|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2006-01-30                                    |
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   SEARCH: public comment

[ Note: This item is more than 11 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [SL]
Jan. 30, 2006
TPWD Unveils Proposed Hunting, Fishing Rule Changes
AUSTIN, Texas -- The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is recommending changes to next year's hunting and fishing regulations, expanding upon the success of several resource management initiatives.
Proposals being considered include: an expansion of special whitetail buck harvest regulations into 40 more counties, broadening of the popular Managed Lands Permit Program to include provisions for upland game birds and elimination of the trophy tarpon tagging requirements.
The department will be seeking comment on these and other proposed changes to the state's hunting and fishing regulations during an upcoming series of public hearings.
Each year, TPWD considers changes in hunting and fishing regulations to achieve resource management objectives and maximize outdoor recreation opportunities consistent with good stewardship. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission will make a final decision on the proposals during its April 5 public hearing.
Expand special buck harvest regulations in 40 counties: Among the most ambitious proposals considered is an expansion of special antler restrictions on whitetail deer. Antler restriction regulations currently in effect in 21 counties in the Oak Prairie ecoregion have been effective in improving the age structure of the buck herd, increasing hunter opportunity, and encouraging landowners and hunters to become more actively involved in better habitat management.
Under the regulation, a lawful buck is defined as any buck having at least one unbranched antler OR an inside antler spread of at least 13 inches. The bag limit in the affected counties would be two lawful bucks, no more than one of which may have an inside spread of greater than 13 inches.
Additional counties being considered under this regulation include: Bell, Bosque, Bowie, Camp, Cass, Cherokee, Comal (east of IH 35), Comanche, Coryell, Delta, Eastland, Erath, Fannin, Franklin, Gregg, Hamilton, Harrison, Hays (east of IH 35), Hopkins, Houston, Lamar, Lampasas, Leon, Marion, Morris, Nacogdoches, Panola, Rains, Red River, Rusk, Sabine, San Augustine, Shelby, Somervell, Titus, Travis (east of IH 35), Upshur, Williamson, Wilson, and Wood counties.
Hunting pressure on buck deer in these counties has been excessive for many years. In 1971, the bag limit in most counties in the eastern third of the state was reduced from two bucks to one in an effort to mitigate excessive hunting pressure.
Despite the reduction, the data continues to indicate excessive harvest of bucks, which results in very poor age structure. Research results indicate that poor age structure within a buck herd creates a longer breeding season, which in turn leads to a longer fawning season and a reduction in fawn production. Poor age structure also contributes to adverse hunter satisfaction.
The criteria used for candidate counties were: the county currently must be a one-buck county, 60 percent of the buck harvest in the county must consist of bucks less than 3.5 years of age, and the county must have a contiguous border with another county in which antler restriction regulations have been implemented. On this basis, the department identified the 40 counties affected by the proposed amendment.
Expand managed lands permits to upland game birds: Another proposal would allow for the establishment of special seasons and bag limits for upland game birds (Rio Grande turkey, quail, pheasant, lesser prairie-chicken, and chachalaca), by species, on properties managed by the landowner under a department-approved wildlife management plan.
The plan would be required to incorporate habitat-based management regimes beneficial to these upland game bird species. In return, landowners would be given additional flexibility in managing harvest based on annual quotas determined by a combination of data including existing habitat conditions and quality of improvements, populations surveys to determine bird production and considerations to assure carrying through a surplus sufficient to maintain or increase future population levels, and keeping decisions based on management goals.
The department believes that the use of incentives such as enhanced bag limits and extended season lengths are useful tools to encourage landowners to engage in practices that are scientifically proven to maintain healthy ecosystems.
Create harvest rules for alligator hunting: TPWD is also proposing to establish the open seasons, rules for tag issuance and use, reporting requirements, and provisions for the sale of alligators taken under a Texas hunting license in counties outside the historic range of the American alligator in Texas; basically counties outside East Texas and along the coast.
Increase deer bag limit in Upton County: TPWD is also proposing to implement a four-deer bag limit for the entirety of Upton County. Under current rules, the bag limit in the portions of Upton County that are either north of U.S. Highway 67 or both south of U.S. Highway 67 and west of State Highway 349 is three deer.
