TPW Commission

Commission Meeting, January 27, 2022


TPW Commission Meetings


January 27, 2022



CHAIRMAN APLIN: Good morning, everybody. Welcome to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Thursday Meeting, January 27th, 2022.

Before we get started, I'm going to take a roll call.

Aplin present.







CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you. Commissioner Galo and Hildebrand were not able to attend, but we have more than enough to conduct business.

This meeting is going to be called to order January 27th, 2022, at 9:07 a.m.

Before proceeding with any business, I believe Mr. the Carter Smith has a statement to make.

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

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

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Carter.

Commissioners, as a reminder, please announce your name before you speak and speak slowly for the court reporter.

First, the approval of minutes from the Commission Meeting held November 4th, 2021, which have already been distributed. Can I get a motion and a second from a Commissioner?



COMMISSIONER BELL: Commissioner Bell seconds.

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

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries.

Next, acknowledgment of the list of donations, which has been distributed. And by the way, we always appreciate the donations. Thank you very much. Is there a motion for approval?


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Foster moved.


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

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Opposed? Hearing none, motion carries.

Next is consideration of contracts, which have already been distributed. I'll need a motion and a second from a Commissioner.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Patton move to approve.



CHAIRMAN APLIN: Rowling second. All those in favor signify by saying aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Any opposed?

Okay. Action Item No. 1, Implementation of Legislation During the 87th Texas Legislative Session, House Bill 1927, Relating to the Provisions Governor-ing -- Governing the Carrying of a Firearm, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. We have Mr. Luis So -- good morning. How are you, Luis?

MR. SOSA: Good morning, Mr. Chairman. Good morning, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Luis Sosa. I'm the Chief of Staff for the Law Enforcement Division. I'm here today to propose adoption of the rule changes that were published in the December 24th, 2021, issue of the Texas Register and that relate to the rules governing the possession, display, and use of firearms in state parks, wildlife management areas, and coastal management areas in response to the passage of House Bill 1927 by the 87th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature.

Under the provisions of House Bill 1927, a person 21 years of age or older who is not otherwise prohibited by state or federal law from possessing a firearm, may carry a handgun provided that it is concealed or in a holster without a permit in any location where such possession is not expressly prohibited by statute or prohibited pursuant to statutory authority granted by statute.

Under the provisions of House Bill 1927, the Commission does not have the authority to establish regulations to modify or prohibit the affect of this bill. As mentioned during yesterday's presentation, provisions of House Bill 1927 conflict with current Department rules governing the possession and display of handguns by visitors in state parks, wildlife management area, and coastal management areas and, therefore, it is simply our intent through the proposed changes to harmonize Department rules with provisions of House Bill 1927.

As of this morning, we have received 13 comments through the public comment portal. Of the 13 comments, nine individuals agree completely, three disagree completely, and one disagrees on a specific item. Of the three individuals that disagree completely, one provided a reason. As per this one individual, they disagreed with House Bill 1927 when it passed and, therefore, disagree with anything related to House Bill 1927. The one individual that disagreed on a specific item also provided a reason. As per this one individual, they feel the rule language is lengthy and confusing.

Again, our goal is simply to align Department rules governing the possession and display of handguns with provisions of House Bill 1927. The proposed amendments, which have been provided to you, would alter our current rules to the effect of ensuring that Department regulations regarding the possession and display of handguns in state parks, wildlife management areas, and coastal management areas do not conflict with provisions of House Bill 1927.

Today our staff recommends that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt amendments to Chapter 31 of the Texas Administrative Code Rule 59.131 and 59.134 concerning state parks operational rules, Chapter 31 of the Texas Administrative Code Road -- Rule 65.199, 65.202, and 65.203 concerning public hunting proclamations, and to Chapter 31 of the Texas Administrative Code Rule 57.1011 and 57.1012 concerning coastal management areas.

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

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Luis.

Commissioners, anybody have questions for Luis?

Hearing none, we also -- I believe no one has signed up to speak. So if there's no more comments or questions from the Commissioners, then I'll need a motion and a second for approval.

COMMISSIONER BELL: Commissioner --




CHAIRMAN APLIN: Bell second. All those in favor signify by saying aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Opposed? Hearing none, motion carries. Thank you, Luis.

MR. SOSA: Thank you. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Action Item No. 2, State Parklands Passport Rule, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. David Kurtenbach, welcome. Good morning.

MR. KURTENBACH: Good morning, sir. Mr. Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Commissioners, thank you-all for your time this morning. My name is David Kurtenbach. I am the Program Director for Business Management in State Parks here today to follow-up on our conversation around the Parklands Passport Program.

Our Parklands Passport Program is a program designed to help get specific groups into the parks with waived or discounted entry fees and it's established in Parks and Wildlife Code 13.018 and what this does is it really helps with access to the parks, again, as we've kind of discussed previously.

So there are three different types of passes -- or three different categories of four different types of passes included with our Parklands Passport Program. Those being the seniors, either a full or a partial; disabled veteran; or a disability. And with each of these passes, they either get a 100 percent discount or a 50 percent discount or a 50 percent rounded to the nearest dollar discount. The proposed change that we're making will kind of simplify that. An additional benefit is also for one accompanying person to be allowed for 50 percent in. Our proposed change is to look at this and extend what the benefit of that passport holder is onto that accompanying person. So it will round everything out and make it a more simplified process for everyone.

