TPW Commission

Commission Meeting, March 24, 2022


TPW Commission Meetings


March 24, 2022






CHAIRMAN APLIN: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the Thursday Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Meeting, March 24th, 2022.

Before we get started, I'm going to just take a quick roll call. Aplin present.






COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Patton -- Patton present.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay. We have a pretty much full slate of Commissioners.

This meeting is called to order on March 24, 2022, at 9:07 a.m. Before proceeding with any business, I believe Mr. Smith has a statement to make.

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

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.

Mr. Chairman, also just want to join you and the Commission in welcoming everybody. It looks like we've got a full house and I know we've got a lot of people that have traveled from near and far to speak to a variety of issues and topics that are important to them. Just want to remind everybody that anybody who wants to address the Commission on any of the action items that are being contemplated today, a respectful reminder that you need to sign up outside to speak. At the appropriate time, the Chairman will call you forward by name.

We're giving everybody three minutes apiece to address the Commission on that specific item. I would ask that you share with the Commission your name, where you're from, and address the item that you came to speak to. We use a green light/red light system. So green means go, and red respectfully means if you'll wrap up your comments.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Carter.

As a reminder, Commissioners, if you'll announce your name before you speak and speak slowly for the court reporter.

We do have an overflow house today. We're full here, and we're full in the other room. So we have a lot to go over and we have quite a few people that want to speak. So given any opportunity, I'll move through this as quick as I can; but we're also going to allow everybody to be heard and discuss all of the issues.

First, I need approval for the minutes of the Commission Meeting held January 27th, which have been distributed. I need a motion and a second from a Commissioner.




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

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Opposed? Hearing none.

Next, acknowledgment of the list of donations, which has been distributed. I'll need a motion and a second.



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

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Anybody opposed? Hearing none.

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

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Patton move to approve.



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

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Opposed? Hearing none.

Action Item No. 1, Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan Stakeholder Committee Appointment, Delegation of Authority to the Executive Director. Mr. James Murphy, good morning.

MR. MURPHY: Good morning, Chairman, Commissioners. I'm James Murphy, General Counsel to the Department. I'm filling in today for Colette Barron Bradsby who presented on this item yesterday. She is at the very stakeholder meeting today that we are discussing delegation of authority to the Executive Director.

Because you had a thorough Work Session item yesterday, we have a full slate, I'm not going to cover these intro slides too much and just get to the point here, if you will. We're dealing with the Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Program. This is a program -- and you see some items of success in the past. This is a program that ultimately resulted in 39 diverse stakeholder entities that participated in five years of consensus-based negotiations to develop a working plan to balance water development along with species protection. The RIP, as we call it, achieved success in the form of a habitat conservation plan -- what we call an HCP -- that was approved by the Fish and Wildlife Service.

So that HCP requires governments by a combination of the named incidental take permit holders, which are a number of cities in the area, as well as the San Antonio Water System, and it also includes a stakeholder committee whose membership is appointed by the same process that was found in Senate Bill 3 at the origin of this. That means that the Parks and Wildlife Commission has the authority and obligation to appoint the recreational interest member to the EA HCP stakeholder committee.

So the recreational interest slot was recently vacated. A new appointment is necessary. What we bring to you today is a simplification of the appointment process and to support moving quickly on vacancies. Staff recommends that we delegate the appointment authority to the Executive Director. Point out this recommendation is also supported by the EA HCP program manager.

And so with this, staff recommends that the Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts the resolution attached as Exhibit A. And I'm available for any questions. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, James.

Anyone have any questions about this topic? Comments any Commissioners?

I don't believe that we have anyone signed up to speak on this. Assuming there's no one in the audience that would like to speak on this, we have no one on teleconference either. So I'll need motion by the -- by a Commissioner and a second for Action Item No. 1.




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

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Opposed? Hearing none, motion passed.

Action Item No. 2, Aquatic Vegetation Management Rules, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. Ms. McGarrity, good morning.

MS. MCGARRITY: Good morning, Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name's Monica McGarrity and I'm the Senior Scientist for Aquatic Invasive Species Management. Today I'll be presenting on proposed changes to the rules pertaining to nuisance aquatic vegetation management.

As described yesterday, Parks and Wildlife Code Chapter 11 directs TPWD to adopt by rule a state aquatic vegetation management plan for public bodies of surface water and all individuals managing aquatic vegetation must adhere to this plan and submit treatment proposals prior to undertaking nuisance aquatic vegetation management. For the purposes of these proposed rule changes, we're focusing on floating aquatic vegetation which poses a nuisance for waterfront landowners when it accumulates around docks and shorelines, impeding access. The Department has determined that small-scale management of floating aquatic vegetation has minimal impacts on aquatic habitat and can even be beneficial when nonnative aquatic invasive species are removed.

The proposed rule changes would create a definition for floating aquatic vegetation that encompasses both floating species of plants not rooted in the substrate and floating mats of fragments of vegetation dislodged through natural processes such as flooding. The proposed rule changes would also create an exception from the treatment proposal requirement based on this definition to allow waterfront landowners to rake up small quantities of these species onto to the shoreline for drying, composting, or disposing to alleviate access issues without having to submit a treatment proposal, provided compliance with transport and disposal requirements for exotic invasive species.

The exception would not extend to individuals removing vegetation for hire or using mechanical harvesters, as these activities have potential to be large scale, have more significant impacts on habitat, and potentially spread exotic invasive species.

A total of five public comments were received, with all agreeing with the proposed changes. With that, the staff recommends that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts amendments to 31 Texas Administrative Code Section 57.930 concerning definitions and Section 57.932 concerning state aquatic vegetation plan, with changes as necessary to the proposed text as published in the February 18th, 2022, issue of the Texas Register. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Monica.

Commissioners, any questions for Monica about the vegetation?

Hearing none, I also have no one scheduled to -- signed up to speak. So no one else to speak, no questions, I'll need a motion and a second from a Commissioner for Action Item No. 2.


COMMISSIONER BELL: Commissioner Bell seconds.

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

(Chorus of ayes)

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

Action Item No. 3, Statewide Recreational and Commercial Fishing Proclamation, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. Good morning, Mike.

MR. TENNANT: Good morning, Mr. 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 proposed freshwater fishing regulation changes for 2022-2023, along with a summary of public comments.

Under current regulations, there is no delineated upstream boundary for Sam Rayburn Reservoir. The proposed rule change would delineate the upstream boundary as the Union Pacific Railroad Bridge to differentiate between the reservoir where special exceptions apply and the inflowing river. A total of 13 public comments were received, with eleven agreeing and two disagreeing on the proposed rules.

Current county location for Sam Rayburn Reservoir is Jasper County, whereas the reservoir is actually located in five counties. The proposed rule change would clarify the county location for Sam Rayburn Reservoir to include Angelina, Jasper, Nacogdoches, Sabine, and San Augustine Counties. A total of ten public comments were received, with nine agreeing and one disagreeing on the proposed rules.

Under current regulations, there is no delineated upstream boundary for Lake Texoma. The proposed rule change would delineate the upstream boundary as Sycamore Creek to differentiate between the reservoir where special exceptions apply and the inflowing river. A total of eleven public comments were received, with ten agreeing and one disagreeing on the proposed rules.

The proposed rules would change the current minimum length limit to the statewide standards for Walleye, as special exceptions are no longer needed for Lake Texoma. A total of eight public comments were received, with seven agreeing and one disagreeing.

Current harvest regulations prohibit May harvest of Alligator gar on portions of Lake Texoma. The proposed rule change would expand the no-harvest area for May to include Lake Texoma and all tributaries of the Red River on the Texas-Oklahoma border in Cooke, Grayson, Fannin, Lamar, Red River, and Bowie Counties.

There are currently regulations in place for some North and East Texas waters to prevent the transfer of invasive Bigheaded carps via bait bucket transfers. The proposed rule change would add tributaries of the Red River in those counties along the Oklahoma border to the list of designated waters from which live nongame fish may not be taken. For the Lake Texoma/Red River Alligator gar proposed rules, a total of 13 public comments were received, with ten agreeing and three disagreeing on the proposed rules. A respondent disagreeing with the proposed rules indicated there has never been a shortage of Alligator gar. For the invasive carp prevention proposed rules, a total of 13 public comments were received, with 11 agreeing and two disagreeing on the proposed rules. A respondent disagreeing with the proposed rules stated that TPWD should make it illegal to return any carp alive to any state waters.

For soon-to-be-open Bois d'Arc Lake, the proposed regulation would establish a 16-inch maximum length limit, five-fish daily bag, and allowance for temporary possession of Largemouth bass 24 inches or greater for weighing. A total of 12 public comments were received, with all agreeing on the proposed rules.

The proposed rules would change the current minimum length limit to the statewide standard slot length limit for Red drum, as special exceptions are no longer needed for Coleto Creek and Fairfield Reservoirs. A total of 12 public comments were received, with 11 agreeing and one disagreeing on the proposed rules.

The proposed change would restore the intended regulations for Largemouth bass on nine waterbodies previously adopted by the Commission. A total of 11 public comments were received, with ten agreeing and one disagreeing on the proposed rules. A single respondent disagreeing with the proposed rules stated that TPWD should make the maximum keeper size at least 18 inches.

Current Striped bass species description contains references to White bass and subspecies. The proposed rule change would remove references to White bass and/or subspecies to more accurately represent the intent of the rules and to apply to only Striped bass and their hybrids. A total of 13 public comments were received, with all agreeing on the proposed rules.

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

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Mike, thank you.

On this part of the statewide recreational/commercial fishing proclamation, any Commissioners have any questions, comments?

I have -- no one has signed up. Is -- Les is after you?

MR. TENNANT: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay. Thank you, Mike.

MR. TENNANT: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Good morning, Les.

MR. CASTERLINE: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, good morning. For the record, my name is Les Casterline. I'm the Assistant Commander of Fisheries Enforcement here at Texas Parks and Wildlife. Today I am also here to recap the proposed rule changes to the 2022-2023 statewide recreational hunting and fishing proclamation pertaining to our devices, means, and methods, specifically relating to sail lines.

The current rule states that a sail line may not be used by the holder of a commercial fishing license. Earlier this year, staff was approached with a question on this current rule as to why the commercial fishing license holder would be restricted from utilizing a sail line for recreational purposes. After research and discussion, staff has identified that the current language was poorly written and that the original rule did not intend to prevent a commercial fishing license holder from utilizing a sail line for recreational proposes. The proposed -- the proposed change would alter this section to read: No person may use a sail line for commercial purposes.

To this point, we've received no public comment on this item and, you know, this actually concludes my portion of the presentation for the statewide 2022-2023 recreational hunting and fishing proclamations. The staff recommends that Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts the amendments to 57.973, 57.974, 57.981, 57.992, and 57.1000 concerning the statewide recreational and commercial fishing proclamation, with changes as needed to the proposed text as published in the February 18th, 2022, issue of the Texas Register, 47 Tex Regs 730 for the description. If anyone would have any questions for myself, I'm more than happy to answer any of them.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Les.


No questions. No one has signed up. I'll take a -- accept a motion and a second from a Commissioner.

COMMISSIONER BELL: Commissioner Bell moves to -- moves to make a motion as presented.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Abell second. Al those in favor signify by saying aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Opposed? Hearing none, motion carries.

Thank you, Les.

MR. CASTERLINE: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Action Item No. 4, Statewide Oyster Fishery Proclamation, Closure of Oyster Reef Areas, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. Good morning, Robin.

MR. RIECHERS: Good morning, Chairman and Commissioners. My name is Robin Riechers, for the -- for the record. Excuse me. So I want to start out by saying at least to some degree, there is obviously some confusion about this proposal and there's some confusion over the in-season closures that we do, our management closures; but what's before you as an adoption item is just the closure of those three bay systems: Carlos, Mesquite, and Ayres Bay.

So again, yesterday we went over the reasons for those closures and I'm going to move through these a little more quickly today; but obviously that area contains ecologically and important sensitive reef habitat. It's a nursery area for fish and invertebrates. It's near the Cedar Bayou Fish Pass, which is an important ingress and egress for organisms. Obviously, those oyster beds also provide shoreline protection and other ecosystem benefits, including water filtration and we've talked about those in the past, wave attenuation and all the things that those oyster reefs present in that ecosystem. And then lastly, we also have noted that we've had that increased harvest pressure as seen in that area.

So again, as I showed you yesterday just showing how that habitat -- that oyster habitat -- is near those other sensitive habitats of seagrass and salt grass there, you can see the red line is the area. The light kind of almost yellow colors there are our seagrass beds and then our salt marsh is in the darker green and you can see it's edged there together and we talked about how there's more organisms when you have those fringe habitats listed together there.

So yesterday -- and we're not going to go over all the data that we went over yesterday, but I wanted to go back to the sacks that I talked about, which I didn't have in a graph for you yesterday. But in doing so, I wanted also to take these number of vessels and we actually extended the year timeframe here to 2008 so that you can see that increasing harvest pressure or harvest number of vessels in that Mesquite Bay area in these later time periods and as I mentioned yesterday the highest on record in 2022. The part that I didn't -- I shared with you by voice yesterday, but did not in a graph and I mentioned to you that the 2022 sacks were the second highest on record. And so I'm showing that to you here and I mentioned that they were near 30,000 sacks.

Again, the closure that we're talking about here is in Ayres, Mesquite, and Carlos Bays. The total acreage is around a little over 2,000 acres, 2.8 percent of the overall coast-wide oyster habitat and as I mentioned, it accounts for almost 10 percent of the coast-wide landings using the three-year average of 2019, 2020, and '21 and we discussed that as well yesterday.

Okay. So we did -- held public meetings. We held public meetings in Galveston, Rockport, and Port Lavaca. A little -- almost 350 people in attendance at those three meetings. 245 in Rockport alone. We held our virtual informational meeting with our oyster working group on March 1st. Yesterday, as I mentioned, Representative Middleton addressed that group as we started that meeting.

And so next we'll turn to our overall oyster summary. You can see here since 5:00 o'clock on Tuesday afternoon, through 5:00 o'clock yesterday afternoon, we added a couple more hundred overall comments, bringing the total number of comments to a little over 2,600 or right at 26, 2,700. 79 percent are in support. 20 percent are opposed to the proposal. As you note, it was 80 percent in support yesterday. Bumped down to 79 percent. And the opposition reason stayed the same throughout the evening. The only one that did occur and kind of moved up into that higher category is should consult with the industry as well. And I just might add that those numbers used to create those opposition reasons are really quite low, because not many people go ahead and give us that flavor of their comment. But again, it did move up into the top six as far as opp -- should consult with the industry into those other reasons there.

Since yesterday, of course, I put on this graph the ones that I mentioned that we had not had on the graph yesterday that we had gotten in the night before. I've added those to this graph. But since that time period, we also got in and added here is the Galveston Bay Foundation weighed in in support of the project, as well as Audubon Texas and again as I mentioned yesterday, the Coastal Resources Advisory Committee fully supported this proposal at their meeting on March 16th.

In opposition to the proposal, again I added the West Side Calhoun County District and the Galveston Regional Chamber of Commerce to the list, which I just verbally talked about yesterday and overnight we also received the note from the Galveston County Judge -- I'm sorry, the Galveston County Judge and the Commissioner Court I mentioned yesterday. But we also received a letter from three different Senators and six Representatives that I know you-all have received a copy of and as I understand it, Representative Middleton and Representative Cain are going to speak to you more about their concerns in public testimony.

With that, certainly I'll be happy to answer any questions and there's the staff recommendation.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Robin.

I -- if the -- any Commissioner has any questions, now would be fine.

Robin, also please don't go far.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: I suspect there may be more questions as we go through this process.

But at the time being, any Commissioners have any questions for Robin?

Thank you, Robin.

We're going to start with the teleconference first. Is that all teed up?


CHAIRMAN APLIN: After the teleconference, then we're going to roll right into the people that have actually come in person to talk. So we have a -- I don't know how many, but it's a bunch. And so we'll go through each and every one.

Dee, you know where we are? They -- it's going to be State Representative Briscoe Cain first, I believe. Can you hear us, Briscoe?

MR. MONTEMAYOR: He's not connected yet, sir. So we're moving on to Katherine Jurisich.



CHAIRMAN APLIN: Hi. Good morning.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: We're -- you're -- we're able to hear you. We have the full Commission here. We'd like to hear your comments on the proposal and I would ask that you try to keep them to three minutes, please.

MS. KATHERINE JURISICH: Perfect. Good morning, Commissioners. My name is Katherine Jurisich and I'm with USC Products. My great-grandfather began in the industry in the 1800s. My father Evo carried his legacy, alongside my brothers Tommy and John. My father has been in the oyster business since '68.

I'm against the closure of the three proposed bays. I believe that the traffic light system in place has crippled the oyster industry. Many conversations have been had in my household in regards to how dredging successfully spreads and grows reefs. My dad has successfully created 140 acres of reef in Galveston Bay. The closures like the one in development prevent the positive growth of reefs from happening.

Whenever a reef has not been worked, my family has gone in and dredged to help bring back the reef with success. Dredging is beneficial. In the past, my dad has been paid by the government to clean reefs. Some pressure on an area is good for it. If an area is not harvested, the oysters will eventually die out. There is a misconception that our dredges just hurt the environment, which is the furthest from the truth. If the reefs are not dredged, there will be less and less oysters on it.

Oyster shells need to be cleaned so that spat can spawn on them again. The industry is already struggling due to many different regulations in place. For years we have participated in the transplanting program where we moved hundreds of thousands of sacks. About ten years ago, it was taken away. We have been told that these areas where there used to be hundreds and thousands of sacks, don't have anything to transplant. Since they haven't been touched in ten years, there should be millions of spat waiting to be moved.

Well, our question is: Where are they? We have been told that closures should make oysters grow tremendously. But they have said that there are no oysters to grab. The logic does not make sense here. The same thing will happen to the three proposed bays if oyster fishermen are not listened to. The shells that have been put back in Area 6, also known as Dollar Reef, are put on the border between open and closed areas, with a large amount going back into closed waters. Why is this happening?

This also does not make sense to us. I feel as if the oyster industry -- excuse me. I feel that if things continue the way they are going, the oyster industry will completely die out. There are already so many regulations that are slowing squeezing oyster fishermen out of a living. Those of you who enjoy going to eat fresh Texas oysters, won't find them if we do not work together. We could not provide our treasured delicacy that we all love to American tables, restaurants, and the community. Please, please, we are asking, Commissioners, let us do our job. Work together with us to continue to provide what we all obviously love and cherish.

I hope you'll let us continue to do our hard work so we can provide food to our family, as well as to the Americans around the country, with keeping our treasured oysters and the sustainability of them in mind. I thank you all for your time and for listening.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Katherine.

Kind of --


CHAIRMAN APLIN: -- as a reminder because we have so many, we're going to just go through this. We're going to hear, take notes if you need to, and so all of the speakers should kind of be aware that we're not going to ask questions. We're going to try to listen and gather information and then we'll circle back for questions any Commissioners have.

I don't know if it's a Mr. or Mrs. Reyes next.

MR. MONTEMAYOR: I believe she's also not connected. So they're moving on to Lisa Halili is the next one.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Hello, Lisa. Can you hear us?


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Can you hear us, Lisa?

MS. LISA HALILI: Yes, sir. I can. I can hear --


MS. LISA HALILI: -- you very well.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you. You're live.

MS. LISA HALILI: I apologize for that.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Please try to keep it three minutes or less. Thank you.

MS. LISA HALILI: Yes, I can do that. I'm coming to you today, of course, letting you know who I am. I'm a commercial fisherman. I also throughout the years have built up a company Prestige Oysters. One of six in whole world that has been awarded for sustainability. What I'm asking before the Commission today, each and every one of you have been nominated by the Governor. Such an honor and thank you for taking out of your busy time to do this. But you are the buffer zone.

You've got coastal fishery and the NGOs on one side and the other side you have the commercial industry, your elected officials, and the people of this state. And the only thing that everybody is asking, just table this item and let's have a stakeholder's meeting. Nothing -- nobody's feet are on fire and it's not raining in the building. There's no reason to make this hasty, rush decision.

Under the traffic light tool, Parks and Wildlife can keep those three bays closed pretty much as long as they want to. That's already happening in Galveston Bay. TX4 has been closed for many, many years and when they go back and look at the data, oh, it doesn't meet the threshold. Well, it will never meet the threshold. What the industry's trying to say, first place, we have to stay a hundred feet from the shoreline. If there's a reef sticking up out of the water because it's a low tide day and we all know Texas gets northerns, by law we have to stay 100 feet away from what's out of the water.

So what we're trying to say is we can't harm these sensitive areas that you're relating to. Only thing we ask upon each and every one of you Commissioners, because you were chosen to be impartial and very unbiased, to table this issue. You see how sensitive this topic is and let's get -- you've got the Health Department that needs to be brought into this. You've got the General Land Office giving money to build reefs. You've got so many stakeholders, all your elected officials, Judge Henry, over 300,000 people. I mean, and town of Seadrift that literally has gone bankrupt. I mean, you're crippling an industry. And honestly, people from other parts of the United States, they keep telling me, "Lisa, what is wrong with Texas? Do they not realize that they're literally destroying an industry?"

And I said, "We're voicing our opinion," but unfortunately it feels like we're being silenced and there's no light at the end of the tunnel. Please, only thing we're asking, just table this issue, let's come back to the table, and let's have an-all-for-one discussion. Bring everybody together. Not just one-sided discussion. And I just think it's unfair if you -- each and every one of you vote to pass this, then we know there is no light at the end of the tunnel and our voice really doesn't matter. And pretty much that's all I have to say.

And you never -- oh, one thing. You never can harm a reef if you cultivate it. You harm the reef when you don't cultivate it, and we have proven that as farmers. We would not have been awarded six -- there's only six of these in the world and we are one of them for sustainability. And thank you for your time. God bless you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Lisa.

MS. LISA HALILI: Uh-huh. Thank you.


Are we going to Representative Middleton, or do we have someone prior?

Good morning, Representative Middleton. How are you?

REPRESENTATIVE MIDDLETON: How are y'all? Can y'all hear me?

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Yes, sir. We can. Thank you. With this is Beaver. I can hear you fine. You have the full Commission. We're listening.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Please give us your comments. Thank you.

REPRESENTATIVE MIDDLETON: I appreciate y'all having me on today and taking the time. I'm here to ask y'all to please delay this decision at least to the next meeting or after that. I'll start out with the ask and give you my reasons why.

So one of them, y'all are familiar with Senate Bill 932 that passed in 2011. And in that bill, it required Parks and Wildlife to consult members of the oyster industry and management of oyster beds in the state. And, you know, of course public comments taken in the previous slides here today that show that. But one of the problems is there's been inconsistent statements on the economic impacts that bay closures would have. For example, in the proclamation and proposal, preamble for the closure, it said that there will be adverse economic effects; but then later in that same proposal, it says that there will be no economic impact to rural communities.

The city of Seadrift has actually refuted that and said, yes, there is an economic impact to areas surrounding the city of Seadrift. So clearly we don't have a good handle on that and, you know, we know that economic impact cannot be the only decision point in whether or not to close reefs. It can't. But we need to know those numbers before we ever do close bay systems and reefs and we really don't have a good handle on that right now and I think that's a critical point of why that's been in Senate Bill 932 from 2011 and consulting with industry, is that's the best way to figure out the economic impact of reef closures. And we need to do that before making any closure decision.

Additionally, we know House Bill 51, which passed in 2017, targets the heart of this problem that we're talking about. I see some of the slides that are up showing undersized oysters. Well, that's why that was passed, to go after the harvesting of undersized oysters. So that's kind of a finer tool than the blunt force on/off traffic light system, which is just on/off switch. Right? I mean, that's really all it is. It's blunt force.

