Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Annual Public Hearing
August 27, 2003Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 27th day of August, 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 2:00 p.m. to wit:
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION:
- Ernest Angelo, Jr., Midland, Texas, Vice-Chairman
- Joseph B.C. Fitzsimons, San Antonio, Texas
- Ned S. Holmes, Houston, 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
TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION
18TH ANNUAL PUBLIC HEARING
AUGUST 27, 2003
1. Ms. Dianne Wassenich, San Marcos River Foundation, 11 Tanglewood, San Marcos, TX 78666, Matter of Interest: Instream flow
2. Mr. Steve Ross, Texans Standing Tall, 611 S. Congress, Austin, TX 78704, Matter of Interest: Marketing in TPWD Publications
3. Mr. Edward S. Morrison, Battleship Texas-San Jacinto St. Park, 819 Wavecrest Lane, Houston, TX 77062, Matter of Interest: Recognition of volunteers at all parks for admission to park.
4. Mr. Jim Kolkhorst, Washington on the Brazos State Park Association, P.O. Box 1, Washington, TX 77880, Matter of Interest: Park staffing
5. Mr. Jim Haire, 5801 Regents Row, Tyler, TX 75703, Matter of Interest: Sponsorships
6. Mr. George Garner, Citizens of TX, 123 W. Hutchins, San Antonio, TX 78221, Matter of Interest: SB 155
7. Mr. Jim Murray, Zapata County Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 284, Falcon Hts., TX 78545, Matter of Interest: Falcon Hole
8. Mr. Jim Morrison, Artificial Reef Committee, 1717 Loop S. 200, Houston, TX, Matter of Interest: Artificial Reef
9. Mr. Dana Larson, 182 Lilac Ridge, Conroe, TX 77384, Matter of Interest: Galveston Causeway Artificial Reef
10. C.O. Smith—163 Great Frontier Dr., Georgetown, TX 78628, Matter of Interest: SB 1582 Trap and Transport deer (didn't speak)
11. Mr. Joe B. Parker, Jr., S & P Cattle Co., P.O. Box 206, Uvalde, TX 78802, Matter of Interest: Stocking hybrids in Lake Tawakoni
12. Mr. Robby Kinsey, Save Tawakoni Hybirds, P.O. Box 116, Wills Point, TX 75169, Matter of Interest: Stocking of hybrids in Tawakoni
13. Mr. Ed Parten, T.B.B.U. Smart, 1102 Lisa Lane, Kingwood, TX 77339, Matter of Interest: Fishing
14. Mr. L. W. Ranne, Freshwater Angler Association, 7880 Carr St., Dallas, TX 75221, Matter of Interest: Fishing
15. Mr. Carl Adkins, Fishermen, 1020 Thousand Oaks Loop, San Marcos, TX 78666, Matter of Interest: The state of Texas fishermen's concerns over the Inland Fisheries policy on stocking grass carp.