It really impacts senior full, as well as disabled veteran passports. Anticipated benefits, as I've kind of talked to, is just going to be greater access into the outdoors, getting people into our state parks to see the beauty of them, as well as simplifying the process overall. Streamlining it and making it easier for our staff and eliminating just one more barrier and another task so that they can start to look at other things and focus their efforts in other ways.

Public comment we received on it was seven that were supporting the change. Three comments that were actually opposing it and of those three, two gave reasoning for it. One of them would like to see it extended to allow more than one person into the park, to allow up to four people with that passport holder. And the other one felt that if you are to use state parks, you should pay for the state parks and felt it was giving away too much benefit to the pass holders.

Staff recommends for the Commission to adopt the change to Rule 59.3, specifically Section 3 within TAC Chapter 31 concerning the entrance fees for the Parklands Passports, for the passport holder and for the accompanying person, as published in the December 24th Texas Register 468988.

I'm happy to answer any questions or comments that there might be from everyone.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, David.

Commissioners, questions?

Hearing none, we have nobody registered or has asked to register or signed up to speak. So if there's no comments or questions from Commissioners, I will entertain a motion and a second for adoption.




CHAIRMAN APLIN: Rowling second. All those in favor signify by saying aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Opposed? Hearing none, motion carries.

MR. KURTENBACH: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: David, thank you.

Action Item No. 3, Correction to Largemouth Bass Harvest Rules, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. Michael Tennant, you're up. Good morning.

MR. TENNANT: Good morning, Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Michael Tennant and I'm the Regulations and Policy Coordinator in the Inland Fisheries Division. Today I'll be presenting a proposed correction to Largemouth bass harvest rules.

The Department has determined that an external administrative error in publication of rules in 2020 inadvertently resulted in incorrect Largemouth bass harvest regulations in the Texas Administrative Code. Existing Department publications and public information reflect the length and bag limits and special provisions intended by the Commission and, thus, conflict with enforceable provisions currently in the Texas Administrative Code.

Current erroneous Largemouth bass regulations for nine waterbodies consist of a daily bag limit of five and a minimum length limit of 12 inches. The intended special bag possession and length limits for Largemouth bass previously adopted by the Commission consist of a daily bag limit of five and maximum length limit of 16 inches and allowance for temporary possession of Largemouth bass 24 inches or greater for weighing.

Addressing this issue in a timely manner is a two-step process whereby the Department first proposes and recommends adoption of a new special section to temporarily replace the current provisions in the fishing proclamation that were published in error in the Texas Administrative Code with the intended provisions presented on the previous slide. This new temporary rule would ensure that the intended harvest regulations for Largemouth bass on these nine waterbodies are in effect for the remainder of the license year.

The second step is that we will be proposing the same rule correction in the regular section as part of the 2022-2023 fishing proclamation, such that all harvest regulations will then be correct in the regular section and the temporary section will expire.

A total of six public comments were received, with four agreeing completely and two disagreeing specific -- specifically with the proposed rules. Based on their comments, we felt the two respondents disagreeing specifically on the proposed changes, may have misinterpreted these changes as new regulations for the nine waterbodies instead of a correction to the Texas Administrative Code. The Outdoor Annual and fishing regulations information on the TPWD website, currently provide the intended regulations for the nine waterbodies. Both respondents expressed concerns about harvest of Largemouth bass under 16 inches. TPWD data for these nine waterbodies indicate that we do not see overharvest of small bass.

Staff recommends that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts new Section 57.985 concerning special bag, possession, and length limits, with changes as necessary to the proposed text as published in the December 24, 2021, issue of the Texas Register.

Thank you and I'd be happy to take any questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Michael.

Commissioners, any questions for Michael?

Nobody has registered to speak in person. We did have an online registration, a Mrs. Savanah Loftice. She does not wish to speak, I understand, but registered -- would like to register her vote as neutral on the item.

Commissioners, anything? Any other questions? Comments?

Hearing none, I need a motion for approval and a second.




COMMISSIONER ABELL: Abell, Patton. All those in favor signify by saying aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Anybody opposed? Hearing none, motion carries.

Thank you, Mike.

MR. TENNANT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Action Item No. 4, Spotted Seatrout Harvest Rules, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes, Ms. Hanna Bauer. Good morning, Hanna.

MS. BAUER: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Vice-Chairman, and fellow Commissioners. For the record, my name is Hanna Bauer. I'm a Data Analyst on the Policy and Education Team here in Coastal Fisheries. Today I'm going to present our statewide saltwater regulation -- fishing regulation recommendations and summarize our public comments received.

I'll move through these next slides quickly. After the February 2021 freeze, we saw a major fish kill coast-wide. 160,000 Spotted seatrout were killed. Of those, the majority came from the Upper and Lower Laguna Madre systems. Due to this, an emergency action was enacted April 1st, 2021, which specified a three bag limit, a harvest size or slot size restriction of 17 to 23 inches. These only applied to the Upper and Lower Laguna Madre and 500 yards from the beachfront into the Gulf of Mexico and were extended an additional 60 days, which expired September 27, 2021.

One way we can measure our sport fish abundance is through our spring gillnet catch rates, seen here with the catch rate on the Y axis there and the year on the X axis. The orange line represents the ten-year mean, which represents our current regulatory structure and a sort of recent history to which we can compare our catch rates. 2020 data is missing due to the COVID pandemic and 2021 is on the far right there. You'll see it's 20 percent lower than our ten-year average catch rates and 20 percent lower than our 2019 catch rates.

