Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Public Hearing

April 3, 2003

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

BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 3rd day of April, 2003, there came on to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Parks and Wildlife Commission of Texas, in the Commission Hearing Room of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex, beginning at 9:00 a.m. to wit:

APPEARANCES:

THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION:

Katharine Armstrong, Austin, Texas, Chairman

Ernest Angelo, Jr., Vice Chairman, Midland, Texas

John Avila, Jr., Fort Worth, Texas

Joseph B.C. Fitzsimons, San Antonio, Texas

Alvin L. Henry, Houston, Texas

Philip Montgomery, Dallas, Texas

Donato D. Ramos, Laredo, Texas

Kelly W. Rising, M.D., Beaumont, Texas

Mark E. Watson, Jr., San Antonio, Texas

THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:

Robert L. Cook, Executive Director, and other personnel of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Public Hearing

April 3, 2003

List of Speakers:

Mr. Kirby Brown, Texas Wildlife Association, 401 Isom Road, Suite 237, San Antonio, TX 78216

Mr. Tom Brown, Texas Saltwater Guide Association, P.O. Box 2496, Friendswood, TX 77549

Capt. Bruce W. Shuler, P.O. Box 248, Port Mansfield, TX 78598

Mr. Pat Murray, CCA

Mr. Lance Seal, 1409 Whitewing, McAllen, TX 78501

Mr. Scott Murray, 1818 Rodd Field Rd. J-4, Corpus Christi, TX 78412

Mr. Jeff Gregg, 700 Chicago Ave., McAllen, TX 78501

Mr. Jeff Smith, CCA, 906 Mouintte, Austin, TX 78736

Mr. Will Kirkpatrick, Rt. 1, Box 138 CC, Broaddus, TX 75929

Mr. Robert L. Morgan, 474 Sea Loon Rd., Webster, TX 77598

Mr. Randall Davis, Recreational Fishing Alliance, 2003-Lands End St., Rockport, TX 78302

Mr. Spencer Collins, P.O. Box 5943, Austin, TX 78763

Mr. Everett Johnson, Gulf Coast Connections, P.O. Box 9901, College Station, TX 77842

Mr. Jack Conway, 2007 Terrace LN, Baytown, TX 77520

Mr. Chris Godfrey, North American Growe Partnership, Hunting Texas Hawking Association, 618 Vaky St., Corpus Christi, TX 78404

Mr. Kirby Brown, Texas Wildlife Association, 401 Isom RD, Ste. 237, San Antonio, TX 78216

Mr. Walt Glasscock, Hunting Texas Sportsman’s Association, P.O. Box 26, Columbus, TX 78934

Mr. Van Swift, 10828 W. Cave Loop, Dripping Springs, TX 78620

Mr. Jack King, Sportsmen Conservationist of Texas, 807 Brazos, Suite 506, Austin, TX 78602

Mr. Steve Oleson, TX Hawking Association, 6617 Lexington, Austin, TX 78757

Mr. West Warren, 202 Tophill, San Antonio, TX 78209

Mr. Mike Rust, Lone Star Bowhunters, 284 W. Bridge, New Braunfels, TX 78130

Mr. Kevin Hilbig-Lone Star Bow Hunting Association, 4905 FM 535, Cedar Creek, TX

Mr. Tim Lopas, 8215 Mesquite, Houston, TX 77061

Mr. Ellis Gilleland, Texas Animals, P.O. Box 6001, Austin, TX 78766

Mr. Kirby Brown, Texas Wildlife Association, 401 Isom Rd, Ste. 237, San Antonio, TX 78216

Mr. Ellis Gilleland, Texas Animals, P.O. Box 6001, Austin, TX 78766

Mr. Karl Kinsel, Texas Deer Association

Mr. Lon Burnam, State Representative, Dist. (illegible), Box 1814, Fort Worth, TX 76101

Mr. Rusty Nichols, Peninsula Group, 1320 S. University, Fort Worth, TX

Mr. Glen Whitley (Commissioner), Tarrant County Commissioners Court, 100 E. Weatherford St., Fort Worth, TX 76196

Mr. Mark Mendez, Tarrant County Commissioners Court, 100 E. Weatherford St., Fort Worth, TX 76196

Mr. Tom Nezworski, Mira Vista Development Corporation, 6600 Mira Vista Blvd., Fort Worth, TX 76132

Mr. Ellis Gilleland, Texas Animals, P.O. Box 9001, Austin, TX 78766

9:00 a.m.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Good morning. The meeting is called to order. Before proceeding with any business, I believe Mr. Cook has a statement to make.

MR. COOK: Thank you.

Chairman, Commissioners, a public notice of this meeting containing all items on the proposed agenda has been filed in the Office of Secretary of State, as required by Chapter 551 of the Government Code, referred to as the Open Meetings Law.

I would like for this action to be noted in the official record of this meeting.

I want to go over some of the ground rules of our meeting that we're going to have today. We welcome everyone here, but in order that those who wish to speak can speak and be heard by the Commission, we have a few rules that we'd like for you to help us and go by.

So that everyone will have a chance to address the Commission in an orderly fashion, the following ground rules will be followed: The Chairman is in charge of this meeting and, by law, it is her duty to preserve order, direct the order of the hearing, and recognize persons to be heard. I will be assisting the Chairman today as sergeant-at-arms.

We have sign-up cards for everyone wishing to speak, outside at the table out here, and the Chairman will call names from those cards one at a time. Each person will be allowed to speak from the podium here in the center one at a time.

When your name is called, please come to the podium, state your name, who you represent, if anyone other than yourself.

At the same time, if there are a number of people to speak, she'll call whoever the next person is ‑‑ the next person to speak to come up and be on deck.

When you get to the mike, 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.

Each person who wants to address the Commission will have three minutes to speak. I'll keep track of the time on this handy-dandy little thing right here and notify you when the three minutes are up. It's got a green and a yellow and a red. When that red comes, your time is up.

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 a question or discuss something among themselves, that time will not be counted 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 also ask that you show proper respect for the Commissioners, as well as the 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.

If you would like to submit written materials to the Commission, please give them to Ms. Lori Estrada, right here to my right, or Michelle Klaus, and they will pass that information to the Commissioners.

Thank you, Chairman.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Thank you, Mr. Cook.

Next will be approval of the minutes of the previous meeting, which have already been distributed.

Is there a motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: So moved.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Moved by Commissioner Ramos.

Do I have a second?

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Second.

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Second.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Opposed?

(No response.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: The motion carries.

Next is the acceptance of gifts, which have also been distributed.

Donor, Description, Purpose of Donation

Donations Total $949,609.14

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Is there a motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER RISING: So moved.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: A motion by Commissioner Rising. Do I have a second?

COMMISSIONER HENRY: Second.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: A second by Commissioner Henry.

All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Opposed?

(No response.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: The motion carries.

Next are the service awards.

Mr. Cook, would you please make the presentation.

MR. COOK: Thank you, Chairman.

We have a number of service awards today, and I will tell you that a number of these characters I know, and they've done us a great job and represent us well, and I'm proud that they are all here today.

First of all, I want to introduce a guy that I've known for a long, long time. He asked me just a while ago if I thought he could get on full-time, and I told him I thought it might be a little too early for that, but we've give it a try.

Richard Cranford began his career with TPWD in February of 1963 as a biology field worker at the Matador Wildlife Management Area. During his 40 years of employment with TPWD, he has worked on the Matador Wildlife Area and the District 2 Panhandle Regulatory District.

He is actively involved in daily duties on the wildlife area and with capital projects, public hunts, wildlife and habitat surveys, and occasionally trapping turkeys.

With 40 years of service, my friend Richard Cranford, Jr.

(Applause.)

MR. COOK: I ran into this next gentleman at the copy machine this morning. It had been a long time since I'd seen him. Bill Hellums began his employment with TPWD in February of 1968. He graduated from the Game Warden Academy at Texas A&M University and was stationed at Starr County.

In March of 1985 he was promoted to district supervisor for District 2 Region 5, stationed in Devine, Texas, and moved on up to Uvalde, where he serves today.

Bill along with fellow game warden Glen Felps were presented the annual Hero Award from the Devine Chamber of Commerce in January 1987 for their rescue efforts. Bill and Glen rescued an individual stranded in a tree in the middle of Hondo Creek in Medina County. The creek had swollen from its normal flow of four feet to 27 feet after a ten-inch rain.

These two gentleman were in a 12-foot johnboat with a ten-horse motor out in that water; that was all they had. And they went and pulled that gentleman out of the tree.

From there they were summoned to another part of the creek to bring a lady, who was in labor, across from her residence to the waiting EMS unit.

With 30 years of service, Bill Hellums, Captain Game Warden of the Law Enforcement Division, Uvalde, Texas.

(Applause.)

MR. COOK: Billy Paul Baker, with the State Parks Division, is our manager at a state park near Glen Rose, with 30 years of service. He began his employment in 1973 as a Park Attendant I at Abilene State Park; moved up to Park Ranger II and was commissioned as a Park Peace Officer in 1976.

In 1977 he moved to Palo Duro Canyon State Park as an assistant superintendent. He has worked at Mineral Wells State Park and Dinosaur Valley State Park. He has implemented a friends group to assist the park.

Billy has his Master Peace Officer's certification and is a law-enforcement instructor and has assisted in search-and-rescue training. With 30 years of service, Billy Paul Baker.

(Applause.)

MR. COOK: A gentleman that all of us, I believe, know, Nick Carter, was hired by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in 1973 from his teaching position at Southwest Texas State University to train employees in the use of good science methodology for our fisheries program.

He has supervised the inland fisheries and coastal fisheries research and federal aid programs and is a leader in the fields of statistics, age and growth, creel surveys, and scientific writing.

He excelled at writing and is well published, but he considers the best of him came through the publishing successes of the people he worked with in those early years.

He got the ball rolling in the right direction, and the team made the state's fisheries one of the best, if not the best in the nation today.

He has held several positions throughout his career, including chief of inland fisheries but considers the one he holds now the most rewarding, as our federal aid coordinator. From this position he has been able to help many programs and staff across the entire agency.

Nick considers the Parks and Wildlife his family and takes great pleasure in seeing the growing number of talented young people coming up through the agency.

With 30 years of service, Nick Carter, Inland Fisheries Program Administrator V, Austin, Texas.

(Applause.)

MR. COOK: Mike Hobson first came to work with TPWD as a summer intern for the Wildlife Division during the summers of 1968 and '69 on the white-winged dove project located in the lower Rio Grande Valley.

In April of 1973 Michael accepted employment with TPWD Wildlife Division as a biology field worker at the Chaparral Wildlife Management Area. Five months later he moved to Laredo as a wildlife biologist on the South Texas District 8 Wildlife Regulatory Project.

In May of 1986 he became and is today the district leader for the Trans-Pecos District Regulatory Project in Alpine.

With 30 years of service, Mike Hobson.

(Applause.)

MR. COOK: Alan McRae, in our Administrative Resource Division here in Austin, is a Staff Service Officer II. He began his employment with TPWD at the warehouse as a clerk in 1973 and it says here, when Bob Cook was a poor but honest biologist.

(General laughter.)

MR. COOK: I don't know about the honest part; I'll accept that.

Thirty years later he continues to stack boxes from time to time. Alan assumed additional responsibilities through the years, such as supply service center supervision, agency property manager; he briefly worked with fleet management and records management.

Alan handles almost any emergency that walks through the door for us, and we appreciate him very much.

With 30 years of service, Alan McRae.

(Applause.)

MR. COOK: Roger Steward is a Game Warden V with the Law Enforcement Division in Bastrop, Texas. He began his employment with TPWD in 1970, in the Parks Division. In 1976 he relocated to Harris County as a Fish and Wildlife technician in the Law Enforcement Division.

In 1982 he was accepted into the 36th Game Warden Academy. Roger's assignments have included San Patricio, Range, and Wood Counties. He resides in Bastrop County today, where he serves the Department as a game warden there.

With 30 years of service, Roger Steward.

(Applause.)

MR. COOK: Bruce Thiele works in our State Parks Division, and if you've ever been to LBJ State Park or the Sauer-Beckmann Farm, I know that you have met Bruce.

He began his career at LBJ State Park in February of 1973 as a seasonal worker. His basic duties at that time were park maintenance functions; however, Bruce was soon greeting visitors to the park, due to his exceptional customer service skills. That means he knows how to get along with people.

In October of 1973 Bruce became Park Manager I. In 1976 he accepted a Park Ranger II position, becoming an interpreter at the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm.

Bruce has risen through the ranks and has been promoted to his current position of Program Administrator III. In this position he is the on-site supervisor of the living history farm, one of the premier historic sites in our agency.

Bruce has played a vital role in the success of Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm and to the overall development of LBJ State Park and historic site. He has provided valuable interpretive and education experiences to literally thousands of park visitors, skillfully sharing his expertise about the cultural and natural resources of the park and the Texas Hill Country.

He has a unique ability to communicate with young visitors and school groups, creating an important link to our future constituents.

With 30 years of service, Bruce Thiele.

(Applause.)

MR. COOK: This last gentleman is a person that we all know. Steve Whiston joined the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in January of 1978 as a restoration architect in the former historic sites and restoration program.

Serving as a project manager for eleven years, he was responsible for the planning, design, development, and repair of our historic properties statewide.

In 1983 Steve established a Force Account construction crew to accomplish complex restoration and repair projects on Department historic structures. By 1989 the program had grown under his leadership to employ four construction crews working across the state and implementing over $5 million worth of capital projects.

In April 1991 Steve took over the reins of the Historic Sites branch and managed the Cultural Resource Program until May of 1992, when he was promoted to head of Administrative and Finance for the new Construction, Design and Management branch of the Public Lands Division.

Steve was promoted to Deputy Director of Infrastructure in February of 1999 and, over the next four years, was responsible for the oversight of the day-to-day operations of the division, managing over 300 projects and expending over $20 million in capital construction annually.

This past January, as you know, after a nationwide search, Steve was named Division Director of the Infrastructure Division.

With 25 years of service, Steve Whiston.

(Applause.)

MR. COOK: Chairman Armstrong, Commissioners, as you know, Ducks Unlimited has been a partner of the Department for many years. We have successfully worked to create, restore, and enhance thousands of acres of wetlands through our cooperative efforts.

The legislature recently created a wetland license plate, and this Commission designated Ducks Unlimited as the nonprofit conservation group to receive the funds generated by the purchase of these license plates.

Today marks the first time, since this program was initiated, that funds are being transferred to Ducks Unlimited to help them do even more wetland work in Texas.

At this time I would like to call on Lisa Harris, state DU chair; John Walker, president of Ducks Unlimited of Mexico and member of our Game Bird Advisory Board; Gary Erickson, DU staff regional team leader; and John Alford, past DU state chairman, to come forward and accept this check from the Department in the amount of $50,000.

Madame Chairman, would you join us.

(Pause.)

MS. HARRIS: What an honor this is. Never, as a kid growing up in the marshland and rice fields of Anahuac, did I think I'd be standing here before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, an organization that I grew up respecting and that I endear with great admiration.

It is very evident that you deem Texas Care and the Ducks Unlimited license plate project important by inviting our volunteers, staff, and myself here today.

I'm not quite exactly sure when the partnership of Texas Parks and Wildlife and Ducks Unlimited began, but it is definitely the beginning of a very long and beautiful relationship.

I cannot think of a more fitting partner. We share some very strong bonds that continue to bring us together. One of those is our desire to conserve wetland habitat, and the other is to continue a waterfowling legacy that is ingrained in our Texas heritage.

