TPW Commission

Public Hearing, March 29, 2012

Transcript

TPW Commission Meetings

TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION

MARCH 29, 2012

TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT
COMMISSION HEARING ROOM
4200 SMITH SCHOOL ROAD
AUSTIN, TEXAS 78744

COMMISSION MEETING

REPORTED BY: PAIGE SLOAN WATTS


PROCEEDINGS

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Good morning everybody. Let’s go ahead and get started. Welcome. This meeting is called to order on March 29th, 2012, at 9:08 a.m. Before proceeding with any business, I believe Mr. Smith has a statement.

MR. SMITH: I do, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, thank you. Public notice of this meeting containing all items on the proposed agenda has been filed in the Office of the Secretary of State as required by Chapter 551 Government Code referred to as the Open Meetings Act. I would like for this fact to be noted in the official record of the meeting.

Also, I want to just join the Chairman and the Commission in welcoming all of you today. We’re delighted to have you. We’re going to kick off this meeting with some special recognitions. We also have some partners that have come in from near and far to help make some very important contributions to the Agency and some colleagues that have invested a long time working for this proud organization. And so we’re going to kick off the meeting with that and after that is all done, the Chairman will let everybody know that if you’re here for that part of the meeting and then want to leave and we’ll be able to take a break and let everybody leave.

For those of you who are going to stay for the other part of the meeting, the business meeting, I just want to remind everybody if you could, please silence your cell phones or pagers, any of your PDAs. Also, if you have a conversation, I’d just ask respectfully that you step outside and have those conversations in the hallway.

If you’re here to speak on any of the action items that the Commission is going to be considering, we ask that you sign in ahead of time. At the appropriate time, the Chairman will call you by name. He’ll ask you to come forward to the podium. Just please tell us who you are and who you represent. You’re going to have three minutes to share your position with the Commission. We’ll be monitoring that. It’s a very simple series lights. Green means go, yellow means start to slow down, and red means we’re done. And so just ask everybody to honor that today and, again, thanks for coming to the Parks and Wildlife Commission meeting.

Mr. Chairman, thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thanks, Carter. Next on the agenda is the approval of the minutes from the previous Commission meeting held January 26th, 2012. Motion for approval? Commissioner Hughes. Second Commissioner Scott. All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries.

And now acknowledgment of the list of donations, which has also been distributed. Motion for approval? Commissioner Duggins.

COMMISSIONER FALCON: Falcon.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Falcon. All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries.

Now we’re up to the fun part I think with the service awards and special recognitions.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Commission. For the record, my name is Carter Smith. We’re going to just change up the order a little bit. We have got some representatives from some partners that are here to celebrate some really important contributions that they’ve made to Parks and Wildlife to help us and so — and also to recognize some colleagues who have been recognized really across the country for their exemplary work and we’re awfully, awfully proud of that.

But we want to start with a place that we’ve had a lot of discussion with this Commission about and that’s really kind of the Phoenix that has come out of the ashes there at Bastrop State Park. You know, I think in the wake of any kind of catastrophic event like what we saw with those devastating wildfires, you see an extraordinary human spirt, you see an extraordinary spirit of generosity, and you see partners that come from all over to help with rebuilding one of the State’s great, great public treasurers. And so we’re here to celebrate some partners that have come forward to generously support our efforts.

We’re going to start with the Encana Corporate. Encana Corporation, as many of you know, is an oil and gas business. They’ve been a longstanding partner with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, our very proud and important nonprofit partner. Since 2008, Encana has made over a million dollars in contributions to help support the work of this Agency, help support our work at the Game Warden Training Center. They’ve helped with youth outreach and education, controlling aquatic and exotic invasive species programs, and most recently have made a very important contribution to help with erosion control and mitigation efforts and helping to ensure that we have a sound seabed and hillsides in which we’re going to be reseeding that forest. And so we couldn’t do it without it.

Last time that y’all were here, we were blessed with some extraordinary rains. That also caused a lot of erosion in the park and so they’re here to help us address that, making a very important contribution to us. We’ve got Al Sommers and Brad Ayers from the Encana Corporation and also Todd McClannahan, who is our leader there at Bastrop and Buescher State Park complex. And so I would like to ask all these representatives to come forward; so, Mr. Chairman.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. AYERS: I would like to start by apologizing for my voice. I think I have some oak allergies going on, so I might sound a little bit strange. But I would just like to thank you all for having Encana here today. It’s a privilege for us to be involved with Texas Parks and Wildlife. Through our work with Toledo Bend and also with schools across Texas with the Healthy Habitat Service Learning Program, it’s been a great experience for not only our company as a whole, but our employees who live and work in all of these communities where they’re able to make a difference and adding Bastrop to that list, there couldn’t be a more perfect fit. So we’re thrilled to be a part of it and pleased to present this check today. And someone has that check, but it may already be at the bank being cashed. That’s the wrong one. I think it’s that one right over there. That one has — it’s just a little bit more, but that’s all right.

But anyway, I’m not sure what the official process is; but Encana is pleased to present a check in the amount of $75,000 to Texas Parks and Wildlife, going towards the Bastrop State Park erosion control. And we hope that this will be — I know that this won’t cover all of what’s needed, but I hope it will be a good start and we’re thrilled to be a part of your team and I hope that that relationship continues long into the future. And just for those folks out here so you can see, not an official check; but it means a great deal to us to be a part of your organization and I hope and I know that this money will be well spent by you and your team. So thank you very much.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: I think all of you know that there is no way that really we can run our State Parks without our friends groups. These volunteers just give countless hours of their time and service and intellectual, physical capital to help support the park. I mean just do some extraordinary things on a daily basis and one of our strongest, strongest partners is our Friends of Bastrop State Park. They’ve been with us through thick and thin as we’ve gone through the recovery efforts there at Bastrop State Park literally from day one. Immediately after the fire, they began soliciting donations from the community to help with the recovery and restoration efforts and wanted to make sure that every single dollar that was raised went right back to investing directly in the Bastrop State Park.

And so they’ve raised a little over $64,000, again, to help us with erosion control and helping to remove hazard trees, help build a greenhouse, trail markers, supplies for volunteers, again, just been extraordinary in that regard. And have with us Jon Pollard, who’s president of the Friends of the Lost Pines State Park and a delegation from our friends group and want to ask them to come forward for a check presentation. So let’s thank them.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Show it proudly. All right, thank y’all. You know, we’ve talked about the partnership with Encana earlier and one of the things I think we’re very proud of here at the Agency again are these multiple partnerships with oil and gas companies who step forward in many ways to help support the Department. And Apache Corporation is one of those partners who has been very, very supportive of the Agency. Through their foundation, they’ve assisted a variety of our sites around the State with helping to pay for native trees that we can go back in and restore habitat and Parks and Wildlife management areas and fish hatcheries around the State.

Again, just like these other entities that came before us today, they were on the scene quickly at Bastrop after the fire. Quickly offering to help donate trees to the community to help restore the stately and beautiful Lost Pines that we lost there in the fires. When they learned about the needs at Bastrop State Park, with their longstanding relationship with the Agency, immediately wanted to come forward and help to pay for the cost of growing out those seedlings and those locally adapted Loblolly pines, to grow them out so we could have trees to plant next winter and spring.

And so we’re awfully proud of our relationship with Apache. We’ve got Obie O’Brien here from Apache to represent and also making a check contribution to the Department of $60,000 to help pay for the first year of our reforestation efforts. So, Obie, please come forward.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. O’BRIEN: I just wanted to say thanks for the opportunity. We do have — as Carter mentioned, we do have a longstanding relationship with the Agency. Five years ago our then CEO and founder, Raymond Plank, set a goal for us to plant 3 million trees across the areas where we operate. And I’m proud to say that as of May, we will have put out 2.3 million of those 3 million; and as we get closer to 3 million, as we like to do at Apache, we’ll have stretched goals. So I’m sure that 3 million will turn into 5 million. It’s been a very good program for us.

And, frankly, we didn’t have much of a choice in whether or not we were going to make this donation or not because we got so many calls from our employees, for people who think that Bastrop State Park just means something to the people around the park. It really means a lot to our employees in Houston. I got probably a hundred phone calls from all over about what we were going to do to help the park. So we’re happy to be here today and happy to drop off the $60,000 to get you started.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: We now want to take a little time to have some of our colleagues who have been recognized by some of our partners from across the country just for their outstanding work in fish and wildlife conservation, in law enforcement. We’re going to start with our colleagues in Inland Fisheries. Y’all have had a chance to learn a little bit about their study on barotrauma or as it’s real popularly known fizzing. Kind of the bass equivalent to the bends when fishermen pull up those bass from the depths too quickly and helping to development techniques that anglers can use to make sure that we minimize post-gas mortality when those fish are released.

