Proposed 2020-21 Migratory Game Bird Proclamation

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Video Presentation for Migratory Game Bird Items

Proposal

Decrease scaup daily bag limits from 3 to 1 in all zones for the 2020-21 hunting season.

Background

In 2008, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) implemented a decision-making framework to inform scaup harvest regulations. Currently, a national harvest strategy determines the bag limit for scaup on an annual basis. Based on current population size and harvest strategy, the predicted breeding population size is an estimated 3.59 million, thus the optimal regulation choice for the 2020 hunting season in the Central Flyway is the restrictive regulatory alternative by the USFWS.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department cannot select bag limits that are more liberal than the regulatory framework based on USFWS regulations, thus there is no other regulatory options for daily bag limits during the 2020-21 waterfowl hunting season.

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Proposal

Decrease light goose daily bag limits from 20 to 10 in both goose zones (Eastern and Western) during the regular season for the 2020-21 hunting season.

Background

Light goose populations continue to decline during the wintering period across Texas, especially in the Gulf Coast region. Wintering populations have declined from over a million light geese being surveyed in 2000 to less than 250,000 wintering in the same region this last year. As populations have decreased, harvest has decreased accordingly across the state during the same time period with a vast majority of the harvest occurring during the regular season, not the Conservation Order harvest. In order to have regulations more commensurate with population status in Texas, a decrease in daily bag limit has been proposed.

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Proposal

Shift season dates for the Western Goose Zone later during the 2020-21 hunting season compared to the previous year.

Background

Based on public input and biologists’ observations, more geese appear to be available for harvest later (January/ February) compared to early in the hunting season (November) within the Western Zone. To allow for more public opportunity, proposed season dates (November 14, 2020 – February 14, 2021) have been shifted one week later (near the end of the federal frameworks) to allow for more harvest opportunity. Subsequent to this change, the Conservation Order dates will begin directly after the regular season end (February 15, 2021).

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Proposal

Shift season dates for snipe season later into February during the 2020-21 hunting season compared to the previous year.

Background

Based on public input, snipe hunters, especially in the Gulf Coast region of Texas, would prefer hunting dates extended farther into February, thus the season would start later as well. Based on input, more hunting opportunity occurs with this shifting of these proposed season dates (November 7, 2020 – February 21, 2021) due to decreased competition with waterfowl hunters, along with increased in potential flooded habitats suitable for snipe occupancy.

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2020-2021 Migratory Game Bird Proclamation

Proposal Preamble

1. Introduction.

        The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (the department) proposes amendments to §§65.314-65.320, concerning the Migratory Game Bird Proclamation.

        The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) issues annual frameworks for the hunting of migratory game birds in the United States. Regulations adopted by individual states may be more restrictive than the federal frameworks but may not be less restrictive. Responsibility for establishing seasons, bag limits, means, methods, and devices for harvesting migratory game birds within Service frameworks is delegated to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission (Commission) under Parks and Wildlife Code, Chapter 64, Subchapter C.

        The proposed amendments would specify the season dates and bag limits for the 2020-2021 migratory game bird seasons. The remainder of the amendments, with the exceptions addressed later in this preamble, would retain the season structures and bag limits for all migratory game birds from last year and serve only to adjust the season dates to allow for calendar shift (i.e., to ensure that seasons open on the desired day of the week, since dates from a previous year do not fall on the same days in following years).

        The exceptions are as follows.

        The proposed amendment to §65.315, concerning Ducks, Coots, Mergansers, and Teal, will reduce the bag limit for scaup from three to one in compliance with the federal frameworks. The commission cannot modify or alter the mandates of the federal frameworks.

        The proposed amendment to §65.316, concerning Geese, would open the light and dark goose seasons in the Western Zone one week later than has been the case in the past and reduce the daily bag limit for light geese in both goose zones from 20 birds to 10 birds. The department has noticed a gradual shift in migration chronology in that part of the state, characterized by the later arrival of large numbers of geese in the Western Zone and believes that moving the opening date will result in greater hunter opportunity. The proposed amendment also necessitates a conforming change to the traditional opening day of the Light Goose Conservation Order as well. The bag limit reduction is necessitated by continuing concerns about long-term declines in wintering populations of light geese, especially along the Texas coast. Department data indicate that populations of wintering light geese in Texas have declined by over 50% since 1970, and although a variety of factors are believed to be responsible, primarily habitat loss, the department believes that a reduction in the daily bag limit is warranted.

