TPW Commission

Commission Meeting, January 25, 2024


TPW Commission Meetings


January 25, 2024






CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Okay. Good morning, everyone.

Before we begin, I will take roll. Chairman Hildebrand, I'm present.

Vice-Chairman Bell?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Commissioner Abell?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Commissioner Doggett?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Commissioner Foster?




CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Commissioner Patton?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Commissioner Rowling?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: This meeting is called to order -- thank you. This meeting is called to order January 25th, 2024, at 9:05 a.m.

Before proceeding with any business, I believe Dr. Yoskowitz has a statement to make.

DR. YOSKOWITZ: 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 would like for this fact to be noted in the official record of this meeting.


As reminder please turn on your microphones and announce your name before you speak and speak slowly for the court reporter.

Before we proceed, I would like to announce that Commission Agenda Item No. 9, Exchange of Land, Cameron County, Acquisition of Approximately 477 Acres in Exchange for Approximately 43 Acres at Boca Chica State Park, this item has been withdrawn.

First is the approval of minutes from the Commission Meeting held November 2nd, 2023, which have already been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?

VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: Commissioner Bell makes --

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Patton. Patton second.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All in favor please say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries. Thank you.

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


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Is there a second?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All in favor please say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

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

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


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Second? Is there a second?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All in favor please say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Any opposed? Hearing none, the motion carries. Thank you.

Now for the special recognitions, retirements, and service awards presentations. Dr. Yoskowitz, please make your presentations.

DR. YOSKOWITZ: Thank you, Chairman.

This is always a special time in the Commission Meeting process where we get to recognize the outstanding work of not only our Department employees, but our partners and those that have formerly been with the Commission.

Chairman, I did actually turn the table on you and I'm going to ask you to make your presentation.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Okay. All right, great.

Okay. I've got a very special award. It will take a moment, but I want to read this into the record because it's important. So let me ask the Board to join me in recognizing Arch H. "Beaver" Aplin, III for his service to Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.

We want to take this opportunity to acknowledge your efforts and thank you publicly, Beaver. I'd like to express my personal appreciation for the outstanding service rendered by our former Commission Chairman Beaver Aplin.

Chairman Aplin was appointed to the Commission -- thank you -- in 2018 and concluded his tenure in 2023, serving as Chairman for two years. Throughout his time in this role, he proved to be a dedicate and influential advocate for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Under Chair Aplin's leadership, the billion-dollar Centennial Parks Conservation Fund was successfully established, marking the largest investment in parks in our state's history. This achievement will have a transformative impact on our park system for generations to come, ushering in a new era for state parks in Texas.

Having had the privilege of serving along side Beaver on this Commission, I have witnessed firsthand his thoughtful and deliberate approach to every issue that came before us. His commitment to finding solutions even in the face of complex challenges exemplified his genuine dedication to the betterment of our state. Chairman Aplin consistently demonstrated his unwavering commitment to addressing important issues that often lacked straightforward answers. His integrity and passion for our State's park system, wildlife, and fisheries were evident in every decision he made.

On behalf of the full Commission and the State of Texas, I want to extend my graduate to Beaver for his contributions. It is my great honor to present this wonderful certificate as a token of our appreciation for your exceptional service.

(Round of applause and photographs)

FORMER CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Chairman. Thank you, Jeff. Thank you, Commission. Am I on? Yeah.

Wow, I can't tell you -- I can't thank you enough. That's beautiful and your kind words. Everyone in this room knows that I love you and I love this Agency and I love the resource and everything about it. So it's been a privilege and an honor to be on this Commission and to work with every single person in this Agency.

I've got to tell you, I miss it; but I've also realized I've got a lot of free time now. So I'm finding ways to fill that.

But, Chairman, thank you. Thank you for this honor for this award and it was a wonderful pleasure working with each and every one of you Commissioners and the staff. Thank you.

(Round of applause)

DR. YOSKOWITZ: Thank you, Chairman Aplin. It absolutely was a pleasure to come into this Department under your leadership and now with Chairman Hildebrand continuing to move forward with some urgency, especially as it is -- relates to the billion dollars in funds that we'll have available to really expand recreational opportunities in this state. So thank you very much for that.

We now get to move on to some recognitions. National recognitions, in fact, for State Parks. During the November Commission Meeting, if you remember I announced that Texas State Parks was honored with the Gold Medal Award by the American Academy for Parks and Recreation Administration, which is a national nonprofit organization comprised of high level, experienced professionals dedicated to the advancement of public parks and recreation.

The Academy offers the National Gold Medal Award Program with the generous support of its sponsor Musco Lighting and in partnership with the National Recreation and Parks Association. I would like to introduce representatives from these organizations to come up and formally present the Gold Medal Award. Please help me welcome Jesus Aguirre, Chief Executive Officer for the Waterloo Greenway Conservancy here in Austin, but is here today as a member of the American Academy for Parks and Recreation Administration and chairs the board for the National Recreation and Parks Association and Jesus is joined by Brant Troutman who's the Central Texas representative for the presenting sponsor Musco Lighting.

Gentlemen, please come and make your presentation.

MR. JESUS AGUIRRE: Well, good morning, Commissioners, Mr. Chairman, Director Yoskowitz. This is a heavy piece of hardware we have to move over here, but -- my name is Jesus Aguirre and I am here representing the American Academy for Parks and Recreation Administration, as well as the National Recreation of Parks Association and, of course, Mr. Brant Troutman is here representing Musco Lighting and we are really delighted to be here with you today presenting the National Gold Medal Grand Plaque to the Texas State Parks and to your community.

The National Gold Medal Award is the most coveted award in the parks and recreation profession, honoring agencies and communities throughout the United States that exceed industry standards and establishes a higher level of -- higher standard for delivering public park and recreation services. This Gold Medal Grand Plaque recipient measures the impact and benefits of their services, while addressing community needs throughout the involvement of all residents, staff, and elected officials in all planning processes.

Texas State Parks has demonstrated efforts addressing conservation, equity, and health and wellness and demonstrates excellence in long-range planning, putting vision into action each year. Creating an innovative culture has also become a habit for Texas State Parks and we applaud and congratulate Texas State Parks for your outstanding achievements.

The American Academy for Parks and Recreation Administration, which is the governing organization for the National Gold Medal Award, consists of 125 distinguished practitioners and scholars in the field who are committed to the advancement of parks and recreation field. Rooted in the desire to advance knowledge, encourage scholarly efforts, and provide services to advance the profession, the Academy embraces the opportunities to raise the bar and enhance the quality of parks and recreation services to the local community through this the National Gold Medal Award's Program.

Texas State Parks truly represents the best of the best. Since the award's inception in 1965, there have been only approximately 300 agencies named as Gold Medal finalists and only 79 agencies have been chosen as Grand Plaque winners. You have demonstrated significant success with the design and delivery of superior services to the community. Texas State Parks is now in the upper echelon of -- excuse me -- of 8,000 plus parks and recreation agencies across the nation.

This Grand Plaque Award was presented to the Texas State Parks at a special reception in conjunction with the NRPA conference in October in Dallas at a general session in front of nearly 6,000 people and we are delighted to be here as part of the local acknowledgment of this prestigious award. So on behalf of the American Academy for Parks and Recreation, Musco Lighting, and the National Recreation and Parks Association, we congratulate you for your success. Congratulations.

(Round of applause and photographs)

DR. YOSKOWITZ: Thank you very -- thank you very much for that. Well deserved and especially in the year of our centennial. Excellent work.

Next we'd like to recognize one of our own. Timothy Walker graduated from the 47th Game Warden Training Center Academy in 2001 and has since served the communities of Van Zandt and Angelina County as their game warden. Timothy is a certified master peace officer, a physical training coordinator, a Simunition's role player, and an active member of the Division's Storm team. As a member of Storm, Timothy has acquired specialty training and equipment utilizing the latest technology in the field to reconstruct the most heinous of crimes and vessel collisions using 3-D video reconstruction software.

In his 23 years of service to the state as a Texas game warden, Timothy has received a Director's Lifesaving Award and a Director's Citation for his teamwork in rescues conducted during flooding in the Trinity River and Sabine River. Timothy has pursued many wildlife cases resulting in felony arrests that were initially deemed as unachievable by fellow game wardens. Some of his more notable work during the Department's 2023 fiscal year include apprehending a poacher who illegally took a 150-inch White-tailed deer after a yearlong investigation, assisting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with an investigation that resulted in the apprehension and prosecution of an individual who illegally took a 13-foot alligator from the Neches River, and apprehending a group of waterfowl hunters for hunter over bait after a five-year investigation. In addition to these notable examples, Timothy patrolled 37,000 miles, wrote 248 citations, and conducted 14 public programs during the Department's fiscal year 2023.

It's for these examples, his dedication to conservation, and commitment to the communities that he serves that today we are honored to recognize Game Warden Timothy Walker as our 2023 Southeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Game Warden of the Year. Congratulations, Timothy.

(Round of applause and photographs)

DR. YOSKOWITZ: Next we say goodbye to one important person to the Department that has served with distinction. That's Toby Murray, who began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department on January 1st, 1996. After graduating from the Game Warden Academy, Toby was stationed on the Gulf Coast in San Patricio County where he spent seven years mostly patrolling the local bay systems in Gulf of Mexico for commercial and recreational fishing violations.

Toby looked for a new challenge and transferred inland -- not far -- in 2003 where he worked both in Nueces County and Jim Wells County. Toby brought the lessons he learned on the Gulf Coast to that duty station inland and in only four years of unyielding pressure and sheer grit, he had a major impact on conservation crimes in those counties. Toby promoted to lieutenant in Corpus Christi and has provided stability in the region ever since, as he has worked with five different majors and multiple captains.

Lieutenant Murray understood the value of developing relationships inside and outside Law Enforcement Division. Those relationships have aided in conversation efforts across the state. He's active in the church, as well as the community where he has served on the Ronald McDonald House Board of Directors in Corpus Christi. Toby is an inspiration to us all. Retiring after 28 years of service, Toby Murray.

(Round of applause and photographs)

DR. YOSKOWITZ: Next we have a number of our staff that we would like to recognize for their service to the Department. Brenda Coppedge began her career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in March of 1998 in the Accounts and Financial Resources Division located at headquarters. During her tenure she was an accountant and a supervisor until the restructure of positions in Accounts Payable. Supervisor positions were done away with and a single team lead was established.

As a senior accountant, she has the responsibility for training new people and assisting her fellow coworkers or Agency employees regarding the process required in order to get a vendor paid. Brenda has handled all the petty cash, vehicle, boat, all-terrain vehicles, or trailer payments and worked closely with Fleet to get payments made and resolve problems that required her assistance. No small task, Brenda.

Brenda retired in July of 2019 and then later returned to the Agency in April of 2020 on a part-time basis in Accounts Payable section. She continues in that position today and with 25 years of service to the State of Texas and the Department, Brenda Coppedge.

(Round of applause and photographs)

DR. YOSKOWITZ: Next we'd like to recognize the service of Melanie Molly Chisum, who began her career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in 2003 as a seasonal clerk at Garner State Park. Molly then applied for the Administrative Assistant I position and was promoted to Administrative Assistant II where she spent many years learning the fiscal control system.

One of her favorite duties was working with the park hosts that were coming into Garner State Park, which was very rewarding to her. She worked with five superintendents throughout her career, each with varying management styles and she still has her hair. Molly has transitioned through multiple reservation systems and when Molly started as a customer service representative, she soon realized that Garner State Park would become her career path until she retired. With 20 years of service to Texas and the Department, Molly Chisum.

(Round of applause and photographs)

DR. YOSKOWITZ: And last we'd like to recognize Dijar Lutz-Carrillo, who joined the Inland Fisheries Division of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in March of 2004 to lead the genetic section as part of the Analytical Services Laboratory. During his career he has published over 20 academic papers in scientific journals and books and given many more talks at scientific conferences. He was also a two-time recipient of Agency-wide annual employee recognition awards for innovation and special achievement. One in 2007 and one in 2018.

His team has developed genetic markers that allow us to identify different species and their hybrids, resolve population structure, and identify -- identify familiar relationships. These markers have been instrumental for conserving native fishes in West Texas, monitoring and improving captive spawning behavior in Guadalupe Bass, tracking and identifying ShareLunker offspring in the wild, and evaluating the affects of hybridization on growth in Black bass.

He is currently focused on improving our understanding of the distribution -- and hang with me here -- distribution and phonetic -- phenotypic plasticity of Spotted bass, identifying genomic regions associated with sex determination in large size in Florida bass, and working with colleagues at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory to develop an epigenetic molecular clock that can be used to age fish populations from water supply. He's very serious about his work. With 20 years of service, Dijar Lutz-Carrillo.

(Round of applause and photographs)

DR. YOSKOWITZ: Chairman, that concludes my presentation.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Okay. Okay. All right, congratulations to you-all. The -- the service awards, the retirements, they're always moving because I say this: It's people that have given the vast majority of their life to one agency and it's a really significant statement. You know, in this day of people moving around and limited loyalty to organizations or companies, it's very heartwarming to see. So thank you guys very much.

All right. At this time I'd like to inform -- and lastly, thank you, Beaver, again. Really, job -- one more -- one more applause for Beaver.

(Round of applause)

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: I mean, you are truly now known as the billion dollar -- or the billion dollar -- million-dollar man, how's that? And we really -- we really appreciate that. So thank you.

At this time I'd like to inform the audience that everyone is welcome to stay for the remainder of the meeting. However, if anyone wishes to leave, now would be an appropriate time to do so.

(Recess taken)

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Okay. All right, thank you.

Action Item No. 1, 2024-2025 Statewide Recreational and Commercial Fishing Proclamation, Spotted Seatrout Harvest Rules, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes, Mr. Geeslin.

MR. GEESLIN: Good morning again, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Dr. Yoskowitz. For the record, my name is Dakus Geeslin. I serve as our Deputy Director within Coastal Fisheries. Today I'll bring you the proposal related to Spotted seatrout regulations.

This familiar graph shows our gillnet catch rates. I don't want to belabor the point because we did go through a lot of this extensively yesterday. This is our primary metric. You'll see that catch rates since the freeze of 2021 are markedly down below the ten-year average, that white dashed line, and some of the lowest we've seen since 2009.

And just as a reminder, not necessarily for this Commission, but for our angling public and those that may be speaking today, just a reminder of the proposed regulation and some of the -- the -- the example of what we discussed yesterday. The proposed regulation includes a 15- to 20-inch slot, a three-fish bag limit, and one trout over 28 inches allowed as part of the daily bag.

Now the expected benefits include increases to spawning stock biomass. Spawning stock biomass leave -- simply leaves more reproducing females in the water. This increases recruitment within the fishery and ultimately more adult fish within the water for our anglers to take that opportunity to catch those fish. When we add the benefit of both the slot limit and the bag limit, coupled with that 28-inch fish allowed per day, we see a 26 percent increase/modeled increase in spawning stock biomass. Again, we wouldn't expect to see that overnight. More likely see that over the course of one generation of trout, about seven years; but we would expect to see about 90 percent of that to be realized by year four.

Here's also as we talked exclusively yesterday about that value of leaving those bigger fish in the water. We know that anglers -- anglers come to the Texas coast and seek out those larger fish and we'd certainly like to maintain our reputation as a leader in providing that sport fish opportunity.

As part of our public participation process, we do an extensive job of gathering public comments. We've held six in-person public hearings all up and down the coast. We also held a virtual -- through our Zoom platform -- virtual public hearing. All sum in total, we had about 430 participants involved in those public hearings. We also provide that web-based comment portal to gather those public comments.

I'll go through the public comments that as of 4:00 p.m. yesterday, you will see that number of comments has jumped. We've got 2,851 comments. That's a lot. You will see that 36 percent of those wholly support -- wholly support the proposal as is. I'll note that both the Coastal Resource Advisory Committee -- that's internal advisory committee here at the Department -- and the Coastal Conversation Association, both of those groups were supportive of the three-fish bag and the 15- to 20-inch slot. However, there's a couple of key distinctions here. The CRAC, Resource Advisory Committee, recommends that we prohibit the take of an oversized trout over the slot limit until such a time that an oversized tag can be implemented. They also -- they also recommended that oversized tag be set at that 28-inch size class. Similarly, CCA is supportive with the exception that they prohibit -- that they recommend that we prohibit the take of an oversized trout at 25 inches until such time that an oversized tag can be implemented. CCA also recommends looking forward -- a forward-looking implementation date of the license year 25-26, that would begin September 1, to allow adequate time for our internal staff to really implement both the digital tag system My Texas Hunt Harvest and through our paper tag system, the more traditional licensing system.

You'll see that those in opposition of the proposal comprise 63 percent, and I'll spend the next couple of slides really unpacking that again. Those in total opposition -- that is those that are in complete opposition to the bag, to the slot, and to the oversize -- compromise 25 percent of the total comments. The nature or flavor of those comments varied from a desire to maintain the current regulation, no regulations are needed, they felt that this was government overreach, or that the limits negatively impact coastal sport fishing in some way or another. They also felt that at some point the fishing trip expense would be no longer worth it. Again, 25 percent of the comments wholly opposed the proposal.

Now a little more interesting as we think about breaking apart the partial opposition and as I alluded yesterday, you could think about this as partial support because folks commented on, you know, on various components: Either the bag, the slot, or that oversized fish. And you could look at this as -- and was rightfully -- rightfully observed yesterday -- that some of these -- some of the opposition is actually in favor of more restrictive harvest regulations.

So with that, those that partially opposed -- partially opposed proposal, the flavor of those comments, the desire to harvest at least one fish over 20 inches, the desire for an annual oversized tag, that was our most commonly expressed specific comment of opposition. The desire of no retention, no retention of an oversized trout, a daily oversized catch is excessive, and the concern that the proposal targets female trout and the productive breeders. Of those disagreeing comments, we saw that about 160 or more specifically stated that they liked the three-fish bag, they liked the 15- to 20-inch slot, but they disagreed because they wanted the inclusion of that an annual oversized tag, which we talked about extensively yesterday.

And based on our discussion here in November, based on all the public comments we've heard, we did that additional analysis looking at the projected or modeled benefit of an oversized retained annually as opposed to daily and you will see the percent increased to the spawning stock biomass with that three-fish bag, the 15- to 20-inch slot, and the tag system of a 25, 28, 30, 32. One thing that I wanted to kind of clarify and I didn't yesterday, once you see that kind of plateau, it's not necessarily diminishing returns, but it's those plateaued returns after 30 inches simply because those fish have reached the end of their lifespan. Those fish -- those fish have contributed all they can to the population and they simply -- they simply start dying. So you see that plateaued benefit there.

And, Commissioners, based on our -- on our discussion yesterday, we do plan to publish in the Texas Register two specific items related to our discussion yesterday. An annual oversized tag to allow harvest of one Spotted seatrout greater than 28 inches per year with the ability to purchase that bonus tag and that's very similar to the model and structure we have set up with our Red drum as it currently exists and we'll also publish in the Register a nominal fee, a $3 fee for that additional bonus tag associated with the Spotted seatrout tag. When you buy your license, you default -- if this passes, you will default get an oversized Spotted seatrout tag. It's those that want to seek just one additional bonus tag that would be required to pay that nominal $3 fee.

And for the proposal of the three-fish bag limit, the 15- to 20-inch slot, and one oversized trout greater than 28 inches per day as part of the daily bag, I recommend that the Commission adopts amendments to 31 Texas TAC 57.981 concerning bag possession and length limits and repeal the section that had some of the temporary regulations in it as published in our December 22nd, 2023, issue of the Texas Register, including that modification that we discussed yesterday within our Work Session. So again, I recommend the Commission move to adopt the proposal that includes a 15- to 20-inch slot, a three-fish bag limit, and one trout over 28 inches allowed as part of the daily bag. And with that, I'm happy to entertain any questions.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Okay. Thank you, Mr. Geeslin.

Any discussion by the Commission on the proposed -- proposed recommendations?

Okay. Thank you.

We will now hear from those who have signed up to speak. And so a couple of things. I will -- I'll call five people out at a time and if you would -- so I'm not going to make you stand up for an hour. We've got about 20 folks. So each of you've got three minutes to speak. Do not feel compelled to use the full three minutes. If you can get your point across in a minute, that may be as impactful as the full three, so. But if you need three minutes, then take it and take it fully.

I believe someone will coordinate. There will be a light that appears that will be green and red. Is that right?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: And I think is there a yellow which is -- okay. So -- so just please when it -- when it goes yellow, you know, get to your concluding summarization and then when it's red, step away from the podium. It's just we've got a lot of folks and there's probably, you know, maybe 50 people signed up over the next three items. So I'd appreciate your cooperation.

Okay. So with that, the first five are David Dillman, Ronald Moon is two, Michael Weixelman is three, Terry Stelly is four, and Kirk Blood is five.

MS. WINNEY: Mr. Chairman, the first three are via teleconference.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Okay. All right. So with that, David Dillman, is he on the line?

MR. DAVID DILLMAN: I'm here. Can you hear me?

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Yes, we can. All right, Mr. Dillman, fire away.

MR. DAVID DILLMAN: So normally I would be there. This is probably the first time I've missed a Commissioner's meeting and I just want to say I watched the workshop yesterday and I commend you-all for actually listening and taking time to study the proposal. I am for the proposal. I am for the tag on one fish over 28 inches. I'm definitely for the bonus tag of one fish over 28 inches. I would like to see maybe that fee increase instead of $3. I mean, what's $3 nowadays? Maybe $5? And I -- and I urge the Coastal Fishery Department to look at educating the anglers on specific ways to catch and release these Spotted seatrout because of mortality, especially during the summer months and we know it's going to happen.

You know, if you go out there and you're only allowed three fish 15 to 20 inches and you get into a bunch of 16-inch trout, you're going to cull through those fish in order to try to get three fish that would go 20 inches.

And that's it. That's all I have to say. I hope the proposal works. I pray that, you know, that the fishery increases because of it. Do I really think it's going to happen? Probably not because I don't think limits have ever helped the fishery yet. Galveston Bay, I've been guiding 35 years on Galveston Bay. I've seen it go through a lot of different changes and right now we're fighting so many environmental issues in our bay system alone that I just don't think the limit's going to help, but I pray it does. Other than that, that's it y'all. Thank you for your time.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you, Mr. Dillman.

Next on the phone is Ronald Moon. Mr. Moon?

MR. RONALD MOON: Yes. Yes, sir. I'm here.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All right, you're up.

MR. RONALD MOON: Okay. I've been to several of these things over the years, and they just keep getting worse. You can pass all the laws you want to pass, it's not going to help the fisheries. I hope you-all received my e-mail two days ago. I sent it to the Board of Directors concerning Speckled trout and all over marine life.

The gentleman that just spoke, I listened to what -- the last part he had to say. Because the laws and stuff, I don't care. I don't fish anymore anyway. But I spent half my life learning about the marshes and estuaries.

Are you trying to reach me?


MR. RONALD MOON: Okay. Well, I spent half my life in the marshes and nurseries. My brother and I leased a 2,000-acre area in Port Arthur, Texas, and had an experimental shrimp farm. That's another endangered -- going to be endangered species. But we've monitored in and out migrations of this area. We did special -- there's so much I could tell you about what I've done and seen, fish kills where they happened and where there's another one going to happen.

But I've written a lot of people. I've been working with the CCA, and I'm very happy I've been able to reach the Board. Somebody needs to hear what I'm saying. Our marshes and estuaries are being destroyed. It started back in the 70s. Saltwater barriers. Okay. Why would you want to turn saltwater fresh? I'll tell you why in a minute.

