and marine licensing fees in Section 53.16. This is a clarification that a replacement marine dealer manufacturer distributor card does not include a replacement decal with that. That is a separate request for a replacement decal. There's also a typo that was corrected in this.

I do want to just correct a misstatement of mine during the November 9th Work Session. I incorrectly said that the amount of the replacement decal is $11. In fact, that replacement decal is $126. So misstatement of mine on that I did want to correct for the record.

Next slide, please?

The second change that we have here is to Subchapter B for stamps. This is in Section 53.60 -- .60. This is an amendment to eliminate the exemption from the upland bird stamp requirement for persons hunting under a nonresident spring turkey license. This is an exemption that we felt did not properly apply to nonresidents. This is largely for residents and veterans and youth that these exemptions apply. And then we amended to remove references to a discontinued collector's edition stamp package that's no longer available for sale.

Next slide, please?

Our last subchapter is Subchapter F related to bonded title for vessels and outboard -- outboard motors. This is a change to Section 53.100 for bonded title. Just an incorrect internal reference that we have corrected there.

Next slide, please?

We received no public comments on any of these changes.

Next slide, please?

And before you on the presentation are the two motions that we will request for you to approve during tomorrow's Commission Meeting and I will read those to you in full, of course, during the meeting tomorrow. And I am available for any questions.

Last slide, please, Andra?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Okay. Now, I'm back on. So if there's no further discussion, then we'll put this item on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

That gets us to Work Session Item No. 5, 2021-2022 Statewide Recreational and Commercial Fishing Proclamation, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register. We've got Mr. Kurzawski and Mr. Geeslin. Y'all please make y'all's presentations.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Good morning, Commissioners. I'm Ken Kurzawski of the Inland Fisheries Division. Today I'll be presenting our proposed changes to the freshwater fishing regulations.

Next slide, please?

As we discussed with you in November, our primary focus in this regulatory cycle is Blue and Channel catfish. We are proposing new statewide length and bag limits and also will be proposing some changes to the exceptions to the statewide regulations. Additionally, we have to make some changes to the float dimensions for passive gears which were recently changed.

Next slide, please?

Catfish are one of our most important game fish and are distributed statewide. The three primary species anglers fish for are Blues, Channels, and Flatheads. Catfish are the second most preferred group of fish when we survey Texas anglers over the years catfish have been the focus of our attention recently. We have conducted numerous studies on how to improve sampling and data collection for catfish populations and we surveyed anglers to see what they value about catfish. We worked on developing and statewide catfish management plan, which we released in 2015.

Next slide, please?

That led us to direct a team of our biologists to look at how we manage catfish, which they worked on over the last two years. An important part of this process was obtaining angler feedback on the potential changes we were considering. In addition to the statewide angler survey, last summer we conducted live webinars. We followed up with a news release and made the webinar available on our website.

What anglers told us is that they wanted to protect the catfish populations, but also want to harvest fish. These were our guideposts when we began our evaluation of our current regulations.

Next slide, please?

Our current statewide regulations for Blue and Channel catfish consist of a 12-inch minimum length limit and a 25-fish daily bag, which combines both Blues and Channels. That's been in place since 1995. We have multiple exceptions in place such as on the border waters with Louisiana and Oklahoma. We've also -- we also have reduced bag limits, five fish per day on community fishing lakes and similar smaller waterbodies. In some of those lakes, we are stocking catfish. That supply of fish is limited and we want to spread the opportunity to catch and/or harvest fish to as many people as possible and the reduced bag facilitates that. We also have exceptions for specific populations around the state to address population characteristics in those locations.

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Our proposal is to remove the 12-inch minimum length limit on Blues and Channels. We would retain the 25-fish combined daily bag limit; but of those 25 fish, anglers could harvest no more than ten fish 20 inches or longer. Impacts on anglers of the graduated bag restriction will be minimal. From our creel surveys, we know few anglers harvest 25 fish and even fewer harvest more than 10 catfish over 20 inches. In our statewide catfish angler survey, catching big fish was not a major desire of most anglers. Although some do focus on that. Most anglers said they would rather catch catfish to eat and this regulation is designed for that, with also providing some protection for larger fish to improve quality in big fish potential. This regulation is appropriate for most waters statewide.

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This exception is similar to the statewide regulation, no minimum length and 25-fish bag; but as noted in yellow, modifies the number of fish 20 inches or largest [sic] that can be harvested from ten over 20 inches to two categories: Five over 20 inches and then just one over 30 inches. This regulation directs harvest of smaller, easily replaceable fish and protects larger fish while allowing the harvest of one large fish. This regulation would primarily impact Blue catfish anglers, especially those using trotlines and juglines; but catfish populations of these anglers would benefit by the reduction in the harvest of larger fish. While this is designed to improve Blue catfish population, it will also make quality in Channel catfish populations. We have desired -- we have identified some anglers who desire to improve quality in big fish opportunities and this regulation addresses that.

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We are proposing these 12 locations for this categories. Six of these locations, as noted in yellow, currently have exceptions to statewide limits. All these waterbodies have catfish populations where we want to maintain or increase the high quality of those fisheries through the use of special limits.

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The final exception we are proposing would be a 14-inch minimum length limit and 15-fish combined daily bag. This regulation will be used in situations where there are concerns about limited spawning, sometimes combined with high harvest, which could damage the population or for reservoirs that have experienced a catastrophic event such as fish kill and the population abundance needs to be rebuilt. Fortunately, we have not experienced any of those fish kill events recently.

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Three of these lakes we are proposing for this category -- Braunig, Calaveras, and Fayette County -- are power plant lakes that have high angling pressure and we do sometimes encounter issues with catfish spawning in those types of lakes. Choke Canyon is a larger reservoir that high har -- has high harvest, especially for larger Blue catfish. Proctor Lake is between Brownwood and Stephenville, while a popular spot for catfish, has a low abundance population. Limiting harvest in all these locations could help boost population abundance.

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We're also proposing to add two reservoirs to an existing regulation category. Texas-Louisiana border waters currently have no minimum length limit, a 50-fish bag, and anglers are limit to -- limiting to harvest no more than five catfish 30 inches or longer. These regulations are partially a compromise with Louisiana's more liberal harvest philosophy. These waters do produce a lot of catfish, so overharvest is not much of a concern. We are proposing to add two large East Texas reservoirs with similar catfish populations to this category. Livingston currently has a 50-fish bag with a 12-inch minimum and Rayburn is under statewide rules. This will have the benefit of having our three big East Texas reservoirs under the same limits and some anglers do fish all three.

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We have three current categories of exceptions that we propose to eliminate. Those are our 30- to 45-inch slot and two categories with daily bags with limits on the harvest of fish over 20 and 30 inches. All these locations will be moved to the five over 20 and one over 30 category.

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Blue and Channel catfish are the only game fish that can be caught from Texas public waters and sold. This statute, approved by the Texas Legislature in 1991, specifies the areas of the state where this is legal.

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This map depicts those counties and locations. In Houston County, which is the lone county within a block of yellow counties, only the Trinity and Neches Rivers are open to commercial harvest in that county. In the string of counties inland from the coast -- which includes Bastrop, Colorado, Fayette, Matagorda, and Wharton -- only the Colorado is open for catfish harvest. On the border, only Falcon Reservoir in Starr and Zapata Counties is open.