We can perform this same analysis by bay, which is seen on the left there, the percent decline from that ten-year mean. We saw marked declines in the Upper and Lower Laguna Madre, as well as Matagorda and San Antonio Bay. Corpus Christi had a modest increase due to the fact that it's a deeper bay and has more thermal refugia for these fish.

In light of all this, the proposed regulation would enact similar limits to the emergency regulation of a three-fish bag limit, a 17- to 23-inch slot limit, with no fish over 23 inches. It differs from the emergency action and its geographical extent, it would move south from East Matagorda Bay to the Lower Laguna Madre and 500 yards into the Gulf. We're also proposing that this rule expire August 31st, 2023, at which time it would go back to coast-wide five-fish bag limit, 15- to 25-inch slot, and one fish over 25.

The purpose of this regulation is to allow for two additional spawning seasons under these more restrictive harvest regulations and accelerate the fishery recovery. Once again, I'll take a moment to explain that 17- to 23-inch slot. Most of our anglers catch fish that are 15 to 16 inches. While our models suggest that a 15- to 20-inch size slot would offer similar benefits if enacted long term, these -- this 17- to 23-inch slot protects those smaller 15- to 16-inch fish and we'll see those benefits faster within this two-year period.

Here's the geographical extent. On the left you'll see the full range there, which is from the Lower Laguna Madre, moving through the Upper Laguna Madre, Corpus Christi, Aransas, San Antonio, and Matagorda Bay systems and 500 yards in the Gulf. On the top right you'll see the northern boundary, which is FM Road 457 in Matagorda County and on the right bottom you'll see that in Cameron County, there's the Brownsville Ship Channel and it covers that bay system; but the beachfront side would extend down to the Rio Grande River just as it did in the emergency action.

As part of our stakeholder engagement process, we had five public hearings. Four of which were virtual -- or excuse me. One of which was virtual and four of which occurred in mid-January along the coast. We also solicited comments through our public web portal, e-mail, phone, and through letters. Additionally, the Coastal Resources Advisory Committee met in mid-January to weigh in on this proposal.

This slide was made on Tuesday night and had 1,612 comments at the time. There's been about 141 comments since then that followed this same pattern and this slide hasn't been updated. Of those, 61 percent of commenters supported this proposal, including CCA of Texas which also would support additional measures that have equivalent biomass benefits and the Coastal Resources Committee -- Advisory Committee supported this proposal and made a second motion to support a 17- to 20-inch slot limit, two-bag -- two-fish bag limit, with that same expiration date, and expressed support for any more conservative measures the Commission might deem necessary. 38 percent of commenters oppose. It's worth noting the somewhat unusual pattern in the opposition though. About 10 percent of those opposed wanted more restrictive measures than what was proposed. A pattern we also saw in the general comments, with about 11 percent -- or excuse me, 12 percent overall wanting more restrictive measures. 28 percent opposed wanted the slot limit shifted to a smaller size, 9 percent wanted a narrower slot, 10 percent opposed any change to the slot limit, and 14 percent opposed the change to the bag limit. 2 percent of commenters were neutral.

With that, staff recommends the amendments to the statewide recreational and commercial fishing proclamation as published in the December 24th, 2021, issue of the Texas Register.

That concludes my presentation.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Hanna.

Commissioners, questions/comments for Hanna?

Hearing none, we do have a few speakers that have request -- requested to speak. So we'll hear from those speakers. I'll ask that you have three minutes to speak and so hopefully you can get all you have to say within three minutes. So we'll start with those. First will be Everett Johnson, Seadrift, Texas, cowboy. Come on down, Everett. Thank you for coming. Good morning.

MR. EVERETT JOHNSON: Thank you. Carter, thank you-all for the opportunity to be able to speak today.

I'm here to support the trout proposal. I live at Seadrift. I'm right on the coast. I'm in-between Port O'Connor and Seadrift and what we saw was very, very disappointing following the freeze last February. I'm very encouraged that you have considered the adoption of this proposal for a three-fish bag limit with a slot of 17 to 23.

I also want to just drop back a little bit and tell you that I am also very pleased with the overall management that comes out of Coastal Fisheries Division. If -- if it were not for the hard work of all the individuals in that Division of your Department, we could have come out of that freeze in much, much worse shape. Quote Larry McKinney, former Director of the Coastal Fisheries Division, he said, "If you have to suffer a natural event that's going to produce a fish kill, the best way to enter it is with a larger population as you can possibly have." It just makes a lot of sense and I'm very pleased at the direction Coastal Fisheries have been -- have been managing that fishery.

And I want to also tell you that the -- being able to have that enacted prior to the beginning of the spawning season -- in my opinion -- is very, very important. Two spawning seasons should provide a great boost to the fishery and I'm also very pleased to see that you have added a date at which this special regulation will expire and we will return to the former regulation and the former law. And so often in my line of business -- editor/publisher of "Texas Saltwater Fishing" Magazine -- people say often TPW only takes away, they never give back. And I can understand their reason for that comment and that's why I'm very encouraged that you put August 31, 2023, as the date when the emergency or conservation, greater conservation proposed in this measure would expire.

So thank you, and I'm very hopeful to see the new regulation hit the water.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Everett.

MR. EVERETT JOHNSON: Thanks for your time.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Good to see you. Thank you.