Now we're also closing off all the inlets from the Intercoastal Canal into our bay systems, Keith Lake all the way to Galveston. There's only five openings left, and they're built to the saltwater barrier level. We closed off -- the biggest one that we've done -- we've closed off Rollover Pass and believe it or not, Galveston is already seeing the effects. They've already closed two oyster beds in Galveston, an individual died. The nutrients in the saltwater are not able to make their normal where they go into the marshes and bays because we're cutting them off and that's not just happening here. It's happening up and down the coast.

When they closed off Rollover Pass, that was just another indication that we're trying to turn our mashes as fresh as we can get them. Right now there's a program going on around High Island. They're calling it restoration of our marshes. We're destroying our estuaries. Picture the marine life in --


MR. RONALD MOON: -- the Gulf and in the bays --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Mr. Moon, if I could interrupt.


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All right. Look, thank you for your comments. You're over the three minutes, but we appreciate it and we will take it under consideration. Have a good day.

All right. Next is Michael Weixelman. I think he's on the phone as well. Mr. Weixelman?

MR. MICHAEL WEIXELMAN: Yes. Good morning, gentlemen. I only have three minutes, and I'm going to jump right into the reasons that I strongly oppose these proposals that would restrict coastal fishermen to an even greater degree than it has already been.

I was hired by Parks and Wildlife back in 1971 after graduating from college with a degree in fisheries. I worked for the Department as a marine biologist for the next 33 years. When I was hired, commercial fishing for trout was legal in Texas bays with no bag limits and the only restrictions on the sport fishermen was the minimum size limit of 14 inches on Red drum. Over the years, these restrict -- these bag limits have continually gone down year -- you know, over the years. We've seen 20-trout bag limit. We've seen a 10-trout, then five, and now you're trying to push it down to three.

I'm a fisherman. I'm out in the bays all the time since I retired from Parks and Wildlife back in 2004 -- and I hear somebody talking. Do y'all hear me?



CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Just -- yes, sir.

MR. MICHAEL WEIXELMAN: Oh, okay. I hear somebody talking. All right. So over the last 50 years, Parks and Wildlife has continued to reduce these trout bag limits and I agree with the gentleman before me that was saying that these bag limits -- reducing these bag limits is not going to help the population of the trout fisheries and the reason I say that is because I've monitored the spawning of trout in Matagorda Bay back in the 80s with Mr. Bob Cullura and trout start spawning at the age of 13 -- I mean at the length of 13/14 inches and they're spawning as early as April each year and then continually for the next five months are developing their eggs and releasing their eggs into the bay system. So the ability of trout to spawn is so prolific that their numbers are going to be there.

We've seen over the years. Some really bad ones back in the 1980s and every time the trout populations have rebounded because of their ability to spawn. So cutting the bag limit is not the answer. In fact, I did the harvest -- the harvest catch of trout for sport fishermen for about 30 years in Matagorda Bay and "San Antone" Bay systems and the catch rate for sport fishermen is like half a trout per day per fishermen. It's not very high and never has been. So only about 5 percent of the fishermen are probably catching 90 percent of the fish.

So I'm really against these proposals. I think we need to leave it alone. Leave it at least at five. Okay? And what else can I say? Keep the boat -- I think the reasons -- and I agree with the last gentleman Mr. Moon. We've got to save our estuaries and marshes. I've seen them -- what's happened in Turtle Bay and in Mata -- in Tres Palacious Bay where landowners have closed off these little inlets that go back into the marshes and that's where your nutrients come from, your small crab, your small fish, your small shrimp, and so on --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: I understand. All right.

MR. MICHAEL WEIXELMAN: -- they've got to have access to these back bays --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank -- Mr. Weixelman.

MR. MICHAEL WEIXELMAN: -- so look at that instead of bag limits.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Mr. Weixelman, thank you.


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you very much.

All right. So now, I guess, is everyone here in person? So let's do -- let's line up five. Terry Stelly, Kirk Blood, Scott Null, Michael Laskowski, and Lindsey Sicard. If you guys would in that order and be ready to go.

All right. Mr. Stelly.

MR. TERRY STELLY: Thank you, Commissioners. It feels a great honor to following Michael Weixelman. I'd worked with him for a number of years. I'm also a retired Parks and Wildlife biologist in Coastal Fisheries, 30 years, and I represent Southeast Texas Clean Air and Water -- I'm the President. And the directors of Southeast Texas Clean Air and Water support the change in bag and size limit for the Spotted seatrout.

Clean Air and Water believes since the above changes are based on the seven-year calculations using existing population numbers which should allow for improved Spotted seatrout recovery. TPWD should inform the license holders the status after three and seven years with recommendations of either staying with the change, returning to the previous regulations, or some other option resulting in recovery.

Clean Air and Water does not support regional management. With Sabine Lake sharing a boundary with Louisiana, there's already an imbalance of management between the two states. Louisiana currently has a 15-fish per person, 13- to 20-, which includes a two over 20 inches. This alone adds additional fishing pressure landings not only on Spotted seatrout, but for other species, as well as drawing anglers from other coastal areas of Texas increasing fishing pressure landings too.

Now to discuss a little bit about that 15-inch limit and how that came about, the 25 -- the 25-fish per people were in Louisiana, was the limit up until several years ago when they decided to set aside Cameron and Calcasieu Parishes to a 15-size and that happened through a couple meetings I participated in over in Louisiana with the fisheries people, along with other staff members, and no telling if those meetings had an affect or not or some staff -- upper staff members here in Austin with communications with the Louisiana Fisheries. All that helped bring that about, that option of Calcasieu and Cameron Parishes sharing the boundary with Sabine Lake and the Sabine Pass Ship Channel.

That eventually led to bringing that 15-inch limit -- 15 fish, not length -- 15 fish for the entire State of Louisiana. I would like to encourage that continual communications with the Louisiana Fisheries. Perhaps something similar in the future could happen too. Maybe not ten, but maybe five. But that would definitely work to the advantage of the fishery. Thank you for this opportunity for allowing Clean Air and Water to comment on this fishing regulation change for Spotted seatrout management.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you, Mr. Stelly.

Mr. Kirk Blood.

MR. KIRK BLOOD: Good morning, members of Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, Parks and Wildlife staff, and audience. My is Kirk Blood. I retired a 25-year employee of Coastal Fisheries Division. I'm also a long-time board member and past Vice President of Saltwater Anglers League of Texas Sabine area. I'm here today representing Salt and the Sabine Lake area anglers to petition the Commission to consider regional management in the matter of the new proposed seatrout regulations. Specifically we ask to be exempted and remain at the current bag and size.

At the scoping meetings that I attended, the data was presented that showed that Sabine Lake and Galveston Bay were not adversely affected by the '21 freeze. We were exempted from the original bag and size reduction which expired in '23. The questionnaires that were mailed to our fishermen in the spring of '23 and asked to get their opinions through a quirk in the methodology of the boat ramp surveys, the questionnaires to be sent out were weighted according to their answer on a question of what they were fishing for. In our system the number one driver is flounder and croaker. It's never been a big seatrout fishery anyway. Therefore, our anglers became underrepresented.

We feel that maybe you felt like we didn't care, but we do. And we turned in an online survey from one of the largest forums in our area -- I think it had 317 signatures -- that said we are not in favor of this proposal and would like to see us remain at the current bag and size. I also feel like that this would help in boundary -- common boundary regulations. Because the further we get apart from Louisiana, the harder it is to come to some middle ground. So we would ask that Sabine Lake be exempted from this. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you, Mr. Blood.

Mr. Scott Null.

MR. SCOTT NULL: Yes, sir. Appreciate y'all having us all out here today to talk about this. I don't have all the degrees and all that stuff those guys do. I'm just an old fishing guide. I'm on the water all the time. I spend most of my time around the Port O'Connor area. I've been on the water probably pushing 50 years now and I started off fishing with a bunch of older guys and not a one of them has ever told me that the fishing was better now than it was previously and I doubt that there's anybody that's fishing now that can tell you, Hey, I was fishing in the 80s and it sucked and now it's really good.

Everybody always says that it was better in the past. The biggest problem that we're facing out on the water is the number of people. We're just getting more and more people. The pie is not getting any bigger. Based off of the surveys and all the gillnet studies and all that, we can see the population is going down. The number of fishermen has gone up tremendously.

I'm a host for a fishing podcast, a Texas saltwater fishing podcast that is called Bite Me and we have roughly 10,000 people a week that download our podcast. Our feedback on that -- it's been a hot topic, believe me. There's dadgum near some fistfights over this trout stuff. But the overwhelming replies that we have gotten from our listeners has been in favor of this. In fact, most of them are in favor of even going more strict, not having the one tag.

If we did a tag, I would like to see it be a 30-inch. I just don't see much reason keeping a 28-inch trout anymore. If you want one for a trophy, there's replicas. We can have -- you know, any taxidermist out there does a fiberglass replica of your fish based off a photograph. We don't need to bring them in anymore and skin them out. And honestly, they don't eat that well anyway. So the better eating ones are those smaller ones. Let's keep it at 15- to 20-, maybe have the one tag over 30 for a state record. But other than that, I just wanted to say I appreciate y'all looking into this and I'm in agreement with CCA.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you, Mr. Null. Question for you. How many --

MR. SCOTT NULL: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: On a percentage basis, how many people do you believe would keep a trout over 28 and the vast majority put the fish back in the bay?

MR. SCOTT NULL: I would say it'd probably be 99 percent would release it.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Would release it?



MR. SCOTT NULL: Nobody that I know that targets big trout actually keep them. They don't eat that well and they're too precious. If you've ever caught one, it's a special moment and in my view, I want the next person to have that same moment with that same fish.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: You bet. So you're saying roughly 1 percent of the fishermen/anglers would keep a trout over 28 inches, I mean in your experience?

MR. SCOTT NULL: In my experience, yes, sir.


MR. SCOTT NULL: Of my customers, I'm almost 100 percent catch and release.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you for the information. Appreciate it.

Next, Mr. Laskowski.

MR. MICHAEL LASKOWSKI: Hello. My name is Mike Laskowski. I am a recreational fisherman and resident of Seguin, Texas. My family and I have a second home in Lamar just outside of Rockport for about the last 20 years now and have been regular visitors to the area since the early 70s. This year marks my 10th anniversary of serving on the Coastal Resources Advisory Committee. It is a position I take very seriously, and I hope my actions help leave the resources of Texas better shape than what they were passed on to me.

First, I thank you for the opportunity to speak today. I want to thank the Commission members for taking time away from their professional lives to do the required homework on this issue. I was very impressed with the discussions on this topic at the last meeting.

I'm here today to ask the Commission to take a couple of steps -- or one step to help to ensure a healthy and sustainable Speckled trout fishery not only for today, but for future generations as well. As a long-serving member of the CRAC Committee, I have learned that compromises must be reached to move the ball down the field. You have heard our committee recommendations presented by Dakus earlier. I believe that those are good ideas, but I personally would like the Commission to entertain taking a bold step today to even make them better.

I agree with the three-fish limit and the proposed slot limit. Personally I think it -- I would like the Commission to entertain the idea of a catch-and-release fishery for all fish over the slot limit. I think it would go a long way in setting a perception to the public that those big trout are way more valuable in the water than dead. Much like the bass fishing community adopted 40 plus years ago.

Coastal Fishery numbers suggest there's only around 50 trout harvested over 30 inches in the state per year. I would like to see the state start a program to provide a free replica mount to anyone that turns those fish loose, much like the ShareLunker Program does for Largemouth bass. I have little doubt that program could be funded on a yearly basis by outside groups and partners within the saltwater community if adopted.

In close, I would like to say thank you for hearing me out and you should put me down as in support of the three-fish limit, the current slot; but I'm strongly opposed to keeping any trout oversized, whether that be on a per day or a yearly tag system basis. In closing, I would like to quote the late Billy Sandifer: If we don't leave any, there won't be any. Thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you. Interesting idea to incent people to put the fish back, which is a great idea.

Real quick. Lindsey Sicard's next, but we've got Wayne Davis, Parker Holt, David Rowsey, Everett Johnson, Craig Williams, Shane Bonnot.

Ms. Sicard.

MS. LINDSEY SICARD: Hello. My name is Lindsey Laskowski Sicard. I live in Corpus Christi and I have spent much my life recreationally fishing the surrounding bays of Rockport, Texas. I was fortunate to learn about the importance of conversation at a very young age. Many of my teachings as a child came from wade fishing between my mom and dad, as you just heard, and the invaluable lessons I learned, I still hold tightly to today, which is why I'm up here now because I believe in standing up for not only what I believe in, but also for the future generations of whom will be affected based on the decision the Commission makes today.

As I'm sure you-all know, there is more pressure on our bays now than ever before and I feel we must not only lower the daily harvest limit, but be much more selective and disciplined of the trout we do take from our waters if we wish to see any progress in the coming years. I do not agree with harvesting one oversized trout per day and I sincerely hope the Commission will reconsider that proposal and instead implement a tagging system of one trophy trout tag per year. We simply cannot strip our bays of those catches of a lifetime that are vital for the success and prosperity of our fishery.

We all must take the time now to give back more to the bays what most people do not have the discipline to. I strongly believe the decision to update the regulations would benefit every party affected in the long run. Fishing guides will have a sustainable fishery that keeps clients coming back for years and recreational anglers such as myself will be able to create more memories on the water with my family doing what I love. Sure we may not get to keep as many trout, but we are ensuring there will be more and more to catch and harvest another day. And luckily Black drum makes for a pretty good meal.

I believe we need less selfishness in our angler community and more conversation-minded individuals who are willing to do the research and stand up not only for what they believe in, but also for the future generations who will one day be leaving their footprints in the mud on the hunt for the elusive trophy trout. I've witnessed grown men brought to tears when talking about their good old days and how they didn't realize their impact on the fishery until it was too late. Let's not have to tell our children and our grandchildren about what the good old days were like. Let's show it to them instead. Thank you-all for your time.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Ms. Sicard.

Mr. Wayne Davis.

MR. WAYNE DAVIS: Howdy. Good morning. Wayne Davis from Port Mansfield, Texas. Fishing guide. I'm glad to be here and fortunate to be able to express my thoughts on the proposal -- trout regulations set before us today. As noted and supported by many, reducing the trout limit to three fish and 15 to 20 inches is such a move in the right direction.

With this in place, our fishery will undoubtedly thrive under current and near-term fishing pressure. Additionally, it will undoubtedly support an increase in larger trout that many anglers seek. However, if the current proposal stands, we are running a risk of compromising what we -- as most anglers and you, Texas Parks and Wildlife Commissioners -- have established over the last few years since the devastating freeze of 2021.

It is worth noting that we recently just less than a week ago experienced a substantial fish kill in at least half the Texas Coast because of another Arctic blast. We have no control over these natural events, but we do have mechanisms in place commonly known as laws established by the Commission which have proven to work as noted above.

Since you and many anglers took action after the freeze of 2021, we have seen just a glimpse of what Texas trout fishing could become once again. So here we are on the cusp of a decision that could impact Texas trout fishing in such a positive way, all the while -- and this is important -- not compromising anglers and fishermen alike who want to keep a trout for a tasty meal. I am here today in support of said proposal with one exception. Please do not allow an oversized trout to be retained per person per day. Please consider putting a moratorium on any trout over 20 inches until logistics can be implemented for one oversized trout per person per year with a tag, like the already established and commonly recognized oversized redfish tag.

Before I close, I'd like to touch on fishing tournaments that are fastly approaching. If we allow one oversized trout per person per day to be in the bag limit, those trout we have been protecting the last three years without a doubt will be targeted and killed. This alone will be yet another setback in building back our fishery to where it once was.

In closing, I'd like to look at this from a different perspective. Most of us as anglers are also deer hunters, and many are also trophy deer hunters. The state regulates deer bag limits based on a variety of variables. With that said, consider being on a lease with no limit on how many hunters could be on the lease. Consider there was no high fence and consider there was more and more hunters getting on the lease every year. Additionally, there was no instrument in place to limit the number of hunters getting on that lease. With that in mind, does it sound reasonable to allow every hunter to be able to kill one trophy buck per person per day?


MR. WAYNE DAVIS: That on the surface does not sound sensible.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: I understand. Thank --

MR. WAYNE DAVIS: Thank you for your time.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: -- you, Mr. Davis, for your comments. Appreciate it.

Mr. Holt.

MR. PARKER HOLT: Good morning, Commissioners. Thanks for being here today. My name's Parker Holt. I'm a resident of Travis County and I'm an avid angler focusing on trophy class Speckled trout with artificial tackle and I've done so for over 20 years. There has been a lot of great commentary made this morning that gives me goosebumps about what it used to be like in our fisheries when you talk about trophy trout.

As I made notes for this last week, the water temperature in the mid-coast bays is hovering in the 40s. This brings back not-so-distant memories of the devastation we witnessed in the freeze of 2021 and countless images of cold -- cold-stunned trout, rafts of dead fish in our bays and along our shorelines. I applaud the Commission and the Coastal Fisheries for taking action by implementing a temporary restriction of a three-trout bag limit with a slot of 17 to 23 inches. I believe that reduced bag and slot did have a positive affect, but I cannot see how we've seen any sort of return to the quality fishery we once had a long time before this last freeze.

I strongly support an order to implement a three-trout bag limit and a slot of 15 to 20 inches with no trout outside that slot to be harvested until a tag could be implemented. This is not a new concept. This has been the talk around the marinas and the boat docks for years amongst the people that I know. I feel the negative effect that we will see with a trout one trout oversized per day per angler included in the bag and, frankly, it feels like one step forward and about a step and a half back.

I urge you to reconsider allowing an oversized trout to be included in the daily bag until a limit -- until a tag can be implemented, as we've done with redfish now for decades. Texas once had a trophy trout fishery and a return to that quality, along with the economic benefits those trophy trout bring, is vast. However, we need your help today by protecting not only the trout fishery in terms of quantity, but as quality as well.

Another deer reference. I've always said a 25-inch trout's about the same as a 155-inch White-tail, with something over 30 inches or 10 pounds being that 190-inch monster that keeps you up at night. Let's remember the old saying: If you kill all the good deer, you will not have many great deer.

My closing comment came from commentary that I heard earlier. Anyone that believes that conversation and limits do not affect the quality of the fishery need only visit Florida, Montana, and many other states who are way ahead of the curve on this matter. Thank you so much.


Next is Mr. David Rowsey.

MR. DAVID ROWSEY: Yes, sir. Good morning, Commissioners, and thank you for the opportunity to speak her today. My name is David Rowsey. I'm a full-time charter captain on Baffin Bay in the Upper Laguna Madre. As a member of your Coastal Resources Advisory Committee, a writer for the Texas Saltwater Fishing magazine, and someone who spends countless days per year on the Texas bays, thank you-all for expediting the Spotted seatrout issue in the November Commissioner's meeting.

Much talk was made of the trout over 25 inches being of less than 1 percent of the population and that it really made no difference biologically. That may be the case. However, the endowment to Parks and Wildlife and the economic impact of our trout over 25 inches could only be described as mammoth in scale. Simply looking at that fish from a biological standpoint as selling the trout short in what this class of fish brings to the table. The two can and should coexist.

Over 18 years of guiding, I've never had a client tell me, Captain, we really just want to go out and catch the small fish today.

It just never happens. Pursuit of trout over 25 inches is the driving force behind vast boat sales, tackle, gear, trailers, and other related items that provide funding to Texas Parks and Wildlife. Everything should be done to preserve this invaluable size class of fish through the coming spawn and near high-use season of '24 until a one-time annual stamp can be added to the license for a trophy trout exceeding 28 to 30 inches.

Another deer reference. These guys have stolen my thunder. I know many of you are landowners who take pride in having healthy deer populations that grow trophy class bucks. I would pose this question: Is it possible to grow a seven-year-old, 200-inch class deer if that animal is harvested at three years old and 150 inches? Obviously the answer is a resounding no. The analogy is the same for 25-inch trout. Allowing one of these per day to be harvested as part of a three-fish bag limit is senseless when considering the value of that fish at its full potential. Mind you all, we are not trying to invent something new here. We're simply trying to get back what we have lost.

During the November Commissioner's meeting, Commissioner Abell recommended -- and I'm paraphrasing -- how about let's not keep any trout over 20 inches until the tag can be implemented on September the 1st. This is the resolution that most of the users would like to see and one that makes the most common sense in this time of build-back from the freeze. Texas has long been known for its trophy Speckled trout fishery and we've lost that status due to a combination of years of overharvest and mother nature. Your decision today will define who we are as a balanced fishery that provides for both quality and quantity of trout for generations to come.

Please consider the following as new regulations: A three-trout bag limit; a 15- to 20-inch slot; one annual tag with no bonus for fish 28 to 30 inches, whatever y'all decide. But in the short time, the meantime, zero harvest of trout over 20 inches until a tag can be implemented.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you, Mr. Rowsey --

MR. DAVID ROWSEY: Thank y'all.


Mr. Everett Johnson.

MR. EVERETT JOHNSON: Good morning. Thank you-all for giving me the opportunity to speak. The same -- I -- quite in admiration of the efforts of your Coastal Fisheries Division. Over the years that I have been involved -- I'm the editor and publisher of Texas Saltwater Fishing magazine and I have been in many, many meetings and much correspondence with the Coastal Fisheries staff. You guys lead the nation in coastal fisheries management. My hats off to Robin, Dakus, their staffs. And I can only tell you that if it wasn't for the ravages of mother nature, we probably would not be having this meeting today.

The freeze of February 14th, 2021, was very devastating, especially on the middle coast, Matagorda, the San Antonio Bay system. I want to just interject very shortly. We had another very close call last week. We lost fish last week, a lot of fish in our backcountry. When I say backcountry, I'm talking about marsh lakes, back lakes, areas off the main bay. How extensive that will turn out to be will not be known until you do your spring gillnet survey.

So we have a very difficult puzzle to solve. We have growing numbers of fishermen. We want people to go fishing. I'm in the business of promoting fishing. You're in the business of encouraging people to get out and enjoy the resource. Trying to -- it makes King Solomon's job look quite simple actually, trying to manage this fishery with so many influences that you cannot control. So there's down to only a couple of tools in the box and those are regulations that govern size and daily bag retention.

I am here to endorse your three-fish proposal. I like the 15- to 20-inch retention slot. I'm not a big fan of retaining fish longer than 20. I trust you will be very diligent -- as will Robin and his staff -- in seeking ways to implement a tag system. So with that, I say thank you for all your great work. We enjoy the fishery and I hope to continue to be able to enjoy it many more years. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you. And thank you for the compliments to the staff. I know they certainly appreciate it. They do -- they do --

MR. EVERETT JOHNSON: Well, they're a bunch of great people and they're hard workers.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Yep. Yes, they are. Thank you, thank you.

All right. So we've got Craig Williams, Shane Bonnot, John Blaha, Dean Applin, and Dan Applin.

Okay. All right, Craig.

MR. CRAIG WILLIAMS: Good morning. Craig Williams. I'm a recreational angler. Member of the CRAC Committee as well and I want to take a second to again thank Dakus, Robin, all the men and women in the staff at TPWD for taking this -- this -- you know, by storm really. It was an emergency that needed to be addressed and I'm so happy that you guys have taken the time to do that. I know how much work -- Director Yoskowitz, as well -- have put into this. It's really important.

I agree with the proposals as they've been put out here today. We definitely need the 15- to 20-. I also would like to see a tag for oversized trout. They're rare. We've got to take care of them. And I really would like to look forward to seeing if we could do something along the lines of the ShareLunker program, where people report these 30-inch trout or 32-inch trout and we can reward them for letting them go. Surely we could raise some funds together for the amounts and I think it would be a great idea to try and find a committee that we could put together to at least do a think tank on that. I think it would be really beneficial. But thank you guys so much for addressing the issue.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you. And I do think it would be a great idea to create something around an incentive on these larger fish. So we'll work on it. So thank you.