16. Mr. Michael Biggs, TBBU, 2925P Meadow Glenn, Fort Worth, TX 76116, Stocking of freshwater fish.
17. Mr. Sparky Anderson, SMART, 715 W. 23rd. St., Suite R—Austin, TX 78705, Matter of Interest: Habitat Protection—Inland Fisheries
18. Ms. Janice Bezanson, Texas Committee on Natural Resources, 601 Westlake Dr., Austin, TX 78746, Matter of Interest: Water, land conservation
19. Mr. Charles Draper, Steward of Nueces, 41609 Trail Crest Circle, Austin, TX 78735, Matter of Interest: Opposed to purchasing property for off-road use
20. Dimitry Patent, Longhorn Off road—1001 Quail Park Dr., Austin, TX 78758, Matter of Interest: TMTC acquisition of property in Uvalde County
21. Ms. Laura White, TMTC, 260 Mountain View Dr., Azle, TX 76020, Matter of Interest: Off road issues
22. John H. Rogers, Montell Creek Ranches, HCR 33, Box 652, Uvalde, TX 78801, Matter of Interest: Purchased land for (4) four wheelers in association to river hunting
23. Mr. George Rice, Jeeps of North Texas, 1004 Craig Dr., Mesquite, TX 75181, Matter of Interest: Purchasing property for off road use
24. Mr. Martin Powell, 13917 Maricella Lane, Pflugerville, TX 7866? (illegible), Matter of Interest: OHV Park in Uvalde
25. Gay Lynn Wilmet, Texas Brigades Youth Wildlife Leadership Camps, 401 Isom Rd., Suite 237, San Antonio, TX 78216, Matter of Interest: Texas Brigades
26. Blane Eikenhorst, Texas Brigades Youth Wildlife Leadership Camps, 401 Isom Rd., Suite 237, San Antonio, TX 78216, Matter of Interest: Texas Brigades
27. Matthew Gray, TYHP, 103 Snapper, Austin, TX 78734, Matter of Interest: Texas Youth Hunting Program
28. Mr. George Donnelly, San Jacinto Museum, Houston, TX, Matter of Interest: Master Plan
29. Terry Colley, Texas Historical Commission, P.O. Box 12276, Austin, TX 78701
30. Mr. Rob Fergus, 3359 E. Lake Austin, Blvd., Austin, TX 78703, Matter of Interest: Cat predation on wildlife
31. Ms. Susan Schaffel, 11105 Bexley Lane, Austin, TX 78739, Matter of Interest: Cat predation on wildlife
32. Mr. Ed Stuart, Village of Point Venture, 549 Venture Blvd., Point Venture, TX 78645, Matter of Interest: Deer Management
33. Mr. Tim Cook, Texas Bass Federation, 319 Pecan Dr., NE, McQueeney, TX 78123, Matter of Interest: Aquatic Vegetation Management
34. Mr. John Bird, Friends of Garner State Park, HCR 70, Box 599, Concan, TX 78838, Matter of Interest: Garner State Park Maintenance
35. Mr. Ellis Gilleland, Texas Animals, P.O. Box 9001, Austin, TX 78766, Parks and Wildlife Management
36. Mr. David K. Langford, TPWD Education and Outreach Advisory Committee, P.O. Box 1059, Comfort, TX 78013, Matter of Interest: Outreach, Education, and Interpretation (OEI) Strategic Plan
37. Mr. Daniel R. Aplin, Jr., Texas Crab Fisherman, 12342 FM 2918, Brazoria, TX 77422, Matter of Interest: Fishing Industry
38. Mr. William C. Triplett, M.D., Box 1517, Campwood, TX 78833, Matter of Interest: Dangers of County Na—- C—(illegible) and lack of sanitary facilities
39. James D. Crockett, Jr., DDS, 4721 Spellman Rd., Houston, TX 77035, Matter of Interest: Against lifting ban on river hunting
40. Mr. Tim Lewey, HCR 33, Box 565, Uvalde, TX 78801, Matter of Interest: River hunting
41. Ms. Diane Dooley, 717 CR 412, Uvalde, TX 78801, Matter of Interest: Hunting and rivers
42. Mr. Steven Evans, Stewards of the Nueces, HC 33, 587A, Uvalde, TX 78801, Matter of Interest: Hunting of state-owned streambeds (Uvalde, Zavala, and Dimmit Counties)
43. Mr. Jim Viglini, 5721 Windy Hollow, San Antonio, TX 78239/1511 CR 411 Montell, Uvalde County, Matter of Interest: Hunting in river beds
44. Ms. Denise Rogers, HC 33, Box 652, Uvalde, TX 78801, Matter of Interest: River hunting
45. Ms. Susanne L. Friday, Texas Hill Country River Region, 221 North Getty, Uvalde, TX 78801, Matter of Interest: River hunting, Uvalde County
46. Wright Friday, Box 1, Uvalde, TX 78802, Matter of Interest: Hunting on Nueces River
47. Mr. John Robinson, 6712 Northeast Dr., Austin, TX 78723, Matter of Interest: Firearms in riverbeds
48. Ms. Jewell Garwood, 8822 Pine Ridge, San Antonio, TX 78217, Matter of Interest: Riverbed hunting
49. Ms. Jeannie Dullnig, 4 Dorchester, Place, San Antonio, TX 78209, Matter of Interest: River hunting—opposed