Okay. Next, Shane. Shane Bonnot, Coastal Conservation. Following Shane will be John Gully.

Good morning, Shane.

MR. SHANE BONNOT: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Vice-Chairman, and fellow Commissioners. My name's Shane Bonnot. I'm here to speak for the Coastal Conservation Association, CCA Texas. We just want to be here to express our support for the proposal to go temporarily to go to 17 to 23-inches and a three-fish bag limit to help the trout species recover from the freeze.

Also just want to take a brief moment to -- like Mr. Johnson did -- thank Coastal Fisheries staff for all of their work following the freeze and specifically the hatchery staff for the work that they've done to put trout back into the bays of Texas, ramping up production this past year and preparing for the next production seasons coming. We really support them and appreciate the efforts that they do to put fingerlings back in the water. So thank you very much for this opportunity, and I'll take any questions if you have them.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Shane.

MR. SHANE BONNOT: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: John Gully. Good morning, John.

MR. JOHN GULLY: Good morning. I thank you for this opportunity to speak. I am a individual fisherman. A very passionate, avid fisherman. I've been fishing the East Matagorda Bay primarily since late 90s, early 2000s, and I'm also a degreed meteorologist. So every year I'm watching the weather and concerned, you know, that there's a major freeze that's going to happen and so we're always on pins and needles, you know, because, you know, we're concerned about the fishing industry.

And, you know, when the freeze happened, I saw pictures, I saw videos, and I went out myself about four or five days later and I noticed, you know, some dead fish on the water and I was out there with my son and he held up a few fish. He's -- he's 15 years old, and fishing should be about the kids. It should be getting the kids out there and enjoying the industry and so I really appreciate the Fisheries Division for putting together this reduction and to help the fishery get back to what it was.

And it's a shame it takes a disaster to get fishermen to realize that we need to get back to conservation. It's always about filling the cooler, taking the pictures, having the fishing deck full of fish, having the cleaning tables full of fish. We have too many people out there that are taking several trips a day and I know they provide a service to elder people, people that don't have a boat; but they're taking two or three trips a day. I've seen it firsthand, they go out and it shouldn't be about the money. It should be about taking people fishing, show them conservation.

So I really support this and -- but down the road, I want to see, you know, more things happen. We need to help our oyster industry. It needs to get back to what it was. I have noticed over the years where the water would clear up after two or three hours after a windy day. Now it takes a day or two days for the water to clear up and you know the oysters, that filters that water. So we need to help that in that way and that will help the fish, the barnacles, you know, it's just a circle of life.

But also want to, you know, just say thank you and let's keep it going for the kids, get out there and have fun. You know, I look forward to going fishing. It's amazing to take my son out there and take other -- his friends out there that don't get to go fishing and see the smiles on their face and catch fish; but when I see cleaning tables full of fish, it's just so disheartening. It almost sometimes doesn't want to -- I lose the enthusiasm to go fishing because their -- for them, it's about the dollar, the money. For me, it's about having fun, seeing the sunsets seeing smiles the on the kids faces, and the memories of my dad taking me fishing. It's all about the memories. And I thank you very much for your time.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, John.

Steven Bradley. Dan Appling after Steven.

Good morning, Steven.

MR. STEVEN BRADLEY: Good morning, sir. Thank you for the opportunity and thank you for your presentation. One thing that Shane mentioned that I want to bring up is the hatchery spawn there being added back into the fishery. It's my understanding there's been millions of those hatchery fish, you know, spawnings that have been deposited and has that been taken into consideration in this issue, in this move?

I'm neutral on the regulations, but I just want to make sure that, your know, with these millions of new spawns added, does that change the science on this situation? That's my comment and my question.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, sir. Thank you for coming down.

Dan Appling, good morning.

MR. DAN APPLING: Good morning. Thanks for letting me speak. My family's been fishing on the Texas coast for 90 years and my kids are third generation and we've seen the ups and downs of the coast and the most important thing is to -- is to make it sustainable down there and I think this regulation after the freeze is very important and a really good step and from what I've heard, y'all researched it very well and the science is behind it and the biologists are behind it and I look forward to the results of this reduction and hopefully it will work well and we can go back to a larger -- back to the five-fish if it warrants.

But thanks so much for the work this group does in protecting and making this wonderful resource that we have available amongst all the pressure that we have of population growth and more boats and more people. It's just never been more important for y'all to work to sustain that population of all the different animals and fish and birds down there. So thanks so much for what y'all do.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Dan.

That's all I have registered to speak. Is there anyone else in the audience that -- seeing none, Commissioners, thoughts, comments, questions?

Been a lot of input on this subject. The freeze was devastating and so we're pleased and proud to be able to work together and then for the fishing industry and the community to work with us for this -- for this resource. It was mentioned that this is -- does have a sunset on it. That's intentional so it goes back to the regulations that were prior to this and this is just for -- you know, it's intentional. I think it's well thought through and I think it's a good way to bring back our fishery that really got hit hard last February in the freeze.

So thank you for everybody that's participated in this. Thank you for all the comments.

If there's no other comments from any Commissioners, I'll need a motion for approval and a second.




CHAIRMAN APLIN: Patton second. All those in favor signify by saying aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Anybody opposed? Hearing none, Action Item 4, motion carries.

Thank you.