All right. Let's see. Everett -- let's see. Sorry, sorry. I apologize. Shane Bonnot.

MR. SHANE BONNOT: Good more, Mr. Chairman. Shane Bonnot with CCA Texas. And first off, I just want to echo the comments that the previous gentleman made about firstly the staff. I attended three of the public hearings, annual -- not annual public hearings, but the trout public hearings. One in Galveston, one in Port Lavaca, and one in Port Arthur. And typically it is a very divisive topic, and it's not a great environment when you have a bunch of people arguing over how something should be managed.

That was not the case this go-around. The staff exuded professionalism. They maintained an environment that was conducive for engaging conversation without all of the extra nonsense. So really appreciate the staff's efforts.

Additionally, I appreciate you-all's efforts in expediting this to try to get something in place before this spring spawning season. That does not go unacknowledged and appreciate that very much.

We're supportive of the proposal and we recommend the tag system and also not retention -- no retention of fish until that can be put into place. That's our position, and I appreciate your time.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you very much, Mr. Bonnot.

John Blaha. Hopefully I've got that right.

MR. JOHN BLAHA: Perfect, Chairman.


MR. JOHN BLAHA: Chairman Hildebrand, Commission, Dr. Yoskowitz, appreciate the opportunity to stand before y'all again. I'll start out just simply saying I fully support the 15- to 20- and would like to see a tag system put in place with no fish retention until that can be done.

I'm going to kind of -- I want to hit a point that I know it's come up in some of the public meetings and really I haven't heard it today, but I've been involved with this since 1990 as a CCA volunteer going to these meetings and every time there's been a change, the cry from those that do not support it is, oh, it's going to affect our business so badly.

I think if you look at the recreational fishing business, as a business now you will see more growth in the last ten years than ever before. I'll go to 2015-2016 when we were trying to get five fish into the middle coast and I walked into the fishing show in Houston and one of the lodges -- lodge owners said, Man, we dodged a bullet.

This was the first shot at it, and it was rejected at that time. I said, What do you mean we lost a shot? Or we won the battle, you know?

And he said, Well, if we would have reduced that limit, all my business would have gone to Houston or Louisiana or other places.

And I just frankly said -- I said, You're not selling meat. You're selling an experience and that is why your lodge is successful is because of that experience.

Today that lodge is probably one of the biggest lodges on the coast and at the same time, they have really gone into a catch-and-release mode as well for all their customers. So in closing, again I support the 15- to 20-, three-fish, a tag system being put in place, whether it's 28 or 30, but no retention of anything over 20 until that's done and I really like the idea of the ShareLunker thought and, again, it cannot be echoed more times than not that the job that the staff, Rob and Dakus and all the local guys do. It's incredible work. So in closing, the future is now and let's look towards that future. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Mr. Blaha.

Mr. Dean Appling.

MR. DEAN APPLIN: Good morning and I want to thank the Commission for giving us the opportunity to provide input. My name's Dean Appling. I'm a resident here in Travis County. I support the proposal with the exception that many people have been talking about, let's don't keep any fish over 20 inches until we can institute some sort of an annual tag program.

I fish mainly in Aransas and Mesquite and San Antonio Bays. Now maybe I'm just a lousy fisherman, but I definitely am not catching the numbers of trout that I did before the February 2021 freeze. You know, regulating bag and size limits are really the best tool that you-all have to help protect and give our trout a chance to recover and I urge you to take that opportunity. Thank y'all.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you, Mr. Applin.

And another Mr. Applin. Dan Applin. Are you two related?

MR. DAN APPLING: Yeah. I'm the better fisherman of the two.


MR. DAN APPLING: At least I think so. I really appreciate everything that y'all are doing. I support the three-slot limit and I support no fish over 20 inches until y'all can get a tag system in place.

I think that -- I work a lot with CCA and I think we can work together and get a ShareLunker and make a big deal out of somebody catching and releasing a big fish. I think that's something that we can work together with. And I just want to -- everybody should know -- I mean, y'all do know this -- that thousands of new boats are being sold, thousands of new houses are being built on the coast, and all those people want to catch fish and the resource just cannot support the current limits, particularly after this freeze. So I think y'all are doing the right thing, and I appreciate y'all letting me speak. Thanks.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you very much, Mr. Applin.

Okay. That's it.

Yes, sir. Commissioner Scott.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: One comment I would just make as a general statement, early on in the conversation somebody made a reference to Rollover Pass being closed and everything. The one thing I would just like to make everybody that listens to this aware of is, is that a lot of these issues we don't control. Corps of Engineers and other people make a lot of these decisions and we have no -- we have input, but we don't -- we don't get to call the shot.

So I would just caution everybody to -- when you think an issue is something that really needs to be addressed, look into who actually makes the decision. And that's all I would say. Thank y'all for -- and I do appreciate all the comments. Having been here a pretty long time, I always enjoy the public comment and don't think that we don't hear you. We do.


Any other comments from the Commissioners?

VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: I just had one.


VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: This is Commissioner Bell and this is for Dakus. I think this question's for you. Someone mentioned regional management, and I don't know if we had any comments on regional management in our conversations. Do you have any thoughts on that?

MR. GEESLIN: You know, we did hear some of that up in the far reaches of Sabine and in the past, we've had some regional manage -- specific to Spotted seatrout management. And we did hear just a few of those comments up in our Port Arthur public hearing.

VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: Okay. I just wanted to -- just had a question on that. Thank you.

MR. GEESLIN: You bet.



CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Commissioner Foster.

COMMISSIONER FOSTER: I want to make a comment. Two things. One is the bonus fish for $3. I don't think we talked about that yesterday. I think today was the first time or we may have and I just was asleep or something, but that one kind of caught me by surprise. And other thing is it seems to me that the overwhelming majority of people -- at least the people we heard from today verbally -- would like to see us not allow any fish to be kept over 20 inches until we can get a tag in place and that's -- that's not what our proposal is. Our proposal is to allow you to keep one per day. Should we reconsider that before we take this to a vote?

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: I mean, I'm certainly willing to consider that.

James, protocol in terms of how I can take a straw vote?

MR. MURPHY: Hi, Chairman. James Murphy, General Counsel for the record. We have evaluated whether or not and the standard is whether or not the modification is a logical outgrowth of what has been published in the Texas Register for public notice. And in this instance, I think I would recommend some caution on removing the daily bag -- the oversized fish in the daily bag in this proposal. That was not included in the notice and so I think our recommendation from legal counsel is that any changes to the daily bag for oversized fish would be in a forthcoming rule-making that Dakus had alluded to as being considered at the March meeting.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Okay. I appreciate that, but that wasn't the question.

The question -- well, how about this? Who wants to speak about -- on the Commission -- as to retaining a fish over 20 inches until we can come up with a bag limit -- or excuse me, a tag system? So would anyone like to speak on that, other than Commissioner Foster.

VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: This is Commissioner Bell. Just in the context of the conversation we had yesterday, Dakus, I think one of the things we talked about was that we would have -- we would have a discussion on tags set up for our next session and that the potential to have tags implemented, if the Commission chose to move in that direction, could happen by the fall. Was that correct?

MR. GEESLIN: Great question, Commissioner Bell. What we would do following this meeting if approved -- and we will go to the Register based on that direction we received yesterday with the idea of a tag, putting in place with a tag; but that would not be effective until September 1, that next license -- we would come back to you in March and seek adoption for that proposal, the tag and the associated fee. So that would go into effect September 1.

As we come back in March, if the Commission so chose to do so, we could also include the no retention, the no retention of an oversized fish until a point into the future until we have that tag system in place. I believe we could couple that onto the Register item and bring that before you in March. I'm fact checking my general counsel over here.

MR. MURPHY: Correct.

VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: So let me -- just a quick follow-up then. On one hand, one question would be if we didn't move on it, what's -- if it doesn't get implemented until September, what's the actual, let's say, impact on the fishery, potential worst case scenario impact on the fishery for take between now and September? And then the other question is: How quickly, again, if we start that -- we could make that modification next month to remove the large -- the next meeting we could make that recommendation to take that off and --


VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: -- leave it off until the end of the year.

MR. GEESLIN: I'm following you. If we -- if you-all pass the proposal as is today, we can have the three-fish -- three-fish bag, 15- to 20-inch slot, and the one over per day, we can have that implemented I want to say -- I'm putting my staff on notice here -- probably mid-March, mid-March to late March. If we seek adoption of the tag, the associated fee, and the no retention of an oversized, we could have that implemented I want to say mid-May. We could have that implemented in mid-May. So you would have from mid-March until mid-May, that's two months where you could retain one oversized fish per day and the impact of that -- impact -- back to your original question, the impact to the fishery I believe would be extremely minimal.

COMMISSIONER ABELL: Commissioner Abell.

COMMISSIONER DOGGETT: I would -- I would -- Commissioner Doggett here.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Commissioner Doggett.


I would say if there's a procedural way to modify the rules, that's what we should -- I think from a practical standpoint, the anglers I know, they don't keep the bigger fish and they all turn them back in. So I think from a practical sense, we're not denying the majority of people the experience that they're looking for on the water and one of the gentlemen said that, you know, you take a photo and you can have -- you can have a fiberglass mount made of that. So I don't think -- I don't think we're really denying the experience to folks and then given the recovery that we're looking for, seemed like it makes a great -- it makes sense to modify the harvest rule and -- to the three-bag limit, 15/20, and not have -- not have larger fish until if they -- I think -- actually I think to perpetually not have larger fish. But if we feel that with a tag, that makes sense. Everybody can get something that they -- you know, a trophy deer, let's do that; but certainly not allow -- I think it gets confusing if we do it now, allow the bigger fish without a tag and then come back and enforce a tag. I think it gets a little confusing for anglers. And again, I would just say my experience is people don't keep the bigger fish. They just don't keep them. At least the anglers I've been with.


So before any other Commissioners speak, I just -- clarification.

So, James, if we modified what I have here to a three-bag limit, 15- to 20-, with the instruct -- period -- with the instruction to the staff to proceed with a tag that would allow a 28-inch or greater trout, can I do that? And look, I understand the perfect legal process may not -- but is -- if we did that today, is it good enough to hold up?

MR. MURPHY: No, Chairman.


MR. MURPHY: We have cannot remove the oversized daily bag -- the oversized fish in the daily bag in this proposal. It is not a logical outgrowth of the proposal published in the Texas Register and that's the timeline that Dakus laid out. If we put it into the March, we adopt in March, that means it could be effective probably in the May timeframe. So there's a couple months where we would have an oversized fish in the daily bag if you pursue the March adoption.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: And these rules go into effect when?

MR. MURPHY: The rules go in effect 20 days after submission to the Texas Register. That's a state law requirement and so -- but then we also have to prepare a response to public comment that is part of the adoption package that is filed in the Texas Register. As you see, there are 2,000 public comments. That will require some staff time to --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: But roughly -- but roughly mid-March this would go into effect?

MR. MURPHY: Mid-May, sir.


MR. MURPHY: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Mid-May. Okay, got it. So --

MR. MURPHY: And just to clarify that, this current proposal --


MR. MURPHY: -- that we're working on would go into effect in mid-March. Right?


MR. MURPHY: The one we consider in May -- or in March would be effective in mid-May. Am I clear on that?

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: But there's one, for me, troubling -- as Commission Foster, we didn't talk about this. Annual oversized tag to allow harvest of one Spotted seatrout greater than 28- per year with the ability to purchase a bonus tag similar to Red drum tag. So we didn't talk about purchasing a bonus tag on top of a tag already. Does anybody remember that?



CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: So that would be potentially two fish greater than 28 that you could take.

MR. MURPHY: And I would defer to Dakus on this, but my understanding is that the bonus tag for $3 is the Red drum system that we had talked about mirroring. But, Dakus, you can speak more to that.

MR. GEESLIN: No. That is correct, Chairman, and you're spot on there. The bonus tag is associated with the Red drum and for the sake of consistency and for that little bit of revenue that comes back to the Department in the tune of, you know, right around $100,000 that we generate from those additional bonus tags.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Well, we can figure out how to make 100,000 elsewhere. So I'm not sure there's support for this, but can we publish these rules and absent this bonus tag? Which we didn't talk about.


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Okay? So can we do that? Are we legally at an approval state that we could do this?

MR. MURPHY: So I just want to break this down. We have the permission to publish proposal that Dakus had that slide on and maybe we could put that slide back up showing it. That's for the March adoption for considering --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: That's the March adoption. Right.

MR. MURPHY: Absolutely. At this stage of the process, the Commission can give direction of what that publication would be in the Register and if the decision of the Commission is that we don't want that $3 bonus tag for the second oversized fish, certainly that could be removed from the publication that we put forward after this meeting.


VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: And just for clarification --


VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: This is Commissioner Bell. That's not the -- that $3 tag piece is not in this current action.

MR. MURPHY: Correct.

VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: That is for a future -- that was mentioned for consideration in a future action, but that is -- but it is a fact, I don't recall us having that conversation yesterday either in for -- in terms of just talking about a future action. So I concur with everyone on that.

COMMISSIONER ABELL: Commissioner Abell. James, we were able yesterday to change from the oversized from 25 to 28.

MR. MURPHY: Correct.

COMMISSIONER ABELL: Okay. So if we wanted to get closer to honoring what the wishes were today, could we change it again from 28 to 36 or something? A fish that's never going to get caught.

MR. MURPHY: Yes, Commissioner. We feel comfortable with our legal analysis that if you wish to move that from 28 as we discussed yesterday up to 30 or another number that -- you know, Dakus has the slide on different options there -- certainly if you'd like to move that up, that is an option as well.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: You're talking about though publishing in the Texas Register the modification from 28 to 36, correct?

MR. MURPHY: No, sir. I'm talking about what you're adopting here today.


MR. MURPHY: Correct. And that's the slide up before you, the yellow highlighted. If you wish to make that one trout/allow oversized as part the of the daily bag and move that, the original proposal that we published that's been in, you know, the Administrative Code for many years has always been 25, we can move that 28 or if you wish today up to 30, 32, at your --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: So we can modify the rule with --

MR. MURPHY: Today.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Okay, understand.

MR. MURPHY: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Okay. So any comment on that? That very specifically, the rules that would go into effect mid-March, increase the trout size -- this is before we get to the tag, which will occur, you know, subsequent to that -- anyone want to comment on that?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Well, speak it publicly.

COMMISSIONER DOGGETT: I think it's the consensus that we don't want an oversized fish until we get a tag. And so we're sort of bound by it procedurally about when we give notice and -- but there are exceptions and the one exception is sort of accomplished with the Commission and certainly with all our -- most, the vast majority of our guests said today is that let's not have an oversized trout. And so I think the way to do that procedurally is to say you can have oversized, but it's 36. Boy, I want to catch that fish, 36.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All right. So you want --

COMMISSIONER DOGGETT: So I would move to --



CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Commissioner Foster.

COMMISSIONER FOSTER: That works for me.


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: You've got to speak into the --


VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: All for one for all, I'm in.




CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Okay. Now, Commissioner Patton.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Patton. I would be against that. I feel there -- no question, I can hear everybody's opinion. I don't think people were -- if I'm the one that's going to be speaking for the anglers, I don't know if -- you know, less than 24 hours ago, it was going to be 25 inches. And, you know, if those anglers had known that they needed to come speak, maybe they would. I do think this is little bit of a knee-jerk reaction. So I would be against it going to 36.


Okay. Commissioner Rowling.

MR. MURPHY: Dakus -- this is James Murphy -- you may want to -- just for the Commission's reference, the slide on the different oversized trout analysis might beneficial at this point.


MR. GEESLIN: Okay. There we are. So again, we didn't even model up to 36 inches.


MR. GEESLIN: Again, you would see that plateaued -- that plateaued --


MR. GEESLIN: Correct.


MR. GEESLIN: Correct.


MR. GEESLIN: Yeah. And just as a reminder, our state record -- and there's a lot of controversy --


MR. GEESLIN: -- surrounding that, those two fish. One, our official state record which the Department recognizes is 37 and a quarter inches, but another fish -- and that fish was not certifiably weighed. It was weighed and measured on a boat with a witness, a witness verification. There's another fish out there that is more commonly recognized from the angling community as the state record and that fish is 33.13 inches. So you've got two fish out there kind of vying for that title of state -- state record.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: So that's -- that's kind of -- that's top of the pyramid there.

MR. GEESLIN: It sure is.


MR. GEESLIN: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: -- that's over many, many years. So look, based on some -- let's call it data and the data is on your slide.

MR. GEESLIN: Correct.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Anything over 32 inches is -- the probability of that is really very low, correct?

MR. GEESLIN: I agree, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: And does that feel a bit more, at least, thoughtful? 32 versus 36?

MR. GEESLIN: I think in the event an angler was lucky enough to catch one over 32 and they wanted to somehow preserve it or take it home as a potential state -- new state record, there's that opportunity to do so. You've also heard that most folks are, you know, practicing catch and release and --


MR. GEESLIN: -- getting replicas.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: But the probability of a 36-inch or greater fish is zero. The probability of a 32 fish or greater is about 0.00 -- they're so minuscule --

MR. GEESLIN: It's the probability of me making the major league baseball right now.


MR. GEESLIN: It's a childhood dream. Childhood dream.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: We'll give you a break on that one.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Yes. All right. Thank -- actually, hold there. We may need you.

Commissioner Rowling.

COMMISSIONER ROWLING: I mean, I'm -- 36 does seem goofy to me, but procedurally it sounds like, you know, moving the number does make sense and I think it satisfies what we've heard today.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: And would you say that 32 sounds --

COMMISSIONER ROWLING: Sounds more reasonable.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: -- sounds more logical?

COMMISSIONER ROWLING: I mean, just reading 36 printed I think, you know, may bring more laughs than --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Does that all seem good?


VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: Commissioner Bell. I have one additional comment though. I do concur with Commissioner Patton on the issue that if some people had thought this number might be here, that they might have shown up. And so my question would be with the -- and I know we've had all this thoughtful discussion. But with where we were -- we were at 28, which is -- and there's only -- there's only 1 percentage -- once you go -- once you go to 30, everything plateaus for us. So -- and I don't know. And 30 -- 28 and 30 have been fully kicked around with everyone hearing that and knowing that.

If we're -- I don't know that we accomplish much more if we go beyond that and we'd -- and I wouldn't want to feel like we provided a disservice to people who might otherwise have come in. And let's not -- we don't necessarily have to create an issue where one doesn't need to be created, if that makes sense.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Okay. So what's your recommendation as the Vice-Chair?

VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: My recommendation is 30.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All right. Dakus, you get the last word on this. Look, I think you see the sentiment. It's straightforward. What do you think is a reasonable number to put out there in terms of -- I'm trying to make this as scientific, databased as possible versus --

MR. GEESLIN: Sure. There is some --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: -- shoot from the hip.

MR. GEESLIN: There is some mythical association with those 30-inch trout.


MR. GEESLIN: That is a real benchmark in one's angling pursuit in the marine environment. That is -- I think that's reasonable. I could also get comfortable with a 28 though.


MR. GEESLIN: It's ultimately y'all's decision.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Okay. 30-inch seems fine.

Okay. All right. So with that, what do I need to read into the record? Because we're going to have one more discussion on this, what we want to publish here.

MR. RIECHERS: Commissioner Galo.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Yes. Sorry. Commissioner Galo.



COMMISSIONER GALO: -- I just wanted to say that I do agree with Vice-Chairman and with Commissioner Patton. I did miss the discussions earlier and if it was already changed from a 25 to the 28 and people were here to speak, I think that -- I think I'm going to kind of stick with the proposal that was talked about yesterday.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Okay. All right. Fine. Fine. Look -- yes. Yes, sir.

DR. YOSKOWITZ: Chairman, so I think what we need to do here is go back through this, read it again, Dakus, and then what I'm hearing from the Commission is 30 inches now?



CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Not from Patton. Not from Galo. Right?

COMMISSIONER GALO: Yeah, not from me.


Not from anyone else?



COMMISSIONER ABELL: I'll go either way.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All right. Fine. Look, I think that mythical number 30, there is some data around it. It makes sense. This is just an interim -- this is an interim provision. Remember that. So what will go into kind of the long-term rule-making is what we're going to talk about in a moment with public Register.

So I would -- I would say your recommendation 15- to 20-slot, three-bag -- three-fish bag limit, one trout over 30-inch is allowed as part of a daily bag. Okay?

Everyone in concurrence? No, I know everyone's not, but -- okay. All right.

MR. MURPHY: Yes, Chairman, you would just take a motion to that effect.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: So is there a motion for that?

VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: Commissioner Bell so moved.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Is there a second?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All in favor say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)





CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Okay. Thank you. That's Galo and Patton opposing.

Hearing none, motion carries.

Thank you guys. I think that's fairly sensible. Fairly.

Okay. All right. So now let's get back to the Texas Register. Annual oversized tag to allow harvest of one Spotted seatrout greater than 28 inches per year. And once again, with this ability to purchase a bonus tag similar to Red tag, that is not something we talked about and so I would be opposed to the bonus tag.

Anyone want to talk on that subject?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I agree with your statement, Mr. Chairman.


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: I don't like that either.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Commissioner Patton.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: All right, Patton. I'm okay with this bonus tag. I think I would point out that the consistency with the -- with the Red drum tag I think has value. I also think there is a benefit in the reporting associated with the additional tag in the Red drum case. I think the same benefit would be true if we do have a bonus tag with the Spotted seatrout. So I'm in favor with the consistency. I also think that 28 inches, which is not the issue we're talking about right now, but that being a consistent number with the Red drum I think had value too with, you know, the regular angler. Obviously, we -- it sounds like we went to 30, but having this type of consistency --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: But once again, that's an interim step just as to prevent multiple fish being taken over -- the tag would be one per year.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: One per year with the option to be able to buy an additional tag after reporting the use of the first one.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Right. And that's what we need to discuss is -- we need to discuss two things: The greater than 28 and bonus tag. So --

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: We may -- we may have moved on from the 28. I think I was using the 28 and the tag having value over the species having consistency.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Understand. With the Red drum.


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Commissioner Rowling.

COMMISSIONER ROWLING: Commissioner Rowling. My view is once -- once we have the tag in place, I'm fine with having a bonus. I think it should cost more. I think we should actually charge for it and not have it be $3. But the last issue we're dealing with is a daily catch of an oversized. That's an issue if people are out there every single day. So we've addressed that and I think increasing the size like we did is smart; but once we get to a tag, I'd be okay having a bonus, but I do think we should charge for it and I think consistency with the redfish makes sense as well, having the bonus, but I mean charge --


COMMISSIONER ROWLING: -- 15 bucks or 20 bucks.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: -- do think -- I think there's some, you know, some symmetry on equiv -- you know, with Red drum as well. I mean, I do like that.

Anyone want to comment?

COMMISSIONER ABELL: Commissioner Abell. Dakus, could you walk us through just for people that don't know the process with Red drum? You have to have caught that first fish and tag it and report it to even have the option to buy the bonus tag, correct?

MR. GEESLIN: No, that is -- that is incorrect. There is a mechanism where you can and it's kind of a timing issue with when you buy that license. You can buy that bonus Red drum tag up front.


MR. GEESLIN: So you could have that in your pocket at the point of sale.

COMMISSIONER ABELL: If you had to guess -- I mean, maybe we have the data -- how many people are actually keeping two oversized Red drum?