50. Mr. William Hollingworth, 6706 Glencastle, San Antonio, TX 78242, Matter of Interest: Fences being close to river gate location—River hunting
51. Mr. John Shudde, 111 Bent Oak Trail, Uvalde, TX 78801, Matter of Interest: River hunting on Nueces
52. Ms. Cheryl Lowe, RR #1, Box 61-M, Knippa, TX 78870, Matter of Interest: Open hunting in rivers
53. Mr. Fred J. Wallace, Park Chalk Bluff, HC 33, Box 566, Uvalde, TX 78801, Matter of Interest: Hunting on river
54. Mr. Fred Mayer, P.O. Box 1074, Bellaire, TX 77402, Matter of Interest: Against hunting in river bed in Zavala, Uvalde, and Nueces Counties
55. Terry Crawford, Sheriff, 121 E. Nopal St., Uvalde, TX 78801, Matter of Interest: Hunting on rivers in Uvalde County
56. Mr. Peter B. Denney, Box 1035, Saginal, TX 78881, Matter of Interest: River hunting
57. Mr. Carl Hellums, 400 W. Benson, Uvalde, TX 78801, Matter of Interest: Opening rivers in Uvalde Co. for hunting
58. Mr. Charles Draper, 4609 Trail Crest Circle, Austin, TX 78735, Matter of Interest: Hunting Texas rivers
59. Mr. Rogers Hoyt, Jr., Hoyt Ranch, HC 34, #1051, Uvalde, TX 78801, Matter of Interest: Public hunting in state rivers-Uvalde and Zavala Counties
60. Jimmie V. Thurmond, Texas Wildlife Association-401 Isom Rd., San Antonio, TX 78216, Matter of Interest: Hunting
61. Mr. Kirby Brown, Texas Wildlife Association, 401 Isom Rd., San Antonio, TX 78216, Matter of Interest: Nueces River
62. Mr. Howard Johnson, 8607 Winding Walk, Austin, TX 78757, Matter of Interest: Hunting/Firearms in river beds
63. Mr. A. Federico Longoria, III, Ranch Santa Rosa, Uvalde County, Texas, Matter of Interest: Sunset legislation (Uvalde County) affecting hunting on navigable rivers
64. Pat Noble, 5217 Spicewood Springs, Austin, TX 78731, Matter of Interest: River hunting
65. Allan Bloxsom, 116 E. Anglin, Uvalde, TX 78801, Matter of Interest: River hunting
66. Gil Stoner, HC 33, 630, Uvalde, TX 78801, Matter of Interest: River hunting
67. Reagan Houston, 8700 Tesoro Dr. #340, San Antonio, TX 78217, Matter of Interest: Hunting in state owned river beds
68. Jesus Vigil, Texas Youth Hunting Program, Matter of Interest: TW
69. Mr. George Cofer, Annakle Ranch, Sabinal, TX 78881, Matter of Interest: River hunting-opposed
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: The Commission has been in recess with the Conservation Committee. Thank you. Turn on the mike. That will help. The Commission has been in recess for Executive Session with our Conservation Committee.
If there is no further business to come before that committee at this time, the Chair will declare the Conservation Committee adjourned, and then we'll now move to our public hearing and convene that meeting.
And at this point, I'd like to ask Mr. Cook if he'd make a statement, please.
MR. COOK: Thank you, sir. A public meeting — a notice of this meeting containing all items on the 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 this action to be noted in the official record of this meeting.
An individual wishing to speak before the Parks and Wildlife Commission today must first fill out and sign a speaker registration form that's out here at the table by the outside door in the hallway.
Each person will be allowed to speak, one at a time, from the podium up front here when recognized by the Chairman. Speaking time will be limited to three minutes, due to the large number of people that we have here today. When your time is up, please resume your seat so that others may speak. If the Commissioners ask a question or discuss something among themselves or with you regarding your comment, that time will not be counted against you.
Any written documents that you have for the Commission should be given to the department staff at the table here. Either Carole or Michelle will deliver that information to the Chair.
The Chairman is in charge of this meeting, and will direct the order of the meeting, and recognize the people to be heard. When your name is called, please come to the podium, state your name and who you represent, if anyone other than yourself.
I'm going to run this handy-dandy little timer thing here that will help us with this three-minute thing. And I turned it on a while ago, so note that when it turns orange, you've got about a minute left. When it turns red, your time is up.