Action Item No. 5, Exchange of Land, Parker County, Approximately 12 Acres Mineral Wells State Park and Trailway, Trey Vick. Good morning, Trey.

MR. VICK: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name's Trey Vick. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. Today I'm going to present to you an exchange of land in Parker County.

It's at Lake Mineral Wells State Park and Trailway. Lake Mineral Wells State Park is located just outside of Mineral Wells, Texas. The park and trailway consists of about 3,300 acres located on Rock Creek. In 1922, the City of Mineral Wells built Lake Mineral Wells to increase the growing city's water supply. In 1975 after the closing of Fort Wolters, the City and the Fort Wolters donated the lake and the surrounding acreage to TPWD. The City retained responsibility for the dam and the spillway.

Recently there was a survey completed by the City and we discovered that several state park structures were locate -- actually located on City property. The City approached us and has proposed an exchange of land to cure those encroachments.

In exchange for the land to cure the encroachments, the City's asking for some acreage below the dam and spillway to increase their access for maintenance and just so in case they need to get down there. The final acreage configuration is still in negotiation; but it will be, at a minimum, an equal swap. It's looking like Texas Parks and Wildlife is going to come out a little bit ahead.

This is a map of the proposed exchange where we're at now. You can see that the Texas Parks and Wildlife land is in green and the City -- what the City's asking for is in yellow.

We received two comments in support of this item and if there's no questions, I ask that the Commission adopt the following motion: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the resolution attached as Exhibit A.

And I'll be happy to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Trey.

Any questions from Commissioners?

No one's signed up to speak, so if there's no questions from Commissioners, I'll entertain a motion and a second.

COMMISSIONER BELL: Commissioner Bell so moves.



CHAIRMAN APLIN: Foster. All those in favor signify by saying aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Anybody opposed? Hearing none, motion carries.

Thank you, Trey.

MR. VICK: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Action Item No. 6, Exchange of Land, Somervell County, Approximately .2 Acres at Dinosaur Valley State Park. Mr. Trey Vick, good morning.

MR. VICK: Again, thank you for letting me present. For the record, my name is Trey Vick. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This is a second reading of an exchange of land in Somervell County of approximately two-tenths of an acre at Dinosaur Valley State Park.

Dinosaur Valley State Park is located in Somervell County, just outside a little town of Glen Rose. Dinosaur Valley State Park opened in 1972. It's about 1,600 acres in Somervell County, just southwest of the Metroplex. The park is one of my favorites. It sits along the Paluxy River and is well-known for the dinosaur tracks that a preserved in the riverbed. It's been designated as a natural -- National Natural Landmark by the National Park Service.

We have been asked to acquire a two-tenths of an acre buffer from an adjacent private landowner to meet new requirements set forth by TCEQ for a wastewater treatment facility we own at the park. The staff has begun the negotiations with the landowner and in exchange for the buffer, the gentleman is asking for an equal amount of state land to improve access to his property. This exchange of land is located well away from any of the park improvements or access to the public and will have no impact on park operations.

Here's a general map of the boundary of Dinosaur Valley State Park. The star indicates the location of the wastewater plant and the proposal -- proposed exchange. Here's a close-up for you. The property in green is what we need for our buffer for the wastewater plant outlined in white and the property in yellow is what we're proposing to exchange the landowner.

We've had two comments. One in support, one in opposition. And if there's no questions, I ask that the Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following the motion: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the resolution attached as Exhibit A.

I'll be happy to answer any questions if you have any.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Commissioners, any questions for Trey?

COMMISSIONER FOSTER: Just one quick question. This is Foster. The comment in opposition, did they give a reason?

MR. VICK: No, sir.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Anybody else?

Hearing none, if I could get a motion and a second from Commissioners?

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Patton moves to approve.



CHAIRMAN APLIN: Rowling second. All those in favor signify by saying aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Anybody opposed? Hearing none, motion carries.

Thank you, Trey.

MR. VICK: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Action Item No. 7, Request for a Drainage Easement, Orange County, Approximately 20 Acres at the Lower Neches Wildlife Management Area, Mr. Ted Hollingsworth. Good morning, Ted.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good morning. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This is the second reading -- reading of an item that's brought to you as a result of a request by the Orange County Drainage District for an easement, a drainage easement across the Lower Neches Wildlife Management Area.

That wildlife management area is in the extreme southeast corner of Texas in Orange County, near the confluence of the lower -- of the Neches River and Sabine Lake. It's a little over 8,000 acres, three different units. This easement request affects two of those units. Primarily submerged lands, emergent wetlands, marshes, coastal wetlands, there are some uplands with some forested -- some coastal forest areas, but mostly wetlands and mostly that's what the wildlife management area is there to protect. It is a very popular destination for waterfowl hunting and for fishing. As you can see, there's a boat launch and there are some facilities for folks to be able to bank fish.

The issue here is that the wildlife management area lies immediately south of the community of Bridge City and long before there was a Bridge City or wildlife management area, the surface drainage from storm water discharge was into that marsh that we now manage and as the City grew, as the City formed, that community formed, drainage ditches were cut to help -- to help get that water into that marsh.