So we have this tool. I think we need more time to have it implemented, to talk about some of the proposed length of closure. It goes into the years and the reason why it goes into the years is because we know these are slow moving natural resources and while that bill only went into effect in 2017, so I think we need more time for that bill to fully be implemented to make sure, you know, that that's doing what it's supposed to do and we don't have to use the older tool, frankly, which is the blunt force on/off closure of the bay systems.

And some other things that I think we need to look at or it's been brought up a minute ago about the turning of the reefs, we need data on that. We don't have studies showing that, you know, the actual harvesting -- it's kind of like working the ground in the farming industry onshore. You know, we need to know is that improving the overall health and output of that -- of our oyster population. You know, is it preventing things like subsidence? It is preventing things like filtration, slime? And we need to do know that before we close reefs because that's a really important data point because the point of all this is the overall health of oystering in our state. Right? I mean, that's what we want. That's the point of it. And we if we don't know anything about the beneficial effect, at least in a -- with a concrete study of the oystering industry, how can we really make that decision in an intelligent way.

Other thing, you know, we need to have a concrete plan before any closures happen to measure and make sure that closures are proven to improve the oyster population of spat. I haven't seen that. You know, we need to make sure that that occurs prior to any closure. So that's just another data point is does it actually work the way we think it works when closures occur. That's really important to do.

So these are some of my concerns that I think need to be addressed before any further bay closures or oystering area closures occur. Of course, obviously my concerns apply for some of the previous closures as well; but, I mean, these are things that we need to look at and my might ask of y'all today and the Commission today is to delay this decision until we figure some of these things out and have this concrete data that I think we need before we consider this blunt force on/off closure. Thank y'all.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Mayes. Have a good day.

We'll have further deliberation as we continue to go through. Are we trying any other of the telecom people or that's it?

MR. MONTEMAYOR: They're going to let us know if those other two join up.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: So are we ready to go with live?


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay. I'll try to call out a person or two in advance so you can prepare and kind of get halfway up to the podium, if you will, so we can make this move really fast. I'm going to encourage anybody if you can keep this to three minutes or less because we have hours of testimony. So if you can keep it short, whether your pro or con, it would very much be appreciated.

Scott is first, Scott McLeod -- I can't tell -- then Grahame Jones, then David Yoskowitz. Scott.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Good morning.

MR. SCOTT MCLEOD: Good morning. Good morning to all of y'all. Thank you very much for having me. I come to you today to discuss my concerns with the proposed oyster sanctuary. My name is Scott McLeod, and I have been a resident of Aransas County since 1993.

I went to '93 -- or I went to Rockport in 1993 as a Texas game warden and I have been working in this industry on the oyster regulations since that time, which is about 28 years. I just retired this last April. In 1993, oyster reefs when I got there were very large in size, which equates to lots of oysters. And now, they have dwindled down in size. I attribute that dwindling in size personally to overharvesting of oysters. That's what I believe I've seen in the last 28 years within the industry.

At that time, the oysters were harvested kind of like gold. They were just mined, and it was a first come/first serve basis. They had laws they had to abide by, but it was go out there and get them. Not a red light/green light anything. World renowned experts have declared that 85 percent of our oysters -- reefs have declined throughout the world, much less Texas; but it is at about 85 percent in Texas. And we need to protect that resource, which is y'all's job.

I commend and support Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Coastal Fisheries Division to create this sanctuary, which compromises of less than 3 percent of the total oysters in the State of Texas of the acres of oysters. I am personally not against a sustainable oyster fishery; but it must be sustainable for all species, not just oysters.

The harvest of oysters is not a benefit to the habitat, nor a resource; but for one reason only and that's for the human desire of the almighty dollar. The commercial oyster industry would not even exist if not for the ability to make money. Therefore, we are losing our habitat, the State of Texas' habitat, for someone else to fatten their wallet. I believe that Texas Oyster Advisory Board should comprise of more than people within a commercial industry, such as outside experts and NGOs.

We are allowing the sale of our natural habitat and if not controlled adequately, it will be lost with great consequences. Every year the great majority of Texas bays are generally open to oyster harvest, and it is TPWD's mission to conserve and manage those resources. I hope everyone supports the small, but important, sanctuary for the sake of our large ecosystem called Texas. Thank you very much for your time.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Scott.

Hello, Grahame. Good to see you. David's up after Grahame, then Owen.

Is there a light system now where they can see?

So you can see your light system and monitor your time. Good to see you, Grahame.

MR. GRAHAME JONES: Yes, sir. Good to see you. Good afternoon, Chairman Aplin, Commissioners, Mr. Smith. I'm a fifth generation Texan, lifelong conservationist, retired Texas game warden with 27 years of service, prior Director of Texas Parks and Wildlife Law Enforcement, prior State CCA Board member, and current Texas Backcountry and Hunters State Chair.

I grew up fishing the reefs of Galveston Bay, Christmas Bay, and have a deep understanding of how healthy oyster reefs relate to good fishing and also economics, which I'll get to in a minute. As a Chief of Special Operations and later Director of Law Enforcement, I witness firsthand the blatant disregard by many commercial oyster boat crew members. The blatant disregard I am talking about was, in my opinion, the cost of doing business, both for them and for the companies that they worked for.

I literally lost track of the number of criminal cases filed by Texas game wardens: Undersized, over limit, closed area, night oystering, and there were many, many repeat offenders. TPWD responded with large-scale law enforcement operations aimed at oyster fishing enforcement and the State Legislature responded with criminal enhancements and increased penalties for breaking those laws. Sadly those responses were and are not enough.

The sheer number of in-state and out-of-state vessels have overwhelmed, overfished, and degraded many bay systems. Texas BHA is in full support of the Texas -- of the Department's recommendations regarding the proposed regulation to prohibit the harvest of oysters in Carlos Bay, Mesquite Bay, Ayres Bay within the Mesquite Bay complex. Closing these ecologically sensitive and unique areas for oystering will allow the reefs to be conserved for future generations to come and that's really the choice that we have today.

As you know, several of these reefs withing the complex have live oyster abundance that is below the 25th percentile the average oyster abundance for the entire bay system. Texas BHA would like to thank the thousands of TPWD employees past and present that have dedicated their lives to conservation, who literally work day and night to protect our incredibly valuable natural resources, including biologists and game wardens, all of you all the way up to Mr. Smith.

Thank you to our partners in conservation, including a FlatsWorthy and CCA, as well as Chuck Naiser and JT Van Zandt, who along with many others have led this charge and the potential for very meaningful change.

Briefly, let's talk a little bit about economics. As per the American Sport Fishing Association each year -- think about this -- more than 4 million Texas recreational anglers, 4 million contribute over $7 billion in economic output and support nearly 50,000 jobs. In closing, this grassroots effort is overwhelming in support of the closure. I would respectfully ask for you to consider voting today on this extremely important matter. Thank you very much for your service, your time, and for your consideration. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Grahame.

David, you're up. After David, Owen Gayler, then John Van Zandt.

MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman, if we could, after David, I think Representative Cain is on the phone and so if -- would it be okay if we --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Well, is he ready now?

MR. SMITH: Yeah, but maybe we've got David up. Could we do it after David? Is that -- would that work?

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay. Go ahead, David. You're up.

DR. DAVID YOSKOWITZ: Chairman, Commissioners, I'm Dr. David Yoskowitz, the Senior Executive Director of the Heart Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University Corpus Christi. As a member of the Texas A&M system, I cannot advocate for or against a particular policy action; however, it is my responsibility and that of the Institute to bring back -- bring forth the best available science to help inform the decision-making process. As an economist, I look at the intersection of what is happening in the natural environment and how that impacts human communities and economies.

There's three points I'd like to make today with regards to the proposed amendment. First, I agree with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's staff assessment that there will be an adverse impact, economic impact, to the oyster fishery, the oystermen and women that fish that system. This is particularly important for those oystermen and women that do this work with very thin or nonexistent margins and that should be taken into consideration. Second, in addition to the direct or traditional economic impact of jobs and income, there is also the nontraditional economic impact or oyster ecosystem services which also should be taken into consideration in your decision. These exist for such as oyster protection and storm protection, oyster reef water filtration, recreational opportunities, as well as nutrient removal and carbon sequestration. In many cases, these combined values of these ecosystem services outweigh those of the harvest value of food for the table. And the third point I would like to make is that the Texas oyster fishery is overcapitalized, leading to a fishing down of the resource to where consistent, legal size catch is not attainable and, therefore, the fishery is not sustainable. This adversely impacts those that work in the oyster fishery, as well as those that would benefit from an ecologically healthy system.

In conclusion, the proposed amendment to close Carlos, Mesquite, Ayres oyster reef complex to harvest as a result of the changing management of a fishery and habitat in times of increased scarcity and increased demand for the resource both as food and the additional ecosystem services that they provide. However, solutions can be developed that take into consideration both ecological and economic benefits and costs for a sustainable oyster fishery and an enhanced estuarine environment. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, sir. Have a good day, David.

I believe we have Representative Briscoe Cain on the phone. Briscoe, can you hear us?


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Hello. Good morning. We have the full Commission here. We can hear you loud and clear.

REPRESENTATIVE CAIN: Good morning, Commissioners. Thank you. So today I'm going to be asking this Commission to postpone taking any action to close oyster reefs at this time. The oyster shell recovery replacement program currently levies a fee from licensed commercial oyster fishermen for each box of oysters that they harvest. As you guys know, this was passed in law via Senate Bill 932 in 2011 and it dedicates such fees to recovery and enhancement of public oyster reefs.

You know, the law specifically requires that TPWD consult with members of the oyster industry in the management of the oyster beds in this state. Now, I've heard reports that these members of the oyster industry have not be consulted on the actions taken by the Department to close oyster reefs. Furthermore, I think TPWD may be spending the revenue collected from commercial oyster fishermen on public reefs that are closed and have remained closed for years with no prospect of reopening. That violates the spirit of that law in a way.

There's also since protection from House Bill 51, from 2017, in place to prohibit the harvesting of undersized oysters and damaging of reefs. I think we'd show that those things are -- it's been effective. Closing 21 of the 27 bays in Texas will put additional pressure on the few open bay systems and relying on the blunt force open or close traffic light system should be avoided until House Bill 51 has had more time to be fully implemented and enforced.

Now, I think it's clear that the closure of oyster reefs will have negative economic impacts on many communities and that TPWD has made conflicting statements on the economic impact or rather members of your staff. You know, I think the closure of these oyster reefs not only impact the health of reefs, but the closure will have, of course, a negative economic impact and the Commission should heavily way those -- that impact to the oyster reef or the closure before it make that decision.

And one more thing. I know time is short. On Tuesday of this week, my office sent a Legislative Public Information Act request to TPWD seeking certain information related to Item 4 and I -- obviously, I won't have the, you know, responses to that yet. Postponing this for, you know, any amount of time, certain amount of time to allow for my office and other members of the Legislature to review some of these findings so we can look into it further. I'm just concerned that some of this -- the law's not being followed and I'm a little worried as well that the power is given to the Department to regulate the harvesting and there are some pitfalls that when a regulation turns into a prohibition, it's no longer a regulation. And I'm just a little worried that we may be exceeding the scope our authority and so I do ask that the Commission postpone consideration of Item No. 4. That's all.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Representative Cain. Appreciate you calling in. We'll give it lots of deliberation today. Thank you very much.

Owen. After Owen, John and after John, Kenneth Donaghue. Good morning.

MR. OWEN GAYLER: Good morning. My name is Owen Gayler and fly fishing guide in the Port O'Connor area. I've -- my wife is a teacher there and we enjoy the community there and we are alongside many of the commercial fishermen along is us guides. I am for the closure of Carlos, Mesquite, and Ayres due to the pressure I've seen firsthand running my boat across the chain of islands right there and watching the destruction go on.

He pulled up a slide earlier that said 30,000 bags were harvested in the 2021-2022 season through this complex. What he failed to mention is they closed the season down four months early. So that's 30,000 sacks and there's still four months left to go on that season; but due to closure, they weren't able to get more. So that tells me there may be too many boats, too many oyster permits that are taking oysters and taking away from these reefs.

Also seen it crossing there where I fish, San Antonio Bay, across the first chain of islands. It's a chain of island that was put there and, God, if you look at it -- if you look at a map, these reefs were placed in a strategic place by God almighty to filter this water, how the water travels through our bay systems. And if we continue to knock these reefs down, there will eventually be no water filtration happening.

A healthy oyster grows upwards. The bigger -- the taller your reef is, the bigger your oyster is going to be. And the lower your reef is, the smaller your oyster is going to be. We're dredging and knocking these reefs down to nothing, and that's hurting us. That's hurting our environment. I think eventually you have to look at economical impact, but -- and environmental impact and I believe it is y'all's job as Commissioners on this wonderful board that y'all have put together through Texas Parks and Wildlife, your duty is to protect the environment and protect what was given to us and we've only got one of these.

Another thing I've seen is a lot of our shell gets taken away from each bay system. Oysters that may have been harvested in Mesquite and Ayres area, those -- that shelling -- that shell does not go back to the area it was taken from and with that, you're lowering the reefs. It's a common sense deal, but it's -- you can't take from one and take to another area. I hear all the talks of, well, we have a sustainable reef, this is our reef. Well, that's a leased land. They're cultivating that. They own that reef. They're taking -- and those same people that have reefs and private leases, also take from the public, take the oysters off that public reef, process it, then take that shelling back to their private. So that's why it's sustainable. If we treated our public reefs like we do our private reefs, they too will be sustainable. It's up to us to protect it. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Owen.

John, you're up. Then Kenneth, then Dean Appling.

MR. JOHN VAN ZANDT: Hello, Commission, Carter. Thank you very much for having me, for the opportunity to speak to you guys. I think this is really only made complicated by the lives that are affected, the loss of jobs by these hard working oystermen. It's not a racial issue. It's just there aren't enough oysters. It's a real simple supply and demand deal. All right?

I live and work in Rockport as a fishing guide down there. I think that Texas has a pretty archaic view of our coastline and what the possibilities are. For example, for myself, I'm booked several years out. I've been extremely fortunate. People pay a lot of money to come fish with me with zero expectation of keeping a single fish. Areas like Belize, like the Seychelles, like the Florida Keys, Bahamas, Mexico, third world countries get it right because tourism is all they have. They don't have oil. They don't have oysters. They have to protect their wild resources so people will come and use them.

Texas has one of the most amazing shallow water fisheries on the planet. The same people that go spend a thousand bucks to fish for a day in the Bahamas, come and fish with me for that same day. They eat in restaurants. They stay in hotels. They benefit our community. They come with money. They leave with nothing. All the fish that they keep stay in the water.

All right. The oysters. We all know how important they are. We've talked about the habitat, the structural component they add to the bay. They reduce erosion. They filter the water. They house all kind of little critters. We -- we're not saving anything here. These have all been scraped down into parking lots. All the oysters from Apalachicola all the way down to where we are in the middle Texas coast are gone. I wonder why.

Galveston's fishery did not collapse from overfishing. Oysters were doing fine for thousands and thousands of years, towering above the surface of our waters, playing out their role as a vital component to our ecosystem until we started scraping them down. Now it makes since if you bust up a big bolder into a bunch of gravel and spread it out on the dessert floor that wind's going to blow and cover it up. You might have to go reorganize stuff at that point. If you leave these reefs alone to recover, they will come back strong. They'll be fishable.

My dream of the coast is that every community has sustainable oystering practices and that local boats in those areas can bring oysters to market in their local areas. Sitting down in Rockport, I'd love to take each of you guys out to see these reefs. There's nothing left. We are not protecting anything. We're simply trying to salvage the last bit of life off these reefs before they're gone forever and the water color of Galveston Bay and how unattractive that is to the tour -- the fishing tourists. Those dirty waters are going to blanket all the way down to South Padre if we don't save the first, second, and third chain of islands. They're crucial to the overall health of our resource.

I don't know of any major oyster companies in the Rockport area -- until recently, there's been some purchasing in our community -- because the oysters are gone everywhere else. This is the last stronghold that they have is Aransas Bay. Guess what, guys? We simply do not have the oysters to spare. It's like setting up a sawmill in a lumber operation in a clear cut forest. There is nothing left to give.

Let's focus on making Texas one of the best and final destinations for sight casting, to a healthy fish and a healthy ecosystem. Let's give our children of this great state a clear body of water, which is the middle Texas coast that still has seagrass, still has shrimp and crabs. You can see off the edge of your boat, walking around in clear water on a healthy bottom. I cannot stress how important and how rare it is to have an ecosystem like we have on the middle Texas coast, watching our oysters get loaded into semis and going down the road for money. It's not going to happen anymore.

There's a following of people that have brought their concerns to Carter over this issue and we're not going to give up on it. I hate to think of a hard working man that makes his living on a boat not being able to do so, but the nature of oystering is very destructive. You have a metal cage, drops off the edge of the boat, and literally rakes the reef down until it's gone. There's -- I'm sorry. But that's just not a sustainable practice.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: John, could you wrap up, please?

MR. JOHN VAN ZANDT: Apalachicola tong fishing only is the only method they've ever used and they're shut down for five years because they've overfished using chopsticks. Don't push this down the road. I think it's despicable that these politicians are putting pressure on you guys not to make a decision. This is a difficult decision, but it's incumbent on you and your position to make this decision. 80 -- I've never seen a bill with this kind of support --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: John, I need you to --

MR. JOHN VAN ZANDT: -- from the entire fishing community --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: -- wrap up, please.

MR. JOHN VAN ZANDT: There's no question this has to pass today. Thank you.


Kenneth, you're up. Then Dean, then Mauricio.

MR. KENNETH DONAGHUE: Kenneth Donaghue, as well a fisherman in that area. I've lived in the Coastal Bend my entire life. I guess third generation. I'm here in support of the closure for the oyster harvest. I rely on that bay system. I've -- well, backtracking. I've enjoyed the coast my 44 years of life and it's a great place and I'm lucky enough to make a living the last 12 years getting to expose the beauty of that place and the oysters for what they do, it's allowed me to do just that. You know, it's a sensitive system.

There's a lot of factors, whether it be storms and freezes and there's all kinds of things that keep us in this industry concerned on will we have a job tomorrow or next week. But allowing something to go on that -- allowing that industry to basically work themselves out of a job and the impact on them working themselves out of a job because they've overharvested, are allowing it to be overharvested could potentially allow other commercial fishermen. It's definitely not going to be a positive impact on the fishery or the grasslands or any and all that the oysters, you know, we're dependent upon just for the filtration and the erosion control and such.

So, you know, I'm blessed. A good day on the water for me with what I do isn't having a cooler full of fish; but I've got friends where that's kind of their title is coming in with that cooler of fish. You know, I rely on clean water, calm winds, you know, blue skies. Doesn't always work in my favor. Every negative impact that comes in via overharvesting -- and the list goes on -- but anything along the lines of that makes my day more difficult. But then again, it's really not about me. It's about -- you know, I'm a father. I've got children. And I hope some day that they get to see the beauty that I've gotten to witness in my 44 years of life and so on.

And when you allow something that could potentially affect to where the children, grandchildren, and so on, it's just hearsay, I have a problem with that. And, hopefully, we can get this done and find a way where it can be done properly. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Kenneth, thank you for your time.

Dean's up. Then Mauricio, then Jessica Selvera. Hello, Dean.

MR. DEAN APPLING: Good morning. Thank you for the opportunity to provide input on this important issue. My name's Dean Appling. And just for clarification, that's A-p-p-l-i-n-g, Chairman Aplin.

I'm a scientist having spent the last 37 years teaching biochemistry and doing research at UT Austin. I strongly support the Coastal Fishery staff recommendations provided in this proclamation.

I am a biologist with a PhD in biochemistry, but I'm not an oyster expert. However, I've read much of the original literature, research literature that first described the many ecological benefits provided by oyster reefs. The science is very well-established and is quite clear. Besides their well-known role in providing clean water through their prodigious filtering ability, oyster reefs also play important structural roles and these include protecting shoreline and wetlands from erosion and providing critical nursery habitat for fish and shrimp and crabs.

The clean, clear water provided by healthy oyster reefs, in turn support healthy seagrass habitats required by many other fish and invertebrates. Oyster reefs are literally the foundation of the entire bay ecosystem and oyster reefs have done fine for millions of years before the oyster -- the commercial oyster industry was ever arisen. So, indeed, the long-term dollar value of the ecological and structural roles of oyster reefs far exceeds the short-term commercial harvest value.

There's no doubt that there are multiple contributing factors to the decline of these oyster reefs. These include natural factors such as hurricanes, declining freshwater inflows, drought, and flooding; but there are also human-made factors, commercial oyster overfishing, harvesting undersized oysters, and not returning shell to the bays. But the fact remains that our oyster reefs are in trouble.

I've wade fished these bays for many years, and I've witnessed the dramatic decline of these reefs with my own eyes. If commercial harvesting is allowed to continue at the current rate, these reefs will soon be gone completely. Immediate action must be taken to advert irreversible loss of this public natural resource. I urge the Commission to adopt the Coastal Fishery staff recommendations described in this proclamation. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Dean.

Mauricio, you're up. Jessica, then Jose. Good morning.

MR. MAURICIO BLANCO: Good morning, everyone. My name is Mauricio Blanco and I'm a full-time fisherman. For over 35 years I've been fishing on the waters of Texas. So I'm a father, I'm a husband, and I'm a guy that likes fish.

By closing these bays, it ain't the answer. We heard all morning and we're going to hear as this meeting goes on, that a lot of good things are going to be by closing this structure, these oyster reefs. What do they mean? They forgot to say that Harvey play a big role in the Rockport area and through the history, we have Mother Nature throw us a curve ball and it's not the answer just closing these areas.

For me being on the water, it's a way of being. I was guaranteed as the people of Texas, by the law of Texas to be able to hunt, fish, and harvest on the waters of Texas. Please, I'm against it for the closure. Not only that, I would like to make a few recommendations if you allow me.

My recommendations are at least take one year, make the studies so we can put together and we can make a better decision. Second, provide material in English and Spanish so everybody get the full scope this is what's happening. Right now, I had some people -- I was in a restaurant the other day and I tell people that -- I saw them eating seafood and I tell people, hey, may I ask you something? Do you love seafood? They say yes. Well, this is going on right now and I attended one of the meetings in Port Lavaca that Texas Parks and Wildlife host out there and I tell them, here, and they had some IQ code. They scan it. They weren't allowed to get into the page that Texas Parks and Wildlife, but they want -- they couldn't make a vote out there.

So please, I mean, I don't want to take your data. Sometimes it is fluff-less. Your own create it. People don't allow to be commented. So please take in consideration all these points. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, sir.

Jessica, Jose, then Terence.

MS. JESSICA SELVERA: Good morning, Commissioners. My name is Jessica Selvera. I'm 34 years old. Resident of Port Lavaca, Texas. I'm here today to speak on Item No. 4 against the proposal.

One of the main reasons our oyster bay reefs, which are San Carlos Bay, Mesquite Bay, Ayres Bay, have a strong and harmful impact when Hurricane Harvey hit Rockport in 2018, claiming a traumatic destruction in these three bays. Mother Nature comes in play as well on these three bays having too much rain or water from near our bays, as well as mercury and other chemical substances.

I would like for Texas Parks and Wildlife to take in consideration -- to provide all our commercial fishermen license holders accurate information when bays get inspected in Spanish language, due to our commercial fishermen license holders are more than 35 percent Hispanics and the proper professional terms, as well as the rules and regulations in Spanish language.

I would also suggest that Texas Parks and Wildlife take knowledge from our experienced commercial fishermen and a proper dredge to sample the bays, as well as a commercial fishing boat for -- to sample our bays in the near future. There may not have a dredge -- I guarantee you 100 percent -- they have -- may not have a degree, but I guarantee you these commercial fishermen have more knowledge. I'm tired and upset at Texas Parks and Wildlife threatening and seeing our commercial fishermen like criminals and the villains. We are not criminals.