MR. GEESLIN: Red -- and Red drum's a totally different animal, right? You --

COMMISSIONER ABELL: Right. Just for comparison.

MR. GEESLIN: Yeah. I would say quite a few, especially during the fall. But those fish at that life stage at greater than 28 inches, they are just now becoming sexually mature and they're moving off into the Gulf and come back into our passes and that's when folks fish that legendary trophy Red bull run. So the prosecution on the fishery to harvest those fish is much greater just because you've got different -- like one fish -- Spotted seatrout is on their way out of their life. Red drum is just getting started at that -- so I would say it's kind of comparing apples and bowling balls to those.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Okay. Anybody else want to comment?

So the bonus tag, I'll ask the question. The symmetry with Red drum, does that make a difference one way or the other to the angler?

MR. GEESLIN: I think it has value to the angler.




MR. GEESLIN: I do. As you go through your licensing exercise and you're just the Joe Blow angler and you're wanting to get into the sport --


MR. GEESLIN: -- I think there is some value in consistency of, well, I've got this oversized Red drum, do I have an option to purchase a bonus while I'm on a trip in the fall and I'm catching those trophy fish.

I think there's value in having that symmetry. I don't think -- I don't foresee that oversize Spotted seatrout component of the fishery being prosecuted at the level that is for the reasons I just described. I don't think the harvest will be even within the same universe.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Understand. And so you think it's a reasonable rule to publish the annual oversized tag to allow harvest of one Spotted seatrout greater than 30 inches per year with the ability to purchase a bonus tag, you think that's a rational -- a rational rule?

MR. GEESLIN: Yes, sir. I do.


COMMISSIONER ABELL: Commissioner Abell. One more question just for the Commission.


COMMISSIONER ABELL: Do we want to discuss the fee, the $3?

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: So anyone want to comment on the fee?

Yeah, James.

MR. MURPHY: Chairman, this is James Murphy, for the record. What my recommendation would be is that you put the maximum amount of the fee into the Register that you would be interested in doing. Certainly in March as discussion -- you know, you have Commission discussion, you can lower that; but you certainly would not be able to increase the amount of what we publish because we have to do an economic impact analysis of it.


MR. MURPHY: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All right. Anyone want to comment on the fee?

VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: What's the Red drum fee? Commissioner Bell.


VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: Okay. So there's -- that kind of lines up. There's symmetry there with the Red drum fee.

MR. GEESLIN: Correct.


COMMISSIONER ABELL: But we'd be able to change it?


MR. GEESLIN: You could be able to change it. If understand my general counsel, you could be able to change it going lower. You couldn't be able -- you would be able to go higher.

COMMISSIONER ABELL: I guess my question was at the same time we considered what this rule was going to be, we could consider changing the fee for the Red drum tag to get symmetry for that following season. Sometime before the next license year we could change that fee?

MR. MURPHY: Yes, sir. If you'd like to bring -- it would be a separate proposal for the Red drum. But, yes, we could bring a proposal for Red drum fees in a separate rule-making.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: So we could always modify the cost of a tag, I mean, just on annualized basis. For me, I certainly don't want to price -- I don't want to price people out of the sport. I mean, we want to bring people to the sport, not reject them. So, for me, I think -- as staff has directed -- all looks appropriate save and except the 28. I think that should go to 30.

And so with that, you want me to read into the public Register?

DR. YOSKOWITZ: Yes, if you could read that staff direction with the modifications that you've noted.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All right. So publish at staff direction, please publish in the Texas Register annual oversized tag to allow harvest of one Spotted seatrout greater than 30 inches per year with the ability to purchase a bonus similar to Red drum tag fee $3 associated with bonus Spotted seatrout tag and other associated tag license types to -- all right -- to be presented at the March Commission meeting.

So thank you.

Is there a motion for approval?

VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: This is Commissioner Bell. So moved.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Is there a second?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All in favor say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Any opposed? All right. Unanimous. Fabulous. Hearing none, the motion carries.

All right. Thank you guys very much.

VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: Thank you, Dakus.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All right. Thank you, Dakus.

And look, thank you for the hearty debate there. I think we got to an answer that is good and so not perfect, but good. Okay. So all right. Thank you.

All right. Action Item No. 2, Chronic Wasting Disease Detection and Response Rules, Containment/Surveillance Zone Boundaries, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. Mr. Alan Cain, please make your presentation.

MR. CAIN: Good morning, Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, I'm Alan Cain, the Big Game Program Director in the Wildlife Division. This morning I'll be seeking adoption of proposed amendments pertaining to the establishment of CWD zone -- new CWD zones in response to several detections this past fall.

On August 21st of this past year, a suspect CWD positive in a captive breeding facility was detected in a breeding facility as a result of antemortem testing. In response to that positive deer, the Department established a 2-mile surveillance zone through emergency rule on September 29th. That surveillance zone is shown in yellow there. It's a 2-mile zone around that positive facility. Encompasses about 90,000 acres and 83 properties.

This slide just provides a reference of that proposed zone in relationship to an established zone in Kimble County that was set up in 2020. Hunters in the new proposed zone will be able to take deer to a drop box at the entrance of South Llano State Park to drop off heads or they could take heads to the check -- the manned check station, Segovia, denoted by the red star in the current zone that's in place there.

Next, staff are proposing a new surveillance zone in Medina County and it's in response to confirmation of a CWD positive 14-month-old White-tailed deer in a captive breeding facility. Again, that detection a result of antemortem testing that was in October of '23 and confirmed through postmortem test. The proposed 2-mile surveillance zone is denoted by the yellow area on the slide there. Encompasses about 21,000 acres and 110 properties.

Like the Kimble County zone, this just provides a reference to location of the proposed zone in the lower right on the slide in compare -- in comparison to the current zone that's been effect in Medina County since 2017 denoted by the red and -- containment zone, yellow surveillance zone. Hunters in that zone will be -- in the proposed zone will be able to take deer to the check station in Hondo where there's a manned check station and also a drop box available for those hunters to utilize.

The next proposed surveillance zone would be in Cherokee County. Again, in response to confirmation of a positive in a 52-month-old male White-tailed deer in a captive breeding facility. The proposed surveillance zone is again outlined in yellow on the slide. Encompasses about 13,000 acres and 463 properties. Staff would place a drop box in the little town of Gallatin there to services hunters as they need to have those heads sampled.

And lastly, staff are proposing the establishment of containment and surveillance zone in Coleman County in response to a CWD positive detection in a free-ranging, two-and-a-half-year-old hunter-harvested buck in that zone. The deer was harvested in November. We received confirmation in early December. The proposed 5-mile diameter containment zone is located in red and the surveillance zone in yellow surrounding that. Combined zones encompass about 151,000 acres and nearly 200 properties and we'll be establishing a drop box or check station once we determine the best location for that.

And at the time this proposal was sent to the Texas Register, the Department intended to propose a new CWD zone in Kerr County pending confirmation of a suspect positive White-tailed deer in the Kerr Wildlife Management Area deer research pens. However, all the tissues sent to the National Veterinary Services Lab in Ames, Iowa, received not-detected test results for the suspect deer and, therefore, was not confirmed.

Therefore, for staff are recommending to the Commission that the proposed zone in the Kerr County on the slide here be withdrawn for consideration.

So to date, we've received 193 public comments. The numbers are outdated a little bit. That keeps growing. As of this morning, currently 4 percent of the commenters agreed with the proposal and we did receive a letter from the Texas Wildlife Association in support, the letter noting that in the absence of prohibition on live animal movement and a visible ID, that the Department or the state should continue to utilize the best management practices available, including zones to help contain and manage this disease.

Now those -- we also had 81 percent of commenters in disagreement with the proposed rule and 15 percent that disagreed specifically on parts of the rule and really those were essentially the same as you -- the reasons were essentially the same for both of those as you read the comments. So the reasons for disagreement include that zones are a disincentive for landowners and hunter cooperation; removal of zones would incentivize landowners and hunters, allowing statewide voluntary sampling. There was comments that statewide carcass disposal, if adopted at some point in the future, would negate the need for CWD zones; zones have negative impact on property values, hunting opportunity, and hunting businesses in those areas; and zones are not necessary because deer breeders are required to test 100 percent of all postmortem mortalities in -- or mortalities in their breeder facility and they're required to antemortem test all deer prior to any live animal movement. Others have noted in those comments that CWD zones have never been removed and there's no clear duration for how long a zone lasts.

The Department also received two letters from Texas Deer Association and the Deer Breeders Cooperation in opposition of the proposed zones. The Texas Deer Association indicated that the zones are punitive to landowners and hunters, negatively impacting real estate values, and that zones are disincentive for landowners and hunter cooperation as far as harvest sampling. The Texas Deer Association believes that CWD testing requirements on deer breeders, including the recent adoption of the antemortem testing requirements in November, as well as consideration for statewide carcass disposal rules, negate the need for CWD zones. The Deer Breeder Corporation also recommend the Commission remove surveillance zones and only have containment zones on the property where CWD was detected.

With the exception of the proposed Kerr County CWD zone recommendation to remove that from consideration, the staff recommends the Commission adopt the proposed motion and that is: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts amendments to 31 Texas Administrative Code Section 65.81 concerning containment zone restrictions and 65.82 concerning surveillance zones with restrictions, also excluding the proposed Kerr County surveillance zone as listed in Exhibit A, with changes as necessary to the proposed text as published in the December 22nd, 2023, issue of the Texas Register. And I'll be happy to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All right. Thank you.

Any discussion by the Commission?

VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: This is Commissioner Bell. I have a question. One of the reasons I wanted to ask now is because I think I'm going to have to leave early. But I have two concerns. The first concern is it seems like our zones are just -- it strikes me from a I'll say common sense perspective, they strike me as being too large and that they're having the -- that we're having maybe some additional negative impact that we -- that we maybe shouldn't have. If we had -- we do need to have some type of containment, but can we -- can shrink that so that it has -- you know, when I look down and I see sometimes how much acreage is impacted or how many landowners are impacted, it just -- it kind of sends a shiver down my spine. So I don't want to use the term chilling, but it has a chilling effect. Right? And I can see where we're being well intentioned, though creating adversaries of folks that should be our friends and who should understand that we're trying to look out or for their interests and maybe we need to repackage how we present protection.

Because my other thing is I kind of view CWD -- I'm just -- I call it deer COVID. If we managed people COVID the way we're managing deer COVID, we'd have a riot on our hands. Right? So we've got to figure out how we live with this. Right now I think COVID rates are actually up in the country. Nobody's talking about that and no -- and not -- you don't see a room full of masked peopled here. But every time something happens and we have this low -- this lower percentage overall, it's like we're putting masks on all the deer. Right?

And so how do we -- how do we do better so that all of us can be in this together, whether it's -- whether it's conservationists, safety groups, deer breeders, so that we have -- all of this seems to make more common sense to everyone involved. Can you help me with that?

MR. CAIN: Yeah. So zone size, let's start with that. So if the Commission will remember, it's been a year ago I think -- or a little over a year ago when we had the detection in Duval County. Actually, it's been a couple years. We started out with a much larger zone there and at the direction of the Commission, we ended up shrinking those down to just a 2-mile zone to really focus the zone size to reduce the impact on landowners, but focus our surveillance and sampling effort right around where that positive detection occurred. So we've made some advances trying to shrink the zones.

In the context of places like Coleman County, for example, when we established the zone -- because we have a containment and surveillance zone both there and that's a much larger zone than some of these -- the surveillance zones where it's only in a captive facility, those are based on, in part, the biology of the animal. So, for example, we put a 5-mile buffer around where that positive was located, that free-range positive was located and that's, you know, the average dispersal rate of like a yearling buck. And so if you had positives sitting there right around -- or a deer right around where that positive is, they might disperse out 5 miles from there and so that gives us some idea if there's positives in there, we've kind of got them contained or they're in this general area. And so that's why we put that size in is based on the biology, the movement of the deer, and then we try to put a surveillance zone around, snap to roads or rivers or some definable feature that's easy for hunters to understand and so that's why those other zones around free-range positives are a bit larger.

But I hear you. You know, there's desire I think to modify zones and our zone approach. Obviously if we're going to make significant changes to how we manage zones and when they go in, whether they go in at all, how big they are, would -- I think there's some pathways to move those different directions that would include things like statewide carcass disposal rules. Because at that point, you're taking a management action tied to that zone and applying it at a statewide scale, but giving some folks flexibility.

But to make those changes or even consider that, we still have to vet that through the task force, our internal technical committees, and make sure that we're on solid ground and solid support to do those things and make those sorts of changes on how we might manage zones in the future.

VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: And what are we saying is a percentage impact of CWD on the total deer population right now?

MR. CAIN: Well, I mean we have -- I don't know that it's relevant to look at in the context of the entire deer population in the state. Obviously, you know, there's about 5.2 million White-tails and 628 positives; but the key is CWD is a focal disease. Right? And so if you're applying, you know, the positives in the Trans-Pecos, we need to look at that area where those detections and those positives occur in the Hueco Mountains there or in Medina County, you know. And for example there, I think it's low prevalence there. But it's first detection was in 2015 there and I think we've got 21, 22 positives in there. And so I don't know that it's appropriate to make that comparison to the entire statewide population versus those individual areas.

Now to your point, keep in mind that a number of the positives we detect here in captive breeding facilities, the hope is it's only in there and that at some point with sampling and more effort that we'll be able to remove those zones, you know, because it's not found outside of that and give us an option to free up some landowners from zones completely in those situations.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All right. Any other comments?

I do have a couple. So if you look at your -- Cherokee County is 13,000 acres. Coleman County is 151,000 acres.

MR. CAIN: Right.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Ten times the size. And what progress have we made on this notion of a 2-mile radius around the point of incident and the ability to use your phone with a GPS to say, "I killed the deer here. This is exactly what I need to do"?

And if we were able to do that, you could clearly shrink this thing down to a true 2-mile radius because we're just -- I mean, as the Vice-Chair just said, we just continue to incorporate people's acreage and diminish the value of their acreage and that is a real concern to me.

MR. CAIN: Right.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: A real concern. So what progress have we made on being able to implement a true 2-mile radius CWD containment or surveillance zone relative to some app, My Hunter Harvest? How are we doing?

MR. CAIN: So in the My Texas Hunt Harvest -- and if Chris Cerny's in the room, I may ask him to come up here to speak to that. But we have -- when somebody's in a county where a CWD zone is, it's there and I think the next step is for us to add the actual zone boundary so people can see.

Part of the issue is, the way the rules are worded, it's any property that's wholly or partially contained. And so if you have a property that's, you know, 500 acres and the zone splits it in half, you run into issues with potentially where somebody harvests a deer on that property and did they kill it in the zone or outside the zone because it's split. And so that's why we -- when we use that language wholly or partially, so there's no question for a hunter, like, where I'm at in the zone on that property or I can just fudge and say, Well, I killed them all over here and I didn't kill any over here on this property.

In reality, it's all the same population of deer. I think what you're getting to is that we need to reduce the impact and maybe a way to do that is to consider how we can move to either less impacts on -- either smaller zones, define it with what you're talking about, or do we move to some other option the way we manage zones or the way that we put zones in place and, again, that's going to take some discussion in fleshing that out in more detail.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Look, I would really direct the staff to come up with a solution at our next meeting or at least preliminarily come up with how we can start shrinking these surveillance zones and containment zones and once again this notion of you put them on and they never come off. And maybe we've gone over all of this before, but we -- I would like a refresh on these containment zones and really direct the staff to work hard to create a true GPS app.

Look, there's always going to be rule breakers. Okay? So that is what it is. There could be rule breakers just as easily as you've delineated these zones as with a true 2-mile radius. So I would ask that the staff between now and then work hard to come up with at least some preliminary discussions as to how we shrink/modify and then what is the process to take a containment or surveillance zone off.

MR. SILOVSKY: Just real quick.

MR. CAIN: Yeah.

MR. SILOVSKY: Mr. Chairman, for the record, John Silovsky, Wildlife Division Director. We do have the functionality in the app now to -- hunter to identify whether they're in a zone or not or how far they are away from a zone. We demonstrated that in November. And so that functionality is there.

We do continue to talk about zone sizes and I also want to clarify there's a huge difference -- or obviously a huge difference, but there's a difference in how we manage CWD on the landscape, whether it's in a Coleman County situation which is truly a free-range deer or whether we have a detection and a positive in a breeding facility. So two different thought processes there in zone delineation on those.

But to your point as well, staff will continue to evaluate having, you know, very lengthy discussions on how we can better manage zones. And as we work through this process, as Alan said, a key function to our ability to do that is that part of that discussion on carcass disposal on a statewide basis. They're all interconnected, so.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. If -- if carcass disposal needs to be a part of the discussion at the next meeting, absolutely willing to entertain that if -- but you have to give me something on the other side so that it's a thoughtful process. Not just more regulation. Okay?

So any other comments?

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Yeah. Patton. John, what -- or Alan -- what is the -- we have a surveillance zone in the Coleman County situation, but I don't -- it's obviously greater than a 2-mile zone. And so what is the mile, and then is that consistent in this case with other free-ranging positives?

MR. CAIN: Yeah, so great question. So in a free-ranging positive like Coleman County is on the slide there, the containment zone, the way we've delineated those, it's a 5-mile buffer around where that positive deer is located. So that's -- if you put a point in the center and you go any direction, it's going to be 5 miles. And then --

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Can I stop you there? Because it was located in a processing facility, presumably shot some miles away. Are you creating the zone from the facility it was found or from the ranch?

MR. CAIN: It's from the site of harvest, where the deer was harvested. When we record locations, it's always where the deer was harvested, not where it was collected. So we have a 5-mile buffer around that.

And then the surveillance zone, we snap that to the nearest road or river, some definable feature that a hunter can say I'm on this side of the boundary or on that side, so it's very clear.

In this example, those are county roads. They're not outlined very well, but that's how we snapped that two there around that. And we try to minimize that surveillance zone so it's not huge. In the Trans-Pecos, same thing. The larger zones out there, Mule deer have larger movements in that particular part of the world and also there's just few definable features over there and so that's why those zones are larger there and the panhandle too.


COMMISSIONER DOGGETT: If I could -- oh. If I could?

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Yes, sir. Commissioner Doggett.

COMMISSIONER DOGGETT: Just to clarify what I think that Chairman said, if at the next meeting we could have some definitive ideas -- we may have to get sort of creative on this -- on -- I know there's two scenarios. You know, not have one for all. But you have a decent one for breeders and one for free-range and how we can -- how we can meaningfully reduce the zone size and then meaningfully outline the steps taken to exit the zoning designation.

I mean, I think where we all agree, I mean, property values are getting creamed by these guys, you know, for a good cause. Right? But if we can get creative and come up with a way to shrink these zones -- you know, when we look, it's 150,000, 13,000. That's a lot of acreage being impacted. So if we -- by the next meeting, if we could come up with some -- a program which entails all the ancillary, you know, rules, that would be great and look at -- I know -- I know the thought is, Hey, we've done that and that's what we have.

But let's try to be creative and see if we can come up with some way to shrink these zones down and then definitively outline the exit.

MR. CAIN: Yeah. We -- believe me, we've been talking internally about it and there's -- it's lots of discussion and staff want to move that way. So we'll certainly come back in March with some ideas for discussion in how to move forward. Appreciate that.


COMMISSIONER ABELL: Commissioner Abell. John or Alan, either one, could you describe the functionality of what's in the app now as far as identifying location? Because I think like what the Chairman was saying is rather than using a road as the definition, you know, it would be nice to, you know, once you shoot a deer to know exactly where that is GPS based and are you within 2 miles or not. Like, do I need to take that in or not, rather than just using, you know, just a landmark. So what is -- what is the functionality that we currently have that is identifying location?

MR. SILOVSKY: Well, I wish I -- I wish I could show you, you know, or we put it on a big screen or something. So, you know, if you have your location service turned on on your phone and you get in the app and then automatically that little blue dot will show up there and, you know, let's just say you're hunting right here in this building and you click on there and it will show you that how far you are from the closest zone here, maybe it would be 20 miles or something like that, and then, you know -- but if you were actually hunting in that zone, it would show that you're in the zone. It would show you the boundary. But it is just a -- how would I describe it -- just a circle or a -- there's a perimeter of the zone that will show up in your app as well. So if you're actually in it, you'll be able to determine you're in a zone. If you're out of the zone, it will tell you you're, you know, a mile or 10 miles or 50 miles from a zone.

COMMISSIONER ABELL: But it would still be using that road as the marker, not the perimeter of where you're located.

MR. SILOVSKY: No. I mean, roads in the zone structure, you know -- I guess it doesn't make any difference to that. You know, we use roads as we create surveillance and containment zones on free-ranging deer like Coleman County because that's easy to determine. But when we have a zone around a positive breeding facility, Alan, the team just takes and throws a 2-mile loop from that perimeter -- or from that area where that detection occurred. So it's a little bit different metric on how that zone is created.

But when it gets to tying up additional properties say in that 2-mile area because it's all of your property whether it's in the zone or not and so that inflates the number of acres sometimes and it makes those maps look a littles bit different.


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Any other questions?

Yes, sir. Commissioner Foster.

COMMISSIONER FOSTER: Commissioner Foster. It's not lost on me that only 4 percent of the respondents or commenters commented in favor. Can you help me understand the other 96 percent? And is that like just -- are they -- is that one letter that a thousand people have -- or whatever -- 200 people have copied and mailed out or are these thoughtful opposition letters that have been written?

MR. CAIN: That's a good question, Commissioner Foster. And when you look at those that are opposed to the commenters, most of them have a standard form that they provided. It was five bullets, which is essentially what I listed on the slide there that they were in disagreement to. There's a -- I don't remember the exact number, but there's a handful of others that you could tell have well thought out comments or something other than that standard response, so. But the majority are a standard response of four or five bullets.



CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Yes. Commissioner Galo.

COMMISSIONER GALO: Commissioner Galo. In those standard responses, do you find that they are the most relevant points of contention or disagreement or they're just -- are they what's most important to the issue or do you find them -- because I've found when they do these kind of standardized comments in letters, it's just to simplify what are the most important points that the Commission should be looking at. Not that they're not thoughtful. Actually that they've been well thought out and they are trying to point out that these are the most important and impactful issues.

MR. CAIN: I think -- I mean, as noted there, I think some of these things and some of these other Commissioners have noted things like people are concerned about impacts on hunting opportunity, property values, those are things that they've stated and, you know, everybody has a different opinion. Some of those provide some value thought. Certainly landowners -- or people that are not associated maybe with that standard form, I hear comments from landowners, Hey, I'm worried about sampling because the impact is, you know, I have a zone put on me.

Those are real comments by people that are maybe not part of that group. And so, you know, this idea that zones are punitive or is a disincentive, those are things that people consider. Something the Commission needs to think about. Things like -- and like John mentioned, I'll mention. If we're going to move forward somehow some way to address some of these points here or some of the differences of opinions, things like statewide carcass disposal rules have to be part of that discussion.

Because essentially what you're talking about is can we apply some management strategies either in smaller zones or if we didn't have zones, can we apply it statewide, things like that that move the ball on, but that are -- we've got to discuss this and come back in March. Some of these are valid concerns and some other things are probably less important, I guess.

COMMISSIONER GALO: Thank you. I was just going to ask -- but you answered my question. Thank you.