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Also in statute is the specified 14-inch minimum length limit. We have a separate section in the proclamation for commercial regulations. So some exceptions that are proposed to be implemented in the areas legal for sale of catfish, will also be listed in that section to be enforceable.

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Finally, we need to standardize the descriptions for float dimensions in the passive gear rules. We propose to standardize those as length and width rather than height and diameter. Also, we inadvertently listed the width of the float for minnow traps as 6 inches and it should be 3 inches.

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In addition to the webinar and additional input we received from anglers last year when we were developing these proposals, we did present these proposed changes to the Freshwater Fisheries Advisory Committee and they supported moving forward with them. That concludes my presentation, and I'd be happy to answer any questions or comments that you would have.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Okay. Any questions by any Commissioners?

Nothing else on that one then, Mr. Geeslin, go ahead and give your presentation.

MR. GEESLIN: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, fellow Commissioners. For the record, my name is Dakus Geeslin. I'm with the Coastal Fisheries Division. Today I'll be presenting our statewide saltwater fishing proposed regulation changes for license year 2022. This year we are requesting permission to publish two items in the Texas Register. One regarding crab trap fishing in certain waters in Aransas County and a clarification item regarding Red snapper bag limits in federal waters.

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Our current regulations in specific areas of Aransas Bay include prohibitions of both commercial and recreational use of crab traps. This regulation appears to be -- have been in place since the early 1960s. We're not exactly sure of its origins, but we do know the current regulation prohibits waterfront homeowners and shore-based recreational crabbers from fishing for crabs with crab traps from private or public piers from their homes, docks, and bulkheads. And just as a reminder, our statewide regulations for crabs include a crab trap limit of six traps per license for recreational use and restriction that limits the checking of the traps during what we know or is referred to as the legal shooting hours. The same period of day applies for moving traps and crabs from the traps. And they must use a valid gear tag attached to a buoy or a pier.

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This map shows the restricted crab trap fishing area there in Aransas Bay. The area is highlighted here in orange. The area begins in the north at Hail Point and extends a half mile from the shoreline down around Goose Island, past the towns of Rockport and Fulton and Nine Mile Point and ending near Talley Island.

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Our intent with the proposed change is to create more recreational opportunity for crabbing with traps from shores, docks, piers, or bulkheads. The recreational harvest from this additional opportunity is expected to be limited and we don't anticipate this would impact the local crab population. This would not open the restricted area to commercial crabbing and consequently, there will be no loss of opportunity for those commercial crab fishermen because the area is already closed.

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As part of our stakeholder process, a public scoping meeting was held virtually in early December. Attendance was pretty low and primarily attended by those in Aransas County. All those attending the scoping meeting were supportive of the regulation change to allow the recreational crabbing from the fixed structure with a three-trap limit. This three-trap limit is consistent with other restricted areas along the closed -- along the coast, including the San Bernard River and an area north and west of Highway 146 in the Galveston Bay area where it crosses the Houston Ship Channel in Harris County.

Our Regional Director based in Rockport has also received support from various community members, including many residents, Mayors of both Rockport and Fulton, the Aransas County Judge, Aransas County Navigation District, and just last week we met with our Coastal Resource Advisory Committee and they also supported this regulation change. The only -- the only concern we heard regard -- was regarding the length of lines securing the traps to a fixed object.

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Staff would recommend the following regulation changes relating to crab traps in Aransas Bay. We're recommending to allow recreational use of up to three crab traps in currently restricted areas of Aransas County. Crab traps will be required to be securely tethered to a fixed object. I've mentioned these three: The dock, a pier, or a bulkhead. And this would not include open water traps.

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Our next item is a clarification item regarding Red snapper bag limits. I want to be abundantly clear here in that we are not proposing any change to the bag limits, but simply clarifying federal -- federal water bag limits within our fishing regulations. Under federal rule-making, states are authorized to establish season and bag limits for Red snapper harvested from federal and state waters. Texas state waters, those waters from shore -- the shoreline to 9 nautical miles, are open year-round for recreational Red snapper fishing with a four-fish bag limit. By federal action, the federal waters -- waters 9 miles to 200 nautical miles -- are closed until June 1 of each year, then reopen with a two-fish bag limit.

Next slide, please? There we go.

The proposed change would clarify that Red snapper caught in federal waters when open for recreational fishing, count as part of the bag limit established for the take of Red snapper in Texas state waters. This will hopefully prevent any confusion amongst anglers that may believe they can catch two Red snapper from federal waters and then catch an additional four Red snapper from state waters. This will also advance and streamline the state management of the private recreational Red snapper in federal waters.

And with that, I'm happy to take any questions.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Commissioner Hildebrand. Just curious. Do we know what the State of Louisiana does in federal versus state in bag limits? Just curious.

MR. GEESLIN: The federal -- over there, the federal limit is the two fish. Two fish with a 16-inch minimum size limit. And I'm unsure of their -- of their size limit in state waters; but it is also a two-fish bag limit, I believe.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: And I assume there's probably been confusion two plus four, you don't know where they're caught. You think this is a clarifying rule change?

MR. GEESLIN: That's the intent and spirit, Commissioner Hildebrand, to -- we get calls every year asking, "Well, is the bag limit six or is it four," and we just want to be abundantly clear and include that within our fishing proclamation. As of right now, if you look in our fishing proclamation today, it just has the state water bag limit of those four fish. We want to include -- since we do have that state management of those fish caught in -- by private recreational sector in federal waters, we want to include that in our fishing regulations just to provide a point of clarity.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Okay, fine. I would, at some point, like to know what...

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: This is Commissioner Scott. Where do we stand -- I know we've been wrestling with the feds on all the Red snapper limits. Do we have any information or is anything going to change that you can foresee in the coming season that will be coming up?

MR. GEESLIN: Commissioner Scott, that's an -- that's an excellent question. We certainly hope so in light of the great Red snapper count, which as many of you know, discovered that there was approximately three times the amount of Red snapper in the Gulf than previously thought. As it is now, the National Marine Fishery Service is reviewing that study and mulling over the results of that and they'll be working with the Gulf Council and really that's where this change would occur, through the Gulf Council. There will be -- probably be some discussion on that next week. We've got a week-long -- week-long Council meeting next week where I'm sure this will be a hot topic.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Well, needless to say, Commissioner Hildebrand and I are -- being from where we are down on the coast, we will -- as will other Commissioners, you know, everybody really wonders what's going on on the Red snapper limits and everything, commercial versus private, you know. And so anyway, keep us posted, please, on that information.

MR. GEESLIN: Absolutely.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Any other discussion?

If there is no more discussion, I authorize staff to publish the proposed changes in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.

That moves us on to Work Session Item No. 6, 2021-2022 Statewide Hunting and Migratory Game Proclamation, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register. From the staff, we have Shawn Gray, Shaun Oldenburger, and Alan Cain. In that order, if y'all would give y'all's presentations, we'd appreciate it.

MR. GRAY: You bet. Good morning, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Shawn Gray and I'm the Mule Deer and Pronghorn Program Leader and today I'd like to seek approval to publish the proposed Pronghorn hunting regulations into the Texas Register for public comment.

Next slide, Andra.