These have been -- there has been already so many discrimination against our commercial fishermen. This is the very first time in over the years they have taken our commercial fishermen in consideration in these proposals. Texas Parks and Wildlife have put their regulations on behind closed doors by the time our fishermen are aware and have failed already by having a legal, professional Spanish speaker translating in their public Zoom meetings.

Sports fishermen have a lot to do in the dramatic reefs being damaged by traumatizing the seagrass with their boat propellers because they are fishing in the lower part of the waters. Commercial fishermen do this as a living, not as a sport. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to express my concern about the possible closure of Mesquite Bay, Ayres Bay, San Carlos Bay and representing my family, as well more than 2,000 families who depend on the industry. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Jessica.

Jose, you're up. Then Terence and Pablo Cervantes.


UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: We were -- we were told that we're supposed to have a translator here. Oh, you are?

MR. JOSE MARTINEZ: (Through interpreter) Good morning, I'm Jose Antonio Martinez and I'm a fisherman for 35 years. What I think is that you should leave those all three areas open to fishing because if you are not working them with time, they eventually are going to die. There's some areas -- some other areas that have been closed and it's been five years already and they haven't checked on them to see what have happened.

So they haven't checked all those three areas and they haven't checked on the oysters to see if they're reproducing. I think it's just like three. If you don't cut off the fruit, you won't allow the tree to reproduce itself. That's all I have to say. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Jose.

Terence, Pablo, Felipe.

MR. TERENCE COURTNEY: Good morning, everyone. And I want to first start off by giving thanks for the opportunity to speak to you and speak to the audience. My name is Terence Courtney. I'm the Director of Cooperative Development with an organization called the Federation of Southern Cooperatives Land Assistance Fund. We are a southern region-wide network of more than 70 cooperatives.

We started in 1967 in many respects dealing with some of the same issues we hear today. Back during that time, black and brown farmers came together because they realized that economic justice require that people come together and build their own cooperatively held businesses. And so we fast-forward 55 years to today and in many respects, that struggle is still being reflected and played out in what we see here today.

We came to this process because we are a project leader down in Calhoun County, working with fisherfolk interested in creating cooperatively owned seafood businesses; but there's a problem. The problem is that the bay closures stand to really upset and destroy the hopes of really working class, everyday impoverished fisherfolk down in Calhoun County and Matagorda Bay. They rely on these bays and fishing for their survival and I want to kind counter some of the premises that have been put forward today such as that these are a bunch of, I guess you could say, fat cats getting rich off the exploitation of oysters. That's not true.

These are regular, everyday working folks trying to make a living and that's why they're coming together today and that's why they're building cooperatives to help realize economic justices. But also some of the other premises that are false is the fact that no one's talking about how the overharvesting that is taking place is the result of the policies and the decisions made by this very body. I'm told by experts and the fishermen that over the years, more and more areas have been closed and so hundreds of fishermen are being relegated to very small areas. Well, when you create a scenario like that, overharvesting will happen.

Also we're saying that this is self-fulfilling prophecy. The more you do this, the more overharvesting is going to take place in smaller and smaller areas. So what's the solution? We believe the solution is to put a pause on this process, but also to work in concert with the fishermen. Sustainability and oystering can go together. Let's reject a false dichotomy that says one versus the other. So we want to propose a pause and to ask that we begin a process where fisherfolk can continue to live, but also in a sustainable way.

But finally I want to say that this process itself has, indeed, reeked of racism because we've had meetings where there was not translation and the words and the dignity of mostly Latino fishermen have not been respected. So the Federation is here in solidarity with fishermen in this area to fight for sustainability and their right to make a living as fisherfolk. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Terence.

Pablo, you're up.

As a reminder -- well, it's not a reminder. I didn't tell you earlier. After you speak, if you would please give up your seat to make room. We have lots of people that need to get in. And so just as a courtesy after you've had your opportunity to speak, if you would free the room. Thank you.

Pablo, you're up. Good morning. Buenos dias.

MR. PABLO CERVANTES: Buenos dias. How you doing today? I come to pay my respects. I don't speak enough English, but I'm going to try to -- no offense, nobody, right here and in my back.

I hear a lot of things and they want to close the areas and a lot of people worried about their reefs. I'm worried about the reefs too because I'm a fisherman. Can you look at my hands? I almost die in the water. So nobody is going to tell me how can -- (through interpreter) how to rehabilitate the reef.

Most of people, they talk and they worry, like I say, you know. And appreciate if you can give me a little time, that way I can explain to you and give you an idea what I wanted to tell you.

(Through interpreter) Have you ever been to fishing oyster boat? Any of you? Have you? Do you know how to rehabilitate the reef? Have you seen that?


MR. PABLO CERVANTES: No? Okay. (Through interpreter) The way you do this is by moving those shells so you can get rid of the mud and you can get rid of all other debris that is caused by the wind.

That's the only way the spat is going to come back to take the shells. Even if you throw a piece of wood or tire, you just throw in the water and the piece of wood is clean, the spat is going to get into it right away whenever the right time to grow. Okay. So it's the same thing in the shells. The same thing in the shells. If you don't move it, if you don't touch it, if nobody goes move it, if nobody goes work it, the oyster is not going to grow. Even a lot of people they're concerned that the reef get destroyed. I've been doing this for 30 years and I don't see no reef destroyed. I'm going to keep it simple.

(Through interpreter) Most of the fishermen, we already know what the oyster are. Many times for many different circumstances, the oysters end up dying. I get there in the morning, I start fishing, and I notice that they're not moving.

If I don't find nothing, I'm going to move it. But if they have 10 or 15 fishermen, they're going to do the same thing because we know all the ways, what we do. We clean the reefs. Okay. So we get the reefs ready so the oysters grow next season. You understand that point? So what's going to happen if you close the areas? Not -- nobody is going to get nothing from that. Okay. Agree if they don't have no oysters, close it and open it in the right time and do the same thing for the other one because they got scenarios right now and I can prove it. I have some videotapes. The area they just closing right now, the area twenty -- I think it's 28. We was making 25 sacks and 30 sacks and they leave the Area 30 they leave open. Nobody else make nothing. So it's the same thing. If they don't have no oysters, I'm not going -- I'm not going to go out because I don't make enough money to support my gasoline, to support my crew. I agree with that. But like the other people say, we need to work together and we need to do something for the reefs and that's not true. That's not true. I can -- I can prove to anybody we destroy the reef. The commercial fishermen destroy the reef. We don't do that. Because how long they been fishing? In years back, then we have some more commercial fishermen and now they complain when the fishermen -- there be less fishermen and I would appreciate -- that's not just -- we're not just worried about go out and make some money. We worry about that too. If you give the opportunity, let's do something else. Let's hire a boat to put some shells and to put rocks and do something else; but all in my life, I don't see no commercial fisherman destroy a reef and they was talking reef --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: We need to hurry, please.

MR. PABLO CERVANTES: Yeah, yeah. That way -- you know, I don't speak enough English and I'm nervous. I'm a fisherman. I'm not professional like y'all. I don't have the -- I want to say something and not jump -- okay. Let's say these -- (through interpreter) so they say that the reef is getting destroyed. So how can the reef that you are not touching is not overgrowing then if you're saying that it's getting destroyed?

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Can you please tell him that we've given double time and I need --

MR. PABLO CERVANTES: Yeah. No, no. Appreciate it.


MR. PABLO CERVANTES: Thank you very much.


MR. PABLO CERVANTES: I would have wrote something, but I just --



CHAIRMAN APLIN: Felipe. Then Santos Martinez, then Guillermina.

Hello, Felipe.

MR. FELIPE LUCIO: Buenos dias.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Buenos dias.

MR. FELIPE LUCIO: (Through interpreter) Good morning. My name is Felipe Lucio. I think about closing those areas. It's not going to be good. I remember back in the day or some years ago in Galveston Bay, which is Area 1, they close it for seven years. And year after year the oyster kept dying. When they reopen the area and we started working in it, it started producing more and more. If you close all this these areas, what's going to happen is that the oyster is going to die because it's we that keep the oysters -- we are the ones keeping the oysters alive by working and moving them around.

There's areas that were closed before in order to help the reefs, but if you -- those areas are not showing any more oysters because we're not working in it. So we ask you not to close those areas. There's a lot of us who live or who depend on those areas to continue living and back in Rockport, they had -- back in Rockport they had 200 different vessels. So we're now going to have to move to different areas because now you want to close this and you won't let us continue working there. So that's not good. And that's all. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you. Thank you, Felipe.

Santos, Guillermina, and then Tina Cruz.


MS. GUILLERMINA ALVAREZ: He's not here. He stepped out.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay. Guillermina?

MS. GUILLERMINA ALVAREZ: Hello. Good mornings. Good morning, everybody. My name is Guillermina Alvarez. I am resident of Port Lavaca. I am commercial fisherman for 35 years. Thanks for the opportunity.

(Through interpreter) I'm worried about the proposal of this permanent closure of these particular bays: San Carlos Bay, Mesquite Bay and Ayres Bay. It's due to the mismanagement of regulations on behalf of Texas Parks and Wildlife that cause anger against the commercial fishermen. Not taking into account that the oyster fishermen, we participate along with Texas Parks and Wildlife in the restoration and care of those particular fish. This is going to cause a big impact for commercial fishermen financially and morally as well.

Over 2,000 families depend on that particular work in order to survive. And thanks to that type of work, that we have been able or managed to get our family ahead. And it's due to the mismanagement of Texas Parks and Wildlife and some other alternative motives and that this opening-and-closure method, it's a good example of the bad management of it. By closing most of these areas where we collect oysters, results directly into forcing the oyster fishermen to go into one single area now, causing anger in the sport fishermen, which was clearly not correct. One of the benefits that the industry, the oyster fishermen industry brings is the restoration of it, the benefit of the reefs in public waters by Texas Parks and Wildlife. Maintaining these reefs, the harvesting of these reefs to promote fish. Cleaning the surface or the shallow water and avoiding for it to sink. That way, causing the sea to extend a little more. I don't agree with this proposal. Thanks for your attention.


Tina, followed by Mario Rodriguez Silva, then Yahel Martinez.

Tina, good morning.

MS. TINA CRUZ: Hi. Good morning. Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Tina Cruz. I am currently residing in Austin, Texas; but I am from Port Lavaca, Texas, originally.

I am the proud daughter of a commercial fisherman. My family has been in this industry for over three decades. I'm here today to voice that I am against the proposal to close the bays. Like TPWD, commercial fishermen want to participate in the restoration and future preservation efforts. Both parties understand the importance of oyster reefs and the role they play in our ecosystem. We all depend on it.

I believe that the disagreement and friction comes in when fingers are pointed. There are many factors that have contributed to the destruction of oyster reefs. I ask that you please allow oyster fishermen to participate in the restoration and future preservation of oyster reefs. Seeing many fishermen out of the water protesting the proposal of the closure of three bays is alarming to say the least.

Oyster fishermen are farmers of the sea. I cannot express enough on how the inconsideration of excluding oyster fishermen will affect thousand of families and local business. In conclusion, we are not enemies, nor are we on opposing teams. We are all on the same team. Please do not bench your best players and teammates. Thank you so much for your time.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Tina, thank you. Very clear and to the point and thank you very much.

Mario, Yahel, Victor.

Good morning.

MR. MARIO RODRIGUEZ SILVA: Good morning, Chairman, Commissioners. I'm a commercial fisherman. My name is Mario Rodriguez and my family owns more than 30 boats in the Port Lavaca area. They say they're trying to protect the reefs and yet they sell "cooning" license to get the oyster off the top of the reef. They say they want to protect the finfish and the ecosystem. Yet, all the bays have ecosystem and finfish. They're saying that we overharvest these areas, which I had the privilege to work this year. I was there on the very last day before they closed. They say we overharvested, but they didn't say why. We were hit with a lot of freshwater. Killed like 80 percent in Copano Bay. I would say 90 percent in Aransas Bay, and these areas that they're trying to close were the only areas that had oyster. They were not hit by all the freshwater.

So I had the privilege to work these three bays and I worked until the last day, the last second in Area 29, part of the area that they're trying to close. I'll make an average of 18-30 sacks in that area. Now the next area that was still open was Area 30. It's right next to it, right across the channel. This area was open for commercial oystering. I was doing an average of eight to ten sacks in that area. Why would they leave that area open and close the area that there was oyster?

The biologists, the way they dredge and the way they check is irrelevant to me. All the charts that they showed, everything, it's a lie. The dredge only gets oyster off the top. It's not an actual natural way of checking the reefs. Closing these bays is not a solution. It's going to cut time to find real solutions for commercial oystering. By closing these bays, you yourself, Texas Parks and Wildlife, are going to have less time in finding real solutions and I want to finish by saying, ladies and gentlemen in this room, closing these bays will have a domino effect and I hope my age doesn't redirect your intention to this. It will have a domino effect that will lead to the uncalculated, unprecedented complete destruction of the South Texas commercial oystering. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Mario.

Yahel, then Victor, then Antonio.

Good morning.

MR. YAHEL MARTINEZ: Good morning. My name is Yahel Martinez and I am 13 years old in the 8th grade. I am a son of a captain commercial fisherman. My dad has been working for 22 years as a commercial fisherman. I want my future to go to good, so does my mom and my dad. So do y'all want y'all's sons or daughters to go -- to have a good future, right? And my dad -- I want to be in the Coast Guard, but how -- how is my dad going to pay for my education, but also my older brother and my younger brother without this job? My dad -- my family depends on this job. My uncle and my grandfather work for -- for -- as commercial fishermen and they also depend on this job.

Yes, my dad, he could go find another job. He could go flip a burger, but he won't be able to make as enough money. He will only be able to make like at least enough to pay the bills and for some food. Right now, my mom is the only one working in the house and that's basically kind of an embarrassment for me because I'm a boy and my dad's a man and I'm pretty sure mans are supposed to like carry on with the house. I wouldn't be here right now, I would be at school; but since this is affecting us like really bad, I would come here to support. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, young man. Thank you.

Victor. Then Antonio, then Mr. Henriquez.


MR. VICTOR AYALA: (Through interpreter) Good morning to everyone and thank you for allowing me to be here and I'm hoping that my opinion counts. I've been working for 27 years as a fisherman, as a captain, and I'm a boat owner too. I'm going to tell you something when I started working this season. So when I -- so when I throw the fish -- the first fishing box into the water back in November, I knew this was going to happen. I knew it was going to be somehow -- somewhat hard for me to work. Not only for me, but for everyone else as well. Can you imagine going to work and noticing that all you're pulling out this day is dead oysters when just last season was a good season for all of us?

So I'm pretty sure and I don't agree with the closure of these bays. I don't approve that. I feel that instead of favoring one group over the other, we should all work together in order to restore these areas. So I'm not sure whose duty is to do this, but to close these areas I feel is bad too. We have 120 days to work in there. I would like you to ask yourself if I can -- if I'm able to work all of those 120 days, and it's obviously no. There's 248 days that the sports fishermen are able to work in these areas and as a matter of fact, I've been rescuing -- or I've rescued some of these guys and bring them to the lagoons.

So I would like to see if we can all work together. I have my point of view about what's happening and I would like to help out for -- I would like to help you to understand this. If in reality you want to help, don't close all these areas because I remember back in the day there were several bays like San Antonio Bay, Galveston, they were all open at the same time all together.

Sometimes I feel I'm going crazy just by running from one place to the other in the Intercoastal Channel, but that's how it is. I leave in your hands, if you are able to keep these -- or to maintain these areas open, I guarantee you that all of the fishermen are going spread out and are going to go to all the different bays and continue opening. Thank you very much. I hope that you take me into account and thanks for your attention.


Antonio, then Henriquez, and then --

MR. ANTONIO AYALA: Buenos dias.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: -- John Williams.

Buenos dias.

MR. ANTONIO AYALA: Mi nombre es Antonio. (Through interpreter) I'm a fisherman. I'm a boat owner. I've been doing this for 30 years, and I don't agree with this proposal. I normally work Mesquite Bay and part of 29 and 25. In these 30 years, I was able to work in Galveston Bay, which is -- used to be Area 1. Now it's Area 6. In all these different islands, there was hurricanes and different storms that have destroyed everything.

So I heard an officer of Wildlife saying that we destroy the reefs, the reefs that are underwater or over the water; but it's not us. It's the storms as well causing all this destruction. I don't agree with this, all different lagoons being closed because many families are dependent on these areas. Some now there's areas that are open that everybody knows that there's no oysters in it and they -- and there's some areas that are closed where we know that there's oysters in it. So please consider our petition not to close these bays and also consider the sport -- sports fishermen so they can also -- and allow them also to the sport fishermen to have their days where they can fish.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Antonio.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: I'm not sure how to pronounce the last name.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Good morning.

MR. HUGO OSORNIO: Good morning. Good morning, everyone. (Through interpreter) My name is Osornio and I'm been a fisherman for 35 years. So as a fisherman, I work all throughout the shores of Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi and I'm a fisherman that likes to study the different regions that I'm working at as a fisherman. My favorite areas to fish is the ones that you want to close, which is the Mesquite Bay, the Ayres, and the San Carlos Bay. So I was able to or in the past, I fish in all different areas, lagoons where you have deep water and shallow water and at the moment, I -- my boat is a small boat. So I'm not allowed to fish in deep water at this time because in these areas, I'm probably able to fish pretty much every day different than deep waters. Those I'm not allowed to fish or I can't fish much there.

I feel aggravated because in that -- because of that I will only be able to fish for half of the time of the six months that I'm allowed to fish. The people that are backing this proposal, I would like to invite them all to come one of these days with me and I will show them. I will show them how we work these different reefs. I'm a little upset with CCA -- with the people because pushing for closure and I want to tell you that there's good and there's also bad fishermen and sometimes they even, you know, pull a finger on you.

So I feel now a little traumatized because if I see a fisherman or a fishing boat, I think they're all the same people when it's not really the case. There are things that financially we won't be affected, only will affect 10 percent of our income. What I feel is that it will affect probably as much as 50 percent of our income and I want to tell you that I have a son who graduated from school and another one who hasn't yet. So I'm worried. I'm worried about all of this. So I have the -- my sons, I gave them an education. I advised them not -- not to -- or try not to work in this type of job because the conditions are hard and I would like them to be -- have a good education and be good people.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Would you ask, please, if he could wrap up?



MR. EVANIALDO HENRIQUEZ: Thank you, everyone.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: John Williams.

Will you -- what's his name? Sir, what's your name?

MR. EVANIALDO HENRIQUEZ: Evanialdo Henriquez.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: No. The translator.

THE INTERPRETER: Antonio Molina.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Antonio, would you announce that -- is John Williams here?

MS. HALLIBURTON: No, sir. He decided not to speak.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: We're going to have Jose Manuel and then I'm -- at 11:00 o'clock, I'm going to let everybody have a five-minute break. Would you please announce that so everyone understands.

(Interpreter makes announcement)



CHAIRMAN APLIN: No. Jose Manuel Herrera. Then they'll take a five-minute break.

MR. JOSE MANUEL HERRERA: (Through interpreter) Hello. My name is Jose Herrera, and what really breaks my heart is to see this 13-year-old kid. I live in this oyster industry, from this oyster industry for over 30 years now. So, therefore, I oppose the closure of these bays because this is going to farm -- this is going to harm the families that you're talking about. Not only them, but many other people are going to be harmed by this decision.

And an example is that I employ different people and that gives me a big satisfaction. I employ different people that you can't even imagine, like the carriers or the people that carry stuff into the trucks, the oyster -- the oyster buyer, the people who process the food at different plants. And even because of us or me that go out into the bay, there's different agents that are being employed as well because of us.

So we are the last link of this industry. So please consider us because may -- we cost -- we sustain many different families. I'm going to have to ask you a question. You wouldn't like for your salary to be cut off gradually, would you? So that's how we feel at the moment. Our salaries, it's been affected very -- in a very big way because of the closure of the many different areas. It's affecting us. And to finish, I would like to tell you that my colleagues and me, we're open to other solutions because I know there are other solutions if you can find them. Thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you. We're going -- everybody, we're going to take a five-minute break. Then Michael Weiss is up next. Quick five minutes just to let everybody stretch and see you in a minute.

(Recess taken)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay, everybody, if you can grab your seat. Thank y'all for getting back so quickly. Just as kind of a reminder, we're probably not even halfway through the comments, so; but we're going to go through all of them. So as a reminder to the extent that anyone can expedite it, get their point across as soon as possible, if it's appropriate to say I agree with the guy before, whatever we can do. If not, I don't want anybody to feel like they were cut short.

Will you please get on the microphone and -- because I'd like for that same message to be heard for English is not their first language.

(Interpreter makes announcement)


First we're going to have Michael Weiss. Then Mr. Henriquez, then I believe it says Hugo. Hugo Osornio.



CHAIRMAN APLIN: Good morning.

MR. MICHAEL WEISS: Okay. My name's Michael Weiss. Thank you, Chairman and Commissioners, for the opportunity to speak. I am a retired Texas game warden and a resident of Rockport and I'm here to speak in support of this proposal to close down Ayres, Mesquite, and Carlos Bay to oyster harvesting. This is one of our traditional areas right there. It's a very unique area. Ecologically we need to protect that area.

Thirty years of working on the coast, I'm greatly concerned about the health and overall structure of our oyster reefs. The large influx of commercial oyster boat dredging in the last two years has greatly reduced the structure and overall height of our reefs. That's what I'm concerned about: The heights of our reefs.

My wife and I took a wade fishing trip this last year. Every one of the reefs we historically fish on had oyster boats dredging. We counted over 60 boats in Carlos Bay. All of Carlos Bay was muddy that day because of the oyster boats and over a hundred in Copano. I live back on Copano Bay. So I documented 24 reef areas that have been dredged down to the lowest height in my lifetime of being there on the coast. I made a paper. I think some of y'all have read this paper. It has the coordinates, the common names of the reefs. I'd be glad to give y'all a copy of this if you want it.

It also has some of my favorite fishing spots. So if you want it, you want to mark something down, here it is right here. Two reefs I'm going to key on right quick and I'm going to get out y'all's way. Second chain of islands, this reef separates San Antonio Bay from Ayres. It had three fingers that were historically 40 to 80 yards above water at normal high tide. Two years ago, you could wade out to 200 yards. They're less than half. You can't wade in-between the fingers of the reef anymore. I know some of y'all here have probably waded those. It's 4- to 6-foot deep that have been dredged between these reefs.

The second one I'm going to talk about and then I'm going to hush, is the third chain of islands, Beldons Reef that separates Mesquite Bay from Carlos Bay. It is a chain of islands that used to be there. That's why they call it third chain of islands. To summarize, it's only visible at the very lowest tide we have now and I attribute that -- this has happened in the last two years. Two years ago, those islands were above water at high tide level and oyster boat is allowed -- is able to get in there and get on top of them and they keep getting sloughed down.

I'm going to close with this and a couple of other points. The bays of Texas belong to our people. We live here in Texas. Nowhere in Texas do we allow commercial dredging or excavating in our state parks or other public lands. Why do we allow commercial industry for profit to drastically reduce the geography of our bays? I want to be able to tell my grandchildren that I helped save what bays -- what reefs we have left.

The false narrative that the oyster reefs will cover with silt and die if they are not worked, this is only true if the reef is completely flat. If these reefs have vertical relief, they will not cover with silt. Our reefs have flourished for hundreds of years. How did they survive without being dredged? They did. They flourished.

One last deal. I would like to ask the Commission to appoint a bipartisan oyster advisory commission that is not solely compromised of the commercial oyster industry. Thank you very much. Appreciate your time today. Do y'all want a copy of this for some fishing holes?


