TPW Commission

Commission Meeting, August 26, 2021


TPW Commission Meetings


August 26, 2021






CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay, everyone. If we could take a seat, we will kick this thing off. Good morning, everyone. Before I begin the Thursday, August 26th, Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Meeting, we're going to have a roll call. We'll go down the list by Commissioner.

So I'll start. Aplin here.






COMMISSIONER GALO: Oh, sorry. Galo here.





MS. HALLIBURTON: I texted, but I haven't heard back from him.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay. So Commissioner Abell has been out. He's ill. And so he's been trying to do it just over the phone and he was able to yesterday. So I'm not sure if he's in today or not, but we wish him well.

The meeting's called to order on August 26th at 9:03 a.m. Before proceeding with any business, I believe Mr. Carter Smith has a statement to make.

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

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

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Carter.

By the way of an announcement, we will hear Item 15 and 16 before we hear Item 14 and 17. Also, as speakers come up, please announce your name before you speak and speak slowly, please, for the court reporter.

First part of business will be the approval of minutes from the Commission Meeting held May 27th, which is -- have already been distributed. Do we have a motion from a Commissioner?


CHAIRMAN APLIN: One motion by Scott.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Second Hildebrand.

All in favor say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Opposed? Hearing none, the motion carries.

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

COMMISSIONER BELL: Commissioner Bell makes the motion for approval.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: How about a second?


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Second Hildebrand.

All in favor say aye?

(Chorus of ayes)


I'll make a comment before we move on. We benefit immensely from lot and lots of donations from individuals, from charitable groups, from organizations that all have the same love for the state and for our resources that we do in this room and so I just can't say enough. I get the benefit of signing and approving these donations, you know, with the consent of the Commission and you go through and list them. I would suggest every Commissioner, when you get a chance, to look down those lists. It's just incredible the things that we get in the form of donations that help the Agency and help our mission. So thank you.

Next is the consideration of contracts, which have been distributed. I need a motion.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Foster. Second?



All in favor say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Opposed? Motion carries.

Now we're going to do special recognitions, Carter.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Carter Smith with the Parks and Wildlife. Mr. Chairman, your comments about the spirit and generosity of so many people across this state that help this Department in so many ways, big and small, is really a wonderful segue into what we're here to talk about and I suspect every single person that walked into this room was captivated by that beautiful, extraordinary, priceless, irreplaceable Ronnie Wells' sculpture of Speckled trout on the coast and I've already talk to a couple of y'all who have designs on that for your offices and you're out of luck. This piece -- and I want to tell you a little bit about who's giving it: The Morrison family.

And some of you may recall Richard Morrison who's had a long and distinguished career as an attorney there in Houston. He's a distinguished alumnus The University of Texas and a proud graduate of Baylor Law School and had a -- had an immensely successful law career. But what he's just as known for, if not more so, has been just his tireless advocacy on behalf of the Texas coast and conservation.

He's part of your fraternity. He served very proudly on this Commission from 1983 to '89. He was the Vice-Chair of the Commission in '87 and '88 and '89 and really under his leadership and with his spirit and his advocacy, this Commission went through some of the most significant conservation related challenges of their time and not the least of which had to do with banning gillnetting of Redfish in the bays and making Redfish a game species. An incredible challenge at the time, but which has just reaped extraordinary dividends for the health and vitality of our bays and our Redfish populations.

He was involved in the efforts to ban the hunting of deer with dogs in East Texas and some of you who were involved in that remember that that was not exactly like blue skies and bluebonnets over in the Piney Woods when that issue went down. Mr. Morrison led the charge to help get the Corps of Engineers to change an incredibly destructive practice when they would permit the open disposal of dredge material there in the bays and just dump all that dredge material on seagrass and oyster beds and marshes and got the Corps to finally agree to put those in designated spoil compartments as opposed to just it all out throughout the open water.

I mean, again, his conservation legacy is big and large. Been involved literally with every conservation organization in the state. You pick them. CCA, DU, Quail Unlimited, et cetera, et cetera. And his family has decided to graciously, graciously donate this amazing sculpture which we're going to put there at Sea Center at our hatchery and educational center in which you know tens of thousands of people come every year to learn about the coast and our fisheries and our wetlands and our ecology and natural resources and it's just going to be a wonderful, wonderful memory of the family's legacy.

I wish that Mr. Morrison was with us today to present it in person and unfortunately his health isn't going to permit him to do that. So I want to introduce a dear friend and that's his son Richard who's with us today with his wife Allyson and some dear family friends and want Richard to have a chance to say a few words to the Commission.

And so, Richard, if you'll come up please. And so thank you again.

(Round of applause)

MR. RICHARD MORRISON: Thank you, Carter, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. I didn't think this was going to be emotional; but having Carter just say what he did, it's already emotional. I want to especially thank y'all and your staff for having us here today. Especially to Carter and to Dee Halliburton. She made this process so easy.

First of all, this thing weighs a ton and to get it here, I wasn't sure how it was going to happen and Dee said, "Well, I can just send a game warden over there to pick it up," and that's what she did and so that was the hardest thing and then every other thing that has been a challenge, Dee has gotten me through it. So I really want to thank her.

Dad couldn't be here. He's got late stage Parkinson's and fell and broke his hip about four weeks ago and so if I think of everything he's done and all the stuff that he has had, his life has come down to a bed and that's it and he's got his memories and he's got his legacy and he's coming to the finish line. He's not there yet, but he can see it.

I want to recognize my family that's here with me today. I'm not sure that his wife Ann has got here yet. I don't see her, but I know that she would want me to recognize her. My wife Allyson is here and one of my oldest friends and I say that, his mom and my dad were friends before we were born. Mark Boyt is here and his wife Lila is with him and his son Harrison and we definitely want to thank Harrison for his service. He's in the U.S. Army right now in the Russian language program and we -- he's going to be one of the top graduates in his class in that program and we thank him for him his service and I want to state here for the record how proud I am of him and of the man he has become.

I also want to recognize my family that has not or could not come: My aunt, my dad's sister Charlotte Morrison; my cousin Lee Smith; my sister Paige Morrison; my brother Jim; his wife Toni and their two sons Alex and Joey; my brother Jake; and then my two sons Austin and John and my daughters Haley, Julia, and Lauren. My dad's grandchildren believe him to be a superhero or maybe a wizard and he loves them as only a grandfather can. He would spoil them tremendously.

We would go out to eat with him and have desert at the restaurant and then when desert was over, he would take them to Baskin-Robbins for ice cream after the desert and then, of course, he would send them home with me where we would have stomachaches and throwing up all night long; but that was my job.

This bronze was created by Ronnie Wells and he's a Texas artist and a real treasure that we have in this state and he has a God given ability to capture wildlife not just in sculpture, but also as a painter. He's kind of like the Michelangelo of wildlife art. I don't know anybody that has the ability to do what he's done and that's not the only piece of Mr. Wells that my dad owned, but this is certainly the most spectacular one.

I can tell you that my sons, my brothers, my friend Mark, and my other friends, we've spent our lifetime trying to catch trout that big. None of us have, but we've come close; but we -- every time we see that, it's something to say, okay, that's the goal. We also have donated some pottery and there maybe some issues with that and I had a long conversation with Carter about that and we're going to work that out, but the pottery came from East Texas and is related to the Caddo Indians and my dad grew up in Daingerfield, Texas, in the red dirt of East Texas. It was very special to him, and that's where his love of this state began.

I've heard the stories of -- from him, we all have, of the giant buck that he didn't kill in the Red River bottom and mallards in the sandbar on the dead -- in the dead of winter. Excuse me. That red dirt, that iron ore, that's where it began. First I want to say that my dad was the best dad a son could ever have. He took us all over the state to witness its flora and fauna. We learned about what a deer, a mature deer was. We learned how to identify ducks, but we also were given pamphlets on the wildflowers of Texas and the reptiles. And so it wasn't just about the game animals, but it was the total experience that he'd want us to know about this great state.

He talks about its diverse ecosystems and how really we're the only state that has this diversity. The Great Plains, the Davis Mountains, the Edwards Plateau, the Rio Grande Valley, the Piney Woods, and the Gulf Coast. We've all listened to his feed call as mallards have poured into us on the Trinity River bottom. Our hearts have pounded as we've chased giant bucks down in the Rio Grande Valley and we've stood thigh deep in the cool water at sunrise chasing trout that are that big. This is the Texas he loved, and this is the Texas that he passed to us.

I'd be remiss if I didn't talk about how good of a lawyer he was. He was without peer. At one time, the very sound of his voice was an enchantment, and there were very few people that could resist his spells. And he used that voice on behalf of the working men and women of Texas for over 50 years. He fought for justice for them because they really didn't have any other people that would stand up for them. But he also used that voice for Texas itself and for the flora and fauna who also doesn't have a voice and he realized on this Commission that he was going to the voice for the shrimp and the fish and the deer and the flowers. And -- but besides preserving the flora and fauna, he -- his mantra was, look, we're not trying to roll back the clock. We don't want to be extreme. We want to just try to preserve what we have.

And that's what he taught me and that's what he taught my brothers, my sisters, and he's passed that along to his grandkids. As Commissioner, that was the principle that guided his action: Preserve what we have. Don't go too far to try to roll back the clock because that's impossible. Although, one time I took Robin Riechers' deposition and he told me we've got more Redfish now than we've ever had in the history of the world, so maybe y'all have rolled back the clock. I don't know. It's possible.

His first action of consequence as Carter says -- and I was here that day -- was banning the use of dogs to hunt deer in East Texas and I'm telling you this room was packed and the people were not happy and as a -- he had told me as we were coming up, "Yeah, I've had -- they've called me. I've had death threats and they're going to beat me up." So I -- whatever I was, maybe 10th grade or so -- I was scared. There was people here and, boy, people from East Texas, now, those are people I grew up with. They're pretty serious. But he talked them down and they passed that law and -- or, you know, they did away with that and it ended up becoming respect. They respected him after that.

And now, back then there wasn't very many deer in East Texas and now we're just overrun with deer in East Texas. So that was seminal moment to be able to face the angry folks to make it happen and literally, I think it was his first meeting.

The next order of business he had was to set a minimum length on Black bass and, again, this room was full; but the regulation passed. And then the Redfish wars began and the Redfish wars, they made the dog stuff look like just a mild skirmish. Right? There was people that were angry and we were going to steal their way of life and it was going to be terrible. But, again, calmly with his voice he bewitched everyone and it got done and it was -- his friend came -- became one of his best friends, George Bolin, who was also a Commissioner and they took the lead and really fought the netters head on and like I said before, now there's so many Redfish I can't get away from them when I go fishing.

I was on a school of trout not long ago with my sons and I could see the trout because the birds were there and I could see them chasing the shrimp and coming up, but there was a giant school of Redfish in front of them and I could never get to the trout to catch them because there was too many Redfish. So every time I call Carter now, I say, "Look, Carter, let's cut the trout limit down to three and let's raise the Redfish limit to five. There's too many Redfish."

And Carter says, "Well, I'll consider it, Richard." But it was during the Redfish wars that he saw the need to preserve the seagrass that grows in the Texas bays and he knew that abundant meadows of seagrass would help the Redfish and other game fish to survive. So he began the battle to try to stop the dredge disposals in the open bay and he had a pretty good plan on how to maybe file a lawsuit or two and use his voice to convince the Corps and he did and now there's Red -- there's grass in places in East Bay and West Galveston Bay and Matagorda Bay where there didn't use to be, where you would just walk along and there was very few fish and now I can fish there and I will catch trout and Redfish every time I go.

So the other thing he loved is the parks part of it. And I remember that he helped and planned and I attended and improved the celebration for Texas' sesquicentennial, its 150-year birthday. The Prince of Wales came to it and was the honored guest and I got to meet the Prince. Somewhere I've got a picture of that. And, of course, you know who highlighted the evening, it could be nobody else but Willie Nelson. And somehow my dad -- that's the first time I learned that my dad already knew Willie Nelson before he was there. And I was like -- you know, I was whatever I was, maybe 16 years old -- and I said, "Dad, you never told me you knew Willie Nelson."

"Well, I don't know. I didn't think it was a big deal," but I got to go on Willie Nelson's tour bus when he was there and sit down with Willie Nelson and I got a signed dollar bill from all that. So that was one of the highlights of my life. Anyway, I remember the San Jacinto Park back then and how it just gleamed and shined and there wasn't a blade out of grass[sic] and how proud he was of that celebration that we put on.

