Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Commission Meeting

Nov. 8, 2007

Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744

BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 8th day of November, 2007, there came to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission in the Commission Hearing Room of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex, to wit:

APPEARANCES:

THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION:

THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:


Donations of $500 or More
Not Previously Approved by the Commission
November 2007 Commission Meeting
Item Donor Description Details *Amount
1 CCA Capital Property Item 2 - Garmin 5212 GPS Map systems; Serial Numbers: 159001787 & 159001783: Provide staff with GPS units for routine field navigation and plotting $10,000.00
2 Operation Game Thief Capital Property Item 1 - Thermal Eye 250D Digital Camera; SN: 16892; For enforcement of TPWD regulations on Falcon Lake $14,881.00
3 Ken Carter Controlled Item 2 - 2001 Polaris Waverunner HIN# PLE41531D101 & PLE23781D101; 2001 Dual Trailer VIN #1BTDBKA1411J51272 $5,000.00
4 CCA Controlled Item 1 - Raymarine Auto Pilot; Serial Number: AE120920271069 & Property Number 168289; Provide staff with Auto Pilot on Research Vessel Nueces for safe and efficient navigation $4,348.95
5 CCA Controlled Item 2 - Durabook laptop computers; Serial numbers: SY7161002435 & SY7361000952; Provide staff with computers during routing travel (field and office use) $2,438.00
6 Arby's of Central Texas Other Goods 600 box lunches for Hunter Ed volunteers, parking staff and greeters and TPWD Wildlife Expo; Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $3,814.00
7 Fiocchi of America, Inc. Other Goods Ammunition for shooting sports at Teas Wildlife Expo; Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $3,466.00
8 Hill Country Wholesale Other Goods Clay birds for shooting sports activities at Texas Wildlife Expo; Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $750.00
9 Mossy Oak Other Goods Camouflage shirts for staff working at Texas Wildlife Expo; Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $7,912.00
10 Outdoor Cap Company Other Goods Mossy Oak 'cap of the year' for Texas Wildlife Expo; Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $763.20
11 SmartShield Sunscreen Other Goods Sunscreen (3,000) and after burn cream (100); Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $1,491.00
12 Winchester Ammunition Other Goods Hunting safety literature and ammunition for shooting sports at Texas Wildlife Expo; Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $1,966.00
13 Woods Wise Products Other Goods Turkey calls for youth turkey calling seminars at Texas Wildlife Expo; Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $1,266.00
14 100.7 KASE 101 In-Kind Services Media support - KASE website, Clear Channel radio stations for Texas Wildlife Expo; Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $37,695.00
15 ACM Tractor Sales In-Kind Services Provided bucket truck with 30' lift and 32' gooseneck for Texas Wildlife Expo; Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $6,426.00
16 Austin Coca-Cola Bottling Company In-Kind Services Media tags (radio spot tags); Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $3,814.00
17 Austin Rock Gym In-Kind Services Use of second, uncontracted climbing wall during Texas Wildlife Expo; Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $1,000.00
18 Benelli USA In-Kind Services Sponsor of Tom Knapp shows at Texas Wildlife Expo; Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $3,466.00
19 Best Retrievers In-Kind Services Coordinator and master of ceremony for retriever demonstrations at Texas Wildlife Expo; Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $966.00
20 Big Fish Bowfishing Texas In-Kind Services Sponsor of bowfishing activities at Texas Wildlife Expo; Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $966.00
21 Bird Dog for all Season In-Kind Services Coordinator and master of ceremony for pointer demonstrations at Texas Wildlife Expo; Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $966.00
22 Briley Manufacturing In-Kind Services Sponsor of sporting clay activities at Texas Wildlife Expo; Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $3,814.00
23 Careco Multimedia, Inc. In-Kind Services TV promotion for Texas Wildlife Expo; Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $19,062.00
24 Crosman Air Guns In-Kind Services Sponsor of airgun activities at Texas Wildlife Expo; Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $3,814.00
25 Dallas Arms Collectors In-Kind Services Sponsor of muzzle loading activities at Texas Wildlife Expo; Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $1,966.00
26 EZ Dock of Texas In-Kind Services Use of floating dock for Wet Zone at Texas Wildlife Expo; Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $1,188.00
27 Georgetown Farm Supply In-Kind Services Use of 6 John Deere Gators during Texas Wildlife Expo; Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $1,866.00
28 Haydel's Game Calls, Inc. In-Kind Services Sponsor of hunting/game calling seminars at Texas Wildlife Expo; Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $1,466.00
29 Highland Mall In-Kind Services Visitor parking at Texas Wildlife Expo; Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $12,912.00
30 Horton Manufacturing Company In-Kind Services Sponsor of crossbow activities at Texas Wildlife Expo; Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $2,466.00
31 Landford Equipment Co. In-Kind Services Use of equipment (farm equipment); Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $966.00
32 Last Chance Forever In-Kind Services Sponsor of Birds of Prey shows for Texas Wildlife Expo including 2 shows on Friday for Smith School and Ojeda Jr. High school kids; Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $1,966.00
33 Lone Star Bowhunters Association In-Kind Services Sponsor of archery activities at Texas Wildlife Expo; Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $1,966.00
34 McCoy's Building Supply In-Kind Services Store credit of $1,500.00 for needed items for Texas Wildlife Expo; Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $966.00
35 Recuerdo In-Kind Services Spanish language radio promotion of Texas Wildlife Expo; Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $20,445.00
36 The Outdoor Channel In-Kind Services Sponsor of Kim Rhode appearance at Texas Parks & Wildlife Expo; Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $2,966.00
37 Time Warner Cable In-Kind Services Media promotion of Texas Wildlife Expo; Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $20,445.00
38 Travis County 4-H Shooting Sports In-Kind Services Sponsor airgun activities at Texas Wildlife Expo; Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $2,466.00
39 Winter Kennels In-Kind Services Sponsor dog snake proofing activities at Texas Wildlife Expo; Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $966.00
40 Woods Fun Center In-Kind Services Use of 4 Polaris Rangers at Texas Wildlife Expo; Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $1,066.00
41 ACM Tractor Sales Cash Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $1,466.00
42 Academy Sports and Outdoors Cash Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $7,912.00
43 Alcoa, Inc. Cash Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $966.00
44 Apache Corporation (Tetra Technologies) Cash Creation of marine reef habitat in the Gulf of Mexico $273,300.00
45 Bass Pro, Inc. Cash Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $12,912.00
46 Brown Cow (MusicMatters) Cash Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $3,466.00
47 Dow Chemical Company Cash Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $20,445.00
48 Enterprise Rent-A-Car Cash Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $966.00
49 Fort Griffin Fandangle Cash Use of Longhorn Cattle in Fandangle Play $600.00
50 HOLT CAT Cash Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $20,445.00
51 Houston Safari Club Cash Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $3,814.00
52 Jasper County Development District #1 Cash Fund economic study at Sam Rayburn Reservoir $10,000.00
53 Koch Pipeline Company, LP Cash Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $966.00
54 LBJ Friends Group Cash Close Account $1,981.03
55 National Rifle Association Cash Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $1,966.00
56 Nation Wild Turkey Federation Cash Increase wildlife habitat management capabilities on NETEP WMA's $2,500.00
57 Neptune Harbor Canal and Property Owners Association Cash Contribution towards the implementation of the Goose Island State Park Marsh Restoration Project #101620 $15,000.00
58 OxyVinyls, LP Cash To purchase computer printer equipment $5,000.00
59 Rowan Companies, Inc. Cash Creation of marine reef habitat in the Gulf of Mexico $814,780.00
60 RV Outlet Mall Cash Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $966.00
61 Temple Inland Cash Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $3,814.00
62 Texas Bighorn Society Cash Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $966.00
63 Texas Hunter Education Instructors Association Cash Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $966.00
64 Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation (Toyota) Cash Sponsorship (State Park Guides) $88,000.00
65 Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation (Toyota) Cash Marketing - to assist with costs of producing hunting and fishing license holders $60,000.00
66 Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation (Toyota Texas Bass Classic) Cash Sponsor production costs for "How to Fish" videos $10,000.00
67 Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation Cash Construct New Game Warden Academy $1,500,000.00
68 US Sportsmens Alliance Foundation Cash Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $1,466.00
69 VerizonBusiness Cash Sponsorship for Wildlife Expo $1,966.00
Total $3,082,796.18

*Estimated value used for goods and services

Retirement Certificates
Division Name Title Location Service
State Parks Raymond C. Thaler, Jr. Manager Somerville, TX 33 Years
State Parks Sally B. Stolz Administrative Assistant Washington, TX 33 Years
Administrative Resources Deborah D. Skates Program Specialist Austin, TX 29 Years
Service Awards
Division Name Title Location Service
Coastal Fisheries Rosalind Page Campbell Program Spec. V Rockport, TX 30 Years
Law Enforcement Daniel A. Flores Game Warden Centerville, TX 30 Years
State Parks Keith L. Ahrens Park Ranger V Somerville, TX 25 Years
Law Enforcement John N. Bonham, Jr. Game Warden Floresville, TX 25 Years
Law Enforcement Keith W. Gerth Game Warden Kingsland, TX 25 Years
Law Enforcement Jimmy D. Lundberg Game Warden Era, TX 25 Years
State Parks Terrence P. Rodgers Manager II Blanco, TX 25 Years
State Parks Martha E. Gonzalez Park Ranger IV Bastrop, TX 20 Years
Wildlife Charles W. Hartje Fish & Wildlife Technician IV Port Arthur, TX 20 Years
Infrastructure Don C. Hudson Engineering Specialist VII Kerrville, TX 20 Years
Coastal Fisheries Robert W. Murphy Natural Resources Specialist III Austin, TX 20 Years
Wildlife Andrew H. Price Program Spec. V Austin, TX 20 Years
Public Testimony
Name/Organization, Address Item Position
Steve Smith, TMTC, 1904 Oak Hollow Drive, Round Rock, TX 78681 4 — Action — Approval of National Recreational Trail Grant Funding — Off-highway Vehicle Development in Crockett County For
Nickolas, Capital Bureau (San Angelo Standard Time), 1026 Clayton Lane #5402, Austin, TX, (Did not come forward to testify.) 4 — Action — Approval of National Recreational Trail Grant Funding — Off-highway Vehicle Development in Crockett County  

P R O C E E D I N G S

COMMISSIONER HOLT: The meeting is called to order. Before proceeding with any business, I believe Mr. Cook has a statement to make. Mr. Cook?

MR. COOK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

A public notice of this meeting containing all items on the proposed agenda has been filed with the Office of the Secretary of State, as required by Chapter 551 of the 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.

I have some guidelines for the folks who are here today to comment, or testify, that I'd like to cover with you right now. So that everyone will have a chance to address the Commission in an orderly fashion, we'll follow the following ground rules:

An individual wishing to speak before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission must first fill out and sign a speaker registration form for each item on the agenda to which you wish to speak. Those registration forms are out here at the desk.

The Chairman is in charge of the meeting, and by law it is his duty to preserve order, direct the order of the hearing and recognize persons to be heard. We have sign-up cards out there for everyone wishing to speak, and the Chairman will call the names from those cards, one at a time.

Each person will be allowed to speak from the podium up here, one at a time. When your name is called, please come to the podium, state your name, and who you represent, if anyone other than yourself. Then state your position on the agenda item under consideration; and add supporting facts that will help the Commission understand your concerns.

Please limit your remarks to the specific agenda item under consideration at that time. Each person who wants to address the Commission will have three minutes to speak; I will keep track of the time on this little device right here; you see right now it's green. That means you still got time left. And I will notify you when your three minutes are up; the thing will switch to red, down there, if you watch it.

When your time is up, please resume your seat so that others may speak. Your time may be extended if a commissioner has a question for you. If the commissioners ask questions or discuss something among themselves, it will not be counted time against you.

Statements that are merely argumentative or critical of others will not be tolerated. There is a microphone at the podium, so it is not necessary to raise your voice. I request that you show proper respect for the commissioners as well as other members of the audience.

You will not be recognized out of turn by raising your hand, or interrupting others. Disruptive or offensive behavior will be grounds for immediate ejection from the meeting. I request that each of you please silence or turn off your cell phone or pager, so that you will not disturb the meeting and those speaking.

If you have written materials that you want to give to the Commission, please give them to Ms. Hemby or Ms. Klaus here at my right, and they will pass those materials to the Commission. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, Bob. Our first order of business — oh, is approval of the minutes from the previous meeting, which have already been distributed.

Is there a motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER BROWN: So move.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Mr. Brown moves.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Second.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Second, Friedkin. All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: All right, thank you.

Okay, next is the acceptance of donations, which are listed and have been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: So move.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Bivins ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HIXON: Second.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: — and Hixon. All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: All right. Wonderful, thank you.

Next, our service awards and special recognition. Mr. Cook, please make the presentations. This is a great part of the morning.

MR. COOK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Yes, we appreciate this opportunity to recognize, take a few minutes to recognize employees throughout the Agency who have worked with us for many years, served us well, and served the people of Texas. And we — the ones that are retiring, we're sad to see them leave, but sometimes they come back and haunt you, you know —

(Laughter.)

VOICE: I was going to say, are you referring to anyone particular, Bob?

MR. COOK: No — but these folks have done us a great job, and we appreciate them all, and so we're glad they're here today.

First, from the State Parks Division, Raymond C. Thaler, Jr. Manager, Somerville, Texas with 33 years of service. Ray Thaler began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife in 1973, as a seasonal worker at Lake Somerville, Nails Creek. A graduate of Texas A&M University, with a degree in Recreation, Parks and Tourism Sciences, Ray was promoted to Park Ranger II, then to Park Manager at Lake Somerville, Nails Creek.

In 1980, he was promoted to his current position of Regional Operating and Safety Director in Region 5, State Park Headquarters. Ray was instrumental in putting together the Flag Pond Wetland Management Project, which was funded by Ducks Unlimited, the Army Corps of Engineers, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

His optimistic attitude, caring personality, and ability to lead others has constantly provided a positive impact on our park employees, and we sincerely thank him. Retiring with 33 years of service, Ray Thaler, Jr.

(Applause.)

MR. COOK: Thank you, sir.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Congratulations —

MR. THALER: Thank you, sir.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: — yes. Yes. Hate to see you go.

(Applause.)

MR. COOK: Also from the State Parks Division, and also with 33 years of service, Sally B. Stolz, Administrative Assistant, in ‑‑ from Washington, Texas. Sally Stolz began her career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department on October 1st, 1973, as the first clerk hired at the Republic of Texas Complex, which includes Washington on the Brazos State Historic Site, Barrington Living History Farm, and Fanthorp Inn State Historic Site.

She was later promoted to Administrative Assistant and Office Manager. She was very thankful for having the opportunity to work with TPWD, especially at the birthplace of Texas, and we are very thankful for Sally. Retiring with 33 years of service, Sally Stolz.

(Applause.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you.

(Applause.)

MR. COOK: From the Administrative Resources Division, Deborah D. Skates, Program Specialist, and here in Austin, with 29 years of service, is retiring.

Debby Skates began her career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as a clerk-typist in the boat titling and registration section, in June 1978. She was promoted to Clerk III and worked as a floater, and field office liaison for the law enforcement field offices and Texas County Tax Offices.

Debby was promoted to Program Specialist IV, where she was the team lead for a group consisting of 11 Boat Section employees. She provided improved services and information to the general public, involving boat and outboard motor titling, and boat registration, while guiding the operations of the Headquarters front sales counter, field liaisons, electronic imaging of all boat documents, e-licensing of marine dealerships, and answers to assist the public with all boating transactions.