MR. MICHAEL WEISS: Here. I'm going to --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: I need more fishing holes.

MR. MICHAEL WEISS: Here's four or five copies right here.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Michael.

Mr. Henriquez, then Hugo, then Veronica.

MR. EVANIALDO HENRIQUEZ: (Through interpreter) And I'm Mr. Henriquez and good morning to the Commissioners and the Chairman and I'm here on behalf of me and my family and many other families. I want to tell you that there's a big impact in that this decision is taking on all of us because there has been happening for the last month that they close -- that they close different bays already -- that have oysters and won't allow us to survive. There's some areas that have absolutely nothing in it and they're open.

Sir, it makes me sad. I'm so sad because we have so much fear that even our kids are able to perceive this or to feel our fear, just like the young gentleman that he -- that just spoke for you all. We are here since yesterday. We're trying to tell you our worries. There was even a peer of us or colleague who brought her daughter who's sick because she's worried. She's worried about what's happening to us.

And also what I've seen about the data that you're taking into account in order to close those areas, to me, they're wrong. Because I've seen that they've taken all this data from the places that they that are not allowing us to fish, instead of taking this decision on the three areas that they're forcing us to fish. They're saying that these areas have been exploited for the last two or three years, but we have no choice because the other areas are not open. The excuse that they're using and telling us is that it's only 2 percent of the area that they're removing from us or they're asking us not to fish in, but the ones that are open and the ones that they are allowing us to fish, to us, there's only about -- they only contain about 35 to 40 percent of reefs in there.

So there's contention here. There's us who are the fishermen that have to go to work there in order to survive from fishing and there's other people, other party who they already had it made for the future when they -- all they want for these areas is to use them as sport, comparing to us that what we want these areas for is to survive and work. This is my point of view and I ask you to consider it because I feel like we have been ignored in our positions as well. Thank you very much.



MS. HALLIBURTON: Hugo spoke earlier.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Hugo spoke earlier.

Veronica, then Robby Byers, Russel Cady.

Good morning, Veronica.

MS. VERONICA BRICENO: Hello. Hello, Commissioners. My name is Veronica Briceno, and I'm a resident of Calhoun County. I'm a daughter of a commercial fisherman. My father has oystered cold winters and shrimped hot summers to give his four children a college education. I lost my father two years ago and I can remember his words clearly: We will have good and bad seasons, but the bays will provide.

Being a fisherman is challenging and consists of arduous labor. I have seen firsthand the challenges and the language obstacles these fishermen face. I'm here today to speak on their behalf. Despite of the high rate of limited English speaking fishermen population in South Texas, TPWD has failed to provide Spanish written language material regarding this proposal rule change and adequate translation services at its public meetings. This can not only reasonable, but also should be -- is required by Texas law.

TPWD has not fully analyzed the full economic effects of closing the bays would have on this region. Many distraught fishermen fear they will not be able to give their children a college education. Oyster fishermen have lost so much in these past few years. Their workweek has been shortened and sack limits decreased. Texas bays have been impacted by sea level rises, hurricanes, and floods which have highly impacted the reefs; but yet commercial fishermen have been blamed.

These oystermen's livelihoods depend on these bays. I believe that the most powerful tool that a human has, its voice. So I'm sharing my words and hopes that you will consider and reevaluate the closures of Ayres, Carlos, and Mesquite Bay. Please allow our experienced commercial fishermen to help with the resolution. Thank you for your time.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Veronica.

Robby. After Robby, Russel, then Bill Burge.

Good morning.

MR. ROBBY BYERS: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Smith. My name is Robby Byers and I'm the Executive Director of the Coastal Conservation Association and certainly appreciate you allowing me to speak to you today. I'm obviously here on behalf of CCA, but also just as a recreational fisherman.

So first on behalf of CCA and our 73,000 members here in Texas. CCA has always promoted and advocated for putting the resource first and in front of all user groups. Whether it was been the need for added protection for Spotted seatrout, Red drum, or Southern flounder, three of the most popular species for recreational fishermen, CCA and these fishermen have always been the first ones to sacrifice their harvest if needed in the best interest and protection of the resource.

Managing our Texas resources with so many different user groups is never easy. Pleasing all is an impossible task. But it is critical for the future that we protect them when times are needed and we believe this is one of those times to protect the oyster reefs. These reefs are too important to the health of our bays and our ecosystems and cannot sustain themselves under the current level of harvest. Therefore, CCA supports the Department's recommendation to close Ayres, Mesquite, and Carlos Bays from all oyster harvest.

We would also like to suggest to the Commission to consider structuring some type of oyster lease program for the commercial industry for private harvest, as well as conservation reefs that would be protected from any type of harvest. We feel this could be a beneficial piece to a solution of protecting these public oyster reefs for the future.

As a recreational fisherman, I have fished the Rockport area for almost 40 years. Over this time, I have seen an incredible amount of change to many of the oyster reefs I've fished. Two reefs in particular in Mesquite Bay that were incredible fishing locations were completely removed by oystering about 15 years ago. Since their removal, these reefs have not regenerated or rebuilt themselves and still to this day they don't exist. If this is happening to just a couple of examples of reefs that we once could see and wade fish, what damage is being done to the ones what we cannot see?

We appreciate the work that this Commission does, as well as the Department managing our treasured resources here in Texas. If we put the resource first, future generations will always be the beneficiary. Thank y'all very much.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Robby, thank you.

Russel, then we have Bill, and then Tracy Woody.

MR. RUSSEL CADY: Thank you, ladies --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Hello, Russel.

MR. RUSSEL CADY: -- and gentlemen. Thank you so much for hearing me. My name's Russel Cady. I'm 63 years old. I've been a commercial fisherman all my life. I've lived in Seadrift all my life and I can tell you right now I'm not going to cry about closures and openers, which I'm against it; but I'm going to tell you how to save the reefs.

Parks and Wildlife -- in '78 I was up here and Parks and Wildlife is all about numbers and data. We want numbers. We want data. Well, in the 70s there were over 7,000 oyster boats on the Texas coast and over 8,000 shrimp boats and it was great. We did good. The reefs were solid oysters all up and down the coast. Every year we harvested millions of sacks, millions and millions of pounds of shrimp. And to this day, shrimp is almost zero and the oysters have went down to nothing. And make no mistake, the reefs are dying.

Right in front of Seadrift, almost all the reefs right out there are closed or almost completely gone. They used to stick out of the water and they were strong and it's closed waters and they have not been touched by a commercial fisherman at all. So the dredging and knocking oystermen out, you can take all the oystermen out of the whole State of Texas and that's not going to fix your problem.

Back in the day when we had so many boats -- like right now, we had over 7,000 oyster boats. We're down to a few hundred. We had over 8,000 shrimp boats. We're going to 200 licenses or somewhere in there and half of those aren't even in the water and still we don't have any shrimp and oysters are doing horrible and our reefs are dying.

We had a food chain going back in those days. I mean, we had it figured out, buddy. Every year -- every year we had bonus crops. We would go out in shrimp season, and we would make a drag. This was before the bi-catch reduction devices and the TEDs. You'd make a drag -- we might have a thousand pounds. We call it trash fish. Y'all call it bi-catch. That bi-catch would die, and we would cull our shrimp out. We should shovel that bi-catch over. The crabs, the shrimp, the Red fish, the trout, everything would eat that bi-catch. They would digest it and they would feed the reefs, all the oysters all up and down the coast.

And in those days, there was no pressure because we were spread out. We were all from both borders. We were spread out. And we produced every year until Parks and Wildlife made us put in the BIRD, the bi-catch reduction device. We know -- we just let though fish go after that. They all lived. We didn't kill anything. Next thing you know, we go out there, we have a trinet on our boat. It's a small sample net that we drop. It has no bi-catch reduction device or anything in it. We might catch a basket in just a two-minute try of nothing but hardheads and trash fish. They are eating everything up. Everything eats shrimp.

Okay. Used to, we would kill all of that and we would feed everything and the big fish and everything would digest it and we fed the reefs and everything. We don't do that anymore. So what I'm saying is, if something doesn't change, it doesn't matter if you knock out all the commercial fishing. Your reefs are still going to die.

I asked a few people here that are supposed to know what they're talking about: Why are the reefs dying that are in closed waters that nobody dredge and nobody touches?

Well, we can't answer that.

And I said I know you can't answer that. You don't know. But I'm telling you right now, all the reefs are going to die. In closed waters where no one works, they're going to die too because we don't feed them anymore. You take a cow. You take a 10-acre patch of land and you put a cow in there and she'll do pretty good. You put a thousand cows in there, and what's going to happen? You're killing yourself. And that's exactly what's happening and I've watched this over a period of 50 years. Fifty years.

And so what needs to happen is we need to knock the trash fish numbers down. We have to. They're eating everything up. It's like right now you go out shrimping, everything depend -- feeds off of something else. Right now if you took the bi-catch reduction devices out of our nets and let us kill some of these trash fish, I'm talking about shiners and things like that, we would feed everything else out there. The Red fish, the trout, the flounder, everything would do better. They would be bigger. They would be nicer. The would grow faster.

There is enough resource out there for everyone. I know most of commercial fishermen, they don't like the sport fishermen. Sport fishermen don't like commercial fishermen. I like everybody. I want everybody to survive. Everybody. And it's very, very, very simple. All we have to do is knock out some of these trash fish to where the other things can survive and when we do that, we're going to be feeding everything. We will start catching more shrimp. Okay? More fish. The fishermen will do better. Everybody. Anyway --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Russel.

MR. RUSSEL CADY: -- thank you so much for listening to me.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Russel.

MR. RUSSEL CADY: Thank y'all.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Bill, then Tracy, then I believe it's Jose Martinez, I believe.

Bill, how are you?

MR. BILL BURGE: I'm good. You all right?

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Very good. Thank you.

MR. BILL BURGE: Thanks for having me -- having me today to speak on the proposed closure. My name's Bill Burge. I'm a resident of Aransas County, recreational fisherman, and a certified master naturalist.

Couple things. A reef has structure. I mean, it's solid. If you dredge that down to where it's flat, now you've got an oyster bed and I think that's where some of the question about whether dredging is beneficial or not comes from, whether or not you've got structure or you've got it knocked down flat. But the reefs have been there for thousands of years. You know, they were there long before we even had a motor boat to go dredge them up. So I don't think they're requiring to be dredged.

There were also -- reefs were there after Harvey. So we haven't had a hurricane in five years, thank God. But some of these reefs were extending above the surface after Harvey. They're not there now. Some examples from the Carlos, Mesquite, Ayres area, there used to be small shell islands throughout Carlos Bay. Today there aren't any. Ranch House Reef used to extend well out into Mesquite Bay, but it's now been dredged down below the surface. I'm sure it's on Mike Weiss' document that he gave you. And I've also seen with my own eyes channels dredged into Ayres Reef and third chain of islands. They're usually marked by a two-stroke oil bottle anchored to the bottom, which is giving those boats access into more and more shallow water to dredge deeper and deeper.

The reefs provide a unique habitat for a variety of species. One that I haven't heard from today is the waterbirds. Oyster catchers, turns, skimmers, they all require those exposed shell islands on a reef in order to rest, roost, and nest safely. Without the exposed reefs, I'm seeing a lot more of those birds being pushed to the shorelines where they're more subject to predation.

I think most of the rest of this has been covered; but a reef does require vertical structure and if you knock it down, you've got nothing for the birds, you've got nothing for -- nothing to grow the rest of the oyster reef on. So thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Bill, thank you.

Tracy, Jose, Emily.


MR. TRACY WOODY: Good morning. I can still say that. I'm glad I got in here before lunch. My name's Tracy Woody; Jeri's Seafood; Smith Point, Texas. I'm against this proposal, just as I was against the proposal to close the six minor bays in 2017 because I knew it was going to be an easy process and we would get to this point. And where do end up? We just keep closing bays.

I don't think any industry, whether it be -- or fishery, whether it be rec fishermen, should be able to displace oyster fishermen and I don't think oyster fishermen should be able to displace rec fishermen. I think we should all work together. There's been many laws that have been put in place and restoration efforts and a lot more money is coming in for restoration from the industry. I think things will improve. But we also need Mother Nature and this year has been a bad one up and down the whole Gulf coast and so it's really compounded this issue and, you know, I'd just like to see y'all table this proposal.

There's no rush. The reason I say there's no rush is because that area is closed under the emergency closure rule. Once it closes, it's typically about two years before it reopens. So y'all have time to get these studies in, if there's going to be any, evaluate the issues and I'd like to see where we work on other things that would help alleviate this where these independent fishermen could have other opportunities to maybe grow their own oysters.

So the -- you know, one other thing, the acreage of reefs in these bays, I don't know what that is. It's hard to say. Can't get the right numbers. They're below the water. You can't see them. But one thing you can get is the square miles of water and I just did some math off of TECQ's estuary -- bay and estuary website. Between the Louisiana line and south part of Aransas Bay, there's 1,400 square miles of bay that is open to rec fisherman to utilize. It's not closed and there's no fish advisories. And of that 1,400 square miles, 470 of that is closed permanently to commercial oystermen because those are in areas that are closed by the Texas Department of State Health Services. They're closed through the 2017 bay closures. They're closed from the 300-foot shoreline rule. That's a lot of area. I don't know exactly how you calculate that because there's a lot of miles of shoreline and every 145 feet that's an acre. So there's a lot of acres that's not available. It's a permanent sanctuary from -- for oysters that fishermen can't -- oyster fishermen can't touch.

I would say that, yeah, the oyster fishery is overcapitalized; but so is the rec fishery. We see that by the numbers keep dropping in the -- what they can land each day. And the fishery is over -- the oyster fishery is overcapitalized in years like this. But prior to the pandemic -- I'm not going to count the pandemic -- but prior to that, we had limits. We had a 30-sack limit, but boats weren't allowed to go catch 30 sacks because the market didn't account for it. They wouldn't allow it.

In fact, there was -- they might work two, three days, one day a week. So there was an abundance of oysters up and down the whole coast. We don't have that this year. And as I said, I think the solution would be more private leases and let these guys build their own reef and grow their own oysters and take pride in that. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Tracy.

Jose, then Emily, then Michael.


MR. JOSE MARTINEZ: (Through interpreter) Good morning. My name is Jose Martinez, and I'm a captain. I'm here because I'm in disagreement with the bay closure. Because by closing all these bays, you're going to cause -- or you're going to make all these boats to start working in one area only. They're saying that there's 60 boats and they're starting to see more boats and by closing all these areas, you're going to make the available area more crowded with more boats. So more area is going to be destroyed, and we're going to be accused of the destroying all these reef areas.

I work with a water department trying to -- restoring the different reefs and what I think is that we should work together in order to solve this problem, in a way that we can all work together. Don't forget there has been accidents in the past caused by industries that no one has mentioned so far that contribute all these problems. So by working or trying to solve all these disasters caused by the industry, this wouldn't be happening. We all pay for a license and as workers, we also pay our taxes and I think that we can all work together in order to solve this problem. That's all.


Emily, then Michael, then Johny.

Hello, Emily.

MS. EMILY BARRY: Hi. Thank you for having me today. I'm Emily Ivic Barry, and I am a fifth generation oyster harvester. I'm here to speak on behalf for my family. The thing I've noticed today that every single person that has come up, either for or against, is all in agreement we need robust, healthy oyster reefs on our entire Gulf coast. Where I'm seeing the difference is how the science is how we're going to get there and I'm here to talk the science.

I'm against the closure of these three bays. In 2017 when those previous six bays were closed, it was with the understanding that they were going to be monitored and we were going to be informed what's happened with them. How are oyster reefs there? Are they flourishing? Have they died? What's going on? We haven't gotten any feedback with that and I'm surprised that a study wasn't done on those closed bays to help say, hey, this is another reason why we should close these.

Instead the study that was cited by one of the biologist on the website -- I have the study here -- someone actually mentioned it earlier, that in 2011 there was a study done. It was global. And basically they're saying 85 percent of the world's oyster reefs are either close to extinction or in very bad shape except the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf of Mexico is was doing pretty good in 2011. It was rated fair. So what had been happening up until then?

Well, we had Texas oystermen doing a great job harvesting and maintaining the reefs. After 2011, we've had Hurricanes Ike, Hurricane Harvey, we had severe drought, and we had flooding. We had a lot of natural disasters come in and really affect these reefs. The other funny thing about this study that was put out by someone from Texas Parks and Wildlife, says there's been -- there's -- in many places, the distribution of oyster habitat was better documented over a hundred years ago then it is today. So that means with all of our fancy technology, the old-timers still knew how to do it better, how to map it out.

And speaking of old-timers, I made a photocopy of this for you guys. This is the Texas Oyster Fishery publication published by Texas Parks and Wildlife in 1965. It was done by Mr. Robert Hofstetter. He was a marine biologist that exclusively worked in Texas Gulf areas. Not Chesapeake Bay, not the Carolinas, not the Pacific. Texas. He was a specialist for this. He devoted his entire life to the study of our oysters and our reefs.

And I highlighted a couple of things that he did mention. Reefs are in a constant state of sinking and they must be maintained in order to thrive. Oh, before, I want to also mention this. Yes, we've had oysters around for millions of years. They're very hearty little bivalves. They're very tough guys. However, just like the way of the Dodo and the White rhinoceros, we're at a point now after the Industrial Revolution where we need to step up and we need to do intentional cultivation to keep preserving the species. Like the other seafood industries, they've lost their things. We still have the ability to cultivate oysters so that they are a resource because with -- with the pressures of global climate change, which is real, we need to have healthy reefs to protect our coastline, but we also have the pressures of increased population. Are you going to now close bays and deny people a right to feed others with our increasing population? That's something we need to consider.

Back to what Mr. Hofstetter said. Normal, healthy reefs can be as tall just as just a few inches in thickness or up to many feet thick. It doesn't necessarily mean it's got be a much healthy reef if it's much taller. As long as it's tall enough that it's off of the ground floor to prevent it from having predators eat it, then it's okay. It doesn't have to be huge.

Another thing that he mentioned is oyster harvesting definitely increases reef size by culling the oysters that are smaller than three inches. Oyster harvesters are basically aqua farmers and they create larger reefs with better quality oysters through farming. And lastly, again, I'm just going to repeat what I said. Everyone that's come up to this podium agrees we need heathy reefs. We need healthy oyster reefs for the State of Texas. Not just for the environment though. As a food resource and we need to work together.

When I was little, the Texas Parks and Wildlife biologists would come on the boat with my dad. I remember being like two years old and they would work together. They would learn from each other. You can't have scientists in isolation working in like a thing without going on the boat with the actual people who have the wisdom and the experience. It needs to be together, unified. And that's all. Thank you for listening. I appreciate it.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Emily.

Michael, then Johny, then Mrs. Bodden.

MR. MICHAEL IVIC: Hello. My name is Michael Ivic, and I am a fisherman since 1972. I came from Yugoslavia, what is now Croatia, and started working for $20 a day in 1972. In 1973, I managed to get loan and buy 56-year-old boat that was in relatively poor shape, but helped me make it through the college. I graduated in '76 and I didn't stopping oystering because I was making relatively decent money. I supported family of four of us, my wife and two girls. And in 1977, Texas Parks and Wildlife gave me three leases in Galveston Bay and then sealed my fate. After that, I didn't even about going back to engineering. I was really happy oysterman from then ever on.

Well, now I have a second thoughts. Did I really make right decision? I got all my family involved in this. We grew up with the business. We even get into restaurant business. All of this is great, but I've got feeling that oystering is really unjustly in a poor shape. We are outgunned. We are outmanned. I really feel like Stephen F. Austin in time of Alamo. I don't see how we can stop this, taking these bays away.

I participated together with Mr. Carter Smith and Mr. Robin Riechers and Mr. Lance Robinson in creating House Bill 51. The purpose of House Bill 51 was to protect small oysters, one goal. The other goal, how to avoid the conflict with the sports fishermen. So what we did, we increased -- we decreased allowance of undersized oysters from 15 percent to 5 percent. We didn't allow fishermen no more to get closer than hundred yards to the shore or to any main structure. So if you have a pier, fisherman is not going to get closer than a hundred yards to it. This way we're going to be protecting all wading areas and all grass. So that's not going to be anymore. If there's anything in it, it is not going to be fault of the oyster fishermen.

We reduced -- we reduced our working week to only five days, so fishermen would have Saturday and Sunday without being disturbed by commercial fishing. We reduced from sunrise to sunset working hours down to 3:30. So if sport fisherman decide after work to go to have a little bit of fishing, he's not going to be bothered with the boats. And the sad part is that sports fishermen don't even understand how symbiotic relationship we have.

We are keeping these reefs clean and this most important. Reefs that are clean, they have surface for new generations to catch on. I have proof for that. I worked very closely with Parks and Wildlife and all Directors, starting with Mr. Leland Roberts in 1976, '77, then it was Mr. Johnson, then it was Mr. Lynn Benefield, then Mr. Lance Robinson, Mr. Bob Horstetter while he was alive, Dr. Sammy Ray from Texas A&M, all of them are my teachers and I appreciate all cooperation. Same thing with Mr. Carter, with Mr. Robin Riechers. All of these directors, they were showing me survey from survey, first from 1963, the other one somewhere in 1978. You could see that area of reef in Galveston Bay increased for about 25 percent. Later Mr. Lynn Benefield told, oh, I can -- last survey that we did also show about 25, 30 percent increase.

When Mr. Lance Robinson got this fancy equipment, side scanner, he could have not only survey very correctly, even height of the reef, even ripples on the reef, everything was visible. Unbelievable. Like you are taking picture of the bay with no water in it. And he told me I can see also about 10, 15 percent increase. The reefs were growing until Hurricane Ike. Hurricane Ike did a lot of damage and after that, we were allowed to clean some of that silt and we recovered some of it; but most of it was damaged beyond repair.

Now we are building this back again. Oyster leases that I have, in order to keep the surface clean and capable of taking new generation of oysters, we have to go at least twice a week to work on these reefs. Even if I don't have harvestable size oysters, I've got to work on it, either to clean the shells or to clean small oysters that are 2 or 3 inch. Oysters are productive from size of about half an inch, three-quarter. They already can produce babies. So when you have a strict limit on 3-inch oysters, this mean that you have sexually active oysters definitely three times small than what you already harvested on almost every reef. So you don't need to worry about oystermen exterminating oysters. That cannot happen.

All these people that I dealt with came with same conclusion. Oysters are so productive, they produce millions of larvae several times a year. They cannot be exterminated. I'll give you one more thing before --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: And then please wrap up Mr. Ivic.

MR. MICHAEL IVIC: Yeah, okay. Well, if I'm going to wrap up, let me tell you this. Tonight you're going to come to visit your wives. I hope that you are not going to tell them, oh, our decision today really nailed it for these 2,000 families that are living off of it. They are never going to be able to educate their kids no more and that is in your hands. You are supposed to make decision about that. That's all.


Johny, Ms. Bodden, Alex Gutierrez.

Please, if everyone will help me stay on time, we're -- so if you'll please keep an eye on the light. Thank you.

MR. JOHNY JURISICH: All right. Hello. I'm Johny Jurisich. Fourth generation fisherman leaseholder, oyster dealer, and conservator of the bay. I feel that we're going down the wrong path regarding the future of the oyster industry. We are the stewards of the bay. We should be working together.

We care and want the bays to be prosperous. I do not think the general public knows or understands all the benefits the oyster reefs have for the commercial harvest. We build reefs in public waters. We maintain these reefs by tilling, which promotes spawning and prevents the reefs from sinking. Dredging also cleans the shells so spat, oyster offspring, can stick to shells. And also oyster harvest keeps the reefs growing in size.