So I'm at the finish line now. I know y'all are happy. I'm certain the crowd is. I want to thank y'all again for accepting this piece. What the family hopes is, is that when they come and see this and they see that it was donated to him, that they will think of him and they will think he must have been a good guy because he was. He passed his love of Texas to his children and grandchildren and like him, we're going to fight to preserve the Texas that we have. We don't want to roll the clock back. We just want to keep what we have. And I tell you he would urge y'all to do the same. He would urge y'all to preserve Texas' flora and fauna for your children and grandchildren and to teach them to fight to preserve what they have.

And I'll request this of y'all: If you're ever standing in cool thigh-deep water and you make a long cast to try to catch a trout that size, just think of my dad and of the wonderful state where we're so privileged to live. Thank y'all. God bless Texas.

(Round of applause and photographs)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you. That's a wonderful gift, wonderful emotional gift. I'm still lobbying to get that in my office, but so far I've only been able to get it as close as Sea Center, Lake Jackson; but that's better than -- better than not.

Thank you, Carter, for that. That was -- that was wonderful.

Okay. The award's presentation is over. That's the only award that we're going to do today. So at this time, I'd like to inform the audience that every -- you're all welcome to stay for the remainder of the meeting. However, if anyone wishes to leave, now would be an appropriate time to do so.

Also Commissioner Abell is on the phone. So I just want to welcome Commissioner Abell and tell him thanks for making the effort, but I wanted all y'all to know that he's -- he's on the phone. And there goes the...

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: There goes your --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: There goes my bronze.

MR. SMITH: It's going to Sea Center, Chairman.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Quit drooling, Beaver.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Boy, that's beautiful, isn't it? And that will be the first thought I get when I get in the thigh-deep water somewhere on the coast and get to make a long cast with a super spook.

Okay. We need to get down to some business. Item 1 is -- is a very important item. It's the election of the Vice-Chairman. And if there's any discussion by the Commission, we can discuss it. If not, as Chairman, I run the meeting and the Vice-Chairman is right there to serve when I can't be or when the Chairman can't be and there's many, many, many jobs and responsibilities that go with the Vice-Chair. So it's a big job.

But at this moment, I would entertain a motion by a Commissioner to elect the Vice-Chairman.

COMMISSIONER GALO: Mr. Chairman, I'd like to nominate Commissioner Dick Scott as our Vice-Chair.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Galo nominates Dick Scott, Vice-Chair. I need a second.

COMMISSIONER BELL: Commissioner Bell seconds.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Commissioner Bell second.

I'm about to vote on this Dick. You sure you want that?

CHAIRMAN APLIN: No, I'm playing. Dick's been on this Commission, I guess, longer than anybody except, you know, Commissioner Galo also. So anyway, it'd be an honor.

COMMISSIONER GALO: He's been here longer.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Yeah, be an honor. Anyway, I need a -- I -- we have a motion from Galo, a second from Bell. All in favor say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Opposed? Hearing none, congratulations.

COMMISSIONER GALO: Congratulations.

(Round of applause)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Action Item No. 2 is the Financial Overview. Carter, do you want me to read all these bullet points?

MR. SMITH: I don't think you have to. Are you --


MR. SMITH: -- okay with that, James?

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Financial Overview. I saw Reggie. Reggie, you're up.

MR. PEGUES: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Reggie Pegues, Chief Financial Officer. I will be recapping some items we discussed yesterday for your approval today, beginning with the -- our operating budget.

A quick recap. Our beginning budget ties to our appropriation number of 518.3 million. That consists of our General Appropriation Act, based appropriation for Parks and Wildlife of 432.4 million. We then add in two Article 9 provisions, which will be incorporated into the bill pattern for the Agency, 5 million for recreational facilities and 5 million for an across the board, law enforcement salary increase. Additionally, we're going to add in fringe benefits of 75.9 million, which gets us to our total budget of 518.3 million.

And as I mentioned yesterday, that 518.3 million will be adjusted throughout the fiscal year. Some of the reasons are, for example, we have a supplemental appropriation that -- for 22.7 million that was actually appropriated for FY '21. We will formally add that into our budget at a later meeting. We have several estimates built into our budget. One is a construction estimate and these numbers were basically built in the LAR. So there have been some slight changes. So we have an estimate of 26.6 million. Throughout the year once we get that actual numbers, we will adjust the budget accordingly.

Next item are our federal funds. Again, we have estimate based on our LAR submission of 75.8 million. As we receive our actual apportionments later in the fiscal year, we will adjust those numbers accordingly and those numbers typically go upwards. And speaking of our federal funds, we -- in addition to our apportionment, we have other factors. For example, last year we received $21 million related to COVID funding that was unanticipated. Also what we have going on this year is similar to the impact to our recreational type revenues for hunting license, fishing, we have that same impact at the federal lever -- at the federal level. That impact is, for example, our wildlife restoration funding. They're having a record year, and that will probably translate into more funding for the Agency above what we have anticipated.

Our fringe benefits, our retirement insurance, these items are estimated; but they're based on our payroll expenditures throughout the fiscal year. So as we have vacancies and salary actions, these numbers will be adjusted accordingly.

Other appropriation items, we have the -- just appropriated receipts, magazine sales, MLDP, which is basically a new program generating revenue. We have estimates built in; but with many of our new programs, we will adjust those revenues as we get -- you know, as we get actual numbers. And we will update the Commission accordingly.

Next, I'm going back to the 518.3 million. This is a breakdown by our method of finance. The biggest piece is general revenue at 45 percent, 231.6 million. And just to note that about 180 million of that is considered sporting goods sales tax. The next largest source is our Account Fund 9 at 28 percent. These are our hunting license, boat revenues. Next are federal funds at 14 percent, of which about half of that is wildlife restoration funding. And then we have our Account 64, which is our state park revenues.

Now we're going to take a look at our budget by object of expense with salaries at 191 million representing 37 percent, the biggest chunk of our budget. The next slice is our capital budget, which I'll kind of go into more detail. These next two slides lay out our budget as budgeted by the Divisions. And you'll see just in terms of dollar amount FTEs, our State Parks Division makes up the -- makes up the largest amount, followed by Law Enforcement. Our FTEs, the 3160.9, we've budgeted to what's considered our FTE cap in the General Appropriations Act; but generally, we come in lower than that amount. Through three-quarters of the calendar year, we're right at 3,000 FTEs. So we should come in well below that number and the reason for that is as we have vacancies throughout the year, they don't count toward the total.

This next item is our department-wide budget. This is kind of a budget -- or special accounting items and things that typically don't lend themselves to the other main line Divisions. First item is our estimated federal apportionment. As I mentioned, this is an estimate. Once we get the actual numbers, we will update this and distribute to the Divisions. The next item, 7.3 million, these are our payments to license agents -- the Walmarts, the Academies -- also our payment to the license vendor. The next item is what we call our strategic reserve. These are for items that are typically not budgeted for up front or any additional projects that need funding throughout the fiscal year. And the next item, .12 million[sic], these are our pass-through plates. These are funds that we collect and distribute to other entities.

As I mentioned, here's a breakdown of our capital budget at 111.4 million. The biggest piece of that 86.4 million for construction and major repairs and of that 86.4 million, about 26 of that is estimated carry forward from FY '21 into FY '22. These next items that are -- they haven't changed, but just require your approval on a yearly basis. The first is our budget policy, your Exhibit C. High points of it is the Commissioner[sic] authorizes the Executive Director to execute the Department's budget.

We mentioned donations earlier. Any donations exceeding $500 must be accepted by the Chair or Vice-Chair or designee and basically all funds are authorized for any use permitted by statute or rule. Again, no changes to this policy. It just needs your approval.

Next item is our investment policy. Similarly, no changes; but just requires your approval. We're required to -- under the Public Funds Investment Act, we're required to use -- to have an investment officer for any funds that are outside of the Treasury. Typic -- we do not have any funds outside; but if we do go that way, there are requirements of appointing an investment officer. Again, no changes to this item.

Next item, Exhibit E, for our performance measures calculating, we require a listing of state parks. We have -- currently have 89 listed. If this list changes during the year, at the next biennium meeting we will approve those items.

Last item here, it's deposit options for 15 percent of boat revenues. Originally, we were required to transfer 15 percent of boat revenue from Fund 9 to 64. It was modified to make that basically permissive at our discretion. Looking at our fund balances based on just recent activity in both the Fund 8 and the Fund 64 with just record revenues, there's no need to make this transfer and so we're asking to retain all balances within Fund 9.

And on this next slide, staff proposes the following recommendation. Staff recommends that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following proposed motions: The Executive Director is authorized to expend funds to operate the Texas and[sic] Parks and Wildlife Department in the accordance with the proposed FY '22 operating capital budget, including funds budgeted from the Conservation and Capital Account; the budget policy and the investment policy; the Commission approves the state parks listing and authorizes the Department to adjust the listing as necessary for accurate reporting; the Commission approves retaining 100 percent of all boat registration, title, and sales revenue collected during FY '22 into Fund 9. This concludes my presentation.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Reggie.

Any discussion by the Commission?

I don't believe, Dee, we have anybody that wants to speak on this.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: No one signed up to speak. So we have three motions here?

MR. PEGUES: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: So regarding the first motion that I need for approval, I'll need a -- I mean three items, I'll need a motion from a Commissioner for the first.

COMMISSIONER GALO: So moved. So moved.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Got a motion. Second?


CHAIRMAN APLIN: All those in favor say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Opposed? Hearing none, motion carries.

Regards the second motion, is there a motion for approval from a Commissioner?



COMMISSIONER BELL: Commissioner Bell seconds.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Bell second. All those in favor say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Opposed none? Hearing none, motion carries.

Regarding a third motion, I need one more motion by a Commissioner.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Foster. Second?


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Hildebrand. All in favor say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Motion carries. Okay. We'll move on. Thank you, Reggie.

We'll move on to Action Item No. 3, the Proposed Fiscal Year 2020 Internal Audit Plan.

MS. MEEKS: Good morning.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Hello, Brandy.

MS. MEEKS: Good morning, Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Commissioners. Um --

MS. HALLIBURTON: Excuse me. Chairman, can I just say for the record that Abell voted yes on all three items?

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Yes. Sorry, James. Thank you.

MS. MEEKS: Good morning. For the record, my name is Brandy Meeks. I'm the Internal Audit Director. This morning I'd like to present to you our proposed fiscal year '22 internal audit plan and request the Commission's approval of this plan.

So Texas Government Code 2102 requires that the annual audit plan be developed by the Internal Auditor and approved by the state agency's governing board. On your screen you will see our proposed plan as presented yesterday. We have three IT/cybersecurity audits on this plan or projects on this plan. Two of those are audits. One is an advisory. We'd also like to perform an audit of selected grants, an audit of selected contracts. We'd like to do 20 fiscal control audits. Ten on state parks, ten on law enforcement offices, and additionally we'd like to do four additional advisory projects on our controlled property, our LCP pipeline easement receivable -- receivables, our time sheet approval process, and our infrastructure change order process.

So we'd like to recommend that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion: That the Commission approves the fiscal year '22 internal audit plan as listed in your Exhibit A. I'm available for any questions if anybody has any.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Brandy.

Any discussion by the Commission members?

I don't have anybody signed up to speak that I know of. I need a motion for approval.



COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Patton moves for approval.



CHAIRMAN APLIN: Galo. All those in favor say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Opposed? Commissioner Abell? I don't know if he -- I'm going to assume he's a yes?


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Hearing none, the motion carries. Thank you.

MS. MEEKS: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Brandy.

Next is going to be Action Item No. 4, Statewide Oyster Fishery Proclamation, Temporary Closure of Oyster Restoration Areas in Galveston Bay and Matagorda Bay, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. Emma, you're up. Hi.

MS. CLARKSON: Good morning. Good morning, Mr. Chairman and fellow Commissioners. For the record, my name is Emma Clarkson. I'm the Team Lead of the Habitat Assessment Team in the Coastal Fisheries Division. Today I'll be presenting a recommendation to adopt an amendment to temporarily close four oyster restoration sites until November 2023.

The Natural Resource Code Chapter 76 grants the Commission the authority to close an area that is being reseeded or restocked. Multiple reefs across the coast are being planted with cultch material to restore degraded and lost substrates. The two-year closure gives the oyster larvae that recruit to the fresh cultch the opportunity to grow to harvestable size and repopulate the reef. Successful oyster restoration projects are dependent on larval recruitment and growth within those first two years. So this is a picture of successful oyster restoration and so that closure allows this structure to develop uninhibited by dredging activity.