Our volunteers have a deep respect for the natural resource that you are stewards of. We are very impressed by the dedication of your staff. And through our partnership we're able to obtain great achievements.

I am here before you today to offer my remarks and thanks and gratitude for your partnership and support through the years, but the reason we are here today is because of the vision of one of our volunteers.

This volunteer is responsible for the birth, growth, and development of the Texas DU license plate within our volunteer organization. He realized a crucial need for funding in Texas if DU was going to reach their habitat initiatives in this state.

He was confident in a partner that has always been a great friend to Ducks Unlimited, and that's the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

He was certain that there was an opportunity for not only DU volunteers and members to support wetland conservation but for any citizen of Texas concerned about our diminishing wetlands.

I believe all of us share this vision, and I would like to ask you to join me in saluting Mr. John Alford for his contribution and efforts to Texas Care through the development of the DU license plate program benefiting sound waterfowl wetland habitat for today and for the future and for the state of Texas.

John, would you please stand.

(Applause.)

MS. HARRIS: And in closing I would like to encourage everyone to please purchase a DU license plate.

Thank you very much for having us.

(Applause.)

MR. COOK: Chairman, Commissioners, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's Environmental Crimes Unit has grown from a support unit of the state task force to a nationally recognized investigative unit capable of independently conducting very complex investigations.

The Environmental Crimes Unit supports TPWD's mission by protecting the state's natural and wildlife resources through criminal enforcement of those individuals and companies that would pollute the state's water, air and land.

One penalty for violation of the state's criminal violation statutes is the award of monetary penalties to the supplemental environmental programs. With the approval of the courts and the Harris County District Attorney's Office and on the recommendation of TPWD's Environmental Crime Unit, a Houston company has agreed to make a significant donation to an important supplemental environmental program for that company's illegal discharge of pollutants into the waters of Texas.

Here today are Steve Gibson and Grahame Jones, of the Environmental Crimes Unit, with a supplemental environmental program donation check of $50,000, to be presented to the Parks and Wildlife Foundation for a very important cause.

On behalf of the Foundation and the Sheldon Lake Environmental Education Center, I'd like to ask Commissioner Al Henry to come forward and accept the donation, please.

(Pause.)

COMMISSIONER HENRY: Thank you very much. I'm delighted to see so many young people here today. This contribution to the Sheldon Lake Environmental Learning Center will go to help build a prototype for learning centers for environmental education for young people in the state of Texas.

We're delighted to get it going, and we are confident of our success in its development. Again, thank you very much.

(Applause.)

MR. COOK: Madame Chairman, I'd like to take just one more second, please, to introduce a couple of new folks that are joining our team. As you know, we have been in a search for some time now for a person to fill the position of Chief Financial Officer and our Human Resources Division Director.

We have found those people; we are incredibly fortunate to have these people join our team. I want to introduce them to you today.

In our HR Division, Al Bingham ‑‑ stand up, Al.

And Mary Fields is our new Chief Financial Officer. So we welcome them, thank them for coming, and thank you.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Thank you, Mr. Cook. 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 an appropriate time to do so. Please be reminded to move away from the doorway as you are leaving, so as to let everyone through the doorway.

The first order of business is the approval of the agenda which we have before us. Is there a motion for approval of the agenda?

COMMISSIONER HENRY: So moved.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Second?

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Second.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: All opposed?

(No response.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: The motion carries.

We're going to start with agenda item number 2. This brings us to agenda item number 2. It's an action item, boat ramp funding.

Mr. Hogsett, would you please make your presentation.

MR. HOGSETT: Good morning. Madame Chairman, members of the Commission, I'm Tim Hogsett, Director of the Recreation Grants Program in the State Parks Division.

Item number 2 is the proposal for funding for two local government boat ramps. This is the first time that we've come before you in a couple of years with local boat ramp requests. In that interim we've been working on rehabilitation of a number of the ramps within our own system, both in state parks and wildlife management areas.

This state boat ramp program was authorized in 1975 by the legislature, and it is for the purchase, rehabilitation, and construction of boating-access facilities.

The revenue for the program is from the Federal Sport Fish Restoration Act. This is federal pass-through money; it is a 75/25 percent matching grant program, with the 25 percent local match being required.

We also require the local governments that we fund through this program to operate and maintain these facilities for their expected lifetime.

We've received two applications requesting $669,739 in matching funds assistance. Both of these applications have been here for more than a year; just sort of been waiting to come back to the program again.

And the two applications include one from Aransas County for $263,465 for the construction of a boat ramp on St. Charles Bay, and then the second one, $406,284 in matching funds for the construction of a much-needed boat ramp on Keith Lake adjacent to State Highway 87.

So our recommendation as a staff before you today is funding for new construction projects in the amount of $669,739 is approved for boat ramps to be constructed in Aransas and Jefferson County.

And I'll be glad to answer any questions that you might have.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Is there any discussion from the Commission?

We have one person signed up to speak on this item.

Kirby Brown?

MR. BROWN: Madame Chairman, Commissioners, my name is Kirby Brown, with the Texas Wildlife Association.

I just wanted to support this. We think this is a good action; helps not only the fishermen that are out there but also helps our duckhunters who are accessing both Aransas Bay and my old stomping grounds there, Keith Lake, and the Keith Lake's a great place, so this is a good program; we appreciate it.

Thank you.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Thank you.

Does staff have any comments or responses?

MR. HOGSETT: Thank you.

(General laughter.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Are there any more comments from the Commissioners?

(No response.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Is there a motion on this item?

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Move approval.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Second.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: I have a motion by Commissioner Montgomery and a second by Commissioner Ramos.

All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Opposed?

(No response.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Motion carries.

Next agenda item on the agenda is item number 3, Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation for 2003-04.

Mr. George, will you please present.

MR. GEORGE: Madame Chairman, Commissioners, I'm Ron George, Deputy Director of the Wildlife Division.

The purpose of this briefing is to consider for adoption proposed changes to the Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation. There will be presentations by the Wildlife Division, Coastal Fisheries, and Inland Fisheries.

The first of the Wildlife Division proposals deals with the possession of a wildlife resource and simply states that when Department personnel remove the head of a deer with chronic wasting disease, we will provide the hunter with a receipt, a PWD 905.

The Wildlife Division's White-Tailed Deer Committee has suggested five issues related to white-tailed deer regulations that need consideration. The first of these deals with the wildlife management plans and would change the wording from "population census" to "population data" to allow the use of browse surveys and other indications of herd status with or in place of census data.

Under current regulations, ADCPs, or antlerless and spike deer control permits, may be issued only by Conservation Scientist VI or higher. This proposed change would allow any employee authorized to write wildlife management plans to approve these permits. This would provide better customer service.

Until last year, ADCP application sheets had a December 10 deadline, but this was not in the regulations. This proposed change would establish an official deadline and allow staff to more efficiently handle permit requests.

The deer range in Harris County is mostly in the northern part of the county, which is Piney Woods habitat. The proposed change in regulation shown in the slide would give Harris County the same deer regulations as other Piney Woods counties. We've received three public comments in opposition to this proposal.

The final proposal related to white-tail deer is to add a muzzle loader season in San Jacinto, Trinity, Walker, and Harris Counties. There are currently eleven other southeast Texas counties with a muzzleloader season. I would point out that there are also eight counties in the Trans-Pecos region, which are not shown on this map, that have a muzzleloader season.

The Wildlife Division Sheep Team and Texas Bighorn Advisory Committee have proposed marking Bighorn skulls with a unique identifying plug. This would make Texas consistent with other western states and help prevent illegal possession and transport of skulls.

This proposal would apply only to skulls found after adoption of the reg. I would also point out that currently any skulls taking by legal hunting are automatically plugged already.

Current regulations allow pheasant hunting in seven coastal counties. The proposal is to close the pheasant season in four of those counties: Wharton, Fort Bend, Brazoria, and Matagorda.

This would limit pheasant hunting along the coast only for those counties with huntable pheasant numbers. The seasons would remain open in Chambers, Jefferson, and Liberty Counties.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department received a petition for rulemaking to change the pheasant-hunting season length in 37 Panhandle counties from 16 days to 30 days and reduce the daily bag limit from three cocks to two cocks.

Staff anticipates there would be no biological impact on the pheasant population from this action, but the proposal would allow additional pheasant-hunting days.

There have been six public comments in favor of this proposal and 19 opposed to it.

Lesser prairie chicken hunting is currently allowed in eight Panhandle counties, with an annual harvest of less than 200 birds. Staff notes that there's been a long-term reduction in the distribution of lesser prairie chickens.

At one time, in the 1800s, lesser prairie chickens came almost to Austin. By about 1900, they came as far south as San Angelo. And now the lesser prairie chicken populations are limited to only two areas: in southwestern Panhandle and the northeastern Panhandle.

Staff attributes this decline primarily to habitat loss and not hunting. There is currently a multistate effort to recover lesser prairie chicken populations.

The proposal is, as currently stated, to close the season entirely. We've received 18 comments in favor of this proposal and nine opposed.

The staff has continued to look at this situation since the original proposal was made, and we have looked at a couple of data sets that might be of interest.

One is a long-term look at the number of leks or booming grounds for lesser prairie chickens. The flat line represents the northeastern counties. There is a lot of annual variation, but the long-term trend there is no decline or decrease. The southwestern counties, however, show a significant decrease over time.

We've also looked at the average number of male lesser prairie chickens on these booming grounds over time, and while the northeastern counties have been stable, the southwestern counties have shown a dramatic increase. They started higher, but they've increased dramatically.

Considering this data, the staff recommends for your consideration closing only the southwest counties and leaving the northeast counties open, but that's an option for your consideration.

And finally, the staff recommended to open a statewide hunting season on Mearn's quail but limit that daily bag limit to only two birds, to allow ‑‑ in the aggregate daily bagged quail, and this would allow those persons who might be interested in taking all four species of native quail to do so, and also this would also legalize that occasional Mearn's quail that is taken by accident.

However, based on the limited biological data we have to support the season and the fairly strong opposition we've received, staff recommends withdrawing this proposal. We've received zero comments in favor, and 58 against.

Do you have any questions?

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Does the Commission have any questions of Mr. George?

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: I have a couple. On the pheasant issue you had a number of people that were opposed to the pheasant proposal, and I wondered if you might comment on what, if any, common thread ran through those objections.

MR. GEORGE: This is not a new issue of lengthening the pheasant season in the Panhandle. It's been considered a number of times over the last couple of decades.

The opposition, which is fairly strong each time, has been dealing with lengthening the pheasant season. As we talked about yesterday, this is an agricultural area and a cropland area. Most of these farmers are receiving most of their income from farming. Very little of their income would come from leased hunting or any other activity relating to wildlife.

So while they probably don't object to a very short pheasant season, some of them are opposed to a longer season, just having people around asking for permission to hunt; has generally been the thread that's gone through most of those opposed comments.

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: But would it be any particular hardship for them to say that they don't want to have hunting on their land? I mean, how big a hardship is that?

MR. GEORGE: Unlike ranches that have generally one gate, one entrance into the property, these are a patchwork of sections with a county road all the way around them.

Illegal access is fairly easy in some of those areas. It's not much of a hardship if a person actually comes to the door and asks, but a person who was illegally hunting could get in there and get out and would be a nuisance.

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: So trespassing is really the bigger concern.

MR. GEORGE: Probably trespass is the bigger key than anything related to the pheasants themselves.

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Any other questions of Mr. George by the Commission?

(No response.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Thank you, Ron.

MR. GEORGE: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Hal Osburn, Coastal Fisheries.

MR. OSBURN: Madame Chair, Commissioners, I'm Hal Osburn, Coastal Fisheries Division Director. I'd like to brief you today on proposed changes to the Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation related to the Coastal Fisheries Division.

The center of our attention this year has been on our spotted seatrout fishery. Texas does have a good fishery, and we also have a large fishery. Trout are the most sought after species we have in the sport fishing coast. We also have about a million fish harvested annually, which makes it the highest landings of any species.

But as we have been monitoring this fishery, we do see some changes occurring; in particular angling effort has increased across the coast, in the private-boat sector and, in particular, in the guide-boat sector. We've got about a 300 percent growth in guides licensed from 20 years ago.

Guides also now account for about 40 percent of the trout harvest, so they are an important economic component and have entered the fishery in greater numbers.

Not only are there more anglers, but those anglers are getting more efficient, particularly in targeting the larger trout. Our sampling data show that the proportion of trout greater than 25 inches is declining.

Staff believes that increasing fishing effort and efficiency are things that management should react to. And in doing that for the last 18 months, our scoping process has included a lot of townhall meetings, meetings with individual groups, mail surveys and, in particular, very successful use of a spotted seatrout work group consisted of 23 members of various stakeholder groups, from fishing guides across the coast, bait camp owners; we had local elected officials, environmental organizations, conservation organizations, and just general anglers.

So very successful in using those folks to give us some feedback; appreciate their being willing to volunteer their time.

From that process staff developed some recommendations presented to you in January that included establishing a boat limit on guided trips equal to the daily bag multiplied by the number of customers. Guides would still be able to fish and retain fish. That boat limit would be applied statewide for both freshwater and saltwater species.

Also recommended an increase in the guide fee from 75 to $200 and, for our saltwater zone, guides would be required to show proof of their Coast Guard for-hire captain's license, which is a requirement for them in saltwater.

And lastly, staff recommended establishing a maximum size limit of 25 inches on trout, with one trout per day over that size per person.

Public comments that we have received since January showed overwhelming support for the boat limit, for the Coast Guard requirement, and for the guide fee. We also had a majority of comments favoring the one trout over 25 inches.

Several organizations also commented: Coastal Conservation Association and the Texas Saltwater Guides Association gave us the full support on the proposals.

Saltwater Fisheries Enhancement Association, Coastal Bend Guides Association, Texas Recreational Fishing Alliance supported the proposals except for the one trout over 25 inches.

We also had substantial comments regarding alternative management proposals. In fact, a majority of these comments wanted more restrictions on the fishery, such as a higher minimum size limit or a lower bag limit.

Staff believes there could be some biological benefits to these restrictions, but we want to first build more support among our general anglers before proposing them.

So we would want to continue our education process that was successful with the spotted seatrout work group.

Our data indicate that the releasing of fish over that 25 inches will be successful in increasing the number of large trout, even though right now about 3 percent of the guide trips and 1 percent of the private boat trips are affected by that limit.

We did hear from some folks that two trout over 28 inches per day would be more appropriate, but we see very little conservation value for that proposal in our data.

One of the benefits of the 25-inch maximum is that that size fish is five years old and in prime spawning condition. And additionally, it should live for four more years, which means that we're going to have anglers with more frequent encounters with those large fish, and the increased spawning activity will also help the overall population.

In fact, the cumulative effect of all these rules will be a 13 percent ‑‑ estimated to be a 13 percent increase in spawning biomass and a 39 percent increase in trout greater than 25 inches, which we think will mean a greater distribution of those large trout among more anglers for a longer period of time each year.

So based on these findings of facts and the public comments, staff continues to recommend adoption of the original set of proposals.

That concludes the presentation. I'd be happy to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Are there any questions of Mr. Osburn from the Commission?

(No response.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Thank you.

MR. KURZAWSKI: Good morning, Commissioners. My name is Ken Kurzawski in Inland Fisheries Division, and this morning I'd like to briefly present to you once again the proposed changes to freshwater fishing regulations and some of the public comments that we received on those changes.

First concerns 12 reservoirs and a section of a river. Five of them are in the eastern part of the state; the remainder are here in the Central Texas area. We have a proposal to change the current 12-inch minimum length limit for white bass back to the ten-inch minimum, which is a statewide limit. The daily bag would remain at 25 fish. We received 33 comments for that proposal, eleven against.