As I shared with you during the November meeting, the Commission adopted new Pronghorn regulations in March 2013, to allow landowners to determine their own harvest strategy for bucks through an experimental system in the northern Panhandle. This was a novel approach when it comes to Pronghorn management. As in other areas, we use a limited quota system where permits are issued to landowners. Therefore, these regulations were proposed and adopted as a pilot project. In March of 2017, the Commission expanded and extended the experimental season for another four years because staff believed that more data were needed over a larger area to better examine the impacts of the experiment.

TPWD has conducted this pilot project over the last eight hunting seasons, and staff have monitored populations through annual aerial surveys and mandatory harvest check stations. Staff have also used hunter and landowner opinion surveys to evaluate support for continuing and expanding the experimental system.

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Since these rules were adopted in 2013, I'd like to provide some background on the logic for proposing the experimental system for bucks. Staff reasoned that because herds in the northern Panhandle are healthy and have stable reproduction, that a landowner-controlled system for bucks could work in these areas. Such a season could decrease workforce commitments and increase hunter opportunity by allowing landowners to determine their own harvest strategy. Another benefit of the experimental system is that it allowed landowners and hunters to book hunts earlier in the year. Permits at that time were issued no earlier than mid August, following the annual summer Pronghorn population surveys.

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Staff believe after the experiment if data suggested minimal or no decline in Pronghorn numbers, sex ratios, average buck age structure, and hunter success, then no negative biological impacts would occur with a landowner-controlled system for bucks.

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This map demonstrates current Pronghorn herd units in the northern Panhandle. The herd units in red are where the experimental season was initiated in 2013. The herd units in blue were added to the experiment in 2017. These experimentally herd units were near Dalhart in the northwest Panhandle and Pampa in the northeast Panhandle. The experimental areas were representative of habitat, landownership, Pronghorn population, parameters, and permit demand and utilization throughout the northern Panhandle.

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In order to effectively monitor and assess hunter behavior in harvest impacts during the pilot project, as well as to facilitate compliance with proof of sex and tagging requirements, the rules required hunters to obtain a Department-issued experimental permit. Because of the annual person bag limit is one Pronghorn, only one experimental permit was issued to each licensed hunter.

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Staff used mandatory check stations locate the Dalhart and Pampa to collect harvest data on the total harvest, age structure, and horn growth of harvested bucks. Hunters were required to present their Pronghorn at a check station within 24 hours of harvest. Also annual population surveys occurred in these herd units to acquire population trend, reproduction, and sex ratio data, which we compare to other similar herd units to help determine effects of the experimental season.

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The population estimates for the Dalhart experimental area and surrounding herd units are shown in this graph. The gray line shows the population estimate for herd units surrounding the Dalhart experimental area with a left Y axis depicting Pronghorn numbers for this line. The yellow line represents years prior to the experiment, and the purple line signifies years during the experiment with the right Y axis depicting Pronghorn numbers for this line.

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The trend line for the surrounding herd units in Dalhart experimental area, symbolized by the white lines, have a similar trend. However, in the experimental area, the population declined significantly from 2019 to 2020.

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Formatted the same as the previous graphs, the population estimates for the Pampa area are shown in this slide. The gray line signifies the population estimate for the herd units surrounding the Pampa experimental area, with a left Y axis depicting Pronghorn numbers for this line. And the yellow line designates years prior to the experiment and the purple line represents years during the experiment with the right Y axis showing Pronghorn numbers in the Pampa experimental area.

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The trends for the surrounding herd units in the Pampa experimental area -- again, symbolized by the white lines -- have a similar -- or have a slightly different trend, but are both declining. Similar to Dalhart, the population in the Pampa experimental area decreased more severely from 2019 to 2020 compared to the surrounding herd units.

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Staff use population sex ratios as one guide to harvest intensity. During the experiment, only bucks were harvested; so higher buck harvest rates had the potential to reduce buck numbers within these areas. This higher buck harvest can cause sex ratios to become more skewed towards does. Sex ratios are estimated when staff conduct aerial surveys in June and July of each year. The 2011 and 2013 average sex ratio, represented by the darker bars, was estimated prior to initiating the experiment in the fall of 2013. The lighter bars represent the average sex ratio from 2014 to 2020, seven years after the start of the experiment. In both experimental areas, the sex ratio has increased with a more drastic rise in the Pampa area. The PH category embodies all other herd units in the northern Panhandle not included in the experiment. These areas have a more limited harvest because TPWD determines harvest quotas and issues buck permits for surplus Pronghorn. Because of this system, sex ratios were more stable and natural in these areas during this same timeframe as the experiment.

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Age structure of harvested animals can be another measure of harvest intensity. This graph illustrates the average age of harvested animals in each area, in Dalhart and Pampa, as well as other areas in the Panhandle symbolized by PH. The dark bars indicate the average age structure of bucks harvested within each area one year prior to the experiment, and the light bars show the average age of bucks harvested during seven years of the pilot project. The age structure in both experimental areas is becoming younger, with more severity in Dalhart than Pampa. In addition, the average age structure of harvested bucks in both areas is younger than other areas of the northern Panhandle within the same time period.

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To measure opinions about the experimental season, staff sent out questionnaires to hunters who participated in the experimental season and landowners in the northern Panhandle in 2016 and 2020.

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To gauge support for the experimental season, questionnaires were sent to these constituents. Hunters were identified as those who picked up experimental permits during the 2015 and 2019 hunting seasons and landowners were anyone who had received Pronghorn permits from TPWD in the past that had property in the northern Panhandle. These questionnaires were sent to 267 hunters in 2016 and 229 hunters in 2020. In 2016, 672 landowners received a questionnaire, with 698 landowners being sent a questionnaire in 2020. Response rates ranged from 42 to 48 percent for hunters and 64 to 66 percent for landowners.

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Hunter satisfaction in the experimental area was high when comparing hunter opinions for both years. However, hunters who were very satisfied or satisfied, decreased from 77 percent in 2016 to 68 percent in 2020.

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Over 80 percent of hunters responded in both years that they support continuing the experimental season concept in the current areas.

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From 2016 to 2020, hunters that supported expanding the experimental season to new areas in the northern Panhandle decreased from 83 percent to 71 percent; but most still liked the idea.

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In the 2020 opinion survey, staff also asked hunters if given a choice, would they rather hunt for nine days under the experimental season concept or go back to TPWD issuing permits to landowners with a 16-day season, which would extend the current season by one week. Not a majority, but 48 percent of hunters liked continuing the current nine-day season with the experimental concept.

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In contrast to hunters, landowner satisfaction within the experimental areas has decreased from 47 percent in 2016 to 37 percent in 2020. In addition, more landowners were neutral in 2020 compared to 2016.

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Landowner support within the experimental area decreased from 65 percent in 2016 to 57 percent in 2020, when asked if they would like to continue the experiment in the current areas.

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When asked do you support expanding the experimental concept to other areas of the northern Panhandle, landowners within the experimental area showed less support for this idea in 2020 compared to 2016.

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As with hunters in the 2020 opinion survey, landowners were asked if given a choice, would they rather have a nine-day season with the experimental concept or return to TPWD issuing permits to landowners and extend the current nine-day season to 16 days. The majority of landowners within the experimental area wanted TPWD to issue permits and extend the season to 16 days.