And our Inland Fisheries team has just done an extraordinary job with respect to developing this technique. Something that’s being recognized all across the state and the country as a way to help just improve conditions in tournament fisheries. And we’re very focused and fortunate today to have one of our colleagues from Kansas who’s the fish chief there, Doug Nygren. He’s the current president of the Fisheries Administration Section of the American Fisheries Society and he’s here to present an award for the outstanding research award across the country to our Inland Fisheries team. And so let’s welcome Doug to Texas as he comes forward and makes a presentation to the Commission. So, Doug.

MR. NYGREN: Good morning, Commissioners. It’s a pleasure to be here. The American Fisheries Society is the world’s oldest and largest organization dedicated to strengthening the fisheries profession, advancing fishery science, and conserving fisheries resources. And as been mentioned before, the Sport Fish Restoration Program is also known as the Dingell-Johnson Wallop-Breaux Act. It uses excise taxes that are collected and returned back the States to enhance fishing and boating in all — in the fifty states and territories across the US.

Since the inception of the program, there’s been nearly $6 billion distributed back to the States to do the good work that our fisheries folks do. The annual Sport Fish Restoration Outstanding Project Awards are intend to both highlight the importance and effectiveness of a Sport Fish Restoration Program and to recognize excellence in fisheries management, in research, and education. So today we recognize the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for its research efforts to enhance survival of bass caught and released by anglers.

At Lake Amistad, the fizzing method study has lead to nationwide use of best management practices for large tournament organizations, such as the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society. Now, at the Bass Master Classic last month, Texas Parks and Wildlife was recognized by BASS and the tournament organizers and the conservationists. Within that organization, they have adopted these techniques and are — resulted in more bass surviving the tournament process, not only for bass tournaments, but even for people that are fishing just recreationally catching and releasing.

So it’s been a tremendous to the bass fishery of the nation. And Texas deserves a special recognition because of this and I want to point out that Randy Myers was the principal investigator and Greg Southard was involved in this project and I think they’re going to be coming up here in a minute. So Texas does deserve a special recognition, so it’s with great pleasure that I’ll present the 2011 Outstanding Sport Fish Restoration Project Award in the Category of Fisheries Research and Surveys to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Well, if you’ve ever been to South Texas, you have undoubtedly met the great Randy Fugate. Randy, one of our wildlife technicians in South Texas, is — has a very large and colorful personality. He’s one of the great ambassadors for this Agency. When I came to work as an intern, Mr. Cook, Bob Cook, assigned me temporarily to Randy as sort of a mentor. Not knowing exactly Bob’s sense of humor at the time, but I came to appreciate it very quickly. The first day kind of driving around in the truck with Randy, learning a little bit about what he did, and we finished up and he said, "Well, come on by the house and we’ll have supper together."

And there’s a guy kind of rummaging around the kitchen and he’s going out and between the outside, he’s grilling and he’s cooking something. And I said, you know — he kind of introduced me and didn’t say much. We went inside and I said, "Randy, who is that guy?"

He goes, "Oh, that’s my cook."

And I said, "Your cook?"

He said, "Yeah. It’s, you know, for those of us in these remote stations with the Department, the Department assigns a cook to us to make sure we were well fed."

You know, I’m right out of college. I’m like I like this deal. And so I started talking to the cook and asking him about his sort of culinary background and how long has he been cooking and finally he says, "Carter, I’m a game warden." And apparently his captain — this spring chicken was right out of the academy and told him to run around with Fugate and get accustomed to the countryside and Randy had pressed him into service as a cook. He didn’t know better. Anyway, Randy, there’s a lot more colorful stories I can tell; but that one is one I can tell in polite company.

National Wild Turkey Federation is absolutely one of our best partners and just been extraordinary with respect to bring back wild turkeys. One of the most successful conservation stories really in all of North America and each year they recognize an individual across the entire nation and it’s for the Joe Kurz Excellence in Wildlife Management Award. It’s just one of the highest honers that you can receive as a conservation professional. And it’s really for the legacy of Joe, who was with Georgia DNR, very involved trapping and restocking turkeys around the state.

And this year we’re incredibly proud of Randy, across all the wildlife professionals across the country, recognized for the extraordinary work that he does with private landowners in that ranch country. You can see a great picture of him restoring turkeys and releasing a bird out in South Texas. Gets along so well. Is an incredible ambassador for this Agency. Knows wildlife like the back of his hand and we just could not have a better ambassador for this Department and be more proud, proud of Randy. And so as we ask him to come up and celebrate this award, we have a bunch of our partners from the National Wild Turkey Federation that are here. The director of field ops for the Western United States, Shawn Roberts. We have the State President of National Wild Turkey Federation, Dick McCarver and his wife, Dorothy; regional Director from San Antonio Ray Hood; one of their biologists over in East Texas, Scotty Parsons; and then, of course, one of our very own, Gene Miller, who had retired from the Department and is now working as a biologist for the Wild Turkey Federation. And they’re going to come up as we recognize our colleague Randy Fugate. Randy.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. ROBERTS: Well, I’ve met Randy. I think this is the fourth time that I’ve met him, and he’s introduced himself as someone different every time. But we are extremely proud of the partnership that we’ve had with the Texas Parks and Wildlife. I being a native Texan living here and went to work for this organization, oh, about 20 years ago as a volunteer. Going back to the Joe Kurz Award, Joe Kurz was instrumental in starting our trapping and transfer program. So every year we look for someone that has that spirit and everything like that and, Randy, you rose to the top of the list this year. I’m so proud that it’s a Texas guy that did that and we’re proud of you and we’re proud of Texas Parks and Wildlife and the partnership that we have with you. So congratulations, Randy.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Now, each year the National Wild Turkey Federation also recognizes a law enforcement officer of the year and couldn’t be more pleased to announce that Matt Thompson, one of our game wardens that’s up in Foard and Hardeman Counties right there, kind of split by the Pease River on the Red River in North Texas is the officer of the year. And Matt has just been an extraordinary representative of this Agency. Represented the Division and the Agency with great professionalism. Graduated from the training academy in January of 2000. Immediately stationed up in Foard and Hardeman Counties where he has absolutely become an essential part of that community in so, so many ways.

Incredibly active, obviously, as a law enforcement officer. Last year alone patrolled 21,000 miles. Really known for his proactive outreach and the trust that he’s built with private landowners, also for the knowledge of the ranch country there. Last year during the fires in that area, the fire chiefs in those counties were turning to Matt to help guide them through the ranch country to get to the places where they could fight the fires the quickest and just played an invaluable role. He and his wife annually host a deer hunt for kids and use their home as the base camp to welcome those kids and give them a place to stay and launch from. Been involved in just so many important investigations.

Recently helped out in an important one with the Special Rangers there at the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. There’s a great story about he indicted a man last year on a turkey camp that they entered and they show up at night and there are these two guys in camp and, you know, always so friendly. "Oh, you know, Mr. Thompson we’re delighted you’re here. So nice to meet you. We’ve heard all about you. Come back to the camp all the time. We, you know, do everything right and we love you game wardens," you know, blah, blah, blah. And so Matt and Dyke quietly listened and then went on their merry way and as their headlights are kind of pulling out of the camp, they see all these coyotes very focused on something and so they went to look at that something and there’s a dead turkey layed out there in the brush that had been breasted and so they immediately go back to talk to the friends of the game wardens who were so glad they’re there, happy for them to come any time, and ask them about the turkey. And after a little while, you know, one of them kind of sheepishly confesses that, yeah, they had killed the turkey and saw the game wardens coming, had gotten nervous and so thrown the bird out. And they said, "Well, where’s the breast? Where did you put the breast?"

They opened up the refrigerator. It’s not there. Opened up the freezer. It’s not there. Opened up the igloo coolers there and finally one of them said, "Why don’t you try under the covers of the bed."

So, Matt and no telling what he’ll run into every day on his job. We’re awfully proud of him as the Officer of the Year, National Wild Turkey Federation, Matt Thompson. Matt, please come forward.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: You know, I really should have started this off on a little more solemn note. I feel like after last night, I owe you an apology for something. You know, I know all of us as we think about our State game wardens, you know, we have a vision of them as just really as kind of paragons of strength and leadership. You know, standing tall in the saddle. You know, men who ride for the brand, tame the west, and are ready for anything that comes their way. And I realized that some of your vision of our colleagues of law enforcement was probably indelibly changed last night as you walk into the bar at the Four Seasons at 5:00 o’clock and cocktail hour and there’s eight of our game wardens with Craig Hunter leading the pack all drinking and sipping milk shakes.