You may speak on any item within the jurisdiction of this Commission. Profanity, heckling, threatening, abusive language, shouting or any other disruptive or offensive behavior will be grounds for immediate ejection from the meeting, and possible arrest and criminal prosecution. Thank you, sir.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you, Mr. Cook. We certainly welcome all of you here. And I'm glad to see a large turnout. Believe it or not, we really do appreciate this opportunity for the public to come before the Commission and tell us what you're thinking about specific issues that have to do with Parks and Wildlife business.
Mr. McCarty, do you have the registrations? I believe we do have a speaker. All of you are distinguished, but we have one elected official who I guess is a little more distinguished. Representative Pickett is in the audience. Is that correct? Thank you for being here.
REP. PICKETT: You're welcome.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: In looking at the registrations here, I noticed pretty quickly that, no surprise, there is a lot of you folks here that want to talk about the situation regarding hunting in riverbeds. And in no way what I'm going to say is intended to inhibit you all from speaking.
We certainly would encourage you to go ahead
and let us know what you think about it. But I did want to make a little clarifying statement before we get started with the meeting.
First of all, the ban on hunting game animals, game birds and fur-bearing animals in state-owned riverbeds in Dimmit, Uvalde, and Zavala Counties would take a — the ban would be eliminated effective Monday, September 1.
And I understand from a lot of correspondence and a number of phone calls that many of you are concerned about the safety issues that will — you feel will exist when this ban is lifted.
I believe it's really critical to point out to you that the Parks and Wildlife Commission has no authority —
Still not working? — that's better, I'm sure. Okay.
Sorry about that. The Parks and Wildlife Commission has no authority to regulate the safety issues — human safety issues. This fact has been noted in 1971 by a Texas Attorney General's opinion, and it hasn't changed since that time.
In 2001, as required by law, Parks and Wildlife undertook a review of our rules. Because the agency had no authority to regulate human safety, the Commission approved the expiration of the ban on hunting in the riverbeds in the three counties mentioned.
Our only authority to close or open hunting in any county in Texas is if biological evidence indicates waste or depletion. We have no data to suggest that waste or depletion is caused by hunting in riverbeds in these counties, and therefore, we have no authority to close hunting in these counties, much less within the riverbeds of those counties.
So as a result, the notice of the ban's expiration was published in the Texas Register in June of 2002.
We'd also like to point out that the ban never prohibited the hunting of non-game animals, or the firing of guns up and down the riverbeds during any time of the year.
I'd also like to note that this agency does not prohibit hunting in any other state-owned riverbed, although some riverbeds have been closed to hunting by the Texas Legislature. Again, I'll — we'll appreciate your comments and any discussion that you may have on the subject.
And I would also add that if, in the end result, you determine that you would like to go before the Legislature, which ultimately is the only place that some of these concerns can be addressed effectively.
That as the Commission did with respect to the four-wheelers in the riverbeds that was addressed in this last session of the Legislature, the Commission took a lead in helping those who were concerned about that issue, bring the matter before the Legislature and bring about what I hope will turn out to be a good resolution of that problem.
And maybe we can make — certainly we can make the attempt, and I'm sure the Commission and the staff will be happy to work with those of you that want to do so, to address the concerns that you have with respect to this hunting and safety issue in the riverbeds.
With all of that preamble, we'll go ahead and begin an opportunity for you all to individually address the Commission. The procedure will be, I'll read two names, and if the first person would be — come to the microphone. And while that person is speaking, if the second person would be prepared to come forward so that we can move along as quickly as possible.
The first name that I have is Terry Colley, to be followed by George Donnelly.
MR. COLLEY: Good afternoon, Chairman Angelo, and members of the Parks and Wildlife Commission. I bring you greetings from the Texas Historical Commission, the state agency for historic preservation.
My name is Terry Colley. I'm the Deputy Executive Director of the Agency. And also I want to recognize Chairman Pickett.
Louis, good to see you over there. We want to give you our thanks and appreciation for the hard work that has gone on this past year, especially with your staff, with Bob Cook and Walt Dabney, Bill Dolman and Cynthia Brandimarte.
We feel like there has been a lot of progress that's been made this year. We were fortunate to have a number of your staff at our annual conference speaking about different aspects of history and historic sites, folks like Phil Hewett and Michael Strut and Lupita Berrera [phonetic]. We appreciate all that they did to make our conference as good as it was.