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Data indicate that the experimental concept seemed to have little to no impact on Pronghorn population sustainability. However, the intensive buck harvest for seven hunting seasons has had a negative impact on buck age structure and sex ratios within the experimental areas. With impacts to buck age structure and fewer bucks on the landscape, hunter satisfaction is decreasing; but hunters still like the concept. This is contrasted to landowners whose satisfaction and support for the experimental concept are declining. When given the option, the majority of landowners prefer a 16-day season with TPWD issuing permits and setting quotas over a nine-day season using the experimental concept.

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Given the landowner support for a 16-day season, staff sent out another opinion survey in November to help determine how the extra week would fit into the current season, as staff have no substantial biological justifications on where this extension should occur, either by extending a week before or after the current season start or end.

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To evaluate support for extending the season from the nine days to 16 days, staff sent out questionnaires to these constituents. Hunters were identified as those who purchased hunting licenses in 2020 and resided in the Panhandle and Trans-Pecos and landowners were anyone who applied for Pronghorn permits in 2020 statewide. These questionnaires were sent via two e-mails and one mailing. For hunters, a total of 4,665 surveys were sent out, with only 438 hunters responding. A 9 percent response rate. The landowner response rate was much higher at 73 percent with 383 landowners responding out of 528.

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Most hunters who have hunted Pronghorn before and landowners preferred a 16-day season versus a nine-day season.

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More hunters preferred starting the current season a week earlier, while more landowners favored extending the current season a week later.

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Staff have intensively monitored populations and propose to cancel the experimental season for bucks in the northern Panhandle based upon excessive buck harvest causing younger buck age structure and more skewed sex ratios. In addition, the opinion surveys showed that landowner and hunter satisfaction has decreased within the experimental areas, as well as landowner support for continuing in the current areas or expanding the season to new areas. Also when given a choice, the majority of landowners would rather use a 16-day season with TPWD setting quotas than the nine-day season with the experimental concept. Staff also propose to extend the current season from nine days to 16 days statewide since staff issues Pronghorn permits to set harvest quotas for each property and that most hunters and landowners in the recent opinion survey liked a 16-day season better than a nine-day season. For the one-week extension, staff recommend the season be changed to start the Saturday closest to October 1, which is the current season start and continue for 16 consecutive days based upon the high response rate and opinions of landowners since there are no concrete biological reasons on where this extension should occur.

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And this concludes my portion of the statewide hunting regulation proposals and before I turn it over to Shaun Oldenburger, I'd like to address any questions the Commission might have at this time.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Any Commissioners have any questions or comments?

Shaun, I guess you're up.

MR. OLDENBURGER: All right. Good morning, Chairman and fellow Commissioners. For the record, my name is Shaun Oldenburger. I'm the Small Game Program Director in the Wildlife Division.

Next -- wait here for the presentation to get up for Andra to get that loaded. Thank you, Andra.

Today we're going to be similar to Mr. Gray. We'll be requesting permission to publish changes to both the statewide hunting and migratory game bird proclamations for the next hunting season.

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First, we'll start with upland game bird regulation proposed changes from staff with regards to the statewide hunting proclamation.

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Here's the first proposed changes from staff. This would be to change the opening day for Chachalacas to align with quail opening dates. That would basically be opening the -- changing the opening date from the Saturday nearest November 1st to Saturday nearest October 28th. And just for your knowledge too, this is just a three-county season basically in South Texas where this population is on the northern extent of their range. Their range goes all the way down to the middle of South America.

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And so here if you look at the -- on this slide you can see the propose -- this is basically the current regulations as is for the 2022 and '23 and the 2023-24 hunting seasons. And so currently, Chachalaca seasons would open during the first calendar on October 29th, which is the same as quail season, and run out until the end of quail season or Chachalaca season. In the following year, that -- due to the difference in regulations -- would only -- would open November 4th, a week later than quail season, which would open October 28th. And so simply we're just asking to align this because we're basically in a situation where every other year those flip except for -- except for leap years and so it's just to align those to simplify regulations.

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The next one has to -- proposed change from staff has to do with Eastern turkey regulations. This would be proposing to close the spring Eastern turkey season in Panola County. As many of the chair -- as the Chairman and Commissioners are very aware, we've been doing an extensive Eastern turkey restoration project for about the last seven or eight years in East Texas in what is our Region 3 in the Wildlife Division. And so that ongoing stocking is occurring as we speak. We have determined some decision variables for closures of those counties. Basically when we look at harvest, harvest is somewhat linear associated with population trends in these counties. And so basically on average in Panola County, we've had less than one bird reported harvest over the past three spring seasons, indicating very low abundance in that county. And also since it does have or currently have an open season, it is not available for stocking either in regards to our policies within the Wildlife Division. Currently, there's fewer than 50,000 contiguous acres occupied by wild turkeys.

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So the slide in front of you presents basically the spring harvest in Panola County over the last 20 years. As you can see starting in the early 2000s, we were averaging around a dozen or 13 turkeys taken per year in this county, indicating, you know, a moderate population status. As you can see here, it basically has been precipitous decline over the last 20 years and in 2016, we had our first year of no harvest in this county. Just a reminder for the Chairman and Commissioners, this is mandatory reporting in these counties as well. So these are not estimates, per se; but hunter-reported harvest. We did have a bump in 2020 with just a couple birds; but the previous couple years, there had been no birds harvested in the entire county.

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Moving on to further proposed changes from staff on turkey regulations, Mr. Smith talked about the mandatory reporting for the four doe days there in the South/Central Texas counties. So we would be requesting to extend the mandatory reporting in some of those overlapping counties with regards to this is what we call the one-gobbler counties. There you can see on the map, those would be those -- you can see the mandatory reporting in the East Texas season counties, obviously in East Texas there and then more in south -- South/Central there Texas you can actually see those counties that we would be proposing have mandatory reporting. Similarly to the doe days, we've had good support from wildlife management associations and wildlife cooperatives in those respective counties for mandatory reporting. Most counties in question recently transitioned to the White-tailed deer reporting requirements. And just to use as an example, we've done a number of research activities in those counties over the last five to six years, looking at that population. We really have really inaccurate harvest data when it comes to those counties right now. In our small game harvest survey, we sent out about 20,000 mail surveys and e-mail about 20,000 random surveys to hunters asking for harvest to estimate our harvest, a regional perspective. And I'll use Bastrop County as an example, which probably has some of our better turkey habitat with regards to those counties. Last year there was no reported harvest in Bastrop County. The previous year, the was estimate was 93, with confidence intervals from one and 475. So that gives us a lot of uncertainty with regards to how to move forward potential regulation changes in those counties. So this would be just to get some better information in regards to allowing the Department to better manage the wild turkey population in these counties.

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Moving on to another one, this is a little bit larger change, proposed change, and this is in regards to the North/South turkey zone boundary and basically staff are proposing to make this consistent across the spring and fall seasons where it currently isn't. This is basically to simplify regulations and also biologically this would push back the north -- those counties that would transition to the North Zone two weeks later. Based on research that has been done in those counties, this would actually align better to the recommendation from the Southeastern Wild Turkey Group out of SEAFWA. Basically that says they would like to see all those hens bred before hunting season starts and so a lot of those females, the hens would be initiating nests at that time, in that time of year instead of previously. So biologically this makes more sense and also simplifies regulations, you know, in somewhat with regards to those R3 things that Mr. Smith talked about earlier as well during the Land and Water Update. So this was a Commission request that occurred a few years ago and is following the fault boundary along Highway 90 similar to our deer regulations.