Debby's personality and work ethics enabled her to work through numerous legislative rule and accounting system changes as the Agency's direction and growth progressed. Her attention to detail enabled her to be instrumental in the development and implementation of our new automated boat licensing system.

Retiring with 29 years of service, Debby Skates.

(Applause.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you.

MR. COOK: I can't believe how young these people look, who are retiring with 29 and 33 years —

COMMISSIONER HOLT: You're including yourself in that, of course.

MR. COOK: Yes.

(Applause.)

MR. COOK: There are a few exceptions.

Now to our service awards. These folks are still working with us, still doing us a great job, and again appreciate their service.

From the Coastal Fisheries Division, Rosalind Page Campbell, Program Specialist V, Rockport, Texas with 30 years of service. Page Campbell began her career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in Coastal Fisheries in October 1977, as a Fish and Wildlife Technician II, conducting creel surveys in the San Antonio Bay System.

She was promoted to Fish and Wildlife Technician III, then transferred to the Rockport Marine Lab, where she participated in the Recreational Harvest Monitoring Programs, for Aransas and Corpus Christi Bays. From January 1980 through August 1992 she worked as a Biologist II on the Harvest Monitoring Program, and in August 1992, she became a Program Specialist V, and is currently in charge of maintaining the commercial fisheries database, and transitioning the commercial landings data collection program from monthly reports, to a daily trip ticket program.

She has authored and co-authored many of TPWD's management data series publications, as well as peer-reviewed papers. Page serves as a member of the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Council ‑‑ excuse me; the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission Data Management Committee, as well as representing Texas on the Fisheries Information Network Committee. She has served as Texas Representative on the Special Reef Fish and Scientific Committee for the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, as well as serving twice as a Texas Representative on the Red Snapper Reconsideration Board. With 30 years of service, Page Campbell.

(Applause.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Congratulations, Page.

MS. CAMPBELL: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you.

(Applause.)

MR. COOK: From the Law Enforcement Division, Daniel A. Flores, Game Warden, Centerville, Texas, with 30 years of service.

Game Warden Danny Flores began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in 1978 with the Inland Fisheries Division. On September 1, 1986, Danny was accepted into the Game Warden Training Academy. Upon graduation, Danny's first duty assignment was Galveston County. He transferred to Walker County, and then to Aransas County. In 1990, Danny was awarded Officer of the Year from the Optimists Club of Texas City, and in 1998, Danny was awarded Officer of the Year from the Veterans of Foreign Wars Melvin Post, 5871, of Walker County.

In 2003, Danny transferred to Centerville, in Leon County, where he is currently stationed. With 30 years of service, Game Warden Danny Flores.

(Applause.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Congratulations.

WARDEN FLORES: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Congratulations.

(Applause.)

MR. COOK: From the State Parks Division, Keith L. Ahrens, Park Ranger V, Somerville, Texas, with 25 years of service. Keith began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department on June 1, 1985, as a Seasonal Worker II, at Lake Somerville State Park, Birch Creek Unit.

He was promoted to Park Ranger V, Utility Plant Operator for the Lake Somerville Complex. Keith is a licensed emergency medical technician, and has assisted in several rescue operations on the Lake Somerville Trailway. A very dedicated employee, Keith never hesitates to go out of his way to help visitors and fellow employees.

With 25 years of service, Keith Ahrens.

(Applause.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Congratulations. Congratulations.

RANGER AHRENS: Thanks.

MR. COOK: From the Law Enforcement Division, John N. Bonham, Jr., Game Warden, Floresville, Texas, with 25 years of service.

Game Warden John Bonham began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department on September 1, 1982, attending the Game Warden Academy. Upon graduation, Warden Bonham was stationed in San Patricio County. In January 1989, Warden Bonham transferred to Wilson County, and has been there since. With 25 years of service, Game Warden John Bonham.

(Applause.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Congratulations.

(Applause.)

MR. COOK: From the Law Enforcement Division, Game Warden Keith W. Gerth, Kingsville, Texas, with 25 years of service. Game Warden Keith Gerth began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department on September 1, 1982, as a game warden cadet. Upon completion of the Game Warden Academy, Warden Gerth was stationed in Cameron County, Port Isabel, Texas. In October 1993, he transferred to Burnet County, Kingsland, Texas, where he serves today. With 25 years of service, Game Warden Keith Gerth.

(Applause.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Congratulations. There you go, sir. All right, congratulations.

(Applause.)

MR. COOK: Also from the Law Enforcement Division, Jimmy D. Lundberg, Game Warden, Era, Texas, with 25 years of service. Game Warden Jimmy Lundberg began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department September 1, 1982, when he attended the Game Warden Academy. He graduated from the 37th Game Warden Academy on January 21, 1983. Upon graduation, Jimmy was stationed in San Patricio County; he remained there from 1983 to 1987, when he transferred to Denton County.

In 1996, Warden Lundberg and his family transferred to Cooke County, where he serves today. With 25 years of service, Game Warden Jimmy Lundberg.

(Applause.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Congratulations.

(Applause.)

MR. COOK: Thank you, Jimmy.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Congratulations.

MR. COOK: Congratulations.

(Applause.)

MR. COOK: Also with 25 years of service from the State Parks Division, Terrence P. Rodgers, Manager II, Blanco, Texas. Terry Rodgers began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department at McKinney Falls State Park, on June 7, 1982, as assistant manager. Terry later transferred to Barton Creek Lake State Park, then to Blanco State Park, as manager. While at Blanco, Terry has managed to promote it to an income-producing park. In March 2007, he transferred to Inks Lake State Park, as Park Manager. With 25 years of service, Terry Rodgers.

(Applause.)

VOICE: Congratulations.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Congratulations.

(Applause.)

MR. COOK: From the State Parks Division, Martha E. Gonzalez, Park Ranger IV, Bastrop, Texas, with 20 years of service. Martha Gonzalez started her career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in the mid-1980s, as a seasonal clerk at Bastrop State Park. Martha left Texas for a few years in the late '80s, but returned to TPWD in October 1989, as a seasonal worker in the sign shop, which was under Park Operations.

In 1993, she was promoted to Park Ranger II, Sign Shop Manager at Bastrop State Park. In 1997, she was promoted to Park Ranger IV. Martha shares that her years of operating the Sign Shop have been a pleasure, and has made her proud to be part of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. During her tenure, she participated in the interpretive field, as well as a prescribed burn program at Bastrop State Park. With 20 years of service, Martha Gonzalez.

(Applause.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Congratulations.

RANGER GONZALEZ: Thank you.

(Simultaneous discussion.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: He likes to do two.

MR. COOK: Thank you.

(Applause.)

MR. COOK: From the Wildlife Division, Charles W. Hartje, Fish and Wildlife Technician IV, Port Arthur, Texas, with 20 years of service. Bill Hartje began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in the Wildlife Division as a Fish and Wildlife Technician II, at the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area on the Upper Coast on September 1, 1987.

Bill has served his entire career with TPWD at the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Area, where he takes a lead role in managing and maintenance of Upper Coast Wetland Ecosystem Project WMAs. Bill is a highly experienced technician dealing with airboats, outboard motors, heavy equipment, amphibious equipment, and whatever other challenges come his way.

Bill is known for his over-the-road capabilities in transferring heavy equipment and permit loads across the State of Texas. His experience includes wetland management activities, using prescribed burn and water control. Bill travels Region 4 to troubleshoot and maintain airboat equipment, and is known for his willingness to do whatever it takes to get the job done, and get it done right.

A goose die-off, a nuisance alligator, or a stranded public hunter, Bill Hartje has the knowledge and experience to handle the situation. With 20 years of service, Bill Hartje.

(Applause.)

MR. COOK: Bill. Thank you, sir. I made most of that up.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Congratulations.

(Applause.)

MR. HARTJE: Thank you very much ‑‑

MR. COOK: Thank you ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you ‑‑

MR. COOK: From the Infrastructure Division, with 20 years of service, Don C. Hudson, Engineering Specialist VII, Kerrville, Texas. Don Hudson began his career with TPWD on July 20th of 1987. A stonemason, tile setter and bricklayer by trade, he worked on Buescher State Park, Fanthorp Inn, Kriesche Home, and Fort Richardson on a force account restoration crew for the Historic Sites Branch. Promoted to Crew Supervisor in August 1988, he accomplished such notable historic site development projects as Penn Farm, and the Roma restoration project. Promoted in 1996 to Force Account Crew Coordinator, he oversaw development of projects at Big Bend Ranch, Barton Warnock Environmental Development Center, and Franklin Mountains.

Promoted to Construction Manager in 1998, he coordinated construction, development and repair projects in central and south Texas, including Lake Casa Blanca, the World Birding Center, Garner State Park, Colorado Bend State Park, Old Tunnel Wildlife Management Area, and Matagorda Wildlife Management Area.

He also built the butterfly pond in front of the Headquarters Building, and laid the stone tile in the patio in the rear of the Headquarters Building. With 20 years of service, Don Hudson.

(Applause.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: It's all true ‑‑

MR. COOK: Yes, it is ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT: — congratulations.

MR. HUDSON: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you.

(Applause.)

MR. COOK: You're not even going to deny that, are you?

(Applause.)

MR. COOK: From the Coastal Fisheries Division, Robert W. Murphy, Natural Resource Specialist III, here in Austin, Texas, with 20 years of service. Bob Murphy began his career with TPWD in 1987, when the Texas Natural Heritage Program transferred from the General Land Office. As manager of this program, he led efforts to catalogue occurrences of rare and threatened species and natural communities across Texas, promoting their conservation.

As a Resource Projection Division Special Projects Coordinator, in 1992 he became involved in new agency initiatives, such as the GIS Lab, intern programs, and environmental education. He transferred to the Communications Division in 1998 as Outreach Coordinator, and provided a foundation for the Outreach Program that serves urban audiences today.

Bob has also worked in the Artificial Reef Program in Coastal Fisheries for the past four years. With 20 years of service, Bob Murphy.

(Applause.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Congratulations. Thank you.

Congratulations.

(Applause.)

MR. COOK: Also with 20 years of service, from the Wildlife Division, Dr. Andrew H. Price, Program Specialist V, Austin, Texas. Dr. Andy Price began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department on September 1, 1987. Andy earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Miami, and his M.S. and Ph.D. at New Mexico State.

Early in his career at TPWD in the Resource Protection Division, he co-authored a paper on the Devil's River Minnow that won the 1994 George M. Sutton Award in Conservation Research from the Southwest Association of Naturalists.

In the mid-1990s, Andy transferred with the Endangered Species Group to the Wildlife Division's Non-Game Program, now called the Wildlife Diversity Program, and has been a herpetologist in that program ever since. A member of 16 scientific societies, Dr. Price has served as the editor, and on the board of governors, for several of them.

He has served as a reviewer for 11 scientific journals and university presses, and has authored or co-authored 35 peer-reviewed papers, two books, and numerous technical and popular articles. His papers include descriptions of four new species of spring salamanders on the Edwards Plateau; a status survey of the Texas Horned Lizard; and a long-term population study of the Houston Toad in Bastrop State Park, the latter, termed by a former chair of the International Declining Amphibian Populations Task Force, as one of the best in existence.

He has served on several recovery teams for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and citizens' advisory groups, and provided advice and information to private landowners, local, state, national and international agencies, as well as a number of interviews with the media, and a lifetime's worth of responses to individual citizens on topics of interest to them.

One of Andy's most enjoyable activities has been a highly popular series of lectures and safety demonstrations on the venomous snakes of Texas, using live animals, and he is currently working on the latest edition of The Venomous Snakes of Texas, to be published by the University of Texas Press.

With 20 years of service, Dr. Andy Price.

(Applause.)

DR. PRICE: Much too long.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Congratulations.

MR. COOK: Congratulations. Great job, Andy. Thank you, sir. Appreciate you.

DR. PRICE: Thank you, sir.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you.

(Applause.)

MR. COOK: Mr. Chairman, now it is my pleasure to introduce a group and make a presentation that we do annually, the Texas Wildlife Officer of the Year, Shikar Safari International.

Each year, Shikar Safari International recognizes game wardens from North America as wildlife conservation officers of the year. This marks the 28th year this award has been presented to a deserving Texas game warden.

The Texas Wildlife Officer of the Year for 2007 is Jarrod E. Bryant, who graduated from the Texas Game Warden Training Academy in July 2004. He continues his game warden career where he began, in Marshall, Harrison County, Texas, which is a very busy rural area along the Texas-Louisiana state line.

Jarrod continues to excel in all areas of game, fish, water safety and public safety enforcement. This is accomplished through public education, high profile patrols, and criminal apprehensions. Jarrod has accomplished much during his relatively short career, such as mentoring local college students interested in wildlife law enforcement, and providing the citizens of his county with a positive and willing attitude in wildlife conservation enforcement through community policing.

Jarrod has been a leader in his district by displaying a can-do attitude, while working closely with local landowners to apprehend those who disregard private property rights. As a certified Hunter Education Instructor, Jarrod assists other hunter education instructors and presents programs to many schools, civic groups, and agricultural meetings.

Jarrod's most notable achievement was apprehending a number of suspected illegal deer hunters. For years, these suspects hunted deer without landowner consent, on a coal-producing part of Harrison County. The private property was dubbed by some locals as the "Run Like Hell Hunting Club." We have several of those scattered around the state.

This private land has long been the scene of state jail felony hunted deer without consent, deer hunted at night, conspiracy, death threats to witnesses, and illegal drug sales and drug abuse. For 12 months, with some occasional assistance, Jarrod investigated suspected deer poachers, yielding 10 criminal cases, eight being felony, hunt without landowner consent, cases.

The largest amount of deer seized from this illegal operation was a 32-point whitetail buck, which under Boone and Crockett scoring totaled 208 5/8 inches.

Additionally, Jarrod made a criminal trespass case last month, that led to the confession of a 2001 state jail felony case, where the hunter killed a 130-inch buck without landowner permission. As a part of the plea agreement, on the criminal trespass case between the court, the defendant and the mining company, the violator will release the trophy deer to the state.

It is actions and results like these that give me great pleasure in recognizing Game Warden Jarrod E. Bryant as a Shikar Safari International 2007 Texas Wildlife Officer of the Year.

Now, we also have some folks here from Shikar Safari. And I know that you know most of them, and I'd like for them to come forward at this time. Jarrod, also.

(Applause.)

MR. COOK: Congratulations, Jarrod.

If you all would like to say a few words.

VOICE: Go ahead, Mark.

MR. BARRETT: Well, we're all members of Shikar Safari. You have one of your previous commissioners here, Louis Stumberg, who usually does the speaking and is much better at it than I. But Shikar is an international hunting and fishing club that honors game wardens in all 50 states and all the provinces of Canada.

And we just appreciate people that take care of the things we love, and the ‑‑ we Texans feel like the Texas Parks and Wildlife game wardens are the best, and obviously Jarrod is the best of the best, so — we're honored.

(Applause.)

MR. STUMBERG: There is some more; don't get away. You've got a pin that certifies you as a recipient, and it's in here, and a certificate; and also, Parks and Wildlife maintains a large board of each of the recipients over these many years. And there is a plaque that will go on there, and it's the only award that's allowed on your uniform other than those given by Parks and Wildlife itself.