The next is on Lost Creek Reservoir in Jack County that currently has a 16-inch minimum length limit, and we're proposing to move that back to the statewide 14-inch limit and retain the five-fish bag. We received 28 comments for that, one against.

Lake Waxahachie, in Ellis County, currently has 14- to 18-inch slot limit for largemouth bass, and we're proposing to move that back to the statewide 14-inch limit and retain the five-fish bag. Most of the comments we received on this one were also favorable.

The final proposal we had was to set up a definition for the boundary in Toledo Bend Reservoir, and this is to define the boundary between the reservoir and the river and set that boundary as the US 84 bridge to aid anglers to know where that boundary is, and also our enforcement personnel. And all the comments we received for that particular proposal were in favor of it.

Based on these comments and what we've heard previously, staff would recommend that the Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the proposed 2003-2004 Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation and amendment to Chapter 53 concerning business license and permits, which concerns the fishing guide fees, with changes as discussed earlier that were published in the February 28 edition of the Texas Register.

I'd be happy to answer any questions on the freshwater changes, if you wish.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Thank you, Ken.

Do we have any questions?

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Yes. Ken, with respect to the increase in fishing license for guides ‑‑ fee for guide license, on the freshwater there's been ‑‑ we've gotten a lot of correspondence from people who are concerned about it, and I'm sure we're going to hear from some folks today.

But could you tell us what the Department's view is as to whether or not you can have a different fee for freshwater and saltwater?

MR. KURZAWSKI: I believe we do have the authority to make two separate fees for freshwater and saltwater.

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Do you have an opinion on that?

MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, the ‑‑ when we discussed this between both Coastal and Inland, we ‑‑ there was a number of different prices that we could go to. We were trying to find a price that was equitable between both freshwater and saltwater. As we discussed yesterday, that fishing-guide fee hasn't increased since 1991; most other comparable commercial licenses have increased, and we felt that although that $125 isn't a nonsignificant increase, it certainly was ‑‑ we felt was a compatible increase, and we didn't believe it would put too many ‑‑ put many people out of business, if any.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Any further questions?

Dr. Rising?

COMMISSIONER RISING: Do we have any idea what the revenue generated from the freshwater guides is as it relates to the saltwater, like the cost per trip? Do the saltwater guides get more for their trips or ‑‑

MR. KURZAWSKI: I believe so. I think the costs are a little bit more in saltwater than in freshwater. It varies lake to lake in freshwater. A lot of trips in freshwater per day are 200, $250, and it seems like on the coast the number ‑‑ the per-day fees are, you know, $300 or over.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Commissioner Ramos?

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Did you factor in an inflation factor for these fees; in other words, from the last increase, to kind of bring it up to current ‑‑ I guess the strength of a dollar or the weakness of a dollar?

MR. KURZAWSKI: Not specifically. We were just, you know, looking to ‑‑ over the range of fees, something we thought was compatible over that period of time.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Do you know where our fee structure would then be in comparison to other states?

MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, Louisiana is the only bordering state that has a guide license, and I believe that just pertains to saltwater, and I believe that's 500 or $1000.

MR. OSBURN: 200 for Louisiana.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: 200 for Louisiana. So we'd be in line with Louisiana. Correct?

MR. KURZAWSKI: Yes. Are you asking what ‑‑

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: On the guide fees; in other words, I'm trying to see where we would stand nationwide or with other states.

MR. OSBURN: I'm Hal Osburn, Coastal Fisheries Division Director. The other Gulf states, almost all of them have about a $200 guide fee. Some of the states apply that only to their saltwater zone, and they don't have a guide license for the freshwater, but those states that have both are generally in the $200 range, if that answers your question.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Yes. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HENRY: Madame Chair?

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Commissioner Henry?

COMMISSIONER HENRY: Now, when was the last time that the Department initiated an increase in this area?

MR. OSBURN: I believe it was about in 1991, and it went from $50 to 75. I guess part of the decisionmaking on the guide fee involved the impact of that sector on the public resource and what's a commensurate rate to pay for that kind of impact.

So that was part of the justification for a larger fee increase this time around, because they are having a great impact since the last time that we made a fee increase; they are using the public resource. They're conducting a good business on it, but ‑‑ and it looked like, based on the fees that they were charging per day, that they could essentially recoup their license cost in just several days' worth of guiding.

COMMISSIONER HENRY: You mentioned in your earlier comments that the work group had discussed these issues?

MR. OSBURN: Yes.

COMMISSIONER HENRY: Would you give us some better feel for the discussion concerning this particular item and how broad that discussion was represented?

MR. OSBURN: Well, I need to characterize that the work group was just saltwater folks, and we had near unanimous approval of a guide fee increase, and the suggested range was somewhere between 200 and, quite frankly, $1000.

COMMISSIONER HENRY: Did I understand you to say that guides were represented in there?

MR. OSBURN: Yes, sir. There was five guides on that work group, and actually some of them are here today, and there are a number of guides here today that will, I suspect, give some testimony.

COMMISSIONER HENRY: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Thank you.

Any other questions?

COMMISSIONER RISING: Madame Chairman?

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Commissioner Rising?

COMMISSIONER RISING: Hal, also is there anything right now in the works to create a nonresident guide license through the legislature or ‑‑

MR. OSBURN: Yes, there is. There's a bill that has been filed and actually, I think, referred out of committee to the local and consent agenda that would establish ‑‑ give the Commission authority to establish a nonresident guide license for both freshwater and for saltwater separately, if you so choose.

And in line with that, Louisiana, for example, has a nonresident guide fee that's $1000 for our fishermen if they go into Louisiana. So we don't have the authority to do that now, but there is a bill pending.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Any further questions?

(No response.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Thank you, Hal.

MR. GEORGE: Madame Chairman, just for clarification, before we go any further, this slides doesn't reflect the two suggested amendments from the Wildlife Division: one is to not open the Mearn's quail season, and the other is to open ‑‑ leave open only the northeastern counties for lesser prairie chickens and close only the southwest counties.

So that ‑‑ I would offer that as an amendment to the recommendation.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Thank you.

MR. GEORGE: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: We have a lot of people signed up to speak on this agenda item, and I've also noticed that a lot of people have been entering and leaving.

I just want to remind everybody, if they do want to speak, that they sign up over here to do so.

First up is Tom Brown, followed by Captain Bruce W. Schuler.

MR. BROWN: Madame Chairman, Commissioners, I'm Captain Tom Brown. I'm president of the Texas Saltwater Guide Association. First I want to thank all the members of the spotted seatrout work group for all their effort, and Hal Osburn's group. I know it was a no-win situation for them, or so it seemed.

We did come out in support of the recommendations of Hal's group. We do have some reservations on the future application of those rules.

One thing that is paramount for us is to see that the tournaments ‑‑ the number of tournaments on this coast are taxed or permitted in some fashion. If we guides are going to be taxed, we feel that the tournaments are every bit as big an impact as we are. And as of today, they're paying nothing for the resource, and they target mainly large trout only.

So we would like to see something ‑‑ I don't know if it has to go through the legislature or through the Commission, but we would surely like to see something along those lines that those people pay their fair share for the impact they have on the resource.

We would like to see some kind of coordination ‑‑ and I don't know if the actual Parks and Wildlife Department has the authority or not, but some coordination between law enforcement of the Parks and Wildlife and the Coast Guard.

Too many times unlicensed guides are being stopped and asked, you know, You got your life jackets? Bam, goodbye; you got them. We would like to see the Parks and Wildlife Department ask them if they have a Coast Guard license and, if so ‑‑ if they do not have it on board, to have the authority to hold them and call the Coast Guard.

I know this has happened a couple of times recently, and I'd like to see it as a policy of the Department.

I would like to ‑‑ in conjunction with the rule ‑‑ proposed changes in the rules ‑‑ and I know it's not going to happen right away, but I really think the solution down the road on the impact on especially the speckled trout population is regionalization of the enforcement or the rules.

It's a large, large coast, with varied topography everywhere. The trout populations are totally different; the methods of fishing are totally different; the areas, the amount of pressure in given areas, and so we would like to see some consideration given at some time for regionalization of the rules.

And that's all I've got to say.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Thank you.

MR. BROWN: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Bruce Schuler, followed by Pat Murray.

MR. SCHULER: My name is Captain Bruce Schuler, and I'm owner and operator of Getaway Ventures Lodge in Port Mansfield, Texas, and I do appreciate the opportunity to come and speak with you.

I fully support what Hal and TPW's doing in the proposed changes, one thing being not only a guide but an angler on the lower Laguna Madre, I would like support regionalization of our coastal fisheries.

We manage our deer herds by county. We manage our lakes and streams by individual lakes and streams. Our coast is so diverse, the ecosystems are so different that last year we saw our bay fishery just devastated in one summer, and by that I mean we saw an entire age class of speckled trout, 19 to 23, devoid at the bay system by the middle of July, just strictly because of pressure and overharvest.

And to back up a little bit of our data, what I'd like to propose and see the TPW do in the future is go to even more restrictive limits, reduce the bag limit to seven, maybe even to five fish, and to back that data up.

Last year in July, when we saw our bay system hurt so bad, at that point the guides that worked for my facility with me, we all decided at that point any trout we caught in excess of 20 inches, unless that fish was stressed to the point there was no way it would survive, we would not give it to our clients for bag limit.

We've never had guide limits in my facility. We don't give our fish to our clients; we help them get theirs.

And then what we saw in August, our fishery even deteriorated even further. At that point ‑‑ we sit down with each one of our clients prior to ‑‑ during our orientation period when they arrive at our lodge, and talk to them about conservation and what's happening with our fishery.

At that point in August we asked our clients, if they caught a trout over 22 inches, to please, unless it was stressed or it was a trophy-class fish they wanted to mount, to release it.

And what was really amazing, in August and September we fished 700 anglers from my facility, and out of 700 anglers, I had four anglers that had a problem releasing 22-inch fish. So I'd even like to see this top limit reduced even further, because basically our fishery in the lower Laguna Madre, by Parks and Wildlife's data, states that the trophy trout fishery is in the lower Laguna Madre.

And by regionalization ‑‑ I know I'm bouncing around here, but by regionalization, if our overharvest is hurting our bay system, TPW would have the ability to reduce the bag limit on our end of the coast, whereas the people on the upper coast, if they don't have a problem, they could maintain their larger.

Another thing ‑‑ I don't want to get into a croaker debate. Senator John Lindsey's bill ‑‑ I like it, but I don't want to see the legislature dictate to Parks and Wildlife, but also on the same token, if we could create a croaker fishery in this state, with the deficit we're facing right now, by laying off the croaker ‑‑ using them for bait, by catch reduction and the shrimp overharvest, what we could do is in two years we would create a fishery that the economically deprived that can't afford a $30,000 boat or a $500 guide could go out ‑‑ Mom and Pop could go to Wal-Mart and buy a $20 spinning outfit, take Junior to the bank or a pier with dead shrimp, catch two-pound croakers, and we would recruit more people into fishing, sell more licenses; in turn, reduce.

Thank you.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Thank you.

Pat Murray, and then Lance Seal.

MR. MURRAY: Good morning. My name is Pat Murray. I'm the executive director of CCA Texas. I want to thank the Commissioners, Chairman Armstrong, for allowing us to speak today, and also for your continuing focus on coastal fisheries. Now more than ever we appreciate that concern and attention to these vital fisheries and the folks participating in them.

I'll be very brief. I want to read a prepared statement from our state board of directors.

CCA Texas's state board of directors voted to support the current spotted seatrout conservation initiatives recommended by Parks and Wildlife Department staff, as Hal laid out earlier to the Parks and Wildlife Commission.

CCA Texas urges the Parks and Wildlife Department to closely monitor the effect of these regulatory changes, as well as the overall health of the spotted seatrout fishery.

Further, if conditions warrant, CCA Texas would encourage the examination and consideration of those additional proactive conservation initiatives approved by a majority of the members of the spotted seatrout work group, in order to assure the health of spotted seatrout stocks and the quality of this vitally important recreational fishery.

I know it's been a difficult process; I know it's already been mentioned today, and one that I'm sure will be ongoing, but we appreciate your attention to that.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Thank you.

Any questions?

(No response.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Thank you, Pat.

MR. MURRAY: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Lance Seal and Scott Murray.

MR. SEAL: Thank you, Commission, for having us up here. I appreciate the opportunity to come up and voice our opinions.

I'm Lance Seal. I'm from the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas. I reside in McAllen; I've fished the lower Laguna Madre for probably 25 years now. It's all I know; I don't know the upper coast.

What I do know is in a few of these meetings there's been a lot of opposition from upper coast to these restrictions. What we favor in the south is maybe not the best for what's good up north.

Regionalization is probably what I would like to emphasize the most in the future. We've got to look at our children growing up, and that's why I'm here: I want my kids to have what I have today.

I support the proposed regulations. I do feel that a little bit more attention to them in the future ‑‑ make sure that this isn't a dropped subject. And appreciate you all's time.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Scott Murray and Jeff Gregg.

MR. MURRAY: Madame Chairman and Honorable Commissioners, my name is Scott Murray, and I live on Baffin Bay, near Refugio, Texas. I serve on the Nature Conservancy Board; executive board, Coastal Conservation Association of Texas; and the Coastal Bend Bays Foundation.

Today I'm representing myself. A little over a year ago I was asked by Texas Parks and Wildlife to participate on the statewide spotted seatrout work group. The work group is made up of 23 members with very diverse backgrounds, much like is represented here today: fishing guides, marina owners, conservations groups, and fishermen.

Although our work group is very diverse, the thing that we have in common is our sincere interest in the future of our trout fishery. Our work group met five times and attended numerous public hearings. We absorbed a tremendous amount of Texas Parks and Wildlife data and information regarding our trout fishery.

At our last meeting, in December, the majority of our group expressed their opinion in favor of substantially more trout conservation rule changes than Texas Parks and Wildlife is currently recommending.

Nearly all favored a maximum size limit; a majority favored an increase in the minimum size limit, and about half favored a decrease in the daily bag limit.

Although our work group would have liked to have seen additional changes and measures proposed to conserve and improve our trout fishery, we certainly realize that this is a big state with a big coast and that changes to improve our trout fishery are going to take time and effort.

With all this said, Texas Parks and Wildlife's current trout proposal is a very good start. Establishing no more than one trout over 25 inches per angler per day, in combination with the proposed guide limit, will increase our trout spawning biomass by 13 percent.

Texas Parks and Wildlife also projects that these changes would produce a 39 percent increase in the population of trout over 25 inches. The end result would be more trout and better quality trout to catch by greater distribution of all anglers.

Finally, I've a lot of faith in our Texas Parks and Wildlife coastal fisheries and law enforcement divisions, as they are the primary stewards of our fisheries' resources. Working with public and private entities, Texas Parks and Wildlife has literally saved our redfish fishery by establishing three saltwater hatcheries. And look at the redfishing we have today in Texas.

Also, at a very critical time, Texas Parks and Wildlife established bag, possession, and size limits for trout, redfish and other species, and played a primary role in removing nets and trotlines from our bays.

For all of these reasons, I support Texas Parks and Wildlife's proposed spotted seatrout rule changes, with no modifications. Thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Thank you.

Jeff Gregg and Jeff Smith.

MR. GREGG: Madame Chairman and Commissioners, thanks for having us today. I would like to say I'm Jeff Gregg; I'm from McAllen, Texas. I'm in full support of the regulations that are presented before you regarding speckled trout.