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So here you can see a map of the current fall zones. You can see there in green that would be current North Zone and there in yellow would be the South Zones. Those four counties in light blue, those do have special regulations that push that winter season all the way to the end of February.

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And so here the proposed fall zones would just be transitioning, those counties outlined there, basically moving those counties. Very similar, those are only four counties in the fall that we would be moving.

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The larger transition would happen with the current spring zone as I mentioned earlier here. You have the current in green, the North Zone, and then yellow the South Zone counties.

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The proposed regulation would transition those outlined counties as you see from the South Zone to the North Zone. So moving that -- basically transitioning that season two weeks later than it currently is. And once again, shifting those 22 counties is just to simplify regulations and also biologically make that more feasible with the current wildlife pop -- wild turkey population we have in those counties.

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Moving on to proposed changes in squirrel hunting. I know we don't talk about squirrels that much for the Commission. We have had a couple requests in the last few years, most notably in the Panhandle counties, to tran -- to actually allow open seasons where we do currently have closed seasons. Currently we closed squirrel hunting in 46 counties within the state. Obviously, most of that occurs in the Trans-Pecos and in the Panhandle. What you see in front of you is actually citizen science data from iNaturalist. The one there on the left is actually indicating where those folks have found Gray squirrels in the state. Obviously, you see a lot of activity around major metropolitan areas where we have a large amount of our population working on citizen science activities; but then on your right side, you actually see the Fox squirrels distribution iNaturalist. And what you see here is over the last probably 50 to 60 years as those populations have changed, as we've increased irrigation, those urban areas and suburban areas have increased in population and growth. Our trees have grown. We've actually seen a movement of basically Fox squirrels moving farther west and we've actually seen even Gray squirrels moving across the landscape as well with isolated populations in some of the urban areas and small towns surrounding those urban areas.

So basically the staff is proposing to eliminate the closed seasons in those 46 counties across the state. This obviously wouldn't increase harvest substantially. It's not a biologically concern because that opportunity would exist in places where historically squirrel populations did not exist.

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So here, as you can see, this pie chart in front of you, this basically puts that squirrel harvest by ecoregion. Just so you're aware, we do have different regulations, not year-round regulations, in those 46 counties as proposed; but in the Pineywoods where the majority of our harvest occurs there you can see in blue. But we do have some harvest opportunity that does exist in other locations. You can actually even see here with this pie chart, we do get some harvest in the Rolling Plains. It's not significant, per se; but even 14,000 squirrels are taken in the Rolling Plains. And so just allowing this opportunity for a few folks that can manage it, it just makes sense with regards to those closed counties. There's not a biological concern or a resource concern in those closed counties and we're not trying to increase squirrel populations in those counties, per se, as a Department.

Next slide, please?

Okay. We'll transition here to the migratory game bird proclamation quickly before we turn it back over to the statewide hunting proclamation to Mr. Cain after myself.

Moving on to the next slide.

And I wanted to make sure I gave an update to the Chair -- Chairman and fellow Commissioners and everyone else that -- to kind of -- there have been some impacts with regards to our monitoring of migratory game birds with regards to COVID-19. Obviously, there's been impacts to all of us; but substantially, we do a lot of monitoring projects in conjunction with Fish and Wildlife Service and Canadian Wildlife Service across the range, breeding habitat ranges or migration ranges of a lot of these species. As you can see here, that map shows where all the breeding waterfowl surveys are conducted across North America. Most notably there, if you look in the Prairie Pothole and in the Parklands Region there in green, a lot of that extends obviously from the Dakotas, you know, all the way up to Arctic Circle.

Obviously, with COVID-19 occurring, the border was shut down between United States and Canada and also, you know, when we look at logistics and healthcare systems in those northern communities and those native communities in Canada, even in Alaska, it's much different than sitting in Austin, Texas, right? And so they do not have the amenities that we have, and so obviously COVID infections could cause great concern there. So there was a lot of things that were canceled with regards to -- by Fish and Wildlife Service and the Canadian Wildlife Service when those had to be made back in April of the previous year with regards to these surveys.

Next slide, please?

Also there was other migratory game bird surveys that were canceled as well. The breeding woodcock survey that is conducted in eastern one-third of the United States and Canada was also canceled. There was some states that did complete those surveys, but it was only a partial survey. Also there you can see in the middle on your left here, there's a picture of Sandhill cranes roosting on the Platte River of Nebraska. That survey is completed in March of every year. Obviously, the timing was not good because the previous two weeks prior to the survey, most things were shut down across the states and federal government with regards to traveling activities. So that was the first survey that was being canceled.

The good thing is, the previous survey indicated well over a million cranes, Sandhill cranes in the mid-continent population. And there were other small surveys that were canceled in regards to monitoring the migratory game birds.

Next slide, please?

Another thing too that I should note that does play into regulation setting is basically all banding was canceled across Canada except for later in the season in some of the prairie areas by Canadian Wildlife Service; but obviously, we do a lot of -- and fund some research and banding activities that do occur in the Arctic and Subarctic regions with regards to our goose populations, Ross's geese, Snow geese, Greater White-fronteds, and also we have operational bandings with regards to Fish and Wildlife Service and Canadian Wildlife Service on duck populations. Just by getting those band returns, we can estimate harvest rates. We can estimate survival. Those do go into many of the models that allow us to set regulations on an annual basis. So unfortunately, there was a lot of things that took a hit last year with COVID-19.

Next slide, please?

And this next slide just really summarizes all the things that had to be canceled or postponed. Another thing is breeding bird survey, which is the largest survey of birds pretty much in the world. That basically monitors pasturing populations in all bird populations across North America. So, and also here in Texas, we also had to cancel the spring western Gulf Coast population of mottled duck survey. That's a breeding population survey that historically occurs in April on the Gulf Coast and monitor that population and so, therefore, there was a lot of things that were canceled. And so basically we're going into with the Fish and Wildlife Service regulation setting season in this last summer where we didn't have any updated information in regards to population sizes. So the Fish and Wildlife Service had to do some modeling exercises to basically estimate what those populations may be two years out. And so we commend the Fish and Wildlife Service for getting those analyses completed and actually getting us federal frameworks so we could have the opportunity, as we are today, starting the process to set our migratory game bird seasons for the following hunting season.

Next slide, please?

And so really to summarize that, since we didn't really have any up-to-date population information, as we all know in the business and most folks with regards to population, the best indicator of a population size is the previous year's population sizes, right? And so really simplistically that modeling exercise showed the same. So the Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing no federal framework changes in regards to migratory game bird hunting seasons in the United States. Season lengths and daily bag limits are maintained from this previous hunting season. And the Department, staff is proposing calendar progression for season dates for all migratory game bird seasons. Basically having the same hunting seasons as we have that are currently ongoing for this -- for the 21-22 hunting season.

There is an exception to that and I will point that out in the next slide, please?

As I presented in November, we did as a Central Flyaway Council request to the Service Regulations Committee two extra days during the Special White-wing dove days in the South Zone. You can see there with the map in front of you, the South Zone there occurring below basically Interstate-10 and Highway U.S. 90. And so that -- that special season is intended for only White-winged dove harvest. As we all know, if you do dove hunt and anybody that's been paying attention in the last 20 years, we've had significant changes in White-winged dove populations across the state and even across the United States. So those populations have continued to grow even in Texas as we speak. And so we have continually requested the Service to expand that opportunity during that special season in the South Zone, since the South Zone regular season does not start on September 1st. So we were actually able to get approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to have two more days during this Special White-winged dove days and so we're going to go from four days to six days this next hunting season.