In the unhappy case that something would happen to one of our recipients, we also maintain an instant insurance policy, where the money is delivered to their family within 24 hours; it's just one way to say, We appreciate and tell you how much we care about what you do for our state. Thank you very much.

(Applause.)

MR. COOK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. That concludes these, and we thank these folks and all of our employees who do such a great job. Thank you, sir.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, everybody. Thank you to our friends at Shikar Safari also. Thank you for that recognition. As we ‑‑ 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 a good time. It looks like that's happening ‑‑ and we ran everybody off, didn't we? I'll tell you ‑‑ I'm supposed to read my script now, so ‑‑

That worked. That worked well, didn't it?

MR. COOK: Commissioners, we appreciate the opportunity, each meeting, to do this thing with our employees. It's something that they enjoy very much, and we appreciate the opportunity, that you give us this time.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: No, Bob, we ‑‑ really enjoy doing it. Okay, let me see. First order of business is Item Number 1, Action Approval of a Revised Agenda. I would like to note that Item Number 2, Selection of a New Executive Director has been removed from the agenda at this time.

I'd like to propose that we hear all action items first, followed by briefing items. This way, we'll make sure we keep a quorum; we have a few directors that may ‑‑ Commissioners, excuse me, that may need to leave.

Is there a motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER PARKER: So move.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Second.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Mr. Parker and Mr. Friedkin. Okay. All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you all. Item Number 3, we got an action right away, Proposed Stamp and Print Artwork, Ms. Frances Stiles.

MS. STILES: Good morning. My name is Frances Stiles, I'm with the Administrative Resources Division. Each year, under the terms of the State Artwork Design and Marketing Contract with Collectors Covey for the Departmental print program, Martin Wood with Collectors Covey brings the artwork for review.

Yesterday, we had the opportunity to review the actual paintings, and today we have those in electronic format. For the migratory game bird artwork we have the pintail, by Jim Hautman; for the upland game bird, we have the pheasant by Bob Hautman; for the non-game artwork, we have the Great Blue heron by Bruce Miller; for the saltwater artwork, we have the red drum by Herb Booth; and for the freshwater fisheries, we have the striper bass by Don Ray.

And this item is up for approval of the artwork, and if you have any questions, be happy to answer.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any questions for Frances.

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: As usual, thank you. It's beautiful.

MS. STILES: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes. I think this program has really worked wonderfully. Is there any discussion, Commission, for this?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: We don't have anybody signed up to speak, does Staff have any comments?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. Is there a motion on this item.

COMMISSIONER BROWN: So move.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: Second.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay, Mr. Brown and Commissioner Parker. All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay, thank you.

Thank you, Frances.

MS. STILES: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes. Item Number 4, an action item, National Recreational Trail Grant Funding. Mr. Tim Hogsett.

MR. HOGSETT: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission. I'm Tim Hogsett, from the Recreation Grants Branch in the State Parks Division. We're bringing before you today the proposal to fund a grant in the amount of $400,000 to the Texas Motorized Trail Coalition for the construction of an off-road vehicle park in Ozona, in Crockett County, approximately 50 miles to the southwest of Ozona.

A little about the Recreation Trail Grant Program, this is a federally-funded grant program. It's based on the off-road vehicle — the sales tax generated on off-road vehicle use. We are required to use at least 30 percent of the funds from this program for off-road vehicle projects.

We typically don't have too many projects in the motorized trail category. Some of the reasons that we are in this business are, because of the Texas Legislature, passage of House Bill — or Senate Bill 155 closed the navigable streambeds in Texas to recreational off-road vehicle use, and directed Parks and Wildlife to develop some sites, alternative sites for that use. Also, the 79th Legislature enacted Senate Bill 1311, which created an off-road vehicle trail and recreation program that supplements these federal funds.

This particular project is 3,323 acres, in Crockett County. In 2006, the Commission approved $1,359,000 grant for the acquisition of the property; the property was purchased in December 2006; the Commission at that time also directed the staff to not begin the process of allowing development of this site until a management plan had been completed. That plan has been completed; it's been vetted in the community through public hearings. We have met with all of the neighboring landowners. Although they may not necessarily agree with the proposed use, I think they see Texas Motorized Trail Coalition as a potential good neighbor, and a good steward of this property.

Having said that, we're recommending this morning the funding for trails at the Escondido Draw Recreation Area in Crockett County in the amount of $400,000. I'd be glad to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any questions for Tim?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any discussion?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Let me see; I do have somebody that would like to speak, Steve Smith? On this item.

MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen. I just wanted to stand before you on behalf of myself as an end user of the OHV parks that we're creating within the State of Texas, and also as a board of directors member of TMTC, and again at the request of Tony Eeds, our president.

To thank you first for your patience; as Tim mentioned, it's been a year since we were before you for funding for the acquisition of the property, and as many of you, I'm sure, can appreciate, being an all-volunteer organization, when somebody says, Okay, you're good to go, just give us a development plan —

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes.

MR. SMITH: ‑‑ it takes a considerable amount of time, and a lot of effort. And actually, hundreds and hundreds of hours went into what from there looks like a very small document, but from our side of the table, is monumental we can assure you. And we thank you for your consideration, and we really, really appreciate the help that we receive from Tim and Andy and Steve Thompson, within the Division here.

They have been most supportive to us, and as Tim mentioned, we have made great headway with the neighbors. Some of the ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Good.

MR. SMITH: — Commission members who were here at previous hearings remember the very emotional outcries from the neighbors, and we are now sitting down in their living rooms, drinking coffee and eating brownies with them. So that's — and actually, we are telling them we expect them to be good neighbors now, so — thank you and we appreciate the consideration.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Well, thank you. And I appreciate you — I'm sorry, we have one more public speaker.

Nickolas? Am I saying that right? Nickolas?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: I think ‑‑ okay. Thank you, and I appreciate you taking the time to visit with your neighbors, because obviously this was new to them, and as we know, that's a fairly isolated area, and I think ‑‑ again I appreciate all the effort you took, so ‑‑ and Tim and your group also.

So that was an action item, yes. So we need a motion, please.

CHAIRMAN FRIEDKIN: So move.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay, Friedkin, Commissioner Friedkin. Another motion from somebody?

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Second.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Good, Commissioner Bivins. All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Aye. Okay. Action Number 5, Local Park Grant Funding for Projects Identified by Appropriation Rider. Tim, you're up again.

MR. HOGSETT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'm Tim Hogsett, Director of Recreation Grants at State Parks Division. This item is the approval of grants that were authorized — actually mandated by the Texas Legislature through the Recreation Grants Program.

The Legislature appropriated to us $15.5 million for each of the two years of the next biennium for competitive grants. On top of that, they also appropriated $16.6 million for some specifically noted projects. There are 18 of these grants that are for specific areas, for particular communities. We're bringing the first two of those before you today. One from the Rio Grande Valley Nature Center for the City of Weslaco, and the other the City of Houston, for Houston 11th Street Park.

The Weslaco Project is for the construction of a 7,000-square-foot nature center to supplement a ‑‑ small nature area in the City of Weslaco, and the appropriation rider project for the City of Houston is for the acquisition of an additional five acres of land to expand an existing 15-acre park that's in the northwest area of the City of Houston, inside of Loop 610.

The recommendation before you today is funding for the City of Weslaco in the amount of $400,000 in matching funds, and for the City of Houston in the amount of $3,750,000 as approved. I'd be glad to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any questions for Tim?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. We don't have anybody from the public signed up, any comments?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Do I have a motion?

COMMISSIONER FALCON: So move.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay, Dr. Falcon. And ‑‑

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Second.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: — Commissioner Martin. All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay, thank you.

MR. HOGSETT: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Item Number 6, Action, Equipment and Maintenance Provider Rules. Ms. Ann Bright.

MS. BRIGHT: Good morning, Commissioners, my name is Ann Bright, I'm General Counsel. H.B. 12, which was an omnibus bill passed at the end of the last Session, required the Department to establish a couple of rules. One was an equipment review system rule, and the other one was maintenance provider system rules.

The equipment review rules are intended to require the Agency to annually evaluate its maintenance equipment, and to sell or dispose of outdated equipment. Maintenance equipment is any equipment that's used to maintain TPWD property, and the proposed rule would limit the equipment covered by the rule to capitalized equipment, and that's personal property having a value of more than $5,000, an acquisition value of more than $5,000.

Under the proposed rule, the maintenance equipment will be considered outdated if it no longer is operational, and cannot reasonably be made operational, or if it no longer serves a department purpose, or if it meets all three of the following criteria: which is that the market value is less than the maintenance cost; or the cost ‑‑ and the cost to replace it is less than the annual maintenance cost, and the department has sufficient funds and capital budget authority to replace the equipment.

Once we determine that equipment is outdated, then under these proposed rules, the Department will prepare a report, and then we will begin the process of disposing of the property within 60 days of the completion of that report. These will not ‑‑ this should not interfere with our normal process, however, of disposing of surplus property.

The maintenance provider review system is actually intended to address individuals who are performing services. Under this proposed rule, we will annually identify the cost of staff to perform certain specified maintenance tasks, like custodial services, mowing, landscaping, which would include tree trimming, minor repairs, trash collection. And we will identify the cost of contracting with a third party to perform those services, and we will determine whether or not the quality of what we would get from a contracted service is going to be equal to or greater than what we would get from Department staff. And we will do this on a facility basis.

If we determine that the cost of contracting with someone to perform these tasks is less than the cost of performing it by Department staff, and that we're going to get at least an equal result in terms of quality, then we will begin the process of contracting with an outside party.

Before you is a motion that will adopt the rule as published in the Texas Register, with really minor wording changes. I'd be happy to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any questions for Ann?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. We didn't have anybody sign up to speak; any questions from anybody?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Do we have a motion?

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: So move.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay, Commissioner Martin.

COMMISSIONER HIXON: Second.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Commissioner Hixon. All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you. This is kind of skipping now to Item Number 12, remember we're going to move through the Action Items first, Handling of Veterans' Employment Preference Complaints under Texas Government Code Chapter 657, we have a resolution.

Mr. Al Bingham.

MR. BINGHAM: Good morning, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Al Bingham. I'm the Human Resources Division Director. This morning I'm going to be briefing you on the handling of Veterans' Employment Preference Complaints, and also seeking Commission action on a motion.

State law provides that an employment preference for certain veterans be provided by public entities. House Bill 1275, which was passed on the last Legislative Session, established that a veteran may appeal to a public entity's governing body for decisions not to hire a veteran, or to eliminate the veteran's position, and the governing body shall have 15 business days to respond to such complaints.

Given the Commission's schedule and the relatively short response window, we think that's problematic, and I'll get to the staff recommendation for handling this situation. First, let me give you a little bit more background on the Veterans' Preference requirement. Of course a veteran means any individual who served in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard of the U.S., or in an auxiliary service.

To be eligible, the veteran must have served not less than 90 days during a national emergency, or was discharged for a service-connected disability; they must have received an honorable discharge, and they must be competent, meaning they must have the necessary knowledge, skills and abilities to perform the job.

An individual who qualifies for the Veterans' Preference is entitled to a preference in employment over other applicants who do not have a greater qualification. And what this means is, if a veteran is considered to be equally qualified with another applicant, then the tie goes to the veteran.

An individual entitled to hiring preference under this section is also entitled to a preference in retaining employment if in a RIF situation. House Bill 1275 again allowed the vet to appeal the agency's decision not to hire, or to eliminate their position, directly to the governing body. The governing body may order a different decision than the one complained about; and again, you have that 15-business-day response window. Because again of that relatively short response time, the Staff proposes that the Commission adopt a resolution delegating authority to the Executive Director to act on the Commission's behalf, as set forth in Commission Policy CP-010, and provide an initial response within that 15-day window.

The Commission would still act on the complaint; all the vet complaints shall be placed on the Commission agenda as personnel matters; the Commission again may uphold the decision or make an alternate decision, and the complainant will receive the Commission's final decision within 15 business days of the decision.

So here's the motion before you, and I'll be glad to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any questions for Al?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Al, well explained. Thank you very much.

We do not have anybody from the public signed up. Do I have a motion on this item?

COMMISSIONER PARKER: So move.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Second.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Commissioner Parker and Commissioner Montgomery. All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you. Thank you, Al.

Item Number 14, an Action Item, Approval of Projects Funded from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Conservation and Capital Account. Ms. Julie Horsely. Julie?

MS. HORSELY: Good morning. My name is Julie Horsely, I'm in the Budget and Planning section of the Administrative Resources Division and I'll be discussing funds in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Conservation and Capital Account.

I'll start off with just some general background on the fund. This is a statutorily dedicated account that consists primarily of allocations from the sporting goods sales tax, and revenues from the sale of our four conservation plates.

Section 11.043 of the Parks and Wildlife Code governs the sources of revenue and the uses of the fund, and provides that money in the account may only be spent on projects that have been individually approved by the Commission. The statute states that preference be given to projects that directly provide hunting, fishing and outdoor recreational opportunity to the public, but also goes on to list examples of allowable projects, such as developing or improving lands and facilities, operational and maintenance costs related to parks, wildlife and fisheries projects, and efforts to enhance conservation of historical, cultural or natural resources.

During this last Legislative Session we did see an increase in the amount of funding that was appropriated to us from the sources that make up this account. In all, the General Appropriations Act provided a total of $6.48 million; about $2.92 of that was associated with conservation plate balances and revenues; accumulated account balances for about $2.56 million; and the remainder, about $1 million, was associated with sporting goods sales taxes allocated to the account.

The Commission-approved 2008 budget reflected a total of $6.45 million from the source, and the difference between the two really has to do mainly with the conservation plate funds, the Appropriations Act figure for the conservation plates included both balances and estimated revenues for 2008, and when we developed the budget, we included only the balances, and chose not to reflect the estimated revenues, instead waiting until those amounts were actually collected before we bring them into the budget.

The budgeted figure also includes fringe,

which is not directly appropriated to us in the

appropriations bill.

While the overall amount of funding shown on this slide was approved by the Commission at the August meeting, information on the individual projects to be funded from these sources was not provided at that time; so we're bringing the project listing to you now, for review and approval.

Just a couple of things about the project list: There was some direction provided from the Legislature on how the funds are to be used. Bluebonnet plates were directed for purchase of state parks transportation items; some of the Account 5004 balances and sporting goods sales tax revenues were directed for infrastructure support costs, and FTEs related to the state parks exceptional item. And then about ‑‑ a little bit over $2 million was directed for state parks minor repairs projects.

Overall, the project funding listed on the exhibit totals to about $5.8 million, and the bulk of this is directed to projects in Wildlife, State Parks, Infrastructure, and Inland Fisheries Divisions. There is about $696,000 that's being held in reserve for fiscal year 2009 projects, that's associated with whitetail deer and horned toad plates, and those monies will be carried forward into 2009.

This is the recommended motion, basically just asking that you approve the listing as shown in Exhibit A. And that concludes my presentation.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Julie, thank you. Having ridden around in some of those transportation items in the state parks, I'm glad we're — maybe we got a shot at getting a few new ones. They were getting the hand me downs from the game wardens, so you can imagine what kind of shape they were in. Any questions for Julie?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. We have no public comments. Do we have a motion, please.

COMMISSIONER BROWN: So move.

COMMISSIONER HIXON: Second.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, Commissioner Brown, Commissioner Hixon. All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you. Julie, thank you.