And so I want to assure you that as we recognize our other colleagues in law enforcement today, we absolutely still have some men and women out there that are eating buffalo meat and whiskey. So I want to honor them today and skip the whip cream and the little cherry and the little straw and all of that. I was just shocked. I’m not even sure what to say about all that. And so tell milk shake boy back there, Brad, to be a little more discreet about that.

We’re going to honor one of our colleagues today that y’all know very, very well. Robert Goodrich, you know, Assistant Chief of Fisheries. Robert had been with us for 25 years before he retired. Started off with the Agency and academy. Opened the daily dove season in 1986. Graduated with the 40th Academy. One of the first game wardens to be assigned to live on Mustang Island there in Port Aransas and working on shrimping violations and illegal fishing. Honored as a game warden of the year by the then Gulf Coast Coastal Conservation Association. Then he moved out west to Concho County. Big proponent of the youth hunting weekend and helping to push that.

Went to work in Williamson County. Became a lieutenant. Taught at the Academy, then became captain and then was promoted to our Assistant Fisheries Chief and y’all have had a chance to see Robert in action representing those interests very well, testifying in front of the Legislature, just doing an extraordinary job. We’re real proud of Robert and we’re recognizing him today for his retirement of 25 years of service, Robert Goodrich. Robert.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague that we’re going to recognize, Captain Neal Bieler. Again, someone who represents us extraordinarily well up in the Fort Worth District. Commissioner Duggins, certainly you know Neal. He too, once he got out of the Academy, was stationed down in Aransas Pass back when the gill netting wars and the outlawing of the commercial Redfish was going on and a very, very difficult time to be a Texas game warden on the coast. And Neal represented us very, very well there. Ultimately transferred up to Somervell County. John Graves country up there around Glen Rose. Very active in establishing, again, youth outreach programs. 2008, he was promoted to Captain there in Fort Worth. Oversees four counties, 14 game wardens and really a lot of the Agency’s water safety efforts. And y’all know how important that is as we help patrol lakes and our game wardens work so hard to make sure folks stay safe and whether that’s Ray Roberts or Joe Pool or Eagle Mountain Lake or Texoma, Neal oversees a big area and just does an extraordinary job. Awfully proud of Neal Bieler, 30 years of service. Captain.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Another colleague from that class of 30 years ago, another one of our captains, Gary Dugan. And Gary has been one of our proud leaders over in East Texas. When he graduated from the game warden academy, he was sent off to Jefferson County — or Jefferson Marion County, which of course is Caddo Lake there in far Northeast Texas. Worked over in Rains County for 14 years, where he was strongly embedded in that community. Worked as a lieutenant there at the game warden training center in Austin where he was able to help coach and prepare young wardens before they embarked on their careers. And in 2002, promoted to Captain Game Warden there in Rusk, where he proudly represents us. Very involved in the community. Past vice president of the Lion’s Club. Been active in the Game Warden Association. He was named the Southern States Water Safety Enforcement Officer of Year. Has many honors, many certificates, and we’re awfully proud of all of the work that Gary does representing this fine agency every day. Captain.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Another colleague from that class of 30 years ago, Lewis Rather. And some of you know Lewis for his work quarterbacking the Operation Game Thief Program. Lewis, when he got of the academy, he was in Harris County for a couple of years. Then he was in Travis County here for about 12 to 15 years, kind of working in this area when it was still a little more rural than it is today. Was off — after that, he went to work a little bit deeper in the Hill Country there in Bandera County and then was promoted up to lieutenant there in our Lubbock office, where he led our operations there. Came back to San Antonio. Very involved in stuff in South Texas, our border operations, Commissioners working on a lot of logistics and specialized things according to that. And then in September of 2010, Lewis was able to get the job leading our important Operation Game Thief Program. As you know, that’s our Crime Stoppers for Fish and Wildlife. An opportunity for the public to call in violations. We have an advisory board that oversees that and helps to distribute awards to citizens that report fines and Lewis has just been doing a great job. Awfully proud of him, 30 years of service, Lewis Rather. Lewis.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague has also been with us for 30 years in State Parks. Served his entire career there at Lake Whitney State Park. One of the great jewels of the State Park system. Steve started in 1978 as a seasonal worker. As oftentimes happens, he just gradually worked his way up the ranks. Promoted to park ranger. Took on a safety officer responsibilities. Park interpreter for ten years. Currently is our lead maintenance specialist there. Very proud of the youth fishing tournament that he established there at the park. This year is going to be the 21st year that he’s done that. And Steve has done a great job of not only stewarding that infrastructure at those facilities, but also as you know that critically important outreach and education to kids and families that come to our parks and very proud of Steve in his 30-year career with this Agency. Steve, please come forward.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Another 30-year veteran of this Agency and I hope you know how telling that is about just the tenure of our colleagues that choose to stay here and make this a career. And Bill Smart out of Tyler, no different. Again, Bill has just had an extraordinary career with the Agency. Started as an hourly employee, then left for a few years to work at Saint Louis Southwestern Railway Company. Came back to Tyler State Park as a mark manager. Then he moved on to Martin Dies, Jr. State Park as Assistant Superintendent. Then he was promoted to Superintendent over at Purtis Creek and then ultimately came over to Tyler State Park, where he has been Superintendent since the first of February of 2003.

Bill has really been one of those kind of proverbial jack of all trades. Involved in a lot of leadership responsibilities in the State, working with the Regional Director in East Texas, Ellen Buchanan, supporting Brent with a variety of initiatives across the state. One of our Natural Leader alumni and just couldn’t be more proud of Bill Smart and his 30 years of service to Texas State Parks. Bill.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Okay. We’re now down to our colleagues at 25 years of service, so a quarter of a century with this great Agency. Valentin "Bubba" Flores, follows in the footsteps of his father and brother who worked on our Law Enforcement teams. He grew up down on the coast, knows that area backwards and forwards working on commercial fishing boats, working in fish houses. Just brings an invaluable set of very practical experience to our Coastal Fisheries team.

When he hired on with the Aransas Bay ecosystem team, again, brought a wealth of knowledge. He’s a very skilled pilot and captain for our Coastal Fisheries team. He’s also been a proud volunteer firefighter in that community for 20 years, so always looking to give back to that community professionally and personally. Now working with our Corpus Christi Bay Ecosystem team. Been with us 25 years, Valentin "Bubba" Flores. Bubba.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Another 25-year colleague from our Inland Fisheries team, Carl Boatman. And Carl started out in 1986, really kind of organizing the public outreach and education for our Inland Fisheries team. He now serves as a technician in our Aquatic Habitat Enhancement Program. So Carl is on the front line in this fight against aquatic invasive species. All the things we talk about, about Hydrilla and Water Hyacinth and Giant Salvinia. Every single day he’s waking up thinking about that and trying to combat the spread of those invasive plants from taking over our lakes. Just done an extraordinary job. Awfully proud of his work in East Texas, Carl Boatman, 25 years of service. Carl.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Last August, y’all had a chance to hear from our colleague Don Pitts. Don just gave really an extraordinary briefing on the State of Texas’ role and particularly one of the lead roles he has played as the Lead Technical Representative on working with the five states and two Federal agencies on the BP spill. And Don works in our Natural Resource Damage Assessment Program. A biologist with just literally an artesian well of knowledge about fish and wildlife and habitats across the state.

Absolutely one of the go-to guys. When there’s an unfortunate spill event, you know, Don and his team are sent in to help assess those damages, assess what all has been impacted from those spills, and then to work with those companies to come up with a restoration plan and also compensation plans for the state. Again, for the last really almost two years, Don has spent about 80 to 90 percent of his time on the BP related issues because of his just wealth of national experience and recognition in this area and he and his team on the kills and spills working with our legal team have just done an extraordinary job for this State’s natural resources. Twenty-five years of service, Don Pitts. Don.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: The next colleague y’all know well, Brad Chappell. I assure you you are never going to find Sergeant Chappell sipping milk shakes with his pinkie out. Brad is with our Special Operation’s team. You know, that’s terrible. Is milk shake boy still back there?