So this summer, four reefs are being restored using this method, including three in Galveston Bay, one in Matagorda Bay. Funding for these restoration projects was generated from a mixture of sources, primarily from the Nationally Mar -- National Marine Fisheries Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief Grant and donations from CCA, Building Conservation Trust, and Shell. Over two and a half million dollars are being invested into the restoration of these reefs.

The temporarily -- temporary closure is requested only for the exact footprint of the restoration site itself and not the entire reef on which it is -- on which the restoration occurs. A total of approximately 200 acres will be temporarily closed, including 118 in Galveston Bay and 82 acres in Matagorda Bay. This map shows the proposed closure locations in Galveston Bay. The light gray are oyster reefs. The dark gray is land and you can see North Todd's Dump is directly east of Eagle Point, Dollar Reef to the south, and Pepper Grove Reef in East Galveston Bay. And then this shows the proposed closure location in Matagorda Bay. It's right at the mouth of the Keller Bay, the oyster reefs there.

The amendment proposed in May was to temporarily close these three restoration areas in Galveston and the one restoration area in Matagorda. This proposed amendment was published in the June 25th issue of the Texas Register. 515 public comments were received during the comment period. 498 of which were in support of the proposed temporary closure, with one letter of support from the CCA. Of the 16 in opposition, one comment was completely unrelated to the proposal and six comments indicated that we need to implement more stringent conservation strategies, such as closing all of Copano Bay to harvest. We also received several comments that the closure period should be four years rather than two.

Staff recommends that the Commission adopts the regulation changes as published as published in the June 25th issue of the Texas Register for the temporary closure of these oyster restoration reefs. Thank you for your time and I'll take any questions you have.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Emma.

Any questions/comments by the Commission?

You know the public comment, I mean, seldom do we get that kind of overwhelming support for anything. I mean, that's impressive.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay. We have -- Shane are -- yeah, Shane's here. Shane asked to speak to the Commission. So, Shane, if you'll come on up and tell us what you've got to talk about. Please give us your name and you know the -- you know the deal, Shane. You've got three minutes.

MR. SHANE BONNOT: Good morning. Mr. Chairman, thank you for this opportunity.

Congratulations, Vice-Chair on your nomination.

Shane Bonnot with the Coastal Conservation Association. I appreciate the opportunity. I'm just here to show our support for this proposal. Oyster restoration projects are an extreme value to our coasts, to our fisheries, and to coastal economies. So just here to show our support. As Emma highlighted, we -- we did donate some funds to help out with oyster restoration there at Pepper Grove, a 2-acre site, which is small in comparison to the over -- the entire -- the entirety of this proposal. But it does make a difference. Every little bit helps.

You heard in the comments that two years might not be enough and I think that's just -- that is the general view of quite a few people that see the amount of time and energy that it goes to create these projects, to do the permitting, and to do the actual deployment, to mobilize and get the materials out in the water. And so people feel like to get the true ecological value of these restoration projects, you should allow that the oysters stay in the water a little bit longer. So that's why you heard some of that in public comments.

And so moving forward as an organization, we would just ask the Department look at that and see if two years is an appropriate time to -- for these projects and see if you can go do something to allow more than just one generation of oysters to recruit to that -- to that reef. And with that, I'll close and answer any questions if you have any.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Shane.

Any comments or questions from the Commission for Shane?

You know, Shane, thank you for coming and I will acknowledge and certainly, you know, just the value of the oyster reefs in our bay systems for just not only for the commercial use, but for the fishing. The habitat is just a -- they're just an incredible resource. Do you have something else you'd like to say?

MR. SHANE BONNOT: I just wanted to say thank you to the Morrison family. I'm a Lake Jackson resident as well. Sea Center is very near and dear to my heart. And so to see that piece of artwork go to that facility is -- it's going to be a treasure adored by many. So that's a good selection of the --


MR. SHANE BONNOT: -- location. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you for coming.

Okay. I need a motion.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Scott moved. I need a second.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Rowling second. All those in favor say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Opposed? Can I assume Commission Abell, we're good to move? Commissioner Abell is an aye as well. Hearing none, the motion carries.

Action Item No. 5, Environmental Review of Transportation Projects, Memorandum of Understanding with TxDOT, Recommended Adoption of the TxDOT Memorandum of Understanding. Hello, Laura. You're up.

MS. ZEBEHAZY: Hi. Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Vice-Chair, and members of the Commission. For the record, my name is Laura Zebehazy, Habitat Assessment Program Leader within the Wildlife Division. During this Commission Meeting, staff seek adoption of a proposed rule that adopts by reference the statutorily required memorandum of understanding, or MOU, between Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Texas Department of Transportation regarding the environmental review of construction projects.

Under provisions of Transportation Code Section 201.607, TxDOT is required to adopt an MOU with each state agency that has responsibility for the protection of the natural environment and requires TxDOT and each of the agencies to adopt the memoranda and all revisions by rule. This section also requires an examination and revision of the MOU every five years.

The MOU stipulates responsibilities of each agency, the information to be shared during transportation project reviews, and the review and commenting timeframe. As of today, the current MOU has been revised accordingly and adopted by TxDOT. Based on TxDOT's adoption of the proposed MOU on June 30th, 2021, staff was authorized to publish the proposed rule in the July 23rd, 2021, issue of the Texas Register for public review and comment.

As of this morning, TPWD has received two responses in favor of the proposed rule and no comments in opposition. In conclusion, staff recommend the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts an amendment to Section 69.71 concerning memorandum of understanding between the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Department of Transportation, with changes as necessary to the proposed text as published in the July 23rd, 2021, issue of the Texas Register. At this time, I'm -- I can answer any questions you might have.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Laura.

Any questions or comments for Laura by the Commission?

We don't have anyone scheduled to speak, I believe. So without, do I have a motion for approval?




CHAIRMAN APLIN: Patton second. All those in favor say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

MS. HALLIBURTON: Commissioner Abell yes.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Abell yes. Hearing none, motion carries.

Laura, thank you.

MS. ZEBEHAZY: Thank you, sir.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: We'll move on to Action Item No. 6, Chronic Wasting Disease/CWD Detection and Response Rules, Containment and Surveillance Zone Boundaries, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. Mitch, you're up.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Good morning Mr. Chairman.


MR. LOCKWOOD: Commissioners, for the record, my name is Mitch Lockwood. I'm the Big Game Program Director in the Wildlife Division and this morning I'm seeking adoption of proposed amendments to our disease detection and response rules, which would create one new containment zone, two new surveillance zones, and then it would modify the delineation of one surveillance zone.

As I reminded the Commission yesterday, a CWD was detected in an eight-and-a-half-year-old Mule deer buck on the east side of Lubbock last February. This was a free-ranging deer that was exhibiting clinical symptoms indicating that it likely had the disease for a couple of years or so. Despite a fairly aggressive surveillance program in this area of the state for the past six years, more intensive sampling in the immediate area where the CWD positive deer was located is necessary to begin to get an understanding of the geographic extent and the prevalence of the disease. Therefore, staff proposed a containment zone and a surveillance zone in this area.

The proposed containment zone delineation began with a 5-mile radius and then we selected easily recognizable features such as state highways and county roads around that general area and it made a relatively simple zone delineation. We used the same approach for the surveillance zone, except we started with a 15-mile radius. The proposed containment zone is approximately 75 square miles and the proposed surveillance zone is just over 700 square miles.

Next we'll move to Uvalde County where CWD has been detected in three different breeding facilities located on two premises. The average location -- or I should say the locations of these facilities on average are about 25 miles from our existing CWD zones to the east, which are north of Highway 90 between Sabinal and Hondo. Over the past six years, more than 12,000 samples collected within a 50-mile radius of the Uvalde County index facility were tested for CWD. And as you can see by the tight cluster of the blue dots on the east side of this map, the majority of those deer were harvested in our existing zones, providing strong evidence that the disease is not yet established in the native population there. However, additional surveillance to the west would give us a better idea if that's the case over there as well. Therefore, we proposed to extend that zone to capture the acreage surrounding those two premises where CWD was detected last spring.

Next we'll move to Northeast Texas where last spring in a deer breeding facility on the border of Hunt and Kaufman Counties. Several deer had been released to the adjoining release site over the past several years, giving us concern that the disease could be established in that population as well. And so to provide some confidence that the disease has not gotten established in the free-ranging population in the general area, we proposed a surveillance zone in that area as well.

This slide gives you kind of an idea of the relative size of each of these proposed zones. For all of these proposed zones, we would have carcass movement restrictions, mandatory testing of hunter-harvested deer, and then some live -- some restrictions on the movement of live deer as well. The same restrictions that are currently in place and the same requirements that are currently in place for all existing containment zones and surveillance zones that we have in the state.

As of late last night, we had received a total of 13 comments on this proposal. Nine in support. One in opposition. Only one of those opposing the proposal provided reasoning for it and basically he felt that, you know, the high-fence requirement that we have for breeding facilities and even release sites, in his mind, doesn't appear to be effective to contain the deer, the deer in those locations, and implied that perhaps there should be a containment zone established around the Hunt County facility as well.

With that, staff recommend that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts an amendment to Title 31 of Texas Administrative Code Section 65.154 concerning issuance of permit, amendment, and renewal, with changes as necessary to the proposed text as published in the July 23rd, 2021, issue of the Texas Register.

Mr. Chairman, with that I'll conclude my presentation. I'll be glad to entertain any questions you might have.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Mitch.

Any questions by the Commission for Mitch?

Hearing none, we have a few people that would like to speak to us on this issue. The first three I believe are by telephone. Are we -- how do we hear them?

MS. HALLIBURTON: They're not on.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: They're not on?

MS. HALLIBURTON: They didn't dial in.

MR. SMITH: They haven't logged in, Chairman.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Do you want me to just move on to the two that are in the room?

MR. SMITH: Please.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: So we had -- we had received indication that William Conoly, if I'm pronouncing that right, with David Conoly Ranch, Amy Varnell with White-tail Conservation, and John Varnell with Victory Genetics were going to call in; but apparently they have not.

In the room, we have -- where's Ronnie? You here? Yeah, Ronnie, Ronnie Eckels[sic]. Come on up, Ronnie. If you will, state your name, Ronnie, and you have three minutes, please.

MR. RONNIE ECKEL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Carter. Good morning again. Thank you. I didn't have -- in my two minutes yesterday, I did not have time to thank you for your time and consideration of the information that we have provided you on copper.

With the containment zones, what we would like to offer, Carter, to you and your staff, is to participate in browse sampling to look at the trace mineral levels in the browse and in the grass plants in the containment zones. We would also like to do soil testing and grass sampling to look at the potential for prions being -- or mis-folded prions -- being in existence in those plants.

So if there is an interest by the Commission and the staff, we would gladly like to participate in that and begin to create a database of what may be in these plants and in the soil and see if we can't learn something going forward. But we appreciate your consideration. Thank you for your service. Have a good day.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Ronnie, thank you.

David Yeates. Hello, David.

MR. DAVID YEATES: Good morning, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Vice-Chairman, congratulations on your election.

Commission, for the record, my name is David Yeates. I represent Texas Wildlife Association and we're here in support of this CWD zone proposal. You know, yesterday we heard an awful lot about CWD surveillance, with a fair amount of focus on this perceived lack of surveillance outside of the captive deer breeding network. And these zones certainly begin to hopefully address that concern, recognizing there's been substantial surveillance outside of the breeder network, there's always value in increased surveillance. So we're absolutely in support of this.

It's not lost on me that manning check stations and collecting road kill tissue samples is not as fun as guiding youth hunts or working with landowners on habitat management, but it's really important work and we're very thankful for the Department's focus and dedication of resources to that.

One thing that I do see -- and, Commissioner Hildebrand, you touched on this yesterday with these fractal zones that are scattered around the state and some zones evolving particularly to expand into the Uvalde area, is a confusion for lay deer hunters in the State of Texas. You know, we've seen some human dimension studies that show, you know, most hunters are woefully uninformed on CWD. Pushing that rock up the hill is a difficult thing. So anything that can be done to make this intuitive and more simple, we're absolutely in support of and I encourage the Commission and the Department to be thinking that way and at some point outside of the captive deer breeding movement restrictions that are inside of the zones, the hunter-harvest sample submission, you know, those types of things might -- it might be more helpful to approach that from a statewide perspective to even include things like carcass movement restrictions.