MS. HORSELY: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Let me see. Make sure I don't skip any. Item Number 17, Action, Party Boat Regulations, Mr. Al Campos, please.

MR. CAMPOS: Commissioners, Mr. Chairman. My name is Alfonso Campos, Chief of Marine Enforcement for the Department. Today's proposal is a set of rules designed to implement House Bill 12. House Bill 12 established regulations for party boats, or charter boats, on inland waters of Texas. We already have recognized regulations on coastal waters, so this just includes the inland waters.

And in summary, we define party boats as vessels that are rented or leased for more than six passengers, and they operate on inland waters. And briefly, it does not apply to boats that are less than 30 feet in length; to sailboats; livery vessels, which do not require that a captain or an operator come with them; or any vessel that is used for training purposes.

And what the regulations will require is an annual inspection. This will be like a boating safety inspection, designed to check out the safety measures that are in place for these party boats; to check that they have passenger capacity limits and how they came to those limits; also to check that they carry liability insurance, and it also sets an amount of $300,000 per boat.

One other requirement in addition to the annual inspection is operator licensing. These party boats will require that the operator be licensed, that they be at least age 21, requires some prior experience so that they can get licensed, and it also requires that they pass a boating safety course, have the experience and pass a written exam with a passing grade.

There were five comments, none were really significant, that I would categorize, and so therefore that's what we recommend; a motion that we pass these, and also an amendment to establish the fees, one for the licensing, and another for the annual inspection.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, Al. Any comments or questions?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay, we didn't have anybody from the public sign up. Do I have a motion?

COMMISSIONER FALCON: So move.

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Second.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay, Dr. Falcon and Commissioner Martin. And — all in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you. Thank you, Al.

And Item Number 18, Action, Land Transfer, Calhoun County, Mr. Corky Kuhlmann.

MR. KUHLMANN: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Corky Kuhlmann with the Land Conservation Program. This is a land transfer, Swan Point Boat Ramp in Calhoun County, south of Seadrift, Texas, in San Antonio Bay. Originally, we had owned about nine acres there in 2004, we deeded 5.1 to the county; they continued to improve the whole site, and then they asked that we transfer the rest to the county.

We did hold a public meeting; one person showed up, in favor of the transfer. This is a motion for a ‑‑ we recommend that you adopt.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. Any questions for Corky?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay, we have no public comment, so I need a motion, please.

COMMISSIONER BROWN: So move.

COMMISSIONER HIXON: Second.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay, Commissioner Brown, Commissioner Hixon. All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, these are good things to do.

Land Donation, El Paso County. Corky, you're up again.

MR. KUHLMANN: Again for the record, Corky Kuhlmann. This is Franklin Mountains, El Paso County, Texas. It's a donation of approximately 150 foot by 18,000 foot of utility right of way from El Paso Electric. It comes to about 62.759 acres, and they will reserve a standard utility easement on the right of way. This is the motion we'd like you to adopt.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. Any questions for Corky? Commissioner Brown? Any comments?

COMMISSIONER BROWN: Can I ‑‑ I'd like to recuse myself from this ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay ‑‑

COMMISSIONER BROWN: — because I'm on the board of El Paso Electric Company ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT: — okay.

COMMISSIONER BROWN: — just for the record.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay, great. Thank you. Any questions for Corky, from anybody?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay, I need a motion?

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So move.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Second.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay, Commissioner Friedkin, Commissioner Montgomery. All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Great. This is wonderful, thank you.

Let me see, Action, Utility Easement, Brown County. Corky, you're up once more.

MR. KUHLMANN: Again for the record, Corky Kuhlmann. This is a request for utility easement at the Muse WMA, that ‑‑ we've been requested to grant a water line easement across, or along a portion of the WMA, parallel to a county road. Parks and Wildlife will receive a water hookup and water meter, allowing us to have public water to the site, in exchange for allowing them to use our property for the water line. This picture shows the site of ‑‑ an average site of where the water line's going to go, just inside the fence. We'd like to adopt the motion before you.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. Any questions for Corky?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: We don't have anybody from the public signed up. Can I have a motion, please?

COMMISSIONER HIXON: So move.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Second.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Commissioner Hixon, Commissioner Bivins. All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Number 21, Action Item, Land Donation, Van Zandt County, Corky once more.

MR. KUHLMANN: This is an item at Purtis Creek State Park; it's a 2-acre right of way donation. An adjacent landowner has offered to donate approximately two acres of right of way through his property, for us to have additional easement to the park; it's the only access we'll have to the northern, western part of the park. We'd like you to adopt the motion before you.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Wonderful, Corky.

Any questions for Corky?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Can we have a motion, please?

COMMISSIONER MARTIN: So move.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Commissioner Martin?

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Second.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Commissioner Montgomery. And, all in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you.

MR. KUHLMANN: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Corky, good work. We really appreciate these kinds of things, because they give us more access, and more availability for our public.

Action Item Number 22, Land Acquisition, Grimes County, Mr. Ted Hollingsworth. Ted?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Good morning, Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Ted Hollingsworth, I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This is the second reading of a proposal to acquire by purchase 4.6 acres at Fanthorp Inn State Historic Site, in Anderson, Texas. It would quadruple the size of that park, allowing the staff much-needed room for interpretive programming. It would also add a significant portion of the archeological record associated with the site.

The public comment was solicited; all in favor. Staff recommends you adopt the motion before you.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Is this one of the sites that's going over to THC?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: No, sir. It is not.

(Simultaneous discussion.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. I lose track of which ‑‑ Okay. Any questions for Ted?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. With no public comments, may I have a motion, please.

COMMISSIONER BROWN: So move.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Second.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. From Commissioner Brown, Commissioner Montgomery. All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Great, thank you. Let me see, Action — Irrigation Easement — excuse me.

Item Number 23, an Action Item, Irrigation Easement in Cameron County, Mr. Ted Hollingsworth. Ted?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Ted Hollingsworth, I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This is an item requiring only a single reading. Essentially, it is a proposal to exchange easements with the local irrigation district. They want to route irrigation water through a 15-inch pipe; Staff recommends that the pipe be routed through an adjacent irrigation field instead of disturbing the ditch, which has been the ‑‑ what the water has run through historically, because the ditch now has vegetation in it that is good habitat for wildlife.

Staff does recommend that you adopt the motion that would allow us to exchange those easements.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. Any discussion, any questions for Ted?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Don't have any public comments. Motion, please?

COMMISSIONER HIXON: So move.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Second.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay, Commissioner Hixon, Commissioner Montgomery. All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you. Ted, thank you very much. you and Corky do a great job. Appreciate it.

I think that it on the Action Items. Okay, Item Number 7, a briefing, Texas Parks and Wildlife Expo Review, Mr. Ernie Gammage. The man who set a new record. Ernie, you were hot the other day, up there at the Expo.

MR. GAMMAGE: Well, it wasn't hot, which was a good thing.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Oh, it was perfect ‑‑

MR. GAMMAGE: My name is Ernie Gammage, I'm Branch Chief for Urban Outdoor Programs, and Director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Expo, and I'm here to present to you some information about this past 16th Annual Expo.

We had a great time, kicking off Friday night with the Conservation Hall of Fame Banquet and Celebration, for the second year held out at the Lost Pines Hyatt Regency Resort and Spa, and those initial inductees were Perry R. Bass, noted conservationist, and the Texas Bighorn Society. Attended by the Governor and 620 other visitors, it was a great success.

Saturday night kicked off — sorry, Saturday morning kicked off, looks like night time, it was little cloudy, but our visitors were ready and rarin' to go, and when I say rarin' I mean, rarin'. It's always fun to get that first shot of the kids and their parents as they come in the front door.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes.

MR. GAMMAGE; We did set a record, at this Expo. We had the largest single day we've ever had, and the great thing about that on Saturday was that it didn't feel like it. Typically our ‑‑ for the last three years, our Sundays have been the largest day, but this year it was in fact Saturday. We had 42,000 folks-and-some-change. Last year we had about 35,000 so we had more folks at Expo this year.

I want to focus your attention on that bottom box. We park 85 percent of our visitors in the hayfield out here. It is absolutely critical to this event, because it's close, it's convenient; we don't own it. And at some point down the road, that could be a problem for us. We bus in about 13 percent, which was actually up from 11 percent last year, of our visitors, and 2 percent come on outreach buses. And let's look at that for a second. We had 14 different groups; these are the ones that we have identified; we have many, many more that just come and park in the hayfield.

But these are ones that we treat with special care, because they come from greater distances, they typically bring a lunch, we off-load them and their kids, they go back and eat lunch after they've enjoyed the Expo, they all come on the Saturday and you can see where they are from, there, for a total of almost 700 youth and their chaperones. So it was a great day for getting folks from around the State, from as far away as Laredo.

These numbers have not changed over the years; about half the folks, half the bodies that come to Expo are kids, 17 or below, and the other half are adults. And within a couple of percentage points, that's the way it's been. As you can see, we are skewed, if you look at the Texas figures down there, skewed quite heavily toward youth ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Good.

MR. GAMMAGE: — less than 30 percent of the State of Texas has kids below 17. They come to find out what's going on in the outdoors, what they can do, about half ‑‑ from previous surveys, we can tell you that about half the folks that come to Expo, we would consider to be our constituents. They hunt, they fish, they camp, they enjoy the outdoors. The rest do not, and yet they still come; and we think that's a great mix, 50-50 because it gets us a chance to interface with our constituents, and also meet and great those folks who do not recreate, and hopefully introduce them to the outdoors.

We do that through all kind of skill opportunities, whether it's archery ‑‑ my favorite picture for the year; angling; kayaking in the Wet Zone out here; and lots of information about our state parks, and camping and outdoor skills. We also have almost 200 exhibitors who let our constituents know what sort of gear they need if they are going to recreate in the outdoors.

We also have a number of nonprofits, from Boy Scouts to Ducks Unlimited to come out to the Expo, and are present here to talk about their organizations.

Of course, half the folks that come out here are kids, and so we spend a lot of time introducing them to outdoor skills, in the hope that they will acquire these skills at some point in their life, and continue to do them lifelong. But we also do that — that was a father and son combo there, for adults, who have never done anything in the outdoors; and here this fellow is trying an air gun for the first time, and hopefully in a few years he'll be hunting and will buy a license.

We tackle more complex problems at Expo. This has to do with water, and the many and varying demands on our water resources, and it's important that these kids and their parents understand what the issues are related to water. Also gives us a chance to talk about fish and game laws, which some people are not even aware that we have, by the way.

Want to talk to you quickly about two programs that we're proud of. This is a recycling program; we want to walk the walk at Expo, and in association with Keep Austin Beautiful, who took the lead on this, we have some lovely Recycling Rangers there, who were dumpster diving all day long, pulling out bottles and so forth.

We collected 940 pounds of plastic bottles at Expo this year, and somebody had a great idea, you know, a lot of vendors and Parks and Wildlife, we bring stuff in cardboard out on the grounds, and we decided to recycle cardboard for the first time, had 1,220 pounds of cardboard recycled. So we were really happy about that; it's the best effort we've had to date in this regard.

A program we're particularly proud of is the Accessible Services Program. This provides information, assistance and all other kinds of things to people with a variety of disabilities. So that they can not only navigate and enjoy Expo, but also learn that, just because they have a disability, they are not cut off from recreating in the outdoors. Here's a woman checking out our Braille map, and we were happy to report that there were no errors in our Braille work this year.

Who came to Expo? This is based on 80 percent of the surveys that were collected by a team of students and professors from the University of North Texas, who actually did our survey this year. As you can see, 68 percent of our visitors were Anglo, 19 percent were Hispanic, 8 percent were African American, and 5 were Other. If you look down at the very bottom, you can see that we still have a way to go, to look like Texas; 32 percent of Texans are Hispanic for example, and 11 percent are African American. These figures are within 2 or 3 percentage points from last year, and we don't know what they'll be exactly at the end of the day when 100 percent of the surveys are counted.

This has not changed particularly; about 60 percent of our visitors tend to be male, adult visitors and 40 percent tend to be female. If you look at 2005, that year I think was an aberration; that was Katrina-Rita. And for some reason we had many more women that came to Expo that year. I have no idea why that is, but that is not the way it usually is; it's usually about 60-40.

First time visitors, again we think this is great; half the people that come have never been to Expo before. The others are returning; most of them have been here three, four, five years running. Once they come, they like it. Of course, we have to wonder about those that do not return because each year we don't get that much larger; and we have brand new visitors. But we're happy about that, because it gives us a chance to really promote who we are and what we do to these first-timers.

We asked visitors this year to identify themselves: Do you consider where you live to be in rural Texas, or in urban Texas. And these numbers should not surprise anybody; we are an urban state, regardless of what our history is. About 85 percent of Texans live in eight metropolitan centers. So ‑‑ and we were in a metropolitan center here. But I think it's interesting that we continue to reach urbanites, which is from an outreach standpoint, one of our mandates.

Saturday night at the barbeque, we were presented with a plaque from Weatherby Foundation International. These folks have been a sponsor since 2000, I believe, and have really gotten on the Expo bandwagon, and now promote Expos around the nation. There are 18 other states, in addition to Texas, who do expos. We like to think of them as the Alabama Texas Wildlife Expo, and the Wyoming Texas Wildlife Expo. I don't know how they feel about that. I want to read what this plaque says:

"For its leadership in the nationwide establishment and promotion of outdoor Expos, thereby introducing and educating families and youth about the joys of America's great outdoors and the role of hunting and fishing and its conservation. This event is recognized as, if not the leader, one of the leaders in the nation for this kind of event." And we can all be proud of that.

This is a big undertaking for Texas Parks and Wildlife. This is an aerial shot taken by Earl Nottingham. As you can see, we're all over the place. It's an expensive undertaking in terms of time, staff time and money. It costs us a great deal. But it gives us a chance to bring the Texas public into our home, if you will, which is our Headquarters; tell them who we are, what we do and most importantly, why it's important that we do what we do.

At the end of the day, however, there's one thing that we can all take home from Expo, and that's that look on that boy's face when he makes that connection with something in the outdoors that may spur him to become an outdoorsman, and finally a conservationist. Thank you for your support, and thanks to all the folks at Texas Parks and Wildlife who work and actually do all the work at the Wildlife Expo. And I'd be happy to answer any questions for you.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Ernie, your enthusiasm is wonderful. It was ‑‑ I was there Saturday, and Lydia and others. It was just great. And Pete Flores was out there, I mean, everybody's out there, and the interaction between the staff at Texas Parks and Wildlife and the public is just — you really see it there. You really see the connection. And I know we talk about it every year, I wish we could figure out how to get this to all eight of those areas you were talking about, 65 percent of the population. But right now we're doing what we're doing, you're doing a great job. Thank you, Ernie.

MR. GAMMAGE: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Item Number 8, Briefing, Striped Bass in Texas.

Mr. Brian Van Zee, please. Brian?

MR. VAN ZEE: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. I'm Brian Van Zee, I'm the Regional Director for the Inland Fisheries Division. I'd like to begin today by thanking you for this opportunity to come give this presentation.

What I'd like to do is, give you a brief overview of our striped bass programs that we have. The objective of the Striped Bass Program is to increase fishing recreation and harvest by providing a trophy predator, capable of converting underutilized rough and forage fish biomass to a desirable sport-fish biomass. Now, one of the main reasons why striped bass were brought into the State originally was because of the change in the aquatic environments that we've seen over the years. Historically, Texas had over 190,000 miles of rivers and streams that flowed unimpeded to the Gulf of Mexico.