I would also favor an increase in the minimum size, favor a decrease in the bag limit, and, as several of those who have testified today, I would also favor looking at regionalization.

I've fished the lower Laguna Madre for about 25 years, and I'd like to see the fishery get better. Over the last few years we've seen some trends that we don't like, and that's why I made the five-hour drive to Austin last night and got here at one o'clock in the morning. So I appreciate your time, and thank you.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Thank you.

Jeff Smith and Will Kirkpatrick.

MR. SMITH: My name is Jeff Smith. I'm a member of the Austin CCA, and I want to support the Commission's efforts. There's plenty of scientific data that they presented to support their findings, and I think that a majority of the people ‑‑ fishermen along the coast have indicated that they're in favor of this proposal.

Thank you.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Thank you.

Will Kirkpatrick and Robert Morgan.

MR. KIRKPATRICK: Madame Chair, Commissioners. First, to answer a couple of questions, Texas is one of three states that requires freshwater fishing license, out of 13 southern states. And we did a little background on the guide fees and freshwater, using two boat shows: Houston and Dallas.

Freshwater averaged about $220 a day for two people. Saltwater averages 450 for three people or more.

I was going to have a little longer, but today I'd like to address an inequity I see in proposed guide license fee, and I think this may have been taken care of. I sent each of you a letter on this, and hopefully you will address the issue using our existing guide fee structures that I just remarked about.

While saltwater guides may be causing a detrimental impact on speckled trout, bass guides, which are the number-one guides in freshwater, are not doing this. I think we're doing just the opposite. So I don't think we have a problem with that.

And, Commissioner Watson, I'd like to thank you and several others for looking at the tournament inequities. You have a lot more support out there than you might realize, and I just hope that it doesn't get dropped and you continue to look at it.

The rest of it we won't go through. You all know how I feel about it.

Thank you.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Robert Morgan, Randall Davis.

MR. MORGAN: Good morning. My name's Robert Morgan. I'm a tournament fisherman from the upper coast. I'm in opposition to the 25-inch maximum. I don't think Hal's proven his point. It shows very little, if any, benefit.

One of the things, though, I want to temper my statements that I came here to make on that, because with some of the things that are coming up with Senator Lindsey's bill and things like that, we're going to be in a bind on the coast as far as sides aggressing each other as far as this issue.

The one thing I do ask has been brought up a few times here this morning: I am totally for regionalization. That is one of the weaknesses with this 25-inch trout issue. We have Hal and people; they've already gathered the numbers; they have them for all the bays.

We need to split this coast up and manage it in a more equitable situation. I think what we would gain through that is that we would be able to look at each individual bay, what its weaknesses, what its strengths are.

I've heard this about the chamber of commerce; you got to remember you people represent the state of Texas. You can overrule these people with what they want.

As far as the law-enforcement issues, I've talked to a lot of the game wardens up and down the coast. We do this with deer; we do this with freshwater; we can do this with saltwater with little or no problem.

That's all I have to say. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Randall Davis, followed by Spencer Collins.

MR. DAVIS: I'm Randall Davis; I'm from Rockport, Texas. I'm a member of the board of directors of the Texas State Chapter of the Recreational Fishing Alliance, and I'm here to address the proposed changes in the spotted seatrout size limit. I want to read a prepared statement:

RFA Texas has polled our membership. Our members have voted 81 percent in favor of no change in the spotted seatrout size limits. On behalf of our membership, RFA Texas asks the TPWD Commissioners to make no change in the spotted seatrout size limits.

However, if change is inevitable, we ask that two trout over 25 inches be allowed per angler per day.

I'd like to read a copy of the letter that our chairman, Mr. Jim Smarr, sent to Paul Hammerschmidt of TPWD. To see a copy of this letter and our letter to Governor Perry, as well as the RFA Texas position on this and other issues affecting the recreational angler, we invite you to visit our website at www.rfatexas.org. This was on March 26 this letter was written.

"Dear Mr. Hammerschmidt: Texas saltwater anglers have been in the forefront of fisheries conservation for many years. Recreational anglers have always demonstrated their willingness to make sacrifices in the form of more restrictive measures based on sound science.

"At this time Hal Osborne [sic] and Texas Parks and Wildlife are proposing to reduce the size limit on spotted seatrout to one fish over 25 inches. This arbitrary decision is not based on sound science and will have a negative impact on tourism-related fishing trips and on anglers who only have the opportunity to fish a few days of the year, due to work- and family-related constraints.

"It's our belief that, lacking sound science as a basis for this decision, that Texas Parks and Wildlife is engaging in social engineering and not fisheries management."

Members of the Recreational Fishing Alliance the Coastal Bend Guides Association agreed to accept other options that would provide additional conservation benefits for the seatrout resource in Texas. Guides have agreed to forfeit their retention limits on charters. Individual angler members of RFA Texas, however, have voted for no change in the size limits.

RFA membership would ask a trophy-size trout limit of two fish per day over 25 inches if change is inevitable.

I urge you to allow two trout over 25 inches. This would allow the mid-coast the continuous tradition as a trophy-trout fishery. This would allow coastal communities to maintain their fishing tournaments. Reducing the trout to one fish over 25 inches would be devastating to the mid-coast's economy. The rest of the proposition is within reason.

Thank you.

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Chairman?

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Commissioner Angelo.

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: What percentage of your group are able to catch and frequently do catch more than one fish over 25 inches?

MR. DAVIS: I don't have actual figures on that, but it's very few. I would say I have only caught ‑‑ I've been fishing on the coast ‑‑ I've been retired ‑‑ retired early, been fishing down there for five years, and I've caught three trout over 25 inches in my entire time, and I released them.

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: So why is it a problem to limit it to one over 25 inches?

MR. DAVIS: Because, for one thing, it's engaging in social engineering. The other thing is that the guides and the lodges along the mid-coast have always been known as a trophy-trout fishery. Incidentally, a 25-inch fish is not something that somebody takes to the taxidermist; generally it's considered 28 to 30 inches before it's a legitimate trophy fish.

People come down to the coast and spend their money down there with the dream of having that big day where they can catch two or three big trout over that size and have them mounted and have a stringer wall-mount made.

You'll occasionally see people have a four-fish mount on their wall.

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: And you don't believe that if more of those fish are released that ultimately there'll be more big fish for people to catch? I mean, that doesn't make sense?

MR. DAVIS: Well, first of all, if you look at the numbers, I think Parks and Wildlife said there would be a 37 percent ‑‑ something like that ‑‑ increase in the number ‑‑ in the percentage of trout over 25 inches.

But they're talking of that percentage of the fish that are already over that size, so it's really a fraction of a percent increase in the number of fish.

Additionally, there was a very limited study on release mortality, and it's our belief that if true release mortality figures were injected into the formula that Parks and Wildlife used, that it would show that a high percentage of the larger fish are going to die when they're released; much higher than the 8 to 10 percent that Texas Parks and Wildlife has cited.

Thank you.

COMMISSIONER WATSON: Before you get away from this, we've been accused of a lot of things, but what is social engineering?

MR. DAVIS: Well, the question isn't really whether more large fish are being caught. Lots of large fish are being caught. Lots of large fish have been caught in the past. There's more fisherman today; there's more fish today.

Parks and Wildlife will tell you that there's ‑‑ that the biomass is larger than it's ever been. However, it's not a matter of not enough big fish are being caught; it's a matter of not enough big fish are being caught by the right people.

COMMISSIONER WATSON: Who are the right people?

MR. DAVIS: The right people, in my opinion, are the ones who belong to a clique who want a catch-and-release fishery eventually instilled in the state of Texas.

COMMISSIONER WATSON: Well, needless to say, I have a difficult time with that.

MR. DAVIS: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: I had one question.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Commissioner Ramos.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: How many times have you caught more than two fish over 25 inches?

MR. DAVIS: In one day?

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Just during your last five years, in one day.

MR. DAVIS: In one day, never caught more than that size in one day.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: So the odds are that would never be a reality anyway.

MR. DAVIS: The odds ‑‑ right; it would never be reality, but I certainly wouldn't want to dictate that to someone else.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Okay. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Any other questions?

(No response.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Spencer Collins and Everett Johnson.

MR. COLLINS: Good morning, Commissioners. I'm here representing myself today. I happen to be a CCA member; I'm president of the Austin chapter and on the state executive committee, but I am representing myself today.

I live in Austin, Texas. By trade I'm a real estate broker; however, I've recently purchased a marina on the upper Laguna Madre which serves Baffin Bay as well, the gateway to Baffin Bay.

And we have seen, in that neck of the woods, a decline in the big trout being caught over the last few years.

And so therefore I'm in favor of the proposed trout regulations today, and as you know, the last two state record trouts have come from Baffin Bay, and that's considered the holy land for big trout fisherman; we'd like to see, you know, the citizens of Texas to be able to come down to Laguna Madre and Baffin Bay and catch the big trout. Therefore I'm in favor of these proposals today.

I would like to make one other comment in regards to increasing the fees for the guides. Back in 1991 Governor Richards increased the real estate broker's license, which I hold here in the state of Texas, from $75 to approximately $500. And initially I was opposed to that, but after further consideration and observations, it basically weeded out the part-time real estate brokers, and so I would like to, you know, further see perhaps in the future an increase in the guide fee, to basically weed out the so-called part-time guides on there and be able to ‑‑ you know, for the full-time guides they would have more customers and end up making more money even though they're paying a higher guide fee.

I believe I've addressed all my comments. I encourage you to support these proposals.

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Thank you.

Everett Johnson is next, followed by Jack Conway.

MR. JOHNSON: Good morning. Thank you for the opportunity to come today and speak. My name is Everett Johnson. I'm a fishing guide in the Port O'Connor/Seadrift region of the Texas coast. I am also the publisher of Gulf Coast Connections Saltwater Fishing magazine.

I am a strong supporter of coastal conservation here in Texas; I'm a member of many conservation organizations and give them all the financial support and donation of time that I can in their effort to help conserve coastal resources.

As a guide, I get to spend about 150 to 200 days on the water each year. I get to fish with a couple of hundred people every year, and about 95 percent of that fishing time is spent between Pass Cavallo and Cedar Bayou.

In addition to my time on the water, I also work as a writer and a publisher, and I am in contact daily with angling enthusiasts and fishing-related business owners from all over Texas, especially all up and down the coastal region.

My personal opinion and the shared opinion of many I work with ‑‑ I believe that the management strategies of coastal fisheries have yielded uncommon opportunity for a growing number of people seeking to enjoy these resources.

This opinion also holds that proposed changes to regulation are a welcome step toward more conservative management and more conservative utilization of the resources.

Specifically, the boat limit I believe is a great idea. I do not understand why a charter captain for hire should augment the capture of ‑‑ retaining of spotted seatrout beyond the angler's daily bag limit.

The other main topic that I would like to address in the new regulations is the 25-inch maximum, with one fish over per day.

As you have discerned from the tone of many people who have come here to speak, catching two fish exceeding 25 inches is not a common occurrence on most of our coast.

In fact, where I fish, it is quite a rare occurrence. It is very infrequently achieved, and last year, in all of my fishing, my personal capture, I released nearly all my fish, retaining only a very few that I ate myself or that I gave to clients because they were heavily stressed ‑‑ they were not given in addition to client bag limits ‑‑ I only succeeded last year in catching two fish that exceeded 28 inches.

In total last year I do not have the number of over-25-inch fish that I caught, but it was fairly substantial, but, then again, my angling effort is very unusual compared to the average guy.

Trout become very exciting when they exceed 25 inches, and the opportunity for that to be shared by more anglers is very near and dear to my heart.

Looking forward, I would heartily encourage that this Commission enact management strategies to enhance recruitment within our spotted seatrout fishery. Specifically bag limit reductions and minimum length increases could be very valuable tools toward increasing the average size landed and also to improve trophy opportunities.

I also believe that regional management strategies could have great value. Our coast has a very diverse set of ecosystems, from river mouth estuaries on the Sabine all the way to hypersaline lagoons in South Texas.

These areas have their own special need, and it is very difficult for me to understand how a coastwide approach to fisheries management could be applied in all of these.

Thank you.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Jack Conway; Frank Erhard afterwards.

MR. CONWAY: Madame Chairman, Commissioners, I appreciate the opportunity to address you all today.

Commissioner Rising, Commissioner Fitzsimons, I'd like to thank you all for you all's attendance at two of the seatrout work group meetings, which I was a member.

During the past 30 years we've seen a lot of changes up and down the Texas coast. Some are negative and some are very positive.

But the biggest change that I've seen lately is the attitude toward my customers of not needing to fill a 155-quart Igloo to have a successful trip. The number of return trips I have from these people bear this comment out.

And I'm hearing this more and more up and down the coast, not just from the Sabine Lake area or Galveston; I'm hearing it all the way to Port Isabel.

The data submitted available to this Commission and extensively looked at during each of the seatrout work group meetings reflects an increased pressure from the recreational fisherman and guides alike who are harvesting a large percentage of large trout that are being produced, due to the removal of nets in Texas waters.

That same data reviewed in work group meetings, broken down by bay system, shows a very minimal increase in large speckled trout in a few bay systems, yet that same data reflects a marked decrease of large trout in most Texas waters.

I have got to encourage the Commission that I am in favor of accepting these proposals as they were drawn up by Hal and his department. I would also like to let you all know that Hal, Robin, and his staff went out of their way to exercise patience in feeding us more data than we really needed to see. They are to be commended.

I would also hope that in the future that these issues would be revisited at the end of next year's creel survey counts, to keep the seatrout work group abreast of what is going on.

Like I said, I've seen many changes. I don't have a problem with the $200 increase in the guides' fees. I know what I charge. I'm willing to pay 250. But the people of the state of Texas have spoken. They do not want to see the removal of the ten-fish 15-inch minimum; they do want to see an increase in guides' fees; they want to see a boat limit with the guides, and they want to see one fish a day over a specified number of inches.

Tournaments: I'm afraid that these tournaments are getting out of hand, to the extent that you all may or may not know, I get three and four applications for tournaments a week at my house, up and down the coast.

I would ask that the Commission look into an interim study by the legislature on these tournaments in coastal waters, as well as freshwater. They are a problem. These people come into town; they take the money; they're out and they're gone.

Thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Any questions?

COMMISSIONER WATSON: Yes, please.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Commissioner Watson.

COMMISSIONER WATSON: You're the fourth person to talk about tournaments. Just quickly, what's your belief is the impact on the resource that these tournaments are having?

MR. CONWAY: Commissioner, I can't honestly answer that for this reason: You all are empowered with the ability to permit a tournament. There is no data on these tournaments, so therefore I cannot address them as to the impact that they're having.

They target big fish, and it doesn't matter what trout organization it is or if it's the CCA Star tournament; they directly impact large fish.

I get three and four inquiries a week at the house for tournaments up and down the Gulf Coast. Ninety-five percent of them are from Texas. I know that, at least in my opinion, it's a problem. And like I said, I would appreciate the Commission's looking into this problem, because it does have an impact on the fishery.

You know, it's funny, since you brought that up, sir. I don't believe there's an individual in this audience, even with as many opinions as we've seen here today ‑‑ and we will see more in the future ‑‑ I bet there's not one single guide in this room that opposes these that, if we had a major freeze or a catastrophic oil spill, they would be the first to stand up and say, Yes, we need to do something, and they then would support it.

I have got to go on record as saying I do support these proposals and that I would encourage the Commission to adopt them as written up by Hal and his group.

Thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Commissioner Ramos.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Let me just ask you a question, sir. What is a typical entry fee for a tournament on the coast, just typical?

MR. CONWAY: I'm sorry, Commissioner.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Yes. What is a typical entry fee to participate in a tournament?