We've reached a point now just from decades of steady development and from some subsidence that's occurred, that -- and we just seem to be having more tropical storms in Southeast Texas, that community is flooding with increasing frequency. And so the Drainage District has retained consultants who have come up with a design for improving those ditches and canals to get that water to the edge of the wildlife management area and the need for the easement is so those canals can be approved -- improved across the wildlife management area to help get that water out to open water in the lake and into those -- into those -- into those coves adjacent to -- I'm sorry, to the river and those coves adjacent to the -- to the river and the reason we want to do that is we don't want that increase in velocity and quantity of water to scour out that marsh that we've worked so hard to protect and it attracts, of course, the duck hunters and fishermen.

The Draining District is responsible for that. They've been working with us for about a year now to optimize both the drainage of the community and minimize that harm to the wildlife management area. Staff is certainly convinced that there's really no feasible and prudent alternative to their request to improve those -- to improve those ditches and canals and, again, to help get that water across the wildlife management area in order to minimize impacts to the natural resources of the wildlife management area.

In this map you can see the two units involved: The Old River Unit and the Nelda Stark Unit. You can see those blue lines that you can see where those existing drainage ditches and canals enter the wildlife management area -- excuse me -- and you can see the areas in blue that we've -- that we're suggesting that you authorize the easement to improve, either construct or improve existing canals to get that water from where it enters the wildlife management area out to open water more efficiently.

We've received four responses. Three in support, one in opposition. The one in opposition left a comment that simply said the Department should not grant easements. That was the sum of the comment. I'd also like to mention that Mr. Don Carona, the General Manager of the Water District -- of the Drainage District is in the audience today. He's come in case you have any questions for the District.

And staff is recommending that the Commission adopt the following motion: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts the resolution attached as Exhibit A.

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

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Commissioners, any questions for Ted?

Hearing none, we do have one speaker that has signed up, Mr. Don Carona, Orange, Texas.

Welcome, Don.

MR. DON CARONA: Mr. Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Commissioners, thank y'all for letting us be here today and also to -- and for your consideration of this request. With me this morning -- I'm Don Carona, for the record. I'm the General Manager of the Orange County Drainage District. With me this morning is our General Counsel Martin Dies and one of our elected Directors, James Scales.

Mr. Hollingsworth has alluded to the rainfall that we have had. Orange County has been absolutely decimated by not just Hurricane Harvey and Tropical Storm Imelda, two epic and historic rain events; but we do, for whatever reasons, have increased rainfall and consequently our citizens -- not just in the City of Bridge City, but also in the Orange-ville area and unincorporated areas of Orange County, there's sustaining, repetitive flooding and we really think that this -- these drainage easements and the projects that we propose are really going to help mitigate the flooding and damages.

I want to thank Mr. Hollingsworth and also all of the Parks and Wildlife staff that have been working with us for a very long time. They have been patient and have listened to us and to our consultants and we just appreciate the respectful hard work that the staff has provided.

With that, I'm here to answer any questions, if any; but again, thank y'all very much for your consideration of this request.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Don. Thank you for making trip. Appreciate it very much.

Any questions from Commissioners?

If not, hearing none, I'll need a motion and an approval from -- I mean a motion and second from Commissioners.

VICE-CHAIRMAN SCOTT: I'll make the motion.


COMMISSIONER BELL: Commissioner Bell second.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Bell second. All those in favor signify by saying aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries.

Thank you, Ted.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Briefing Item No. 8, Pronghorn Season Extension, Shawn Gray. Good morning, Shawn.

MR. GRAY: Hey, good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name's Shawn Gray and I'm the Mule Deer and Pronghorn Program Leader and as you remember during the November Work Session Meeting, Commissioner Patton requested staff to evaluate landowner opinions on the new Pronghorn season extension. So that's what I'd like to share with y'all this morning.

As a reminder, the Commission adopted new Pronghorn hunting regulations in March of 2021. One change was to extend the 9-day season to 16 days by adding one week to the end of the 9-day season. Since TPWD issues Pronghorn permits to set harvest quotas for each property, staff had no biological concerns extending the season from 9 days to 16 days. And hunter and landowner opinion surveys sent out by staff prior to proposing the season extension last year, indicated strong support.

To quarry landowners on their thoughts

regarding the new 16-day Pronghorn season, another opinion survey was sent out to all landowners who received Pronghorn permits during the 2021 hunting season. The survey was conducted online and was e-mailed to participants on multiple occasions this past November and December. Overall, 541 surveys were sent to landowners with a response rate of 41 percent.

Most landowners in both the panhandle and Trans-Pecos preferred the current 16-day season over the historic 9-day season. Landowners were also asked if their hunters used the added week in the panhandle. 66 percent of the respondents said that their hunters used the additional week. About half of the responding landowners in the Trans-Pecos said that their hunters used the extra week.

One requirement to receive Pronghorn permits is that landowners must report to the Department the number of permits used each year. When looking at these data, Pronghorn permit utilization in 2020, which was under the 9-day season and 2021, which was under the 16-day season, was similar in both the panhandle and Trans-Pecos, although permit use actually went down in the Trans-Pecos even with an additional week to hunt Pronghorn.

These data indicate that only 50 to 60 percent of the permits staff issue each year used and that by adding the extra week to the 9-day season did not increase harvest. In summary, the majority of landowners who responded to the opinion survey preferred the new 16-day season. Again, since TPWD issues Pronghorn permits to set harvest quotas for each property, staff have no biological concerns maintaining the 16-day season. Permit utilization data indicate that by adding an extra week to the 9-day season did not increase harvest.

And I'd be happy to take any questions that you might have at this time.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Commissioners, any questions for Shawn?