However, today there are more than 800 impoundments, and few unregulated stretches of river. Now, the creation of all of these reservoirs significantly increase the amount of water in the State; but in doing so, it created an artificial or man-made environment that really was not conducive to many of our native fishes.

Therefore, we had to find a species that would not only perform well in the open water half depths found in these reservoirs, but that would also help control our forage fish populations, as well as provide an additional angling opportunity, and the potential for catching a trophy fish.

Now, in 1954, striped bass were discovered by the South Carolina Game and Fish Department, to actually be able to survive in freshwater environments. As you know, striped bass are typically a saltwater species. This discovery sparked a lot of interest in striped bass by several of the game and fish departments in many of the Southern states. In 1960, Texas first introduced striped bass into Lake Diversion. However, that stocking was deemed unsuccessful because the population was never developed. Therefore, the first successful introduction actually occurred in 1967, in Lakes Navarro, Mills and Bardwell.

In 1972, following on the heels of these successful introductions, the Department developed a statewide program. And since that time, the program has grown, and has met with great success. In 1973, the Department became self-sufficient in terms of being able to produce its own hybrid and striped bass — striped bass and hybrid striped bass fry and fingerlings. Prior to 1973, we had obtained all of our striped bass fry from other states.

Today, we collect our adult striped bass from wild populations, and we spawn them in our hatcheries. Since about 1981, all of our striped bass male and females have basically come from the Lake Livingston tailrace. Prior to 1981, we traveled around the State to various lakes such as E.V. Spence, Toledo Bend and even the Lake Texoma tailrace. However, we never had the kind of success at those locations that we have below Livingston.

Now, the success of our striped bass program is due in large part because of the great partnership that we have with the Trinity River Authority. Every year they not only grant us access to the tailrace directly below Lake Livingston, but they assist us in our collections by clearing and leveling out an area along the shoreline, to get ‑‑ allow us a chance to set up our equipment, they use our caterpillars to pull our loaded hatchery vehicles up from the shoreline, and they even regulate the discharges out of the dam, to make them even more conducive to our sampling, but also to make it safer for our staff.

So they are ‑‑ it's a fantastic partnership, and we as a Department, and the anglers of Texas owe the Trinity River Authority a world of gratitude.

Now, the number of striped bass we collect in any given year really depends on the size of the females that we collect. The larger the female, the more eggs they'll produce. But on average, we'll collect in the neighborhood of roughly 200 adult striped bass, and they'll weigh upwards of 20 pounds each.

We collect these fish by using our electric fishing boats, which quite simply stun the fish, the fish are dipped up and placed in live wells, after which time they are brought to the shoreline, where they are inspected to see how close they are to spawning. If they are relatively close, they'll be weighed and injected with a hormone, and then placed upon our hatchery trucks for transportation back to the hatcheries where the spawning will take place.

Now, Texas has the proud distinction of having the largest striped bass and hybrid striped bass hatchery program in the nation. To date, our hatcheries have stocked over 162 million striped bass fry and fingerlings, as well as an additional 100 million hybrid striped bass fry and fingerlings. Within any given year, our hatcheries will produce roughly 5 million striped bass fry and fingerlings for stocking into our reservoirs.

Now, the cost of this production actually is pretty low, compared to, say, the production of our largemouth bass. The main reason for this is quite simply because we do not have to maintain our brood stock in our hatcheries year round.

Natural reproduction has been documented in the State. It occurs in the Red and Wichita Rivers above Lake Texoma, as well as in the Brazos River between Lakes Granbury and Whitney, and in the Trinity River below Lake Livingston. However, only in Lake Texoma is the reproduction sufficient enough to actually maintain the fishery. In the other locations, the natural reproduction is very limited, and very inconsistent; so therefore we maintain the rest of the State with stockings.

In any given year, we will stock and maintain roughly a dozen reservoirs with striped bass, as well as an additional 27 reservoirs with hybrid striped bass. The reason we don't stock more reservoirs than this is quite simply because our hatcheries are maxed out in terms of the number of fingerlings they can produce.

Historically we had stocked more reservoirs than this, but we found we really were not developing the quality of fisheries that we were looking for. So therefore we cut back on the number of lakes we stocked, but increased our stocking rates.

Today, striped bass and hybrid striped bass are a significant source of recreation for our anglers.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: It's a monster. Yes.

MR. VAN ZEE: In 2006, Dr. Bob Denton reported that over 100,000 Texas anglers preferred to fish for white bass, striped bass and hybrid striped bass, collectively known as temper basses. Approximately 65 percent of the total fishing effort on Lake Texoma is directed strictly toward striped bass; and striped bass and hybrid striped bass fishing is important from an economic standpoint as well.

For Lake Texoma, I'll give you an example: The striped bass fishery has an estimated $22 million economic impact for that region, annually. And we have similar situations for other striped bass reservoirs where our fisheries are successful.

Now, the current state record striped bass is 53 pounds; it was caught in 1999, from the Brazos River. And the current hybrid striped bass is currently roughly 20 pounds, and it was caught from Lake Ray Hubbard in 1984.

In an effort to continue improving this program, we have several research projects that are under way. The first one is availing the reciprocal hybrid cross. Currently, we use what's called a palmetto cross, which is a striped bass female crossed with a white bass male; this research project is evaluating the striped bass male crossed with a white bass, just to see how it performs in our reservoirs and our hatcheries as well.

The next research project is evaluating the condition of the adult striped bass in Lake Buchanan. And the third research project is determining the post-stocking survival of striped bass in Lakes Buchanan and Lake Livingston.

Now, the final research project is evaluating the contribution of striped bass stocked in Lake Livingston proper, to the tailrace population, as well as the extent of natural reproduction that's occurring in the Trinity River below Lake Livingston.

Today, there are probably three major issues or challenges facing our striped bass program. The first one is trying to find an additional reliable source of brood fish for spawning. As you recall, we currently collect all of our striped bass from the Lake Livingston tailrace for spawning. If anything were to ever happen to that fishery, it would be very difficult to maintain our program at its current level.

We've begun to address this issue by developing a striped bass population in Lake Lavon, where we believe we'll be able to collect striped bass from its tailrace, similar to what we do at Lake Livingston.

The second challenge facing the program is the false perception that striped bass negatively impact other sport fishes. Now, this has been evaluated extensively in the past, and quite simply is not true, because the vast majority of the striped bass diet is comprised solely of gizzard shad and threadfin shad.

The third and probably the most significant challenge facing the program today is golden alga. Now, not only does golden alga cause substantial fish kills in several of our striped bass and hybrid striped bass reservoirs annually, but it also causes significant problems on our hatcheries, where our striped bass and hybrid striped bass are produced.

Now, our hatchery biologists and managers have done a fantastic job of figuring out ways to control golden alga, within the hatchery setting. But today there is no methodology or technique for controlling it within a reservoir. Therefore, we rely heaving upon our hatcheries to produce the striped bass fry and fingerlings, to rebuild these fisheries as quick as possible. And you'll be hearing more about golden alga later today from Phil Durocher.

I guess in ending I'd just like to reiterate that this program has been very successful for us; it provides an additional angling opportunity for thousands of Texas anglers. And with that, I'll try to answer any questions you may have. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, any questions, please feel free ‑‑

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Why is the only self-sustaining population on Lake Texoma? What are the dynamics there?

MR. VAN ZEE: They require sufficient flows for ‑‑ to keep the eggs ‑‑ the eggs are buoyant when they're spawned, and you have to have sufficient streamflows and distance for those eggs to stay suspended in the water column before they settle out and get suffocated. And so that's why it's fairly limited in where we see it. Plus you know, you have to have the right conditions in terms of salt and everything. But really, Texoma is the only location where we have any natural reproduction. In fact, Lake Texoma is a fishery in which we've never had to stock. It's been maintained by itself. So ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Good.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Interesting.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: The new fish hatchery, now is that going to — walk me through that. Does that help you expand your abilities then, to stock other lakes and areas ‑‑

MR. VAN ZEE: It absolutely should, because what we'll be able to do is, not only increase that production, we can increase production of other fingerlings and move them to different hatcheries.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Uh-huh.

MR. VAN ZEE: Right now, you know, each hatchery is required to produce different species of fingerlings, and this will help in easing that up, so ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. Wonderful.

Brian, thank you. Any other questions for Brian?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Great, thank you. Appreciate your taking the time ‑‑

MR. VAN ZEE: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: — yes. Item Number 9, Briefing, Property Tax Valuation Rules for Properties in Wildlife Management.

Ms. Linda Campbell and Ms. Ann Bright, please.

MS. BRIGHT: Good morning, Commissioners. I'm Ann Bright, General Counsel, and — she won't stand up ‑‑ is Linda Campbell ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Linda.

MS. BRIGHT: — who is the program director for Private Lands and Public Hunting in the Wildlife Division. And we're here today to brief you on a project that we're working on with the Comptroller's office. And our main goal today is really just to talk about process; we'll come back later and talk to you about some specifics.

As you know, wildlife management is very important to our Agency. It's an important part of our mission, and managing wildlife requires managing land, and since land is predominantly privately owned in Texas, participation to private landowners in managing for wildlife is crucial. There are a number of tools that are available, and that we've relied on over the years to assist or encourage landowners to engage in wildlife management. For example, we provide free, on-site assistance to landowners who are interested in managing their land for wildlife; as mentioned yesterday there are currently over 5500 Parks and Wildlife Department Wildlife Management Plans ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes.

MS. BRIGHT: — covering over 20 million acres. Now, I should point out, this is not all of the land in wildlife management; there are other lands, other private biologists that assist individuals in managing their land for wildlife.

Also, we have managed lands programs that allow landowners involved in formal management programs to have the State's most flexible seasons and bag limits. The third incentive is one that the Texas voters and the Texas Legislature provided, and that is, the qualification of land that is managed for wildlife, for an open space valuation. And that's what I'm going to talk about today.

Begin with a little history. Before 1966, property taxes on farm and ranch land were based on market value, just like all other properties. In 1966, the Texas voters approved a Constitutional amendment that allowed farm and ranch land to be assessed based on its production value rather than its market value.

There was an amendment enacted to the Constitution, but there were some limits on this; it only applied to families and individuals whose primary occupation and income was based on agriculture. Corporations could not qualify.

And this resulted in a reduction in the appraised value of some land and related property taxes. In 1978 voters again amended this provision of the Texas Constitution, and they added what we call open space land. It made this valuation available to corporations, it eliminated the occupation and the income requirements ‑‑ Oh, I'm a little behind — the occupation and the income requirements, and it included timberland.

This is often referred to as 1-d-1, and you'll hear people talk about their 1-d-1 valuation for property taxes.

In 1995, voters approved other amendments that allowed the wildlife management to be included in open space valuation, so if someone had land that was devoted to wildlife management, it would qualify for the open space valuation. The Texas Legislature made conforming amendments to the Tax Code.

Then, in 2001, the Legislature ‑‑ and this is how we got involved, the Legislature amended the Tax Code to require that Parks and Wildlife Department develop standards for qualifying for an appraisal based on wildlife management, and then the Comptroller's office was to adopt those standards as rules.

And in 2002, TPWD and the Comptroller's office and a group of folks got together and worked on rules and developed rules and guidelines, and those rules were adopted by the Comptroller.

Now, I'd like to point out that the group who developed those rules did a great job of creating a set of rules from scratch. I want to briefly talk about the requirements of the Tax Code. The statute, the Tax Code defines agricultural use of land to include using land for wildlife management. And the definition on your screen is how they define wildlife management: actively using land that at the time the wildlife management use began, was appraised as qualified open space land in at least three of the following ways to propagate a sustaining, breeding, migrating or wintering population of indigenous wild animals for human use, including food, medicine or recreation.

Before I get to the actual wildlife management practices, I'd like to point out that it says, "at the time the wildlife management use began." There is another provision of the Tax Code that provides that in order to qualify for evaluation on ‑‑ based on wildlife management, the property has to have been principally devoted to Ag for five of the previous seven years, to the degree of intensity generally accepted in the area.

I think at the time it was probably intended to be revenue neutral. And then these are the wildlife management practices: In order to qualify, a landowner must participate in three of the seven, and these are the practices we see regularly: habitat control, erosion control, predator control, providing supplemental food, supplemental water, shelter, and then census counts.

Then the rules, as mentioned before, require that Parks and Wildlife, with the assistance of the Comptroller, is required to develop standards for determining if land qualifies for wildlife management appraisal. This Comptroller is to adopt the standards by rule, and then the standards can include a couple of things, and these are set out in the statute:

A requirement that a tract of land be a specified minimum size to qualify for wildlife management appraisal; taking into consideration the seven wildlife management practices I just mentioned; the types of indigenous wild animal populations the land is being used to propagate; the region of the State in which the land is located; and other factors that TPWD determines are relevant.

As I mentioned earlier, in 2002 these standards were adopted as rules by the Comptroller. In addition, the Comptroller has developed guidelines for qualification for agricultural land and wildlife management use, and a Texas property tax manual for appraisal of agricultural land.

Parks and Wildlife has also developed comprehensive wildlife management-planning guidelines to assist in this. With a growing population and more people looking for a place in the country, the interest in and the use of the wildlife tax valuation has increased. This is especially true in those areas within a short driving distance from major metropolitan areas, where a 1-d-1 valuation can have a significant impact on a landowner's property taxes.

Because of this increased interest, there's been considerable attention focused on the Comptroller's rules that were developed by TPWD. And as with any rule, this increased scrutiny has highlighted some unanticipated issues, and as a result, landowners, wildlife interests and even tax appraisers have asked that we look at clarifying some things in the rules.

So in August, Mike Berger and I, along with Comptroller's office staff met with a small group of stakeholders, consisting of an attorney who has represented some impacted landowners; representatives of the Texas Wildlife Association; and even a tax appraiser representative.

In September, we actually kind of started getting down to work. We met with the Comptroller's office, Linda Campbell, Mike Berger, Todd George, who's another attorney in the Legal Division, and I met with a number of individuals from the Comptroller's staff to really kind of start making assignments and trying to get a working draft together.

Also, in September representatives from Parks and Wildlife, the Comptroller's office, and impacted landowners attended a conference of county tax appraisers. And this was really intended to be a conference with a panel discussion, but it actually turned into an excellent opportunity to get input from county tax appraisers; and they were more than willing to give us some input.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, I'll bet.

MS. BRIGHT: The next steps are set out on the screen. We're going to continue to work with the Comptroller's office and try to develop a working draft; one of the things I'd like to point out about sort of this dual role, where the Parks and Wildlife Department develops the standards and then the Comptroller adopts them by rules, that way you get Parks and Wildlife, who is ‑‑ has some expertise in wildlife management issues, and then you get the Comptroller's office, who is involved in tax policy. And you make sure you get both of those perspectives in these rules.

Once we have a ‑‑ you know, again a very early working draft, we're going to begin the process of getting stakeholder input, and as you can imagine, there are a lot of people that are interested: landowners, we have wildlife interests such as the TWA, agricultural interests, and of course the county tax appraisers.

Once we have a draft that everyone is comfortable with, then we're going to request, or I guess Comptroller's office staff would request that the Comptroller publish the rule in the Texas Register for public comment. And while the Parks and Wildlife Commission is not required to approve or adopt these rules, our plan is to come back to you with more details on the amendments before the rules are adopted, so you can see exactly what we're looking to change in those rules.