Next slide, please?

So here I can just show the harvest through time from when we started harvest surveys during this special season from 1997 to this last year. As you can see here, we started off with, you know, in some years in the late 90s, only harvesting, you know, 50 to 70,000 White-winged doves during this special season. In the last -- last year in September of 2019, we actually for the first time ever harvested 500,000 White-winged doves during this special season. That's four days we harvested half a million White-winged doves during that special season. Obviously, as this population has grown, it's become economically important to small towns and areas and outfitters and restaurants and gas stations and everywhere else in South Texas where those hunters are getting out. So it's -- this has been a win-win for all Texans that enjoy this opportunity. We continue to grow this opportunity with these two extra days.

This last year, we actually broke in 2020 similar to what Mr. Halvorsen showed with license sales, we actually had our largest number of hunters we've ever had during this season. Populations were down a little bit based on what we saw and anecdotal information and so harvest was down; but as far as folks trying to get out and harvest Special White -- harvest White-winged doves during this special season, it was the most popular it's ever been. Obviously, expanding it for two more days is just going to increase that popularity and assist across South Texas.

Next slide, please?

Looking at a calendar, this is really simple for this next year for staff proposals. It won't be that way in future years, as this calendar gets a little bit more complicated; but you can see there in September, you see the regular season in gray as proposed by staff and you see the -- what historically would have been the Special White-winged dove days proposal by staff in yellow with -- being September 4th, 5th, 11th, and 12th. And so basically we're proposing just to add the Fridays on there with a third intent to this season and that allows folks to plan ahead and possibly have a three-day weekend of harvesting White-winged doves in their locale. So that just makes it really easy as far as the staff proposal for this next year.

Next slide, please?

We are not going to go through all the calendars we historically do during this presentation. Just for those proposed changes of only being calendar progressions. But I also wanted to point out to you in your Commission booklets, that there is an error that we did notice at the last second with regards to Sandhill crane seasons in Zone A and Zone B. I believe in your booklets, it says October 30th and January 31st to -- for Zone A and November 27th to January 31st for Zone B. Those are incorrect dates. The correct dates are in front you with this calendar. On Zone A, it should be October 30th to January 30th and for Zone B, it should be November 26th to January 30th. So we apologize for that error. We did catch it at the last second, but it was just one second too late. So I apologize for that error once again from staff. But this would be the proposal if the Commission decided to publish these in the State Register, we would like to make that change.

Next slide, please?

And before I have questions, I'd just like to mention to the Chair and fellow Commissioners that all of these proposed changes were approved by both the Upland Game Bird Technical and Advisory Committees, as well as the Migratory Game Bird Technical and Advisory Committees. So that process continues to work really well with getting good feedback from both those groups and it really helps us in this regulation-setting process in regards to coming to the Commission.

With that, I end my presentation. I'd be happy to take any questions before we turn it over to Mr. Cain.

MR. SMITH: He -- oh, Shaun had wrapped up his presentation and he just wanted to let you know he was done and he was ready to entertain any questions by the Commissioners.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: I've got one. Can you hear me?


COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Okay. So the additional two days of Special White-winged season, I see you put them on Fridays. I understand the logic around that. But wouldn't it be maybe more convenient for hunters to actually extend it and go the following weekend, a Saturday Sunday, so you would actually have three weekends of White-winged season?

MR. OLDENBURGER: Yeah. So, Andra, if we can back up three slides to that calendar? There -- oop. Go forward one. There we go.

And so, yeah, Commissioner Hildebrand, that's a good question. I should point out and I failed to point this out earlier in my presentation, we can open the regular season on September 14th. So you can see here on the calendar on September 14th there in gray, that's when the regular season would open as proposed in the South Zone. So we feel it would be advantageous for all hunters to have the opportunity not only to hunt our Special White-winged doves, but also Mourning doves more so than the two-bag limit restriction during the special days. And so, therefore, when you look at it on a calendar, you know, that would push that back to the 17th -- eighth -- well, you'd push that back to the 18th and 19th if you were going to do three weekends; but then you'd have to push back the regular season.

We know most of our hunting opportunity and our harvest occurs during the regular season in regards to our zones and that would just allow more folks that don't have opportunities on -- especially on White-winged doves, but rather Mourning doves to get out earlier in the season as well.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Okay, got it. Understand. My mistake. Good, good catch. Secondly, what is a Chachala?

MR. OLDENBURGER: Chachalaca.


MR. OLDENBURGER: Chachalaca is -- well --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I've never shot one.

MR. OLDENBURGER: Well, I've tried one and been unsuccessful. It's not like other upland game bird hunting by any means. It's more spot and stalk in my opinion, but it's a bird. It's a gallinaceous bird very similar to our other -- our turkeys and stuff. It ranges from basically South Texas in those Lower Rio Grande Valley counties all the way down to the Central South America and so it's just a -- it's that thorny-scrub habitat. That's where it's native to. It does really well. It can hide really fast. They run and don't like to fly and it is actually -- it's -- we don't get a whole lot of hunters in South Texas chasing them, at least Texans. It's more of a novelty hunt for folks that have a list -- a life list, per se, or folks that want something a little bit different to hunt. And obviously, if anybody has walked around any of that native thorny-scrub habitat that we still have in South Texas, it is not the easiest place to get around. So it is more of a challenge than anything. But there's a lot of opportunity on our WMAs in South Texas to do that, but we do not have a whole lot of use with regards to that hunting opportunity.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Could we get actually a description of what it is maybe, Carter, send it to me. I would just be interested in species and --

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Because I've never heard of it before. And then lastly, just anecdotally it seems as though duck and goose numbers are down this year in Texas, just from a hunting standpoint. Certainly in Louisiana as well. But we don't have any hard data from duck and/or goose numbers because all those federal -- all the federal surveys were canceled and do we do an actual survey ourselves of migratory birds and did we -- did we or did we not do it?

MR. OLDENBURGER: Yeah, great question. So, yeah, so the breeding waterfowl survey was canceled. I would like to tell you that, as you said, you know, populations are down across the south. A lot of weather-dependent issues. So, yes, we actually complete as a Department, we in -- the Mid-Winter Waterfowl Survey, which is conducted during the first full week in January. And so I'm happy to report that our Department did complete that. At any given time, we do have three airplanes in the air counting waterfowl from the Panhandle to the Brush Country and so we did complete that. We don't have our estimates quite done yet because those are -- it's a transect survey, so it has to be analyzed and get those estimates done. Anecdotal information, Texas would fall into what you said about Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, what other states have said, populations were down. They had the largest mid-winter waterfowl survey ever in North Dakota. I talked to my friend in Bismarck, North Dakota, when we had that little snow here in Austin. We actually had more snow in Austin, Texas, than they did at Bismarck, North Dakota, that day. So that will give you some ideas why those population were down a little bit; but, yes, we did complete that and as soon as we have that analyzed, we can ship that over to the Chairman and Commissioners.