MR. BONDS: Chairman, this is Craig, for the record, Chief Operating Officer. Just so that you know, we do have Chris Cerny here in the off -- in the auditorium, if you would like a quick, brief refresher on the My Hunt Texas Harvest app's functionality in relation to CWD zones just for your consideration.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Look, I don't think it's necessary now, but I do -- when we come back at the March meeting, I want kind of a full, once again, we're going to go over this again fully and I'd like potentially statewide carcass disposal rules implemented or thought discussed; but I want you to come back with something in terms of these surveillance and containment zones. I mean a 2-mile radius is -- what -- 8,000 acres, something like that and you've got containment and surveillance zones that are 151,000 acres. So that seems excessive, but I understand there's probably a logical reason for it.

MR. CAIN: Well --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: But I'm going to assume that there was some logic there. Correct?

MR. CAIN: Yes. I mean, as John noted, they're a free-range positive -- so deer not associated in a captive facility -- which those have larger zones. Captive facility, that's where the 2-mile zones come in place. But your point is well taken. We need to figure out a way to shrink the zones and reduce the impact. So we'll come back with something.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: If we're going to live with CWD until we get a solution for it, then we just have got to be more thoughtful on these regulations. And look, you guys are working hard at it. So I'm not -- I'm not speaking negatively as to what you guys are doing at all. So I just want you to know that. But just, you know, you can see the Commission where I think you feel the sentiment. So, okay, great. Thank you very much.

MR. CAIN: Appreciate it.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Okay. Once again, we've got 17 folks and hopefully they can hear me. I don't think they're all here, but -- so you've got three minutes. Lights will go. If you only have a minute worth of good content give us a minute versus three. So with that, you've got speakers by teleconference.

Fred Squire. Fred, you're up. Go ahead Fred? Fred, are you there?

Okay. Next, Shane Louder. Shane, are you there?

Okay. Let's see. So we now have in-person. We have Chris Methner, Alice Oehmig, William Oehmig, Jody Phillips, Shaelynn Malatek, and Megan Dubois.

Mr. Methner. Three minutes, be succinct, clean, clear, all that. Okay.

MR. CHRIS METHNER: Yes, sir. Good afternoon, Commissioners, Chairman. Thank you-all for the opportunity to voice our opinion today. Approximately 99.7 percent of the total population of White-tailed deer in Texas go untested for CWD annually. That statistic alone tells each of us there's no way possible we have a true understanding of the prevalence rate of CWD across the entire state.

What we do know is Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida all have free-ranging positives and that this disease has traveled from Colorado across the southeastern United States all of the way to Florida. Containment zones and surveillance zones have the ability to negatively impact billions of dollars of property values, in addition with us not knowing whether the disease has already spread across the state and us knowing there are numerous avenues this disease spreads that go unmonitored, presents enough evidence that zones may not be the best strategy for the management of CWD, in my humble opinion.

It is my opinion that responsible carcass disposal has the ability to nullify the need for zones and can be a solution to prevent the enormous negative impacts these zones produce to the taxpaying citizens of Texas and properties dedicated to wildlife management. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you, Chris.

All right. Next, Alice Oehmig.

MS. ALICE OEHMIG: Good morning, Commissioners. I'm Alice Oehmig, Blue Creek Whitetails. I realize that you've got lots before you, and I'm going to be brief. Respecting your time is as valuable as I feel mine is. I just felt it necessary to take this moment to acknowledge the daunting agendas that have been before you. We hope our present here in -- presence here in Austin for the last two days shows our sincerity and willingness to listen, to learn, but more importantly to part of finding the solutions that are needed not just for our business, but also for Texas Parks and Wildlife, their staff, by us working together.

Mr. Chairman, from your last meeting in November, your words are being heard in other states by you stating let Texas be the pioneer for solutions. Those words are being repeated in Oklahoma, Louisiana, Florida, Nebraska, and Iowa. You must have known other states look towards Texas and will follow Texas' example, making it imperative that we get it right. Following factual data, suggestions, and even USDA regulations, I feel that I've come up with a fair and conservative outline for solutions or at least a workable template to operate by if, indeed, the concern is a more durable and disease-free Texas deer.

Mr. Chairman, you stated we're ready to be on the offense. Okay, sir, I've got exactly what you're asking for. I said, in fact, our offense is so solid, based upon common sense, unbiased applications, I would say that Blue Creek Whitetails is super bowl material. If the Kerr facility had been managed and controlled as well as our Blue Creek Whitetails facility, there would have been a vastly different outcome at that facility.

All I need for this Commission to do for us today is take me off the bench and let me go to work. I need for everyone to let us show the opportunity and willingness that I can show there is a path forward for the better of all Texas deer. Thank you much for your consideration and time and we do know deer lives matter and God bless Texas.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you very much, Alice.

MS. ALICE OEHMIG: All right.


MR. WILLIAM OEHMIG: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, thank you for your time. Texas Parks and Wildlife has the dubious distinction of being the number one killer of innocent deer in the State of Texas. This title accrued to you well before the fiasco at the Kerr facility. Texas Parks and Wildlife is employed one mission when faced with the possibility of CWD, no matter how low the risk might be: That is to kill, kill, and kill. It's what happened at Kerr.

Parks and Wildlife has caused irreparable damage to Texas, to Texas deer, deer hunting, and to property values by spreading false, suggestive, misleading information via billboards, media, public forums, and in your mailers. This has been your offense. And by the way, it's offensive.

All programs in place for breeders -- MLD, DMP programs, Triple T programs -- need updating, but so do your procedures. Depopulation according to real science is mostly ineffective and not a solution, nor is it let's put the (sound made) out of business. The solution will be found with rational science based on fact and based on collaborative basis.

Work with us not against us. Fear mongering, overreaching, and destructive tactics must not be allowed to continue to be your standard operating procedure. Let us address the threats of CWD and in all cervids together. Treat all stakeholders equally. Equally. Whether they being free-ranging deer, deer of all species, deer in high fences, in WMAs, low fences, rehabs, or in zones. Equally. Let's take the field on offense. Let's be the standard bearer for all Texas deer. All deer lives matter. Thank you for your time.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Mr. Oehmig.

Jody Phillips.

MS. JODY PHILLIPS: Hi. I'm Jody Phillips, President of the Texas Deer Association. Good morning, Chairman Hildebrand, Commissioners, and Dr. Yoskowitz. I'm also a scientific deer breeder who breeds my herd 100 percent for durability. This is something that we've been working on for a few years -- for a few years now and it is doable for a Texas deer breeder.

Oftentimes great problem solvers are those who are great simplifiers. I feel like this has been made way more complicated than it ever needed to be. Those who can cut through an argument, debate, or doubt and offer a solution that everybody can understand. We're here today covered with piles and piles of regulation that's abundantly in front of us: 100 percent testing mortalities, testing of 100 percent live movement, testing requirements of minimum 5 percent post-mortem facility, post-mortem per facility are faced with five to one antemortem if you don't meet the 5 percent, trace-animal depopulation, whole herd test for tier and above facilities, containment zones, surveillance zones, yearly inspections. I can keeping going for a while.

But my point is none of this fixes it at all. None of this creates an offense, and there's no magic wand to fix it. A zone certainly doesn't change that. If you zoom out and look at the big picture, the breeders are providing data daily, providing it with compliance, and now have genetic tests so we can create a more durable animal and we're willing to do it. This is pivotal towards your offense. The only constant that we face is more and more regulation on top of dinosaur regulation created before the tools and data that we have today.

With all of the intense testing that you're getting, the zones are no longer necessary. The optics of the handling of CWD as of late, is no less than confusing. It's confusing for me, and I breed deer. I can't imagine how it feels just to a mom sending her son with her husband to go hunting somewhere, what she might think of it not knowing anything about a White-tail. I feel an offense is understanding the things that do not in fix or change CWD. It's a clear mind who can approach this with common sense and realize when there's something that works sitting there, instead of checking another box and creating another rule or regulation of a zone. I feel like the solution is sitting there. I mean, it's conservation. To me, it reminds me kind of a little bit of the ShareLunker program of inserting -- we could insert SS animals into areas where CWD is more prevalent, but you have to look outside the box to see that. So thank you for your time.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you very much, Ms. Phillips.

Shaelynn -- Shaelynn Malatek.

MS. SHAELYNN MALATEK: Good morning, Chairman Hildebrand and Commissioners. I'm Shaelynn Malatek, the farm manager of P Bar Whitetails. Looking at the zones from a common sense approach, they are simply impractical. Drawing a circle on a map with the idea for it to be a zone where live deer may not move or be moved out of, does not actually negate any potential spread. Wild deer do not follow rules or stop at a declared border. Neither do other wild animals that could potentially spread prions.

Containing or trying to confine a disease to a location in a completely wild environment is impossible. This leads to the fact that the only animals they are truly preventing from movement are those in a breeding facility or already confined within in a fence, which is unnecessary considering the amount of testing and surveillance already occurring in these facilities. No deer are moved without a negative test regardless of a zone or not.

There truly is no benefit to these zones considering the rules that are already in place. There are, however, many negative ones. Including, but not limited to, the deterrent of hunters and the negative impacts on land values.

I'd also like to touch on some points made about the Kerr facility at yesterday's meeting that are, quite frankly, contradictory. Although it wasn't mentioned yesterday, I think it is very a important fact that the Kerr facility is a closed facility. No deer in. No deer out. If that couldn't prevent a potential early detective positive or prions on the landscape, then how does a zone?

The proposed reasons of these zones are to minimize the spread of CWD. However, considering the Kerr facility, it is clear they're not driven by that reason alone. No matter how many circles they try to spin it, I'd like to make this comparison specifically. If a breeding facility has a single positive, a zone is put in place. Even if the positive deer and all deer exposed to that deer are killed and test negative. However, at the Kerr facility, they feel a zone is not necessary because the potentially exposed deer no longer remain. They clearly stated they believe there are prions on the landscape and that it was just a very early detection. If that does not warrant a zone, then how does a breeding facility with extreme surveillance justify one?

I agree. The Kerr facility does not need a zone, but neither does anywhere else. Zones are not the answer. They are, as stated yesterday, simply defense and a weak one if I might add. The only proven offense and solutions are being practiced by deer breeders with genomic testing. I'd like to end with a comment on the higher standard statement made yesterday. A higher statement -- a higher standard for a research facility, in my opinion, would be paving the way to solutions and answers, not a hasty decision to kill all deer based on a suspect positive. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you very much.

Ms. Megan Dubois. And then -- excuse me real quick. Thereafter, we have Andrew Earl, Chris Timmons, Judson Brown, Kevin Davis, and Mary Pearl Meuth.

All right, Ms. Dubois.

MS. MEGAN DUBOIS: Good morning, Chair Hildebrand and Commissioners. Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. I am Megan Dubois and I'm here on behalf of P Bar Whitetails. Yesterday during the workshop, I heard several things that stuck with me; but most importantly the question was asked: How do we prevent the whole state from becoming a CWD zone?

I don't envy y'all trying to solve that, but I do think the answer is right in front of us. Deer breeders are already moving towards solutions. The work Dr. Seabury has contributed to the deer breeding industry can get us through CWD. Genomic testing and the desire to create resistant herds has become a huge part of our industry and I hope some day it can go beyond that. SS deer have created the opportunity for us to put CWD behind us.

With these tools in our toolbox, Texas could go on the offensive in this battle with common sense and science. CWD zones are outdated and create uncertainty for hunters and other stakeholders, with permanent implications. Containment zones became the standard in 2012 when deer breeders were only testing 20 percent of deaths and there was no live testing. Today we test 100 percent of deaths and 100 percent of movement, whether at release sites or breeder to breeder.

Last month I went to the Parks meeting in Cherokee County discussing the possible CWD zone. Among the handful of attendees, I was able to overhear conversations between the public and the staff and it was clear hunters and landowners were scared of what may happen if they too had CWD on their landscapes. The reality of the matter is CWD zones provide a disincentive for landowner cooperation and hunter-harvest sampling because of negative connotations they place on the landscape, as these zones will negatively impact real estate values.

The removal of CWD zones would incentivize Texas landowners and hunters to participate in statewide surveillance efforts, as the fear of new zones or additional labels would be removed. Has a CWD zone ever been lifted? If so, what are the steps to do so? Or is this something that we just have to live with forever?

I hope with the Commission's guidance, Texas Parks and Wildlife can go on the offensive against CWD in Texas and provide the best path forward for all stakeholders in the state. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Ms. Dubois.

Andrew Earl.

MR. ANDREW EARL: Good morning, Chair Hildebrand, Commission members, Director Yoskowitz. I appreciate the opportunity to speak this morning. My name is Andrew Earl. I'm the Director of Conservation with the Texas Wildlife Association. I'd like to register my strong support for the proposed containment and surveillance zone changes as outlined by the Department yesterday and this morning.

The establishment of these zones in Kimble, Medina, Cherokee, and Coleman Counties is well within the state's existing CWD management plan, which has proven measurable, positive results in curbing spread of the disease. Nothing in recent months would warrant a departure from this practice.

Just last year the state took steps to update the Department's ten-year-old model for zone establishment in order to reduce burdens to nearby landowners and better rely on a risk-based sampling regimen. Supported by TWA, these changes were vetted by TPWD staff and multiple TPWD advisory committees. Calls to abandon this new approach in the case of these and future detections do so at the expense of this important step forward.

As stated in the comments that TWA submitted earlier this week, we encourage TPW -- TPWD to continue to seek opportunities to simplify CWD regulations. However, do not support doing so at the expense of disease management or traceability.

Mr. Chairman, I -- I'll close by stating that I am just as frustrated as so many others to be standing here talking about the establishment of new CWD zones this morning. However, until circumstances change and the state has a new path forward, there's no reason to alter course this morning. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you very much.

Chris Timmons.

MR. CHRIS TIMMONS: Good morning and thank you. My name's Chris Timmons. I'm here with Deer Breeders Corporation. First, I'd like to say thank you for hearing our concerns and we feel like this Commission has been more responsive to our concerns as deer breeders than ever before and we thank you for that.

I'm here -- I have two small points. They've already been said over and over, even among the Commissioners. we would like to see surveillance zones go away. And surveillance zones -- keep your containment zones, test within the containment zone. But all this surveillance zone has done is punish your neighbor. I have to get along with my neighbors. I'm a rancher. If I go to testing, have a positive, it affects all my neighbors, they get a positive, it affects their neighbors. It just -- it turns into a bad deal. It's nothing more than collecting data that we're already doing. It's not like we're controlling the spread of CWD. There's no control protocol within those zones.

No. 2, we would like to see and encourage the Commission and the Department to eventually do away or just do away with tiers in an epi-linked investigation. USDA and Texas Animal Health do not recognize tiers and those tiers are nothing more than tying up a ton of landowners because a ghost deer came through their place four or five years ago that can't be found and the protocol for -- that they're required to do to the testing protocol on those landowners, most of them are unachievable. So we would like for you to consider that also. Thank you very much for your --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you, Mr. Timmons. Appreciate it.

Mr. Judson Brown. And thereafter, Kevin Davis, Mary Meuth, Bobby Schmidt, Wendy Schmidt, Rodney Parrish, Hillary Lilly and that's it.

Mr. Brown.

MR. JUDSON BROWN: Hi. Good morning, Chairman, Commissioners, and Dr. Yoskowitz. My name's Judson Brown. I am a Texas hunter, I am a conservationist, and I serve as the Secretary for the Texas Chapter Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. One of the tenets of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation is the public trust doctrine. Within the public trust doctrine, the public resource wildlife is held by the public in trust -- in trust of the state to protect it and manage it on behalf of all of the public and not just the benefit of a few.

CWD is a very real threat to the health of our native White-tailed deer populations and the spread of CWD is a risk for our hunting heritage and those who wish to engage in that over the long term. I do applaud the Commission for taking consideration of the action today and I support that, but I do urge that the Commission and the Parks and Wildlife Department continue to take further actions to be aggressive in preventing the spread of CWD throughout the state.

In 2023, we saw a very large number of positive CWD cases. Including first-time cases in several counties, primarily within facilities that engage in the practice of transport of captive cervids. We can't deny this link between the discovery of new CWD cases and the transport of captive cervids. The new -- the new surveillance zones will not address this link. So we do encourage more activity to prevent the spread.

We do have an opportunity and responsibility to take action to prevent the spread. It's not too late to prevent Texas from becoming the next Wisconsin with widespread prevalence across the entire state if we take the right actions. Likewise, if we follow the recommendations of our wildlife professionals and our biologists, we can maintain having a great reputation as a state that follows science-based wildlife management without risk of becoming a state like California, Colorado, or Washington, which has turned their back on that.

As a closing thought, we've heard a lot about the risk to landowners and property values with the zones. That is certainly a consideration, but I would argue that the finding of CWD in these properties is much more the impact that's going to affect those property values than the creation of these zones. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you very much.

All right. Kevin Davis.

MR. KEVIN DAVIS: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Dr. Yoskowitz. For the record, my name's Kevin Davis. I'm here representing the Texas Deer Association. I first want to say thank you for your service. Today's discussion, yesterday's discussion was outstanding. I very much appreciate the thought you put into the decision-making as it related to the trout regulation. I think they're appropriate and very much spot on. Thank you to the staff that was involved in that. Thank you to Dr. Yoskowitz and to this Commission. That was very good. Thank you for the opportunity talk to you today.

I'm very pleased with the discussion about an end game with zones. We've been talking about that for a while and unfortunately, not to sound argumentative towards staff, but we get the overwhelming response for multiple Commission meetings in a row that we've got to vet that, we've got to bring other stakeholders in, we've got to have longer discussions, that's a bigger discussion, it's another big discussion. We've been doing that now for a long time.

I would ask you to take your direction one layer further today, Mr. Chairman, if I could and that's to ask the staff: What would life look like if you were to remove all zones? What would that look like? What would that regulatory structure look like? Could we just remove them? What would that do?

Commissioner Galo, you ask a question about the thought that went in behind the talking points. I can tell you there's been thought behind our stance on that for years. Having worked here for many, many years -- 25 years to be exact -- and in the law enforcement side of things, you know, I'm always reminded of the importance of the relationship with a landowner and we talked about that today and yesterday and both -- what correlates with the Law Enforcement Division and Wildlife Division is with Texas being 90 -- about 98 percent privately owned, the most important component to meeting the mission of the Parks and Wildlife Department includes a good relationship with the landowner. And zones are painful for landowners. They're painful for hunters. They're painful for future hunters. They're painful for hunting opportunity. And my question -- and it's an earnest and real question -- is what do we really need them for?

Because when they were adopted in 2012, we didn't have the tools we have today. We didn't have live testing. We didn't have 100 percent surveillance model. We didn't have any of those tools that we have now and zones were created to mitigate risk. One of those risks was the movement or the non-movement of live deer and we've mitigated that now. And if we do the -- if we do carcass disposal rules, which are not restrictive -- they're saying, Hey, put your carcass in the right spot, much like the Clean, Drain, and Dry Your Vessel approach -- we also mitigate that risk. The only thing we have left then is landowner participation and cooperation, which will exponentially increase when they're not worrying about the labeling of their land. Thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thanks very much. And just to be clear, you say you want to get rid of all containment and surveillance zones?

MR. KEVIN DAVIS: Every zone.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Every zone. All right. All right, thank you.

All right. Ms. Meuth.

MS. MARY PEARL MEUTH: Good morning, Chairman Hildebrand, Commissioners, Dr. Yoskowitz. For the record, my name is Mary Pearl Meuth and I here today as President-Elect of Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society. Texas Chapter continues to stay devoted to ensure that wildlife resource decisions are made after consideration of relevant scientific information in consultation with resource stewards and resource partners. We continue to support your staff's devotion to the service, to the science, and appreciate their recommendations of tangible, achievable solutions underwritten by the scientific method, while balancing the concerns and impacts on a system as a whole.

Their decision to be proactive, ethical, and expedient in the disease management practices on the Kerr WMA are commendable. Texas Chapter strongly supports the continued use of surveillance and containment zones as laid out in the CWD management plan developed by staff, advisory committees, and approved by this body. Chronic Wasting Disease has and will continue to have detrimental and difficult impacts on our state's resources, both human and natural, our economy and the ecosystems as a whole as well.

We stand ready to continue to support integrating offensive strategies in the management of this disease, as you said yesterday, Chairman, including but not limited to surveillance and containment zones, antemortem testing requirements, movement restrictions, and permanent visible identification of captive-raised deer. We thank your staff and leadership for their steadfast focus on the stewardship, management, and conservation of the natural and cultural resources of Texas.

On a personal note, my son took his first buck this year. We very -- he was very able to use the My Texas Hunter Harvest app, GPS point his harvest, and we were not in a containment zone or a surveillance zone, but we still went to the local check station and were able to get it very professionally and expediently tested. So thank you very much.



CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: It worked. Thank you very much.

All right. Bobby Schmidt.

MR. BOBBY SCHMIDT: Thank you, Commissioners, staff and especially Dee. She doesn't get enough respect I don't think sometimes.


MR. BOBBY SCHMIDT: Everybody knows who the boss is anyway. I know y'all have heard enough about the Kerr Wildlife Management and zones today. So everything -- there's enough been said about that and I also have my feelings about a bunch of it, but there's other things here. In Dripping Springs, Texas, there's still a sign up scaring -- with the scare tactics that are out there still on some gas pumps out there as a day before yesterday.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All right. Hold on. They're still up?



MR. BOBBY SCHMIDT: Yes, sir. Day before yesterday.

DR. YOSKOWITZ: Chairman, those are pump toppers and so --


MR. BOBBY SCHMIDT: On top of the gas --

DR. YOSKOWITZ: On top of the gas pumps.

MR. BOBBY SCHMIDT: Gas pumps, same sign as on the -- same sign that's on the billboard on top of gas pumps --


MR. BOBBY SCHMIDT: -- are still there.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: So who put them there?

DR. YOSKOWITZ: I'll have Mischelle address that. Mischelle Diaz for --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: And was I not clear about taking down signs?

DR. YOSKOWITZ: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: And please don't parse it by saying, Well, you only said billboards.

So why are those signs not down.

DR. YOSKOWITZ: Mischelle, please.

MR. BOBBY SCHMIDT: Here, you can have my spot.

MS. MISCHELLE DIAZ: Chairman, for the record, my name is Mischelle Diaz and I'm the Director of Communications for Texas Parks and Wildlife. And our understanding is that there is one remaining gas station out of 50 where toppers were placed and that particular independent gas station owner unfortunately has not been cooperating or communicating with the vendor to get those down. As of this moment, the vendor is driving out there personally to speak with the gas station owner to get them removed. So that is one gas station out of 50 in Dripping Springs. The vendor is on his way right now.

If there are other gas stations that have not cooperated in removing those toppers, we'd like to know about them. But our vendor has made the rounds, and we believe that that's the only remaining station.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Got it. That's plenty plausible. So thank you very much for that explanation. Appreciate it.

So, Mr. Schmidt, is that -- is that okay?

MR. BOBBY SCHMIDT: Yes, sir. That's fine with me.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: I mean, I know it's probably not; but we're doing everything we can.

MR. BOBBY SCHMIDT: I understand.


MR. BOBBY SCHMIDT: It's just the scare tactics that are out there. I mean, I --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: I know. But those are now down.


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: They're down. So that's in the past.

MR. BOBBY SCHMIDT: But historically what has happened with the people -- I've had people come around -- I've got two ladies from Houston that their husbands and sons hunt with me and they say, Don't bring deer meat to my house.

I mean, that's unbelievable that you can -- and that's not the only time we've heard --

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Thank you for getting those down.