Brad, you know Brad for his incredibly really significant work on penetrating poaching rings around the state. Also, working on some of the most high-profile Lacey Act cases really all across the country. Brad’s dad was a game warden, so it’s in his DNA. We’ve talked about his background. I mean literally from day one he was assigned to the deep East Texas woods where they were still running deer with dogs and dealing with some very, very dangerous and significant issues. And just had an extraordinary career. Been recognized more ways than we can count and 25 years of service, Brad Chappell. Brad.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague, Cindy New, has been with us for 25 years. Just had really a fascinating career with the Agency. She’s worked at a bunch of State Parks — Caprock Canyon, Lake Bob Sandlin. She worked on a force account that helped build Lake Bob Sandlin State Park and Cedar Hill State Park. She was a park ranger. She was transferred out to Matagorda Island, became a park peace officer, and then came back to the Fort Worth/Dallas area to work at Cedar Hill as one of our peace officers. In 1997, she transferred over to work with the Law Enforcement division there in Garland in that office. Worked her way up to the highest level of Administrative Assistants there and been with us serving the Agency and the Division very proudly for 25 years, Cindy New. Cindy.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague some of you know well, Kathy Boydston. Also been with us for 25 years on wildlife biologist. Kathy has been kind of front and center on a lot of these very significant important development projects around the State. As I think all of you know, one of our statutory responsibilities is to provide scientific input on fish and wildlife to other Local and State and Federal agencies when they’re working on water supply projects or transmission line projects or power plant projects and Kathy has really recruited just an all-star cast of biologists to help provide the best science available to help guide and inform those decisions.

And she’s been with us for 25 years, involved in a host of projects. Very proud that she was appointed by then President Bush and the Secretary of the Interior at the time to the Federal Advisory Committee to work on kind of guidance and guidelines for wind energy development in the state. And so 25 years service, Kathy Boydston. Kathy.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Okay. Last but absolutely not least, one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, Johnny Crawford. Been with us for 20 years on our State Parks team. Started off up in Lubbock — or actually, I’m sorry, Lake Whitney State Park actually on a force account team. In ’93, he transferred to Lubbock when we had the Lubbock Lake Landmark site, which is now managed by the City of Lubbock. When after we transferred that, he moved to the regional office to be our regional maintenance specialist to oversee kind of the care and remodeling and restoration of the infrastructure on all of the parks in the region.

Johnny showed just his prowess and value, that every other region around the state wanted another Johnny Crawford. And so that position got replicated. Again, just a great ambassador for the Agency. One of the nicest guys you’ll meet, 20 years of service, Johnny Crawford. Johnny.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Now, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Commission, I’m done. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you all. Okay, at this time I would 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 the appropriate time to do so. Appreciate y’all being here.

(Recess taken)

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: All right. First order of business is Action Item No. 1, Approval of the agenda. Okay, motion from Commissioner Duggins. Second, Commissioner Martin. All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed? Hearing none, the motion carries. Thank you.

Item 2 is Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Program and Designation of a State Scientific Area, Recommended Adoption of Proposed New Rules, Cindy. Good morning, how are you?

MS. LOEFFLER: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Members of the Commission, Mr. Smith. For the record, my name is Cindy Loeffler. I’m the Water Resources Branch Chief here at Parks and Wildlife. I’ll spend a few minutes this morning talking to you about the Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Program. We’ve talked about this at past Commission meetings, but just a little updating.

The Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Program, or EARIP for short, is an effort that’s been under way for the last several years, four years, to resolve a longstanding water conflict in the Edwards Aquifer region in Texas. The Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 3 to direct the Agency, as well as other State agencies, a number of stakeholders, to work together to come up with consensus, collaborative solutions for protecting spring flows at San Marcos and Comal springs and the endangered species that are associated with those springs. So I’m happy to report that our efforts have yielded a habitat conservation plan that’s been submitted to the Fish and Wildlife Service for their approval, as well as the supporting documentation for implementing the HCP in going forward from this point; so that’s good news.

So the habitat conservation plan is made up of a number of components and elements and one of which is the State Scientific Area for the San Marcos River. So the idea with the State Scientific Area is to provide protection for Texas Wild Rice. If approved, it would designate the portion of the river from below Spring Lake Dam to the waste water treatment plant on San Marcos River about 2 miles. This is where Texas Wild Rice is found. Historically, it had been more widespread throughout the river. Today it’s pretty much isolated to just this reach. Some of the impacts to Texas Wild Rice have included a lower spring flow from pumping, pollution impacts, some recreational impacts, things of that nature.

So the idea with the State Scientific Area would be to designate that portion of the river. It would prohibit uprooting of Texas Wild Rice. It would give the Department authority working with our partners at the University and the City of San Marcos, when flows are low, below 120 CFS, to provide physical barriers around certain threatened stands of Texas Wild Rice. At no point would it limit recreation or downstream passage or limit passage from bank to bank and it would only affect the public parts of the river, so recreational access would be something that would be managed by our partners, the University and the City of San Marcos. They control the property that recreation is happening on.

Okay. Oh, let me go to the slides. All right, so we covered some of this yesterday. Just to touch on — the spring flows continue to increase, which is a good trend. We were worried last summer that we would be at that low trigger rate of 120 CFS this coming summer, but the situation has improved. And we did spend a fair amount of time on these maps, these distribution maps, and so I’m not going to really cover these again unless there are questions.

So, showing the areas where shallow depths in red and then the outlined areas where the Texas Wild Rice is found. The cross-hatched areas where recreation is happening now and, again, cross-hatched areas are on City of San Marcos property, Texas State property. They would be the entities that would actually manage access if that is determined to be necessary.

Okay, public comments. Finally count on public comments, 52 comments have been received; 45 were in favor, seven opposed. Actually, is that the — I think that’s the updated number. No, I’m sorry. I updated the slide. Fifty-nine comments were received and 51 were in favor, eight against. So that number was not updated.

Okay, the recommendation is for the Parks and Wildlife Commission to adopt this new 57.910, creating the San Marcos River State Scientific Area with clarifying changes as proposed by National Wildlife Federation and Sierra Club. And with that, I will take any questions.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any questions for Cindy? Discussion? Commissioner Duggins.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Cindy, you said this only affects public areas?

MS. LOEFFLER: That’s right.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But are we undertaking any effort with the private landowners there to try to achieve a similar goal with respect to private?

MS. LOEFFLER: We have not to date. There was a private landowner that came to one of our public meetings in December and so we, you know, of course explained the proposal to him and got his input. But we have not made an effort to go and reach out to the other private landowners.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Do we have any plans to consider that?

MS. LOEFFLER: If approved, we certainly could do that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Is there any reason not to do that?

MS. LOEFFLER: Not that I know of.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And has the USF and W mentioned any — had any input with respect to the private landowners who have the Wild Rice?

MS. LOEFFLER: Not that I’m aware of.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay, thanks.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thanks, Cindy. Any other questions for Cindy? Okay, we do have one person signed up to speak on this item and it is our friend Kirby Brown. Good morning, Kirby.

MR. BROWN: Good morning. Kirby Brown, Texas Wildlife Association. Good to see you guys this morning. I want to tell this has probably been one of the most complex collaborative processes that I’ve ever witnessed or been a part of and to have so many disparate agencies and groups get together on the same page and build this thing from a bottom up type of process was really impressive to see. It was difficult. It was very difficult. The staff here did a great job. Cindy, Colette, wonderful work.

One of the things that I want to make sure you know is that this is a critical piece of this whole pie that’s put together and if one of them falls, that’s a problem; but I think you already know that, and I just wanted to pass that on. And TWA appreciates what you do. Thank you very much.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Appreciate all you do. Thanks, Kirby. Appreciate it. All right. So if no further, motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER HIXON: So moved.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Hixon. Second Commissioner Morian. All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries.

Action Item 3 is Land Acquisition, Houston County, .78 acres at Mission Tejas State Park, Mr. Corky Kuhlmann. Good morning, Corky.

MR. KUHLMANN: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, for the record, Corky Kuhlmann from the Land Conservation Program. This is an acquisition in Houston County adjacent to Mission Tejas State Park. This acquisition is going to depart from the normal a little on this one. Generally, you’ll see these acquisitions in two meeting. We’re doing this in one because of the insignificance of the size and the dollar amount of the tract, but not of the importance to the park.

If you look at the sketch, there were three — there’s a strip of land in front of the park between Highway 21 and the park boundary. We had acquired the other two tracts on either side of the red tract that this acquisition is about and the owner had approached us about purchasing this tract. One of the reasons is he’s in a bind for money is another reason we decided to push this up to one meeting.

So having said that, the staff recommends that the Commission adopt the following motion that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorize the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to acquire the .78-acre tract of land as an addition to the Mission Tejas State Park and I’d be glad to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Questions — thank you, Corky. Anyone have any questions? Appreciate it, thank you. Okay, nobody signed up to speak on this one. Motion for approval? Okay, Commissioner Hughes. Second Commissioner Scott. All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries. Thank you.

Next is Item 4, Proposed Land Sale, Randall and Armstrong Counties, Sale of Approximately 2,014 acres at Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Mr. Ted Hollingsworth.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good morning. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I’m with the Land Conservation Program. This is a — this is an action item. This is the second reading of this item. It is a proposal to sell a portion of the Fortress Cliffs Ranch adjacent to Caprock Canyon State Park. This really is the culmination of four years of trying to protect the Fortress Cliffs.