Because of Texas Parks and Wildlife mismanagement, inexperience, and alternative motives, they have oyster lovers battling for the bay. The traffic light method is a prime example of mismanagement. Closing the majority of the harvesting areas dues to incorrect data resulted to herding the oyster fishermen to one area and upsetting the sports fishermen, which was clearly wrong. Another example is when they have us drop cultch material in areas that are -- that all the industry disagree with.

The shell recovery tax, a $1.33 per sack, is wasted because it's deployed in mud instead of on reefs. With millions awarded to the state by hurricane relief, ship channel expansion, and oil company pipelines, we could have restored all our active reefs to optimal viability. But instead, Texas Parks and Wildlife wasted the funds by deploying the cultch material in restricted or muddy waters.

Before closing three additional bays, why haven't studies been made to show whether the previous six bays are benefiting after prohibiting harvest since 2017? At Commission hearing in 2017, Commissioner Duggins requested Texas Parks and Wildlife staff report back in two years the health of the resource to consider relaxation of HB 51. Why has that never happened?

There has been no study showing overharvest of these three bays they want to permanently close. Why haven't studies been published for the reef growth commercial harvesting as created? Meaning the reefs have grown four times the size in the last 50 years. Accurate studies would show that the reefs untouched by commercial harvest don't thrive, but suffer with siltation and natural slime and are always sinking.

Hurricanes and sea level rise multiple this effect on our reefs. The oyster industry doesn't trust Texas Parks and Wildlife anymore. This wedge they put in-between oyster fishermen and sports fishermen is completely unnecessary. All types of fishermen care for these reefs. Texas Parks and Wildlife continue to assure the general public that that has -- that this has no economic impact on our coastal cities and that, of course, is incorrect. Fishermen expenses include supplies, food, fuel, and rent, just to name a few. And, of course there's, no -- and, of course, there's the fishermen not working and are struggling financially with no compassion from Texas Parks and Wildlife. Seadrift and Galveston County recognize these economic effects.

So gather more info. Please talk your local oyster fishermen. Question CCA. Demand accurate studies. We are all on the same side. We want to see our bays thrive. We are willing to work with CCA to come up with strategies to ensure future for both the commercial fishing and sports fishing. Commissioners, ask yourself: Why would we want to harm these areas? Texas Parks and Wildlife knows the benefits oyster fishermen provide these bays, but are unwilling to share this information. We are not the enemy. Healthy bays benefit the oyster fishermen and the oyster fishermen do everything to keep these bays healthy. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Johny.

Ms. Bodden, then Alex Gutierrez, then Rocky Chase.

MS. MYRNA BODDEN: Hello. My name is Myrna Bodden. I live here in Austin and I am here the today on behalf of my brother Edward Eubanks who has worked in the oyster industries for 20 years. I am also the daughter of a commercial fisherman who is now retired. As a result of this, it's a personal matter to me.

My brother used to work the proposed three bay closures, which is Ayres, Mesquite, and San Carlos, as his primary source of income to support his family for about a ten-year span. The workers will be devastated if the indicated bays are closed because this is their only source of income to provide for their families.

There's two points I'm going to touch bases on, and they have already been mentioned. One is just when the oysters are harvested, only the top layer of the reef is dredged. The remainder of the catch is returned to the reef, which aids in the preparation of the reef for oyster cultivation for the next year or the next season. Also we're going to touch on -- he would like to bring up a particular issue that had no rational in the opening of Area 3 in Galveston Bay. There was absolutely no catch because all the oysters were dead. This is an excellent example of what happens when an area is closed for an extended time.

He is respectful or research studies; but as oyster workers, they have firsthand knowledge of how the industry runs due to their day-to-day involvement. So hoping that consideration is taken in this matter, the bay closures will affect a large number of hardworking people. So just everybody can work together and come to a happy medium where the -- these seasoned oyster fishermen experience can be taken into consideration. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Ms. Bodden.

Alex, then Rocky, then Jennifer.

Hello, Alex.

MR. ALEX GUTIERREZ: Hello. How you doing? Name's Alex Gutierrez. Hi, Chairman, Commissioners. I'm here against this proposal. I've been a fisherman, commercial fisherman, for over 35 years. And this is just special year since we started working with Oyster Advisory Group, they -- they told us we supposed to be working together on this matter for the industry and we're not. We're not working together. Seems to me like they're just taking opinions from our side, turn around, and go against us on everything we say.

So like another gentleman was saying, we just don't have no trust anymore in Texas Parks and Wildlife. We feel displaced. The trust is lost. We feel discriminated. And before everything, all this happening, I didn't believe in discrimination. I did not. Nowadays I believe in that. I seen it. In the other room a couple of gentlemen is ahead of me, laughing at us. Laughing at us. People were speaking in Spanish. Come on guys, let's have respect for each other. I have respect for y'all. I don't have no education, but I have respect.

Okay. After Bill 51 was passed and they told us after two years, we're going to get back on the table, reevaluate whatever is happening after Bill 51. And guess what? We've gone what? Four years after that? It's not happening yet. Still unbelievable because they not telling us anything. Instead of helping us or say, okay, we're doing a great job. Let's close other areas. What I'm going to tell my kids? I cannot send you to can college anymore. Why dad? You send my first two brothers to college. Why not me?

Thanks to Texas Parks and Wildlife bad management. That's fair for my kids? Or would you like to do that to your kids? Be honest. Would you like to do that to your kids? No. You wouldn't cut off your paycheck by half. Let's cut off building Buc-ee's. Let's cut out building that. They destroy a lot of land. That's fair? No, it's not. But guess what? Lance Robinson told me one time, Alex, unfortunately everything goes to the weakest link. And who's the weakest link? The fishermen. It's not fair. It's not fair. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Alex.

Rocky, then Jennifer Richards, then Carlos.

Good morning -- or good afternoon.

MR. ROCKY CHASE: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Commissioners, Carter. My name is Rocky Chase and I'm the Chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee for CCA Texas and I'm in favor of this proposal. I live in Beaumont, Texas, and I have the pleasure of spending my limited free time on Sabine Lake targeting Speckled trout and the occasional flounder. In that system, we have the oldest and deepest reef remaining on the Gulf coast.

According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the reef covers approximately four square miles with sections of vertical reef that approach several feet off the bottom. This data comes from Dr. Carey Gelpi, chief biologist of Sabine Lake for TPWD. TPWD conducted a yearlong study in 2007 to document the ecological value of the reef in terms of habitat the reef provided to fish and invertebrate communities. Near reef sampling yielded 70 percent of all collected organisms, including fish, crustaceans, and mollusks. The results of this study illustrate the ecological value of oyster reefs to the fish and invertebrate communalities, making a strong case for its continued preservation.

There is undeniable scientific justification in TPWD precedent for oyster closures, citing the ecological values of reef systems and concerns for harvest pressure in vulnerable areas. Prohibiting oyster harvest in the Mesquite Bay complex will allow oyster reefs an opportunity to reach their ecological potential and reestablish their structural integrity, all of which are key components for erosion protection, wave attenuation, water filtration, and habitat value.

I hope we can learn a lesson from the Sabine Lake oyster reef. If we allow reefs to naturally develop, they can and will amaze us with their structural integrity, complexity, magnitude, heights, and ability to support a tremendous number of aquatic organisms. Thank you all for your time.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Rocky, thank you.

Jennifer Richards, then Carlos, then Mr. Lucas.


MS. JENNIFER RICHARDS: Good afternoon, Commissioners. My name is Jennifer Richards. I'm an attorney with Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid and I'm here on behalf of my client Diane Wilson to offer comment in opposition to the proposed rule change.

I believe that there are both procedural and substantive deficiencies with this proposal. First, I've not been able to find a Spanish translation of the summary of this rule on TPWD's website, which is required by Texas law. It has also been told to me that none of the public presentations informing the public about the rule and the reasons for it, have been done in Spanish. I believe this is a violation of Title VI, which TPWD is required to comply with because it receives federal funding. At this point, TPWD should not adopt this rule until there has been sufficient notice and opportunity to comment by people who speak Spanish who will inevitably be impacted by its passage.

In addition, as has already been raised, there has been no study of the adverse impacts this rule change will have on rural economies. As you have heard multiple times today, there will be such adverse impacts. Not only is TPWD required to conduct such an analysis under Texas law, it is also required to evaluate alternatives that will mitigate those harms while also achieving TPWD's dual goals of preventing the depletion of oyster beds, while also creating the optimum yield for the oyster industry.

It is not just TPWD's role to preserve oysters. It is TPWD's role to serve the oyster industry itself. If overharvesting is a concern, then closing the bays that are proposed to be closed today, cannot be the solution. TPWD's own data shows that these three bays have the highest average catch-per-unit effort of live market oysters than any other bay in the surrounding area. If you close these bays, what will happen is boats will go to lesser and lesser bays, creating a problem of overharvest in those bays. That is a cyclical problem that will inevitably lead to the closure of more bays each year either through the stoplight program or through more proposals such as this.

There has to be an alternative that serves both the oyster industry and the oyster reefs. I ask that you take time to table this proposition to consider what those alternatives might be and by seeking adequate input from the Spanish speaking populations that know much about these bays and will be harmed by whatever actions you take. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Jennifer.

Carlos, then Mr. Lucas, then Mark Valentine.

Hello, Carlos.

MR. CARLOS CHAVARRIA: Thank you very much. Well, my name is Carlos Chavarria. I'm oyster captain for 28 years. We have good teachers who told me how the oysters grow up. That guys, we working whole life in these oysters, and he told me how to do that, how the oysters growing up and how the babies stay alive. I'm so sorry. I'm so nervous because --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: You're fine.

MR. CARLOS CHAVARRIA: I don't see -- I don't see these guys like friends. Fishing oysters is a family. Every one of those guys is a family because sometimes when have troubles, we come together, we help together, we work together to see what happened, what he need from everybody. When I fishing -- when I fishing a long time ago with the oyster boat, we fishing for somebody else and we're not working for the oyster boat, the big boats, probably about 84-foot long. It's a good, good boat. Safe boat for me in that days. When I buy my boat, my boat is 34-foot long. It's a lot more small ones and I want to start to fishing also by myself and bring some money to my house.

Fishing oysters is not for fun. It's for life. I take almost all my life, I learn the rules, like you put it over here. And one day when I fish in wrong area, we're thinking it's open, I go to the jail and the guy told me, the judge told me that -- (through interpreter) there's no justification for ignorance.

And told me that you need pay that much money. I go to the jail this day and this is all my ticket I have in all my life in this, in the oyster system because we have a good teacher who told me how to fish it. My point is if you close this area, I working now in a small boat, 34-foot long boat. When I have a 30 sacks limit, the boat is more heavy and the boat is low. When I'm working in these areas, shallow water, it's more safe for me, for my friends. We have small oyster boats working in this area, is more safe for everybody because we have the area over there to fish in every day. I try to work in the deep water in the small boat, and I can't do that.

We come back all the time to the same areas because it's only the place we're fishing. This -- the area -- different when I'm fishing oysters. My boat is so heavy, especially when I come through -- when I come back to the deep water. The waves more big, it's more heavy. When I come home, I scared sometimes because the winds will change fast. When worked in 5 miles per hour, the wind would will come about 20 miles per hour and it's so dangerous for everybody.

Every day we put my life at risk. I want to bring some money to my house and I want my daughter to go back to the school, to the college. You know, like I said, no -- I don't want to feel like they just told me that ignorance is no excuse. We have an opportunity to save a life of one of my friends because his boat is sinking, when I drive my big boat, and not have the chance to return save a life of him; but not for a second because the small guy, like 18 years olds. But one of the problem is because the big, big waves will cover the boat and he working in the deep water. That area -- these three area -- Carlos Bay, Mesquite Bay, Ayres Bay -- these very safe area for small fishing oyster boat. Think about that. Think about my family and think about every family who working for this, for commercial, for bring money for great education and a house and don't bring no more ignorance to the land. Thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Carlos.

Mr. Lucas, then Mark Valentine, Captain Brian Donovan.

Good afternoon.

MR. MANOLO LUCAS: (Through interpreter) Good afternoon. My name is Manolo Lucas. I've been fishing for 18 years. I'm a captain of a small boat. In regards to -- I'm going to talk in regards to the areas that you want to close such as Carlos, Mesquite, and Ayres Bays.

I've been fishing in those low areas for 12 years or in the past 12 years. When I started fishing in those areas, all of the reefs were grass. So the problem here is that when I started fishing, it took me a long time to remove the grass. So this took a long time, between three and four years to clean those reefs and the problem is that -- the problem here is that the oysters, they stay down.

So the problem here is that the oyster end up dying because of the hair that stays below covers it, so it takes -- it's a big problem for us to be able to clean those reefs. So this is happening in all those three areas that they want to close and I have a small boat and I've been working there because that's my favorite area to work.

What I think is that if we close these areas, these low areas that are providing for people who have small boats, so if we close these areas, they -- I think that these areas have the tendency of happening -- of this happening again in which the hair is going to be closing those reefs and the marine floor as well. So my opinion is that you have to continue working, see somebody -- sees in these areas in order to move out what you need to move out in order to clean it up, like shells and stuff like that.

So many people like me started working on these cleaning -- by cleaning all these areas and now you can see that the oyster look much nicer. Thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Mr. Lucas.

Mark, Captain Donovan, Curtis Miller.

MR. MARK VALENTINO: My name is Mark Valentino and my grandfather came to Galveston in the 1920s for shrimp boat, had an engine out of a Model T Ford. So you can tell where we started. I started oystering, got in the oyster business in the 1970s, late 1978. The only one person up here that's been in the oyster business testifying that's been in the business as long as I have in business and that's Misho. He also is the only one that has been up here in front of the Commission in the 80s when Gary Madlock, which had the same position I guess as maybe Robert -- Robin. And he came up to the Commission and we testified and he wanted to close the entire Texas coastline down for two years, which would have devastated the oyster industry in the State of Texas, everybody in the small -- the small businesses anyway.

The Commission voted unanimously to carry out the proclamation to close the entire Texas coast. It wasn't very successful because a month later, we were in Travis County court and a good -- one of my father's best friends and a friend of mine was Dr. -- well, not doctor. Was Bob Hofstetter. Been published three times. Sammy Ray, Dr. Sammy Ray said that Bob knew more about oysters than any person he knew alive.

When we went in front of the court in Travis County, after a day and a half, two days at court, our last person on the stand was Bob Hofstetter and at the end of the getting -- grueling him over everything that's happened, the sampling techniques and everything, he said -- and they rested and then the Judge says, well, I've got -- I had some question. So he started asking him questions. He said, "You've been published three times? Been with the Parks and Wildlife 35 years? And they didn't want to listen to anything you had to say?" And he said no. He said thank you for you service, you can step down.

At the end of that, when he gave his ruling, he ruled against the Texas Parks and Wildlife not on one violation, not on five violations, on 12 violations. Picked up his gavel, closed it down, the bays are open immediately. Okay? What I'm trying to say is, is two years later the same person that asked to close down all of the Texas bays for our own good, had us come up here, the oyster advisory work group come up here in this building and when he stepped into the room he says I got to tell y'all something. He said y'all proved me wrong.

And one of the big deals was in San Antonio Bay, there was literally at the end of this one season, there was -- they took samples and there was no oysters alive. None whatsoever. And two years later, he came in and told us -- he said I guess y'all proved me wrong. He said because the samples in San Antonio Bay are the highest samples we have ever had in the history of taking samples. Christine said, oh, this is the worst that we've ever seen. Well, the worst that maybe Christine Jensen has ever seen, but I've been in this business for 40 years and let me tell you, I have seen it get worse than this and come back where the boats would be catching 100, 150 sacks a day.

Everybody else has spoke about the low limits we have. We went from 150 sacks seven days a week to 30 sacks five days week. We've done a lot and let me tell you, it's the truth, we help the resource. We don't hurt the resource. And when we start having problems with the oysters getting a spat set, the oysters do need to get cleansed and they do need to get worked. If you have a lot of -- I don't know why I'm having a problem remembering this -- the small mussels that grow on the oysters, we've had times where the complete reef was covered with mussels. Well, if they're covered with mussels, guess what? You're not going to get a spat set. So the only way of getting rid of the mussels is us. We're the only ones that can do it.

And I appreciate y'all listening to me and actually Mr. Evans said to say hello and he begged me to try to find oysters out of the East Coast for him because he can't get oysters for his restaurants in Houston, so.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Mr. Valentino.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you. Tell Mr. Evans I said hi, please.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Captain Donovan, Curtis Miller, Mike Prasekte.

MR. BRIAN DONOVAN: Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, thanks for having me. I appreciate the opportunity to speak. I guide part time and own a short-term rental property in Rockport. I provide about a hundred nights of accommodation a year. My guest include fishermen, hunters, and birders, and families who help support the more than $500 million recreation economy in Rockport and Port Aransas and half a billion's big number. It's ten times the size of the oyster industry in the State of Texas.

I've fished the Rockport area for 38 years and when you enter Carlos Bay, it's a serpentine course through the Towhead, Poverty Reef, Pelican Reef, Spalding Reef, and the approach to Mesquite Bay is guarded by Cedar Reef and the third chain islands. And as you heard earlier today, none of that structure is above the waterline today.

Continued degradation of Coastal Bend reefs affects the environmental services so frequently mentioned today, while endangering a regional recreation economy that dwarfs the commercial oyster harvest and the science is clear. The organizations that were listed at the beginning of this meeting in support of the proposal are staffed with marine biologists and fishery scientists. The organizations that are opposed have a narrow economic industry that neglects the overall health of our bays.

We've heard fantastic claims today about how dredging improves reefs. Zero scientific data supports this premise. The healthiest reefs in our bay complex right now are intertidal reefs that are immune from harvest. Coastal Bend oysters need a reprieve. The recent reopening of Cedar Bayou makes Carlos, Mesquite, and Ayres Bays ideally and uniquely suited to act as nurseries for oysters and game fish. With a combination of designated sanctuary reefs, commercial leases, the inclusion of vertical relief data to gauge the health of our reefs and oyster farming, Texas has the opportunity to become the nation's leading supplier of sustainable oysters. Please pass this proposal. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Captain Donovan.

Curtis, then Mike Prasekte, then Amanda fuller.

Hello, Curtis.

MR. CURTIS MILLER: Hello. Good afternoon, Commissioners, Chairman. My name is Curtis Miller. I'm 60 years old. I'm the owner of Miller Seafood. I've been in the oyster industry and the seafood industry all my life from the time I was a 9-year-old picking up oysters on the shores of Lavaca Bay and shucking them with an old hickory butcher knife for friends and family and I still have both my arms. So I survived.

I'm here today to speak against closing these three bays. I don't think there's the science to back up. We haven't even seen any studies, like everybody said. I'm not going to go over again what everybody's already said. But the six bays that were closed, we haven't seen those studies to support that and we haven't seen any studies on closing these three new bays.

Get my notes here. There seems to be a misconception -- I've heard it all day -- that the oyster boats move in and when they leave, there's nothing left. Just bare ground. Nothing could be further from the truth. We're allowed to catch 3-inch and larger oysters. There's no market. I don't -- I don't want to buy shell. I'm a buyer. I'm not going to by dead shell. I'm not going to buy 1-inch oysters. I'm not going to buy 2-inch oysters. Most of my customers prefer a 3-and-a-half to 4-and-a-half inch oyster. So there's no demand for small oysters.

We work the reef, get the 3-inch and up oysters and then we leave behind all the smaller oysters, all the shell all, the substrate. What are going to do with it, you know? Because there's no market for that.

So, and then another statement that Mr. Weiss made earlier about the chain islands. He stated that he can't walk between the lumps, the reefs anymore because they've been dredged out. That's the most ludicrous statement I've heard all day. We're not going to dredge between there. There's no market for mud. There's no market for shell. So why would boats dredge between those chains? There's no reason to, and that's just another false statement there.

But anyway, I would just ask you to consider our livelihoods and being here yesterday and today, I've been outside, I've been in the room. We've had a lot of very constructive conversations with people from all the user groups and I'm here to say we can work together. We want to work together. We want to get with all the user groups, come up with a solution. I don't think shutting out one user group is the answer. But I'll just ask you to please table this and give us the opportunity to all come together and come up with a solution that's works for everybody. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Mr. Miller. I know your seafood house well.

Mike. Good to see you, Mike. How are you doing?

MR. MIKE PRASEKTE: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, Vice-Chairman, and Commissioners. My name's Mike Prasekte. I'm the newly elected President of CCA Texas. I'm in favor of the proposal. From Hillje, Texas, I manage and operate our family business which allows me the opportunity to be tied to local community. Many of us in El Campo/Hillje region keep close tabs on our fisheries in Matagorda Bays and the Carancahua Bay especially.

We have had house in Carancahua Bay, bay system, our family house since 1964. It seems to us prior to 2016, there was just a small number of boats that would fish Carancahua. I assume these were local fisherman. That all changed in 2016, 2017, oyster season as dozens of boats descended upon the bay, dredging against and bumping into fishing piers and bulkheads, handpicking the intertidal reefs that were shallow, too shallow to dredge, and decimating our historical reefs in front of Salt and Red Fish Lake.

Thankfully the Commission closed Carancahua Bay in 2017 and happy to report that we have some oyster reefs rebounding and as a result of that, our water clarity is steadily coming back from that low point in 2017. We are noticing a greater abundance of Black drum in the bay and there is less bank erosion, especially in front of Red Fish and Salt Lake as those reefs rebound. Now it seems we have a similar situation that has occurred in Mesquite Bay area. A small bay system was likely just fished by local community fishermen, was inundated by 144 oyster dredges, prompting the Commission to consider the closure.

Based on what I and my community have observed in Carancahua Bay, I feel that the Mesquite Bay closure is the right thing to do. Recovery will take some time and rebound won't be immediate, but the closure eventually of Mesquite Bay reefs will be able to fill the ecological and structural function in the water. Thank you y'all.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thanks, Mike. Good to see you.

MR. MIKE PRASEKTE: It's good to see you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Amanda Fuller, then Dan Applin, then Dorthy Herrera.

Hello, Amanda.

MS. AMANDA FULLER: Hi. Good afternoon, Commissioners and Mr. Smith. I'm Amanda Fuller. I represent the National Wildlife Federation. We are one of the nation's oldest conservation organizations known for our big tent approach to science-based advocacy for the benefit of wildlife and communities in our rapidly changing world. I direct NWF's coastal and our water work in Texas and on behalf of 260,000 plus members and supporters throughout the state, I want to express our support for this proposal and our gratitude to the Department, particularly the Coastal Fisheries Division for their long-standing and strong commitment to responsible stewardship of Texas' natural resources for the benefit of us all.

Oyster reefs, it's important to remember, are a public resource and they serve our land, our wildlife, and our people in a myriad of ways and this resource is under increasing pressure not just now, but into the foreseeable future, as bays and estuaries across the Gulf are experiencing significant stress. And I really want to highlight the important role that oyster reefs play in shoring up and protecting the Texas coast as we encounter elevated coastal erosion rates, sea level rise, and extreme storms in the Gulf.

Healthy reef systems help to slow down wave energy. They mitigate impacts from storm surge, like coastal flooding and they provide a line of defense to coastal wetlands and prairies that buffer inland communities from storms. The Department has led a tremendous effort to restore the state's oyster reefs, especially with funds from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in recent years, alongside NGO partners, and it will take continued investments in restoration at a large scale, coupled with is strategic changes to rules and regulations such as the proposal in front of you today to ensure that this resource weathers the impacts of climate change. And that's really what this is all about.