MR. BOBBY SCHMIDT: And we appreciate that. CWD itself, I have a different outlook on it. I'm sorry. I'm 74 years old and I've been cattle business all my life and about 20 years ago, brucellosis was the thing. Okay. I don't know if you remember or anybody remembers that in this room. Brucellosis, every cow was going to be tested, every cow ear tagged and it just went on and on. And be then wild hogs had brucellosis. Don't get the blood on you, don't eat the meat, and do all this. Well, when's the last time anybody in this room heard anything about brucellosis? You know what happened? The money went away. And I predict, I probably won't see it in my lifetime, but with CWD when the money runs out and all the government money stops, you won't hear anything about CWD. It'll be gone. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Mr. Schmidt.

Ms. Wendy Schmidt.

MS. WENDY SCHMIDT: Hey, my father-in-law stole half of my speech. So if I could just have a --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Okay. Well, then just --

MS. WENDY SCHMIDT: -- little grace on the scribble I had to do before I got up here.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: You've got all the grace you want. Go ahead.

MS. WENDY SCHMIDT: I appreciate it.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All right. Go ahead.

MS. WENDY SCHMIDT: My name is Wendy Schmidt and I'm a proud Texan and I'm proud of our state which has a history of standing up against political mis-justice. I am here today as a landowner and a native Texan. I am also here to be a voice for the hundreds of deer being killed for no legitimate reason by this Department.

Chronic Wasting Disease is being used as a political ploy to destroy Texas natural resources. CWD is a rare disease, especially in Texas proven by 20 years of testing revealing less than 1 percent of an infection rate. I know this is not news to Texas Parks and Wildlife. So let's start with a few facts.

Curl county -- Kerr County wildlife facility, as a proud Texan, the decision made to destroy 50 plus years of research was embarrassing. Someone from Texas Parks and Wildlife jumped the gun and slaughtered the healthy White-tailed deer before confirmation of a negative test result was received. We Texas -- Texans own those deer and our tax money provided the millions of dollars supporting that facility. Fifty plus years of a double high-fence facility with both buck and does and you expect the people to believe that there were less than 70 healthy deer depopulated. Texas Parks and Wildlife claim no deer has been transported into or out of the facility. Where are the remaining deer?

Kerr wildlife management facility also claim CWD prions were found in the soil. Was the soil removed? If so, who was the lucky recipient of that contaminated soil or was it disposed of properly?

A friend of mine killed a White-tailed deer in Johnson City, Texas. Not a containment zone. Took the deer to Stonewall, Texas, to a processing facility where he was questioned by Texas Parks and Wildlife biologists for 45 minutes. But most interesting, they took a tissue sample from the jaw of the buck and handed him a card with a telephone number and asked him to call five to seven days to make sure the meat was not contaminated. That hunter is questioning whether it's worth hunting anymore.

This was wrong on so many levels and you have to wonder if those trained Texas Parks and Wildlife biologists thought that taking a sample from the jaw of the buck was the proper way to test. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department may have the general public fooled and scared about CWD, but I'm here to say I'm not and many others aren't fooled by the agenda. As Commissioners, you're sworn to save the resources of Texas; but Texas Parks and Wildlife are killing our White-tailed deer. Texas Parks and Wildlife is killing an industry that brings millions of dollars to the Great State of Texas.

Commissioners, I pray every day that you have the knowledge, the strength, and the wisdom to make the right decisions. We know the federal government has granted millions of dollars over the next five years to the Texas Parks and Wildlife for CWD. There's a much bigger agenda --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All right. Ms. Schmidt --

MS. WENDY SCHMIDT: Three lines. I got Bobby's.


MS. WENDY SCHMIDT: There's a much bigger agenda from the federal government in play here. I'm asking that you please use your authority and stand up and fight for our White-tailed deer and our hunting industry and our property owner rights. The truth about CWD will come out one day when the money goes away. Now it's time for the Commissioners to take a stand and please don't allow Texas Parks and Wildlife to destroy what Texans have worked so hard to accomplish. We're here to fight to protect our resources and save our deer of Texas from the very institution claiming to protect it.


MS. WENDY SCHMIDT: Stand strong and allow Texas to be --


MS. WENDY SCHMIDT: -- great state that it is.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you. God bless Texas. All right.



MR. RODNEY PARRISH: Yes, sir. My wife wants to thank you, my kids want to thank you, and my grandkids want to thank you, I'm not dead yet. The last time I was here, I thought I was going to die. But I asked to meet with some Parks and Wildlife people because they asked to meet with me. I got that meeting. I feel a lot better. Thank you.


MR. RODNEY PARRISH: There's two things. I have a handout for y'all. One of them, I'm in a containment zone. I'm the cause of the containment zone. I went youth hunting weekend up to the check station and asked: Do my kids bring their deer up here out of my release site?

And the guy told me -- the Parks and Wildlife guy told me, Well, you can bring them up here and we'll pull the samples; but you have to pay for it.

Now I'm a release site. I'm the cause of the containment zone, but my neighbors get their deer tested free. I have spent over $2,000 testing my deer out of my release site. I don't think that's right. I feel like if I have to test 100 percent of the deer that I kill, the Parks and Wildlife, State of Texas -- the people that own the deer -- I should be the same. I feel like I've been discriminated against.

The second issue, we heard about the Kerr wildlife deal. I just happen to have a deer -- March 10th, I believe, a year ago -- tested suspect positive. Mitch Lockwood called me, you have a suspect, we're sending that very same sample to National Vet Lab to have it further tested. I told my wife, I said, It'll be positive. I asked Mitch, I said, Well, what are the chances of it being negative?

Oh, we've never had a negative come back.

That was a blatant lie. There's been other suspects come back negative, just like the Kerr did the other day. Okay. I ask -- Dr. Hensley asked for further testing when I killed this deer or murdered this deer March 29th, my birthday. I said, Sure, test anything you want to.

I had never received anything but a positive from the Parks and Wildlife and Animal Health. It just says positive. Dr. Hensley sent me what y'all have in front of y'all from Justin Greenlee, USDA. It says on the western blot all tissues are non-detected. The same thing that Mr. Silovsky said about the doe.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: I understand. Okay.


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Mr. Parrish.

MR. RODNEY PARRISH: Appreciate you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: I'm glad you're still here with us.

MR. RODNEY PARRISH: I'll be here next time.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All right. I'm sure you will.

So we've got Rodney Parrish -- or excuse me. We've got Fred Squire on the phone.

Mr. Squire.

Okay. Mr. Squire is not on the phone. So any more comments by Commission or staff?

If not, is there a motion for approval? Do I have a motion?

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Patton moves to approve.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Is there a second?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All in favor please say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Any opposed? Hearing none, the motion carries.

Thank you very much.

All right. Action Item No. 4[sic], Oyster Advisory Committee, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Rule. Dr. Tiffany Hopper, please make your presentation.

DR. HOPPER: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Dr. Yoskowitz. For the record, my name is Tiffany Hopper and I serve as the Chief of the Science and Policy Resources Branch in the Coastal Fisheries Division and this morning I'm going to be presenting to you-all about the proposed creation of an Oyster Advisory Committee.

Which is not the slide that's up right now. So if I could get the Item 3 slide that would be great.

So I'm going to move through this slide fairly quickly because it's one that you guys have seen in the past. This slide just shows the authority and the requirements for the creation of an advisory committee. So this proposal would create an advisory committee to advise the Department on matters to pertaining to oysters to assist in determining and executing appropriate strategies to maximize the long-term health of our oyster resources, as well as the additional habitat and ecosystem services that these oysters provide. The committee would be comprised of up to 24 members of the public, and the committee would expire on July the 1st of 2026 to align with the expiration date for all other TPWD advisory committees.

So this slide here shows the public comments that we received on this proposal. We did receive a total of 30 comments. Of the comments we received, 80 percent or 24 of those comments were in support of the proposed Oyster Advisory Committee and this included support from the Coastal Resources Advisory Committee, as well as support we received from CCA Texas and the Texas Oyster Association. 20 percent of the comments that we received were opposed to this proposal and the most common reason stated was a belief that committee members should be either all or primarily comprised of members of the commercial oyster industry alone.

So at this time, staff is recommending the Commission adopts new 31 Texas Administrative Code 51.673 concerning the Oyster Advisory Committee as published in the December 22nd, 2023, issue of the Texas Register. And I'd be happy to answer any questions that any of you might have.


Any questions?

Thank you so much.

Not hearing any, any -- is there a motion for approval?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Is there a second? Abell second.


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All in favor please say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Any opposed? Hearing none, the motion carries.

Thank you.

Action Item No. 4, Bell and Coryell --

MR. MURPHY: Chairman. This is James Murphy, for the record. I think we may have one speaker in attendance, Ms. Lilly who had registered to speak. I'm not sure if she's still planning to speak. Yes.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Okay. All right. I apologize, Ms. Lilly.

MS. HILLARY LILLY: That's okay. Thank you. Okay. Good afternoon, Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Hillary Lilly, and I serve as the External Affairs Director for the Nature Conservancy in Texas. TNC has worked in Texas for six decades dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our state's biggest environmental challenges. One of those challenges being oyster restoration in the Gulf.

Our team has spent years building relationships with oyster fishermen along the coast, working with the Department to restore oyster reefs, and exploring new opportunities to conserve and protect the Gulf's oyster population. We are encouraged to see that the Department has taken this holistic approach to management of oysters in the state. We have seen similar efforts work effectively in other Gulf states and look forward to the outcomes of the creation of this committee.

We appreciate the opportunity to speak today on this item and have a few recommendations as you develop the oyster committee. We recommend that the purpose and desired outcome of this group is based on improved management and restoration of public and private oyster beds, committee cohesion and consensus, utilization of best available science and data, and to provide informed guidance to the Department.

The committee is proposed to be composed of 24 members of the public. We recommend the following organizations and individuals are represented within the group of 24: A broad representation of oyster fishers, the Texas Department of State Health Services, the USDA, environmental NGOs, restoration practitioners, academics and researchers, recreational fishers and/or recreational fishing guides, and an oyster mariculture representative. We recommend that the committee expiration date be extended beyond the currently proposed July 2026 expiration date. With the current state of the oyster population and the rate at which the existing oyster working groups have been able to support progress, more time will be needed to achieve the goals of the proposed committee.

With a diverse group of stakeholders and issues that this committee will undoubtedly be composed of and discussing, we recommend that a third-party facilitator leads the group's discussions to ensure cohesiveness of the committee. Thank you for your time.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you very much.

So Action Item No. 4, Bell and Coryell Counties, Regional Habitat Conservation Plan Citizens Advisory Committee and Biological Advisory Team, Appointment of Members and Delegation of Appointment Authority to Executive Director, Mr. Jonah Evans.

MR. EVANS: Commissioners, Mr. Chairman, Director Yoskowitz, for the record, my name is Jonah Evans. I am the Nongame and Rare Species Program Leader within the Wildlife Division. This morning -- this afternoon now, I'm addressing a request from Bell and Coryell Counties related to the development of a regional habitat conservation plan.

A regional habitat conservation plan is defined in State Code as a plan to protect endangered species in order to obtain a federal permit that requires the acquisition or regulation of land not owned by a plan participant. Bell and Coryell Counties are applying for a federal permit with U.S. Fish and Wildlife that meets the state's definition of a regional habitat conservation plan.

This plan would provide the counties with an umbrella permit that authorizes certain development activities and defines appropriate mitigation actions. Once issued, the counties would issue sub-permits to developers seeking to conduct covered activities in exchange for mitigation or other approved conservation measures.

Parks and Wildlife Code Chapter 83 requires TPWD's involvement in the development of a regional habitat conservation plan through two different committees: A Citizens Advisory Committee and a Biological Team. The Citizens Advisory Committee assists the local governmental entity in preparing the HCP. The committee is made up of citizens, landowners, and at least one member appointed by the Commission. Parks and Wildlife Code directs the Parks and Wildlife Commission to appoint this representative to the Citizens Advisory Committee.

A Biological Advisory Team is also formed -- or must also be formed and the TPWD Commission must appoint the presiding officer to this committee. The purpose of this team to assist the local governmental entity in calculating harm to species covered by the HCP and in determining the size and configuration of habitat preserves for those species.

The applicants have requested that TPWD expediently appoint one member to the Citizens Advisory Committee and at least one member to the Biological Advisory Team with subject matter expertise in one or more of the covered species or with expertise in develop -- in the development of habitat conservation plans.

Staff recommends that the Commission appoint the following TPWD staff: Cullom Simpson to serve as the Biological -- I'm sorry -- as the Citizens Advisory Committee representative, he is the Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist for Bell County; Dr. Darren Proppe to serve as the presiding officer of the Biological Advisory Team, he is the leading expert on habitat conservation plans within the Wildlife Division. And then finally staff is requesting that the Commission delegate future appointment authority for this specific, the Bell and Coryell regional habitat conservation plan, to the Executive Director to simplify and shorten the appointment process should the -- should we need to seat another representative due to a vacancy of some kind.

So in conclusion, Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission -- or staff recommend the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission appoints Bell County Wildlife Biologist Cullom Simpson of the Wildlife Division to serve as the representative to the BELCOR Regional HCP Citizens Advisory Committee and appoint Conservation Initiative Specialist Dr. Darren Proppe of the TPWD Wildlife Division to serve as the presiding officer of the BELCOR Regional HCP Biological Advisory Team and further authorizes the Executive Director to appoint future members to the Biological Advisory Team and Citizens Advisory Committee for the Bell and Coryell County Regional HCP.

And with that, I can entertain any questions.


Any comments from the Commission?

If not, is there -- thank you very much.

Is there a motion for approval?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Is there a second?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All in favor please say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Any opposed? Hearing none, the motion carries.

Thank you.

Action Item No. 5, Implementation of Legislation During the 88th Texas Legislative Session, Senate Bill 922, Relating to the Establishment of a Legislative Leave Pool for Peace Officers, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Rule. Mr. Sosa, make your presentation.

MR. SOSA: Good afternoon, Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, Luis Sosa, the Major at headquarters for the Law Enforcement Division. As mentioned yesterday during the work session, I'm here today to recommend adoption of proposed rules establishing and governing the use of a peace officer legislative leave pool in response to the passage of Senate Bill 922 by the 88th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature.

I'll get onto the provisions of Senate bill 922. The Department shall allow all peace officers the ability to voluntarily donate up to eight hours of compensatory time or annual leave to a legislative leave pool per year. Additionally, all peace officers commissioned by the Department are entitled to draw from this legislative leave pool if the time is used for legislative leave and on behalf of a law enforcement association. The proposed rules do not cause fiscal implications to the state or Department, nor do they require additional general revenue funding nor do they increase or decrease full-time equivalent positions. However, they do align administrative rules governing Department leave pools with provisions of Senate Bill 922.

Regarding public comment, as of today we have received the same three comments discussed yesterday where one individual agrees completely and two disagree on a specific item.

Today staff recommends that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt new Chapter 31 of the Texas Administrative Code Rule 51.143 concerning leave pools, with changes as necessary to proposed text as published in the December 22nd, 2023, issue of the Texas Register. And with that, I'd be happy to answer any questions.


Any questions?

If not, do I have a motion by a Commissioner?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Is there a second?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All in favor please say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

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

Thank you.

Action Item No. 6, Local Park Grants Funding, Request Approval of Proposed Funding Recommendations for Urban Outdoor Recreation Grants, Non-Urban Outdoor Recreation Grants, and Small Community Recreation Grants. Mr. Reece, please make your presentation.

MR. REECE: Thank you. Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, my name is Dan Reece and I'm the Local Park Grants Program Manager from the State Parks Division and I'm here this afternoon to present funding recommendations for 41 new local park grants.

Funding from a portion of the state's sporting goods sales tax, combined with federal offshore oil and gas royalties, to provide matching grants to eligible units of government for the acquisition, renovation, and new development of public parkland. This year for available park -- available funding, we have just under $5.7 million available for local park grants within the Texas Recreation Parks Account or TRPA. Within the Texas Large County and Municipality Recreation Parks Account, we have just under $12.3 million available. And in the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund or LWCF, we have an available balance of $13,682,079. Additionally, staff also anticipates that we may receive additional LWCF funding which could be applied to additional local park grants later this year.

The applications presented for funding recommendations this afternoon come from our three outdoor programs. Eligibility for each of these programs is based on the population of the applying entity. The Urban Outdoor Recreation is for all communities with a population that exceeds 500,000. For communities that fall below the 500,000 in population, we offer them the Non-Ewrin -- Non-Urban Outdoor Program. And the Small Community Program is available for all jurisdictions with a population of 20,000 or less.

As of August 1st of last year, we received a total of 79 eligible applications requesting just over $39 million in matching fund assistance. Exhibits A through C rank each project in descending order based on each program's scoring criteria. This criteria was adopted by the Parks and Wildlife Commission on August 22nd, 2019.

We have the following two motions before you this afternoon. At this point in time, this concludes my presentation and I'd be happy to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER GALO: Commissioner Galo. I don't really have a question. I would just like, for the record, to ask if we could -- I'm going to have to abstain on the Webb County grant because my husband is a County Commissioner there. So if we could take that one out and do a separate motion, is that possible?

MR. MURPHY: Yes, Commissioner Galo. We could break that out and --


MR. MURPHY: -- you could just announce on the record your recusal from a vote on that item and that can be incorporated into the motion the Chairman reads into the record.


MR. MURPHY: Thank you for that.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Okay. Sorry. You're finished?

MR. REECE: I'm finished.


COMMISSIONER FOSTER: Can you move back -- that previous slide was just up for about three seconds and I didn't get to see. Yeah, thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Okay. So we've got -- no more comments?

We've got -- Motion 1 would be funding for projects listed in Exhibits A through C in the amount of $20,679,983 is approved. Is there a motion for approval?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Is there a second?

MR. MURPHY: And, Chairman, I just want to clarify for the record that Commissioner Galo has recused from voting on one of the grants that is recommended for approval. Just to clarify that her vote is only for the remaining projects that are listed there. I just want to make sure that's included in Motion 1.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Perfect. Okay. Thank you.

So we've got -- we've got a motion. Is there a second?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All in favor say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

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

Motion 2, funding for projects listed in Exhibits A through C is approved in the amount of additional LWCF funding that is made available in the current fiscal year --

MR. MURPHY: Chairman. And I do apologize again for the interruption. We do have some folks who have signed up to speak that we would want to hear from before completing the second motion.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Okay. Let's see. Okay. We sure do.

All right. Okay. We have quite a few and so same protocol. If you guys can, limit it to three minutes or less and -- all right. First, we've got ReNissa Wade on phone and then Norma Sepulveda on phone. So if you guys will be ready. And then if you'll cue up, Robert Fiederbein, Mayor Carmona, Gus Ruiz, Joe Vega, David Garza. And we'll stop there for now.

Okay, Ms. Wade -- Mr. Wade, on the phone.

MS. RENISSA WADE: Ms. Wade. Yes, thank you. Yes, I'm here. Can you hear me?


MS. RENISSA WADE: Okay. Good morning. My name is ReNissa Wade and I'm the Assistant City Manager here in the City of Jacksonville. On behalf of the City of Jacksonville, I want to express our heartfelt gratitude to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission for awarding our community with this small communities grant.

This generous grant will have a significant impact on expanding recreational opportunities in an area that truly needs it. The creation of a walking trail, new exercise equipment, and inclusive playground equipment will not only promote health and wellness, but will also play a vital role in revitalizing the pride of this neighborhood. We are truly honored to be the recipient of this grant and we look forward to the positive impact it will have on our community.

Thank you once again for your support and investment in the well-being of our residents and your commitment to Texas in furthering the recreational opportunities throughout the state. It's deeply appreciated. I also have been on the line watching this Commission do your duties today and I'm so very impressed and thankful for your commitment and professionalism to the State of Texas. Thank you and have a great day.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you very much.

Ms. Norma Sepulveda, on the phone.

MAYOR NORMA SEPULVEDA: Yes. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. This is Norma Sepulveda. Can you hear me?


MAYOR NORMA SEPULVEDA: Wonderful. Mr. Chairman and members of the Commission, my name again is Norma Sepulveda. I'm a proud resident and Mayor of the great City of Harlingen and today I come before you wholeheartedly to endorse the grant application for the renovation of Victor Park. Victor Park is a cornerstone of our community. Victor Park is the second oldest park in our community and serves as a vital recreational and sporting hub for our city. It's not just a park. It's a place where generations have grown up playing football, baseball, where families gather, communities bond, and those bonds are strengthened through this park.

The park's pool is a central feature for nearly half a century and it has become a pivotal spot for triathlon training. We have athletes in our community that train and compete throughout the State of Texas and also all across the world, yet this pool now faces the dire need for repairs. The grant that we seek will breathe new life into this beloved park. It encompasses essential renovations, including modernizing this aging pool, enhancing lighting for safety and evening activities, and the construction of a much needed basketball court, renovations on our concession stand that has seen better days, and additionally it will allow for necessary maintenance like electrical upgrades for sports lighting and ensuring accessible sidewalks. But perhaps most importantly is the inclusion of a butterfly garden that represents not just an esthetic enhancement, but a commitment to local ecology and education.

Victor Park is more than just a collection of amenities. It is a reflection of our community spirit. By supporting this grant, you are not just funding renovations, you are investing in the health and well-being and happiness of countless Harlingen residents. Thank you so very much for allowing me to speak today and for your consideration of this application and for your commitment to enhancing parks and communities. Thank you for your time.


Ms. Robert Fiederbein.

MR. ROBERT FIEDERBEIN: Good afternoon, Chairman, Commissioners, and Dr. Yoskowitz. My name is Robert Fiederbein. I'm the Vice President of Planning and Infrastructure for the North Houston District. The North Houston District is a municipal management district located at the intersection of I-45 and Beltway 8 North in Houston. Many of you may know it's by our primary neighborhood Greenspoint and the project we proposed is in this portion of the district.

For those of you not familiar with this part of Houston, this is a low and moderate income area composed largely of people that live in nearby apartments. Most of the apartments were built in the 1970s and 1980s and are low cost, affordable apartments with few amenities. By default, the parks provided by the district -- of which there are eight in total -- are where the community goes for recreation and to get out into the open and experience nature.

The flagship park in the area is Thomas Wussow Park and the revamp and improvement of this park is what we proposed as a project and that you are considering for funding today. The park was first constructed in 2001 and is in need much -- is in much need of a refresh and update. This grant makes that possible. The project proposed will focus on two overarching goals: Improving the health and wellness of the community and connecting the community to nature.

What I don't want to leave out today is my thanks to the staff at Texas Parks and Wildlife. Their help was invaluable in us completing our grant application. From the grant workshop they hosted at Bayou Bend State Park last spring to the e-mail questions they promptly answered, the local parks team was a great help. I would also like to thank the subject matter experts at Texas Parks and Wildlife. They helped us immensely in putting our proposal together.

I'd like to thank two staff members specifically, Lindsay Sansom, our Houston area grant coordinator, and Kelly Norrid, who taught me more in one afternoon about planting options than I could have imagined.

In closing, the North Houston District thanks the Commission for its consideration of our project. If funded, we have no doubt it will bring great benefits to our community. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you very much.

Mayor Rick Carmona.

MAYOR RICK CARMONA: Hey, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Commissioners and Director. I am Rick Carmona. I represent the City of Terrell. I'm the Mayor and I just want to come and say thank you for your consideration for a grant for the City of Terrell in the amount of $750,000 for our Kings Creek Park. This absolutely will help our park system and I want to say on behalf of our Councilwoman Mayrani Velazquez, whose park is located in this district, thank you and the Mayor thanks you because she's been on me on her park for quite some time. So this is going to free up some money.

The funding absolutely is needed in our community and this will -- this grant will allow us to continue to focus on quality of life issues for the City of Terrell. So thank you for your time.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you very much, Mayor.

Mr. Gus Ruiz.