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Well, Patton. First off, thank you for doing that. I was, you know, primarily curious. I think you know I have some property out in the Trans-Pecos area and my -- my awareness and interest in Pronghorn has certainly increased over maybe the last five years by -- by -- by quite a bit.

And one thing -- I think know the answer -- but Pronghorn, you know, there's no CWD issues there. They don't have to -- particularly in like Hudspeth County, you don't have to turn in or have a check point or anything like that, right?

MR. GRAY: That's correct. For Pronghorn, that's correct.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: All right. And, you know, as an added comment, you know, if I were to not task you with something for the next meeting; but I -- one of the things I've become more and more aware of is, you know, call it the legacy fencing that exists out in the Trans-Pecos which is -- you know, I should have a picture of it -- but it's, you know, basically sheep or goat fencing, which call it halfway up, nothing's going to get through it and then, you know, you've got two/three strands of barbed wired above it. You know, if we ever wanted to have a policy or some type of campaign to, you know create, aware -- and I think, quite frankly, a lot of ranchers don't have sheep or goats anymore. I mean, you know, if they have it, that's one thing; but I think you've got a lot of that type of fencing that prevents Pronghorn from really just moving from one area to the other and you have these kind of isolated genetic herds that were certainly meant to roam over a much larger area.

And I don't know if we can -- whether it's a voluntary campaign or just get the message out, you know, let's open up a little bit of that fence, change it. And, obviously, it's a large financial effort; but with landowners, maybe if they're getting increased revenue from Pronghorn hunting, it's certainly to everyone's benefit to -- for them to be incented to do that and it would be a good example -- you know, I always like the phrase "Hunting is Conservation," so this would be perhaps a step in that direction, anyway.

MR. GRAY: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Thank you for bringing that information.

MR. GRAY: Hey, you're very welcome.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Bobby.

Any other Commissioners, comments? Questions?

MR. SMITH: Chairman, if we could, could Shawn elaborate? Because we've got a lot going on NRCS and Borderlands Research Institute --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Yes, absolutely.

MR. SMITH: -- on the fence work out that there.

Shawn, do you mind just touching that quickly?

MR. GRAY: Yes, I'd love to. Do I got like five minutes?


CHAIRMAN APLIN: One and a half. No, please.

MR. GRAY: No, really fencing is a huge issue for Pronghorn and over the last ten years, the Department, the landowners, Borderlands Research Institute, NRCS, I could go on and on and on, on the partners that we have created and have really focused on that fence issue.

We've -- we've replaced hundreds of miles of net wire fence. Net wire fence is an issue for Pronghorn. Every once in a while, they'll jump a fence; but they sure don't want to and they want to crawl underneath it. And in some of the Hudspeth County country, I know we've done a lot NRCS EQIP projects. We have just -- I'd say last year, we updated a really nice how-to -- how-to modify fence for Pronghorn, like a two-page publication that we have sent out to landowners and through e-blasts with our Pronghorn permits.

So that -- fencing is a huge issue for us and we do our very best to eliminate that issue for Pronghorn. But it is a work in progress because no exaggeration, there's thousands and thousands of miles of fencing in Pronghorn country. So that's an issue. Pronghorn do need to move. We're working on it. I really appreciate you bringing that up into this forum and hopefully maybe we can get more money for fence replacement.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Shawn, for working on that. And you're right. They don't like to jump, so it's an issue.

Bobby, thank you for bringing it up.

Anybody else?

Shawn, thank you.

Briefing --

MR. GRAY: Thank y'all.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Briefing Item No. 9, State Parks Centennial Update. Mr. Harkey, good morning.

MR. HARKEY: Good morning. Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission, thank you for having me. For the record, my name is Ky Harkey and I'm the Director of Interpretation for Texas State Parks and I'm here to share with you a little bit about our vision for 2023, the celebration of 100 years of Texas State Parks. I'd like to talk to you about what we're celebrating, what we picture for that year, and the work that's being done right now to get us ready for that.

So put yourself back a hundred years ago. We've got earliest conservation in the country. People like -- people like John Muir, the Buffalo Soldiers as the first park rangers in Yosemite National Park are pioneers for Conservation in the country at the turn of the century.

In Texas, we've got -- get my clicker figured out. Forgive me, Andra, help me where I'm pointing.

MS. CLARK: Back here by my commuter.

MR. HARKEY: Thank you.

In Texas, the Texas Revolution, the protection of -- of our Texas Revolution sites like the San Jacinto Monument, Washington-on-the-Brazos, the Alamo, helps to bring about the conservation ethic in Texas and we see Governor Pat Neff, Governor from 1921 to 1925, is really where we can trace a lot of the origins of Texas state parks back to. In a vision for Texas tourism and on May 7th, 1923, Legislations begins the Texas State Parks Board. So in 2023, 100 years from this, what we're -- what we're celebrating is really -- we're celebrating your predecessors. The beginning of the Texas State Parks Board, the first six advocates for Texas state parks.

And they did a good job. Mother Neff State Park, our very first state park, is a donation from Governor Pat Neff's mother family lands and ten years or so later, the Civilian Conservation Corps comes out to many of our parks beginning at sites like Indian Lodge, Lake Corpus Christi, Palo Dura Canyon, and Balmorhea. And 99 years later, they have succeeded with over 600,000 acres of public land in Texas State Parks, 89 sites that we're proudly managing and protecting today.