MR. CONWAY: Sir, you have various types of tournaments. You have the mom-and-pop, if you will, tournament that may have a payout of 2000, $3000; it's usually 50 to $100. On the other hand, a lot of the information I get at the house, you have entry fees of 500 with a payout of upward of $50,000.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: And when you have an entry fee of 500, typically, on an average, how many people would participate and pay that kind of a fee? Just on an average; I know you don't have statistics.

MR. CONWAY: Well, if I might put it this way, sir, you take ‑‑ on a tournament with a fee of 300, you're going to have anywhere from 150 ‑‑ and I have seen as high as 350 at Rockport.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Okay. Thank you. And is that a one-day tournament?

MR. CONWAY: No, sir, that's a two-day tournament.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Two-day tournament.

MR. CONWAY: Correct.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Mr. Erhard, Frank Erhard; and then Chris Godfrey.

MR. ERHARD: This is on the prairie chicken season closure. Correct? I'd just like to say I support your amendment, and there's also a second amendment to the first one that's going to close the chicken season in southwestern counties only?

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: I believe that's correct. That is correct.

MR. ERHARD: Okay. I would like to say I support that amendment also, and I'd like to read this brief writing I just put in.

I've always had a personal ethical code that includes limiting my hawking activities ‑‑ that's falconry ‑‑ to the areas that support the highest game-bird densities. I support the amendment to the amendment to close the lesser prairie chicken season in the southwestern Panhandle counties.

As a hunter I have voluntarily not hunted areas of low population such as the ones in the southwestern counties. Many hunters don't have this much self-control, but I do. I've always done this. I've hunted chickens for 30 years.

And the ones in the northeastern counties, that's fine; go ahead and do that with them.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Commissioner Angelo has a question.

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: With respect to the prairie chickens in the southern portion, you have hunted that area in the past?

MR. ERHARD: No, sir.

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: So your feeling about what ought to be done there is kind of a general one. Is that right?

MR. ERHARD: Uh-huh.

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: I had the same feeling, but after yesterday's hearings that we had ‑‑ our committee meetings, I've changed my opinion in view of the fact that if we close the season, nobody's going to have any interest in trying to do something about the prairie chickens in that area.

And at this point I'm leaning towards recommending that we leave the season open so that we can encourage the agricultural community in those counties to do things that might enhance the habitat and therefore improve the prairie chicken population, which otherwise is not likely to occur.

So that's another thought on the subject.

MR. ERHARD: I support that, too. I'd like to make one more comment. The State of Wyoming has a policy that what they've watched over maybe the last 50, 60 years is when a game population goes to a low level, they allow hunting anyway, because just the lower number of animals seems to control the annual take.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Commissioner Montgomery.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: A quick question: Are you representing any of the falconry associations?

MR. ERHARD: I'm the southern director of Texas Hawking Association, and there's two more of us here.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I had an inquiry ‑‑ indirect, but concern for the falconers about closing the season. Most of the hawking and falconry occur north or south?

MR. ERHARD: North.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Is there any that occurs in the south, that you're aware of?

MR. ERHARD: You talking about the southwestern counties?

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Yes.

MR. ERHARD: The last time I was aware of any activity there was in the early '90s. I think we've pretty much curtailed it ourselves, because they're just hard to find.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Okay. Just curious. I'm in agreement with Commissioner Angelo on the season closure.

MR. ERHARD: Either one: just leave them open; stay where like it is now, or close the southwestern. Either one would be fine.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Mr. Fitzsimons?

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you for taking the time to come talk to us about this. I agree with Commissioner Angelo and Montgomery. I'm concerned that if we know ‑‑ and the data's pretty clear ‑‑ that hunting is not the cause of the decline of this bird ‑‑ it's clearly habitat ‑‑ that if we react by closing the hunting season, we're sending the wrong message.

We need to be focusing on habitat and helping these people make those sort of decisions that improve the habitat for the birds, so I think I'm inclined to also leave the season open in both counties and attack this problem where it needs to be attacked. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Do we have any more questions or comments?

(No response.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Thank you.

MR. ERHARD: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Chris Godfrey, followed by Kirby Brown.

MR. GODFREY: Good morning. I'm very happy to be able to come and speak in front of you about these issues, Madame Chairperson and members of the Commission.

My name is Chris Godfrey, and I'm a falconer, and I'm also the Texas president for the chapter of the North American Grouse Partnership. It's an organization that's dedicated to all the different species of grouse in the North American continent and to their conservation and promotion of those birds so they have good habitat and so we have those birds for the future.

I want to talk about the lesser prairie chicken season closure. It's something very dear to my heart. I've been a falconer since I'm 15, and I'm 32 now. And prairie chickens have been something I've been really involved in since I was a child. I used to go photograph Attwater chickens down at Eagle Lake with my mom.

Let's get to the issue of the lesser chicken. If we have the season closure, there isn't really a lot of data that shows an agreement that there is any added mortality because of hunting, whether it be the two-day season or the falconry season.

In Texas no one has caught a lesser prairie chicken in over ten years with a trained falcon. It's almost like trying to kill an elk with a slingshot. We have no measurable impact.

Allowing a hunting season gives ranchers an incentive and land-users an incentive and gets the public involved if you have a hunting season for something.

If you look at organizations like Ducks Unlimited, National Wild Turkey Federation, CCA, those are all hunter-based organizations that are those people who love that particular game animal or fish, and because we have organizations like that and people who want to pursue them, that those animals exist.

If the lesser prairie chicken is no longer a game bird or taken off that list and is managed by, say, another entity, I don't think that would be very good for the State of Texas.

By having an open season on this bird, whether it be a limited two-day season like we have right now for the gun-hunters ‑‑ there's a lot of data that could be collected from those birds ‑‑ visceral samples, crop samples, age and sex of the birds ‑‑ that Parks and Wildlife could use to note distributions of those birds.

But the main thing is getting the public involved in a wildlife resource. The best way is hunting. We all know that.

Closing the seasons in the southern end of the Panhandle ‑‑ I don't know of any ‑‑ southwestern part ‑‑ it's really habitat issue. A great friend of mine just across the border, Jim Weaver in New Mexico, has about 10,000 acres that he manages specifically for lesser chickens.

In developing that he's seen those birds come back over the last few years, but it's mainly because of his habitat restoration and the fact that we're having more rainwater. But the fact that we had the really hard drought in the last ten years, a lot of the land in the southern Panhandle is being converted into cotton and into peanuts.

So many times so many great sections of habitat are just getting all chewed up. So if hunting isn't the problem, I don't think we should stop the season. We should focus more on the habitat, and that is absolutely crucial; we can all agree on that.

The red light's on, so I guess I got to leave the stage. But thank you all for letting me speak. I appreciate it. There's no other state I would rather live in to practice falconry than Texas. Thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Do we have any questions?

(No response.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Thank you very much.

Kirby Brown and Walt Glasscock.

MR. BROWN: Thank you, Madame Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Kirby Brown, with the Texas Wildlife Association. TWA represents landowners, hunters, and conservationists in Texas, and our members own, manage, or control almost 35 million acres of Texas.

We support the staff recommendations with the amendments. We did have quite a bit of comment about Mearn's quail and appreciate that that was withdrawn.

In terms of the lesser prairie chicken, we understand there has been a long-term drought in the southwestern part of Texas; we believe that is beginning to turn around. We certainly hope so, all of us who worry about those things.

And we probably have three options, and I believe you've hit on one. I've heard that stated, that we need to leave it open and we need to work on this as we work forward. We have seen those populations in the southwest decline, whereas those other populations, where they've also had times of drought, are in pretty good shape, actually. So we need to look at the habitat and what's going on there.

The second option is we actually close the season, except for those folks in that southwest area that get a permit. That is an option, kind of like a managed-lands deer permit. I believe you all discussed that yesterday.

I think that might be something we could work on in the interim with the landowners that are there, but I'd prefer at this time to leave it open.

And, third, close the southwest. That would be the least desirable of our options from our point of view.

Also, on pheasant, just want to mention our continuing philosophy at TWA is great flexibility to the private landowner and what they have, and more options in their hands.

And so we support the lengthening of the season. We think that's a good idea. We think that gives the landowner then the responsibility to deal with his hunters the way he wishes to.

And that's the end of my comments. Thank you so much.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Any questions?

(No response.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Thank you, Mr. Brown.

Walt Glasscock and ‑‑

MR. GLASSCOCK: I'm Walt Glasscock with the Texas Sportsmen's Association. I'd like to thank this Commission and all involved over the help you've provided in the last couple of years.

We've been before this Commission a number of times, asking for antler restrictions, specifically in the six Post Oak area counties that were designated last year by you. You had the report yesterday; I know that you've had it. The results are very positive.

We wanted to take this occasion ‑‑ we're up here complaining, pleading, begging in the past; we wanted to come publicly and say, Thank you one and all for helping us with this project. It looks very positive.

And in keeping with that, we'd like to recognize the leadership that the executive director of Parks and Wildlife, Mr. Bob Cook, has done in promoting this program. Thank you.

MR. COOK: Thank you.

(Applause.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Van Swift and Jack King.

MR. SWIFT: Madame Chairperson, Commissioners, I'd like to thank you for the opportunity to address you today.

I wanted to voice my support of Amendment 65.72; more specifically the amendment that adds the imposition of the 25-inch minimum speckled trout limit. I wanted to kind of give you the amateur background of the deal.

I fished pretty extensively in the Coastal Bend area for the last 25 years, from Port O'Connor to Port Mansfield. I would have to say, when I was much younger, just got my driver's license, we could go fish without a guide pretty much anywhere in that area, using live bait, artificial tackle, and I'm happy to say that on any given weekend we might catch several fish over 25 inches.

Over the last probably ten years there's been a very substantial decline, that I can see, in those numbers of fishes over the 25 inches, to the point where now I would have to think that if I fished a whole season as an amateur without a guide, I might be lucky to catch one fish over 25 inches in those same waters.

In my career I've caught several fish in the 30-inch area, but the 25-inch and above, it's just a fish that's not very common anymore. And I wanted to give you just a quick deal.

There's been a little talk of tournaments here, and I run ‑‑ and a friend, we run just a strictly amateur tournament for friends. We charge a $50 entry fee, and that covers basically your dinner for one night and a T-shirt for the event. It's strictly friends. I think if you win the tournament you win $250 and a rod and reel; really just friends getting together.

In the five years that we've had that tournament based out of Rockport, strictly amateurs with no guides, I believe we caught two fish over 25 inches in that area, with, on average, probably 35 men fishing in that tournament.

Nobody wants to say it, but as an amateur, the reason I came up here to speak today is the professional tournaments are killing our sport. It's very difficult to sit here, as an amateur, reading all the publications; you know, avid fisherman, you know, spending the money to own a boat and go to the coast fishing, and fishing hard.

And maybe I'm not a good fisherman; I used to be. But it's hard for me to pick up a magazine and read where they have a tournament in Baffin Bay that are what I would say ‑‑ I don't know whether it's one of these $500 a man or team entry fee kind of tournaments, but it's difficult for me, as somebody that's fished that area extensively and caught very few fish, to sit there and look at that, when they may catch ‑‑ in one tournament they may catch 50 or a hundred fish over 25 inches in that tournament, and some guys might catch five fish over 25 inches.

And I strictly support the imposition of the 25-inch limit.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Jack King, followed by Steve Oleson.

MR. KING: Madame Chair, Commissioners, Mr. Cook, my name is Jack King. I'm executive director of Sportsmen Conservationists of Texas. I would like to say how much I appreciate the opportunity for this forum, to be able to come and speak on proposals before the Commission.

SCOT would like to go on the record as supporting the entire proposal for the Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation, as amended this morning, and in support of the furthering conversation on habitat for the lesser prairie chicken.

And particularly I'd like to specifically mention the speckled trout work group and how much we appreciate Hal and Robin and their continuing work with constituent groups as they work to solve conservation issues with targeted species; in this case, speckled trout.

Our immediate past president, Dr. Wayne Stupka, a veterinarian from Lumberton, was on that work group and was very supportive of the work of staff and the results of that study group.

We know it is a work in progress, and we know that Hal and his group will continue to work with all the different parties to monitor it, to see the impact of that and, if necessary, implement further conservation efforts.

We appreciate this opportunity.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Thank you, Jack.

Do you have any questions?

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: I'd just like to welcome Jack back.

MR. KING: Thank you. It's a little different being on this side, but it's going to be interesting.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: You're doing just fine.

Steve Oleson and West Warren.

MR. OLESON: Madame Chairman, Commissioners, Director, thank you very much for giving me this opportunity to come before you today.

I've been a falconer for a long time; I can't even remember when ‑‑ since '67, I guess. And so that's what I care most about. Of course, to be a falconer means to take game with a bird of prey that you've trained, and if there's no prey, then there's no falconry.

And on the way up here today I was driving down the street and noticed that you've planted bluebonnets and some little bluestem and some other nice native grasses, and I say that's a good start.

Thank you. We are very encouraged by hearing what you have to say today about habitat and how important that is, you know. It seems kind of a like a no-brainer; it's like you've got to have someplace to live and something to eat, you know, to live. Right? Nature needs that as much as we do.

So we go along with you in supporting no closure of the prairie chicken season. But if you were to close part of it, the southwestern is the better place to close it.

Thank you.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Any questions?

(No response.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Thank you.

West Warren and that's it for agenda item number 3.

MR. WARREN: Thank you. I'm from San Antonio; I'm an avid fisherman on the Texas coast. I'm a cabin owner in Rivera Beach; I'm active in the CCA and president of the San Antonio chapter.

We've heard anecdotal evidence that suggests we have a declining trout fishery. I've been to the work group meetings or the public hearings and heard the Texas Parks and Wildlife data that suggest we have a changing but yet still healthy fishery. This is despite ever-increasing fishing pressure.

There are many factors that impact the fishery. Recreational fishing is just one of them. I'm certain that eventually scientific data will reflect a decline in the health and the quality of our fishery if pressure continues at an ever-increasing rate.

Conservation is a word that implies that we'll use a resource but that we'll use it wisely and thoughtfully. I actually looked that up.

In our effort to conserve resources, we must acknowledge the certainty of a decline in the future health of the resource if we're not proactive in the efforts we make today.

The proposed regulatory changes are a proactive measure to better conserve spotted seatrout in Texas, and I am in favor.

Thank you.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Thank you.

We have two more: Mike Rust and Kevin Hilbig.

MR. RUST: Hello, Madame Commissioner. I'm Mike Rust, and I'm president of the Lone Star Bow Hunters Association and just want to take this opportunity to thank you all for everything you all do to preserve our hunting rights, and we look forward to working closely with you all and Texas Parks and Wildlife over future hunting issues.

Thank you.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Thank you.

(Pause.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Mr. Hilbig, you don't want to speak?

MR. HILBIG: No. Mike said basically what I wanted to say.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Okay. Thank you.

VOICE: One more.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Okay. Tim Lopas.

MR. LOPAS: Good morning. Thanks for the opportunity of having us here today. My name is Tim Lopas; I've fished the upper coast for the last 16 years. I'm a recreational angler, and I'm also a tournament angler.

This issue started because of the lower-coast issues, and from what we've heard today, there's been a lot of talk that the fish are not being caught in size on the lower coast.

On the upper Texas coast we don't have this issue. Last year I caught 12 trout over 24 and six were over 25. All but nine of those trout were released. Typically whenever I fish I'll release a trout that is over 23 inches, unless I'm in a tournament.

Tournaments have shifted towards a different gear, especially professional tournaments on the Texas coast. For example, the Troutmasters Tournament are encouraging releasing trout alive.