And we talked about that in the CWD Task Force. There's some technical challenges with proof of sex requirements and law enforcement and all that, but I do think that's where we need to head with these smaller zones, these high-risk release sites connected to CWD positive breeding facilities. I see that on the horizon. So I would encourage y'all to start thinking that way as well if you're not already.

With that, I'll close. I really appreciate all the hard work that the staff has put in and the gravity with which this Commission takes the issue. So thank you very much. I'm happy to answer any questions you may have.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, David.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Any question for David or any comment by the Commission?

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Patton. I may have a question. Do you -- you know, yesterday there was some comments regarding Triple T. I think they were in support of Triple T. Do you personally or on behalf of TWA have or anticipate having a position with regard to Triple T?

MR. DAVID YEATES: Sure. I -- you know, that's a hard issue, Commissioner. I -- TWA does not have a formalized position on -- on the prohibition or pausing of Triple T. You know, the live animal movement, regardless if it's pasture caught or coming from a breeder facility, certainly is a higher risk activity than not. You know, my -- there are members of TWA that utilize that permit, that find great value in that permit. We heard from some of them yesterday.

You know, we want to be as accommodative to continuity of operations, be it deer breeders or Triple T permit users or just the rank and file low-fence deer hunters and managers, as we can. That's the alchemy of all of this, I guess, is balancing risk management with business continuity. That's not really a good answer or a direct answer. My hope --

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: No, it's a very good political answer. I was hoping maybe there would be one position or another because I think maybe September 15th we -- you know, might look at that --


COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: -- and, you know, there will kind of be a yes or a no and -- but I think we have the benefit of between now and then, you know, give it some thought. Do you think you're going to be back September 15th with a more definite position?



MR. DAVID YEATES: At your request, TWA will absolutely have a definitive position on Triple T.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Okay. Well, I look forward to hearing that.



CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Bobby.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Anybody else? Okay.

MR. DAVID YEATES: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, David.

I believe we've heard from all of the speakers that would like to speak on this subject. So, therefore, I'll accept a motion for approval.

COMMISSIONER BELL: Commissioner Bell moves.



CHAIRMAN APLIN: Foster second. All those in favor say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Opposed? Commissioner Abell?


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Is a positive, a yes. Thank you. Hearing none, the motion carries.

Next, we'll go to Item No. 7, Implementation of Legislation During the 87th Texas Legislative Session, Senate Bill 15, Recommended Adoption of the Texas Consumer Privacy Act Phase I. Ms. Diaz, you're up. Hi.

MS. DIAZ: Yes, sir. Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Vice-Chair, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Mischelle Diaz and I'm the Division Director for Communications. And I'm here to request adoption of proposed rules and response to the enactment of Senate Bill 15 concerning the use and release of personal customer information collected by the Department.

Senate Bill 15 was intended, in part, to address concerns associated with the sale, resale, and disclosure of personal information to private entities by state agencies. Personal information includes things such as name, address, license numbers, registration and titling information, and similar data. Senate Bill 15 specifically prohibits the disclosure of information except as provided by law.

Senate Bill 15 removes the Commission's rule-making authority to prescribe policies for the sale of mailing lists and the determination of when customer information is public or confidential. The removal of this authority necessitates the repeal of existing rules governing disclosure of personal customer data. The rules will now consist of a policy statement that the Department will follow applicable state laws regarding disclosure of customer information.

So the -- the disclosure of personal customer information to other government agencies, such as law enforcement, is specifically authorized, as is public boat ownership records or when the customer has given written consent for the Department to make their information public. Senate Bill 15 also allows the disclosure of statistical data, provided it does not reveal information about a specific customer. For example, the Department could disclose that there are a certain number of permit types issued in a particular county.

So on this issue, we've had two public written comments. Several others that were entered appear to be spam. Both written comments interestingly were entered under the disagree section; but by their content, they actually indicate that they agree that customer information should not be disclosed.

So our recommendation, therefore, is that the Commission adopt the repeal of Title 31 Texas Administrative Code Sections 51.300 to 51.302 and 51.304 to 51.306 and an amendment to 51.303 concerning disclosure of information, with changes as necessary to the proposed text as published in the July 23rd, 2021, issue of the Texas Register. That concludes my presentation, and I'm happy to take any questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Mischelle.

Any questions from the Commission or any discussion?

We don't have anybody signed up to speak. So hearing no questions or comments, I'll ask for a motion for approval.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Patton moves to approve.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Patton. Second?


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Galo. All in favor say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Opposed no? Abell is a yes. So hearing no -- no noes, the motion carries.

Thank you.

Action Item No. 8, Implementation of Legislation During the 87th Texas Legislative Session, House Bill 2063, Recommendate -- Recommended Adoption State Employee Family Leave Pool. Patty, you're up. Hello.

MS. DAVID: Good morning, Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Commissioners. I'm Patty David, Director of Human Resources at Texas Parks and Wildlife. I'm here to request adoption of a proposed rule to implement the provisions of House Bill 2063 concerning the state employee family leave pool.

The Legislature determined that many state employees have family care needs that do not fall under the allowable uses for existing sick leave pools and the Family Medical Leave Act. House Bill 2063 establishes a state employee family leave pool to provide eligible state employees more flexibility in bonding with and caring for children during the child's first year following birth, adoption, or foster placement and in caring for a seriously ill family member or the employee. The bill allows employees to voluntarily transfer sick leave or vacation leave to the pool, designates the agency head or designee as the pool administrator and requires each state agency to adopt rules for adopt -- for operation of the pool.

The rule establishes the Agency's family leave pool, designates the Director of Human Resources as the pool administrator, delegates authority to the pool administrator to establish operational procedures with the advice and consent of the Executive Director, and it also stipulates that all donations to the pool are voluntary.

While we did receive what appeared to be some spam, we have received no public comments on this rule. Our recommendation, therefore, is that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts new 31 Texas Administrative Code Section 51.142 concernly -- concerning family leave pool, with changes as necessary to the proposed text as published in the July 23rd, 2021, issue of the Texas Register. That concludes my presentation, and I'll take any questions you might have.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you. Anyone have a question for Ms. David?

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Patton. I -- can you give me an example of how this works? I mean, I don't think I'm familiar with this process.

MS. DAVID: So we have something similar now. It's a catastrophic sick leave pool and it's a process where employees can donate the time they've earned, but not used, to a pool.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: To some -- to a pool for the benefit of someone else?


COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Okay, thank you.

MS. DAVID: And in this case, the pool we currently have is catastrophic sick leave. It's for catastrophic types of illness. This expands and this is a separate pool we'll keep of donations to be used for the birth or placement of a child.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Bobby.

It sounds like a neat policy, don't you think?

MS. DAVID: We are working on the policy, yes. It's very detailed and requires documentation. People have to provide documentation in order to withdraw time from the pool.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Any other comments or questions for Patty?

Don't have anybody signed up to speak. So assuming no more conversation, I need a motion for approval.

COMMISSIONER BELL: Commissioner Bell moves to approve as presented.



CHAIRMAN APLIN: Patton second. All in favor say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Opposed none. Hearing none -- Abell's a yes?


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Motion carries. Thank you.

MS. DAVID: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you so much.

Action item No. 9, Implementation of Legislation During the 87th Texas Legislative Session, Senate Bill 703, Recommended Adoption of the Continuation and Functions of the Department of Agriculture. Hello, Monica. You're up.

MS. MCGARRITY: Hi. Good morning. Good morning, Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name's Monica McGarrity and I'm the senior scientist for aquatic invasive species in the Inland Fisheries Division and I'll be presenting proposed rule changes to exotic species in broodstock collection rules to implement Senate Bill 703 pertaining to the Department of Agriculture and aquaculture regulation.

Aquaculture is regulated by the Texas Department of Agriculture under Chapter 134 of the Agriculture Code. The 2020 Texas Sunset Advisory Commission advised elimination of the aquaculture license requirement component of these regulations and this change was enacted by Senate Bill 703 in the 87th Legislature. SB 703 also included some concurrent changes to Parks and Wildlife Code, but the TPWD fish dealer license exemption for Texas aquaculturists was retained.

TPWD regulations affected by SB 703 pertain to harmful or potentially harmful fish, shellfish, and aquatic plants, specifically exotic species aquaculture and collection of broodstock from Texas waters. SB 703 also affects an interagency memorandum of understanding and TCEQ regulations which is adopted by TPWD by reference and staff are currently working with TCEQ on revision of this MOU, which will be presented to the Commission at a later date for adoption by reference following adoption by TCEQ.

SB 703 is a relevance to regulations pertaining to exotic species of aquaculture. Exotic species of aquaculture permits are issued for Tilapia, Triploid grass carp, and Pacific white shrimp and the TDA aquaculture license is a prerequisite for permit issuance.

The proposed changes to the exotic species rules related to SB 703 implementation, would eliminate the requirement for a TDA aquaculture license for aquaculture facility permit applications. It would also eliminate the requirement to include the aquaculture license number on Triploid grass carp import notifications. The proposed exotic species rule changes would also remove TDA aquaculture license suspension, revocation, and nonrenewal from the list of conditions under which TPWD may issue an order to cease operations. The proposed rule changes also eliminate the requirement of proof of TDA aquaculture license or application for facility transitional operation after a sale.

As previously noted under SB 703, Texas aquaculturists remain exempt from the requirement for TPWD fish dealer licenses. However, TDA defines aquaculture as the business of producing and selling cultured species at a private facility and the Department has determined that pond stocking sellers that purchase fish for sale and don't have aquaculture facilities, hold fish for less than 72 hours, and don't feed these fish, don't qualify as aquaculturists exempt from this license requirement.

Previously, TDA required these individuals to obtain fish farm vehicle licenses and so the exotic species rules required copies of those licenses as a prerequisite for pond stocking seller permits as part of our interagency coordination agreement with the Department of Agriculture and this is a requirement eliminated by these rule changes. However, that fish farm vehicle license did not exempt individuals not culturing fish from having a TPWD fish dealer license.

The proposed rules provide clarity on/ensure compliance with preexisting TPWD statute amended by SB 703 by requiring these permit applicants to provide a copy of their fish dealer truck licenses to obtain a permit. TPWD regulations provide conditions for issuance of broodstock collection permits. Broodstock, primarily Red drum, is collected from the wild for aquaculture with restitution paid for the harvested fish and then the offspring of the broodstock are sold. The permits for broodstock collection require a TDA aquaculture license as a prerequisite.

The proposed rule changes implement SB 703 by eliminating the TDA aquaculture license requirement for these permit applications, as well as eliminating another mention of licensure when referring to commercial aquaculturists as a potential alternative source of broodstock.

Nine public comments were received on the proposed exotic species rule changes to implement SB 703. Five agree and four disagree. One specific comment on this agreement was received, noting that the TPWD fish dealer license will be more expensive for pond stocking sellers than TDA fish farm vehicle licenses due to their having multiple vehicles. A single TDA fish farm vehicle license could cover multiple vehicles, whereas fish dealer truck license only covers one vehicle. However, the aquaculture licenses were eliminated by SB 703 and not this rule-making and these individuals were not previously exempt from having a fish dealer license and the rule change merely requires them to show documentation of compliance to obtain a permit.

Parks and Wildlife Code Chapter 47 provides an exemption to the fish dealer license for aquatic products raised on a person's facility only, whereas these individuals do not raise fish and, therefore, TPWD does not have the authority to provide an exemption to the license to these individuals.

Eight public comments were received on the proposed changes to the broodstock collection rules to implement SB 703. Four agree and four disagree. There was one specific comment from an individual that disagreed. However, this was an objection to the elimination of the TDA aquaculture license requirement by SB 703 and not to the rule changes, as they expressed that all permit recipients should be commercial aquaculturists and licensed. However, I would note to their comment that permits should -- that permit should only be issued to commercial aquaculturists, that this, indeed, stipulated in Parks and Wildlife Code Chapter 43 and permits for broodfish collection will only be issued to applicants who operate a commercial aquaculture facility, albeit non-licensed.

With that, the staff recommends that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts the proposed changes to Sections 57.122, 57.125, and 57.126 concerning exotic harmful or potentially harmful fish, shellfish, and aquatic plants, and Sections 57.395 and 57.398 concerning collection of broodfish from public water, with changes as necessary to the proposed text as published in the July 23rd, 2021, issue of the Texas Register. And that concludes my presentation, and I'll be happy to take any questions.


Anybody have questions for Ms. McGarrity or comments?

We do not have anybody signed up to speak. So if there's no other comments by the Commission or staff, I need a motion for approval.




CHAIRMAN APLIN: Rowling -- Galo and then Rowling second, is that how it went down? All in favor please say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Opposed? Abell's aye?