We have been seeing progress happening with our historic sites. A lot of that happens through your Historic Sites Advisory Committee, through David Woodcock, who is the Chairman of that committee.
We have had a lot of lively discussion. And one of the tools that we have developed through this Historic Sites Advisory Committee is a spreadsheet that tracks the progress of the Texas Cultural Heritage Plan, and what's been happening in these sites. And we thank you for working with us on that.
One of the latest things — in fact, as late as just last week, we're meeting with your staff on developing the historic context for the historic sites around our state. This is a tool that we're going to be able to use here, probably take us 12 months to get it in place.
But it will be a tool that we can use to evaluate the sites that we have within the state, both our agency and Parks and Wildlife, TxDOT, all these agencies will be able to use this. And it will be the result of a cooperative effort between our agencies.
We know that we still have a lot of work to do as far as these historic sites are concerned, making them as good as they can be. But again, on behalf of our Commission Chairman, John Nau, and the members of our Commission, we appreciate the work that's gone on. And I feel confident that our agencies will continue to work together, and these sites will be what the folks in Texas want them to be. So thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you for being here today. And the Commission appreciates the level of cooperation that's existed, especially in the last several years. I guess it hasn't always been that way, but we're glad to see it, and look forward to working with you.
MR. COLLEY: We are, too. Thank you, Chairman.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Following Mr. Donnelly, we have Joe Read.
MR. DONNELLY: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, friends, and the Commission. My purpose is twofold. One, I'm — first of all, I'm President of the San Jacinto Museum of History. The San Jacinto Museum is —
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Excuse me. If you might state your name just for the record. I ask everyone to do that, please.
MR. DONNELLY: Oh, of course. Of course. George Donnelly. Also joining me here is Frank Calhoun, a member of our board, who is going to make sure that I say the right things. I want to thank especially the outgoing Chair, Katharine, who did a spectacular job in supporting us, and Bob Cook as well, a tremendous job in supporting us.
Our other key interfaces are Walt Dabney who was here, Bill Dolman who is about to retire. We'll miss him terribly, as well as Jerry Hopkins who is our park manager with whom we have an outstanding relationship.
We're here also to enhance or to speed along the issue of the master plan for the battleground, and especially the site selection for the new museum, which will be a private-sector fundraising of about $30 million.
The purpose of that is that we've worked very closely with all of you on the master plan. We've worked very closely on Proposition 8, getting that passed. We recognize the situation with the financial matters at the present time.
The new museum has a major capital campaign going forward. We have a statewide committee that is made up of all the living former Texas governors, as well as key members within the communities across the state. We're ready to go. The project manager that has been put on this assignment is working hard. We want to make sure that that's accelerated.
This is, without question, the most important historic site in the State of Texas and we want to enhance it. And I believe that we have done a tremendous amount of good to enhance the viewership and attendance, and more importantly as well, to enhance our relationships with Mexico, which before have not been all that great, but for reasons that Ned and Al and others know, we're working hard and effectively on that.
So again, our kudos to Bob Cook and to the organization. We look forward to working with the Commission, and we stand ready to get going on the new museum as quickly as possible. Thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you. Mr. Read will be followed by Robby Kinsey.
MR. READ: Okay. I'd like to say good evening to all you guys, and my name is Joe Read. I'm a fishing guide; I'm not a public speaker. I apologize for the language. But I've been a fishing guide on Lake Tawakoni and Lake Fork, oh, since, 1988. It's my living. It's where I've made my living solely since then.
And just to give you a little background. Does any of you guys know where Lake Tawakoni is? One? It's about a 37,000 impoundment just southwest of Lake Fork. It's really known for hybrids and stripers right now. It was stocked with hybrids and stripers in the lake back in the early '70s, one of the first lakes that got hybrids and stripers both in it.
The reason I'm here is Parks and Wildlife, I know with their budget problem and everything, they're cutting out the hybrid program on Tawakoni and they're going to keep stocking stripers but no hybrids.
Everyone in our area, and if you talk to any of the fishermen, they had rather come catch the hybrids instead of the stripers. In fact, it really doesn't — the hybrid is much more fighting fish, and hot-water lakes like Tawakoni and Shadow Lake, the stripers don't do nearly as well as the hybrids.