COMMISSIONER LATIMER: This is Commissioner Latimer. And, Shaun, did you or any of the constituent groups consider putting the four days over the Labor Day weekend, so extending Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday the 6th, and then just the two days the next weekend?

MR. OLDENBURGER: Yes, Commissioner Latimer, we did discuss that both in the Technical and Advisory Committees. So just to remind everybody, this is an afternoon-only hunt opportunity that we have. So it starts at noon and goes to sunset and so when we looked at that, we just thought putting it on a Friday and then having the next day being a Saturday would be a little bit more convenient for folks traveling compared to the 6th, where a lot of folks have to return to work on the 7th, that they probably don't want to hunt in the Valley or somewhere else until dark and basically jump in the car and drive all the way back home. And so we just thought from logistic standpoints of putting it on a Friday made more sense than Labor Day.


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: This is Commissioner Scott. And didn't we a few years back, Carter, we changed the birds in possession to cover the extended number of days so that people that hunted four days -- that's still in effect, isn't it?

MR. SMITH: I think it's three day's worth in possession. Shaun, is that right?

MR. OLDENBURGER: Yeah, that's correct. And so the possession limit --

MR. SMITH: Yeah, three. It's a three-day bag.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Okay. I knew we -- I knew we added a day just to try to keep people from being over the in possession limit deal to hunt the Labor Day weekend. But, okay, thank you.

Let's see. I guess you're up now, Alan.

MR. CAIN: Yes, sir. Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name's Alan Cain. I'm the White-tailed Deer Program Leader and continuing on with the presentations from Mr. Gray and Mr. Oldenburger, I'll be requesting permission to publish proposed changes to the statewide hunting regulations in the Texas Register for public comment.

Next slide, Andra. Thank you.

The first change we're considering is -- or proposing is a minor housekeeping change to include crossbows in the definition of lawful archery equipment. The current definition of lawful archery equipment includes longbows, recurve bows, and compound bows. However, in the archery section under lawful means in Chapter 65.11, the regulation refers to lawful archery equipment and crossbows rather than a single reference to all legal archery equipment and this is simply an artifact leftover from the time when crossbows were added as a lawful means of take; but never included with a definition of lawful archery equipment.

Next slide.

So in order to simplify regulations and provide clarity as it relates to all lawful archery equipment, staff are proposing to include crossbows in the definition of lawful archery equipment, as seen as on this slide.

Next slide.

The next change being proposed is the modification of the definition of muzzleloader. The current definition in Chapter 65 defines muzzleloader as any firearm loaded through the muzzle. This definition is ambiguous on what has to be loaded through the muzzle, whether that only be the bullet or projectile or would require the powder, as well as other components of the muzzleloader ammunition to be loaded through the muzzle. This lack of clarity in the regulation leads to questions by hunters and others as to what is considered a legal muzzleloader in Texas, especially with changes and enhancement to the muzzleloader technology.

Next slide.

Before discussing the proposed change to the definition, I wanted to take a couple minutes to discuss the key distinction of a muzzleloader as compared to a centerfire rifle. The first, muzzleloaders use black powder or a synthetic substitute. Whereas centerfire riles use smokeless powder. And at minimum, the bullet or projectile is loaded through the muzzle rather than through the breech as it is in the centerfire rifle. And unlike centerfire rifle ammunition, which is a single cartridge containing the primer powder and bullet, the components of muzzleloader ammunition are separate and must be loaded separately with at least some components being loaded through the barrel. As illustrated in the photos on the lower left, you can see the different components of the muzzleloader ammunition, which would include the bullet, the primer in powder which can be in a loose form or a pelleted form or this -- the red plastic capsule is a premeasured powder charge that we'll talk about in just a second.

Next slide.

Additionally, muzzleloading firearms have changed significantly over time. As you can see on the slide, there's a flintlock and percussion in the top two photos there and today we see the more modern inline or inline break-action muzzleloaders at the bottom of this slide. The inline really came about in 1985 and that's pretty common for lots of folks today is those inline or the inline break-action muzzleloader. And so as we continue to see changes in technology not only with the firearm, but with the ammunition and powder used with muzzleloaders, the commonality between all these styles of muzzleloader firearms is that the bullet has to be loaded through the muzzle. At least the bullet or projectile has to be loaded through the muzzle.

Next slide.

Therefore, staff are proposing to amend the definition to clarify that the bullet or projectile can only be loaded through the muzzle. Amending this definition would remove any uncertainty for hunters and firearm manufacturers as to what is legal or not legal in Texas with regards to muzzleloaders. This proposal was prompted in part by a request from a federal firearms manufacturing company early this summer about the legality of the use of one of their new muzzleloading systems called the FireStick that is used with the Traditions muzzleloader rifle.

Next slide.

The new FireStick technology uses a polymer-coated capsule to enclose the powder, which is essentially a premeasured, self-contained powder charge as you see in the picture there on the right.

Next slide.

This technology allows for the loading of the powder charge into the breech, as illustrated in the photo, and then a primer is placed in the end of the capsule.

Next slide.

The bullet or projectile must still be loaded through the muzzle and is seated against the shelf in the barrel, as illustrated in the photo on the bottom. And then that -- and something to keep in mind, the polymer powder charge, that FireStick capsule, those dimensions in the shelf in the barrel of the muzzleloader to be used with this FireStick, prevent the use of centerfire or sharp gun cartridges or ammunition. So you can't use, you know, .30-06 round in with this -- in this muzzleloader. And additionally, the muzzle on your rifles that use this FireStick technology feature a recess firing pin designed only to strike a FireStick and not any centerfire or shotgun cartridges that could accidently be inserted into the firearm.

Now, although staff believe this new technology meets the standards for what we consider a muzzleloader, we believe the clarification is necessary to remove any uncertainty as to the legality set to determine technology. Keep in mind if we do not clarify our current definition, it leaves room for interpretation by hunters and the public as to what might or might not be considered legal as far as the type of muzzleloader, potentially leading hunters to unknowingly break the rules if the Department would decide that this FireStick technology didn't meet the definition of muzzleloader or wasn't considered a muzzleloader. And this system, as we talked about earlier, still meets the definition of a muzzleloader because it's loaded through the muzzle, at least the projectile is, even though the powder may not; but still fits that definition. And so it's important to provide some clarification because even if a hunter didn't read all the rules and we did -- we did permit this to be a legal muzzleloader, they could still walk down to Cabela's. They're going to see the gist of this muzzleloading firearm advertised like that to be used with this technology, assume that the bullet is loaded through the barrel, and so they're assuming that everything is in good shape. So the clarification is important.

But aside from the clarification, the definition, the use of the FireStick technology allows for improved firearm safety by being able to remove the unfired powder charge easily. You just pop the breech open and pull that out and pull the primer out. It also prevents overcharging of muzzleloaders, putting too much powder in there which can cause some issues because you have a premeasured capsule with a certain amount of powder. And because of the ease of this system, it may also encourage hunters to utilize muzzleloader hunting or enter -- other folks who don't normally hunt may be encouraged to hunt with a muzzleloader during that particular season and it will be inline with the R3 activities to recruit new hunters or retain others currently out there.

Next slide, please?