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay. Motion carries.

Thank you. Thank you very much.

Action Item No. 10, Implementation of Legislation During the 87th Texas Legislative Session, House Bill 2326, Recommended Adoption Possession, Transportation, and Release of Certain Nonindigenous Snakes, Stormy King. How you doing, Stormy?

MR. KING: Good morning, everyone. Good morning, Chairman and Commissioners. For the record, my name's Stormy King. I'm Assistant Commander of Wildlife Enforcement for the Law Enforcement Division. I'm here this morning to seek adoption of amendments to Texas Administrative Code regulations to recent legis -- legislation concerning the possession, transportation, and release of nonindigenous snakes.

Due to wildly accepted reclassification within the scientific community of the Burmese python as a distinct species and hence no longer included as a subspecies of a listed snake, HB 2326 was passed by the 87th Texas Legislature to amend Parks and Wildlife Code Chapter 43 Subchapter V to explicitly identify the Burmese python as a species the possession of which requires a controlled exotic snake permit issued by TPWD. This amendment to the statute requires a corresponding change to 31 Texas Administrative Code 55.651 to align the lists of regulated species.

And there I skipped my slide.

We received a total of nine public comment. Four agreeing completely, five disagreeing completely. We received two written comments. One basically was a suggestion that the possession of these snakes should not be legal, which is not up for question here today. And the second suggested changes to the methods by which these snakes are identified, which would also require statutory changes, not part of this discussion.

With that, staff recommend Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt amendments to 31 Texas Administrative Code 55.651 concerning controlled exotic snakes, with changes as necessary to the proposed text as published in the July 23rd, '21 -- 2021, issue of the Texas Register. And that concludes my presentation. I'd be happy --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Stormy.

MR. KING: -- answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Any questions, Commission?

How about a motion for approval?


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Hildebrand, Scott second. All those in favor say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Opposed? Hearing none -- Bell's aye -- I mean Abell, excuse me. Bell's sitting next to me. Abell's?


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Abell's aye. Motion carries.

Okay. Action Item No. 11, 11 is Exchange of Land, Anderson County, Approximately 100 Acres At the Big Lake Bottom Wildlife Management Area. Stan, you're up.

MR. DAVID: Good morning, Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name's Stan David. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This presentation goes into details of exchange of land, approximately 100 acres, at the Big Lake Bottom Wildlife Management Area. It's in Anderson County over in East Texas. It's about 10 miles southwest of Palestine.

Big Lake Bottom WMA lies adjacent to the Trinity River in Anderson County. The 4,500-acre WMA was acquired in 1990 to preserve high quality bottomland hardwood habitat, which is rapidly disappearing in the Post Oak Savannah ecoregion of Texas. The WMA includes more than five miles of frontage on the Trinity River. Is a popular destination for deer and waterfowl hunters and fishermen.

Regarding the subject tracts, the public use of the WMA has outgrown the current parking area and facilities. The owner of the property adjacent to the entrance is willing to trade for an equivalent amount of WMA land. The proposed exchange would expand the entrance area. The tract TPWD would exchange is approximately 100 acres in total. The adjacent owner tracts to be added to the WMA are approximately 70 acres at the entrance and 30 acres of bottomland hardwood forest.

Staff believes the exchange would facilitate traffic flow and operation of the WMA by providing space to improve visitor facilities and all-weather parking. All tracts have now been appraised and a boundary line survey has been completed.

Okay. This ask a map of the three tracts in question. The WMA is outlined in gold. The red outline tracts are the tracts TPWD would receive in the exchange. The yellow is the tract the adjacent landowner would receive, TPWD would dispose of.

As of this morning, we received 93 comments total. There's 77 in support, 16 in opposition. We think some of that's kind of spam. It's double commenting. Staff recommends that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorizes the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to exchange approximately 100 acres in Anderson County for addition to the Big Lake Bottom Wildlife Management Area. That concludes the presentation, and I can answer any questions you might have at this time.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Stan.

Any questions/comments by the Commission?

We don't have any speakers signed up to talk. So I'll take a motion for approval.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Patton motion to approve.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Patton. Second?


CHAIRMAN APLIN: I have a second Foster. All in favor say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Opposed none?

MS. HALLIBURTON: Abell is yes.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Abell's a yes. Motion carries.

MR. DAVID: Thank you.


Action Item No. 12, Land Conservation Strategy, West Texas, Acquisition of Strategic State Park Tracts. Jason, you're up. Howdy.

MR. ESTRELLA: Hey. Good morning, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Jason Estrella with the Land Conservation Program and this next item is the land conservation strategy in West Texas for the acquisition of strategic state park tracts. Specifically, we're going to be looking at three state parks in the Trans-Pecos region of West Texas. That's the Franklin Mountains, Balmorhea State Park, and the Big Bend Ranch State Park.

Big Bend Ranch State Park is located in the southern portion of the Trans-Pecos along the Rio Grande, just west of Big Bend National Park. Balmorhea State Park sits right about in the middle of the Trans-Pecos approximately a hundred miles or so southwest of Midland-Odessa. And the Franklin Mountains State Park sits right in the middle of the City of El Paso.

Franklin Mountains was acquired in 1981 and opened in 1987. It is considered one of the largest urban parks in the nation at over 26,000 acres. A few scattered inholdings do still remain. This map you can see Franklin Mountains State Park in yellow and if you look closely there in the southern end, you can see a couple of -- a few inholding tracts still remaining there. Further investigations may show a few more as we look into it.

Big Bend Ranch State Park is the largest state park that we have at over 300,000 acres. Multiple inholdings do still occur throughout the park. Though over the years, TPWD has acquired several of them as they have become available. And you can see in ranch[sic] again, the state park is in yellow and there are some scattered sections of inholdings there along the east/west sides, a little bit in the north.

In 1934, the State Parks Board acquired Balmorhea State Park at nearly 46 acres around San Solomon Springs. Fast-forward to today and the park sits at nearly 760 acres and is known as an oasis in the Chihuahuan Desert of Far West Texas due to the springs filling up ever-famous pool at the park. These springs, of course, are also home to several rare and endangered species. So if you look at this the map, state park outlined again in yellow and some inholdings in white. Approximately 14 acres or so worth of inholdings along the east side of the park and another 5-acre tract on the west side.

So looking at these parks a whole, the acquisition of these private inholdings has been identified as a particularly high priority. These inholdings can affect public use planning and public access. So as resources allow, staff would like to begin contacting these landowners to determine if any are willing sellers.

For public comments, we have actually received about 101 response. Eighty-six in support. Fifteen in disagreement, in opposition. The overall consensus on comments for support was just the support for more protected public lands. No comments were left in opposition.

So staff recommends that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorizes the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to acquire strategic state park inholdings in West Texas. This concludes my presentation. I'd be happy to entertain questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Jason.

Any question by Commissioners?

We don't have anybody signed up to speak. So I would entertain a motion for approval.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Foster. Second?


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Galo second. All those in favor say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Opposed? None. Abell?


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Yes. Motion carries.

Thank you.

MR. ESTRELLA: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Action Item No. 13, Acquisition of Land, Comal County, Approximately 515 Acres at the Guadalupe River State Park/Honey Creek State Natural Area. Hello, Ted.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Commissioners, good morning. My name is Ted Hollingsworth, for the record. This item does pertain to the acquisition of land in Comal County. It would add to the Guadalupe River State Park/Honey Creek State Natural Area complex. That complex is just north of San Antonio, about 25 miles north of downtown; but as San Antonio is growing, these parks are literally just outside -- just outside the city proper, which only increases their value for conservation and for recreation.

The Honey Creek watershed itself is one of the most pristine systems certainly in the eastern Hill Country. Just a clear water, spring-fed, classic picture-postcard Hill Country stream. We've helped protect that stream recently with a Farm and Ranch Lands grant that placed an easement on one of the major spring -- contributory springs.

About a mile reach of the creek upstream from the state natural area is still not protected and a large portion of that unprotected watershed was scheduled for development into a major new housing development. You can see a map of the watershed showing the state park in orange, the state natural area in red, the area with the conservation easement on it in white -- or that conservation easement is pending, it should close very soon -- and then the ranch that is the subject tract in yellow in the headwaters of that creek system.

This is a close-up. You can see in this close-up that there's a variety of indigenous native habitats, including Juniper oak forest and Savannah, including some nice prairie grasslands. The tract we're proposing to acquire is approximately 515 acres, has direct access on Highway 46, which will offer access into the south end of that complex that we just historically have not had. That access will result in the opportunity for some significant recreation development that we just, like I say, simply have not had in that portion of that state park/state natural area complex. And, again, the tract is going to be critical for protecting the -- for the long-term protection of the water quality and quantity in Honey Creek.

We're working closely with the Nature Conservancy, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation. They in turn are working closely with some other partners to bring some -- some -- some donations to assist with that acquisition. And the seller is willing to sell at a bargain price.

At this point, we've received about 130 comments. We've received quite a few in the last 48 hours. There do not appear to be any legitimate comments in opposition. There are certainly some legitimate comments in favor of, including a very nice letter from the Edwards Aquifer Alliance strongly supporting this acquisition.

The staff does recommend that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorizes the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to acquire approximately 515 acres of land at Guadalupe River State Park/Honey Creek State Natural Area in Comal County. And with that, I'd be happy to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Any questions for, Ted?

Hearing no questions by the Commissioners, do we have the call in Seth Billingsley?

MR. SETH BILLINGSLEY: Hi. Can y'all hear me?

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Yeah, yeah, we hear you, Seth.

MR. SETH BILLINGSLEY: Great. Well, good morning, Chairman and Commissioners. My name is Seth Billingsley and I'm the Conservation Associate for Environment Texas, a nonprofit advocate for clean air, clean water, parks, and wildlife. And when I'm not in the office, I spend a lot of my time outdoors. I hunt, fish, hike, camp. Y'all are all familiar with that, I'm sure.

I also have over a decade of experience in falconry to rehabilitate birds of prey. In short, I love our parks and wildlife and I care deeply about our park system. Because of all that, I'm here today in enthusiastic support of this acquisition. According to the Texas Conservation Alliance, this is one of the most significant acquisitions that the Commission has considered in years, crucial for protecting thousands of acres of exceptional habitat.

As most of us already know, this purchase would provide numerous ecological benefits. The land lies upstream of Honey Creek cave, Guadalupe State Park, and Honey Creek State Natural Area. Endangered wildlife such as the Golden-cheeked warbler and Texas salamander rely on this fragile ecosystem of which Honey Creek is a part; but I also want to focus on a couple other merits of this purchase, the recreational opportunities.

Not that many years ago, I took my first multi-night backpacking trip at Lost Maples State Park. It was a total success and had a great time with my friends, but it was hard to really experience the park as fully as we could have when we were sharing our camping site with other groups. Like most Texans, I don't have a private ranch to visit or the funds to take a weekend trip to Colorado. As such, my outdoor opportunities are limited to public parks funded by my tax dollars and hunting permit.

Not only does Honey Creek help protect our wildlife, it represents a possibility for the future of the Texas needs if we're going to provide public space for our growing population. 515 acres is a great start, but it's not nearly enough to offset our growth to provide equitable access to all Texans. As you may know, the Sunset Commission last year found the Department has failed to set clear metrics for things like the number of acres that are needed to be added to our park system.

Back in 2004, the Department set a goal to open at least five -- four 5,000-acre parks within ten years. We haven't hit that goal and we haven't even really talked about it in a long time. We need to set clear, bold goals for land acquisition to make sure that Texans have sufficient access to state parks given our explosive growth.

In this year, we have a great opportunity to do that. The Legislature will soon decide how to spend almost 16 billion in federal COVID funds. They have great flexibility on how to spend these funds, including for state parks. So we're asking the Legislature to use 2 percent of those funds for parkland acquisition and we hope you'll join us with that too. Please approve not only this acquisition, but also a comprehensive plan for subsequent acquisitions also. Thank you for your time, and I really appreciate all that y'all are doing.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Seth.

Do any Commissioners have any question or comment for Seth?

Thank you.

That's the only person we have down to speak. So I will accept a motion for approval.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Scott motion. I need a second.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Bell second. All those in favor say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Opposed? None. Abell aye. Motion carries.

Thank you, Ted.

Item No. 15, Digital Licensing and Tagging Requirements, Request Permission to Publish Changes in the Texas Register. Hello, Robin. You're up.