The Fortress Cliffs, probably the most prominent cliff face at Palo Duro Canyon State Park. When the entire ranch came on the market several years ago, we scrambled and work with an outside entity, an NGO, to acquire the entire ranch; but our goal was to protect that cliff and cliff face and the viewshed it represents from the inside the park. We had to acquire the entire ranch, but we did so knowing that some of the uplands and some of the structures on the ranch were not really significant to the mission of the park and we acquired it with the intent of analyzing and determining which portion of the site needed to be kept and added to the park and which portion of that we should liquidate.

The results are in the map that you see here. It’s about 2,014 acres. This is what it — this is a bird’s eye view showing that the cliffs are, in fact, protected and essentially — essentially, a computer modeling and on-sight assessment was done to determine where a person might be able to put up a windmill, where a person may be able to build a house, and so forth and not have any impact on the viewshed from the park and that’s how we arrived at the configuration of sale tract.

There will be a strict conservation easement placed on the sale tract that will be conveyed at closing. It will permit the 2,014-acre tract to be subdivided one time into two separate tracts and each of those tracts can have a single homestead occupying no more than a 10-acre footprint and that must be set back a certain distance from the rim, so we feel like it offers a lot of protection. It also protects that native shortgrass prairie and the brush that occurs on the sale tract. With that, the staff does recommend that the Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion, the Commission adopts the resolution attached as Exhibit A. And I would be happy to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thanks, Ted. Any — Commissioner Duggins.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Ted, on the previous slide, at the bottom it says funds should be spent in fiscal year ’12. Do they have to be spent in fiscal year ’12?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: No, sir. The funds have a Federal nexus. We purchased the ranch and we used Land and Water Conservation funds. The Feds require that those funds be spent to acquire additional lands that are comparable, public access and recreation value. And although they aren’t specific, the language is such that they need to be — the conversion needs to occur expeditiously. Tim Hawks, who is our Land and Water Conservation fund coordinator, says certainly within a year, ideally within six months or so. So that’s not necessarily going to coincide with fiscal year ’12; but over the next meeting or two, you will see most of these funds — you will see acquisitions proposed to use most of these funds.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. So we don’t have any — we’re not taking on too much risk by having to spend it too quickly?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: I can spend it as quickly as you like.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I figured that. Okay, thank you.

MR. SMITH: Commissioner, if I could. If you remember the discussion yesterday about those tracts at Mother Neff State Park that we had another option, it’s our intention to use at least part of these funds, if not the lion’s share, to help facilitate that acquisition for the expansion of that park. So it should be in good shape.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any other questions for Ted? Thanks, Ted. Okay, motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER FALCON: Approve.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Falcon. Second, Commissioner Martin. All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed? Hearing none, motions carries.

And he’s back. Briefing Item No. 5, Request for Utility Easement, Hall County, Caprock Canyon Trailway, Mr. Ted Hollingsworth.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good morning. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I’m with the Land Conservation Program. This is, again, a second reading of a request for an easement for a high-power transmission line to cross the extreme east end of the Caprock Canyon’s trailway. The trailway, this portion of the trailway is in Hall County.

It’s about 100 miles southeast of Amarillo. The Applicant has been working with the PUC and a number of landowners and Texas Parks and Wildlife, we were an intervener in the process. The route that the PUC is currently considering was our second choice. Not our first choice route. Nonetheless, it crosses the trailway in an area that is not heavily used and the Applicant has worked closely with us to minimize impacts to the trailway and to provide some revenue that will help with the management of the park and with fish and wildlife resources associated with Caprock Canyon State Park and the trailway.

And because of those efforts and because we feel like the impacts are minimized not only to the trailway, but to other private property with fish and wildlife value, staff does recommend that the Commission adopt the following motion, the Commission adopts the resolution attached as Exhibit A. And you’ve seen this item a couple of times, but I would certainly be happy to answer any questions you have.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Questions for Ted? Commissioner Duggins.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Ted, in the final portion of the resolution it says contingent upon the approval of the settlement route or a route substantially similar. Do we have the discretion to determine whether or not what is and what is not substantially similar?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Todd George is our representative before the PUC and I’m going to ask him if he would come up and respond to that question for you.

MR. GEORGE: Good morning, Commissioners. For the record, I’m Todd George, staff attorney for the department. The PUC Commission is scheduled to consider the settlement route. It’s a unanimous settlement route. On April 12th, I believe that they will approve it; but if there are some slight modifications that are necessary, the Department will have full discretion whether or not to agree. And so we’ll have the ability to decide whether or not it’s a good deal and if it’s a substantial change, we would certainly bring it back to the Commission.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But you have the discretion if the PUC rejects the approved route, we have the discretion to back out of it?

MR. GEORGE: Correct. It would probably go back to a full hearing on the merits.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That’s all I wanted to know, thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you. Any other questions? Okay, we do have one person — thanks, Ted. We do have one person signed up on this item, I believe. It’s Mr. James Bagley. Good morning.

MR. BAGLEY: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. I’m James Bagley with Southwestern Public Service Company and I just wanted to come up and thank the Commission for considering this. Also, wanted to say how easy it has been to work with your staff and the great job that they do. Mr. Hollingsworth and Mr. George and Ms. Boydston have been great to work with and I think they do a very good job for you and I just wanted to say thank you for working with us on this very important project.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you, we appreciate all your hard work as well. So, thanks. Okay, motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER HIXON: So moved.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Moved by Commissioner Hixon. Second by Commission Morian. All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries.

And now Action Item 6, 2012-13 Statewide Hunting Proclamation, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. We’re starting out with Scott Vaca. How are you this morning?

MR. VACA: Doing very well. Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission, for the record, my name is Scott Vaca. I’m Assistant Chief of Wildlife Enforcement. I’m here this morning to present the Law Enforcement portion of the Statewide Hunting Regulations proposal.

Under current regulations, it’s unlawful to hunt alligators, game animals, and game birds with a firearm equipped with a silencer or sound-suppressing device. However, it is currently legal to hunt nongame animals, furbearing animals, and exotic animals, including feral hogs, with a firearm equipped with a silencer or sound-suppressing device. Under proposed regulation, it would be lawful to hunt alligators, game animals, and game birds with any legal firearm, including a firearm equipped with a silencer. Again, as I mentioned yesterday, the term "silencer" is used to be consistent with State and Federal laws.

In addition under the proposed regulation, a person must still comply with all applicable Federal, State, and Local laws governing the possession and use of a firearm silencer. This proposed regulation change was presented to the White-tailed Deer Advisory in January, and they did not voice any concerns over this proposal. Public comment as of 5:00 o’clock yesterday didn’t really change much. We got four additional comments in support of this proposal and I covered these in — one by one yesterday, so I’ll just give you a moment to review them. These haven’t changed.

And that concludes my portion of the Statewide Hunting Regulations Proposal. Before I turn it over to Alan Cain, I’d be happy to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any questions for Scott? Thanks, Scott. Alan.

MR. CAIN: Good morning, Commissioners, Mr. Chairman. For the record, I’m Alan Cain, White-tailed Deer Program Leader. I’ll be presenting several proposals being considered for adoption regarding White-tail deer regulations. As we discussed yesterday, I kind of glossed over this, we we’re petitioned by individuals in the Collin County area to open an archery only deer season in Collin and Rockwall Counties.

Staff recognized that as an opportunity or a chance to provide hunting opportunity in those counties, as well as neighboring Dallas County. Collin and Rockwall and Dallas County have been closed for about 25 years, presumably on the assumption that stable deer populations ceased to exist because of lack of habitat, which is consist in that area up there; but it’s also similar to Grayson County just to the north where they have had an open deer season restricted to archery equipment since the early 1960s.

Staff in analyzing this petition for rule-making requests, determined there’s no biological reason not to allow hunting or not to prohibit hunting in Collin and Rockwall Counties and that could be applied in Dallas County. Again, it’s an opportunity to increase hunting opportunity in those areas and it’s an additional tool to address nuisance deer concerns up there where there may be an overpopulation of some areas. And more importantly, staff recognized that the traditional rational that’s used to justify season lengths and the bag in those counties and that — reflecting that deer population is moot. In that case because urbanization is likely to continue to cause a decline in habitat up there, ultimately affecting that deer population, this is a chance to expand that hunting opportunity. Not necessarily manage the resource.

The proposed regulation in that area would include removing the permit requirement to harvest antlerless doe or antlerless deer in Grayson County and apply that Grayson County season structure in Collin, Rockwall, and Dallas Counties, which would include an archery season and general season restricted archery equipment only, with a bag limit of two bucks and two antlerless deer. Antler restrictions would be in place in those counties.