MR. GUS RUIZ: Chairman, Commissioners, good afternoon. My is Gus Ruiz and I'm here representing Cameron County, the southernmost county in Texas. In particular, I am the County Commissioner of Precinct No. 4. Precinct No. 4 is contiguous to Willacy County, Hidalgo County, and the U.S. southern border. In the southwestern area of Precinct No. 4 lies the un-incorporate area called Santa Maria, Texas, and -- which is the subject matter of the grant that Cameron County had applied to y'all and in that area, it's an un-incorporate area in our county and -- but there is a school district, Santa Maria ISD.

Over a hundred years ago, it was a thriving community as it was home to a steamboat dock and a steamboat hotel and so with your help and the help of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, we're hoping that this community can thrive again with the creation of our new Santa Maria Cameron County Community Park. Thank you for your time, and we hope for your consideration.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you very much.

Let's see. We've got David Garza -- oh, sorry. Joe Vega. I apologize. Joe Vega.

MR. JOE VEGA: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission, Dr. Yoskowitz. My name is Joe Vega. I'm the Parks Director from Cameron County. On behalf of our Cameron County Judge Eddie Trevino, our Cameron County Commissioner's Court, our park -- our County Administrator Mr. Pete Sepulveda and park staff, we would like to thank you for the funding consideration for the Santa Maria Community Park.

Santa Maria Community Park, it's a small little community along the 281 -- along 281 that currently has no recreational opportunities. With this grant funding of $750,000 and with match that the County's going to provide, we're going to be able to build a nice park that's going to build a -- that's going to help provide some quality of life not only for the residents of Santa Maria, but for the surrounding communities. We're going to build a nice park that's going to have nature trails, bird -- a butterfly garden, a basketball court, a soccer field, a baseball field, a picnic pavilion, a playground, a splash pad, and other supporting recreational amenities.

We thank you Texas Parks and Wildlife because y'all have been a great partner with Cameron County. Recently we have worked on almost $20 million of park improvements together with Texas Parks and Wildlife. We have built the South Texas Ecotourism Center. We've made improvements to the Santa Rosa Community Park. We've done improvements to the Adolph Thomae Park. We just recent are going to start improvements on the Bejarano-McFarland Memorial Park, on the Olmito Nature Park, La Esperanza Park, and we just recently opened up the Pedro "Pete" Benavides Mountain Bike Trail and this -- we couldn't have done this without the partnership of Texas Parks and Wildlife and we thank you for that.

And I also want to say a big thank you to your staff. You have a staff that is second to none. And I want to thank Ms. Dana Lagarde, Mr. Dan Reece, Ms. Megan Nelson, Mr. Trey Cooksey, Mr. Erick Hetzel, Mr. Matt Fougerat, and Mr. Aaron Friar. Your staff is amazing, and we thank you again. God bless you, God bless the State of Texas, and God Bless the USA. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Wonderful. Thank you very much.

Mr. David Garza.

MR. DAVID GARZA: I think he's running for office. Cameron County Commissioner David A. Garza. It's a pleasure to be before you to thank you and to thank the Commission for the local parks grant. But I do want to say Cameron -- and I've been a Commissioner 24 years and Mr. Vega and myself are at least two that every biennium are walking the halls of the Capitol trying to stop the diversion of dollars that was going to the general fund from your money and we were big proponents of Proposition 14 and we tried to do really well in our county. I think we had -- it passed by about 82 percent to 18 percent. So, you know, we -- I challenge everybody else that's getting grants today to walk the halls, to talk to their local elected representatives and senators to help you do more of what you do.

But today I'm here because I have eight cities in my precinct. I'm blessed with eight cities. I've been working on getting all of them to take advantage of the local park grants, and today there is a small city of Laguna Vista that's on there. I just visited with the Mayor. He got a grant. This is the first time that small community gets a grant from Parks and Wildlife. They are totally indebted to the fact that they're going to be able to renew, renovate, and update their park with that grant. So on behalf of Mayor Mike Carter and his council, they want to say thank you. They could not be here.

I think that -- I was here to talk about Item No. 9, which I can't talk about, but I needed to make sure that I justified on my Commissioner's Court my drive up and my drive back and my overnight stay. So thank you so much. The staff, I am behaving, you know.


MR. DAVID GARZA: Thank you so much.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you very much. Two birds with one stone as they say.

Mr. Darrell Gooch. And then behind him, Donnie Hayes, Monica Baietti --

MS. MONICA BAIETTI: Baietti. No worries.


MS. MONICA BAIETTI: Close enough.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Adam Bazaldua, Amanda Buckson, and then Homer Garcia and we'll stop there.

Mr. Gooch.

MR. DARRELL GOOCH: I promise to make this short. I first want to thank y'all for giving me the opportunity to come here and speak to y'all this morning. I also as a fellow hunter and fisherman of this great state appreciate the decisions, the tough decisions that y'all have to make to ensure that our hunting and fishing is there for our future generations.

I'm here to represent the City of Floydada as their City Manager. We are seeking funds to create a skate park in our community and I just want the Commissioners to know that this is -- this grant that we're looking at is not something that just come about in the last year or two. This has actually been a 15-year long project. When I was with the police department, some kids come to our school resource officer and asked them why we didn't have a skate park and what they could do to get one started up or getting something to start up. So they started doing fundraisers and they've been doing fundraisers, even as adults, putting into an account money to go toward this project and right now in that account there's over $70,000 and that's a lot of money for a little small community such Floydada and being just little fundraisers.

But with money that -- with funds from the City and their resources, plus funds from the Texas Parks and Wildlife, we can build them a skate park for those kids to be very proud of. But thank y'all very much.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you, Mr. Gooch.

Donnie Hayes.

MR. DONNIE HAYES: Hello. First of all, I just want to say over the past year I served as the Chair for the National Recreation and Park Association's Awards and Scholarships Committee and so I got a special look at a lot of the awards and scholarships that are coming through that the National Recreation and Parks Association gives out and so it's always really exciting to be able to see Texas nominated and given awards and so congratulations to each of you for the Gold Medal Award. That really is an excitement -- exciting thing that you guys were presented with today.

I am here as the Parks and Recreation Director for Missouri City. I just first want to thank you-all for allowing me to come and speak with you-all. I'm coming before you because it's important for us as a city to say thank you. Diversity and inclusion are important tenets of our community. Unfortunately when you look around our community, that diversity isn't as evident in our parks. Do we have space for lacrosse or cricket? Do we have enough outdoor pickle ball courts to meet our community's needs? Are our BMX bikers and our skateboarders finding safe and well-maintained spaces? Do the children in this part of town have a fun and inviting place to cool off?

The answer to this question is no. When recreation embraces true diversity in our community, our special events, our programming, and our parks, we support a safer and more connected community. When embracing diversity, both human diversity and diversity of opportunities, we strengthen the community, enrich educational experiences, and promote healthy communication skills. Our kids begin to learn to truly see diversity as a blessing when they are exposed to it, they also when they're able to experience it through play and when they become connected to it.

With the partnership between Missouri City, Fort Bend County, and you-all today with the Texas Parks and Wildlife, Sta-Mo Park will help to provide the inclusion and diversity our community is craving. Each of our citizens have come out and voted for bonds to help make this park a reality. Your support today will help to confirm what we've always known: Recreation is for all. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you very much.


MS. MONICA BAIETTI: Hello. My name's Monica Baietti and I'm the author from the City of Windcrest for the grant and I just wanted to thank you so much for your time today because you guys are definitely logging some long hours and I also wanted to take a moment and thank Dan Reece and his team because when I called them the day the application was due, four hours before it was due, they called me back and answered my questions so I could get my application submitted the day of. So I really appreciate that.

Today we were notified that you guys were going to take a vote. So I just wanted to come up here and say thanks again.

In 1923, Governor Pat Neff persuaded the legislator -- the legislature to create the State Parks Board and he considered this to be his most important achievement. His vision was that the park system would afford a place where people might go and forget the anxiety, the strife, and vexation of life's daily grind. And I think that the City of Windcrest could be a great example of what a working partnership can achieve, like Governor Neff's vision. So I appreciate the opportunity to apply, and I look forward to doing it again. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you very much.

Adam Bazaldua.

Sorry. Amanda?




CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Okay. Amanda Buckson.

MS. AMANDA BUCKSON: Yes. Good afternoon. Amanda Buckson with Buckson Landscape Architecture and I'm here to say a word of thanks on behalf of the Mount Houston Road Municipal Utility District.

This grant will play a pivotal role in the district's ability to provide some much needed outdoor amenities for this community. We understand that this grant is not just a financial boost, but it's a symbol of confidence that Texas Parks and Wildlife is placing in us. We commit to utilize the funds in a responsible and efficient manner to provide -- sorry -- to create a positive impact on the residents that this district serves. We look forward to the continued collaboration and making a lasting difference for this community. Thank you.


Homer Garcia. And then after him, we've got Rosa Angel, Gary Smith, Jeff Achee, Yost Zakhary, Karen Evans, Richard Zavala.

Mr. Garcia.

MR. HOMER GARCIA, III: Yes. Good afternoon, Chairman and Commissioners. Thank you for your community service to the State of Texas. My name is Homer Garcia, Director for the City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department and I'm here to speak today on Motion No. 2 of Item No. 6 in support of approval. Brief comments, just brief overview.

Our system plan is founded on four primary principles: That San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department is responsive to the community; that because of parks and recreation that we are restorative to the community's health; because of parks and recreation, our community is more resilient; and that we are resourceful in how we deliver those services to the community. And that's what today's action presents a great example of.

To set the stage briefly, in May of 2022, voters of San Antonio overwhelmingly approved the proposition for more than 90 parks projects. Originally ahead of that in the fall of 2021, Cassiano Park revitalization project was not on the list. However, through that opportunity came a community that with one voice showed up at every meeting to advocate to get Cassiano Park onto that proposition and then subsequently, San Antonio resoundingly said we want that. And so today, I'm here. I have a prepared statement that was provided to me by the community which Cassiano Parks -- or Cassiano Park serves and I will read that and close with that.

Hello, Commissioners. My is name Marry Ann Hernandez. I represent the Historic Westside Residents Association in San Antonio. I wish I could have appeared before you in person; but in my absence, I have asked Homer to recite a few comments. Last year we presented a letter in support of the grant and we were ecstatic to recently learn that TPWD was recommending full funding of $1.5 million for Cassiano Park to construct a splash pad in conjunction with the new swimming pool being paid for by the 2022 bond. Today we are passionate in urging the Commission to please approve the Department's recommendation. If you could see the swimming pool in the summer when the neighborhood kids line up to get in, I know that you wouldn't hesitate to authorize full funding for our historic park. Most of these children live in public housing in one of the poorest areas of the city. They deserve this. Thank you.


All right. Ms. Rosa Angel. Angel?

MS. ROSA ANGEL: Good morning.


MS. ROSA ANGEL: Yes, Angel. Angel in Spanish.


MS. ROSA ANGEL: Yes. I'm Rosa Angel from the City of Amherst. I am the City Secretary. We made the six-hour long drive to come up here to say thank you. This is the first time that we have applied for this grant. It's been actually five years trying to get everything worked in and trying to get some funding to do the match.

We're a very small community. We have not had the boom of a lot of different cities in Texas to have large populations coming into our town. We are 721 and our -- and the one structure that we did have was donated when Reese Air Force Base shut down, so. And then two years ago, we had to remove the structure because it was deemed unsafe. So there's a big blank space that has nothing in it, and that was the only structure that we had in our city.

So thank you so much on behalf of our children, our Commissioners, Our Mayor. The children from our town wrote thank you notes in preparation. But I'm going to read one.

It says: I -- Dear State of Texas, I would like to say thank you. I am so grateful for your giving us this opportunity to have some fun. The park -- the park without your grant, kids wouldn't have fun, be able to play and spend time with the family. I am so happy for the grant and going to have long times playing and having my family again. I know we will always go to the park and enjoy it. So thank you for giving us this grant.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you. You know, this is really what makes the job worthwhile.

MS. ROSA ANGEL: Yes, sir.


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: I prefer this over CWD.

MS. ROSA ANGEL: Yes. So again, thank you on --


MS. ROSA ANGEL: -- behalf of our community and our children.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you very much.

All right. Gary Smith.

MR. GARY SMITH: I get to follow that.


MR. GARY SMITH: Thanks, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, staff. My name is Gary Smith. I work for a company called GrantWorks. We assisted the City of Bellmead and Jeff Davis County in applying and they're being awarded today. Bellmead is going to follow me soon enough, but Jeff Davis County was badly in need of improvements to their park. Two other projects aren't being awarded, but they've already voiced their desire to resubmit and more on that in just a second.

But my -- I've written these for many, many years. My purpose twofold is, one, I'm retiring next week and one is just to reaffirm what you already know and what you stated: How popular this program is. We've written billions in disaster recovery, Hurricane Harvey is still going on, and community development block grants; but no program we do is more popular than the local parks for 150,000. 75,000 it used to be.

I had a small city administrator I called a few cycles ago to tell her the good news we're getting a $2 million wastewater treatment plant improvement and a $75,000 park. Guess what she wanted to talk about? Her butterfly garden and their landscaping in that park. So, I mean, you already know that, but it's just -- people at GrantWorks are bickering to see who gets to write the parks projects instead of water and sewer. So, yeah, that's one point.

The other point that I wanted to make is we work with lots of state and federal agencies across the board. I'm not calling any names, but I can say this now that I'm retiring. There's no better staff than Dan and his group. They -- it's not an adversary -- they have a point system that's very good. They've refined it. It has to be that way because you see how competitive this is. But they're -- it's never an adversarial role. They help you and those two projects that aren't being funded, they'll sit down with us next cycle and say, Look, here's how you might could improve it to get it done.

They want to -- you can tell they want to approve every grant that's worthy. So anyway, that's all I had. I just wanted to go on record as saying what a great group it is.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you very much.

Okay. Jeff Achee. And then after Jeff, we've got Yost Zakhary, Karen Evans, Richard Zavala, Stanley Tuttle, Bryon Wiebold.

MR. JEFF ACHEE: All right. Thank you, Commissioners. I'm here to express my support for the Kern Park renovation project in Harker Heights, Texas. My name is Jeff Achee, and I serve as the Director of Parks and Rec for the City of Harker Heights.

So Harker Heights, incorporated in 1960, holds a unique history with Kern Park being an integral part of our city's original deed. While our Parks and Recreation Department became a separate entity in the 1990s, Kern Park -- which is situated in what was once the heart of our community -- supported some of the community's play needs for 30 years before that time. However, it has aged much over the years and the city's growth has predominately occurred elsewhere, leaving Kern Park in need of revitalization.

So presently, Kern Park comprises only a small playground on an over 4-acre property in our lower income area of town. The proposed renovation seeks to completely transform the park, providing residents in this area with a source of pride in highlighting a significant piece of Harker Heights history. So the renovation planning includes the incorporation of a fully inclusive play feature; the introduction of a small splash pad, which would be a first for our city; the construction of a restroom for visitors' convenience; and the establishment of a beautiful community garden. The community garden, in particular, aims to educate current and future generations on sustainable practices offering insights into growing their own food and cultivating plants that are native to our area of Texas. So the impact of this improvement on our community cannot be overstated.

Parks play a crucial role in enhancing our quality of life and the Kern Park renovation project promises to positively influence the lives of generations of Texans on the north side of our city. So I thank you for your support of the funding of the Kern Park renovation project, as it aligns with our commitment to community development, historical preservation, and the well-being of our residents. And I thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you very much.

Next is Yost Zakhary.

MR. YOST ZAKHARY: Thank you. Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, thank you for your time. Chairman, I have to really appreciate your comment about being brief. So I was taught as a young supervisor to be brief, be bright, and be gone. So I will be brief.

Again, my name is Yost Zakhary. I have the privilege and honor of serving the City of Bellmead as their City Manager and on behalf of our Mayor who could not be here today, our City Council, it is truly an honor to be here. Thank you for your service. Thank you for your time. I am overwhelmed with the gratitude that you have afforded the City of Bellmead.

The City of Bellmead has served on the west side -- on the north side of Waco and we serve a lot of low to moderate income folks and they, as you've heard before, deserve the park.

Texas Parks and Wildlife has had a long longstanding tradition of supporting communities with these type grants, which make a significant impact on communities and enhance every aspect of the quality of life -- mental, physical, spiritual -- and often lead to great economy and community revitalization. Thank you for your time.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you very much.

Let's see. Karen Evans.

MS. KAREN EVANS: Good afternoon, Commissioners. I'm Karen Evans, Assistant City Manager for the City of Bellmead. I'm not going to read my prepared comments because I think they're the same comments that you've already heard multiple times from everyone. So I'm just going to tell you a little bit of what went into the planning of our grant.

We cleaned up our park. Like he said, we're low to moderate income. Our parks have been ignored, as is our whole city, for years and years and years. We got there and started cleaning it up, repainting, revamping. When we started planning this, we actually went to the park and we visited with our citizens to see what they wanted, what they needed. We learned we needed lighting to make it more safe. So that's what we asked for. We learned that The Arc of McLennan County actually comes out and visits our splash pad almost every day during the summertime.

The Arc is an organization that -- they support special needs children, which I didn't know until I actually went to the park and started visiting with the park patrons. So now I know that every summer in the morning there's going to be a couple busloads of special need kids that are on our splash pad. So I started talking to them and I said: What would you like to see in this park?

And they said: An ADA swing set. Our kids in the wheelchairs can't swing.

I said: Absolutely. Let's put it in the park grant application.

So we did. And we asked them for some other things and they said: Changing stations in the restrooms. Some of our kids, even though they're this big, we can't change them. They're in diapers.

I wouldn't have thought about it. So we did. It's in our application and there were some other things they asked for that we put in that application and that's what I want y'all to know and that's why this park grant is so near and dear to my heart. Being a mom and having -- I'm going the cry -- special needs kids in my family. So the City of Bellmead cannot afford to do these things without y'all. So we appreciate it. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you very much. Fantastic.

All right. Richard Zavala and then Stanley Tuttle, thereafter.

MR. RICHARD ZAVALA: Good afternoon, Mr. Chair and members of the Commission. I'm Richard Zavala with the City of Fort Worth. You know, this is about the third time I've been down here and I have gotten tears in my eyes listening to some of these grants and what they're going to do for these communities. So it's just -- it's a wonderful thing that we do together.

To the Director, you've heard about that staff and they have been drinking the Kool-Aid of helpfulness and resourcefulness and just helping communities. And that is so recognized. The people that have worked here throughout for the, last 30 years 40 years, have just had that attitude of let's help you. And so keep them here and keep adding if they need them and those kinds of things because they're important to this process.

Just a couple points I want to make to you. On the project that we have, I'm going to tell you, you're leveraging money about 150 percent. The voters in 2022 approved $2 million for Sycamore Park. The City Council in its infinite wisdom approved a recommendation from the Park staff, allocating an additional $2 million of royalty money from gas leases and now this $1.5 million that we're going to get in the grant. So together, we've got a $5.5 million project that is in a significant minority majority area of town. A previous golf course that has been re-purposed into a community park. So this is the first phase of reopening that to the citizens of Fort Worth and particularly that community.

The last thing I'll leave you with is you heard earlier somebody thanking the Almighty, the blessings that we get. I will just tell you this: On the third day, he created parks. We're doing the Lord's work. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you. All right, thanks.

Stanley Tuttle.

MR. STANLEY TUTTLE: Good afternoon, Chairman Hildebrand and Commission. I'm here today to discuss how important the funding for the Bonnie View Community Center safety and park improvements project for acquisition of land which we'll use to construct a 62-by-148 parking lot. I was lucky enough to receive funds from a gas fractionation company back in 2014 to double the size of the community center, but the parking is still lacking, to say the least, and is also a safety hazard.

The multiphase project includes the installation of ADA playground equipment and construction of a concrete trail connecting the community center proposed parking lot, playground equipment, and gazebo. The Bonnie View Community Center is the only center in Woodsboro -- in the Woodsboro, Bonnie View, and Bayside area for gatherings for parties of all kinds and will be -- will be the only park in the area also. We appreciate y'all's service and would greatly appreciate y'all's help in this project. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Mr. Tuttle.

Bryon Wiebold. Farmersville, Texas, Mayor.

MAYOR BRYON WIEBOLD: Yes, sir. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. I appreciate your making me thankful for the duration of my City Council meetings having seen what I've seen here today. I am the Mayor of Farmersville, Texas. I'm accompanied today by my wife Misty, who's now my PR person over there. She's serves on the Collin County Historical Commission, Farmersville's Park and Recreation Board, and President and Curator of the Farmersville Heritage Museum. She's also responsible for discovering the remnant of historic virgin Blackland prairie existing in our largest city park, which is South Lake Park. She should actually be up here speaking today, but I was volun-told. So here I am.

Twelve acres flows down that we have in the South Lake Park from an adjacent vista, 50 plus acres of virgin Blackland prairie and it spills down into Farmersville South Lake Park. Through the education -- about three, three-and-a-half-year process now -- from some very special friends of ours -- such as David Bezanson with the Nature Conservancy; Steven Arey of U.S. Fish and Wildlife; Matt White, professor and author at Paris Junior College; and Jason Singhurst, botanist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and input board member -- we've learned the incredible value of the historic prairie that resides in Farmersville because only one-tenth of 1 percent remains.

Thanks to further research by the state -- by the team referenced, 30 plus acres of Blackland prairie was discovered, but was overrun by invasive cedar trees. Again, with the help of Steve Arey, we were able to secure funding to effectively remove the cedar trees on the east side of South Lake to uncover the prairie and an unexpected fen bubbling up to the surface.

Should the potential grant being discussed today be awarded to Farmersville, we look forward to potentially purchasing the approximate 50 acres of Blackland prairie, adding to it the 40 plus acres already held. Collin County is also giving us a matching funds grant should this be awarded to us today. Our passion is to conserve the acreage in perpetuity and appropriately interpret it so that generations who come will be able to see the intrinsically valuable representation of how Collin County existed before it was settled and developed to its current state.

With the unprecedented rapid growth we are experiencing being located in east Collin County, this grant comes -- at this time is providential in conserving literally a living Texas history. On behalf of Farmersville, Collin County, and prairie enthusiasts across the great state and my wife Misty, I am simply here to express our extreme gratitude to Mr. Reece and his amazing staff and for your hard work on the Commission for this opportunity to be considered. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you, Mayor.

Lacey Dingman, GiGi Poynter, Jennifer Urban, Phil Lozano, Michael Garcia, and finally Bryan Luallen.

Ms. Dingman.

MS. LACEY DINGMAN: Yeah. Good afternoon, Chairman and Commissioners. On behalf of the City of Marble Falls -- I am the Director of Parks Recreation there -- we just wanted to give our gratitude for consideration for this funding. This funding is going to allow to develop -- we've got 11 acres of parkland that's completely undeveloped at this point and if -- with the reception of this grant funding, we'll be able to develop that in a quadrant of our community that currently doesn't have equitable access to parkland. So we just wanted to give our gratitude and appreciation and looking forward to working with you. Thanks.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you very much.

Ms. Poynter -- Poynter.

COUNTY JUDGE GIGI POYNTER: Poynter. Thank you and good afternoon to Chairman, Commissioners, and the staff of the Texas Parks and Wildlife. My name's GiGi Poynter and I have the pleasure of serving as the County Judge for Refugio County. I'm here in support of the Bonny View Community Center safety and improvement project. It's pretty far down the line of your Exhibit C, but it's on there. So we wanted to say thank you. We really appreciate the opportunity and the potential that that brings to us.