MR. RIECHERS: Good morning, Chairman and Commissioners. For the record, my name is Robin Riechers. I'm the Director of Coastal Fisheries, but this morning really I'm here representing a multi-divisional effort to establish a pilot program for digital licensing as we talked about at our last meeting. The proposed changes that we're presenting here is really requesting a permission to publish, which will get us started to create a digital recreational license and a tagging -- a digital tagging program.

As a recap of what we discussed last time, our pilot program would start in license year 2023. We would basically have an opt-in for the hunter and angler at the opportunity when they're purchasing their digital license and digital tags. It will be available only from our TPWD website as far as them opting in and purchasing at that point in time. The license types that would be included in the pilot program, as we discussed, was going to be the super combination license, the senior super combination license, and at request of the Commission, we went back and looked at the lifetime super combination license and we are able to basically facilitate, we believe, the digital tag portion of that. We won't be able to necessarily issue a new license. They still have to go through the paperwork to get the lifetime license; but for those people who will be obtaining their tags, we think we can support a digital tag for those lifetime super combination license as well. And then also the digital tagging part of that will basically be in combination via the My Texas Hunt Harvest application that we discussed last time.

We will begin that on August 15th of 2022 if all goes well. So while in your briefing book, this is a fairly large set of options where there's three different chapters that are being impacted in the Texas Administrative Code and, thus, it has some volume to it there in your briefing book; but in reality, it's really some pretty simple actions we're trying to take here.

And in that first action, in your Exhibit A, basically what we're doing is allowing for the optional issue of a digital license and tags. Right now in that section, it basically speaks to the physical issuance of a license and tag as you see the typical license that we have there on the bottom. And so it creates an exception to having that physical license and tag on your person and allows you to have a digital license and tag on your person with some proof of receipt on your smart phone, your tablet, or similar device.

Then as we move to the next exhibit, this is where we get into the digital tagging portion of this and it allows the digital tagging for Red drum in that section. Basically, you create a harvest report. You generate -- you generate that immediately or you try to punch it in as soon as you get to your phone and you'll receive a confirmation after that report is submitted. That then uploads -- and you're required to upload to the network as quick as you can if you are having any availability problems. As you'll note here for Red drum or in that section, as we worked with our game wardens and our Law Enforcement Division, we're not going to require any sort of tagging on that fish on site because basically as we visited with the wardens, mostly those fish are directly in possession of the person who caught them is their belief.

Then when we go to Exhibit C, this basically allows the digital tagging for deer and turkey. Again, the harvest report, you'll generate that immediately upon take and then you receive a confirmation after that report is submitted. Assuming that can be done, that confirmation number is then legibly written on a durable media and attached to the carcass of the deer or the turkey and the difference between Red drum and deer and turkey there, is obviously with deer camps and movement of those animals to other processing facilities, law enforcement still needs some sort of identification back to the individual.

In absence -- as we know in our rural communities in certain locations, there may not be network connectivity. And so in absence of that, you basically are going to be required create what we call a hunter's document: First and last name, customer number, and a date and time of harvest and attach that to the animal. And then obviously with your digital tag, then you're supposed upload that upon network availability and the hope is that even with -- if you are not in network connectivity, you can still attempt to put it into your phone or your smart -- smart tablet and the warden will be able to see that attempt as well, but you will be required to do the hunter document as well.

Again, this is really the first part of us getting started in this digital pilot program and as we had indicated to you in the last briefing, this regulatory change in the fall of 2021 is the first step in that and that's why we're here before you with this permission to publish. Again, we will start a lot of outreach and communication, thinking about what we're going to do with our Outdoor Annual, our website, and our social media opportunities to get the word out on this in the spring of 2022. We would do spring and summer 2022 testing and then as I had indicated, we could go live in August of 2022. With that, I'd be happy to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Anybody have any questions for Robin?

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Okay. Patton. Was there -- I seem to recall we talked a little bit about the federal duck stamp issue. Is there any resolution or thought to that?

MR. RIECHERS: I can lean on Stormy if I -- if I get this wrong. But as I understand it, there's not any immediate resolution to that and it, frankly, will require an act of Congress to change that requirement now.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: You mean literally?

MR. RIECHERS: Literally.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: So the end game there if you're going to go hunt something that requires a federal duck stamp, you do need to print your license and you do need to affix the stamp and sign it and all that, right? No way around it?

MR. RIECHERS: If -- if you want to be completely risk averse, that would be the approach I think you would want to take. But we'll let Stormy weigh in on what he knows about that enforcement action.

MR. KING: Good morning again. For the record, Stormy King with Law Enforcement. Shaun Oldenburger and some other folks in Wildlife recently put out a survey that we're working on. They're going through the process of addressing that at the federal level. As has been alluded to, it won't occur any time soon. But a reminder that the 45-day E-tag allowance or E-stamp on the federal -- federal law allows a 45-day allowance of your receipt until you receive your paper tag. Our law enforcement, by discretion, will honor that throughout. So if you get checked by a federal game warden after 45 days, you should probably have your stamp with you.


MR. KING: All right?

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Hold on, Stormy. But does the -- Commissioner Patton mentioned the stamp -- the stamp needs to be currently attached to the license and signed, does it not?

MR. KING: Not by our statute or our rules.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Or are we talking the federal?

MR. KING: Yeah. Well, as long as it's signed, it's -- we have a place to attach it. That's not a federal requirement that I'm aware of.


MR. KING: As long as it's signed. Their issue there is they don't -- because you'll have people hunt in multiple states. So I can't have it attached necessarily to my Texas hunting license, which I'm not required to have with me if I'm hunting in Arkansas.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: So we wouldn't have to print. We just keep --

MR. KING: Just have your tag.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Your duck stamp signed?

MR. KING: Yes, sir.


COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: And then last question. You can simply take a picture of your hunting license with the signed federal duck stamp on the back and that's sufficient, correct?

MR. KING: That will satisfy us at the state level.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Does that satisfy the federal game wardens?

MR. KING: For 45 days it will basically. They consider that the same as the E-stamp process.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: But they're after -- you need a physical license for the federal --

MR. KING: Yes, sir. The concern at the federal level is more I buy one federal duck stamp, I sign it, I put it on my license, and then you have the E -- or I don't sign it rather and I give to you. So if I get checked, I show my electronic verification and if you get checked, you have the actual paper tag or the paper stamp.


MR. KING: So that's the whole issue with the federal enforcement. We don't feel that's necessarily a problem at our -- to enforcement. And so we're willing to accept by discretion that digital proof, which we can always verify if we suspect that it's fraudulent.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Good news is here in Texas, it doesn't require an act of Congress to get an electronic license though.

MR. KING: I'm sorry?

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: It does not require an act of Congress to get an electronic license. So --

MR. KING: Right.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: -- that's a good thing for us.

MR. KING: But hopefully they're -- they are working through the process with U.S. Fish and Wildlife to address this permanently.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Any other comments or questions by the Commission on Item No. 15?

Is this just information? It doesn't require a motion?

MR. SMITH: Aren't we seeking permission to publish?


MR. SMITH: Yeah, we're seeking permission to publish. We'd like to go forward with these proposed rules to get public comment, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: So we can just go with the exception of a disagreement or do you need a vote?

MR. SMITH: We don't need a -- we don't need a vote. We just need your direction to go forward.


MR. SMITH: Yeah.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Sounds like everybody would be happy with going to the Texas Register.

Item No. 16, Proposed Amendments to the Exotic Harmful or Potentially Harmful Fish, Shellfish, Aquatic Plant Rule, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register. Ms. McGarrity, you're back up. Hello.

MS. MCGARRITY: Yes. Good morning again, Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name's Monica McGarrity and I'm the Senior Scientist for Aquatic Invasive Species in the Inland Fisheries Division. I'll be presenting on proposed amendments to the exotic harmful or potentially harmful fish, shellfish, and aquatic plants rules.

Aquatic invasive species harm ecosystems, recreation, the economy, and even human health and quality of life. Parks and Wildlife statutes established prohibitions against activities involving exotic fish, shellfish, and aquatic plants, and give the Commission the authority to regulate their legal possession and use. TPWD regulations for fish, shellfish, aquatic plants, as is the case in most states, take the form of a prohibited species list and the primary focus of the list is prevention. Only a few of the species on that list are approved for use and, of course, the goal of the regulation is ultimately to prevent introduction or escape and subsequent impacts.

The proposed changes to the exotic species rules relate to Triploid grass carp stocking and would clarify that permits for Triploid grass carp stocking are specific to ponds for which they were issued and set a permit period of validity of 18 months for these permits. Currently, the permits do not expire until all of the fish authorized under the permit have been purchased. However, it's come to light that recent rule changes that no longer require the sellers to provide copies of all of their transport invoices for each sale, make it such that the permit expiration cannot be determined and, thus, these permits must be archived indefinitely by the Department. Having an expiration date also will help prevent potential reuse of permits, which are now issued digitally as a PDF and could be reprinted.

The 18-month timeframe was selected to allow for adaptive management and some fish can be stocked during the first year, followed by the remaining fish in the second year if needed to achieve vegetation control. This applies to the period during which fish can be stocked, after which the transport invoice that they receive with the fish and the proof of Triploid status would serve as lawful -- proof of lawful possession.

The rules also allow for and clarify the process for lawful transfer of these long-lived fish with the transfer of a property to new ownership, specifying that the documentations I just mentioned required for possession be transferred to the new owner. Under the current rules, there's no exception for allowing such transfers of Triploid grass carp, which are necessitated by property transfers. The proposed rules also clarify rules on harvest of Triploid grass carp from stocked public waters. The changes remove mention of harvest after permit expiration date, as the proposed 18 months is not adequate for the fish to do their work of aquatic vegetation control.

The changes also more accurately describe the process whereby the Department lists on the website waterbodies from which Triploid grass carp may not be taken -- stocked waterbodies where they may not be taken because they are still needed for vegetation management versus specifically authorizing removal as currently described in regulations.

That concludes my presentation, and I'll be happy to take any questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Any questions for Monica?

Hearing none, I authorize the staff to publish the proposed changes in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.

Thank you.

MS. MCGARRITY: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Item No. 14, Coastal Thermal Refuge Area Closures, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register. Hello, Brian. You're up.

MR. BARTRAM: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, and fellow Commissioners. For the record, my name is Brian Bartram. I'm Ecosystem Leader in the Corpus Christi Bay Ecosystem. Today I'm presenting an item related to the freeze closure areas along the Texas coast.

Following the freeze event in February 2021, and a subsequent presentation at the March Commission Meeting, we committed to evaluating and possibly refining the freeze closure rules and the areas that are impacted by a closure. So the Department has a list of freeze closure areas that we can close to angling during freeze events. These are typically areas of deeper water adjacent to shallow water and fish can retreat to these deeper, warmer waters during a freeze event. They often come in the form of canal subdivisions or harbors.

So back in 2005, the Executive Director was given the authority to close these deep water refugia during freezing conditions in order to protect marine resources. We most recently exercised this authority during the 2021 winter storm event and we've used this authority since 2015.

Following this most recent freeze, the Department began reassess our ability to efficiently respond to such events and decided that some changes may be warranted at this time.

Oh, there we go. Sorry. That was supposed to be that slide.

This picture was taken Saturday, February 20th, following the freeze event. This is the Bahia Grande pilot channel in the Lower Laguna Madre and you can see that anglers do, indeed, target the fish that stack up in these areas. These changes that we're proposing include clarifying the definition of an affected area. This proposed language gives us the ability to include all other areas that will serve as a thermal refuge, but do not necessarily have bank access. The current definition limits closure areas to sites that have bank access.

We're also proposing language that will define a freeze using lethal water temperatures rather air temperatures. This threshold will be set at 40 degrees Fahrenheit, as this is the water temperature at which species like Spotted seatrout and Red drum begin to suffer cold-related mortality. We are also proposing language that will allow the Executive Director to notify the public of forthcoming closures in anticipation of a freeze, rather than after a freeze has occurred.

I want to draw your attention to a change that was made. You will notice that the language you see in your presentation -- or in this presentation regarding the reopening criteria is different from the language you see in your binders. And we are seeking to establish reopening criteria based on water temperatures as measured by NOAA's tide stations and once water temperatures reach a minimum of 50 degrees Fahrenheit and are expect to remain above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 48 hours, the Executive Director may allow fishing to resume in those affected areas.

So over the past several months, we asked our Coastal Fisheries staff to take an inventory of our current closure areas and we also consulted with local law enforcement, our game wardens, to consider their observations from during and after this last freeze, as well as past events. We asked staff to identify sites that they would recommend keeping, deleting, any that they would like to see added, and if a site needed to be modified or changed.