The hybrids will take the heat. They put — stock them in the hot-water lakes and such as that. And we're just — we're not really asking for anything out of the ordinary. We'd just like to keep the hybrids in our lake also. Plus, we'd like, you know, the stripers too.
And I want to thank Parks and Wildlife and all of you all for doing such a good job that you already have. I realize that I wouldn't have been a fishing guide for this many years if it hadn't been for the tremendous job that Parks and Wildlife has already done.
We have a — we formed an organization called Save Tawakoni Hybrids. And we're trying to raise money to stock the hybrids in our lake ourself. We've got a special permit from Parks and Wildlife. They said if we could raise the money, that they would let us put them in there.
And at first we were under the impression that we could buy these fish for a little bit, just a few cents. And — but they're — I've contacted the hatcheries all over the state, and a lot of the other states. They're going to run us about 15 cents apiece.
We're looking to raise over $15,000 to try to put 100,000 hybrids in the lake. We have a lot of businesses that are donating. We have a — like I say, we're having a benefit Sandbass Tournament, and each one of you all got an entry form. I wish you all would show up; we need all the help we can get. Thank you all for your time.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you. The next — Bobby Kinsey, you'll be followed by, I believe, it's Lee Ranne.
If I get a name mispronounced, I apologize for it.
MR. KINSEY: Robby Kinsey. I'm here with Joe, also. I'm not a public speaker, and I want to thank the Commission for having this public hearing, and I appreciate each and everything that you all do for us.
Not only am I with Save the Hybrids, helping with Joe, but I also own Holiday Marina there on Lake Tawakoni. I would like to mention to you all also it's very important to my business.
I was fortunate to purchase it in the fall of '96. I had a — probably had eight out of every ten customers comes into my store, they come there to fish for hybrids or the stripers, mainly hybrids.
I know by the experience that I've had on the lake that the hybrids will stay in the lake. They are a better fighter. They will handle the environment a lot better than a striper will.
We've had — I've had a lot of the biologists come up there, and they'll tell me — you tell your customers in the heat, they catch the striper, keep him. They catch five legal ones, to keep them, or they're going to die. They hybrids — you can catch it and turn it loose, it will be fine.
I also know that the economic impact of not having a hybrid in our lake — what it's going to do. And I say out of — eight out of every ten customers of mine comes in, they're not going to be there. I know what it's going to do to my marina. I know what it's going to do to the other marinas.
I also know what it's going to do to the economic area. I know what it's going to do to Parks and Wildlife, because those eight people won't be coming in. I thank you all very, very much from the bottom of my heart for the opportunity to be able to come up here, the opportunity to serve on the Licensing Committee, when you changed our license machine. I appreciate that opportunity.
I guess I can't say enough of these things. Bottom line, we're here to work with you all any way we can, and ask a favor of you all, to help us keep our hybrids. If we all need boats to put them in there, we'll take them out to the middle of the lake. We can get the boats.
We want you all to come to our Sandbass Tournament. And I promise you're going to have some good fish to eat. I know I haven't took my three minutes, but that's all I can say, and I appreciate it.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you. Lee Ranne and then Carl Adkins.
MR. RANNE: I hope that was Leonard Ranne, L.W. Ranne? R-A-N-N-E?
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Well, I can't tell it.
MR. RANNE: I'm sorry, my writing. Gentlemen, I came here to say thank you. I think we've had an exciting year. There is a lot of things that I'm interested in and geared to is going on. San Marcos, the River Center — I think that has the potential of being one of the most beautiful underwater gardens there is. A wonderful education on rivers and aquifers.
At the Fishing Center at Athens we had over 1,800 kids there with our Junior Angler Adventure. We was able to get three young high school graduates to help with the volunteers down there. I understand those 1,800 kids had like a 76 percent increase in knowledge, just being there at that one thing.
Some things that I'm real interested in would be subaquatic vegetation. We all know that aquatic habitats is important to our fisheries. We've got a noxious weed program here. If we let those noxious weeds take over, then the only thing left to do is put something in there that will control that. In doing so, it destroys our native vegetation, and in turn it affects the fisheries.
So maybe a study in that thing in the future would be something we could look at. I don't know. I can rant along here for about an hour and a half. But you all have done an excellent job, I think, with that Freshwater Fishery stamp we had. I hope that that will settle our problem with our hatcheries. We will be able to produce enough fish to stock to satisfy everybody in the state.