And that concludes my presentation. Linda and I would be happy to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Please.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Ann, with respect to the wildlife exemption, I mean the goal obviously is to encourage wildlife management, with all the fragmentation that's occurring around the State, are we giving an incentive for small owners to aggregate their tracts, in order to qualify in the way that we set the minimums there, so that we don't ‑‑

MS. BRIGHT: And I may have to get some help ‑‑ COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: — exacerbate the impact of fragmentation ‑‑

MS. BRIGHT: I may have to get some help on this. But there are provisions that allow wildlife management associations to join together; and there's been some recent litigation on that. I think each of the members probably are going to have to engage in three of the seven practices.

But there are provisions for wildlife management associations. The other thing that is an incentive is that it is intended to I think discourage breaking up land in very small parcels.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: That may or may not have been the policy objective the State wants to adopt; but I guess the one I'm curious about, what's the minimum being discussed right now, for acreage?

MS. BRIGHT: For acreages? Right now, the acreages are based on a formula, and it depends on what part of the State you are, and they only kick in if the land is subdivided and transferred or sold in a single tax year. Because I think the idea is, if you've got people that area already ‑‑ have the Ag exemption or already have the Wildlife Management exemption, they're going to be able to keep it unless they make a change. So ‑‑ and I shouldn't say exemption; the appraisal.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I mean, don't we want to encourage small owners to aggregate, provided they'll legitimately conduct wildlife management activities, rather than ‑‑

MS. BRIGHT: That's definitely something that we can look at putting in the rules.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I mean, I've seen study after study after study talk about the impact of fragmentation on habitat and populations. It seems like this is one area where we can help counteract that impact; if we don't do it right, it will ‑‑ it could go the other way and become a disincentive, or at least not provide an incentive, I guess, in the absence.

MS. BRIGHT: Okay.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any other questions, comments for Ann?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Ann, is there any pressure, can you sense any pressure coming from, let's use the county tax appraisers, to ‑‑ I think it would be for lack of a better term, changes in favor of obviously stronger appraisals and more property tax payments?

MS. BRIGHT: Well, I think that there's probably a natural tension, you know, I mean ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Uh-huh.

MS. BRIGHT: — people are obviously ‑‑ you know, there are policy issues, political issues involved in terms of raising taxes, and one way that taxes can be increased is if the appraisals increase. Now, I think the other thing, and I know that we've got some folks, some staff in the audience who've done a lot of work on this, and I know our biologists have done a lot of work on this, and that is, to try to educate appraisers on what wildlife management looks like.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay.

MS. BRIGHT: Because it's a lot ‑‑ I think it's more, if someone doesn't have experience in wildlife management, it may not be as obvious to them that land is being actively managed for wildlife. They go out to an agricultural property and they can see cattle or they can see crops growing. Whereas they go out to a beautiful piece of property and they see deer running around, and they see a nice brush — you know, there's been obviously some water developed and some brush control — that may not quite be as obvious. And so one of our jobs is to help, and our biologists have helped, educate some of these appraisers on what it looks like.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Good. Yes, I think we got to be careful on this, I appreciate you being so heavily involved, and others, as ‑‑ make sure we keep that balance. Because I think you're right, I think there's a natural tension there. And so I think we're going to have to just make sure that, you know, we very much protect what we've accomplished here, with 55-plus-hundred landowners, as you said, in the TPW system, with over 20 million acres, and our goal of course is, keep expanding that. So.

MS. BRIGHT: And I should point out, in order to qualify, a person does not have to have a TPWD wildlife ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT: No, and I know that. Right.

MS. BRIGHT: — but it can be somebody else's. So.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Right. As you said, there are a lot of people doing it on their own, or other ways, and we want to encourage that also. Okay.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Mr. Chairman?

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: And I may have missed this in your presentation, but did you state the minimum size?

MS. BRIGHT: I don't have the minimum sizes with me. They're ‑‑ I mean, right now in our rules, they're based on a formula; and again they only kick in when the land is sold and subdivided; I'd ‑‑ be happy to provide that information to you; we've got a little chart that shows what those sizes are.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Okay. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any other questions for Ann?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you. Let me see, now Item Number 10, a briefing, Inshore Shrimp License Buyback Program. Mr. — Dr. Larry McKinney and Mr. Robin Riechers. Please.

MR. RIECHERS: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Robin Riechers, I'm Director of Science and Policy for Coastal Fisheries Division.

As indicated, I'm here this morning to present to you a briefing regarding the Inshore Shrimp License Buyback Program. I always like to start these briefings with a general idea of the chronology of shrimp management here in Texas, so that everyone gets an understanding of really how far we've come in a fairly short period of time.

From 1959 until 1985 basically shrimp management, the shrimp fishery changed dramatically during that time, but shrimp fisheries' management did not change at all; it was housed in the Legislature, basically the same rules were in place during that whole period of time.

In 1985, we were granted the authority to have the ability to regulate the shrimp fishery here within the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Commission, but the authority was dependent on passage of a shrimp fishery management plan, which was passed in 1989.

Shortly thereafter, the first rulemaking was done by this Commission, that was done in 1991, and was followed up with a rulemaking in '94, and then 2000. On the heels of the '94 rulemaking, we went to the Texas Legislature and of course, they passed for us Senate Bill 750, which gave us the Inshore Shrimp Fishery Management Plan, and the buyback program, which was part of that plan as well.

The buyback actually got underway in 1996. The next chart's a little bit busy, but we basically hold two rounds of buybacks per year, one in the fall and one in the spring. And if you focus on the gray bars and the red bars, the gray bars are the number of licenses that were bid each time, and the red bars are the numbers that we actually, as I say, got across the threshold; they actually were accepted by us, and we actually got them to sign a contract and turn their license over to us. What you can see is, in the early years there was quite a bit of price discovery going on; they're figuring out what we were willing to pay, and then adjusting their bids accordingly. We kind of rocked along, in a fairly, you know, aggressive schedule, but we kind of have flattened out on licenses there in about Rounds 11 through 14, and then all of a sudden the price of fuel went up here, in about Round 15 ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Uh-huh.

MR. RIECHERS: — and you can see that effect in that bar chart very clearly, where we had about four rounds with very high numbers of applicants, and we were able to take great advantage of that, and, you know, basically leverage our funds and purchase more out of the system during that period of time.

As you notice, the last round, Round 20 was down quite a bit, and we have Round 21, which we have all the applications in for, right at this time, and we see the lowest number of applicants that we've ever seen.

So that's one of the signals, I think, that we're looking at kind of giving us some idea of where we stand in the life history of this program. And I'm going to talk about some additional signals here in a moment.

Where we stand today is, we have had 20 rounds, and we've purchased 904 bay and 886 bait licenses. That's 56 percent of the licenses that we had when we started the program, and we spent $11.4 million to do that.

When you look at the average prices paid, as you can see, for about the last seven to eight rounds we basically have had the same price, or near the same price, it's averaged from about $7,900 to a little over $8,000 on average. Our highest prices paid have been right at $10,000, and as you can see, kind of in that price discovery mechanism as well, that lower part of the range has started to move up through time.

The next three slides are going to talk a little bit about what effect we've had with this buyback program. Have we really had the desired effects on both the fishery, and on other resources out there. And the first one basically shows you a slide, the red bar is Louisiana, Florida, inshore shrimping effort, and the yellow bar is the Texas inshore shrimping effort. And as you can see, when you draw the line and when we start our buyback program, our inshore shrimp fishing effort has gone down. And if you were in those other states, you saw it continuing to rise during that same period of time.

At least until you got to this most recent time period, where fuel ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, fuel.

MR. RIECHERS: — prices have of course gone up, and everyone's kind of went down a little bit.

In addition to those actual impacts on the shrimp fishery itself, we have ancillary impacts as well on other species, and of course Atlantic croakers, one of those species that's both a recreational, sought-after fish in our State, and it's also a key important prey species. And of course you can see when you draw the impact line in 1995, you can see the upward swing that we've seen associated with Atlantic croaker catch rates.

When you look at blue crab catch rates, though not as large a component of the buy-catch, a very important component of the buy-catch as well, an important part of our fishery here in Texas, you can also see an upward swing.

Now, obviously we've done — we've also had other management interventions on blue crab; we also have a limited entry program in '97, which capped the number of licenses on the blue crab fishery, which also helps, and is probably evidenced in this bar as well, and our managed crab trap cleanup program, which we believe also has had significant impact on this resource.

But all those things combined certainly look to a better picture on blue crabs than we had before that period of time.

Where we started had been, this year is, basically we have ‑‑ and this is the portion where I'm going to kind of talk about signals, of where we are in the live history of this program. When we started this fiscal year, we had 585 bay and 568 bait licenses; because many boats hold both licenses, we equate that to about 630 vessels in the fishery right now ‑‑ in the inshore fishery right now.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: How many — oh, 636.

MR. RIECHERS: Yes.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: I see it there. Okay.

MR. RIECHERS: When we talk about signals, I think it's important I show you this slide. This is probably a projection slide I showed you about a year or a year and a half ago, and when you look at where we should be, we're actually ahead of schedule. We're getting closer to where we projected at that time, in 2006, probably the earlier part of 2006, that we're actually almost where we projected we would be in 2010. So we're a couple years ahead of schedule.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Wonderful.

MR. RIECHERS: Now, of course that's largely due in part to some great partners that we have; Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, Nagley Conservation Fund, which has allowed us to buy more licenses than we thought we could; Coastal Conservation Association; Earl C. Sams Foundation; of course, individual donors who've helped us along the way as well.

We've been able to really take advantage of those periods when we had more license ‑‑ basically license bid than we normally would, and we were able to aggressively leverage their dollars with our dollars, and get ahead of schedule, here.

Another signal that we look to is our opening day boat counts. And as you can see by that graph, these are the opening day boat counts for the fall of this year; we also do spring boat counts. It looks very similar to this graph; and right now on opening day we had just slightly less than 200 vessels out there, on opening day.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Lowest ever, yes.

MR. RIECHERS: The other thing we look at is, what's actually happening in the shrimp industry. We always predicted that if you took those vessels out, that the catch per unit effort, or the catch per individual vessel per hour spent out there would start increasing again, and of course, that picture depicts that increase. So it does ‑‑ it has had the desired effects on the industry as far as stabilizing the industry, and allowing it to become a more profitable and sustainable industry on that inshore area as well. And that picture helps depict that.

That basically concludes my presentation, but I think the signals portion of this presentation is an indicator to us here on staff, and what we're trying to share with you is that, from the life cycle perspective of this program, we certainly are nearing the end of it. We've accomplished a lot of the goals we set out to accomplish, and we're ‑‑ of course have this round ongoing; we'll have another round in the spring, and as we move through this biennium, we anticipate that, with your blessing we will look to probably remove our aggressive schedule from this buyback, and maybe look at some of the other programs that we have ongoing.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Please.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Are we down to a volume of shrimpers where you could look at conversion to an ITQ program?

MR. RIECHERS: Well, you're ‑‑ yes, we are.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Could we ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT: What's an ITQ program?

MR. RIECHERS: We certainly believe we are, in fact we've been — an ITQ program is an individual transferable quota program, basically a predicted amount of landings or a set amount of landings, would be distributed each year to individuals, and they would get that based on some sort of historical share ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay.

MR. RIECHERS: — or amount of poundage they had in the past. And then basically what that does is, the incentive then becomes for us to remove some of the restrictions we now have, and them to be able to just go get the shrimp when they want to go get it, how they want to go get it, and us get out of some of that regulatory business that we do.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Uh-huh.

MR. RIECHERS: And of course we have two licenses, and that might also be a perfect time to start thinking about one license, in that situation.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Right.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Do you have any idea whether the total harvest now is at a sustainable level? Or ‑‑

MR. RIECHERS: Well, certainly we believe it's ‑‑

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Is it going to match a calculation for an ITQ quantity?

MR. RIECHERS: We ‑‑ it has decreased on the last few years from an average of around 10 million pounds to six million pounds, and certainly we've seen the increases in the offshore, which is one of the things we were trying to balance when we put these programs in place.

So we think it's much more, you know, sustainable now at this current level than we would have been at before.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Robin, thank you, and you've done a tremendous, tremendous job, you and Dr. McKinney, and I think it also shows the, you know, the private-public partnership and ‑‑ when you get groups working together, you get interested parties, advocacy groups working with TPW, and the TPW Foundation, you can really create some successes out there, and this is one of them. This is terrific. Thank you.

MR. RIECHERS: Thank you all.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Item Number 11, Briefing ‑‑ let me see, make sure I've got this right. Transfer of Texas State Railroad and 18 Historic Sites, Mr. Walt Dabney and Ms. Ann Bright. Please.

MR. DABNEY: Chairman, Commissioners, good morning. I'm Walt Dabney, State Parks Director, and with me today is our Chief Counsel, Ann Bright, to back me up ably, and Scott Boruff, the Deputy Executive Director. Both of them have been intimately involved with these two significant issues; certainly related to the State Parks Division.

As mandated by the Legislature and this last session, pursuant to House — or Senate Bill 1659 and House Bill 12, that we do two different things. One is that we transfer the operation of the Texas State Railroad, and secondly, that we transfer several of the historic sites.

I want to talk to you about each of those this morning. Texas State Railroad runs between Rusk and Palestine, in East Texas. The Legislature gave that to us, in 1972 to operate as a tourist railroad. We began that operation, actually, in 1976, and since then have operated it continuously. It runs between Anderson and Cherokee Counties.

Senate Bill 1659 in this last session established the Texas State Railroad Authority, and instructed us to transfer the assets to that railroad authority, on September 1st of this year. We actually have done that, and we are no longer in the operation of the Texas State Railroad.

A general appropriations act related to that in House Bill 1, appropriated $2 million, to match a $10 million transportation enhancement grant; that cannot be used for operation, it has to be used for the improvement and maintenance of the trackway, and rolling stock. That has to be approved by LBB and has not been at this time, so that money has not been approved in this transfer as of yet.

We had a couple of interesting challenges right at the end of our operation of this. In July, July 6th of '07 we actually had a derailment of the train, in which case Car Number 43 was in fact damaged; it actually was damaged by another train, one of ours coming from the other direction.

Then following that, when it rains it pours I guess, even in the railroad business, and it poured ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes.

MR. DABNEY: — in this area ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT: That's true.

MR. DABNEY: — and literally washed out huge pieces of the trackway, shutting us down literally. In the agreement, in the transfer that we entered into with the Railroad Authority, in addition to transferring the assets, we transferred $13,500 to repair that railroad car, and $631,000-plus to fix the trackway. That work is in fact underway now.

With that, we operated that railroad successfully, we think, for 31 years. Some of the folks you see in this picture actually have been with us most of that time. We are no longer in that business, and with that I'm going to pause here ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes.

MR. DABNEY: — before I go into the historic sites, and see if you have any questions, either of myself or Ann, who has been absolutely instrumental in effecting this transfer and working out the legal details ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes ‑‑

MR. DABNEY: — or Scott, who has worked significantly with the Railroad Authority.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: I'm getting a little harassment on both sides, here. This happened literally right after I became chairman, so ‑‑ I think our ‑‑ my predecessor, gave me a nickname now, Trainwreck Holt. And it was classic: I mean, Walt, and everybody had ‑‑ and Bob, and everybody, Gene, and Scott — worked so hard to get this transfer moving, find the appropriate people, working of course with all the citizens in this part of the world.