If implemented, the entire county would have a January muzzleloader season for antlerless and spike-buck deer. Department data indicate that deer populations in the northern and western parts of the county are increasing and able to withstand additional hunting pressure.
Additionally, the counties adjoining Upton County on the east and northeast (Glasscock and Reagan counties) contain deer densities similar to those found in Upton County but are under a more liberal regulation (5 deer; no more than 2 bucks) than that being proposed for Upton County. The regulations have been in effect in Glasscock and Reagan counties for five years, and the deer herds in these counties have experienced no adverse impacts. The department therefore does not anticipate that the proposed amendment will result in either waste or depletion of the resource. The proposal also would expand the late muzzleloader season countywide.
Prohibit harvest of largetooth sawfish (Pristis perotteti). The proposal is necessary because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has listed the smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata) as endangered. Due to the extreme difficulty in distinguishing the smalltooth sawfish from the largetooth sawfish, the department believes that protection of both species is the only way to protect the listed species.
Eliminate trophy tarpon tag: TPWD is also proposing to eliminate the requirement that tarpon be tagged and instead would implement a minimum length limit. Under current rules, no person may catch and retain a tarpon of less than 80 inches in length, but may retain one tarpon of more than 80 inches in length by tagging the fish with the trophy tarpon tag from the person's fishing license.
The proposed amendment would eliminate the tagging requirement and replace it with a bag limit of one tarpon of 80 inches in length or longer per person.
Alter black drum harvest rules: A similar proposal also would modify the rules governing possession of black drum. Currently, black drum are managed by means of a bag limit combined with minimum and maximum size limits. The proposed amendment would allow a person to keep one black drum of greater than 52 inches in length per day.
Reduce possession limits on flounder: The department is proposing a reduction to the possession limit for flounder taken under a recreational license. Under current rule, the possession limit for any fish is twice the daily bag limit, unless specified otherwise. Thus, with a daily bag limit of 10, the possession limit for flounder is 20, and for those flounder fishing trips which last past midnight the 20 fish per angler possession limit applies. The proposed change would make the possession limit identical to the daily bag limit.
Naming tripletail (Lobotes surinamensis) a game fish: TPWD proposes to list tripletail as a game fish and create a minimum size of 17 inches and daily bag limit of 3 fish [6 in possession]. This rule is similar to what other states have adopted and since tripletail females reach reproductive maturity at about 17 inches, this would provide protection through at least an initial spawning cycle."
Increasing minimum length limits on largemouth bass: The current harvest regulations for largemouth bass on 250-acre Marine Creek Reservoir (Tarrant County) consist of statewide 14-inch minimum length limit and a five-fish daily bag limit. The proposal would implement an 18-inch minimum length limit. The change is necessary because Marine Creek Reservoir has been selected to be involved in the Operation World Record research project.
The project will involve stocking coded-wire tagged largemouth bass and monitoring their growth for a minimum of five years following stocking. The stocked bass are ShareLunker offspring and are valuable, considering the limited number that will be produced and their importance to the project.
The ShareLunker program allows anglers to loan largemouth bass weighing 13 pounds or more to the department for spawning and research purposes, which include the study of genetics, life history, growth, performance, behavior, and competition. The increased length limit will protect the stocked bass through at least 18 inches and will increase the department's ability to evaluate their performance in natural systems.
Add baitfish restrictions in Kinney County: The proposal would add Kinney County to current list of counties where bait fish are restricted to common carp, fathead minnows, gizzard and threadfin shad, golden shiners, goldfish, Mexican tetra, Rio Grande cichlid, silversides (Atherinidae family), and sunfish (Lepomis). The restrictions were promulgated to protect endangered pupfish (Cyprinodon) in the western Texas.
The proposed change would also protect the Devils River minnow, which only occurs in Val Verde and Kinney counties. Currently, 17 counties in that area, including Val Verde County, have a similar restriction on certain baitfishes.
Allow bowfishermen to take catfish: Another proposal would make bowfishing a legal means for the take of flathead, channel and blue catfish. Bag, possession and size restrictions would mirror current regulations for legal means and methods for harvest.
Public comment about these issues and others of interest may be made to TPWD, Regulatory Proposals Public Comment, 4200 Smith School Road, 78744, by phoning (800) 792-1112 or by visiting tpwd.texas.gov/business/feedback/public_comment.