It's important that we recognize that the oystermen have not only dedicated themselves to this industry, but they've also afforded all of us the opportunity to experience the rich cultural heritage of the Texas coast every time any of us consume an oyster. NWF is committed to and encourages the Department and every other stakeholder that has participated in this hearing today to explore innovative approaches to win-win opportunities for the resource and for the fisherman. Things like training and hiring oystermen to help restore the coastal habitat and enjoying in a growing restoration economy in the Gulf, employing oyster men after storms to help recover and restore reefs that have been silted over, and the continued development of oyster aquaculture in Texas. So I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you today and thank you so much.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Amanda.

Dan Applin, Dorthy Herrera, Brad Boney.

Hello, Dan. Welcome.

MR. DAN APPLIN: Good morning, Commissioners. I'd like -- thank you for letting me speak. I'm a third generation fisherman on the Texas coast going back to the early 50s and I fished with my dad, my uncles, my brothers and now my -- and now the latest generation. And what's happening in the Mesquite Bay system is heartbreaking. If people were out there for two or three days and just watched the devastation, I don't think it would be very hard to see support of this bill or this rule.

I don't believe most the majority of the oyster boats really follow the rules that y'all have in place today and I don't think they're very good steward of the bays. I do feel for them losing their jobs as the bays are cut back, but I lost my business in the late 1998 as technology changed and I to start over and do something new and doing something new turned out to better for me. So I don't think that's an excuse not do the right thing, and I appreciate everything that y'all do. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, sir.

Dorthy, then Brad, then Chuck Naiser.

MS. DORTHY HERRERA: Hello. My name is Dorthy Herrera. I am from Port Lavaca, Texas. I am the wife of a commercial oyster fisherman. We have been in the oyster industry for over 28 years plus. We have seen and been part of the injustice that has been done to the oyster fishermen throughout the years and now it's time to make our voices to be heard and to stand up for what is right.

Firstly, Texas Parks and Wildlife, you have mismanaged the Department. You have passed laws indiscriminately behind our backs or have failed to notify us. Along with that, you have failed to properly convey your messages, knowing that the majority of commercial fishermen are Hispanics. Secondly, your red light/green light system has failed and because of this, we are paying the price. You have forced oyster boats into one small area. Of course, the reefs are diminishing.

Texas Parks and Wildlife, you talk about how there are no live oysters or that they are too small. What did you think was going to happen? If you do not cultivate, reefs will -- if you do not cultivate properly, they will, indeed, die. And your traffic light has done this. Not us. The reason, because the bays that you have promised to reopen in two years that you closed back in 2015, have been closed for more than five, six years. And what has happened? Nothing. No sampling. Nothing.

Texas Parks and Wildlife, you talk about restoration of the reefs. Well, if you allow the commercial oyster fishermen to help with this project, I guarantee you that we would not need to be deploying cultch material in restricted areas. We may not have a degree, but we have the experience. And I attended the Rockport meeting on March 3rd and never in my life have I been part -- I've never had to deal with discrimination and March 3rd is recorded in my head how we were treated that day and I pray that nobody else has to endure this any longer.

I am having to work a second job due to the bay closures. We don't want to depend on the government to live. We're hardworking citizens. So again, I thank you for this opportunity to speak and I hope and pray you reconsider in keeping in our bays open and I am against the proposal. Thank you so much.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Ms. Herrera.

Brad, then Chuck, then Jennifer Pollack.

MR. BRAD BONEY: It's Brad Boney, like skinny bony. Yeah, I don't -- good day, Commissioners, Chairman, Vice-Chairman. My name is Brad Boney. I reside in League City, lived in Galveston County, purchased a bay home in 2002. Kept it up until about two years ago. Went through Hurricane Ike, saw the damage that Ike did and what Harvey did to our reefs. It's a problem and something that to this day has not been addressed and nor has it been recovered and that's a problem.

One of the common elements I hear from everyone here is we all want more oyster, right? Well how do we get to it? I'm a mediator and I do public affairs work. In fairness, in 2017 I worked with the industry on passage of Bill HB 51. We thought it was a good plan. Not everyone was happy. Just like in mediation, you're trying to put somebody in a 1974 Pinto that they don't want to own, much less pay for, right? But we got it crafted out and everyone felt good about it and it put some of the onus and the responsibility back on the industry with stiffer fines, Class A misdemeanors for undersized shell. We thought that would work.

In the process, there was an issue that happened in Christmas Bay somebody had mentioned here before. I was called. I went down and contacted Dude Payne, met with Matt Sebasta and we pushed for the closure of the bay. That was initiated -- initiated by the industry and I'll take full credit for it -- not full credit myself, but the industry by stepping forward and getting after it. It was a unified decision. Mostly unified decision that was made and it was a tough one.

I was appointed by Government Rick Perry and reappointed by Greg Abbott to the Board of Commissioners in Galveston County. So I understand the position you're in. As policymakers, this is what you have to deal with and really appreciate your attention and time, especially how long this has been going on.

The reason why I'm against this proposal is I feel that this was created and pushed by NGOs who don't create jobs, contribute to tax base without the participation of the oyster working group, which is recognized by Texas Parks and Wildlife. They've had two meetings since COVID. Two meetings to work together. My dad has -- when you put gas in your car, chances are it pass through one of the patents. His specialty was on the service side of refineries. When there was a problem in a refinery, he'd meet with management. They would send a team of engineers down to figure it out. My dad tackled it in his own way. He'd go down, meet with management, put on a suit, put on his boots, go out and talk to the operators, the guys were that twisting the wrenches and working on it. And from that, they're able to get through the problem quicker. When he retired, they called him back for five years to do the same thing.

And I think that's one thing that I see missing here today is the industry needs to be included into this dialogue. They should be included in any plan that goes together, they put forth. And more importantly is we need to find a way to replenish the oyster that we lost from Harvey and Ike. And I don't hear much being said about that.

What I do know is if you want oyster, throw a rock. If there's splat, it will find itself. With that, let me finish up because I went off notes and I apologize, guys. I promise you a collaborative approach will be far less painful and for more productive. Thank you very much for your time and your service. I appreciate it. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Brad.

Chuck, how are you? Welcome.

MR. CHUCK NAISER: Chairman Aplin, I'm glad to be here. Commissioners, thank you for what you do. I came here first in 1980 and commented before this board on the great -- during the great Red fish wars. The wonderful Chairman Perry Bass was here and I got to know him and this issue is so closely akin. It calls for tough decisions and it affects people's lives.

And during that time of the Red fish war when the commercial netter was taking the resource from the bay, there were people doing that and they had homes and they had cars and they had families and you just get to a point to where you go I owe something to the resource. I have to make a decision. It's not a fun decision. These people will go on. I don't know any of those commercial netters that didn't go into some area. I feel for these people. I really do. I don't want to hurt them, but I want to protect the resource --

And I'll tell you that I've seen freezes. I've been through all the algae blooms. I've been through uprooting seagrass. I've been involved in Red Fish Bay scientific research area and I've been disappointed in the prevalence of jackassery on the water by the user groups and I've never seen a single issue be more threatening to the balance and the health of our system than what's going on.

I swore I'd never come back, and I'm here because I believe in what I just said. The -- two years ago I wrote an essay called "The Baffle Reefs" in which I highlighted the importance of Ayres Reef and Cedar Reef. I went to Carlos Bay first in 1967. You don't want to hear this old guy stuff, but I was there in 1967. I'm probably the only man who ever waded the top of Carlos Reef from the intersection with a Ballou or San Jose Island all the way to the mainland, Bludworth Island and back with a single metal Coleman and lantern, a two-prong gig, and a stringer to gig flounders. I walked every one of those reefs for years all through the 70s into the 80s. My time's up. I'm going to thank you for what you do. I have a lot more talking points. Call me. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Chuck.

Jennifer, then Shane, then Murray Martin.

DR. JENNIFER POLLACK: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Smith, good afternoon. Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. My name is Dr. Jennifer Pollack. I'm a marine biologist and the Chair for Coastal Conservation and Restoration at the Heart Research Institute, which is at Texas A&M University Corpus Christi. My expertise is in oyster ecology.

As an employee of the Texas A&M system, I cannot advocate for or against the proposed amendment. With my comments, I do seek to provide a scientific basis to help inform positive management changes to ensure sustainability of this critical resource. I recognize that we are in a dire and challenging situation that will require compromise from all sides and I empathize deeply with those who livelihoods depend upon the oyster fishery. But the data indicate that closure is necessary in order to sustain the resource and the fishery.

I want to make three points. First, oyster reefs do not need to be dredged to stay healthy. The ecological value of oyster reefs depends upon their three dimensional complex structure, which is greatest when harvest is prohibited. I could show you a lot of papers; but the best way to do this is in our home state, go look at Sabine, the most beautiful oyster reefs you've seen and they're protected from harvest. A common misconception is that turning over the reef using a dredge improves production. It does not. Oyster dredging reduces reef size because shell material is broken or removed along with the oysters themselves and dredging reduces reef height, which can increase sedimentation and also burial of the reef which can increase mortality of oysters and other organisms. If a reef is silting in, it does not need additional dredging. It needs conservation action.

My second point is that prohibiting harvest of oysters in strategic locations can actually increase and contribute to oyster population persistence. Protected reefs can provide oyster larvae that replenish other reefs across a large geographic area. This highlights the importance of protected areas in supporting the fishery at large.

And my third point is that managers look to oyster reef restoration to help reverse the effects of habitat loss, but this strategy is ineffective when restored reefs are subject to harvest. Less than one season of dredging can reduce the height of a restored reef by 30 percent. Restored reefs that are dredged can be completely destroyed in four years. Protection of restored and legacy reefs in strategic locations needs to be a part of the management equation. Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you and to support a science-based approach to management.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Jennifer.

Hello, Shane.

MR. SHANE BONNOT: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. My name is Shane Bonnot. I'm the Advocacy Director for CCA Texas. Mesquite Bay is gem of the Texas coast and if you look at that map that was presented yesterday showing all of that habitat type, it's as if an artist painted a mosaic of all the critical things that are required to support a vibrant nursery. You have seagrass. You have Spartina marsh edge, back country lakes, a Gulf pass interconnecting the bay, and at the backbone of it all is a habitat and unto itself a habitat that supports a community of fisheries and numerous aquatic species and that's our oyster reefs. Reefs that we place no value on their structural nature, no value on their ecosystem services, and no value for their physical place in the water column. We only seem to care about percent undersize and catch rates.

Mesquite Bay proper TX 28 was closed on December 21st. That is 37 days, 37 fishing days into the season. A six-month season. The entire complex is an area with 2.8 percent of the state's oyster reefs was forcefully fished by shallow-drafting boats and it's now a priority for restoration and now today at the eleventh hour, this Commission is being politically pressured to table or postpone this decision, citing economic impacts and the absurd notion that dredging helps the bays. I assure you that the value of the oyster in the water for its ecosystem services far exceeds the dockside or downstream values of the meat and Dr. Pollack eloquently addressed the notion of dredges helping the bays.

A simple look back at oyster reef surveys in the 1900s and our more recent need to prioritize restoration and shell return tells you everything you need to know. So we can keep chasing our tail on this issue and conduct immensely expensive restoration projects to restore what's been lost, damaged, or destroyed or we can choose the more economically viable option, which is to protect oyster -- public oyster reefs from degradations and expand leasing opportunities for the fishing community.

Just yesterday the Commission amended two proposals based off public feedback. This proposal has an overwhelming support from public and overwhelming support from NGOs. NGOs whose motives are not driven by private gain, rather a true and in-sere -- a sincere desire to do what is best for the resource. And that's what I'm asking you to do today, do what is best for the resource and what is best for the long-term sustainability of this fishery, protect this area, and let's work together to boldly expand leases and increase opportunities for the fishermen. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Shane.

Murray Martin.

MR. MURRAY MARTIN: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, Vice-Chairman, all the Commissioners. My name's Murray Martin. I'm here today representing Bay Flats Lodge. We're the largest hunting/fishing lodge on the Texas coast located on the shores of San Antonio Bay just outside of Seadrift.

We employ 22 full-time staff members and associates who are citizens of Seadrift and the lodge also supports 22 full-time and two part-time U.S. Coast Guard licensed professional fishing and hunting guides from Seadrift and other surrounding communities like Port O'Connor, Port Lavaca, Victoria, and even places as far away as Ben Bolt and Henrietta.

Our lodge services have become conservation centric over time. We've partnered with Yeti to eliminate all single-use plastics and styrofoam in our daily operations. Excuse me. We match dollar for dollar all customer donations to CCA's Business Conservation Trust. We've partnered with Texas Sea Grants Recreational Fisheries Project and we promote catch and release to our lodge guests. Our goal in all this is to support a sustainable future. That's why I'm speaking in support of this proposal.

Now then back then -- back when Cedar Bayou was open to the Gulf, the Mesquite Bay complex was a hotspot for recreational fishing. Cedar Bayou later filled in, halting a sustainable tidal flow of clean Gulf saltwater to the region resulting in unhealthy marshlands and a decline in overall fish, crab, and shrimp populations. After decades of funding and labor, Cedar Bayou is once again open and flowing with saltwater between the Gulf and Mesquite Bay.

At an enormous expense, Mesquite Bay complex stands to benefit tremendously. There will be an increase in migratory marine species that require access to Gulf water, like the Blue crab, shrimp, Red fish larva. But even more pertinent to today's discussion is that Mesquite Bay won't experience the high salinity levels seen when Cedar Bayou is closed, which will nurture healthy oysters.

But there's still a problem. A lot of time and money was spent resurrecting Cedar Bayou to rejuvenate the local economy, ecosystem, fishing, tourism, and birding. However, we continue to allow massive oyster harvesting in the area. Mesquite Bay oystering the past decade has experienced substantial annual growth. Recent studies even indicate a potential for historic record high numbers this season.

All else aside and from a pure business standpoint, none of this makes sense. Essentially, we've already mailed out dinner party invitations to all of our estuarian friends with the opening of Cedar Bayou. Unfortunately, however, when our guests begin arriving at the party, they'll find the habitat to be unrecognizable because any possibility for refuge has been destroyed and there's no dinner to be found anywhere due to the increasing oyster harvesting. At this current pace, there's little chance we'll ever be able to maintain a sustainable oyster population in the Mesquite Bay complex.

Thank you for letting me speak today. Bay Flats Lodge is in favor of this proposal.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Murray, thank you.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Gary Glick -- Click. Sorry. I'm not sure if it's a C or G. Welcome, Gary.

And then John Shepped.

Hello, Gary.

MR. GARY GLICK: Hi. My name's Gary Glick. I'm here representing four guys from deep South Texas that are involved in Friends of RGV Reef. Friends of RGV Reef doesn't have a money dog in this fight, but we may have a good analog for decision-making. Oh, back about 2015, we suspected that maybe the Gulf bottom was a little short on nursery reef and that its base productivity had been reduced and decided to do something about it and got help from CCA and multitude of industry partners and paid real close attention to biologists and we put down 72 million pounds of recycled concrete and made a nursery reef of 1,200 acres out there. For a sense of scale, that's three times the total concrete material that's in all the rest of the Texas artificial reefs combined.

And now there's -- according to the biologists, there's about a million Red snapper there now, mostly juveniles, and another about million other kinds of fish. The total economic impact there is about $47 million according to a study that South Padre Island commissioned basically so we would quit pestering them for more money.

The value of the Red snapper that come off that reef is nowhere near $47 million. There are what the economists like to call externalities and there are both economic externalities and environmental externalities when you put down -- when you put down nursery reef and also when you increase the base productivity of the bottom. So there's been a lot of talk about whether or not the base product -- what's going on with the base productivity of the bay systems and Ms. Pollack stole most of my fire; but if you go to the Texas Wildlife Action Plan, which is also the Texas Comprehensive Wildlife Plan, and zip over to page 489 through 492, fishing impacts, what it says is if you trawl a marine bottom, you reduce its productivity for five times the amount of time that it takes for the biota to reestablish itself.

Another way to look at that is you trawl a bottom once and the damage is from six months to five years. You trawl a bottom multiple times, the damage can be from -- oh, crap. We're already over.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: You're yellow. You're not red yet.

MR. GARY GLICK: Okay. The -- oh, five years to perpetuity. So there's -- the economists love to talk about externalities where the producer and the consumer of good pay less than they would because society takes the remainder of the cost of producing that. So hard substrate reef is important both in our bays and offshore because it produces a positive externality. You generate benefit both economically and ecologically by having complex, hard substrate reef that provides nursery protection and bumps the basic productivity of the bottom. And I thank you gentlemen. Appreciate your attention to this issue. Bye.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Gary. And thank you for what you've done with the reefs.

Hello, John.

MR. JOHN SHEPPERD: Hi. Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. My name is John Shepperd. I'm the Executive Director of the Texas Foundation for Conservation. We are here in support of this proposal.

Oysters, like all native fish and wildlife species, are part of the public trust and they must be managed in perpetuity for all Texans to enjoy and in order to manage a resource in perpetuity, it's got to be sustainable. 70 to 80 percent of the product that the oyster industry derives is from the public reef system and they're only replacing about 30 percent of the base material necessary for the continued growth of that resource. This is not sustainable.

You all are aware of the public comments overwhelmingly in support of this proposal. The organizations that sent letters represent tens of thousands of Texans. I know this is not an easy vote; but if we allow this trend to continue, the issue will only become more difficult, complex, and expensive as we go farther down the road. This decision should be based on the best available science to ensure that the resource is sustainable and thriving. It should not be based on the short-term financial gain for a few individuals and it certainly not be based on last-minute letters from downtown Austin. If you have any questions, I'm happy to answer.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, John.

I have only one person that had signed up that I believe was not in attendance, Santos Martinez. So I want to just make sure that Santos is not here.

Other than that, we've gone through all of the people that have registered. Is there anyone here that has not registered or has not spoken that would like to speak to the Commission?

We have a lot of meeting left. We're going to have some deliberation. It's 1:15. So I'm going to try to take probably a 30-minute break, let us have -- get a little refreshment, let everybody go to the restroom, and I'm going to take us into Executive Session so we can seek legal counsel.

And, Todd, do I need to read something?

MR. GEORGE: No. That's sufficient.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: That's sufficient. So we will be back as soon as possible. We're going to shoot for 30 minutes, but it's not necessarily a precise science. So see you as soon as we can. Thank you.

(Recess taken for Executive Session)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Everyone, sorry for the delay. We had an internet issue, but we believe we're back up now for people that are not here.

So the Commission has returned from Executive Session, which it convened pursuant to the Government Code Section 551.071 for the purpose of consultation with attorneys regarding contemplated litigations. We are back in session at 2:43 p.m.

We heard many comments, many thoughts, many ideas on the proposed closure of the oyster fishery. One of the things that we didn't get to do that I wanted do before, is -- Dr. Pollack, are you here? Could you come back up, please?


CHAIRMAN APLIN: As y'all know, we had to get through a lot of commenters and so we wanted to listen and take it all in. But now that we've done that, I think I have some questions and maybe some Commissioners have some questions and maybe Dr. Pollack can help.

There was a lot of conversation and there seems to be a lot of confusion or disagreement, the logic that maybe the dredging of the reefs are good for them and healthy and without the dredging, the reefs don't prosper and then -- and then I hear the other side of the argument that, in fact, that maybe isn't the best thing and that they do really well untouched. And so for the benefit of me and I suspect the other Commissioners, I would just like if you could give us some clarity on that and help us with that because we must have heard 50 people say the opposite today and so if you could help me with --


CHAIRMAN APLIN: -- that, Dr. Pollack.

DR. JENNIFER POLLACK: Yes, yes. Thank you for the opportunity to talk about that. I, to be honest, was very surprised to hear this comment coming up so often because it was something that I heard in the previous public hearings that I attended in March, at the beginning of March. And as a result, I scoured the literature. I thought there must be a place where this information is coming from about dredging being good for a reef that I'm unaware of. And like I said, this is my area of expertise. I've been studying oysters in Texas for 15 years.

There's no data out there to indicate that dredging a reef is beneficial for a reef. This concept of the reef getting silted in if it's not dredged is maybe a separate issue and maybe where this is coming from. You know, after Hurricane Ike, you know, we know that so many of the reefs in the Galveston Bay in 2008 were covered with, you know, one, two feet of sediment and the idea that a bagless dredge could be pulled across the reef as one method for removing silt. So this is a -- possibly where this idea is coming from. But even for bagless dredges, there's no data. There are no data. No scientific studies that demonstrate its effectiveness because even the bagless dredges can re-suspend sediment, increase the turbidity, and it can be resettled on the reef.

All of the scientific studies that are out there talk about essentially that it -- that dredging a reef can reduce reef height. Again, because it just sort of -- you can image, it sort of chops the top of the reef off, which exposes those organisms to lower oxygen conditions near the bottom, increases sedimentation, increase burial of the reef, and also that it decrease the size of the reef because it's removing the shell and the oysters themselves.

So oysters are more challenging, as you know, to manage than other fisheries because they're one of the only organisms that depend on themselves for the habitat. So as you're removing the oysters, you're removing the habitat. And I'm happy to answer more detailed questions about that. I'm hoping that helps.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: I think we also heard similar things from -- I can't -- excuse me, I can't remember the name. But the fellow from the Heart Institute, which is a well-respected coastal science group.

DR. JENNIFER POLLACK: And just to be clear, that's also where I am, sir, at the Heart Research Institute. You're probably referring to Dr. Yoskowitz, who's a natural --


DR. JENNIFER POLLACK: -- resource economist.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay, good. You're with the Heart Institute as well.




CHAIRMAN APLIN: Commissioners, anybody want to -- James?

COMMISSIONER ABELL: Commissioner Abell. Dr. Pollack, I had one question. If this reef system were to be closed, barring some other environmental factors like, you know, freshwater or hurricane or whatever, how long would you expect it to recover?

DR. JENNIFER POLLACK: That's a really good question. So what I would encourage you to think about instead of -- it would be difficult to say a period of time. What I would encourage Parks and Wildlife to do is to try to establish some thresholds based on some success criteria because it depends, like you said, on what else is happening, what the condition of the reefs are, or when the closure starts and what success is defined as. And I'd be happy to help, you know, pull some information from the literature.

We have 15 years of data sampling oysters around Texas as well that we can help contribute, but I think that's the wisest way to move forward is to establish those metrics of success and then revisit them.

COMMISSIONER ABELL: Just as a follow-up, as we sort of think about managing the overall oyster fishery statewide, would there be a benefit to sort of a reef rotation? You know, harvesting an area and then leaving it alone for a period of time?

DR. JENNIFER POLLACK: That's a -- that's a good question. I mean, when you think -- I think that the management strategies need to change. We need to have some new tools in the toolbox. My thoughts about this closure proposal were more in line with the fact that if you want to have these source populations that can then replenish all of the reefs, whether harvested or not, you want to choose the ones that are in the best condition and the best locations because those are the ones that are going to provide the best benefit outside of that area.

Rotating reefs may be contrary to what my line of thinking was because then you're going to -- you're going to move around that effort. You know, it would be my opinion that it would probably be better to in strategic locations protect reefs for long periods of time based on their ability to best service the other reefs and then let the other reefs -- hopefully then the other reefs that are harvested get the best value of those strategic closures.


COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Is it -- is it possible these metrics of success you talk about, is it possible to take the environmental influence of say hurricanes and silting and essentially delete that element so as to understanding is the reef getting better or not? And I know that's -- but trying to discount we know that freshwater has a negative influence and things of that sort. And so what we're trying to determine is, for example, what has been -- has there been success with the closures of the '17 reefs and how do we define whether or not it's getting better, it's getting worse, and with environmental elements intertwined in that process? So a complicated question.

DR. JENNIFER POLLACK: It is. It's a complicated question. It's a complicated thing to tease apart, like you said, because these long-term environmental changes are going to continue to make it difficult to manage any fisheries, any coastal resources, you know, and they're not mutually exclusive. Right? So we know that there have been big -- you know, like I said from Ike, we have big siltation events, we've had big freshwater inflow events that have knocked out Galveston Bay again and then against the backdrop of that, you have harvest.