So after our evaluations were complete, staff recommended keeping 17 sites as is, adding 16 new sites mostly on lower coast, modifying two sites, and combining four existing sites with one new site to create large aggregate site. And I've got some maps to ex -- to show examples of these.

So here's an example of a new site we would like to add. This is the Pelican Cove and Bay Harbor Canal subdivisions in Corpus Christi Bay ecosystem. Here's the closure area that we would like to modify. The arrow -- the area you see with the yellow lines is an area that we would like to add to the existing Rockport closure area, and here's why. This photo was taken Friday, February 19th, after the freeze at the time. At the time, the water temperatures were rising and hundreds of fish were using this area to recover.

This is the aggregate site I was referring to earlier. In yellow text there, you see four existing sites that we would like to combine with one new site, the text in orange, to create the Redfish Bay subdivision's closure site. Combining these would simplify notification and enforcement of a closure in these canal subdivisions.

This is an existing site in the Lower Laguna Madre that we would like to modify called the Port Isabel closure site. This site as it stands now is the portion you see shaded in yellow. After consulting with local game wardens, it was recommended by staff to add all deep water areas within the City of Port Isabel proper, which would significantly expand this site.

So today we would like to seek permission to publish these proposed changes in the Texas Register. We are also seeking permission to move forward with a public scoping effort to gather public comments on the proposed changes in the Texas Administrative Code, as well as seek input from the public regarding the affected areas that would be closed during a freeze. And that concludes my presentation, and I would like to welcome any questions you may have.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Question from Commissioners?

I have one. Will you go over the clarity definition of freeze again? I didn't quite --


CHAIRMAN APLIN: -- pick that up.

MR. BARTRAM: Sure. Let me go back to that slide. Okay. So we would like to define a freeze using lethal water temperatures instead of air temperatures. So formally it was when air temperatures dipped to 32 or below and we would like to change that to when water temperatures are going to dip to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.


MR. BARTRAM: And below, yeah.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: And so do these fish not necessary -- because you said the mortality increases on the Speckled trout. Do these fish not stack in there -- this is a question, I'm not making ago comment -- at 42-41, 42-43?

MR. BARTRAM: They will -- they will begin to move into these deep water areas as soon as shallow water areas, those water temperatures start to drop and they will start -- start moving in there. But they start to experience cold-related mortality at that -- at that water temperature.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: But all this, I guess, will be flushed out during the public comment and that can be brought up if 40 degrees is the right temperature is all I'm asking.

MR. BARTRAM: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: I do support the closure of these areas near coastal land.

No other comments from Commissioners?

If there's no further questions, I authorize staff to publish the proposed changes in the Texas Register for the required public comment period. Thank you.

MR. BARTRAM: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Moving right along, that was a 14. Now we're going to Item No. 17, Freeze Impact to the Spotted Seatrout and Other Species, Robin.

MR. RIECHERS: Good morning again, Chairman and Commissioners. For the record, my name is Robin Riechers, Director of Coastal Fisheries. And as Brian just indicated to you, he basically shared with you some of the changes we want to provide in the thermal refuge closure area in dealing with freezes; but I'm here to visit with you again about the overall impact of the freeze event, Winter Storm Uri, on our populations of fish, if you will.

When I briefed you before, of course, what we were able to do was talk to you about the actual fish kill assessment that we had done and what we're going to talk a little bit about today is now as got our spring gillnets, trying to determine what the impact of those kills were actually on the overall population. But as a quick refresher of that fish kill mortality event, we saw 3.8 million fish which were killed.

Of course, 91 percent of those were nongame fish or Florida species as we call them; but still that leaves a relatively large and significant number of game fish that were killed and as we know, 160,000 Spotted seatrout were killed, with most of those or a large proportion of those, 89 percent of those being in the Laguna Madre. So we know we -- and, of course, we took an emergency action to raise the rule in the emergency area of the Laguna Madre to -- or to decrease the bag limit from five to three fish. We increased the minimum size limit from 15 to 17 inches. Decreased the maximum size limit from 25 to 23, with the goal and -- and -- of keeping more fish in the water to spawn during the spawning season which really runs from April through around September. The first 120 days of the emergency rule were about to expire prior to this meeting, of course, and that rule was extended to last a full 180 days and it will expire now on September 27.

So, again, what we're going to talk about this morning is really an overview. We're going to obviously talk mostly about Spotted seatrout because that was the species most impacted in the emergency rule. I am going to share some information regarding Black drum in the Upper Laguna Madre because you may recall there was a significant kill that we saw there in Black drum. I'm going to give you a little bit of an overview because Red drum's obviously one of our key game species, going to give you a kick overview of how they're looking as well, and then talk a little bit about future monitoring and evaluation.

I'm going to orient you a little bit to this slide because we're going to look at a few bay systems with this slide, but this is the coast-wide spring gillnet slide. On your Y axis is our catch per unit effort or our numbers per hour that we catch. Of course, this is our routine sampling program we conduct every spring and fall, which allows us to really compare these trends over time. And on the X axis is our years that we've been conducting this survey. What you see there as a yellow line is a ten-year mean, the most recent ten-year mean line, and we chose the most recent ten-year mean because we believe that really sets the stage for what we've been seeing in the fishery and then it incorporates the most -- our current regulatory structure as much as it can.

Now, obviously, we know for Spotted seatrout that we started the regulation change to five-fish bag limit in 2007 in the Laguna Madre. We extended that up to Matagorda in 2014 and in 2019, we extended it to the whole coast. So even that ten-year will have different regulations in it as well.

Unfortunately as you can see there, the 2021 dot is the white dot on the end. You'll notice there's not a 2020 because of COVID-19. In the spring of last year, we were not able to conduct our gillnet sampling and so we do have that missing data point now that we will have as we move forward. But what you can see there is from our ten-year mean overall coast-wide with our spring gillnets, we're about 20 percent down and from that, as you can see because of the 2019 point is right on that line, it's basically 20 percent down from that as well.

Here we basically took every bay system, which we just gave you the graph of coast-coast wide; but we're going to now basically just show you the plus or minus of those from that ten-year mean. And so as you can see there, Sabine Lake was down by about 14 percent; Galveston just down by about a percent, so really not impacted that heavily as well. Aransas wasn't impacted as heavily or not showing that kind of deviation from the ten-year mean. And Corpus Christi actually showed an increase from the ten-year mean as we look at that.

The two systems where we had the emergency rule, of course, Upper Laguna Madre and Lower Laguna Madre, down about 30 percent. And, of course, unfortunately we also see that Matagorda and San Antonio were down significantly as well. And so those really are the bay systems that we will focus on as we continue to look in more depth at what this data might be telling us.

So we're going to start from the lower coast and move upward here and so, obviously, we have seen this in the previous slide or bar chart; but to give it a little more granularity as how it compares to more recent years, we're going to show you these individual slides as well. You can see that 2021 line is about 31 percent below our ten-year mean and it's about 35 percent below the 29 -- 2019 value in our spring gillnets. But when you look at the trend overall in the last ten years over those gillnets going back to 2011, it's within the range of some of the variability that we routinely see in those gillnet catches. So, again, we're not here completely to talk about whether or not that -- that -- that value indicates some need for regulation, but we're wanting to show you what it looks like in comparison to recent trends and trend years.

For the Upper Laguna Madre, of course, it actually is very close to the 2019 value. It's down 27 percent from the ten-year mean. But you can see there that, you know, we had had some really, really highs in 2014, 2015, 2016 and then we actually decreased going into looks like 2017, slight increase into 2019 and, you know, I really wish we had that 2020 point to know where we were; but that's just going to be a missing point that we don't have and, of course, 2021 is almost where 2019 was.

When we look at our San Antonio spring gillnets, of course, you can see that we're about 34 percent down from the ten-year mean and we're about 28 percent down from that 2019 point. You can see really in this trend line kind of just summarizing what's happened over a long-term period. In the 90s, we were well below the more recent ten-year timeframe. We kind of went to a kind of newer high level in the late 90s and then we've been kind of bouncing along that trend line, obviously, some years below, some years above; but, you know, the decrease below the ten-year mean, you know, is certainly significant here.

Matagorda you can kind of see a similar trend to what you saw in San Antonio. Again, from the ten-year mean, significantly down at 44 percent. Change from 2019, down 36 percent; but you also see that same -- somewhat same pattern where in the 90s we were down quite -- you know, considerably lower, reached a kind of equilibrium at a higher level, and have been, you know, with some volatility or variability as you might call it in that trend line, you know, bouncing around that ten-year mean then after that.

So I want to speak just a moment about some of the limitations in the data and, obviously, we've already mentioned that 2020 point that we don't have. The other things that we -- that may impact overall ecology in the bays, obviously, there can be some other delayed effects of the freeze with bait fishing declines, et cetera. Our effects on recruitment aren't yet known at this point in time. Obviously, for the Laguna Madre, we tried to keep fish in the water to help basically leave as many fish to spawn to equate to a quicker recovery, if we could do that; but we don't have that recruitment level yet. We will typically get those from our bag seines. They'll start to recruit in our bag seines from about June to November and so we'll start seeing more about what that did to our overall levels of recruitment further on into the fall.

Obviously, it goes without saying that our mid coast area and our upper coast area has had tremendous rainfall during this spring and early summer and certainly that both when you think about it impacting our gillnets, when we think about it impacting our recreational anglers, you know, those fish move and can't -- can't -- they'll basically try to find that more saline water as opposed to that freshwater and so if our gillnet set, which is randomly chosen, was in a fresher area, then we wouldn't catch as many and certainly it make it harder for people to find fish in those areas on some days and for some anglers and it makes it easier to find for other anglers as well. So it -- that part of it has a double-edged sword in some respects.

I did share with you -- because we really do look at this as an ecosystem -- from an ecosystem perspective and we're not going to go over all the bait fish because we could be here for a very long time if we took it species by species. But we did want to show you what Black drum spring gillnets look like because as you recall, the game fish percentage of kill in the Upper Laguna Madre was 62 percent comprised of Black drum, with over 100,000 Black drum that we found with fish mortality there. And so we wanted to take a look at that and show you that.

As you can see here, it's down slightly from the ten-year mean, 11 percent. From 2019, it's down about 8 percent. But what of -- what's really of note here is much like we saw in Matagorda and San Antonio on Spotted seatrout where you were kind of at a lower equilibrium level, this one actually rose quicker than those; but you might note -- and, of course, Mr. Morrison indicated earlier the net wars and, you know, the nets were removed in about 1988. And so as you look at this graph, you can see that 1988, 1990 period. You can see that stark increase upward where it reached a new equilibrium level and we've been at a very high level since then and, of course, the Upper Laguna Madre for Black drum is kind of the mecca of Black drum heaven there, if you will. That's -- we catch a lot of Black drum in our gillnets there, so.

Also we wanted to take a look at Red drum being our other key game fish species in our bay systems and for a couple reasons. One, we wanted to look at the overall impacts from the freeze. We knew we didn't see a lot of mortalities, but we wanted to look at that and bring that to you; but then also because we know there's probably been shifting pressure and we've kind of witnessed that as well and so we wanted to take a look and see what this stock is doing as people may have targeted this stock more.

And from the spring gillnets here, you can see we're down just slightly from the -- less than 1 percent down from the ten-year mean. We're down about 15 percent from where we were in 2019; but, you know, again at a relatively high and stable level there.

Lastly, I wanted to present this slide because I think it speaks to the conservation work that we did there in the Upper Laguna and Lower Laguna Madre. It speaks to the compliance rate of our anglers. It speaks to our Law Enforcement and our Communications team and my team getting the word out on this. But you can see that really where those bars go up is where 17 inches is, that's the high peak there, and you can see really there's not many fish being landed past 23 inches. This is from our actual landings of both private trips, as well as guided fishing trips where we're on the docks measuring those fish. And you can see a really high degree of compliance there, and so I wanted to share that with you showing that compliance rate.

And I must also just say that even on social media through a lot of reports both to myself, Carter, and others of the team up here, a lot of conservation compliance, not necessarily where we put the emergency rule, but up and down the coast where people were voluntarily either reducing their bag limits or not catching as many Spotted seatrout as they might would have in past times and so there's been a lot of effort by our anglers in trying to recover from this freeze as quickly as we can.