2006 TPWD Statewide Public Hearing Calendar

[ Note: This item is more than 11 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [TH]
Jan. 30, 2006
Crockett County Motorized Trail Grant Approved
AUSTIN, Texas - The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission on Jan. 26 approved a $1,359,500 grant to the Texas Motorized Trails Coalition, a not for profit organization, to acquire 3,323 acres in Crockett County for the purpose of developing a managed off-highway vehicle recreation area.
After hearing public testimony for and against the grant proposal, the commission voted to approve land acquisition for the project, with the understanding that before the site is open to the public the state agency staff would come back to the commission for approval of a plan to develop and operate the motor vehicle park.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department grants staff committed to work with all parties involved to plan site development to try to accommodate concerns of neighboring landowners. The property is being purchased from a willing seller. Local officials and business owners -- including the local chamber of commerce -- from nearby Ozona also are supportive. Several nearby property owners have voiced strong opposition.
"It's important to understand that the Texas Motorized Trails Coalition won't just buy this property and open the gate in a free-for-all," said Walt Dabney, director of the TPWD State Parks Division, which includes the department's Recreational Grants Branch. "They have strict rules of conduct. You have to stay on designated trails, and if your conduct is unacceptable, you're out of there. They pride themselves on doing a good job of managing a site, and they've demonstrated that with Barnwell Mountain."
The Texas Motorized Trails Coalition has operated the 1,800-acre Barnwell Mountain Recreation Area near Gilmer in Upshur County in Northeast Texas since 2000. Facilities include showers, restrooms, an air station, pavilion, office and campsites with R/V hookups and electricity.
"The Texas Motorized Trails Coalition has a safe and successful operation near Gilmer," said John Parker, TPW commissioner from Lufkin. "The local community there loves it, because it brings in a ton of business."
Coalition secretary and research chemist Dick Stuart told commissioners about preliminary results of a university research study contracted by the coalition. He said this shows that visitors to the Barnwell Mountain area in a six month period spent an average of about $20,000 per weekend in Upshur County and surrounding communities on lodging, food, supplies and other expenses. He said this is estimated to generate more than $1 million per year in out-of-county visitor spending.
The department held two public meetings in Ozona in September and October last year to get community input on the proposed Crockett County project and has also done an initial natural and cultural resource survey. The grants program staff presented the proposal to the TPW Commission on Nov. 8. Because of landowner concerns expressed then, commissioners directed the staff to continue to study the proposal and seek additional public comment.
Concerns about the project include the possibility of increased traffic, noise pollution, grass fires and erosion. The TPWD staff believes these concerns can be addressed by controlling site development to make sure there are adequate visual and noise buffer zones along the perimeter, plus good fences to control traffic and prevent trespass onto neighboring land.
The site includes a canyon approximately 300 feet below the main landscape level, and planners believe noise can be minimized if most activity takes place down in the canyon. The trails coalition said the property has two water wells with 20,000-gallon storage, and the group intends to create a fire substation on site. Regarding erosion, the site contains no running streams or springs. The project calls for silt retention structures to minimize off-site erosion run-off during storms.
The site was chosen because of its remoteness, good paved access and low likelihood to impact natural or cultural resources. All necessary natural and cultural resource clearances and permits would be obtained prior to construction.
Two recently enacted state laws are driving the creation of new off-highway vehicle recreation areas in Texas.
The 78th Texas Legislature enacted Senate Bill 155 several years ago, which closed all navigable stream beds in Texas, except for some parts of the Canadian and Red Rivers, to motorized recreational vehicles. That law also directed TPWD to "facilitate development of sites for motor vehicle recreation other than protected freshwater areas."
The more recent 79th Texas Legislature last year enacted Senate Bill 1311, which directed TPWD to establish and maintain a public system of trails and other recreational areas for use by off-highway vehicles.
The National Recreational Trails Fund (NRTF) is the funding source for the Crockett County grant. This 80-20 matching grant program requires grant recipients to come up with an additional amount equal to 20 percent of the federal grant.
These funds come from the federal tax generated by gasoline purchases for off-road recreational vehicles, such as off-road motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles. The purpose is to create and maintain motorized and non-motorized recreational trails.
A federal requirement is that 30 percent of the funds be spent on motorized recreational trail projects, 30 percent on non-motorized trail projects, with the remaining 40 percent discretionary.
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