To date, we’ve received a number of comments for both Collin, Rockwall, and Dallas Counties and Grayson County of those changes in favor of approximately 1,500 in favor and, you know, 65 or less opposed to that for various reasons, which we discussed yesterday. This has also been brought forth and discussed with leadership with Grayson County White-tail Association and they support the proposed regulation change, as well as the White-tail Deer Advisory Committee has seen this and reviewed it and supports the expansion of the season in these areas.

Galveston County, again, is a similar county. It’s been closed for a number of years generally on the assumption that deer populations cease to exist because of lack of habitat. But there is pockets of habitat that harbor deer populations in the area. It’s similar in nature to the surrounding counties — Harris, Fort Bend, Brazoria — which have open season right now. And staff determined that the current regulatory structure in effect in those counties and the surrounding counties could be applied to Galveston County to provide additional hunting opportunity.

It shouldn’t be an impact on that resource there. Proposed regulation would be an archery only season, a general season, and a special late muzzleloader season with a four deer bag limit not to exceed two bucks, antler restrictions in place, or two antlerless deer and harvest of antlerless deer after Thanksgiving would require a permit, such as a Managed Land Deer Permit. Again, we’ve had a number of comments and approximately 1,400 in favor, 56 opposed for various reasons that we discussed yesterday from no hunting to restricting the type of method of take over there.

And with that, if there’s any questions, I’ll answer those. If not, I’ll pass that along to Robert Perez with the follow up with the statewide.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thanks, Alan. Any questions for Alan right now? Commissioner Duggins.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Alan, can you —

MR. CAIN: Yes.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Alan, can pull up the proposed change for Collin, Dallas, and Rockwall Counties? It’s on Page 152 of our book or it’s the first antlerless deer. Are you able to pull that up?

MR. CAIN: I don’t — okay. What are you...

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, the proposed the change, I’m not sure what that’s intended to do. The sentence to me seems...

MR. CAIN: For the no permits required to hunt antlerless deer?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yes. What are we attempting to accomplish there? What are you proposing we accomplish with that change?

MR. CAIN: Well, right now in Grayson County, currently you have to have a Managed Lands Deer Permit to harvest a doe and, again, it’s archery equipment only. And so since archery harvest, in general, is such a low harvest, you know, in general statewide, but probably specifically in those counties, there may not — there’s not a reason to have a permit requirement to harvest a doe and that it would provide some additional hunting opportunity or make it a little easier for folks that want to maybe encourage youth hunting without having to go seek a permit through our biologists. And we wanted to take that requirement away to make it easier for folks to harvest the antlerless deer in Grayson County and also apply it to Collin, Rockwall, and Dallas County where there’s not necessarily the resource concern up there in those counties because as the urbanization continues, you’re going to see habitat loss and ultimately the deer population decline from habitat loss, not necessarily hunting.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But the phrase that’s puzzles me is the unless phrase. I mean I’m assuming —

MR. CAIN: Oh, unless MLD — so in other words, if somebody in that — there’s no permit to require — the change would reflect that there’s no permit required to harvest deer during general season or the archery season. But if your on MLD property, you have to use that MLD tag. If you’re under MLD, Managed Lands Deer Permit Program, you have to use MLD on that property. And it would be like any other county. If you’re in South Texas and you’re issued a Managed Lands Deer Permits, you have to use those tags. You don’t use the tags from a hunting license. And right now the only way you can harvest an antlerless deer in Grayson County is to have an MLD. So now we’re going to open it up where you can use the tags from your hunting license.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay, thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Questions of Alan? Thanks, Alan. Appreciate it.

Robert Perez, good morning.

MR. PEREZ: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. My name — for the record, my name is Robert Perez, Upland Game Bird Program Leader of the Wildlife Division. And as you recall from yesterday’s meeting, we had a couple of issues on the — items on the statewide with regard to Upland Game Birds. There were two. The first regarding pheasant, and the second regarding Lesser prairie chicken. There we go.

So staff recommendation is the adoption of proposal to close the pheasant season in Chambers, Jefferson, and Liberty Counties highlighted in yellow. This is in response to absence of a population. These are the only remaining coastal counties with a current pheasant season. Closing them would effectively eliminate the pheasant season on the Texas coast. Although pen-reared pheasant hunting could still occur under a private bird hunting area license.

The second item in regard to Lesser prairie chicken, the background we covered yesterday; but to kind of highlight. In 2005, the Commission adopted rules to create a Managed Lands Permit for the harvest of Lesser prairie chicken and then in 2009, the Commission closed the season on Lesser prairie chicken in response to continued concerns about the species. It now appears that the Lesser prairie chicken hunting will not resume and because there is no longer a need for those rules on the managed lands Lesser prairie chicken permit, staff recommends the repeal of 65.25(B), which set forth the requirements for harvest on managed lands.

We did receive public comment on both items, which we covered yesterday. On the managed lands Lesser prairie chicken permit rule, there were 1,241 responses in support and 67 in opposition. In relation to the pheasant season closure, there were 1,338 in support and 97 in opposition.

With that, the staff recommendation is that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts amendments to 65.7, 65.8, 65.11, 65.25, 65.42, and 65.60 concerning the Statewide Hunting Proclamation with changes as necessary to the proposed text as published in the February 17th, 2012, issue of the Texas Register.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Questions for Robert? Okay. Thanks, Robert. We do have several people signed up to speak on this item. Let’s start with — hope I’m saying this right — Jeffrey Folloder.

MR. FOLLODER: I’ll yield my position.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. Duane Jones. After that, will be Steve Hall. Good morning.

MR. JONES: Good morning. My name is Duane Jones. I drove in here from Houston. I’ve owned suppressors since 1984 and I had no idea I’d be standing in front of the Commission today to have the opportunity to go deer hunting doing some quiet hunting, not encroaching on my neighbors. It’s really just a warm and fuzzy feeling. I had no idea I’d be here.

I just wanted to suggest that, again, being able to use a suppressor for the ability to take a game animal that’s already done for feral hogs and what have you, it’s really amazing because I think this is something that would make a deer hunter well-dressed, you might say. Again, if suppressors were invented today, it would be a Federal requirement there to quiet something down that damages hearing. As a nurse, my ability to hear your heart sounds and your breath sounds is really important; so I’m very acutely aware of keeping my hearing as best it can be. Also, too, I think that little kids and teenagers and what have you, woman, if they’ve got a suppressor — and I have kids and women shoot my firearms with cans, it’s a — you know, they say why isn’t everybody doing that? I say, well, the time is coming.

So I can appreciate the ability to get up in front of you today and say this is something that we’ll look back sometime and we’ll say why haven’t we done this a long time ago. I just think also that the natural evolution of firearms is to quiet them because, again, hearing damage is permanent. Tinnitus is the medical term for ringing in the ears. All our veterans and what have you. So I can appreciate cans. This is an idea whose time has come, so it’s really something that I can appreciate.

Again, this increases the fun factor. Our fire firearms are nice and quiet and it’s just something that I think that we should do. Oh, also, above and beyond the hearing is that, again, this also reduces recoil because of the suppressor because it’s pushing against the suppressor; so little kids can shoot larger calibers and then also increased accuracy and then also the report. It doesn’t silence anything. It’s actually a suppressor. And I appreciate your time and let me tip my hat to the Commission for taking a vote on this today. Thank you, sir.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you. Mr. Jones, thanks and we appreciate your effort in being here. Next is Steve Hall.

MR. HALL: Mr. Chairman, I’ll defer my time to our Legislative Director Alice Tripp.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: All right, Steve. All right. Peter Petersen, please.

MR. PETERSEN: Ladies and gentlemen, good morning. Thank you for having me up here today. I too also wanted to comment on the proposed ruling for the use of suppressors in harvesting game animals. I’m here representing both lawful suppressor owners across the state, as well as a retail interest as I work for a shop that has both our FFL and our SOT to sell both guns and class three items.

The pros for this, as the Chief showed, the overwhelming support across the state for this by the online surveys and everything else and as that gentleman also stated, a silencer is actually quite a bit of a misnomer. Although it’s used in the NFA guidelines and everything else, quite honestly it’s more of a muffler than it is a silencer because — well, laws of physics, you’re unable to actually silence the crack of a sonic boom, which is what you’re hearing with rifle or a bullet report.

The ruling itself is not so much a new law, as it is an extension of an older law. As the Chief also stated, this — silencers are allowed with nongame animals. With the proposed ruling, what this will actually do is actually assist and clarify what’s going on in the field with the game wardens themselves. As a game warden, if you happen upon somebody out in the field and it’s deer season but the guy is sitting there saying, well, I’m just here to hunt hogs. Well, who do you go with?