So pointing your finger to one thing is incredibly difficult to understand why we are where we are today. At the same time, it's -- if you're protecting the reefs, you're protecting that physical reef structure that's just so important for all of the other benefits that you can get out of a reef that is -- I hope I've been able to share from the science -- can then spill over outside of that area. So oftentimes when we are trying to get federal funding for restoration projects, we talk about -- you know, they say what area of influence will this benefit and you can talk about entire bay systems. I mean, there have been modeling studies that show if you protect a reef or restore a reef, where do those oyster larvae go in the three weeks that they're tiny plankton. They go throughout the entire bay.

So I know I'm kind of -- I'm not directly answering your question because I don't know what the direct answer is, other than to say that all of these factors are working at the same time and so to take one out of the equation is -- it's difficult to predict what would happen.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Any other Commissioners?

It's a complicated issue. I'll tell you the more I think about this, the more I listen to it, we've had a lot of -- a lot of input. We've been asked to proceed. We've been asked to not proceed. We've been asked to postpone and look at this and study. The.

one thing that I feel good about is

this -- these three systems have -- the fishing has stopped on them. It's not happening. And so any degradation that could be happening in the future is stopped now. So we have -- we have stopped the bleeding, if you will, in that regard. So I think it may be appropriate to put together -- to instruct staff to put together a task force group to work just along the lines that you were visiting, talking about just then, Doctor; but develop thresholds, metrics of success, so we kind of know what this thing could look like in the future.

So given the fact that the reefs are being protected now, this is a really, really big issue and I think even here today, we don't really have a grasp of what the metrics or what the -- you know, what the thresholds of success might look like.

What do y'all think? I think we direct staff to go work on this, put together a group of stakeholders to go analyze. This is a big -- this is a big -- a big deal and today we're talking about these three bay systems, but we need to start also working on the bay -- on our bay system in its entirety and not just these three. So we heard from lots of fishermen today. It's how they make their livelihood. But I feel like what we're doing now is with weather we've been thrown to us and the demand for oysters, that we're in an unsustainable place and so I think we need to look at this from a 30,000-foot or global, however you want to describe it, a bigger picture. And so I feel no sense of urgency on this particular issue and allow us to gather more data because the reefs are off limits for harvest now. They're protected. I think we can catch our breath and look into this a little more.

I think one of the ladies mentioned on the teleconference that it's not raining -- or she -- I forgot how she worded it. But it's not on fire, not raining. I would feel different if it wasn't closed, but it is closed because of the ability that we had to close it for overfishing. So I'm going to suggest, Commission, that we instruct Carter to get together with the group and put together an inclusive group that has all the stakeholders that we heard from today and that we do a big-picture analysis and with the goal to get back by oyster season, which is the 1st of November, to talk about this.

But I want to be crystal clear. These reefs that we talked about today are closed and so if we get back sooner or not, it won't affect that issue because the season doesn't open until November. So I would like to give you a little more time to really, really analyze this. And one of the things that will also be what we just discussed is this concept of there seems to be a complete different opposite of opinion on the reef and whether you drag it, if it's good or bad. And thank you for sharing and it makes a lot of sense what you said. But that was -- seemed to be a real confusion today.

So that's a long-worded way of saying I think we may be wise to develop some metrics of success and some thresholds and see what they look like and get back this same Commission and decide on this in the future when we gather some more information. But in the meantime, this Ayres, Carlos, Mesquite will remain off limits.

Any thoughts any Commissioners?

VICE-CHAIRMAN SCOTT: I'll support your position on it.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Everybody good with that?


CHAIRMAN APLIN: What do I need to do? If I'm not -- if we're not going to have a vote on this agenda item today, what do we need to do other than what I've just mentioned?

MR. GEORGE: I suggest you withdraw the item from the agenda.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay. Do I do that, or do I need a vote?

MR. GEORGE: You can do that.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay. This is Item No. 4, Statewide Oyster Fishery Proclamation, I'm going to withdraw from the agenda and suggest that we get it back on the agenda as soon as possible. We need -- we can't not deal with this. We need to deal with this. This is not kicking the can down the road. This is let's get it right and gather a little more information.

MR. SMITH: Understood. Got it. Thank you, Chairman.


I want to thank everybody for so much time that they spent on this and the effort that they made to come share their views and thoughts on this. It's -- the system is working. Thank you.

Action Item No. 5, 2022-2023 Statewide Hunting and Migratory Game Bird Proclamation, Recommendation Adoption of Proposed Changes, Alan.

MR. CAIN: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman Commissioners. For the record, I'm Alan Cain, White-tailed Deer Program Leader and I'll be seeking adoption of proposed changes to the statewide big game harvest regulations. In -- so as the Commission may recall, yesterday I presented a proposal concerning take of firearm in four counties in North Texas that is a result of petition for rule-making we received this past summer. In response to the large number of comments received in opposition to the proposal and with the direction from the Commission, staff are pulling this part of the proposal from the consideration; but we would like to propose to retain one portion of the proposed changes and that's to require mandatory harvest reporting in these four counties for buck and antlerless deer so we can monitor harvest up there.

The next change that we're considering, that we're seeking adoption on, is the modification of the definition of buck and antlerless to address some odd tagging scenarios and provide some clarifications for hunters and law enforcement regarding things like antlered does, velvet antlered bucks, shed antlered bucks, and nubbin bucks. The proposed modification would clarify that antlerless deer are deer having no antler point protruding through the skin or a deer that has completely shed its antlers. And for a buck deer, the definition would be a deer having an antler point protruding through the skin or a deer having antler growth in velvet less than 1 inch -- or, I mean, sorry, greater than 1 inch.

We've had 349 responses to that. 82 percent in agreement. 18 percent disagree. Primary point of disagreement was that tagging should be based on the sex of the deer, not what's on its head.

The next change is -- has to do with the proof of the sex for buck deer, which currently includes the head. Staff are proposing to provide another option which includes the tail of that deer, the unskinned skull cap with antlers attached. And this additional proof of sex obviously would provide some CWD management options, allowing hunters to leave the most infectious parts of the animal -- i.e. the brain -- at the site of harvest. The tail is included to aid in species identification for law enforcement purposes.

We've had 337 total responses as of yesterday evening. 79 percent agree with the proposed change. 21 percent disagree. Again, some folks didn't understand why it was necessary to include the tail as proof of sex; but that's for ID purposes and some others were wondering about the skin on the skull cap and suggesting it won't work for trophy deer, but at least with the last one, the trophy deer, they can retain the head if they don't want to consider this other option as the proof of sex.

And the final change is -- for being proposed concerns cold storage facilities tagging requirements and proof of sex. And again, as you may recall yesterday, the head's required to be retained for a carcass that's not quartered versus a carcass that is quartered where the proof of sex requirements ceases once that harvest is entered in the cold storage and so the hunter can take his head or the locker plant can dispose of it. So staff are proposing to allow proof of sex to cease in commercial cold storage facility businesses after the deer has been entered into the log, regardless of whether that animal has been quartered or not.

To facilitate this change, we're proposing two types -- two definitions to be created for commercial cold storage facilities. The first one is a Type 1 facility, which is a place of business for purpose of storing and/or processing game animals or birds that is open to the public on a for-profit basis. So that's that brick-and-mortar locker plant or business. And then the second facility, cold storage facility type is a Type 2 facility and it's a facility not open to public on demand and it utilizes the cold storage facility to store or process game taken on a property where hunting occurs by individuals for pay.

Staff would also need to propose a definition for final destination for deer or deer carcass parts, which includes the permanent residence for the hunter or the person in possession of receiving those carcass -- carcass or carcass parts. Then also adding a Type 1 commercial cold storage facility to that list of final destinations. Again, that brick-and-mortar business.

And so at Type 1 facility, staff are proposing to allow proof of sex and tagging requirements to cease once the harvest is entered in the cold storage log, along with the harvest location, which is the ranch, the county name to be recorded by that cold storage facility. And now although carcass tagging requirements would cease with the carcass, a cold storage facility would be required to retain the tag or wildlife resource document while they're in possession of the carcass or any part of that carcass, again, to aid with law enforcement purposes.

And then at Type 2 facilities, again, those private ranches where hunting occurs for pay or private noncommercial cold storage facilities, the proposed change would require that deer is at least quartered and entered in the cold storage log before the proof of sex and tagging requirements would cease. Essentially, there's no change to how these cold storage facilities -- the Type 2 and the noncommercial -- would operate today with this proposed change and it's primarily a clarification in rule as a result of needing to add a new definition for cold storage facility types.

We've had 294 total responses. 90 percent agree. 10 percent disagree, primarily on the comment that retaining the tag is redundant by cold storage facilities or some folks thought it might eliminate cold storage facilities in small towns and it would be difficult for law enforcement to enforce antler restrictions and check bucks at locker plants.

That concludes my portion of the statewide, and I'll be glad to answer any questions before I turn it over to Shawn Gray.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Anybody have questions for Alan?

Thank you.

Shawn, you're up.

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

As I had mentioned yesterday and several other presentations, we -- the Department in 2018 initiated an experimental Mule deer antler restriction in six southeast panhandle counties and in 2019 in Lynn County. And prior to the experiment, we had excessive buck harvest and this excessive buck harvest skewed sex ratios and impacted buck age structure and because of this, we had many requests from our constituents for TPWD to act.

This graphic demonstrates what type of buck could be harvested or those that were protected during the Mule deer experimental antler restriction and this is also being proposed for the antler restriction expansion. This map illustrates the proposed Mule deer regulation changes with the current seasons. Staff is proposing the 28 light blue colored counties to be under the Mule deer antler restriction with the general season of 16 days. And staff also propose to test the Mule deer antler restriction in Terrell County, the light green colored county in the Trans-Pecos.

Given the favorable feedback from an opinion survey and positive biological impacts from the antler restriction, staff propose to make the antler restriction permanent in the current seven counties and expand to another 21 counties in the panhandle. In addition to proposing the antler restriction in the 15 southwest panhandle counties, staff propose to extend the current 9-day season to 16 days with a special archery season. Staff also propose to test the experimental Mule deer antler restriction in Terrell County and with this proposal, any buck with an outside spread of 20 inches or greater would be legal for harvest. Thus, any buck with a spread less than 20 inches would not be legal to harvest regardless of unbranched antlers.

The antler restriction currently does not apply to MLDP properties and staff propose this to continue. Staff also propose that the antler restriction not apply in any CWD zone. And staff will monitor success of the -- of the experimental antler restriction in Terrell County using our population surveys and a voluntary check station to gather more antler and ear measurements and buck age structure.

I got a little fast with my clicker. And so public comments made online indicate that about 80 percent of the respondents agreed with the antler restriction proposals, with 14 percent disagreeing completely. Germane comments disagreeing with the antler restriction range from the antler restriction is too restrictive or because they hunt for meat, there are too many deer, the restriction is too confusing, hunters can't cull inferior bucks, and government overreach.

For the Mule deer season extension proposal, support was 85 percent, with only 12 percent disagreeing completely. Germane comments there from those disagreeing with extending the season, include the extended season will cause more poaching, the population is too low to expand the season, or would to buck overharvest. Other commenters disagreeing thought that we should implement the antler restriction, but keep the season to nine days. And then we also received a letter addressed to the Chairman and the Commissioners from Mr. O.W. Schneider who expressed concern that extending the 9-day season would lead to buck overharvest and more specifically mature bucks.

And with that, I'd like to address any questions that you might have.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Questions for Shawn?

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Patton. I had a -- it kind of occurred to me as I was thinking about the provision or the exclusion to MLDP and Chronic Wasting areas. Right?

MR. GRAY: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: So I guess my question is going to be not MLDP, but if you're in a Chronic Wasting area where the new restriction wouldn't apply, is there still any -- is there like a default to the old antler restriction in the --

MR. GRAY: Yeah, there --

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: -- Chronic Wasting -- we're talking about Hudspeth and El Paso County, I guess, right?

MR. GRAY: No, because there's not -- we're not proposing to expand the antler restriction into those two counties. It would be -- where this would have some impact is in the panhandle. It would be like portions of Lubbock, Lynn --


MR. GRAY: Those --

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Will there be -- what will the antler --

MR. GRAY: There would be no antler restriction --


MR. GRAY: -- whatsoever in those counties.


MR. GRAY: It would just be the old system basically.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Wasn't there -- in the old system though, wasn't there some antler restriction, like forked?

MR. GRAY: No, sir.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: It was just anything?

MR. GRAY: It was just 16 days.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Okay, got it. All right, thank you.

MR. GRAY: Yeah, you bet.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Anybody else?

Thank you, Shawn.

MR. GRAY: Thank y'all.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Shaun, you're up.

MR. OLDENBURGER: All right. Good afternoon, Chairman and fellow Commissioners. For the record, my name is Shaun Oldenburger. I'm the Small Game Program Director. Today I'm continuing on with Alan and Shawn. Staff are recommending adoption of proposed changes to the statewide hunting and migratory game bird proclamations.

First one continuing on the change for statewide hunting proclamations as proposed would be the closure of eastern Ellis County to spring wild turkey season. As I stated yesterday, this is for protection of those birds that the Department has released in those green dot areas there over the last few years, to try to bring wild turkeys back to Eastern Texas and so this would be basically closing those birds that have moved over into those gray boxes and protecting those birds that have moved into suitable habitat for harvest.

Moving on to public comment with regards to that. As of 8:00 o'clock this morning, we had 238 comments with regards to that and 91 percent were in favor of agreeing completely with the proposed action.

All right. Continuing with the 2022-23 migratory game bird proclamation. Staff have three proposed changes, which would all align with United States Fish and Wildlife Service federal frameworks. That would be the elimination of hooded and merganser daily bag limits, the combining of merganser and duck daily bag limits into an aggregate bag limit, and then also the inclusion of the federal Sandhill crane hunting permit back into the proclamation due to an error that occurred previously.

Looking at public comment for these three proposals. Hooded and mergansers, as of this morning, had 23 comments, with 78 percent in support. Combined daily bag limits had 31 commenters, with 61 percent support. Got get new progressive lenses. Moving on to federal Sandhill crane permit, as of this morning, we had 31 comments and we had 81 percent support.

Moving on to the next proposed change by staff with regard to migratory game bird proclamation, this would be the addition of veteran waterfowl hunting days into the three duck zones. This was as a result of the John Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act. As I stated last year -- or yesterday, we didn't actually have authority to do that in the statute and luckily with SB 675 by Senator Kolkhorst at District 18, that was included and signed by the Governor last session. So once again, staff proposals to be concurrent with youth-only waterfowl seasons and those veterans that do hunt will have to have proof of veteran status. That proof of veteran status will also be allowed in court in case they were cited and did not have that proof, they were able to get rid of that citation.

So this is just looking again as I gave yesterday, a calendar of what that would look like in the High Plains Mallard Management Unit with October 22nd and 23rd in orange there, basically being what that weekend is as proposed just within this one of three zones.

Moving on to public comment with regards to this proposed change. We had -- we had 30 commenters as of this morning and 80 percent were within agreement. Almost all the commenters agreed with the proposal. Some were just against the timing of the season.

And the next proposal is basically the change of the timing of season with the proposed -- with the Western Goose Zone. Once again, as I stated yesterday, we differential migration between two species of geese in this zone, with Cackling geese in the panhandle coming in much later, whereas the Greater White-fronted geese in the eastern part of the zone come in a little bit earlier. Late October, early November. So those individuals that hunt that part of the zone wanted an earlier season based on public comment. So we're proposing to move that hunting season a week earlier than this last year.

We had 54 percent on 24 comments as of this morning. Basically all those folks that did disagree with us wanted us to be consistent with this last year's hunting regulations.

Once again, advisory committees agreed with all these except with -- the Migratory Game Bird Advisory Committee supported all staff proposals with the exception. I did talk about that yesterday with regards to the second segment of the hunting season for doves in all the zones. And before I move on to the recommended adoption by staff, I will be happy to take any questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Questions, Commissioners?

MR. OLDENBURGER: All right. Just to read the motion that's in front you -- and just to be clear with regard to what Mr. Cain had said earlier and based on Commission input from yesterday, basically all the changes due to firearm season with Grayson, Collin, Dallas, and Rockwall Counties were pulled and basically leaving mandatory harvest reporting within that proposal. So, therefore, staff are recommending the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts a repeal of 31 Texas Administrative Code Subsection -- Section 65.4 and amendments to Section 65.3, 65.10, 65.1, 60 point -- 65.42, and 65.64 concerning the statewide hunting proclamation and 65.314 through 3.20[sic] concerning the migratory game bird proclamation with changes as necessary to the proposal text as published in the February 18th, 2022, issue of the Texas Register.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Shaun.

Any further questions from any Commissioners?

If not, then I would entertain a motion to approve with removal of the amendment to Section 65.42 to allow the use of firearms in four north Texas counties, Grayson, Collin, Dallas, and Rockwell -- Rockwall, while maintaining the amendment to require harvest reporting with other changes as necessary. I need a motion and a second.

COMMISSIONER GALO: Commission Galo so move.



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

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Opposed none. It's passed.

Item No. 6, Comprehensive Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) Management Rules, Triple T Provision, Recommended Adoption of Proposed -- Proposed Changes. Alan, you're up.

MR. CAIN: Again, for the record, my name's Alan Cain, White-tailed Deer Program Leader in the Wildlife Division. I'll be presenting propose -- staff's proposed changes to the Triple T regulations. So in order to resume the Triple T Program, staff are proposing the following changes, noting that the provisions in the current rule -- those in the gray font -- would remain in the effect.

As discussed yesterday, the proposed change would include prohibiting Triple T from property -- trap sites that are within 5 miles radius of an epi-linked deer breeder facility or 10 miles of an epi-link breeder release site or any site that the Department deems is unacceptable risk based on epi assessment of that particular property. Now staff acknowledge that some trap sites in these buffer areas would be low risk for having CWD present and so, therefore, we're proposing a mechanism to potentially authorize a Triple T trap site based on a TPWD epi assessment or risk assessment of that site so we can assure there's appropriate or adequate CWD surveillance measures in place.

Landowners and permittees would need to agree in writing to the testing standards or other CWD management strategies prior to approval as a Triple T trap site. Under the proposal, CWD testing standards would require 60 postmortem not-detected CWD tests from trap sites and those tests may be collected all in the current permit year or across multiple consecutive years; but if you collect across multiple consecutive years, you would need 15 not-detected postmortem tests each year. And then for deer breeder release sites, CWD sampling -- sample collection could not begin earlier than five years post-release.

Once a trap site has received -- achieved that initial CWD testing status to remain eligible as a trap site, in the future years they would need to continue to provide 15 not-detected tests. If they miss a test, at that point to regain that trap site status eligibility, they would need to start over and provide that 60 postmortem not-detected tests.

The proposal would also require a clearly visible ID on the deer to be moved, like a cattle tag so if there was a reason to find that deer at the release site, we could do so easier. And then last part of the proposal would be that CWD testing is required on -- to Triple T to -- on any trap site, including from adjacent pastures under the same ownership. But the Department also include a provision that we may have approve a prospective trap site on these adjacent pastures under the same ownership if they cannot achieve that 60-sample requirement, the Department could determine a different -- or set up different testing standards based on a potential assessment of that property or that trap site.

To date, we received 257 total responses through the web page. Of those responses, 11 percent agree with the proposed change. 89 percent disagree. We received letters of opposition from the Texas Deer Association, the Deer Breeders Corporation, the Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society, and the Texas Wildlife Association. And I should note that all these organizations have provided in their letters that they do support the Triple T Program as a valuable tool to landowners, but they have concerns with the current proposal.

So reasons for disagreement include one commenter recommended that CWD testing requirements be based on percentage of deer moved. In fact, we had a couple comments come in last night that also echoed that comment. We had several commenters that suggested that we should permanently ban Triple T, that it's too great a risk to spreading disease around or it's premature to reinstate the Triple T Program until the Department has a clear understanding of the CWD risk associated with the epi-linked release sites as a result of the discovery of CWD this past year.

Several commenters suggested that the 5- or 10-mile buffers, the area is arbitrary. Some suggested that we need to remove the buffers, we don't need any altogether, and that there's a lack of public identification of these buffer areas for trap sites that may be wanting to plan trapping in the upcoming season. There's also concerns for release to low-fence properties. There was also a few that commented that -- with concerns that Triple T would occur from trap sites where other CWD susceptible species that had been released with unknown exposures. And also suggesting that in our current rule, the five-year period for -- before you could release or Triple T from a deer breeder release site wasn't long enough and that should be extended.

But there was three primary reasons that we received on the public comment on the web page and those reasons echoed -- most of them echo reasons given by the Deer Breeder Corporation or the Texas Deer Association in their letter that's been provided to the Commission. These reasons for opposition include the thought that the proposed ear tagging requirement is redundant with the current Triple T tagging rules that require a tattoo and RFID. They suggested the RFID tag provides enough visible ID on the deer that it could be located. And the other two reasons for opposition are somewhat related and center around the different CWD testing requirements or standards between the current deer breeder rules that require antemortem testing versus the proposed Triple T rules that we have not required -- or proposed to require antemortem testing.

And the Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society also noted in their comments that Triple T should not be reinstated until a rapid antemortem field test is available to test deer. There's some work going on with that, but it's not -- it's still in experimental stages. And also suggesting to not be able to move deer, even with those rapid tests, until results were provided. So test results prior to movement.

Staff, as I mentioned yesterday, have contemplated this notion or idea of antemortem testing for Triple T. It might be a little different model than maybe what the Texas Chapter recommended where antemortem testing were to occur at the time deer are trapped, ear tag, and then they were sent to -- be sent to the release site and then if there was a need, then hopefully we could find those deer in the future and ID them with the ear tag and pick those up.

And with that in mind, that concludes my presentation and I'll be glad to answer any questions. But I know yesterday, Mr. Chairman, the suggestion or recommendation was to withdraw this proposal and come back later in May with the addition of antemortem testing. So if the Commission would like to do that, then that's certainly the option on the table or move forward with the proposal. So, thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Alan.

We have a few people that have asked to speak. Before I go there, are there any questions the Commission has for Alan?

Okay. Thank you, Alan.

We'll bring you up. Guys, most of y'all know the program. Three minutes, please. First is John, second is Kevin, Chris is third.

Good afternoon, John. Welcome.

MR. JOHN TRUE: Hey. Thank you. Chairman Aplin, members of the Commission, thank you for the opportunity to speak today. For the record, my name is John True. I'm the President of Texas Deer Association.

On May 26th last year, you were led to believe by the staff that there was a CWD pandemic on the landscape. Staff told you the reasons for testing for CWD were surveillance and also to make sure that Texas Parks and Wildlife didn't permit the transmission of this disease. Mitch Lockwood said, and I quote, anytime we put deer in a trailer, we creating risk.

A month later on June 22nd, our industry went under an emergency order that made live testing mandatory on any animals being moved to a release site. Since that date, we have live tested almost 20,000 animals, with zero positives. We've also lost 168 deer breeders since that day who said enough was enough and couldn't afford to stay in business any longer. We have stayed consistent in our ask over this past year. You all voted in new regulations in November, which exponentially increased the annual surveillance on our deer breeding facilities.

We pleaded with you at that meeting to trust the statistical confidence that those increased requirements provided to not make live testing an ongoing requirement. But based on what was presented to you, we were told that it wasn't worth the flip of a coin to know if a deer did or didn't have CWD upon -- before being moved to a release site.

I want to be abundantly clear. We are in favor of the Triple T permit. We're in favor of any and all permits available to private landowners that help manage their private property. We just think all entities need to be treated fairly. The proposal that's before you that was endorsed by staff, is centered around trusting statistical confidence before moving deer. If trusting statistical confidence works in the pasture, all we ask is that you consider it for the pens as well. That's all I have. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, John.