Just this past weekend in Rockport 91 percent of the fish weighed in alive were released healthy, and so we are encouraging releasing live fish.

I also believe that tournaments should be taxed and possible entrants into tournaments should also be taxed. The revenues would definitely generate back towards the economy. Surrounding tournaments is sort of what got me into fishing. I looked up to a gentleman that fished on the Texas Gulf Coast, and he fished tournaments. That got me into fishing. I pour thousands of dollars of revenues into the economy each year, and a lot of that's based ‑‑ and geared towards tournament fishing.

The Baffin Bay numbers I don't have. I believe 34 of those fish of just over 50 or so that were weighed in were released alive.

Restricting the fish to one over 25 per day is sort of like telling Barry Bonds, You can only hit one home run per game.

I certainly encourage the bag limit to be reduced to seven fish per day, with a minimum of 16 inches. I think if you ask Hal, he'll let you know that a bag limit of seven, with the minimum limit of 16 inches, will contribute back to the fishery more than limiting one trout over 25 per day.

I think what we need to take a look at is something fair and equitable that is fair for all anglers and not restrictive for the tournament fishermen. And most tournament fishermen that I know do give back to the resource and do release the big fish they catch, and so we are conservationists at heart, too, so I just wanted to get that point in.

And I hope that the decision that you make is fair for all anglers, and I think that's something that the Commission should certainly take a look at, and I appreciate your time.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Could you restate again what you think would be fair, as a tournament fisherman?

MR. LOPAS: I think what would be fair would be reducing the bag limit to seven and increasing the minimum length to 16.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: On those things that we've been hearing today about tournament fishing and some of the criticisms of that, could you ‑‑ on the fees for a tournament, have you got any thoughts on what would be acceptable to the tournament community?

MR. LOPAS: Absolutely. This is my personal opinion, of course. I certainly feel that if the Commission wanted to regulate professional tournaments, such as the Spectacular Tournament series and the Gulf Coast Troutmasters series, that you could adopt a rule where the tournaments did have to pay a fee per entry fee and also tax the actual tournament, the person that's putting the tournament on.

I certainly feel that if you did want to go with the change and regulate tournaments and the trout that are caught, then you should go at two ‑‑ no more than two over 28 per day.

It's not typical in a tournament that the tournament anglers are going to catch more than two trout over 28 inches in a day, so if you did want to put a max on the tournaments, I would certainly support that, in my particular opinion.

I certainly would hope that all of the revenues from taxing entrant fees or the tournament providers would go directly back into the coastal fishery.

The Gulf Coast Troutmasters series is working very, very hard, with many different entities, to come up with ways to encourage releasing live fish, live speckled trout. As they say, this is a new frontier that we're exploring right now with releasing speckled trout alive.

Look at the Bassmaster series. You know, they encourage the release of live fish. And how much money does the Bassmasters pump into our state economy, whether it's related to television or encouraging anglers or buying boats that all go back. I mean, last estimates I looked at were over 8 billion were infused into the Texas economy with fishing-related activities.

And I certainly think that every sport out there has competition, and I don't want to be regulated with the spirit of competition, you know. I don't fish every tournament that comes by, but when one comes up to Galveston, you know, I'm going to be in that tournament, and I want to win it. And you know, I think there are people that want to prove that they're the best of the best.

But we're willing to give back, and I certainly hope the Commission will take a look at that.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Any questions?

COMMISSIONER RISING: Madame Chairman?

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Yes. Dr. Rising.

COMMISSIONER RISING: What impact do you think this proposed change will have on, say, the Troutmaster series where the retainage is three fish per day?

MR. LOPAS: Well, the Troutmasters adopted a rule, and they met with some of the best fishermen along the Texas Gulf Coast, because the tournament fishermen were very concerned about the 25-inch rule.

And the Gulf Coast Troutmasters adopted the rule leading the way. I don't personally agree with it, because I think it limits ‑‑ like I said, you can only ‑‑ you know, tell Barry Bonds he can hit one home run per day.

But they adopted the rule, and the current guidelines in those tournaments is that you cannot weigh in more than one fish over 27 inches per day, and that's how the last tournament was conducted that was held in Matagorda this last weekend.

COMMISSIONER RISING: Did you see a decline in participation in that tournament from previous years, since you've fished several?

MR. LOPAS: I didn't attend the Matagorda tournament; you know, winds were 30, 40 miles an hour. And I've been trying to get over this cold here, and my wife told me to stay home. But I will be in the Galveston tournament.

I don't know the exact numbers, but some of you guys were asking ‑‑ you know, typically you're going to see anywhere from 150 to 250 anglers entered into these tournaments, with the entry fee right around $175, is what you're looking at.

Other tournament series are one-day tournament series, and they'll run anywhere from $75 per day.

COMMISSIONER RISING: Well, I'm just not sure it will change the participation. The redfish tour is prolific, and it's a slot.

MR. LOPAS: Right. Well, I just think that that's ‑‑ obviously, you know, you have to change to whatever you're given, and you're going to have to work with a slot limit.

COMMISSIONER RISING: Right.

MR. LOPAS: But I certainly think that if the angler goes out and he catches, you know, three 28-inch trout in one day and then, you know, another guy that comes by and catches one 27-inch trout and two 24-inch trout, you know, then he's going to obviously be the winner of that particular tournament.

I don't think it's fair for the person that did go out and was the best of the best on that particular day. And I think that if you really gear tournaments towards taking care of ‑‑ and placing taxes on this tournament and possibly looking at rules for specific professional tournaments that are held along the Texas Gulf Coast, then that would be fair for anglers.

COMMISSIONER RISING: Thank you.

MR. LOPAS: Thank you. Appreciate the time.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Thank you.

I think that is it for ‑‑

COMMISSIONER HENRY: Could we call Hal back?

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Hal, we may have some follow-up questions here. We've covered a lot of ground here, and I know I have a few questions.

COMMISSIONER HENRY: Hal, several speakers have addressed the issue of regionalization. Has the Department, your area, done any study on this matter? Do you have any thoughts now or toward addressing it in the future?

MR. OSBURN: Yes, sir. We are privileged to be able to collect data in every one of the bay systems and have for a good number of years, so we do see different trends in different bay systems.

The populations and the anglers are different, although over time they've becoming more like each other, because the mobility of anglers ‑‑ folks will drive down to the Laguna Madre from Houston and fish there, so the remoteness is being lost for a lot of those areas, and that's one of the concerns that those local anglers have, is that they're sharing their fish with a lot more people.

So the point of regionalization, for us, would be that it is a viable management concept. It does increase the law-enforcement difficulties, but I think the wardens have always been willing to do what they can if there's a management goal to achieve.

But we are fairly strong on the notion that there needs to be local support generated in those areas, because what you're really talking about is having more restrictive rules in one area than in another area, and that can be perceived differently if you're trying to attract folks to come down to your area.

And in the long term those restrictions can actually build a better tourism base, but in the short term they may decrease participation in that area, and the local folks need to be willing to accept that consequence.

COMMISSIONER HENRY: I would hope that your department, along with work groups or task forces, would address this issue in the future and come back to us with some of your thoughts with regards to its viability.

MR. OSBURN: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER HENRY: And, Jim, if you would, please, I would like to refer to the problems that law enforcement may face in this area. Do you have any thoughts that you'd like to share with us at this point?

MR. STINEBAUGH: No, sir, except to agree with him, that the wardens are flexible, and I think we can enforce any regulations you guys want to adopt.

COMMISSIONER HENRY: It would seem that maybe you would be talking about maybe a joint task force of some kind to address this issue.

MR. STINEBAUGH: It would be.

COMMISSIONER HENRY: I would hope that your department would, as well, look at it and come back to us with some of your thoughts in the near future.

MR. STINEBAUGH: We'll put a representative on it.

COMMISSIONER HENRY: Thank you.

MR. STINEBAUGH: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER HENRY: Thank you, Madame Chair.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Do we have any comments from any of the other commissioners?

Hal, it seems to me that obviously our first responsibility is to protect a resource, as involves tournament fishing. On the other hand, I agreed with much of what the last speaker said.

I think it's ‑‑ we've all found out that this is not a black-and-white issue, that it's a gray issue. But I think I for one would like to see tournament fishing encouraged; I would like to see the tournament people contribute as much as they can to the resource, to putting resources back into trout and other things.

I mean, this isn't just a trout issue. We repeatedly hear about tournament fishing as it affects freshwater fishing also.

I for one would like to start looking at that more carefully and trying to work with those groups, as well as just everyday anglers as well as some of the communities that are affected by these tournaments, and largely in a positive way, and trying to come to some consensus on how to address the tournament issue in an equitable way that is a benefit to the resource and allows as many players as possible.

And so any help we can get from your group and from Phil Durocher's group addressing tournaments would be much appreciated.

MR. OSBURN: Yes, ma'am. We will do that. We actually had a tournament organizer on the spotted seatrout work group so that we could get input there. My staff regularly participates in some of the planning for some of the Troutmasters when we're invited, because they're talking about that live release, and my hatchery staff is the best there is at keeping fish alive, so we've helped them there.

And we also have collected data on the tournaments through our monitoring program, so we have a pretty good handle on what the tournaments are doing on the coast, but we do need some more data, and obviously there's been discussion on how to get that, and we look forward to having that.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: One more comment while you're up there is that I agree that we need to look more closely at regionalization. It seems to me that it's an approach that works for almost every other game animal in Texas in terms of setting limits and seasons and the like, and the more carefully honed our limits and what-not are to the specific region, the better for everyone, and especially for the resource.

MR. OSBURN: Yes, ma'am. In fact, in speaking to three of the challenges that we had to our findings of fact that I recognized, one of them was the social engineering.

I would comment that any size and bag limit changes the angler behavior. It's a social issue with any size and bag limit. It puts limits on folks, and that changes their behavior.

But in creating an optimum fishery, which is our charge, social considerations are very much part of that equation, and should be. So we're not denying that there are social issues associated with managing fisheries. Whether you call it engineering or not is a little difficult, but it is part of our creed to consider the social, economic, and biological issues.

Regionalization is a social and economic and biological factor, and we will consider that.

The other two challenges that we heard were that the big trout are not surviving when they're released. We have tag return data from our big trout that indicates that they do survive when given a chance.

We have hatchery studies in retaining large trout; we do that very routinely: capture fish by hook and line and then keep them alive in the hatcheries for the spawning.

And also an enormous amount of anecdotal information from the anglers ‑‑ you heard some of it today ‑‑ that a lot of fish are being released, and those pieces of information tell us that we do in fact have good survival.

The last point was that we did not have good science. I would point out that our trout-monitoring data from our gill nets is actually ‑‑ and creel surveys is the longest-running survey ‑‑ that it's a standardized, statistically valid, peer-reviewed method, and it's the longest-running one in the nation that I know of.

That is the basis of our findings on the trout, and we would stand by those.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Any other questions, comments?

Commissioner Rising.

COMMISSIONER RISING: Hal, I would just like to thank you for your hard work in this area; it's a very complex subject, and I think you've done a very good job.

MR. OSBURN: Thank you.

(Applause.)

MR. OSBURN: I'm not used to that sound.

(General laughter.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Well, enjoy it, Hal.

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: I don't want to ‑‑ I'd hate to add to your burden, but I think that, with respect to this regional aspect, that instead of waiting for the areas to come forward, which ‑‑ and I understand very well the social and political aspects of that, but I think the Department ought to be proactive in moving towards a regional approach, based on everything we've heard today and what little bit I know about it from other sources.

So I would strongly encourage that you do so, that you move towards that, and encourage the areas to come forward and go along with it, as opposed to waiting for them to take the initiative.

MR. OSBURN: Okay. We will do that.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Thank you.

Do you have any further questions?

(No response.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Thank you, Hal.

If I have no further questions from the Commission, I think I would like a motion.

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: I'd like to propose a motion that has several changes in it to the recommendation.

I'd move adoption of the proposal as presented, with the following changes: that the Mearn's quail continue to be a closed season; that we set the freshwater guide fee at $125 instead of $200; that the lesser prairie chicken season continue to be open in both areas.

With those amendments, I'd move adoption.

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Second.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: All in favor.

(A chorus of ayes.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Opposed?

(No response.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Motion carries.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: A comment or two ‑‑

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Yes.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: In keeping the prairie chicken season open, we're also sending the signal to staff that we would like to develop incentive programs, facilitation of federal aid, and a broad menu of proactive measures to help increase habitat and increase the population.

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: To elaborate on that a little bit, as I said yesterday, I've hunted the prairie chickens in that southern area, and I quit hunting them because in the last few years there haven't been enough to make it worth the effort.

And I think the staff is to be commended for bringing this item to the public attention, because without it there wouldn't have been any discussion, and the situation would have continued as it's been, which has not been good.

So I totally agree with Commissioner Montgomery that what we need to do, now that it's been brought forward and discussed at length, is to do everything we can to see that the resources are brought to bear to improve the habitat.

And as we've been working with the quail agenda, there are certainly some things in the ag area that are going to lend themselves to this effort. So I appreciate it being brought up and look forward to seeing some improvements.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Madame Chairman?

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Yes.

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: On that issue of the lesser prairie chicken, I would suggest that we look ‑‑ I'm sure our technical guidance biologist will give us some good ideas about what's going on out there right now, and I'd like to see if the regulations committee could maybe get a survey of the hunters and the landowners out there that are presently involved in hunting and hope we can do that soon.

Thank you.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I have one other quick comment, if I may.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Commissioner Montgomery.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I want to thank the falconers for coming, and I encourage you all to let us know what we can do to help you all succeed and continue to thrive and prosper.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: If we have no further comments on agenda item number 3 ‑‑

MR. OSBURN: Madame Chairman, can I ask a clarification? Staff asked me to ask, did you intend the saltwater guide license to be 200?

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Yes.

MR. OSBURN: Okay. Just wanted to verify that on the record.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: That's correct.

Agenda item number 4 is an action item, Candidate State Parks for Public Hunting and Establishment of an Open Season on Public Hunting Lands.

Ms. Vickie Fite, will you please make your presentation.

MS. FITE: Madame Chairman, members of the Commission, my name is Vickie Fite. I'm the Public Hunting Coordinator.

My presentation today address the candidate state parks for public hunting and the establishment of an open season on public hunting lands for 2003-2004.

The Commission was briefed in January on the 42 candidate state parks that have been proposed for hunting in the 2003-2004 season. Since that point we've taken the hunt proposals on the 42 state parks to 17 public meetings, and they were also posted on the departmental website for public comment.

We received a total of three public comments on this item. Two of the comments addressed the fact that they requested more hunting availability on the weekends on state parks, and the other one, the gentleman addressed the fact that he wanted to see more public hunting across the board on state parks, and that we should bring more state parks to this table for consideration for hunting in the future.

In order for TPWD to conduct hunts on our public hunting lands during the season of September 1, 2003, through August 31, 2004, an open season must be established.

Chapters 62 and 81 of the Parks and Wildlife Code gives the Commission the authority to open a season on public hunting lands on state parks, wildlife management areas, and other public hunting lands.

At this time staff would like to recommend: (1) Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorizes the hunting activities designated in Exhibit A to be conducted on the listed units of the state park system and (2) Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorizes an open hunting season on public hunting lands to run from September 1, 2003, to August 31, 2004.

That concludes my presentation.

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Does the Commission have any questions at this point? If not, we have two folks that would like to speak on the issue.

First is Ellis Gilleland.