Now if you were to make it just legal across the board, then it eliminates that confusion and can actually assist the game warden as well as the lawful hunter. As the gentleman said earlier, the reduced recoil that a suppressor provides for the weapon will assist with disabled hunters. For instance, I have a friend who has a hemophilic disorder who pretty much got a prescription for a suppressor so that he was able to shoot without substantial bruising and that kind of stuff. Noise reduction also important. Most hunters do not wear hearing protection when they’re afield so they can hear game animals around them and as that gentleman stated and my wife can definitely attest, it does damage your hearing. Although she might say selective.

It’s not uncommon, suppressors. Although here they’ve been villainized in Hollywood. However, if you go overseas, in my time in Ireland as well as Finland, guns albeit hard to get, you have to go through backgrounds and everything else, you could go purchase a suppressor literally over the counter. It’s considered rude not to have one because of landowners. The pros where people are saying that it’s going to increase poaching, quite frankly, it’s cost prohibitive. It’s expensive to get. You go through a long legal process to get one. Why pay $1,200 if you’re going to go out for a couple more deer?

The other option is the safety issue. The majority of public hunting land is muzzleloader and archery only. The firearm areas, you’re required to wear orange, which is much more indicative of safety than any type of suppressing device for a firearm. That’s all I had to say. Anybody have any questions, anything that I can address?

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Appreciate it. Thank you very much.

MR. PETERSEN: Thank you, you have a great day.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thanks for your comments. Next up is Alice Tripp.

MS. TRIPP: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. I’m short. My name is Alice Tripp. I’m the Legislative Director for the Texas State Rifle Association. We’re an NRA state affiliate, and we appreciate this being considered.

Suppressors are covered by the National Firearms Act of 1934. It’s a Federal law that the suppressor, the device itself, and the person that purchased that device is registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Anyone who owned or had created for themselves an unregistered suppressor is an uncaught felon. I can tell you that I’m a widow now, but my husband had eight suppressors and shot hogs off our front porch in Bastrop County. He insisted that it didn’t ring his ears so bad.

So while this is not something because of cost that everybody will take advantage of, we do appreciate the consideration. And if firearms were invented today, which has been said, OSHA would require that a suppressor be integral to any firearm. So thank you for your consideration. Any questions?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Any questions?

MS. TRIPP: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you, ma’am. Next up is John Ricke? Rick?

MR. RICKE: Ricke.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Ricke. Mr. Ricke, you’re up. And while Mr. Ricke is coming to the stand, Mr. Toner, you are up next following Mr. Ricke.

MR. TONER: I waive my position (inaudible).

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I beg your pardon?

MR. TONER: I (inaudible).

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right, sir.

MR. RICKE: John Ricke. I also live in Bastrop County. In fact, I live right across from the fire. We had an influx of deer due to the fire, and I also had an influx of poachers. Number one, is this — I’m against the suppressor, silencer. Word it any way you want to. If you listen real close, we have a contradiction on the — from the speakers if you listen close on their definition and sound on a suppressor and a silencer. At least I did.

This — all this will do is lead into one more step of making it a very loose game state for game laws. At one time, it was against Parks and Wildlife game laws to have your personal information on your arrows. Well, when that was passed, I had an influx of dead deer. I had an influx of arrows sticking in my front yard around my feeder. My neighbor next door had an influx of arrows. My side neighbor had an influx of arrows. Not only during season, but out of season. Now that’s what happened when you changed that law.

Now, this law is going to increase you might say trespassing, poaching. There are some people that will call them hunters. They’re not hunters. They’re savages. They harvest record buck, and they sell them on the black market. They’ll use any device to get on your property and harvest an illegal "muy grande" 200 plus deer if they know it’s there. I’ve had an influx of poachers. I’ve had bow hunters hiding underneath my tree at 3:00 o’clock in the morning. I’ve had illegal shooting in the back end of my property. A nice great big buck, I couldn’t get a shot, he jumped my cross-fence, boom, there was a poacher that shot that deer.

Now suppressors, silencers, however you want to word it, is going to reduce the sound. If they have a ringing in their ear which comes from old age because I’m 73 and 100 percent disabled veteran, you can buy these ear plugs for a couple of bucks. They’ve been on the market for, what, 50 years. You can buy these for 50 bucks. They’ve been on the market for 50 years, and you can get them for $7. I’m against this. It’s going to open up a big can of worms.

Now these are people in favor of it because they sell them. Well, I’m against it because I’m a property owner and I don’t want more poaching and that’s what it’s going to lead to. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Mr. Ricke, thank you. Next is Mr. — do you say Toonie? Karl Tomie?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: He yielded.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: He yielded, so that made that easier. And Mr. Jim Litschewski.

MR. LITSCHEWSKI: Litschewski.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Say that again please. I’m sorry.

MR. LITSCHEWSKI: Litschewski.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Litschewski.

MR. LITSCHEWSKI: Good morning. My name is Jim Litschewski. I’m representing myself, so I’m just a hunter. I don’t own — I don’t — actually, I have an application in for a couple of suppressors, but I don’t sell them. So everybody else has pretty well covered my talking points. I will add from the previous gentleman, the concern is poaching. The quietest weapon out there is bows. You know, archery is extremely silent. I don’t think you’ll see any significant increase in poaching with the suppressors and anybody who would commit a crime with a suppressor, it’s a Federal offense. It’s not just a State felony. So I would think you would find people who did that would be in a lot of trouble. So that’s all I have to add.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Appreciate it. Thank you for your comments. This next one is a little easier to pronounce, Kirby Brown.

MR. BROWN: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, my name is Kirby Brown. I’m with Texas Wildlife Association. I thought there would be more trepidation than we had amongst our landowner members at Texas Wildlife Association. We have a very small percent that do think this is a bad idea. Overall, most are either neutral or very supportive of this whole process of going to suppressor. The — I think having a lot of the information from your staff has really helped our people understand the issue of where we’re at in moving forward and I think for the most part, they think eventually this is going to be a safety issue and as has been stated previously that OSHA type requirements are probably going to be coming anyway at some point in the future.

So we’re going to trust our Law Enforcement staff and move forward with this and we’re going to see where we’re at and, you know, take account of this over a few years. We may or may not be back to you. We’re hoping we’re not. On the deer regulations, we found those to be very well presented. The staff has done a good job in outreach and explaining those. And on the upland game birds, we think that those are all good ideas. So we want to support the staff proposals today. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you, Kirby. Appreciate it. Appreciate all the comments. Okay, any other questions on Item 6? Go ahead, Commissioner Duggins.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Mr. Ricke, are you — yeah, you’re still here. I appreciate your comments about the poaching problem that you report you’ve had. I think we’ve got an outstanding law enforcement group and while you’re here, you might take the opportunity to visit with somebody that Colonel Flores could put you in touch with to perhaps try to help you out with the problem that you’ve reported.

MR. RICKE: Sir, I’ve contacted the last three game wardens we’ve had and game wardens can’t be everywhere. And, you know, you spot a poacher and by the time the game warden gets there, the poacher is gone. I mean, you know, I only have 70 acres and most of them live in the area because they drive up and down the road, they know what cars you have, they know your pattern when you leave your gate open or closed and the car or truck is gone. They know, and they flock in. I just had an incident a few days ago. Broad daylight on Saturday afternoon, the gate is closed, locked, the cars are — truck and cars in the driveway. I had to take a nap, I wake up, and boom, look there, two guys out there fishing in my pond.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, they haven’t met Sergeant Chappell. I’m sorry about that. We’re all sorry about the problems you’re reporting. As I say, we have a great and high degree of confidence in our law enforcement group and we know they can’t be all places at all times; but do urge you to take advantage of the opportunity to visit with somebody that Colonel Flores might put you in touch with today to see if something further couldn’t be done. Thank you.

MR. RICKE: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. Any other discussion? So on Action Item Six, do we have a motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: So motioned.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Moved by Commissioner Scott. Second by Commissioner Martin. All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries. Thank you.

Moving on, Action Item 7, 2012-2013 Statewide Recreational and Commercial Fishing Proclamation, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. Start out with Ken. Good morning, Ken.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Good morning, Commissioners. My name is Ken Kurzawski in Inland Fisheries Division, and I’m here to present some of the changes to fishing regulations. Most of them are freshwater, but I do have a few proposals that impact both fresh and saltwater.