        The proposed amendment to §65.319, concerning Gallinules, Rails, Snipe, and Woodcock, would open the season for snipe two weeks later than in years past. Hunter survey data indicate a preference for a later season, and the department does not believe that moving the opening date to a later time will result in negative population impacts.

2. Fiscal Note.

        Clayton Wolf, Wildlife Division Director, has determined that for the first five years that the amendments as proposed are in effect, there will be no additional fiscal implications to state or local governments of enforcing or administering the rules as proposed.

3. Public Benefit/Cost Note.

        Mr. Wolf also has determined that for each of the first five years the proposed rules are in effect:

        (A) The public benefit anticipated as a result of enforcing the rules as proposed will be the department’s discharge of its statutory obligation to manage and conserve the state’s populations of migratory game birds for the use and enjoyment of the public, consistent with the principles of sound biological management.

        (B) Under the provisions of Government Code, Chapter 2006, a state agency must prepare an economic impact statement and a regulatory flexibility analysis for a rule that may have an adverse economic effect on small businesses, micro-businesses, or rural communities. As required by Government Code, §2006.002(g), the Office of the Attorney General has prepared guidelines to assist state agencies in determining a proposed rule’s potential adverse economic impact on small and microbusinesses and rural communities. Those guidelines state that an agency need only consider a proposed rule’s “direct adverse economic impacts” to determine if any further analysis is required. The department considers “direct economic impact” to mean a requirement that would directly impose recordkeeping or reporting requirements; impose taxes or fees; result in lost sales or profits; adversely affect market competition; or require the purchase or modification of equipment or services.

        The department has determined that the proposed rules regulate various aspects of recreational license privileges that allow individual persons to pursue and harvest migratory game bird resources in this state and therefore do not directly affect small businesses, micro-businesses, or rural communities. Therefore, neither the economic impact statement nor the regulatory flexibility analysis described in Government Code, Chapter 2006, is required.

        There will be no adverse economic effect on persons required to comply with the rules as proposed.

        (C) The department has not drafted a local employment impact statement under the Administrative Procedures Act, §2001.022, as the agency has determined that the rules as proposed will not impact local economies.

        (D) The department has determined that Government Code, §2001.0225 (Regulatory Analysis of Major Environmental Rules), does not apply to the proposed rules.

        (E) The department has determined that there will not be a taking of private real property, as defined by Government Code, Chapter 2007, as a result of the proposed rules.

        (F) In compliance with the requirements of Government Code, §2001.0221, the department has prepared the following Government Growth Impact Statement (GGIS).  The rule as proposed, if adopted, will:

                 (1) neither create nor eliminate a government program;

                 (2) not result in an increase or decrease in the number of full-time equivalent employee needs;

                 (3) not result in a need for additional General Revenue funding;

                 (4) not affect the amount of any fee;

                 (5) not create a new regulation, but replace existing regulations;

                 (6) not expand or limit an existing regulation, but will replace existing regulations;

                 (7) neither increase nor decrease the number of individuals subject to regulation; and

                 (8) not positively or adversely affect the state’s economy.

4. Request for Public Comment.

        Comments on the proposed rules may be submitted to Shaun Oldenburger (Small Game/ Bird Program Director) at 512-389-4778, e-mail: shaun.oldenburger@tpwd.texas.gov. or

via the department website at www.tpwd.texas.gov.

5. Statutory Authority.

        The amendments are proposed under Parks and Wildlife Code, Chapter 64, which authorizes the Commission and the Executive Director to provide the open season and means, methods, and devices for the hunting and possessing of migratory game birds.

        The proposed amendments affect Parks and Wildlife Code, Chapter 64.

6. Rule Text.

        §65.314. Doves (Mourning, White-Winged, White-Tipped, White-Fronted Doves).

                 (a) (No change.)

                 (b) Seasons; Daily Bag Limits.

                         (1) North Zone.

                                  (A) Dates: September 1 — November 12, 2020 and December 18, 2020 — January 3, 2021[September 1 — November 12, 2019 and December 20, 2019 — January 5, 2020].