MR. GILLELAND: My name is Ellis Gilleland. I'm speaking for myself and Texas Animals, which is an animal rights organization on the internet. I've given you two handouts. The first handout is a letter that I gave you initially on the 9th of August 2002. The subject of the letter to each one of you was my request for appointment to present various evidence of poaching at Choke Canyon State Park by Texas Parks and Wildlife officials.

You never did allow that, so I'm presenting it to you again, mainly because the poaching ‑‑ and I only speak of Choke Canyon State Park; I don't know if my comments are applicable to other state parks or not.

The poaching at Choke Canyon State Park has become institutionalized to the extent that deer hunting started in 1997, as I'm sure you know. I can show you videotapes of deer blinds that were ten years old in 1997.

The poaching at Choke Canyon State Park went on for at least ten years, from at least around 1987. The park opened in '84.

If you don't believe that, I can show you the videotape. You can have them analyzed by the FBI if you want. I didn't make them up. It's institutionalized poaching. This is poaching.

The second ‑‑

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Mr. Gilleland, excuse me. What's your definition of poaching?

MR. GILLELAND: Poaching is when you take game that is in a manner or a time and a way which is apart from your rules and regulations which you good people put into effect; that's poaching.

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: That's the correct definition. Yes.

MR. GILLELAND: And I'll just give you one quick example. If your regulations and your people prescribe four people to hunt on a given day and there are in fact 13 people hunting on that day, there is poaching taking place, because it's violation of the rule which you established to take deer during that period in that manner for that time.

Now, the second aspect of this institutionalized poaching is it's not all your fault. It's mainly your fault, because you've ignored it; you've ignored the evidence; you close your ears, close your eyes, close your mouth. You won't let the evidence be presented to you.

The second aspect of it is that your organizational structure is extremely weak. I've given you the second handout, which shows three functions. You have state park regions; you have eight of them. Wildlife regions, you have four; and law enforcement, you have 27.

If you take all those regions ‑‑ not the name but the region ‑‑ put them on clear acetate and superimpose them on each other, you'll see these regions overlap and interpose each other. There is no unity of command; there's no line of authority.

The park director at Choke Canyon State Park supersedes the orders of the game warden. The game warden cannot ‑‑ the game warden stops these people coming ‑‑ every year the same people come in, and the game warden tries to stop it, and Lee Escamilla, the park director, overrules the game warden and sends them down to hunt.

Well, I'm videotaping it. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Kirby Brown is the next speaker.

MR. BROWN: That was confusing.

My name is Kirby Brown. I'm executive vice president for the Texas Wildlife Association. Just want to take this opportunity to say we support the staff recommendations.

Texas has one of the finest public hunting programs anywhere in the nation and some of the finest quality on these areas. We're excited to help with that in a lot of ways.

I also want to compliment Herb Kothmann and Vickie Fite for their continuing efforts, and I would want to continue to encourage department staff to examine all potential opportunities that can occur for public hunting on all department lands.

Thank you so much.

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Thank you.

Mr. Stinebaugh, we've had this question raised several times by Mr. Gilleland, and you've commented on it before, but I thought maybe it might be appropriate for you again to address some remarks towards it.

MR. STINEBAUGH: Yes, sir. We've had these accusations for quite a while, and I have had them investigated by our game wardens. Those reports have been made, and we have found no evidence of any type of poaching or violation of our rules there.

We have asked Major Gonzales to get in touch with Mr. Gilleland, and he's tried on a number of occasions, and Mr. Gilleland doesn't return his calls. So we've not been able to talk to him through our regional supervisor down there.

I've met with him. We find no indication, no evidence of any kind that we have any poaching there.

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Thank you.

Are there any other comments or questions from the Commission?

Mr. Ramos?

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: I'll just be repetitive. One of the ‑‑ first of all, I really admire staff for creating more public hunts, but in line with my comments yesterday, I still would like to see staff and us emphasize hunts and prioritize hunts for the youth of the state.

I still maintain that that's an area that needs a lot of work, and if we don't bring the youth of the state into our hunts, I think that gap's going to continue to grow, so I just reiterate my prior comments.

Thank you.

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Any other comments or questions?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: If not, the chair would entertain a motion.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: So moved.

COMMISSIONER HENRY: Second.

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: No further discussion.

All in favor please say aye.

(A chorus of ayes.)

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Opposed?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Thank you.

MS. FITE: Thank you very much.

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: We'll move on to item number 5, Scientific Breeder Proclamation.

Clayton Wolf.

MR. WOLF: Commissioners, my name is Clayton Wolf. I'm the White-Tailed Deer Program leader. I have two proposed changes to the Scientific Breeder Proclamation that we're going to ask you to consider for adoption today.

The first proposal deals with an issue we've been looking at for over six months. As I briefed you yesterday, in August of 2002, this Commission adopted a regulation which required scientific breeders to get written authorization prior to releasing captive deer into the wild.

I'm going to dispense with the history that I went through yesterday on all the scoping and public meeting process that we had, but basically the issue was that many representatives of the scientific breeder community felt that they would not be able to get a veterinarian to more or less certify that a deer herd was healthy.

The issue, of course, is the nature of chronic wasting disease. An animal can have chronic wasting disease, appear to be healthy, but in fact not be healthy. These members felt that veterinarians would not want to assume additional liability by indicating that animals were released from a healthy herd when in fact they may not be healthy.

So members of the MLDP/TTT task force offered up an alternative, and that alternative was to require that scientific breeders be enrolled in a Texas Animal Health Commission monitoring program if they wanted to release captive deer into the wild.

Therefore, we propose to eliminate the written authorization requirements to release captive deer into the wild, and in turn we propose that no person may release a deer obtained or possessed under authority of a Scientific Breeder Permit into the wild unless the person can prove that the deer either came directly from a facility enrolled in a current valid herd health plan with the Texas Animal Health Commission or the deer meets CWD entry requirements established by the Texas Animal Health Commission, and of course this applies to deer coming from out-of-state sources.

Our second proposal deals with scientific breeder pen diagram requirements. Currently someone who applies for a Scientific Breeder Permit must submit a diagram of the physical layout of the facility with their initial application.

Additionally, the regulations require that they must submit a diagram with their annual renewal paperwork; however, if there are changes to the facility, they are not required to submit these changes until they submit their annual renewal paperwork.

The issue at hand here is the accuracy of the paperwork, especially as it pertains to the activities by our Law Enforcement Division. Game wardens can conduct inspections of scientific breeder facilities to verify the inventory of the scientific breeders.

They do this by looking at the facility as they know it. If the scientific breeder has constructed a new pen on the property, either adjacent to or somewhere else on the property, and we are not aware of that, obviously this becomes an impediment to an accurate inventory.

Just as important is the status of the deer that are held. Deer held in captivity by scientific breeders are private property. The regulations also clearly state that if these animals are released into the wild, if they are liberated, they become wild animals, and they cannot be recaptured and returned back to private status.

So if a game warden conducts an inspection, animals are out of a pen and in an additional pen, it could be ‑‑ in some situations these animals could be construed as liberated.

So our proposal not only would assist the Law Enforcement Division in getting an accurate inventory; it would also help protect the scientific breeders.

We propose to eliminate the requirement for submitting the pen diagram annually; they would submit it the first time with their initial application, but if the facility is enlarged or added to, no person may put deer in the new portions of the facility until they submit an accurate diagram to the Department.

On these two proposals we received no public comment during the last comment period.

And a point I would like to make about the recommended motion, the briefing booklet that you have ‑‑ it was brought to my attention that the date in that briefing booklet is incorrect.

The recommended motion that we have before you is that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts 31 TAC, both sections ‑‑ that's very hard to read ‑‑ concerning Scientific Breeder Permits, which changes to the proposed text published in the February 21, 2003, version of the Texas Register. Your briefing booklet has January 21.

And I'll take any questions if you have them now.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Do we have any questions from the Commission?

(No response.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: We have a few people signed up to speak on this item.

Karl Kinsel and Ellis Gilleland.

MR. KINSEL: Karl Kinsel with the Texas Deer Association, and I'd like to say that we are in agreeance and acceptance with the concerns, and we are appreciative.

You, the Commissioner people, often get thanked, so I'll skip that today, if you don't mind, and I'm going to really thank staff, particularly Executive Director Bob Cook and particularly Boruff, Sinclair, George, Wolf, Stinebaugh, Humphreys, Richards.

The communication level now is such and the cooperative efforts are such that we can informally discuss, agree, and get things straightened out without burdening the Commission, and I think that's an accomplishment.

Thank you.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Thank you, Karl.

Any questions?

(No response.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Mr. Gilleland.

MR. GILLELAND: My name is Ellis Gilleland. I'm speaking for Texas Animals, an animal-rights organization on the internet.

To show you how your top people lie, Colonel Stinebaugh just lied to you, because I don't even have a telephone.

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Madame Chairman, Mr. ‑‑

MR. GILLELAND: How could I take a call ‑‑

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: He is out of order. We discussed this at length.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Mr. Gilleland, the rules are clear on behavior from every member of the audience, and I believe this time you have stepped over the line. We ask for orderly behavior, and you have been disorderly.

MR. GILLELAND: Could you please say again what you just said. I was intent on thinking of something else. I apologize.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: I'll repeat myself.

MR. GILLELAND: Yes, ma'am.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: I believe you have been disorderly, and as such, I'm going to have to ask you to leave.

(Pause.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Are there any comments from the Commission on this agenda item?

(No response.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: If not, could I have a motion?

COMMISSIONER AVILA: Move approval.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: I second it.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: I have a motion and a second.

All in favor.

(A chorus of ayes.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Opposed?

(No response.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Motion carries. This brings us to agenda item number 6. It is a briefing item. Dr. McKinney will brief us -- Mr. Phil Durocher will brief us on Golden Alga.

(Whereupon, a briefing ensued.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Next is agenda item number 7, Land Sale in Tarrant County.

Jack Bauer, will you please make your presentation.

MR. BAUER: My name is Jack Bauer, Director of Land Conservation. This item represents a summary of yesterday's executive session Conservation Committee item relating to the proposed sale of Eagle Mountain Lake State Park in Tarrant County.

Eagle Mountain Lake remains unused and not open to the public. The Commission has directed staff to accept proposals to sell the property.

Five proposals have been received, and five have been considered. All have a public-use component. And that's the extent of my presentation.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Do we have any questions for Mr. Bauer from the Commission?

(Pause.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Why don't we hear from the people signed up to speak first.

We have several people signed up on this agenda item. We've got Rusty Nichols followed by Glen Whitley.

MR. NICHOLS: Thank you, Madame Chairman and Commissioners, for hearing me today. I came basically to introduce myself. I have submitted a proposal, as you all, I hope, know. I'm also here on behalf of Ethical Treatment of Developers, but ‑‑ that's a joke. Sorry to have to tell you that.

(General laughter.)

MR. NICHOLS: One of the things that I feel has not gotten out to the public and I hope will be transmitted to them is that the public component of the parks that have been proposed ‑‑ and I'm not familiar with the other proposals, but ours is a privately funded, publicly owned park that will be fully funded and endowed by us with no public funds.

The overall public impact of our proposal is approaching $9 million, without considering over a three-mile public trail system that expands the Texas Trails Initiative through the property.

So I'll open it up for questions. I just wanted to introduce myself. I didn't have anything further, other than to hope that this public component to these proposals be illuminated.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Do we have any questions from the Commissioners?

Commissioner Angelo has a comment.

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: I just wanted to express my appreciation for the effort that you and the other proposal developers had presented to us. I know that it's not easy to do; it takes a lot of effort. And we appreciate that effort and thank you for it.

MR. NICHOLS: Thank you, sir, for that comment. We do take it seriously.

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: It's obvious that you have.

MR. NICHOLS: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Glen Whitley, and then Mark Mendez.

MR. WHITLEY: Madame Chairman, members of the Commission, my name is Glen Whitley, and I'm a Tarrant County Commissioner. I want to thank you for the opportunity to address the Commission.

First let me say that Tarrant County and Parks and Wildlife have a long tradition of working together cooperatively. We fully appreciate the Department's work in Tarrant County, and have provided communication resources to your game wardens for a long time.

Today we come before you, hopefully to continue and build upon this relationship. The Eagle Mountain Lake State Park land is important to the citizens of Tarrant County. While development continues to consume large amounts of undeveloped land in Tarrant County, we view this parkland as an opportunity to preserve a small portion of our natural habitat and make it available to our citizens.

During the past several weeks we have submitted a proposal to your staff that lays out two different options for your consideration. Both of these options contain some risk but also provide substantial reward for both of our entities.

To summarize option number one, Parks and Wildlife would transfer title of the property and all mineral rights to Tarrant County. Tarrant County would contract for exploration and development of any oil and gas property. The property's natural habitat remains largely intact, and the county would share the net revenues and bonuses 50/50 with Parks and Wildlife.

Option number two: Parks and Wildlife sells the property to Tarrant County for $1 million, to include all mineral rights. Tarrant County engages a trust for public land for additional funding which goes to Parks and Wildlife, less the cost.

Tarrant County contracts for the exploration and development of any oil and gas on the property. Again, the property's ‑‑ the natural habitat would remain largely intact. And then we would share in that particular net revenues of 25 percent Parks and Wildlife, 75 percent for the county.

We have structured both these options to provide long-term revenue streams for Parks and Wildlife and to provide funding vehicles to turn the Eagle Mountain State Park into a limited-use park, something that originally designed and it was originally acquired for.

At the same time, Tarrant County would assume all the activities necessary to make this happen, without any additional effort by Parks and Wildlife.

This property was originally purchased for a Tarrant County park. We stand ready to negotiate a mutually acceptable agreement that will serve both of our entities well.

It will be a continuation of a successful partnership that Tarrant County and Parks and Wildlife have enjoyed over the past and will continue to enjoy in the future.

I'd be glad to answer any questions that you might have at this time.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Commissioner Angelo has some questions for you.

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: I don't know that I've got a question; I've got a comment. And I don't want to do anything or say anything that jeopardizes the long-standing relationship that you refer to with respect to the Commissioners Court and to the Parks and Wildlife Department, but having said that, I can't really believe that the Commissioners Court is serious in presenting the proposal that you've just described and that you really ‑‑ that they really believe that that would be in the best interest of either the residents of Tarrant County or the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department or the state as a whole. I mean, it's beyond my comprehension that they would consider that a reasonable proposal.

MR. WHITLEY: Well, you're certainly entitled to your opinion, sir.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Commissioner, if I may ‑‑

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Commissioner Montgomery.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: We began this process ‑‑ we received indications, if I remember ‑‑ and, Jack, please correct me if I'm wrong ‑‑ that Tarrant County was interested in purchasing this property, and I'd be curious to know what has caused the county commission to move from indication of interest in purchasing the property to one that's actually asking for a gift when we're in charge of a state asset that's worth quite a bit of money here.

MR. WHITLEY: I guess what we're saying is we're open for proposals. Yes, we ‑‑ initially what we said was we were trying to get together with the City of Fort Worth and other organizations to purchase it outright.

I believe that really since that time there has become much more activity with relations to the royalties that are now underneath that property, and there's been a lot more, I guess, light shed up in that particular regard, and what we're proposing now is something more of a partnership, where Parks and Wildlife would continue to benefit from that land and, at the same time, not be out any additional cost, and at the same time we would also participate ‑‑ or use some of our proceeds to improve that as a park from that perspective.

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Just so you're aware ‑‑ I mean, we have the ability to nominate properties for leasing ourselves, and the proposal does not recognize any land value.

MR. WHITLEY: And, again, I guess from that perspective I certainly believe that one of your alternatives would be to take it ‑‑ to keep it as a park and to do that.