This train is very important to this part of the world, and Commissioner Parker's been in the middle of it, and all of this happened, I mean, boom, boom, boom. And yet the transfer has gone forward, and we're continuing to work with that group, to make sure that this works, this transfer, so I appreciate, Walt, all the work you have done. And I'll stay out of the way from now on.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Mr. Chairman?

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Are the ‑‑ is the railroad entity negotiating with the Legislative Budget Board? Are we out of that negotiation?

MR. DABNEY: We are out of it. And it would be their responsibility to do that; I don't think we have ‑‑ we are completely out of the picture.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Completely out of it. Okay, sure.

MR. DABNEY: — on this. And I think anybody would tell you that we did everything that we were supposed to, in this transfer, including finding some money to effect these repairs.

COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Thank you.

MR. DABNEY: Sure.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any other questions for Walt on the train?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay, thank you, Walt. Why don't we go forward.

MR. DABNEY: On the historic sites, we currently operate 34 Texas Historic Sites scattered all over the State. House Bill 12 instructed us, in this last Legislative Session, to transfer 18 of those sites to the Texas Historical Commission, as of January 1st of this year. Those are scattered ‑‑ those 18 sites are scattered over seven of our eight state park regions, and they're located, as you can see in this map.

That leaves us this list of historic sites left, still in Parks and Wildlife ownership and operation, with the exception of the Port Isabel lighthouse, which is operated by the City of Port Isabel, all of these are operated in fact by State Parks Division.

The historic site transfer is to, as I said, go into effect January 1; we'll be transferring 44 of our employees with those sites; all of the assets that are associated with those sites will go to the THC. The Buffalo Soldiers Program, which is part of our interpretive program, and works with specially at-risk youth and minority youth across the State will stay with us; they will still be able to use the historic sites where they have had programs.

The funding was transferred to THC as of September 1st, and we are in an interim agreement with them to operate those sites successfully with no change, until ‑‑ through December 31st, and then we will in fact transfer those sites completely to their operation.

Kind of interesting, our appropriation with the LAR that you approved would have been about $2.8 million to operate it this next year, and we would have had an increase in staff up to 65 FTEs; with this transfer, THC will in fact have $6 million, nearly $7 million to operate those same sites, and nearly 100 FTEs. So they should be able to do very well with the operation of those sites.

Lots of issues related to the transfer, I won't read this list; you can see those. But those are all items that we're having to work out; and again Ann has been instrumental in helping us make this occur successfully. With that, I would ask you if you had any questions about the transfer of the historic sites.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: What did you decide about the Longhorns?

MR. DABNEY: We're still trying to figure that out ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Oh, all right ‑‑

MR. DABNEY: — the Texas Parks and Wildlife have managed those ‑‑ that Longhorn herd, which is not just at Fort Griffin; they're scattered ‑‑ in fact most of them are not at Fort Griffin; they're scattered all over the area. There are a lot of people, especially at places like San Angelo, that consider that their herd, and they do not ‑‑ in fact, do not want it to go away.

That is a point that we need to negotiate still with THC. There certainly needs to be a representative herd at Fort Griffin for interpretive purposes ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Right.

MR. DABNEY: — who manages the herd is probably the issue that's got to be resolved.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any questions or comments for Walt?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: I just again want to thank Walt, and Ann also. The transfer of dollars, remember had to be worked out, because we went into the new fiscal year September 1st, and ‑‑ but yet we still ‑‑ and the dollars went to THC, but we kept the parks until January 1, '08. And so you had those four or five months, whatever that is, period of time that had to be negotiated, and Ann and the group put that together and worked it out.

And so overall, I think it's gone pretty smoothly, considering that there's a fairly short time window to get all this done. So, thank you.

MR. DABNEY: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: All right. Item Number 13, Briefing, Golden Alga update.

Mr. Phil Durocher. Phil?

MR. DUROCHER: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, I'm Phil Durocher, the Director of Inland Fisheries. Before we start, I'd like to introduce Dr. Dave Sager. Dave is head of the Golden Alga Task Force, which we formed in this agency, and he'll be here to answer any of the technical questions you may have after I make this presentation.

What I'm going to do today is give you some information on golden alga in Texas. First, we'll talk about what the golden alga is. We'll talk about a historical perspective of the golden alga in Texas. I'll give you some information about the current status, where we are today with the golden alga in certain river systems in the State; we'll talk about what this Agency is doing to begin managing the golden alga; talk about some of the research and the accomplishments that we've ‑‑ had since we began working vigorously on the golden alga, probably in the year 2001. And then briefly, the next steps, where we see ourselves going with this program.

The golden alga is a microscopic yellow green alga. It's usually associated with brackish water, it's usually found in estuarian situations. Unfortunately, it produces several toxins that kill fish, mollusks and other aquatic life. But fortunately, it's not a threat to humans, wildlife, or livestock.

The golden alga was first described in 1937, in England. Including the U.S., it is currently found in 14 countries. Those include most of Europe, Morocco, Israel, South Africa, Australia, and it's even found in China.

It was first identified in the United States from the Pecos River in 1985. Prior to 1981, fish kills occurred sporadically in the Pecos, and some areas in the Upper Brazos and the Colorado River. Unfortunately at that time, we didn't know what was causing those fish kills; they were often attributed to other factors, and it was not until that time that we began to realize that the golden alga really was the issue in these areas.

Since we began having issues with the golden alga in 2001, since we began having fish kills here in Texas, and really it wasn't until that time when people began to look for the golden alga, it's been reported in 16 states.

Since 2001, the locations and occurrences of kills in Texas have increased dramatically. Right now, we've described the golden alga, or we're having fish kill issues with the golden alga, in five of the river systems of Texas. In the Brazos River, the ‑‑ Colorado, the Pecos, the Red River and the Canadian River in the Panhandle.

Unfortunately, two of our fish hatcheries are located in the watersheds of several of these systems. And we've had significant fish kills at a lot of our fish hatcheries, and we've been working real hard the last ‑‑ since 2001 to try to learn how to manage that situation, in fish hatcheries.

In fact, in 2001, when this really, really broke out for us, we produced no stripers, in any of our fish hatcheries in Texas; we lost all of our fish due to fish kills caused by the golden alga.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: What year was that, Phil, I'm sorry?

MR. DUROCHER: In 2001.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: I'll be darned. Yes.

MR. DUROCHER: Since 2001, we've seen fish kills in over 33 water bodies in the State of Texas. And this has included — over 30-million-plus fish have been killed. Now, fortunately most of these are forage fish, and small rough fish, but some of the recreational fisheries in some of our more important lakes in the State have been affected by the golden alga.

The current status: What we've seen as of last week. In the Pecos River, we have a fairly high cell counts, but we haven't seen any fish kills yet this year. In the Colorado River we're having elevated cell counts again, but no fish kills, but that's an indication that at any point in time here, we could begin having kills. In the Brazos River, our cell count's at low levels, in Possum Kingdom, Granbury and Whitney; it's important, because these are very important fisheries in these areas.

In the Red River, at Lake Diversion, in Lake Diversion which is the water supply for Dundee Fish Hatchery, it ‑‑ the toxin is at very toxic levels. So we're having to be real careful as we get into our production season at Possum Kingdom.

Now, what we did initially in 2001, we created what we call the Golden Alga Task Force, to coordinate all of the efforts of ‑‑ in Texas, and to gather information to begin to figure out how we were going to manage this situation.

This included staff from the Inland and Coastal Divisions, and what they did was work to develop a plan on how we were going to attack the golden alga, management and research in the State of Texas. To actually see if there was anything we could do.

Now, we took some actions on the strategic side; we did several things. Initially we held an international workshop, in 2003; we invited experts from all over the world to come to Fort Worth, and they met, and it was a chance for us to gather all the information we could that was known about the golden alga, because actually some other parts of the world have been having issues with golden alga a lot longer than we have.

So we brought these people in, and we let them work with us to develop a plan of how we were going to attack the golden alga in terms of research, in terms of the information that we needed.

We also changed some of our management and stocking strategies to begin to deal with this. For instance, we said if ‑‑ these reservoirs that were impacted by golden alga were going to be top priority for all of our stocking programs.

These ‑‑ a lot of these areas were affected fairly significantly, economically, and we wanted to go in and stock fish, and try to bring these fisheries back just as quickly as we could.

Communication and education efforts with the public, with other government agencies in other states, and particularly with our stock holders; we wanted to let people know what we knew; we were trying to prevent any kind of panic, people really concerned about what the golden alga was going to do for us.

And also, strategically we began to coordinate the sharing of information with other agencies, and from other people from all around the world.

We also, because we got some appropriations from the Legislature, we began to do research to begin to learn more about the golden alga. We did applied research on reservoirs and our fish hatcheries; of course it was very important that we learn how to manage the golden alga in our fish hatcheries.

And we also contracted with several universities in the State, and outside of this state, to do some work for us so that we'd begin to piece together all of the science that would help us maybe in the future learn how to manage this creature.

Now, the reservoir research, some of the things that we've done is, we expanded our monitoring and our bloom sampling. We began sampling early in the fall so we can have information being gathered as the blooms occur. So maybe at some point in time we can figure out what it is that's triggering these blooms, and maybe have some way of managing it.

We also looked at a statewide distribution. We wanted to know where the golden alga was an issue in Texas, and where it could potentially be an issue. Most of the fish kills had been occurring west of I-35, in the western part of the State, and we wanted to make sure that it was isolated there, and we did do a statewide distribution study to find out where the alga was.

With our hatchery research, we began to experiment with chemical treatments, herbicides, trying to see if we could kill this animal out of the system. We looked at physical treatments, we looked at biological treatments, we looked at nutrient applications, and we're still doing a lot of research in those areas. But I'm glad to say that our hatchery staff has been real diligent in this work, and we have had really good production of our stripers the last several years.

It's kind of a scary deal for those guys, that they're so happy when those fish finally leave the facility, because they know at any time they could lose all those fish due to golden alga.

The university-led research, we've got a lot of ‑‑ we've got a consortium of universities working on trying to model the environmental factors affecting the blooms and the toxins; we're looking at golden alga genetics to make sure that it's one species that we're dealing with and we can identify it. We've ‑‑ done some work on economic impact, of golden alga fish kills, particularly at Lake Possum Kingdom. We're looking at clay and flocculant applications, that's ‑‑ what these applications do is, settle the golden alga out of the water column, and hopefully reduce the toxicity.

And through all this work, we've learned certain things about the golden alga. We're far ahead of where we were in 2001 when we began looking at this work.

Now, what we found out from this statewide distribution study is that the golden alga is more widespread in Texas than it was expected. We have found golden alga in every river system in the State of Texas.

So it's everywhere. Fortunately, it needs an advantage to bloom. So these advantages, it doesn't get the same advantage every ‑‑ in every part of the State.

Golden Alga does really well when the green alga, the normal alga that grow in our lakes are not doing well. When it has an advantage, when ‑‑ because of either temperature, you know, during the winter the green alga don't grow as fast, and the golden alga get the advantage.

It seems to be somewhat related to salinity, since it's an estuarian alga, it probably requires some level of salinity to get an advantage.

Water quality interactions with alga and toxin are critical; we've learned that. It's not — just because we have a bloom of golden alga doesn't mean all the fish are going to die. There's certain things that have to be there in the water quality and the water chemistry that are going to trigger the toxins ‑‑ to become toxic, really.

One of these is, systems with a low pH. If, you know, everything west of 35 has a relatively high pH, it usually averages 9 to 10. When pH's are high, the golden alga have the advantage. When pH's are low, anything below pH of 7, which occurs all of East Texas, everything east of 35, we rarely have toxic occurrences. We have the golden alga, but we're not seeing any of the toxins being produced.

We've also learned in our hatchery systems that ozone, ultraviolet light, ammonium sulfate, chelated copper and other treatments are successful. So using a combination of these things, we have been able to manage the golden alga and the toxicity of our fish hatcheries, at least get them through the production season so we can have some fish to stock.

We've looked at all kinds of things. We got a lot of information from other countries about some of the things they were doing to control golden alga; we tried them all, we tried barley straw, we tried ultrasonic vibrations, and bacterial treatments, and we found out that none of those were successful in any of our work in Texas.

And we are ‑‑ the flocculant clay and nutrient applications are showing some promise; so some of the things that we're continuing to look at.

Now, some of the recent accomplishments; golden alga doesn't only attack big rivers and big reservoirs. We're also having some issues on some of the small ponds, private ponds or city ponds and some of the lakes in West Texas. And fortunately, because of the size, some of these can be ‑‑ you can, there are methods we can use to control the golden alga. And we developed a guideline, a pond management guideline to give these people a system in taking care of the golden alga in those circumstances.

We had ‑‑ our Staff published a paper and it was presented at the American Fishery Society Reservoir Symposium, in Atlanta this past summer, and the title was "Toxic Golden Alga: A Potential Threat to U.S. Reservoirs." And what we're trying to do was alert everybody in the country, that this was not just a Texas problem. This has the potential to be a problem all over the United States.

And we passed out at the beginning of this presentation a fact sheet that we prepared, to hand out to people all over the State so they know what's ‑‑ what we know about golden alga, and just to try to keep the communication open with our constituents.

Now, several things we're going to continue to do. We're going to continue to do all these dynamic studies that we're doing with the universities, because they seem to be collecting a lot of really good data, and we're hoping at one point in time they will develop some kind of model for us that we can predict when the golden alga's going to become toxic, and when it may not. And if there's anything we can do, to break that ‑‑ those steps.

We will continue to identify and isolate the toxins, that's important to us again because ‑‑ just because the alga's there doesn't mean it's killing fish. And what we do now, we go in and we collect water samples, and we got ‑‑ we have to look for the golden alga and count them, and we'd like to have some kind of probe where we can just put it in the water and see whether that water's toxic or not. And that's the area that we're working towards with this ‑‑ toxin studies.

We're going to also look at additional possible treatments. We're continuously talking to people; people are coming to us, saying, We think we have a herbicide that's going to work, and we'll look at everything that they have, to see if we can find a silver bullet, here.

And finally, we're going to, in 2009 we're going to bring all of those experts back together again, and go over the information that we've gleaned since the 2003, and see if there's anything else, and come up with a plan, another plan of action that we can move down the road, and go get the information we need, that maybe one day we can find a way to manage this in our big systems in Texas.

Golden alga is here; there has been some speculation that it was related to the drought that we've been through in the last 10 years, causes an increase in salinity. Well, if that was the case, and we don't know, then we should find out this year, because we've got water in all those systems, and they've been flushed out fairly well.

But with that, I'll be glad to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Please, Commissioner Brown.

COMMISSIONER BROWN: I was wondering, and maybe you did cover it, but has it impacted Laguna Madre and some of those areas, and is it in any way related to the ‑‑ you know, the same thing, like the red tide that we've got issues with.

MR. DUROCHER: The closest we've had, I think this past year we had some fish kills that occurred on the Lower Brazos. But as far as, up to this date, I don't know any we've had in the ‑‑ in any of our bay systems, no. Their problem there is the red tide, and they've got other issues to deal with.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: Phil?

MR. DUROCHER: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER PARKER: Does anything eat the ‑‑ have you found anything that ‑‑ eats the golden alga?