As you heard from our Commissioner a few moments ago, the purpose of this project is basically land acquisition in our multiphase project to better develop our community center. Refugio County has limited economic opportunities and a modest operating budget. Basically since Hurricane Harvey six years ago, our community's development has been focused on and basically limited to recovery, rebuilding. This project breaks free of that mold.

Now it's not a flagship project and we aren't here for a butterfly garden or a splash pad and we don't have anywhere to play lacrosse or pickle ball, but not yet. So this is a step in the right direction and a step to get us there. So basically I just wanted to say thank you for the opportunity to partner with you and to afford us that opportunity.

Addition -- in addition to, you know, the fun parts of it, this provides a safety opportunity for our community as well. Just yesterday one of the local vice principals from Woodsboro visited with me and was asking, Hey, what can we do to designate the center as a safety location for our school in the event something happens?

I said, Well, right now it's small; but, you know, with additional space, with, you know, gazebo, with parking lot, you know, it affords that opportunity to grow in multiple ways and multiple benefits to our community.

So in closing, I just want to reiterate my support for the funding in support of the Bonnie View Community Center safety and improvements project. Thank you again for the opportunity to speak here today and for your consideration of this project that is so important to our small community.



CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: What happened to your football team this year? You typically win the state championship.

COUNTY JUDGE GIGI POYNTER: I mean, we got -- we're still pretty close.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: No, you were close. But what did you go? Quarter finals?

COUNTY JUDGE GIGI POYNTER: Quarter finals. Yes, sir.


COUNTY JUDGE GIGI POYNTER: But if you saw, Ernest Campbell is now third-fastest boy in the country as of right now. So if you follow track, we're still on the map.


COUNTY JUDGE GIGI POYNTER: And I think that's my time.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All right. Thank you.

Jennifer Urban.

MS. JENNIFER URBAN: Hi. Good afternoon, Commissioners and Chairman. My name's Jennifer Urban. I'm with the City of Cuero and I just wanted to come to thank you for the opportunity to expand our municipal park with the Non-Urban Outdoor Recreation grant and we wanted to highlight that this idea of the addition of a skate park came from 11-year-old Jace, a very courageous boy that came to a City Council meeting to argue his points. Some of those include that the closest skate park to us is 30 minutes away in the town of Victoria -- City of Victoria, skating and BMX riding increases our hand-eye coordination, and doing so with his classmates increases their communication skills.

Most importantly having a safe place for them to ride their BMX bikes and skateboard is the most important idea. We think this is a great opportunity for Jace and his classmates to show them the power of public participation and local government and state government's response to citizens. This will add great value to our community for many decades to come I'm sure and get more kids outdoors, which we know is never a bad thing. So thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you, Ms. Urban.

Phil Lozano.

MR. PHIL LOZANO: Good afternoon, Commissioners and Chairman. I am the Director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Highland Village and on behalf of the City of Highland Village, the City Council, the Park Board, and its citizens, I want to thank you-all and especially Texas Parks and Wildlife staff for the great work that they did and their patience. This was my first grant application and Dan Reece was awesome and Matt Mears, I can't speak enough about them.

I also want to thank the Commission for the work that they do in helping not only our community, but the communities across the State of Texas to improve our experience through capital projects like the one that we have at Pilot Knoll. Pilot Knoll is lake park on Lake Lewisville. We are -- we are a community just north of Lewisville and this park is going to make ADA improvements and it's going to provide also some infrastructure improvements that are greatly needed and haven't been done in about 30 years. So it's going to also provide opportunities for folks that maybe have not had a lake experience. It's going to better highlight that, especially folks with special needs, and we're also going to have -- it's going to help support some of the cabins that we're going to build out there as well. So on behalf of our community, we thank you.


MR. PHIL LOZANO: Appreciate it.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you very much.

Michael Garcia, City of Del Rio.

MR. MICHAEL GARCIA: Good afternoon, Chairman and Commissioners. My name is Michael Garcia. I am representing the City of Del Rio, Texas, which are more than welcome to visit. It's 152 miles west of San Antonio, Texas. A border town city with sister city of Ciudad Acuña Coahuila, Mexico. And to take this advantage of this opportunity, I would like to invite all of you to the Texas Solar Fest that we will be hosting between April 5th to the 9th in Del Rio. So Del Rio is one of the first cities in the United States that will be experience -- experiencing the total Solar Fest.

And then so I would like to -- I serve for the City of Del Rio as the assistant to the City Manager and the grants writer. The City of Del Rio is very thankful for your funding consideration of our all-inclusive park project under the Non-Urban Outdoor Recreation grant program. For many years, our community has dreamed of a sports complex which all individuals will be able to enjoy and thanks to you, we will accomplish that dream with the all-inclusive park project.

Our kids and teenagers and future generations will be able to enjoy this beautiful park and fields. And the important advantage for this project is that the City of Del Rio will be allowing people with disabilities to take advantage of the benefits of the same facilities as people without disabilities. An all-inclusive park is much needed in the City of Del Rio, and it's a step forward to improve disability inclusion in our parks and facilities. This project will greatly benefit our community, region, and state.

I appreciate your thoughtful consideration to fund this project, and I would like to thank you for this opportunity to serve our beautiful state together. I would like to take this time to thank Mr. Dan Reece for his leadership and his assistance throughout this application and Ms. Megan Nelson as well and may God bless you and your family. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you, Mr. Garcia.

And finally last, but not least, Bryan Luallen. Mr. Luallen.

MR. BRYAN LUALLEN: Good afternoon. I'm the CEO of Dallas' Fair Park, but today I am here representing the park, the City of Dallas, our Park and Recreation Department, our Mayor and City Council, all of whom send their regards and their thankfulness for your consideration of a fitness loop at Fair Park.

Fair Park and the City of Dallas Park and Recreation Department jointly partnered to seek support for the communities that surround our site to gain access to outdoor recreation and fitness equipment. In an area underserved in both green space and healthcare access, free access to parks and fitness amenities can be a game changer for quality of life and health outcomes. This fitness loop, as part of a planned public park to be built by converting some of our parking lots into beautiful new green space, provides access to these sorely needed resources. The fitness loop will include an accessible walking trail with a variety of exercise equipment providing an opportunity for nearby residents and all visitors of Fair Park from around the world an opportunity to include physical activity in their visit, as well as their daily routines.

Both the community park and its fitness loop will blur the boundaries between Fair Park and the surrounding neighborhoods, reinforcing the fact that Fair Park is an accessible public park for everyone and in addition, all Texas -- all Texans deserve that opportunity to live a healthy life and this grant helps get us as a collective closer to providing that for our residents that have long been underserved my parks.

Thank you very much to Texas Parks and Wildlife; you, Mr. Chairman; all of the Commissioners; as well as Dan and your staff for helping us facilitate this and for your consideration.



CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All right. Any final comments?

And if none -- have we already -- James, have we already approved the motion?

MR. MURPHY: Chairman, I would recommend rereading the first motion with the recusal that -- of Commissioner Galo on that one and --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All right. I'll do --

MR. MURPHY: -- then go into the second one.


COMMISSIONER GALO: Chairman, I just want to make the same statement for the second motion, that I need to recuse myself because my husband is a County Commissioner and it's a splash park for Webb County in the Colonias. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Okay, great. Thank you.

Motion 1: Funding for projects listed in Exhibits A through C in the amount of 20,679,983 is approved. Is there a motion for approval?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Is there a second?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All in favor say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

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

Motion 2 -- James, do you want to read the recusal from Motion 1 or...

MR. MURPHY: Chairman, I think we have enough on the record from Commissioner Galo that we can proceed further.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Fine. All right. Funding for projects listed in Exhibits A through C is approved in the amount of additional LWCF funding that is made available in the current fiscal year. Is there a motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Patton moves to approve.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Is there a second? Second?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All in favor please say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Any opposed? Hearing none, the motion carries.

Action Item No. 7, Action -- Acquisition of Land, Matagorda County, Approximately 1,750 Acres Adjacent to the Matagorda Peninsula Coastal Management Area. Mr. Estrella, please make your presentation.

MR. ESTRELLA: Thank you. For the record --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you-all for the presenters. Appreciate it. Or the or people that gave comment.

MR. ESTRELLA: For the record, my name is Jason Estrella, with the Land Conservation Program. This is acquisition of land, Matagorda County, approximately 1,750 acres at the Matagorda Peninsula Coastal Management Area, located in the central coast of Texas about 20 miles south of the Bay City.

The CMA was established in 2017 with the acquisition of 5,100 acres on Matagorda Peninsula from the Texas General Land Office. The CMA currently consists of more than 6,300 acres and preserves approximately 14 miles of the barrier peninsula, separating East Matagorda Bay from the Gulf of Mexico. The CMA is remote and undeveloped. It provides important habitat for a number of coastal species in decline, from nesting sea turtles to resident and migratory shore and wading birds.

TPWD and its partners have been seeking opportunities to protect more of the peninsula and the shoreline surrounding Matagorda Bay. TPWD staff has an interest in the acquisition of three tracts consisting of approximately 1,750 acres from a willing seller to increase critical habitat, to expand research and management activities for indigenous and migratory wildlife species. Local staff regard this land as a high priority acquisition for the CMA and no additional staff or infrastructure would be required.

So on this map in red, we see the Mad Island Wildlife Management Area. Just east of there in blue, we see an ongoing acquisition project. And just east of there in yellow, we see the subject tracts for this 1,750 acres. Also in green in the -- on the right side, you see part of the Matagorda Peninsula Coastal Management Area.

As of 5:00 p.m. last night, public comment, we have received 755 responses. 175 in support, 580 in opposition. It should be noted that on the opposition written comments, those comments were not germane to this specific item.

So staff recommends that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorizes the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to acquire approximately 1,750 acres in Matagorda County for addition to the Matagorda Peninsula Coastal Management Area. And I'd be happy to answer any questions.


Any questions?

All right. We have one speaker -- we have one speaker, John Sheppard. John.

MR. JOHN SHEPPARD: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. My name is John Sheppard. I'm the Executive Director of the Texas Foundation for Conservation. We are in support of this agenda item.

The small land acquisitions come up almost every Commission meeting, and they're incredibly important. They don't get the same amount of fanfare that, you know, opening a new state park gets; but it's incredibly important work. And I just wanted to say thank you to this Commission and this Agency for taking these steps to make sure that the opportunities for outdoor recreation are available to all Texans.



CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Is there a motion for approval?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Is there a second?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All in favor please say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

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

Action 8, Acquisition of Land, Briscoe County, Approximately 1,100 Acres at Caprock Canyons State Park and Trailway, Mr. Vick.

MR. VICK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name's Trey Vick. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. I'm presenting today an acquisition of land in Briscoe County at Caprock Canyons State Park and Trailway.

Here's a map. You can see approximately where the state park is located. Caprock Canyons State Park and Trailway consists of approximately 15,300 acres in Briscoe County, making it the third largest state park in Texas. Caprock Canyons State Park opened in 1982. In 1993, the trailway was created when it was acquired -- 64 miles of railway right-of-way was acquired. Today the park hosts the state bison herd of Texas, which was donated to the State of Texas in 1997 and originally preserved by Charles Goodnight and his wife.

The proposed acquisition, staff has an interest in this acquisition of approximately 1,100 acres from a willing seller. It's to increase critical habitat for the state bison herd, increase public access to the state park, and expand recreational opportunities for the park. Here you can see a map of the state park outlined in red. The proposed acquisition is outlined in yellow.

As of 5:00 o'clock yesterday afternoon, we received 727 responses. 180 in support, 547 in opposition. And as Jason mentioned on the last item, per of the written comments, these were not germane to this acquisition.


MR. VICK: So the recommendation is that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorize the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to acquire approximately 1,100 acres of land in Briscoe County for addition to Caprock Canyons State Park and Trailway. I'd be happy to answer any questions.


Any questions?

If not, is there a motion for approval? Motion someone?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Second? Is there a second?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All in favor please say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Any opposed? Hearing none, the motion carries.

MR. VICK: Thank you-all.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Action Item No. 9 -- thank you very much -- Exchange of Land, Cameron County, Acquisition of Approximately 477 Acres --

COMMISSIONER ABELL: That one's been withdrawn.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: I know. But do I have to read that into the record?

MR. MURPHY: Yes, Chairman.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Acquisition of Approximately 477 Acres in Exchange for Approximately 43 Acres at Boca Chica State Park, the item has been withdrawn.

And the last Briefing Item, No. 10, Black Bear Update.

Sorry, court reporter. Just bear with us. We're almost there.

THE REPORTER: No pun intended, right?

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Yeah, exactly. Very nice.

Okay. Ms. Karelus.

DR. KARELUS: Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission, Dr. Yoskowitz. For the record, my name is Dr. Dana Karelus. I am the State Mammal Specialist in the the Nongame and Rare Species Program within the Wildlife Division. My position oversees the research and conservation efforts for the nongame mammals in the state, including bears. So today I'll be providing a briefing on Black bears in Texas. My presentation will cover Black bear biology, the history of Black bears in Texas, their current status and our monitoring efforts, our management plan, and our work to assist the public in living alongside bears.

Black bears are typically black, though there are some other color morphs throughout their range including brown, blond, or even white. The average weight of adult females is somewhere around 140 pounds and for males, it's somewhere around 250 pounds; but bears in Texas tend to be on the smaller side of the spectrum. Black bears are omnivorous and eat mainly plant matter, including prickly pears as in this photo. The next largest portion of their diet is made up of insects. And if they get any meat at all, it's the smallest portion of their diet. They usually only eat meat when they find a carcass to scavenge on or otherwise find an easy opportunistic meal.

Bears have seasonal cycles. Summer is breeding season for them and in this season, they're usually consuming around 5,000 calories per day. In the fall they go into what's called hyperphagia or a period of increased hunger to prepare for winter denning. This causes them to eat around 20,000 calories per day and they'll spend up to 20 hours per day eating. In West Texas, denning typically begins around January 1st, although there's a lot of variation in that. All pregnant females have to den; but where food may still be available, other bears don't always den for the entire season. However, they will typically reduce their movements.

Pregnant females give birth to cubs around February 1st, and they'll remain with their cubs in the den until about sometime in April. Females generally have their first litter of cubs around four years old body, but it depends on their body condition and their first litter may be delayed if they aren't fit enough. They generally have two or three cubs and the cubs will remain with their mother until they're about one and a half years old, at which point they go off on their own. Young males often disperse, meaning they leave their natal range and they may travel far distances and eventually settle down somewhere else. Whereas females typically stay in the area and settle down close to their mothers. Female dispersal is relatively rare. This life history means that population growth and recolonization can be slow and depends very strongly on that female survival and her less common dispersal.

It's important to note here that when I talk about bear populations and recolonization, I'm referring to the presence of resident females and confirmed reproduction in an area. Because given how far bears can travel, the presence of a single bear does not mean there's a population in that area.

Male Black bears have larger home ranges than females; but, otherwise, their home ranges are highly variable. Bears in very productive ecosystems where food sources are plentiful will have smaller home ranges and bears in places where resources are more scarce will have smaller home -- or larger home ranges. Additionally, season can impact their home range size and in times of drought or food scarcity, they may travel even farther to find food.

Black bears will choose to use forested habitat with thick cover if it's available, but they are a generalist species and can be found in other habitats so long as there's enough food and cover for them. This map shows the current Black bear range in gold and the areas in red are where bears occurred historically, but are now extirpated and extirpated just means that they were extinct from that specific area.

Black bears used to occur throughout most of Canada, the United States, and Mexico; but due to overharvest, persecution, and habitat loss, many populations across their range were reduced in size or were extirpated. However, populations in several places have rebounded as agencies put in place protections and regulations on take. In some cases, agencies also reintroduced bears to their region and contemporary protection of habitat has also helped.

Similarly in Texas, Black bears historically occurred across a fair portion of the state. This map here shows counties where bears were documented before 1860, but bear populations in East Texas were extirpated by the early 1900s and populations were extirpated across all of Texas by the 50s. The story was also similar in Mexico and resulted in Mexico listing Black bears as endangered in their country in 1985. In 1987, Texas Parks and Wildlife listed Black bears as state endangered. Their status was changed to state threatened by 1997, and that threatened status remains in place in Texas today. So that means it's still illegal to hunt, harass, or kill them.

A slight aside, the Louisiana Black bear is a subspecies that historically occurred throughout East Texas, Louisiana, and southwest Mississippi. U.S. Fish and Wildlife listed the subspecies as federally threatened in 1992; but since that time, populations in Louisiana have grown and it was removed from the federal list in 2016. However, all bears that are in Texas today are the same species of American Black bear, regardless of that subspecies and all are state threatened.

The first known recolonizing bears in Texas came from Mexico and settled in the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park in the 80s. And Big Bend National Park is highlighted in green on this map with the U.S./Mexico border in blue. In 1988, only one female with cubs was known in the park; but by March of 2000, there were at least 29 bears, including six females. Bears were also found in the surrounding lower elevations, including at Black Gap Management Area. However, they are much less prevalent out there than in the forested habitat in the Chisos and we know that at least some of those bears were using both habitats.

In the fall of 2000, drought and associated food shortages caused 13 out of 15 collared bears to leave the park and travel extreme distances to various places in Mexico. The lines on this map here show how far each bear went into Mexico from the Chisos and this is one of the largest migration and dispersal events recorded for Black bears. Only four of those collared bears returned to Texas the following year, which are represented by those pink lines on the map and the total number of bears living in the national park dramatically decreased down to only five to seven bears and only two of those were females.

This highlights the potential vulnerability of our bear population to drought and other changes in the environment. It also illustrates the importance of connectivity with Mexico for our bears and it likely helps explain, at least in part, why recolonization in West Texas has been so slow.

As part of our monitoring, TPWD collects bear sightings reports from the public and also documents mortalities. The map on the left shows the numbers of confirmed reports across the state over the last ten years and darker colors indicate more reports. The map on the right shows counties in red that have been -- that have had confirmed breeding records of females with cubs. Because sightings reports are only opportunistic and voluntarily reported to us, we can't use this data to estimate population size or determine detail trend and as I mentioned before, an individual bear may show up almost anywhere. So we need proof of mothers with cubs in an area before we can say there's a population there, but the reports are helpful in generally understanding where bears are showing up and it does appear that there are likely more a bears in Texas today than a few decades ago.

Most of the reports are in the Trans-Pecos and West Texas, which makes sense given that recolonization from Mexico because those are counties where breeding has been confirmed; but we also get a handful of reports in South Texas, Northeast Texas, and the northwestern panhandle. Given those are so few and there's been no evidence of breeding in those regions, it's likely that those are just bears wandering into Texas from Mexico, Arkansas, Oklahoma, or New Mexico.

So there's a lot we don't know about the bears in Texas. One area of knowledge gap is surrounding our understanding of the population size and trend. The bears in West Texas live in vast, rugged desert terrain, like Black Gap Wildlife Management Area as in this photo. It's unique compared to Black bear habitat in other states. So first we need to come up with ways to tailor some of the standard bear population monitoring methods to our unique landscape. Next we need to understand how stable the bears home ranges are in West Texas. Are they making a home in Texas or are they continuously moving around and leave for Mexico? And, of course, it will be good to start getting population estimates for West Texas and then hopefully we can start tracking trends in population size.

So we're beginning a study this year with Borderlands Research Institute and Texas Tech University to answer these questions. We'll be using GPS collar data from bears in the region and also putting out hair snares. And now hair snares are just -- usually they're corrals made of barbed wire wrapped around three or four trees and then they place a scent lure in the center of that and then when the bear goes in to inspect that scent lure, some hair gets snagged on that barbed wire. It doesn't hurt the bear at all.

But ours will have to be a little bit different because, of course, we don't have so many trees out there. But the idea of snagging some hair will be the same. We'll then use that hair to genetically identify individuals and using careful study design and repeated detection of those individuals, it will allow us to estimate the population density and then get an estimate of abundance. And so results from this study will give us a better understanding of bear range stability in West Texas, it will give us an estimate of the number of bears out there, and it will provide us with methods and protocols for future population monitoring in our unique landscape.

We have a Black bear management plan that came out last year. We have to thank Texas Black Bear Alliance for their feedback on earlier drafts of this. There's several goals in the plan, but I'm just going to point out the following three. So first we want to minimize the frequency of human/bear conflicts. It should be of no surprise that wherever there are bears and people, conflicts are likely to happen. There can be a lot of easy food or attractants out around people, their homes and properties from garbage to pet food and bird feeders to uncleaned -- uncleaned grills and deer feeders. Unsecured attractants are the number one cause of human/bear conflict and it's up to people to secure their attractants, so education and outreach is important.

Another goal is to improve the outcomes of conflicts. We work towards this goal by providing staff with training on bear behavior and aversive conditioning and then by hazing bears as necessary. In this way, we work towards preventing bears from learning to associate people with food and to try and keep them from repeating conflict behavior. But again, this will only help if people have secured their attractants.

And the last goal that I'll point out is that we want to minimize human induced mortality of bears. Our threatened population is likely still relatively small and the survival of every individual -- again, especially females -- is critical. So TPWD staff do a lot of public education and outreach to help reduce conflicts and here are just a few of the materials that we have for the public, from fliers on how to live with bears and how to stay safe when out in bear country to magnets with the BearWise Basics on them and stickers to help remind people to secure their trash.

We also actively engage with the public. In 2023, West Texas staff organized an event in Terlingua for the public to come out and learn about bears, the work that's happening, and how to reduce conflicts. Additionally, staff throughout the state have had tables or given presentations at other events where they can talk to people about being bear wise and share all of those fliers and stickers and such.

And recently our wildlife diversity video producer made some videos on bears for the TPWD YouTube channel. One on solutions for bear country where they go over all of the BearWise Basics and how to secure attractants and another video showing people how electric fencing works and how to electrify various types of deer feeders to keep bears out, but still let deer have access. Deer feeders can be a huge source of easy, free food for bears; but electricity is a strong deterrent. Our West Texas staff have been working very hard over the last several years to come up with these -- with these designs because again there are unique challenges in West Texas. And so these two videos are available on YouTube for viewing at your leisure.

Staff also go out and work directly with people. By working with residents, local business owners, and the disposal companies, last year West Texas staff facilitated the upgrade of several regular dumpsters in the area, like in the upper smaller photo there, to bear resistant dumpsters, which is in the larger picture. Those metal lids and the bear-proof latch mechanism prevent bears from being able to get into them.

And if there has been conflict, staff use social media or direct contact to alert locals in the area. Additionally, staff go out and help people secure the more involved attractants such as when they need help to electrify those various types of feeders and put up fencing. And just in the one picture here, this feeder is surrounded by a fence with an electrified wire running across the top.

And so here I have a video to show you how successful electricity is at keeping bears out. So you'll see this is from our bear deterrent project and you'll see when the bear touches both that grounding panel and the hot wire, he gets zapped and, you know, runs away. So the bears learn from this and they often won't attempt to get past a hot electric fence again. Oops, oh no.

So in all of these ways, we're working to help people and bears coexist as bears return to Texas. And with that, I thank you and I'll be any happy to take any questions.


Any questions?

Fascinating. Really very interesting. Didn't know we had a lot -- a very large bear population. All right. Well, great. Well, thank you.

And I'm happy to announce that, Dr. Yoskowitz -- any other comments?

All right. Dr. Yoskowitz, this Commission has completed its business and I declare us adjourned at 1:40 p.m.

DR. YOSKOWITZ: Thank you, 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 ______________, ________.


Jeffery D. Hildebrand, Chairman


Oliver J. Bell, Vice-Chairman


James E. Abell, Member


William "Leslie" Doggett, Member


Paul Foster, Member


Anna B. Galo, Member


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


Travis B. Rowling, Member


Dick Scott, 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, 2025

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