What we're trying to do is we're to maintain some parklands in the undeveloped area. From the county's perspective, if we don't own that property or if it's sold to a developer, we have no way, under current state regulation, to make sure that any of it is maintained as a park.

And so what, again ‑‑ when this was originally brought up and brought to Commissioners Court, we tried to encourage a number of other entities to join us in this process.

We're willing to listen and willing to talk with you all to any offer that you all might make.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: I think ‑‑ I've been involved in this from the beginning, and I think I can only characterize our attitude towards this as a bend-over-backwards kind of approach.

We have talked to you about purchasing the land, that I recognize how important this must be to the citizens of Tarrant County and, in the interests of trying to accommodate your wishes and some of your citizens', agreed to work closely with you to find some buyers or a consortium of buyers or pretty much remained as flexible as possible, even going so far as to offer that property to you at significant discount from appraised value if a conservation easement was attached to that, or something of that nature.

And I think the last proposal you just offered the Commission, of essentially gifting you the taxpayers-of-all-of-Texas's land, in return for 50 percent royalty interest ‑‑ I have to agree with Commissioner Angelo: It leaves me almost speechless.

MR. WHITLEY: Well, you know, and I guess from my perspective, if I were in your position, I'm not sure I wouldn't hold on to it, but the last thing in the world I'd be looking at doing is selling the property until somebody has a chance to look at what the mineral rights underneath it are and what the potential may be on that deal.

I mean, I ‑‑ you know ‑‑

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: I don't disagree with you on that part. I agree; we have to do our due diligence regarding the mineral rights and other things. But your generous offer ‑‑

MR. WHITLEY: And, again, we haven't had a chance to look at what's underneath there, either. And for me to be representing the citizens of Tarrant County and say I'm going to go on speculation as to what I think may be under there and offer you a whole lot more money would not be very prudent for me in representing Tarrant County.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: I think your option was that we transfer it to you.

MR. WHITLEY: With a 50/50, and we take on all the risk of developing it, and then we split the revenues 50/50 from that standpoint.

That was one. The other option was to pay you $1 million, and then we would split it 75/25.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Twenty-five to Parks and Wildlife.

MR. WHITLEY: That's correct.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: And I think the appraised value is upwards of 6 million.

MR. WHITLEY: I'm not sure about that, Madame Chairman.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: I think that is the figure.

COMMISSIONER AVILA: Madame Chairman, I think it's sort of wrong to sit up here and admonish Tarrant County, when the sale of this property, whether it be to Tarrant County or to a private developer, has been sort of a moving target as more and more has been learned about the property.

And Commissioner Whitley and the county commissioners up there are only responding to I think what staff was saying, was acceptable amounts of money and how to get there.

So there's been some mixed signals here. So I think the ‑‑ just taking a break here, as we figure out which direction we want to go, is in order here, and not be admonishing Tarrant County. And that's how I feel about it.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: I don't disagree with you, Commissioner Avila, and I think there are enough issues out there that we do need to look further and do some further due diligence.

MR. WHITLEY: And I guess the one thing I would say is that we're certainly interested in hearing offers from you. We're trying to protect the parkland.

And if you've got an offer that you would like to make back toward us, then at the same time we're very interested in listening and trying to then go back and organize other efforts or other organizations whose main interest is to keep that as much as possible a parkland type of an approach.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Thank you.

Any further questions?

(No response.)

MR. WHITLEY: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: We have Mark Mendez and then Tom Nezworsky.

MR. MENDEZ: Madame Chair, I have no additional comments, other than my county commissioner.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Thank you.

Tom Nezworsky.

MR. NEZWORSKY: Madame Commissioner, Commissioners, excuse my tie. I got my bag out this morning and couldn't find my tie, so ‑‑ sometimes those things happen.

My name's Tom Nezworsky. I'm a senior vice president of Mira Vista Development Corporation. I've been before this Commission a couple of times now.

I'm not sure what we're commenting about since Jack didn't make a presentation of some sort of recommendation that this Commission is to take, and so I'm a little at loss for words, which might surprise some people, but what we were thinking about from our perspective ‑‑ we've made a proposal ‑‑ alternate proposals to this Commission.

And we were looking to try to understand what the collective mind of this body is about how it's looking at its affairs with respect to the legislature, the budget crisis, all the things that seem to be on our minds.

And one of the things that we thought was appropriate at this time ‑‑ and we just met with our city officials again this past Tuesday. And we met with the water/sewer officials. And looking at the 70-day delay we just went through at the county's request, if you recall ‑‑ that was their request, to postpone this with the legislative body, saying, Don't do anything about this; give us some more time to put something together, and now we're here with another proposal which does seem a little odd, I guess is the way I would classify it.

But we've lost that 70 days and our due-diligence period. So we've been waiting once again, hoping that the Commission would take action today. And so to ‑‑ in some respects, to incentify the Commission today to take action, we thought we would modify our proposal and suggest a procedure whereby hopefully this Commission would move forward today.

And briefly I'm going to try to go through a couple of points there. We've made alternate proposals here about a lower offer, if you want a public-access component, and a higher offer if we could develop 100 percent of the property.

We would propose to the Commission that we would, for kind of mutual reasons, raise our higher offer by a quarter of a million dollars today. And the benefit of that is we think ‑‑ we look like and feel like we're going to need some additional due diligence time period, and it would give this Commission some additional flexibility.

Another component of this modified proposal would be really to establish ‑‑ we've got to negotiate a contract, obviously, if we get some sort of motion that passes out of this hearing today, but in that contract, give this Commission the right to terminate that contract in the future if, for some financial crisis reasons or something you can't anticipate and that the cloudy perspective of the horizon about the legislature and the budget says, You know what; we just need to terminate this contract and hold on to the property. This Commission would have that option.

What we would simply ask for in that case, if you were to say, Hey, this starts to make a little bit of sense here; maybe we should pick somebody, not waste all the effort that's been done so far by both Parks and Wildlife staff and the development teams ‑‑ pick Mira Vista, is what I'm saying.

We then enter into a contract that says, All right; there's additional money on the table. That gives them the time to do their due diligence. It gives you the time to do the due diligence as well with respect to this concern about the mineral rights.

You know, is there something there that needs to justify maybe even a higher price? There's a benefit here with respect to your freezing the value of the property on a 2002 appraisal. Our offer right now is already well significantly in excess of the current fair-market value as established by your appraisals.

We're putting another quarter of a million dollars on top of that, and you're preserving that value in a declining market for potentially a flexible closing date of either 2003 fiscal year, 2004.

We can work with the Commission on what makes sense, because you don't know what's going to happen in the future, and I'm trying to be sympathetic and understanding to kind of what you all are grappling with with respect to trying to manage and operate and guide this department.

We know there's lots of uncertainties, but we're at least willing here to say, We still have the capital reserve, but we need some certainty from our side; we need to be selected as your partner in this deal. We'll sign the contract, but we'll figure out the closing date ‑‑ if the closing date needed to be extended, you would have the option to do that, or we might have the option, but there will be some sort of incentive put in the contract about, Well, we need to postpone closing, because it's not just the right time for us to close.

Or for some reason we didn't have our due diligence established; we might even have to put some additional money on the table.

So our thought is to go ahead and pick somebody today; hopefully Mira Vista Development Corp. We'll sign that contract for the price that I just said that you hopefully had some briefing on about what that price would be, without disclosing it to the public.

We'll give you the option to terminate it at some date in the future if you feel like that's what you need to do because you don't have all the information you need right now.

But at least it preserves the work that's done; it preserves the value that you've already gone out into the competitive marketplace and achieved. It gives us some certainty that we can go to the City and negotiate our development contract with them. It allows things to kind of go forward, but it gives you the right, if you need to, to terminate the thing and say, We can't do this deal.

Now, the only last think I think would be fair in that situation, if you terminated the contract, is if we got all these costs that we're incurring, that somehow we would agree in the contract to specify what kind of costs could be reimbursed to us, because we're going to have a lot of costs in getting forward and trying to get to a closing date.

It's our desire to close, but we understand something may happen that you can't close, so we would like to have some provision in there about reimbursing us for some costs that we would all agree upon in the contract.

And I guess, lastly, if it got terminated, we would like ‑‑ and I know I chastised this in the November meeting, about a right of first refusal for some reasonable period of time, to say, We kind of went with you all along the process, and if you're going to put it back on the market at some future date because you terminated the contract, we have a right of first refusal to match somebody's price for a reasonable period of time; maybe a 12-month period of time.

We think that's a reasonable process and a methodology whereby we put this issue to bed once and for all. You don't have to worry about the General Land Office taking this from you and selling it and putting it in the general coffers. But we've got something we both can work with going forward.

I'd be happy to answer any questions, but that's our thought process today, not really knowing what the mind of this Commission is.

Are there any questions I could answer?

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Well, first of all, again I want to thank you also for the efforts that you all have made, and agree with Commissioner Avila's comment that this has been a moving target, and it's been difficult for you all; it's been difficult for the Commission.

And to the extent that we've stressed everybody out in that respect, I think we all regret it, but I don't know how we would have avoided it, under the circumstances.

I should say, off the top, that I was probably the first Commissioner to suggest that this property was a surplus property that we ought to look at doing something with it that would be productive for the people of the state of Texas.

And in line with the long-range plans that we have that have been dictated to us or required by us by the Texas Legislature, it's clear that this piece of land is not ‑‑ does not meet the requirements of a park for an urban area and that the ‑‑ clearly the responsible thing for the Parks and Wildlife Department to do, in my mind, was to realize the greatest value that we could for the property and take those funds and purchase and develop a substantial-size property, in the neighborhood of 5000 acres or more, within the near vicinity of the population center of Tarrant County.

I think that some of the proposals that have been made, including those by yourself, have a lot to recommend them. They're attractive; they provide for some park development, too, which, certainly, the way the property is now, is not presented to the people.

But it's also true that ‑‑ well, first I should also add that personally went up and looked at the property and visited with some people that I know that are owners around the property.

Also, in the process of doing that, it came to my attention that there was oil and gas development in the area; there are several drilling rigs within sight of the property, even though they're several miles away.

I am a petroleum engineer, although somewhat technically obsolete, since it was ‑‑ my degree was obtained a number of years ago, but I do know that there is a potential value to the minerals that the Commission was not really aware of when all this discussion started.

So taking all those things into account and before concluding my statement, I also want to add that I do feel we've got a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers to maximize the value of the property, if we sell it, and we have a responsibility to our constituents to do the right thing with respect to it as a park.

And so taking all that into account, that's ‑‑ the primary reason that I made my comment about what I considered and still consider to be the ridiculous nature of the County's proposal ‑‑ I can't ‑‑ I couldn't have gone without having added that to my comments.

So having said all of that, in order to get it correct in the legal terminology, I've asked the staff to prepare a motion that's not going to be pleasant from your perspective, and I apologize for that, because I do know what all efforts that you all have made.

But I would also say this: What I'm concerned ‑‑ and you should not give up hope that something in the neighborhood of what you're talking about might still be possible in the relatively near future.

Therefore, I'd like to make the following motion: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission rejects all existing offers to acquire Eagle Mountain Lake State Park; rescinds the portion of its motion regarding Eagle Mountain Lake State Park made at the August and November 2002 meetings; directs the staff not accept any new proposals until directed to do so by the Commission.

The Executive Director is further directed to reevaluate the mineral and surface estate of Eagle Mountain Lake State Park in regard to value and future use of the property and report the findings to the Commission.

And again, to emphasize, I think this is the proper thing to do, in view of the potential greater value of the property, as evidenced by other properties that are for sale in the vicinity, and also particularly because of the mineral values that we were not aware of initially ‑‑

MR. NEZWORSKY: I understand, Commissioner.

COMMISSIONER ANGELO: I made the following motion.

COMMISSIONER HENRY: Second.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Opposed?

(No response.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: The motion carries.

MR. NEZWORSKY: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER AVILA: Madame Chairman, I have a comment.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Yes, Commissioner Avila.

COMMISSIONER AVILA: I think my fellow commissioners and some people in the audience know that, first of all, Commissioner Angelo and I are nearing the end of our six-year terms here, and in that six years I don't think we've disagreed on anything after discussion, but this is an issue in which there has been some measure of disagreement between Commissioner Angelo and myself.

And I think something the Commission will have to come to some sort of consensus, and that is, along in the process, you know, there is that group that believes that the property should go for the highest value we can attain and use that land ‑‑ use the proceeds from that sale to purchase 10,000 acres within a two-hour driving distance and so forth, which I surely support that.

But at the same time we've been saying that we wanted to be mindful of the local landowners and the constituents in Fort Worth and Tarrant County and try to preserve the land as a limited-use park or natural preserve and so forth.

And in doing that, there's been discussion which that doesn't equate to the highest sale. And so you can't have it both ways, Commissioners.

And so, Madame Chairman, that's an area which we just need to talk about in executive session and see where we're at in that, because if we go back out again, we will still have that as a big signal.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Do we have any further comment?

(No response.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: If not, is there any other business?

Jack?

MR. BAUER: We have a couple more items.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Okay. Sorry. I think we'll go ahead and finish up for the day.

Land Sale in Harris County.

MR. BAUER: Jack Bauer, Director of Land Conservation. This item is a discussion relating to the proposed sale of the Seabrook Marine Lab property in Harris County.

Following repeated flooding of the structure, the Department chose to move to a new location, abandoning the Seabrook office complex. The Commission approved the sale of the facility to the City of Seabrook at the November meeting of 2002.

The City has rejected our offer to sell the property to them. Staff recommends the Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the motion before you, authorizing the disposition of the property through the General Land Office open-bid process.

COMMISSIONER HENRY: So moved.

COMMISSIONER WATSON: Second.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: All in favor?

(A chorus of ayes.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Opposed?

(No response.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Motion carries.

Agenda item number 9: Land Donation - Harris County.

Mr. Hollingsworth, will you make your presentation.

Or are you going to do it?

MR. BAUER: Madame Chairman, we sent him home to save some travel money. I'll try to fill in for Ted.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: I think you could do that, Jack. Go ahead.

MR. BAUER: This item represents the executive session discussion yesterday relating to the donation of land to the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site in Harris County.

Expansion of the facility is recommended to preserve the battlefield where Texas won her independence from Mexico in 1836. Protection of remaining habitat and view sheds is also desirable.

Several small San Jacinto townsite tracts are available as donation from the San Jacinto Battlefield Association. Staff recommends the Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the motion before you authorizing the Department to accept these land donations.

I'd be happy to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Do we have any questions of Mr. Bauer?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I move approval.

COMMISSIONER WATSON: Second.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Second?

All in favor.

(A chorus of ayes.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Opposed?

(No response.)

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Motion carries.

Thank you, Jack.

Is there any other business, Mr. Cook?

MR. COOK: None.

CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Wonderful. I declare ourselves adjourned.

(Whereupon, at 12:30 p.m., the public hearing was concluded.)

_________________________________

Katharine Armstrong, Chairman

_________________________________

Ernest Angelo, Jr., Vice Chairman

_________________________________

John Avila, Jr., Member

_________________________________

Joseph B. C. Fitzsimons, Member

_________________________________

Alvin L. Henry, Member

_________________________________

Philip Montgomery, III, Member

________________________________

Donato D. Ramos, Member

________________________________

Kelly W. Rising, M.D., Member

________________________________

Mark E. Watson, Jr., Member

C E R T I F I C A T E

MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission

Public Hearing

LOCATION: Austin, Texas

DATE: April, 3, 2003

I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through, 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.

05/06/03

(Transcriber) (Date)

On the Record Reporting, Inc.

3307 Northland, Suite 315

Austin, Texas 78731


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