MR. DUROCHER: Not yet. Believe me, we're looking.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: All right. And I think that leads to kind of my question too, I mean, do you feel that these other states, and as you said, on an international basis, is there as intensive work going on there as you're doing, and TPW is doing?

MR. DUROCHER: Well, the ‑‑ a lot of the work being done overseas was being done in hatchery situations. That's why we had an advantage in hatchery; it was particularly prevalent in Israel where they produce a lot of fish on fish farms, and they have been dealing with golden alga for many years. So that's where we got a lot of the information that we used to manage it on our system.

But the other states, the only other states that are having ‑‑ and it's not near to the scope of what we're having here in Texas, is New Mexico and Arizona, our neighbors to the west ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Uh-huh.

MR. DUROCHER: They're ‑‑ there was a scare last year in Oklahoma, on Lake Texoma, golden alga is in Lake Texoma. Fortunately, we haven't had any large blooms there and any big fish kills, but that's a real concern to us.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: But are they doing research, to your knowledge, at the level you are?

MR. DUROCHER: Not at all, sir.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Not at all. Okay.

Okay, any other questions for Phil?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, sir. I appreciate you taking the time.

MR. DUROCHER: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: This is nasty stuff, yes.

Item Number 15, Briefing, Collaborative Wetlands Restoration Projects on the Upper Texas Gulf Coast. Mr. Jim Sutherlin.

MR. SUTHERLIN: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, my name's Jim Sutherlin, I'm the Project Leader-Manager for the Wildlife Division's Wildlife Management Areas along the Upper Texas Coast.

Let me get my buttons right here. The Upper Coast Wetland Ecosystem Project includes wildlife management areas in Chambers, Jefferson, Orange counties, in Wildlife Region 4. Highlighted here are the Murphree area, and the Lower Neches Wildlife Management Area.

I'm here today to present several successful wetland restoration projects on Department WMAs where funding is from a collaboration of grants, agreements and partnerships. These projects represent a total area of over 585 acres of restored emergent marsh in Orange and Jefferson Counties.

Three of these wetland restoration projects are within units of the Lower Neches WMA. These are, the Bessie Heights Marsh terracing project, the Tom Jackson Wetlands Restoration Site, within the Nelda Stark Unit, and the Old River Wetland Restoration Site, within the Old River Unit of the Lower Neches Wildlife Management Area.

The fourth and largest wetland restoration site is in the Pintail Flats Wetland Restoration Site of the Salt Bayou Unit of the J.D. Murphree WMA.

Depicted in these two aerial photos are an example of emergent marsh converted to open water, and waters today of the Nelda Stark Unit of the Lower Neches WMA. On the left is a 1930 depiction of the Bessie Heights Marsh, and the Bessie Heights Canal; and on the right is the 1993 picture, of virtually the same area.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Wet.

MR. SUTHERLIN: Wetland loss is documented along the Upper Coast as a result of many contributing factors including navigational, mineral, and industrial development. The Nelda Stark Unit, the Bessie Heights Marsh terracing project on the left, in 2002 about 90 acres; was completed in 2002. This project restored emergent marsh habitat, and increased edge in former marsh degraded to open water.

And our partners included the Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustees, Coastal America, the Coastal Erosion Protection Act, and Parks and Wildlife.

And then on the right, the 70-acre Tom Jackson Marsh Restoration Project was completed in 2003, using dredge material for maintenance dredge work for the Neches River Ship Channel, and our partners again included NRDA Trustees, the Galveston Corps of Engineers, the Jefferson County Navigation District, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Pictured here is a 2004 photo of those two projects together ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Beautiful, great.

MR. SUTHERLIN: — in the same Nelda Stark Unit, of the Lower Neches WMA. It's the Bessie Heights Marsh terracing project in the background, and the Tom Jackson Marsh site in the foreground.

Now, here's a list of our partners for those two projects. A 185-acre Old River Wetland Restoration Project will be completed in 2007. This project uses a combination of dredge materials, dredge material mined from a 1957 dredge disposal site, and terracing from the ‑‑ within the Old River Unit of the Lower Neches WMA.

The project is the responsibility of Chevron USA, as a result of a U.S. Department of Justice settlement negotiated with NRDA. Other important partners include the Orange County Drainage District, and Orange County.

Work progresses at Old River. And the picture on the left is actual mining materials from an old dredge hill, and on the right is placement of those materials in the marsh, in what is open water. You can see the new ‑‑ mounds and terraces being placed on the left in this photo, and on the right, again more of the mining of the dredge hill.

A list of the partners in this project, and a map of the Salt Bayou Unit of the J.D. Murphree WMA, the site of the Pintail Flats project. On the left is a picture of Pintail Flats, open waters on the Murphree area prior to the project, and on the left, a picture of 2006, and the fall when the berms were being placed for the dredge placement for this project.

And dredge material is being pumped in 2007 into the 240-acre Pintail Flats project. This material is pumped approximately seven miles from the Golden Pass LNG Terminal, on the Sabine Neches Ship Channel; 530,000 cubic yards of material are deposited in Pintail Flats, to restore marsh elevations in 240 acres of former emergent marsh habitat.

An aerial view of Pintail Flats under high tidal conditions, after dredge material placement in late August of 2007. Here are the collaborators for Pintail Flats. Give us lemons, we make lemonade. Thank you for this opportunity to make this presentation. You know, it's a lot more fun to do this from a boat, everybody riding around with you, than just to get up here in front of you guys ‑‑ but I really appreciate the opportunity. The collaborative effort, it takes years to pull these projects off and it takes a coordinated effort not only from folks in our Division, but folks in Coastal Fisheries, Inland Fisheries, our contracting folks, our legal folks, our ‑‑ you know, there's been somebody from everybody in this shop, including folks from Fish and Wildlife Service and General Land Office and EPA, and TCEQ, and if we weren't all headed in the same direction, one time or another, willing to compromise, we couldn't do these things. And I include you guys in that, Mr. Cook, and — it trickles down. And I appreciate the opportunity to do this. Thank you very much.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Jim, any questions for Jim?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Jim's done a wonderful job, and you'll see, in not only working with all the other agencies and all those local groups, and of course TCEQ and everybody else you're talking about, but also bringing in the private sector. And — where there can be a natural tension also, and Jim's done a tremendous job of doing that up there, and I agree, we'd all like to be on that boat with you, I can assure you. Last couple of days we've been sitting on our rears. Thanks, Jim. Thanks for everything.

MR. SUTHERLIN: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Appreciate it.

Item 16, Briefing, Urban Wildlife Program, Mr. Richard Heilbrun. Did I pronounce that right, Richard?

MR. HEILBRUN: You did.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Good, I did okay. Thank you.

MR. HEILBRUN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. My name is Richard Heilbrun. I'm an urban wildlife biologist in the Wildlife Division, and I'm here to brief you today on the Urban Wildlife Program.

As we've heard today and as you know, we're becoming more and more urbanized every day. Three-quarters of all of the counties depending on farming, ranching and mining are actually found west of the I-35 corridor.

Almost that percentage of the Texas House of Representatives come from urban counties. If you take just Houston alone, that city accounts for a quarter of our entire State's population. And then if you bring it on down here even further and look at just Harris County, you're talking about 25 of the 150 representatives. So you can imagine the kind of voting and financial power that these urban areas have.

Encompassing 2.4 million acres, with 19 million people, the urban landscape is really spreading into everything we do here in the Department. You have only to look at big programs — successful programs like the Expo, to know that urban residents really crave information from us, and guidance on natural resource management.

Our job in our program is to increase the awareness of the natural resources in the minds of urban Texans, while simultaneously preserving wildlife habitat in and around our cities. However, a major problem is convincing these urban residents that our issues should be their issues. So we attempt not only to influence people, but also policy and personal philosophy.

To that end, the Department created our program, the Urban Wildlife Program, in 1993. We have eight urban biologists in seven cities ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Good.

Mr. HEILBRUN: — including Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, El Paso, San Antonio, and in the Valley we have two other biologists that share urban responsibilities.

The program began largely as outreach; in the mid-90s, we hung our hat on individual residential programs like the Wildscape Program, the Backyard Habitat Program. But ‑‑ those are great programs that we continue today, but they impacted one home, one resident at a time.

We have now grown into a program largely centered around policy-driven technical guidance. As a program, our activities can be classified as outreach and technical guidance, though much of what we do, we consider to be innovative for the Department, because we have such a different kind of audience than many of the other staff and programs that we have.

We reach about 30,000 to 40,000 people annually, that's with seven ‑‑ with nine staff members; we either teach or guest-lecture at five different universities; and we support 14 master naturalist chapters by either teaching classes, providing advance training, offering conservation programs, research projects, things like that.

And we are also very proud of our landowner workshops. These workshops began in 2002 in Houston, and the goal of these landowner workshops has always been to not only protect the land, but to educate these newer demographics of landowners that we've — that we hear about. Those landowners that perhaps didn't grow up on the land, perhaps they don't have the education or the background or just the familiarity of managing their ranch. Oftentimes, they have different priorities than traditional ranchers, but a common thread is that many of them are now commuting to their properties on the weekends and the holidays. So many of them have better access to our urban staff than some of our more traditional rural staff.

We now conduct landowner workshops in all seven of the areas that this program covers. In the past two years we've reached landowners coming from 114 different counties, representing 200,000 acres. And you can see that this really centers around those major metropolitan areas.

Getting the word out is no small task, so we developed an urban wildlife media communications plan to get the word out to some of these nontraditional audiences. Because we're in these major media markets, we're often the first point of contact on a variety of natural resource issues. Issues like, urban sprawl, city laws, native landscaping, and nuisance wildlife.

Now, I want to spend just a quick second talking about nuisance wildlife. It is a very small part of our program, but it garnishes quite a bit of attention in the press, as you can imagine. We're very proud of the work we've done with urban coyotes; biologists in Dallas and Fort Worth developed a really fantastic program to aid city leaders and city planners dealing with these urban coyotes.

We gave them a matrix to help them make decisions based on the situation with the coyotes versus what we recommend to do with the people. We then took that model and applied it to a lot of other cities statewide, so we're really proud of that.

Urban biologists in El Paso and San Antonio helped to formulate the mountain lion human interaction response procedures. This past summer, San Antonio biologists had the dubious distinction of testing those procedures, and we worked with the media to communicate about these issues.

We worked with city leaders, and the general public. Everything came out fine, we had no incidents and we really came out very well developing relationships with the media and with these city leaders, to show them that it's not necessarily this sort of head-to-head conflict that many people imagine it to be.

We spend a lot of time on site-specific technical guidance. Small landowners, on the fringe of the city, need wildlife management advice. Corporations often desire to manage their urban campuses for wildlife and wildlife habitat. Schools come to us for help with their outdoor classrooms. And we also assist homeowner associations with a variety of issues.

This year for the first time a family was honored with the Lone Star Land Steward Award for conservation development. It's a very interesting concept to me, and to our program, we're really excited about the idea of conserving your ranch by developing it. It's — we're excited about the opportunities this creates for developers, and also for ranching families that are feeling the pressure of urbanization and development. There's a middle ground, and we're incorporating these ideas into projects around the State with various developers.

While many of our programs seek to improve wildlife habitat on a site-specific or individual basis, we found that by influencing city policy we can impact a larger area, and conserve larger blocks of habitat. The analogy I use is, we can work with one homeowner at a time, or we can change a law that would impact 1.5 million people. And so we found that it's a lot more work, but we ‑‑ can impact larger areas by working with these city officials.

We work with vegetation ordinances to allow things like parks to be operated as natural areas; lawns to be converted to backyard habitats; to better manage urban creeks and rivers for wildlife diversity. Additionally, we've found that by manipulating the development code for conservation development type ideas, we make it easier to protect wildlife habitat, while still allowing the cities to grow and new homes to be built.

We're also working with city leaders to identify lands to be purchased for conservation. As an example, in San Antonio, city bonds raised $130 million to purchase land within and outside of the City's jurisdiction for aquifer recharge. Urban biologists were in on that project, and we helped to steer the purchase of the lands for threatened and endangered species and other sensitive wildlife.

We've protected several thousand acres with that project, and we anticipate the purchase of several thousand more by the end of this next year.

The principles working to ‑‑ working with other agencies, we work with federal agencies, as an example, efforts in El Paso to protect the Castner Bombing Range as wildlife habitat are ongoing, and we have projects like this in most of our cities, working with federal, city and state entities.

We like to work with city planners, with the philosophy that every acre of habitat within the city will help. Now, granted some days we're not measuring in acres, we're measuring in square feet, and some days we're measuring it in just the number of people that we can reach. But we'll take what we can get.

So as I mentioned, a lot of what we do is innovative for the Department, because we have sort of a unique audience. I mentioned the mountain lions and the coyotes; these programs help to endear us to the cities that we live in and we work in, and to other biologists.

We've conducted research in Austin to evaluate the diversity of songbirds on disturbed versus undisturbed lands, and then we trained citizen scientists to monitor the biodiversity of these lands.

Now, then what we do is, we take that data and we use it to strengthen our argument with city planners, city officials, to protect additional lands.

There's a bridge in Houston that underscores the value of what we do; it's the Waugh Drive Bridge. And biologists there have used that bridge, that has a bat population, to shine some positive attention on how wildlife and people can coexist in the city. And what it has done, it's generated a lot of good media coverage, a lot of ‑‑ gotten a lot of good people to work with us, but more importantly, it's shown the planners and the officials of Houston that you can actually incorporate wildlife into your urban design.

Finally, we believe that urban residents are an untouched resource for the Department. We are working with many divisions within the Department to recruit new constituents from the urban pool, so to speak, to ensure that urban residents have the same access to outdoor recreation as the rural residents, and to give them the opportunities to enjoy that natural resource, because we believe that ‑‑ if they enjoy the resource, they'll be more likely to support them at the ballot box.

The urban landscape is constantly changing and growing, so we're working hard to make sure that it changes and grows the way we'd like to see it. And that's all I have for today.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any comments or questions?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Well, I mean, this is where it's all going to be. I mean, there's no doubt about it, it's where all the population ‑‑ I thought your lead slide was both interesting and I guess somewhat disturbing. But I think ‑‑ and I'm glad, we've got this type of program going, because we're going to have to do more and more and more outreach obviously into the urban areas.

And education is going to be a big part of that also. So thank you.

MR. HEILBRUN: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Any other comments, I think we're ‑‑ is there any other business to be brought before this Commission, Mr. Cook?

MR. COOK: [inaudible]

COMMISSIONER HOLT: We've moved it along fairly quickly this morning.

MR. COOK: That's it. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay. Hearing none, this Commission has completed its business. I declare us adjourned. Thank you, thank you, everybody. Appreciate it.

(Whereupon, at 11:45 a.m., the meeting was adjourned.)

In official recognition hereof, we hereby affix our signatures as approved this

8th day of November 2007.

Peter M. Holt, Chairman

T. Dan Friedkin, Vice Chairman

Mark E. Bivins, Member

J. Robert Brown, Member

Antonio Falcon, M.D., Member

Karen J. Hixon, Member

Margaret Martin, Member

Philip Montgomery, Member

John D. Parker, Member

C E R T I F I C A T E

MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Commission Meeting
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: November 8, 2007

I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 135, inclusive, are the true, accurate, and complete transcript prepared from the verbal recording made by electronic recording by Penny Bynum before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.

11/13/07
(Transcriber) (Date)
On the Record Reporting, Inc.
3307 Northland, Suite 315
Austin, Texas 78731


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