So next I'll talk just a little bit about our future data and actions. First of all, I'm going to start -- and it's not listed on this slide, but I got this number last week and I want to share it with you. We did share with you that we were going to really try to push Spotted seatrout production as much as we could in our hatcheries. We're not through yet. We're still working on it. We will be -- you know, it really runs through this full summer period; but as of last week, we've already stocked 4.8 million fish, of Spotted seatrout, along the Texas coast and 1.1 million of those went to the Laguna Madre. So we certainly try and are trying to extend that spawning season as long as we can this year and to put as many fish back, Spotted seatrout specifically, into the waters as we can.

So in addition to that, obviously, we'll be continuing to look at our sampling data. Our fall gillnets, they will occur from September 13th through November 19th and so that will give us another look. The fall gillnets are not the ones we look at for total abundance as much because it's after the high fishing season, but it will give us an impact of what happened in the fishing season from spring to fall and also help us again with just looking at that relative abundance because those series are through time, so we can compare it back in time with what other falls looked like.

As I indicated, our bag seines, we'll continue to gather those. That will give us what young of the year and recruitment's doing. We also will have our bay trawls, which will have some information. And, of course, our harvest survey data that we get at those public boat ramps, which I just showed you a slide that has some of that information.

Obviously as well, we'll continue our public scoping. Continue hearing from our constituents regarding the issues in our bay systems and so what we then hope to do is wrap that all up in an action that would come before you in November, kind of link it up with our statewide hunting and fishing proclamation discussion that we have in November; but what I do want to add about that is we've talked through that timeline. If we do -- if the Commission believes there's an action that needs to be taken, we can basically break that apart and create a -- put it in a way from a structural perspective in the Texas Register where we could adopt it at an earlier time and by adopting it an earlier time, we could then be in place again to really protect those fish during that spawning season if that's what the Commission desires. So I just -- just wanted to share that. We could adopt as earlier as January if we wanted to do something like that.

With that, that concludes my presentation. I'd certainly be a happy to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Robin. That was a briefing that we've kind of been waiting on to hear about the freeze.

So there's no action. It's just a briefing. But, Commissioners, you've got questions, comments?

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Patton. I have a comment. It's my observation personally and from talking with fishing guides and, you know, dealing with customers at a marina, that one effect as you look at the area north of the Upper Laguna Madre, you know, we look at bag limits and gillnet surveys and everything. One of the -- one of the effects of closing or restricting the fishing in the Upper and Lower Laguna Madre was all of the trailer-mounted armada of bay fishermen that might otherwise be fishing south of the bridge, now moved north of the bridge.

So I guess my point is that there was certainly more fishing pressure north of the bridge which might result -- or would you agree with me would result in lower gillnet surveys not necessarily directly affected by the freeze? It just increased pressure. Is there a way that you think you can -- if it's true, can you draw a distinction between Lower survey's data that you might say, oh, well, maybe there were more killed by the freeze; but it was actually kind of the cause and effect of restricting the fishing south, those fishermen, you know, they just -- they just put their boats and trailers in in a different area.

MR. RIECHERS: Well, certainly. And certainly any time we make a rule change where it's not coast-wide, there can be a shifting of effort and we certainly recognize that and we've -- I've heard that as well, Commissioner Patton, that there was more pressure that moved up the coast because of that.

Our gillnet surveys won't allow us to think about what actually killed those fish or what made them absent in the gillnet. We'll just show them as absent, if you will. But what we can do is look at our relative fishing pressures that we get off of our creel surveys. And so we'll be able to hopefully identify -- if there was a significant shift of effort, we'll be able to -- hopefully be able to see that shift of effort and know where it shifted to via our surveys that we do at our public boat ramps.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: How much percentage-wise, how much -- you form an opinion and the opinion is based on several factors, some of which are gillnet surveys, some of which are public boat sample. How much by percentage would be the -- the -- the public boat ramp kind of sampling versus your gillnet?

MR. RIECHERS: Well, they really provide us two different sources of information. And so I think we have to look at that as somewhat of a picture that it's painting for us and then we've got to make our best judgments and you-all have to make your best judgments on what that picture is. But the gillnet surveys are basically speaking to us about overall abundance in the system and that's really what it measures: A relative abundance from year to year to year.

Our angler surveys talk to us about what size of fish they're catching, what fish they're catching in certain bay systems, the amount of fish from a bag limit perspective that they're catching, and the relative fishing pressure that particular site that we're interviewing might have, and aggregated into a bay system might have as opposed to other bay systems.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Okay. I -- I'm not -- I was going kind of hoping to get an answer. Are -- is your opinion more heavily weighted off of gillnet, bag seines, or is it 50/50 or is it 90/10? That's kind of what I was looking for.

MR. RIECHERS: And I don't know that I can rate that in a percentage. But what I can say, when we're looking at populations and whether or not to determine whether we need to help protect a population, it's really that fisheries' independent data that we look very hard at because that's really talking to us about what the fish stock is doing.

Now, obviously, there are those other mitigating factors that we always think about which is if you -- for instance, the Laguna Madre emergency action. If you take an action like that, how does it impact the bay system above? How is shifting pressure going to another species? So we -- you know, we -- that's the part that's a little fuzzier, but we do think about it and try to factor that in as well.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Question. What's the basis -- minimum mortality estimate of 3.8 million fish, how do you calculate that?

MR. RIECHERS: Well, was 3.8 was actual assessment counts. That was a numerical number that we were --

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: So that was a physical counting. So that's the minimum?

MR. RIECHERS: Yes. Yes, sir. Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: So, in -- can your biologists put a factor on top of that that they believe were unobserved?

MR. RIECHERS: In our fish kill assessments, what we attempt to do and when we talked about this in the briefing, that is an estimate based on a seen amount where we do a transect type of survey and then we will try to do our best to think about that in terms of how -- for instance, if it's on a beachfront, how long does that sort of mortality event occur over that whole beachfront and then we'll create those estimates. So it already has some estimation techniques built into it, but that's how we derive that number.

So as far as the unseen killed fish, we have not tried to do that in the past. Again, these are -- this is an estimate technique that we use in whether it's a freeze event, whether it's an oil spill event, whether it's another fish kill event that we don't know even the actual reason for the fish kill, that technique is an AFS guideline that we've used and modified a little bit because AFS guidelines obviously are built for freshwater, saltwater, and a variety of kind of different habitats; but we certainly use an approach that's fairly standard in the approach we take every time, but --

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: So do you actually -- do you fly in helicopters or is this by boat?

MR. RIECHERS: We -- this is by boat and then on the ground with boots on the ground typically. We have used some drones in this last event. We're trying to get that technology in place where we can use, you know, basically a drone type event. Years ago, Commissioner Hildebrand, there were some flyovers that occurred in some of these larger events. I don't really know how they were captured in the overall assessments of those events in '83 and '89, but I know that there were flyovers at that time.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Okay. And last question. Just the variability of the fish kill is pretty -- Slide 175, from Galveston basically unaffected, Corpus Christi a 9 percent positive influence. Is that just -- I mean, essentially notwithstanding Commissioner Patton's observation on maybe fishing pressure; but is that just water depth and water temperature and the ability for the fish to get to open water more easily to --

MR. RIECHERS: No, you're exactly correct. Yeah, Corpus Christi, a fairly deeper bay system and if you may recall from my previous presentation, we saw quite a few Sand seatrout that were killed there and they basically like that deeper water and so there's just more of them there and so we saw them in a higher significant number; but that's exactly what will occur in the deeper bay systems. They won't -- they'll be able to get to deeper water easier. They'll get to those thermal refuge areas and so we'll see less killed in those areas. And then the other part to your question is just that there's also some natural variability not associated with freeze events, just recruitment, other weather events, salinity from year to year to year.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Do you have any idea what the fish kill was on the Louisiana Gulf coast? Did they suffer the same issues?

MR. RIECHERS: We certainly had our Sabine Lake partner -- or our system, Sabine Lake system reached out to our partners in Louisiana and had those conversations right after the freeze and they -- their freeze event was almost negligible.



COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Okay, great. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Robin, this data kind of shows -- doesn't kind of. It shows Matagorda and San Antonio Bay were possibly hit even harder than the Upper and Lower Laguna?

MR. RIECHERS: From looking the ten-year mean, certainly, yes, it shows that they were significantly down or hit lower than the ten-year mean in this year's spring gillnets. Some of our additional analysis will be to attempt to -- as much as we can -- tease out whether some of that could have been impacted by the freshwater based on where our samples were taken. But, yes, it does looks like they were impacted significantly.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: The communi -- communications that I've had with, you know, coastal -- you know, the fishermen that go a lot was that largely the emergency order that we put in in the Laguna Madre was very much appreciated and you mentioned that the anglers kind of taken it on their own to -- there's a lot of them that are doing that and should be commended for that and CCA's recommended that and got the word out and so -- and I'll also tell you I'm getting a lot of comments by the people in this Matagorda/San Antonio/Port O'Connor, all of that kind of area that are certainly open to, you know, if the data shows, you know, they're willing to try to participate too in trying to rebound. So overall, I got very positive comments out of the fishing community.

Any other questions or comments for Robin?

All right, thank you.

MR. RIECHERS: Thank you.


MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman, if I could, if you don't mind, I -- you know, we hadn't had a chance to acknowledge retirements in a long time and I see Kevin Good out in the audience. Kevin is a -- you know, had a 30-plus year career with the State Parks system and has just been instrumental in the growth and modernization of that system. He helped create our friends groups across all of the parks, very involved with us working with the Legislature, all the efforts to work with stakeholders on the support for the sporting goods sales tax and the constitutional dedication of that. Kevin has been intricately involved in all of that. He's been our liaison with our State Park Advisory Committee and as I think Rodney would attest, he's just been just a huge gift to this Department and our public land system and I'd be just terribly remiss if I didn't just thank him for his service to this Agency.

And so, Kevin, we're going to miss you at the Department. I hope you'll stay close. So good to see you. Thank you.

MR. MONTEMAYOR: Hey, Carter?


MR. MONTEMAYOR: Mr. Conoly from Item 6 actually just logged on.

MR. SMITH: So Arnie said that Mr. Conoly who had some words to share, I guess, on Item No. 6 has logged on and so --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Well, I mean, we've -- I think we ought to let him speak if he made the effort if we --

MR. SMITH: Sure. Can we do that? Okay, thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Talk about right at the wire.

MR. WILLIAM CONOLY: Hello, Commissioners. Apologize for being a little late here. I appreciate you letting me speak. I represent ranches from Kinney County and a portion Val Verde County and on the CWD issue, I think it's great what the Parks and Wildlife Department is doing and what the Commissioners are doing to move forward that effort on finding some solutions to that issue.

I did notice, you know, when I was looking into that, that the CDC has a map of affected counties across the country. Kinney County is not listed as one of the impacted counties, but Val Verde and Uvalde Counties, which are directly adjacent to the east and adjacent to the west, are impacted. And, you know, what kind of comes to my mind is that it makes sense that perhaps that's because there just -- there just hasn't been much testing in Kinney County.

And so as part of that, I was hoping to just offer the idea that we might make available some testing kits that ranchers could take home from the Farm Agency and pick up there, whether they're, you know, available for free, it would be great; but if not, at least available for sale where it's convenient for ranchers to pick up those test kits and take them back and test deer during the hunting season so that we've got accurate testing in all the counties. And if there is some in Kinney County, that we can pick it up since I think reason would tell us that if the two counties adjacent to you have it, that it would make sense that a contagious disease like CWD would also be present in the county between those two counties. That was all I wanted to add and just wanted to be very supportive of what y'all are doing related to CWD.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, sir. Thank you for calling in. I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

Carter, anything else?

MR. SMITH: No, that's it. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay. The Commission has completed its business and I declare us adjourned at 11:33.

Commissioner Abell, I hope you get to feeling better. Thank you for joining us.

Thank y'all.

(Commission Meeting Adjourns)

In official recognition of the adoption of

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


Arch "Beaver" Aplin, III, Chairman


Dick Scott, Vice-Chairman


James E. Abell, Member


Oliver J. Bell, Member


Paul Foster, Member


Anna B. Galo, Member


Jeffery D. Hildebrand, Member


Robert L. "Bobby" Patton, Jr., Member


Travis B. Rowling, Member



I, Paige S. Watts, Certified Shorthand

Reporter in and for the State of Texas, do hereby certify that the above-mentioned matter occurred as hereinbefore set out.

I FURTHER CERTIFY THAT the proceedings of such

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

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my

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


Paige S. Watts, CSR

CSR No.: 8311

Expiration: January 31, 2023

2223 Mockingbird Drive

Round Rock, Texas 78681


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