Starting of on Lake Aquila, a reservoir in Hill Country that we had an 18-inch minimum on that enacted in ’94. We haven’t seen any population benefits from that. There’s a — we have — habitat is limiting in that reservoir because of silting problems and we are proposing to go back to the statewide limit of 14 inches. On two reservoirs out in West Texas, Fort Phantom Hill and Proctor, we currently have a 16-inch limit for bass on those reservoirs. We’ve seen, investigating those populations, few pre- and post-regulation changes. Populations are very similar to the area lakes with the 14-inch limit. And as we all know West Texas with the changes in water level, water level is one of the most determining factors for the fishing and fish populations out there and so we’re not seeing any benefits from that 16-inch limit. We plan to propose that to 14-inch bag there.

Possum Kingdom reservoir, that reservoir has been decimated by Golden Alga since 2001. Striped bass fishery was a very important fishery there. We’ve been stocking that on a put-take basis to try and help that population. We reduced the bag at that time from five to two. We’ve tried to continue stocking there. A few fish are getting harvested, and the bag is not having any impact. We’re continuing to have periodic Golden Alga kills there. Just not having enough population build up in most cases and if we do catch a few — couple few good years and we do produce some fish out there, we would probably desire that anglers could harvest as many as they can until we have another event there. So we’re proposing to return that back to the five, which will be similar to the statewide limit.

Lake Naconiche, a new reservoir that’s set to open in Nacogdoches County. Typical of most new reservoirs, we anticipate a high angling effort. Also, fish in those new reservoirs are very vulnerable to overharvest. We want to protect the developing bass population in there and ensure we develop a good population, so we’re proposing to open that reservoir with an 18-inch limit, five fish daily bag, and also due to the small size of reservoir, around 700 acres, we anticipate a lot of use there, prohibit some of those passive gears that could interfere with some of those other activities — the jug lines, throw lines, and trotlines.

Aquatic — spreading aquatic invasives has certainly been a topic we’ve probably been spending too much time on. Certainly staff is spending a lot of time trying to combat these. A couple of groups that were interested in making some proposals on, Zebra mussel, Asian carp. Currently, they’re confined to limited locations in Texas. Possession of these and transport of these harmful species is prohibited. But we feel there’s a need for some additional rules to stop the spread of these organisms incidental to some other activities and uses.

One of the characteristics of Zebra mussels, they have a pre-swimming microscopic larval stage. This can occur in any water taken from the infested water, such as Lake Texoma. Through testing, we’re pretty much finding that they’ve been present all winter. Certainly they peak in the summer, and they can be easily transported in any water that is uptake into live wells, hauling containers, and the other intake systems on boats and motors.

Silver and Bighead carp have been found all up through the Mississippi River up into the Midwest. Those are — the Silver carp are the ones that create the big abundant populations that you see jumping out on a lot of the videos. One of the problems — one of the concerns there is that those young carp can be easily confused with some of our native bait fish, the shad, the Gizzard shad and Threadfin shad. They can easily collected during bait activity, bait collecting activities for shad and you have a few mixed in with the shad and you wouldn’t be able to easily distinguish them.

So we have a couple of proposals to address this. One is a proposal on exotic species that are contained in water and the proposal would be that anglers would — to drain the water in a couple of water bodies. One is the Red River area from the I-44 bridge, which includes those waters of Lake Texoma down to the Arkansas border and also Lake Lavon, which is — we have received some water from Lake Texoma in the past and have seen some Zebra mussels in the upper stream and upper region of the reservoir, so it’s likely to develop a population there. And this would prevent the transport of any water or fly fish in that water. We would allow persons, anglers — striper guides is a big important thing on Lake Texoma — we would allow them to travel from one ramp to another within the same water body. So they’re fishing one area of the lake and took out and put someplace else, they would be able to maintain their shad. Some of them fish with shad for bait and would not have to drain that water.

The other proposal concerns the transport of live nongame fish. We would prohibit the transport of those live nongame fish off of these listed waters. These are basically the tribute — the Red and some tributaries of the Red where those Silver and Bighead carp, where we have seen some of those and we want to prevent those from being collected and spread to other parts of the state. You would be able to take nongame fishes, such as shad and other nongame fishes on those waters and use them as live bait.

On these two particular rules, we want to deviate from the standard effective date. Most of our hunting and fishing regulations typically go in September 1st. We would like to set the effective date for these transport rules, these two particular subsections in the proclamation to 20 days after filing the final rules in the Texas Register. These rules would then be in place before the peak boating season and we would be able to take advantage of our public awareness campaign that we’re having up in North Texas on Zebra mussels, take advantage of a lot of the press releases and PSAs associated with those to get information on these.

We have a few changes that impact both fresh and saltwater on State Parks. State Park staff are seeing some user conflicts in areas with limited space. The proposed change there would be limit persons to two fishing poles when fishing on some of those man-made structures, such as docks and piers, so they can’t dominate that space and cause some user conflicts in those areas.

I have a few proposals on gear tags. It would change the requirement and now require gear tags for throw lines and minnow traps. Those are the two — only two passive gears that didn’t have the gear tag requirement and this will help in the law enforcement on these gears. And also in discussions on that, it was decided to modify the gear tag validity date down from 30 days to 10 days. And this would impact these following devices in fresh and saltwater. Finally, we have some reciprocal license agreements in place with Louisiana and Oklahoma, which allows our seniors to fish and be exempt from fishing license when fishing as a nonresident. Oklahoma recently changed their senior age designation, so we’ll have to change our rules to comply with that.

These are the summary of the comments on the various proposals. I think there’s only been one additional comment in support since yesterday. I went over some of the summary of that and I also want you to note that those two highlighted ones, due to a glitch in some of our summary, those looks like they’re skewed to the opposed; but actually they’re probably another 50, 60 comments in support of each one of those. And then once again, the only one that we’ve received a significant number of negative comments were on the change in the date for the validity of gear tags from the 30 to 10 days.

And those are all the proposals. Any other comments? Are there any questions?

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Questions for Ken? Thank you. Thanks, Ken.

Robin, good morning.

MR. RIECHERS: Good morning, Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Robin Riechers with Coastal Fisheries Division. I’m here to present to you the 2012-2013 changes for Coastal Fisheries. As indicated yesterday, we have one change that’s the migration of the authority to create an alternative licensing system and license log from one portion of the proclamation to the another that was just inadvertently missed when we moved — when we split those proclamations in the past and we’re moving that over.

The second item that we had is the freeze closure clarification. Again, this just clarifies that if we do have to close those thermal refuge areas that we have designated on the coast in the event of a freeze, that the take of game fish in those areas is prohibited by any means. As indicated yesterday, 95 percent or greater support both proposals. Our Coastal Resources Advisory Committee also unanimously supported those proposals and off the opposition, you can kind of characterize the opposition in two ways when you read through those comments. One is there’s just too many rules and regulations and so any change in a rule or regulation they felt was too much when we have them — when we asked them about that freeze closure clarification. And then the other one was in that respect, we really want to be able to fish any time we want anywhere. So with that, I would recommend or staff recommends to the Commission that we adopt the changes concerning the license issuance procedure fees, possession and exemption rules, as well as though concerning statewide recreational hunting — recreational and commercial fishing proclamation that were published in the February 17th, Texas Register.

I would be happy to answer any questions if there are any.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Questions for Robin? Okay, thank you. Nobody signed up to speak on this. So motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: So moved.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Morian. Second Commissioner Hughes. All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries. Mr. Smith, it’s early; but this Commission has completed its business, so I declare us adjourned.

MR. SMITH: Thank you.

(Meeting adjourns)

In official recognition of the adoption of this resolution in a lawfully called public meeting of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, we hereby affix our signatures this _____ day of ______________, 2012.

_______________________________
T. Dan Friedkin, Chairman

_______________________________
Ralph H. Duggins, Vice-Chairman

_______________________________
Antonio Falcon, M.D., Member

_______________________________
Karen J. Hixon, Member

_______________________________
Dan Allen Hughes, Jr., Member

_______________________________
Bill Jones, Member

_______________________________
Margaret Martin, Member

_______________________________
S. Reed Morian, Member

_______________________________
Dick Scott, Member


C E R T I F I C A T E

STATE OF TEXAS )
COUNTY OF TRAVIS )

I, Paige S. Watts, Certified Shorthand Reporter in and for the State of Texas, do hereby certify that the above-mentioned matter occurred as hereinbefore set out.

I FURTHER CERTIFY THAT the proceedings of such were reported by me or under my supervision, later reduced to typewritten form under my supervision and control and that the foregoing pages are a full, true, and correct transcription of the original notes.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and seal this 20th day of April, 2012.

__________________________
Paige S. Watts, CSR, RPR
CSR No.: 8311
Expiration: December 31, 2012
Firm Registration Number: 87
1016 La Posada Drive
Suite 294
Austin, Texas 78752
Job No. 95407

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