So that's what we're celebrating, that we're celebrating a hundred years since the beginning of Texas State Parks. During 2023, we've got big vision for how we're going to use the celebration to support Texas State Parks for the next hundred years and this is the team that is in place right now getting ready for that: The Texas State Parks Division; the Agency as a whole; our friends at the Parks and Wildlife Foundation; and the Butler Brothers, a branding a marketing group that we're partnering with here.

Commissioner Bell, we appreciate the support of the Urban Outreach Advisory Group in helping us plan for this and as we get closer, leveraging the partnerships that are represented there towards success.

The State Park Advisory Board is also -- sorry, the State Park -- yeah -- Advisory Committee is also in involved in these early planning stages the centennial and all of our work is carrying of out the state parks centennial plan, which I believe y'all are familiar with. So what we have in mind: Success. What does insane success look like during 2023? We are going to engage new and diverse audiences for the next hundred years of managing Texas State Parks.

We hope to build partnerships that will also help us welcome new and diverse audiences, as well as steward our parks. We'd like to increase donation revenue to pursue operational excellence in Texas State Parks and we just want to celebrate a hundred years of our predecessors and their work.

So to do that, the people involved, the Butler Brothers -- again, a branding and marketing firm we're partnering with -- is helping us with much of the strategic planning to get ready for that year. They've conducted focus groups to help us understand the marketing angles and language that's going to help us reach new audiences and they'll be involved in many of the paid media campaigns to help us have a large profile for the Texas state parks during 2023.

Michelle, your team is -- has stepped up to the challenge and is eager, I should say, chomping at the bit to help support and welcome new and diverse audiences for our centennial, with the TV show, the magazine group, social media teams, marketing, and the press office all already beginning conversations with what their work will look like during 2023.

Some examples of what this could look like, we could see the T -- the Parks and Wildlife PBS show have a big focus on Texas State Parks during 2023. We'll see a lot of focus on state parks in our Parks and Wildlife magazine and we'll see paid media -- or paid social media helping us reach audiences that likely have never heard of Texas State Parks in some cases.

So we also want to build partnerships for the next 100 years. Partnerships that help us increase awareness as we are welcoming the next generation of park stewards and park visitors and partnerships that are going to help us actually steward these lands for the next hundred years.

Our partners Anne Brown, Susan Houston, and the talented team at the Parks and Wildlife Foundation are also ready and willing to help us out. They've already launched their $25 million capital campaign, which we are very grateful for. If you're familiar with the "Gear Up for Game Wardens" website, a similar model will be taken to Texas State Parks, where donors can look at and identify the specific needs at their favorite Texas state park and make donations to directly contribute to their backyard park.

We're excited also with the help of the Foundation to open Palo Pinto Mountains during this centennial year. And all of this work that the Foundation, as our nonprofit partner, is going to help us pursue operational excellence for the next hundred years of Texas State Parks.

And then we want to just take plenty of time to just celebrate the work that's been done for the past hundred years. So you'll see a very high profile of Texas state parks for the calendar year 2023. Many, if not all of our Texas state parks, will host a celebration, a hundred-year celebration of their parks, welcoming new audiences through those events. Our good friend George Bristol has a "History of State Parks" book coming out. So we'll see the celebration of the Texas State Parks centennial through history websites and many books.

There's a very impressive collection of artists that have contributed their talents to depict Texas State Parks and that will go on in a gallery to begin at the Bob Bullock Museum and will make its way to the Witte Museum and the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences to celebrate a hundred years of Texas State Parks. So it's going to be a high profile -- the way I've been saying it is never will more people have talked about Texas State Parks than in 2023 and we'll see that high profile nature with hundred-year branded efforts on our website and different merchandising, including maybe some inner tubes.

We're excited. I'm excited. 2023 celebrates a hundred years of Texas State Parks. That's a big deal. And 2023 is going to be big. We hope to engage new audiences, increase donation revenue, build partnerships for the next hundred years, and celebrate that hundred-year history.

This is the team that is working right now -- I should say has been working for about a year and a half already and we're excited about it. And I'd be happy to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Ky, thank you. It's a great report.

Commissioners, questions? Comments?

COMMISSIONER BELL: Chairman. Commissioner Bell. One, I'd like to thank Ky in public for your attendance at our last Outreach Committee meeting and provide an opportunity for everyone there to have feedback and then, obviously, acting on their feedback.

And also just as a sidenote, you said something just now as we're talking a branding and maybe it goes to Butler Brothers; but this concept -- you used the term "you're backyard park." I don't know if that's a term we might be able to use around Texas for people when if we, you know, hit people up in these local areas and if we're talking about, you know -- I mean, I'm not too far from Huntsville State Park. Maybe that's my backyard park. But maybe we can target some advertising, just remind everybody where their backyard park is to get them out more. So just a thought.


COMMISSIONER BELL: But thank you very much for the work you and the team have been doing.

And, Rodney, thank you too for all the work you've been doing and everyone that's involved in that.

Thank you, Chairman.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Oliver.

Anybody else?

A hundred years, a big deal. It's exciting.

MR. HARKEY: It is.


MR. HARKEY: Yep, appreciate it.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Carry on. I think it's exciting times.

All right. Mr. Smith, this Commission has completed its business. I declare us adjourned at 10:10 a.m.

MR. SMITH: I think that's a record, Mr. Chairman. Thank you.

(Commission Meeting Adjourns)

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


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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