                                  (B) (No change.)

                         (2) Central Zone.

                                  (A) Dates: September 1 — November 1, 2020 and December 18, 2020 — January 14, 2021[September 1 — November 3, 2019 and December 20, 2019 — January 14, 2020].

                                  (B) (No change.)

                 (3) South Zone and Special White-winged Dove Area.

                                  (A) Dates: September 5, 6, 12, and 13, 2020; September 14 — November 1, 2020; and December 18, 2020 — January 23, 2021[September 1, 2, 7, and 8, 2019; September 14 — November 3, 2019; and December 20, 2019 — January 23, 2020].

                                  (B) Daily bag limit:

                                          (i) on September 5, 6, 12, and 13, 2020[September 1, 2, 7, and 8, 2019]; 15 white-winged doves, mourning doves, and white-tipped (white-fronted) doves, in the aggregate to include no more than two mourning doves and two white-tipped (white-fronted) doves per day.

                                          (ii) from September 14 — November 1, 2020; and December 18, 2020 — January 23, 2021[September 14 — November 3, 2019 and December 20, 2019 — January 23, 2020]; 15 mourning doves, white-winged doves, and white-tipped (white-fronted) doves in the aggregate, including no more than two white-tipped (white-fronted) doves per day.

        §65.315. Ducks, Coots, Mergansers, and Teal.

                 (a) (No change.)

                 (b) Season dates and bag limits.

                         (1) HPMMU.

                                  (A) For all species other than "dusky ducks": October 31 – November 1, 2020 and November 6, 2020 — January 31, 2021[October 26 — 27, 2019 and November 1, 2019 — January 26, 2020]; and

                                  (B) "dusky ducks": November 9, 2020 — January 31, 2021[November 4, 2019 — January 26, 2020].

                         (2) North Zone.

                                  (A) For all species other than "dusky ducks": November 14 – 29, 2020 and December 5, 2020 — January 31, 2021[November 9 — December 1, 2019 and December 7, 2019 — January 26, 2020]; and

                                  (B) "dusky ducks": November 19 — 29, 2020 and December 5, 2020 — January 31, 2021[November 14 — December 1, 2019 and December 7, 2019 — January 26, 2020].

                         (3) South Zone.

                                  (A) For all species other than "dusky ducks": November 7 — 29, 2020 and December 12, 2020 — January 31, 2021[November 2 — December 1, 2019 and December 14, 2019 — January 26, 2020]; and

                                  (B) "dusky ducks": November 12 – 29, 2020 and December 12, 2020 — January 31, 2021[November 7 — December 1, 2019 and December 14, 2019 — January 26, 2020].

                         (4) September teal-only season.

                                  (A) During the September teal-only special season, the season is closed for all species of ducks other than teal ducks (blue-winged, green-winged, and cinnamon).

                                  (B) Dates: September 12-27, 2020[14 — 29, 2019].

                 (c) Bag limits.

                         (1) The daily bag limit for ducks is six, which may include no more than five mallards (only two of which may be hens); three wood ducks; one[three] scaup (lesser scaup or[and] greater scaup [in the aggregate]); two redheads; two canvasbacks; one pintail; and one "dusky" duck (mottled duck, Mexican like duck, black duck and their hybrids) during the seasons established for those species in this section. For all species not listed, the daily bag limit shall be six. The daily bag limit for coots is 15. The daily bag limit for mergansers is five, which may include no more than two hooded mergansers.

                         (2) The daily bag limit during the September teal-only season is six in the aggregate.

        §65.316. Geese.

                 (a) (No change.)

                 (b) Season dates and bag limits.

                         (1) Western Zone.

                                  (A) Light geese: November 14, 2020 — February 14, 2021[November 2, 2019 — February 2, 2020]. The daily bag limit for light geese is 10[20], and there is no possession limit.

                                  (B) Dark geese: November 14, 2020 — February 14, 2021[November 2, 2019 — February 2, 2020]. The daily bag limit for dark geese is five, to include no more than two white-fronted geese.

                         (2) Eastern Zone.