Moving on, I just also want to note that Texas is not alone in their review of this technology. That image on the slide depicts where the FireStick is already legal for dedicated muzzleloader seasons or in whatever season they allow muzzleloader rifles, which is those in green and there's 14 states. And then those reviewing the regulations to create clarification around the FireStick, there's 20 of those that are in tan. And the 16 in white, it's unclear of whether the FireStick is legal. And then I also had a recent conversation with Jon Zinnel. He works for Federal Firearms Manufacturing and he was just telling me the other day that Minnesota, Missouri, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin are all in the process of working through their regulatory process to consider updates and regulations to allow for the use of Fire stock -- Stick technology to use as firearms, muzzleloader that uses this technology. Those states are depicted in white, but they are under the consideration right now.

Next slide.

The next change being proposed involves the trailing of wounded deer with dogs in ten East Texas counties. So back in 1990, the Commission adopted rules prohibiting the use of dogs to trail wounded deer in 34 East Texas counties. That change was necessary because dogs were being used unlawfully to hunt deer, which was causing the depletion of resource at that time. However, or in the -- also back in the 80s and 90s, dog hunting was pervasive in a large part of East Texas.

Next slide.

By 2000, the Department had determined that the practice of using dogs to hunt deer had declined to the point of being nonexistent in most of those counties and removed the prohibition in ten counties, those in that kind of reddish color in Northeast Texas. In 2005, the Department removed the prohibitions in Hunt and Washington County, the counties in blue. And in 2013, removed the prohibition in an additional 12 counties, those in purple on the slide as deer -- hunting deer with dogs was no longer a widespread problem or -- and the dog hunting culture had pretty much died out compared to what it was 20 something years ago. And that left the remaining ten counties in green with the current prohibition on trailing deer with dogs.

Next slide.

Over the last several years, staff continued to receive requests to allow the use of dogs to recover wounded deer in these counties. And after further review, staff no longer consider illegal dog hunting to be an issue or a resource concern. In the last ten years, there's only been three incidences statewide with a total of eight charges for hunting deer with dogs and only one of those incidences occurred in San Augustine County in 2011 that resulted in one conviction. The other charges were in Duval County and Grayson County.

Staff belief it appropriate to propose removing the prohibition on trailing wounded deer with dogs in these last ten remaining counties. Therefore, staff are proposing to completely remove the prohibition in six counties in green -- Angelina, Hardin, Nacogdoches, Orange, Shelby, and Tyler Counties -- and in the remaining four counties in yellow, which are Jasper, Newton, Sabine, and San Augustine, allow trailing of wounded deer with no more than two dogs on a leash. Now staff, you know, really discussed this and although we believe that the prohibition in all ten counties could be lifted, there has been a few comments from hunters and landowners in those four counties I just mentioned to limit the trailing of wounded deer to no more than two dogs on a leash out of concern for potential resurgence in dog hunting.

Now, to address this public concern, staff believe the best approach would be to make a gradual change to the remaining four counties by allowing the dogs to trail wounded deer, but on a leash where the dog handler is in control and then come back and revisit complete removal at a later date after folks are comfortable that the dog hunting will not be an issue.

Next slide.

That concludes my portion of the statewide hunting regulations, and I'll be happy to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: This thing clicked off. Okay. Can you hear me?

MR. CAIN: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Did you get any feedback from up there in East Texas about these proposed changes?

MR. CAIN: All three of them, or the dog hunting specifically?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Yes, dog hunting.

MR. CAIN: Dog hunting. Just the comments that some of our folks in Law Enforcement had received in those four counties, I think around Jasper there. We had a couple landowners, one in particular -- and I can't remember his name off the top of the head -- that he was, again, wanting to have the opportunity to trail wounded deer with dogs, just, you know, helping game recovery; but like I mentioned in the presentation, he was -- there were some concern just on his part that, you know, dog hunting can be an issue. I don't know how real that -- that is, if that's just a perception based on the folks he's talking to out there; but there hasn't been a lot of feedback or comment from folks regarding the dog hunting.

MR. SMITH: Chairman, I'll just add onto what Alan said. I did hear from Representative Ashby about this and this is a topic that we've talked to him about over the years and he is very supportive about what the team is proposing here and hopes that the Commission will proceed with considering it in March.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Okay, good. Glad y'all followed up with him.

Okay. Thanks a lot, Alan.

MR. CAIN: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Any other discussion by the Commission?

There being none, I'll authorize staff to publish the proposed changes in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.

That gets us on to Work Item No. 7. Carter, I have -- or maybe, James, maybe this is a question for you. Since we've got these next eight items, do I need to go through them or can I just refer all eight of them, 7 through 15, that we're going to hear those in Executive Session?

MR. MURPHY: Sir, I don't want to prejudge the possibility that the Commissioners may have any questions or comments before we refer them to Executive Session. If you would like to group these Work Session items and ask if there are any questions from the Commission on any of those and if not, I think we can group them and refer them all to Executive Session, if that makes sense.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Okay. It does. It makes perfect sense.

So my fellow Commissioners, if anybody has any -- any questions or comments on Work Items No. 7 through 15, please voice them right now. Otherwise, I would prefer to just put all of them together and we'll just discuss them -- discuss them at Executive Session. Anybody have any comments or any questions about those items?

There being none, then that's what we will do. We'll just hear -- we'll just discuss all of those in Executive Session.

Does that work for you, Carter?

MR. SMITH: Yes, sir. Yeah, that's great, Chairman. Thank you. I think that's the most efficient.


Okay. That being the case, at this time I would like to announce that pursuant to the requirements of Chapter 551 Government Code, referred to as the Open Meetings Act, an Executive Session will be held at this time for the purpose of discussing those Items 7 through 15 or deliberations of real estate matters under Section 551.072 of the Open Meeting Act and seeking legal advice under Section 551.071 of the Open Meetings Act.

MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman?


MR. SMITH: I'm sorry to interrupt you. I just want to remind you, Work Session Item No. 16, the Litigation Update, just you want to announce that that will be held in Executive Session as well as part of that? Sorry, on page 15 of your --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: You're right. Yes. Thank you. I missed that one. Yeah. Yeah, let's -- and we'll do 16 too. So we're going to do 7 through 16 in Executive Session.

MR. SMITH: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: That will work. So we will now recess for the Executive Session at 12:33.

(Recess for Executive Session)

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Okay. We will now reconvene the Work Session on January 20th, 2021, at 3:05 p.m. Before we begin, I will take a roll call. I know Chairman Morian and Vice-Chairman Aplin aren't here.

Commissioner Abell? Are you there, Commissioner Abell?

MR. SMITH: He may not have logged back on, Chairman.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Okay. Okay. I know Commissioner Bell isn't. Commissioner Galo?


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Commissioner Hildebrand?


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Commissioner Latimer?


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Commissioner Patton?

MR. SMITH: And Commissioner Patton is just listen-only mode, so.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: That's right, listen-only. And then I'm present.

We're now returning from Executive Session where we discussed the Work Session Real Estate Item No. 7 through 15. Land Conservation Items 7 through 12 will be placed on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Item No. 13 will be withdrawn from the agenda for Thursday Commission Meeting.

Item 14 and 15, I will authorize staff to begin the public notice and input process.

Item 16, Litigation Update, we heard and there's no further action.

Mr. Smith, this Commission has completed its Work Session business and I declare us adjourned at 3:07 p.m.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners.

(Work Session Adjourns)



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

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: January 31, 2023

1007 Lime Rock Drive

Round Rock, Texas 78681