MR. JOHN TRUE: Appreciate it.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Good afternoon, Kevin.

MR. KEVIN DAVIS: Good afternoon, Chairman, Commissioners. Thanks for the opportunity to speak today. I know it's been a long day. I promise I'll be very brief. For the record, my name is Kevin Davis. I serve as Executive Director for the Texas Deer Association. I'm here today on behalf of Texas breeders and myself in opposition of the current proposed Triple T permit rules.

Deer breeder are committed to the responsible management of our herds and adamantly support appropriate and comprehensive CWD containment methods across the state. We are well aware that early detection and stopping movement are key to CWD containment. Our industry supports all tools for intensive deer management, including the Triple T permit; however, we cannot support the current proposal due to disparity and approach to disease management across separate portions of the deer industry in Texas.

John just mentioned the timeframe of the rule-making last year. You'll recall that we opposed both the implementation of the emergency rule and the long-term CWD rules with respect to the antemortem requirement prior to release. We're actually -- our stance was supported by our belief that the 14-day rule that was changed last March -- was adopted last November 20 and took effect last March, was the root cause of the problem. Meaning that CWD early detection was important and the banking of samples was preventing early detection. That rule has since been updated to seven days and we've moved to a 100 percent of a hundred model. Meaning that we test 100 percent of our mortalities and we test 100 percent of our releases and in doing that, in compliance with those rules over the last nine months, we've tested approximately 20,000 animals. And so we feel like that the fact that we have received not-detected results on all 20,000 of those animals supports our stance that the initial problem was solved with the 14, now the 7-day rule.

So we've been told though -- our rule stays in place and we've been told repeatedly that in order to be confident that we're not moving CWD around in trailers, we need to have a live test. If adopted, if this rule is adopted as written currently, it does not put that requirement on Triple T holders. And if you look at the cost of compliance with the rule as written for a -- if you take a hundred deer model, moving a hundred deer, a Triple T permit holder could move a hundred deer in the first year for $4,200 based on the amount of testing he has to do to clear those deer or to obtain the permit. In the sub -- in the next year, he could do that -- that permit holder could do that for a thousand fifty dollars. Both of those years mention a deer breeder moving a hundred deer would cost a minimum of $30,000 to move those same deer to comply with the rules. So there is a disparity in application there.

In compliance with the rules and the 20,000 tests that we're -- approximately 20,000 tests that have been done so far, we spent $6 million. We would love to see this Commission and staff find value in those 20,000 samples that have already been there. We do feel like it supported our stance that the 7-day rule was effective. And so we would -- we would ask that you modify this rule, if you vote on it, to either exclude the need for live testing across the board or include it. That's all I have.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Kevin.

Chris Timmons. Then Don, you're after Chris.

MR. CHRIS TIMMONS: Chairman, Commission, Carter, thank you for allowing me to comment. I'm with -- I'm Chris Timmons. I'm with the Deer Breeders Corporation. I just have -- I'm not going to give you a history lesson. I've just got three little points I want to make and part of it's reiterating what Alan said and what Kevin and John said.

But first, in November, the Commission adopted a rule to require all deer breeders to be -- I mean all breeder deer to be antemortem tested before release to the wild and this is on herds that have been under surveillance for some of us as much as 20 years versus this Triple T rule proposal that requires no antemortem test and I -- we feel that if you truly are concerned about the spread of CWD, then why not do the test? The animals are there, readily available to take that test. And we just feel like we either need to test all deer that are released or no deer. So we're good with the no deer, if that's what y'all want to do.

No. 2, in the preamble of the Triple T permit proposal, the minimum cost for testing for postmortem samples through TVMDL is $25 with a $7 session fee but -- and I don't know if you have control over that or not, but deer breeders have been paying $45, $20 more than that. We just ask that it's fair and impartial across the industry on everything. If it's good for the goose, it's good for the gander.

No. 3, in the current rule, the Triple T rule requires a button type RFID tag and we are good with that. We feel like no other tag size or sort is necessary. I know a bangle tag has been suggested with writing on it that you can read from a hundred yards and if you can read that at a hundred yards, you can see that button tag and our opinion, it's -- that's what it's all about, is we're just tagging these deer so we know what's been released and we're good with that.

We appreciate the fact that y'all have brought the Triple T back and we think it's a major asset to our landowners and high-fenced ranchers and within our industry. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Chris.

Don, you're up. And then Jason.

Hello, don.

MR. DON STEINBACH: Good afternoon, Chairman. Good to see you. Good afternoon, Commissioners. I know you've had a long day today. I was encouraged by the Chairman wanting to pull this thing back as Alan said and I was almost going to text Carter and say let him pull that back because I was not looking forward to another drive over to Austin today.

But as I drove over this morning, I began to think about what my role is as Texas Chapter Executive Director. And I thought, God, it's a privilege to represent a thousand faculty members and students across the State of Texas that are dealing with natural resource issues and I ought to kick myself for not wanting to drive over here and talk to you guys today.

I think y'all probably have those same thoughts, at least as I thought about you today spending hours on natural resource issues that some day you may say, boy, I just wish we didn't have to deal with this today. So I commend you for doing the jobs that you do and for what you're trying to accomplish and I know it's a tough job and hard and hopefully we can help you do that.

I'm not going to go into detail. One of the Commissioners yesterday referenced our letter that we talked about and I'd be glad to go into detail if you have questions on that, but we are sincere about what was expressed in that letter. My suggestion to you, Chairman, is to follow your thought today to pull this back and I would say that all the advisory committees that you had talking about this issue, brought you recommendations. There's new information about this. There's new methods we may be able to accomplish what you want to do. Bring those people back together, have them carry some new recommendations to you, and we get a new and better form of this thing to accomplish what you want to do.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Don.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you for making the drive.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Jason, you're up. Then Sarah.

MR. JASON SEKULA: Good afternoon. Thank you for allowing me to speak today. When we last left this issue last fall, the staff was tasked with developing a new set of rules to bring this permit back. They went through all the proper channels. They consulted with the user groups and the advisory committees. They came up with these rules that are proposed today. While they're not perfect, one thing we did ask -- one thing that some of us permit users asked is that we not overregulate this permit to the point where we bring it back, but yet it's essentially unusable.

I think these proposed rules come very close to that. However, I don't think they quite cross that threshold yet. I think that the permit could still be functional and we could still safely move deer using the rules that are proposed today. However, I do think any added regulations to this rule would overregulate it to the point where it would essentially kill the permit due to lack of participation. Mainly -- mainly something as overburdensome as antemortem testing.

There seems to be two groups kind of putting pressure on -- to suspend this permit or pull it back again. I do believe that these two groups are a little bet disingenuous in their arguments. The first group is kind of coming from more of a preservationist standpoint that never really liked this permit to begin with. They see this permit as being a little bit too aggressive and any permits like this too aggressive in deer management tactics. They were against this permit before CWD was an issue. So I think they're using the fear of CWD to pull this permit back.

The second group is putting pressure on this permit not as -- not in fear of moving the disease with this permit, but to -- as leverage to remove the antemortem testing from the deer breeder permit. I think this permit is being used for that once again. Antemortem testing is not a practical option for wild deer at this point. You cannot temporarily restrain deer without causing significant risk to animal welfare. Releasing the deer before the antemortem test results are in, defeats the purpose of the antemortem test. They'll be out in the pasture co-mingling. They'll be in the environment. Being able to readily find them again in the spring and summer is not -- that's really not possible.

And I'm running out of time, so I'll skip ahead. If they really want equity, if equity is what we're looking for between the two permits, then I suggest that the breeder permit provide 60 antemortem tests just like the Triple T permit. I believe that breeder release sites must be approved by TPWD staff, which means filing a wildlife management plan. Staff biologists conducting site inspection, which would include a browse survey, population estimate, herd composition, carrying capacity, then that staff member can approve the number of breeder deer to be released on that release site. Then they also need to pay the $750 release site fee that goes along with that staff evaluation.

If equity is truly the argument and that's what we're looking for between the two permits, that's what equity would look like between the two permits. I don't -- I truly don't believe it's equity. I believe it's about using the Triple T as leverage to remove the antemortem tests from the deer breeder permit. I'm not saying I'm for it on the deer breeder permit. I'm just against it on the Triple T permit. I ask that you see through these attempts to use this permit as kind of the sacrificial lamb and move forward with the proposal and bring this permit back. Thank you for your time.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Jason.

Hello, Sarah.

MS. SARAH BIEDENHARN: Hello. Chairman Aplin, Commissioners, Mr. Smith, good afternoon and thank you for your time and attention to this important issue. I am Sarah Biedenharn, President of Texas Wildlife Association. Our membership is comprised of landowners, hunters, and outdoor enthusiasts who care deeply about issues facing private lands and management of our state's natural resources.

We remain concerned about the ongoing Chronic Wasting Disease challenges around the state and the potential damage that it could do to the Texas deer herd and the rural economies that depend on it. We have submitted a letter to the Commission outlining our position, so I will keep my comments brief.

While we recognize the value of the Trap, Transport, and Transplant permit, we believe that the risk of further spread of the disease outweighs the benefits at this time. Our TWA Big Game Committee met recently to discuss the proposed rules and recommended maintaining our position from November, supporting the continued temporary moratorium on the permit.

The specific concerns from the group were varied, some of which we outlined in our letter; but the overwhelming direction was that it is just too earlier to reinstate the program. The triple T permit is a valuable tool and one that we hope can be reinstated soon, but the movement of live animals across the state and the potential for disease spread that it creates, is something that impacts every Texas landowner, hunter, and wildlife enthusiast, whether they choose to participate in the program or not.

We appreciate the Commission's thoughtful approach to reinstating Triple T and your willingness to consider taking more time to ensure that both the timing and the rules themselves help preserve a healthy and robust Texas deer herd for all of our Texans. Thank you. I'll take any questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Sarah.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: That's all I have written down/comments on Action Item No. 6. Is there anybody in the audience that would like to address the Commission?

Commissioners, we -- we visited yesterday, but I wanted to give the opportunity to get input as we did today from the people. There's a new concept that has recently been discussed and it was discussed today actually and that concept would be -- we sent off and said try to go do a new-and-improved Triple T Program. Let's try to find something that's better than the old one. People have mentioned today it's a great tool. I believe it's a great tool. But we were trying to find a new-and-improved safer version, I guess, of the Triple T, if you will.

But certainly in a lot of people's opinion, it seems like maybe we didn't get far enough or get all the way there. So we talked about this yesterday. Maybe the concept of asking staff to go out for public comment -- we would have to go for public comment because it's -- it wasn't in the original public comment. But go out for comment that if the new-and-improved Triple T Program -- and it could change in other ways, I guess, as well. But the crux of the change or the improvement would be the antemortem testing on the live deer, as was mentioned by the fellow that just spoke.

It's probably not practical to do the antemortem test and hold the deer the way the breeder group does because these deer are wild and there's just not the opportunity. But there would be an opportunity in the meantime while we're waiting on the fast test that we hope will be created, invented, but they're not there yet, during that interim we could take this similar test like the breeder group does, send it in, approximately three weeks later we would have the results and I still submit that the Triple T deer should have the big visible tag, but someone brought that up today. If there's a problem, we would be able to go identify the deer.

The history of Triple T is we're -- I believe 21 years of Triple T'ing, over 10,000 tests, and zero positives, so. But I don't disagree with the comment that when you put a deer in a trailer, you increase the odds. I don't deny that. So the logic would be to go out for public comment and reconvene at the next meeting.

Can we do it by the next meeting?

MR. SMITH: Yeah, I think so, Chairman. So is the direction to withdraw the current proposal --


MR. SMITH: -- and then go back out and repost it with this notion of an antemortem test in some form or fashion, get comment on that, and come back to the Commission in May?


MR. SMITH: Okay. Yeah, John, can we do that?

Okay, yes, we can do that.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Commissioners?

Okay. Then I'm going to withdraw Item -- Action Item No. 6, Comprehensive Triple T Program and instruct Carter and team to go out and come back with -- go out and get public comment and come back with a proposal that adds the antemortem testing.

MR. SMITH: Okay, understood. Thank you.


Action Item No. 7, Local Park Grants Funding, Request for Approval of Proposed Funding Recommendations. Mr. Dan Reece, how are you?

MR. REECE: Good. Thank you. Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. My name is Dan Reece and I'm the Local Park Grant Program Manager and I'm here today to present to you funding recommendations for 26 new local parks grants.

Funding from a portion of the state sales tax on sporting goods and from federal offshore oil and gas royalties, combine to provide local -- provide matching grants to local units of government for the acquisition and development of public parkland. For the current application cycle, we have just over $12.5 million in available grant funding. This includes $3,043,391 in the Texas Recreation Parks Account, as well as $9,472,216 in the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.

This afternoon's funding recommendations come from applications received from three individual grant programs. The Urban Outdoor Recreation Program is for all communities with a population of 500,000 or more. The Nonurban Outdoor Recreation Program is for all communalities up to 500,000 in population. And for all jurisdictions with a population of less than 20,000, we have the Small Community Program.

As of October 1st of last year, we received a totaled of 65 eligible applications requesting just over $29 million in matching fund assistance. Exhibits A through C rank these projects in descending order based on each grant program's scoring criteria as previously adopted by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.

We have received one total public comment on the website, which agreed completely with this afternoon's funding recommendations. Staff recommends that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion: Funding for projects listed in Exhibits A through C in the amount of $12,515,607 is approved. And that concludes my presentation, and I'd be happy to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Commissioners, any question for Dan?

I believe we have some people that have signed up and asked to speak. So we'll -- we'll get that started. David Billings and then Lowell Walker and then Joe Vega.

David you know the -- seven minutes -- seven minutes. Excuse me. This is Item No. 7, three minutes, please.

MR. DAVID BILLINGS: Oh, I like seven minutes. But the good news, I have a short speech for you, so. Thank you for what you do. I know it was a long day for you and I really do empathize for long meetings. So I thank you for the time. I'll take a moment. My name is David Billings. I'm the mayor of Fate, Texas. Fate is outside of Rockwall, Texas.

We'd like to take a moment to thank the Parks and Wildlife Department Commission, Local Grants Manager Dan Reece and Program Manger Erin Fry for the support of this grant application. They did a really great job for us. So thank you for that.

Downtown Fate are undergoing major renovations from streets, renaissance, to parks and recreation. The whole area is receiving intentional revitalization. Proposed grant will provide $150,000 to our historical railroad themed all-inclusive sustainable playground in downtown Fate. Fate's -- the park is the named Fate Station and the downtown park was once home to several cotton gins and hosted train station that serves as both a mode of transportation, as well as movement of economic goods.

Proposed playground will be themed with a silo in trying to get back to our historical roots in Fate. We appreciate your support of the Fate State[sic] Park grant application and thank you for your time and effort today.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, David.

Lowell, then Joe.


MR. LOWELL WALKER: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. I'm Lowell Walker. I'm the mayor of De Kalb, Texas. Since 2019, the City of De Kalb has experienced substantial changes in leadership and operations, resulting in a more inclusive and welcoming community. The City has seen an increase in citizen participation and community development.

Equity and inclusivity has been the goals for the City and we must work towards these goals, advancements, and not leave our progress behind. To ensure that the City remains on track, we've posted goals. We have partnered with the Ark Tex Council of Government for administration assistance on this project. Further, the school district is on track to establish a four-day workweek. While this won't be immediate implementation, the City supports the school district's decision further by creating more outdoor recreation options.

Students have expressed interest in a soccer league and this is an opportunity to create another extracurricular activity and to help transition into a four-day week. The City has seen additional potential benefits to the school district's proposal, including increased student attendance cost savings and recruitment for teachers and new families. And I would implore you to give us $150,000 that we could build a soccer field for our community. Thank you for your time.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, sir.

Joe Vega. Then Joey Lopez.

MR. SMITH: Chairman, Mr. Vega is not going to be able to make it; but Commissioner Lopez is here and so -- and both of them are representing Cameron County and he's the County Commissioner as y'all know for --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Hello, Commissioner. I remember.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Welcome back.

COMMISSIONER JOEY LOPEZ: How are you doing today? Thank you so much for having us. First of all, on behalf of Cameron County and also Joe Vega, who runs our Parks Department, we want to thank you so much for the partnership that we have and the relationship we have with you all in enhancing and making our parks down in Cameron County something really spectacular and things to see.

Today with the moneys that you-all are giving us on this park in Lomita and we want to thank Carter for coming down and visiting that site and we're very, very blessed that there were some moneys that were left over when I took office in 2019 for a grant to build a park in Lomita and visited with several families in the area who had substantial acreage and ran across one particular family, the McKinney family. And when we -- I presented what we wanted to do, they offered to donate 6 acres. Well, two weeks later, I guess he really enjoyed what I had talked to him about, he gave us 40 acres, which 3,000 feet of that is right along a resaca. So we're having -- this park I think this going to something very, very -- you know for people to visit all across the State of Texas. It's all native brush. We're going to be displaying all the native brush and then tagging that. We're going to have three fishing piers and restocking that resaca that's there with some good fish. We'll have two birding areas. To sustain the area, we're going to be having 20 RV sites, so basically that revenue to go ahead and be able to maintain the park.

But I'm very, very excited about it and really thank you so much for the relationship that Cameron County has with Texas Parks and Wildlife and we look forward to doing more and more projects with y'all. But thank you again for the opportunity to thank Dan and Dana and, Carter, thank you so much for coming down and we're hoping to break ground probably in June and we'll send out some invitations. But thank you again.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Commissioner.

COMMISSIONER JOEY LOPEZ: You have a great day.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thanks for coming and making drive.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: It's a long ways. Thank you.

Okay. I don't have anyone else. Anyone in the audience that would like to speak about Action Item No. 7?

Okay. Commissioners, if there are no questions and then I'll move for a motion to fund projects listed in Exhibits A through C in the amount of $12,515,607.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Is that a motion?



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

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Opposed? Hearing none, passed.

Good luck on your parks.

Dan, thank you.

Action Item No. 8, Request for Fiber Optic Cable Easement, Bastrop County, Approximately .2 Acres. Jason Estrella, welcome.

MR. ESTRELLA: Thank you. Good afternoon, Mr. Chair, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Jason Estrella, with the Land Conservation Program. This first item is a request for fiber optic cable easement approximately .2 acres at Buescher State Park, which is located in Bastrop County in Central Texas, approximately 35 miles east of Austin.

The park consists of a little over a thousand acres of Lost Pine ecosystem and serves as significant habitat for several species, including the endangered Houston toad. The Stengl Lost Pines Biological Station is operated by the University of Texas at Austin's College of Natural Sciences and it provides research opportunities and scientific pursuits pertaining to the Lost Pines ecosystem and sits approximately three-quarters of a mile north of the park.

The SLP has recently expanded its field station and is investing in new research facilities. It has -- in doing so, it has contracted AT&T to provide fiber optic data connectivity to its new facilities to implement several research programs. This cable will provide new data connectivity to support its efforts.

The proposed nonexclusive easement would be approximately 800 feet long by 12 feet wide and the cable will be bored under and across Park Road 1C. AT&T and Parks and Wildlife staff find that this method of installation will minimize impacts to the state park. On this map you can see the park and the park road in red, the area of interest for the easement is in yellow just north and west of the park itself. The easement will parallel Cottle Town Road.

As of this morning, we have had 25 comments, updated from this slide. Twenty-one agree, four in disagreement. The consensus being concerns for giving up parkland for utility easements. Staff recommends that the Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion: That the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts the resolution attached as Exhibit A.

This concludes my presentation, and I'll be happy to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Commissioners, if there are no questions, I'll entertain a motion and a second.





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

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Any opposed?

Action Item No. 9, Request for Utility Easement, Palo Pinto County, Approximately .1 Acre Lake Mineral Wells. Jason, you're up.

MR. ESTRELLA: Thank you. Again, for the record, my name is Jason Estrella with the Land Conservation Program. And this next item is a request for utility easement approximately a tenth of an acre Lake Mineral Wells State Park and Trailway, which is located in Palo Pinto County in North Texas, approximately 45 miles west of Fort Worth.

The park consists of little over 3,000 acres of western cross timbers habitat. It includes the 640-acre Lake Mineral Wells. The trailway itself is 20 miles long, running from Weatherford into downtown district of Mineral Wells.

Oncor is requesting an easement to provide electric service from Oncor's southeast substation to the Perfect Power Solutions Texas Energy storage facility. Substation is located approximately 700 feet south of the trailway while the facility -- storage facility is located approximately 125 feet north. The proposed nonexclusive easement would be no more than 100 feet long and no more than 30 feet wide and will be bored under and across the trailway.

Staff find this method of insulation will minimize impacts to the state park. You can see in the southwest region of the map where Lake Mineral -- the Mineral Wells town is and the star denotes the location of the easement. And this is the proposed route of the easement. Our area of concern, of course, is just that little area in the top of the map going across the trailway.

To date or as of this morning, we received 26 comments. Eight approve, two disapprove. And if staff -- staff recommends that the Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts the resolution attached as Exhibit A.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Jason.

I need a motion and second by a Commissioner.



CHAIRMAN APLIN: Got a motion and a second. All those in favor say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Opposed? Hearing none, Action Item 9 passes.

Action Item 10, Land Acquisition Strategy, Liberty County, Approximately 50 Acres at Davis Hill State Park, Jason.

MR. ESTRELLA: Thank you. For the record, my name is Jason Estrella with the Land Conservation Program. We're going to look at a land acquisition strategy for Davis Hill State Park, which is in Liberty County in Southeast Texas, just about 45 miles east of downtown Houston. It consists of approximately 1,700 acres of wilderness and was acquired in 1983.

The park is very unique. It possesses the largest number of plant associations per acre in the state park system. The site itself was named for General James Davis, a veteran of the War of 1812.

Staff has an interest in investigating the acquisition of several tracts of land from willing sellers, totaling approximately 50 acres. These acquisitions are located within or adjacent to the state park and will help minimize operational management conflicts and ensure the conservation of lands. There in yellow you can see the shaded area of interest for acquisition.

For public comment, we have received 60 responses all in support. And staff recommends you adopt following motion: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorizes the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to acquire a strategic state park inholdings and adjacent tracts at Davis Hill State Park.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Jason.

Commissioners, any questions, Action Item 10? If not, I'll take a motion and a second.

COMMISSIONER GALO: Commission Galo so moves.



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

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Opposed? Hearing none, it passes.

Action Item No. 11, Acquisition of Land, Freestone County, Approximately 34 Acres Richland Creek Wildlife Management Area, Jason.

MR. ESTRELLA: Thank you. For the record, my name is Jason Estrella with the Land Conservation Program. We're looking at an acquisition of 34 acres at Richland Creek located in Freestone County, approximately 25 miles east of Corsicana.

The WMA was created to compensation for habitat losses associated with the Richland-Chambers Reservoir construction. Its mission is to develop and manage populations of resident and migratory wildlife species and provide public recreation. Available for purchase from a willing seller is an inholding approximately 34 acres in size. It's undisturbed and has been owned by the same family for decades. This acquisition would, of course, add strategic operational value to the WMA without requiring additional resources.

Here in the map you can see the yellow inholding there in the central part of the WMA. For public comment, we have received the 57 -- 57 comments. Fifty-six approve, one in opposition. And staff recommends the Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the follow motion: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorizes the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to acquire approximately 34 acres of land for addition to the Richland Creek WMA in Freestone County.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Jason.

Action Item No. 11, Commissioners, any questions? Comments?

If not, I'll take a motion and a second.




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

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Opposed? Hearing none, Action Item 11 passes.

Now the moment we've all been waiting for. Mr. Smith, this Commission has completed its business. I declare us adjourned at 4:05 p.m.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

(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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