                                  (A) Light geese: November 7, 2020 — January 31, 2021[November 2, 2019 — January 26, 2020]. The daily bag limit for light geese is 10[20], and there is no possession limit.

                                  (B) Dark geese:

                                          (i) Season: November 7, 2020 — January 31, 2021[November 2, 2019 — January 26, 2020];

                                          (ii) (No change.)

                 (c) September Canada goose season. Canada geese may be hunted in the Eastern Zone during the season established by this subsection. The season is closed for all other species of geese during the season established by this subsection.

                         (1) Season dates: September 12 — 27, 2020[September 14 — 29, 2019].

                         (2) (No change.)

                 (d) Light Goose Conservation Order. The provisions of paragraphs (1) — (3) of this subsection apply only to the hunting of light geese. All provisions of this subchapter continue in effect unless specifically provided otherwise in this section; however, where this section conflicts with the provisions of this subchapter, this section prevails.

                         (1) – (3) (No change.)

                         (4) Season dates.

                                  (A) From February 1 — March 14, 2021[January 27 — March 15, 2020], the take of light geese is lawful in the Eastern Zone.

                                  (B) From February 15 — March 14, 2021[February 3 — March 15, 2020], the take of light geese is lawful in the Western Zone.

        §65.317. Special Youth-Only Waterfowl Season. There shall be a Special Youth-Only Season for waterfowl, during which the hunting, taking, and possession of geese, ducks, mergansers, and coots is restricted to licensed hunters 16 years of age and younger accompanied by a person 18 years of age or older, except for persons hunting by means of falconry under the provisions of §65.320 of this title (relating to Extended Falconry Seasons).

                 (1) HPMMU:

                         (A) season dates: October 24 — 25, 2020[October 19 — 20, 2019];

                         (B) (No change.)

                 (2) North Duck Zone:

                         (A) season dates: November 7 — 8, 2020[November 2 — 3, 2019];

                         (B) (No change.)

                 (3) South Duck Zone:

                         (A) season dates: Special youth-only season: October 31 – November 1, 2020[October 26 — 27, 2019];

                         (B) (No change.)

        §65.318. Sandhill Crane.

                 (a) (No change.)

                 (b) Season dates and bag limits.

                         (1) Zone A: October 31, 2020 — January 31, 2021[October 26, 2019 — January 26, 2020]. The daily bag limit is three.

                         (2) Zone B: November 27, 2020 — January 31, 2021[November 22, 2019 — January 26, 2020]. The daily bag limit is three.

                         (3) Zone C: December 19, 2020 — January 24, 2021[December 14, 2019 — January 19, 2020]. The daily bag limit is two.

        §65.319. Gallinules, Rails, Snipe, Woodcock.

                 (a) Gallinules (moorhen or common gallinule and purple gallinule) may be taken in any county during the season established in this subsection.

                         (1) Season dates: September 12 — 27 and November 7 — December 30, 2020[September 14 — 29, 2019 and November 2 — December 25, 2019].

                         (2) (No change.)

                 (b) Rails may be taken in any county in this state during the season established by this subsection.

                         (1) Season dates: September 12 — 27 and November 7 — December 30, 2020[September 14 — 29, 2019 and November 2 — December 25, 2019].

                         (2) (No change.)

                 (c) Snipe may be taken in any county of the state during the season established by this subsection.

                         (1) Season dates: November 7, 2020 — February 21, 2021[October 26, 2019 — February 9, 2020].

                         (2) (No change.)  

                 (d) Woodcock may be taken in any county of the state during the season established by this subsection.

                         (1) Season dates: December 18, 2020 — January 31, 2021[December 18, 2019 — January 31, 2020].

                         (2) (No change.)

        §65.320. Extended Falconry Seasons. It is lawful to take the species of migratory birds listed in this section by means of falconry during the seasons established by this section.

                 (1) Mourning doves, white-winged doves and white-tipped doves: November 20 — December 6, 2020[November 16 — December 2, 2019].

                 (2) Duck, gallinule, moorhen, rail, and woodcock: February 1 — February 15, 2021[January 27 — February 9, 2020].

                 (3) – (4) (No change.)

        This agency hereby certifies that the proposal has been reviewed by legal counsel and found to be within the agency’s authority to adopt.

        Issued in Austin, Texas, on

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