I can't think of anything to say right now. But I got a whole list of stuff I wanted to talk about. But I'll catch you all later on. I appreciate it, gentlemen. Thank you. I think you've all done a wonderful job.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: We appreciate all your support.
Carl Adkins? Ed Parten to follow.
MR. ADKINS: I'm Carl Adkins. I'm here as a concerned fisherman. And I'm concerned because of the rift that I see growing between the Texas Parks and Wildlife Inland Fisheries Division and Bass Fishing.
The rift has caused Inland Fisheries — it's because of the Inlands Fisheries' management policy on grass carp and the massive stocking of those in so many of our lakes.
My first point is that bass — fishermen are important. They're important as a customer to the inland fisheries, both financially and quantitatively. I think we'll all concede this point by the number of fishing licenses sold to bass fishermen, the amount of equipment they buy, the amount that's given back from their sales of equipment by the Fish Restoration Act to the federal government, and through the amount of license.
Here is my proof that there is a rift. And this really, really bothers me, because I've been a fan of Texas Parks and Wildlife for so long.
Last winter, two of the major fishing organizations in the state, of bass fishermen — the Texas Association of Bass Clubs and the B.A.S.S. State Federation, through an organization called SMART, filed a lawsuit against the Texas Parks and Wildlife over the policies of the Inland Fisheries Division of stocking grass carp in Lake Austin.
We had fishermen suing the Texas Parks and Wildlife. Something is broken, and it needs to be fixed. These organizations are not political organizations; they don't have deep political pockets. The lawsuit didn't go very far, and was solved, but mainly because of lack of funds. It didn't stop the major problems, bass fishermen being forced to have a lawsuit against Texas Parks and Wildlife.
Why do I come to you? Because you are the only hope that I feel like is left. Inland Fisheries is showing no indication whatsoever that they want to change any of their policies, and they are showing no indication that they are really concerned about the attitude of the bass fishermen throughout the State of Texas.
The bass fishermen in the State of Texas feel like the grass carp policy is flawed. And it also feels like no one is listening. You can do something about it; put a moratorium on the use of grass carp. Have hearings from fishermen all over the state, and from experts from this state and other states on this.
You are businessmen; you know what happens to a business when it starts losing the support of some of its best customers. Thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you.
Ed Parten. Michael Biggs.
MR. PARTEN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. My name is Ed Parten. I'm President of SMART, and Texas Black Bass, Unlimited, one of the organizations that the previous speaker mentioned.
I'm not sure what I'm doing here today, because the last couple of times I felt that my trip was in vain. I felt like what I had to say fell on deaf ears. We have worked diligently with the Commissions in years past, since the '70s. We've raised money to donate for habitat enhancement programs, for marking river channels, to help build the fish hatchery in Athens.
We've done multiple things over the years, working with Parks and Wildlife. But our organization and our membership feels that there is a lack of concern with Inland Fisheries, and the things that you're doing. We see a horrible decline in people that are spending monies. Your own report that came out in April of this year indicated that fishing, statewide, had dropped from $6.8 billion to $4.3 billion. That's a $2-and-a-half billion drop, gentlemen, in the economics for the State of Texas. I feel that other signs are very evident that there is a lack of concern, because people cannot go out and catch fish like they did just a few years ago. Fishing license sales are down; your own record indicates that. Boat registrations are down. We have a state bass record that is 12 years old. For a period of time we had, on a regular basis, a new state record being weighed in on — almost every few months. And here we have a record that's 12 years old. We have lake records that are over 25 years old, the second-largest lake in the State of Texas, the bass record stands almost 26 years.
I feel that there are things that needs to be done that are positive. We supported and worked toward supporting the fee increases that was brought about by the Commission and Parks and Wildlife.
We supported the new $5 fishing stamp that will go into effect next September 2004. I feel that with our support and all that we're doing, we need something in return for the dollars that we've spent, and the different projects that we've been involved with.
We see very little — and tournament weights are half of what they were three or four years ago. Big fish that are weighed in in our tournaments are half the size that they were just a few years ago.
I feel that with your help, and Inland Fisheries and our Executive Director, we can — and we're willing to work with you. We're willing to try to make a difference to see fishing back to the status of where it was just a few years ago. Thank you, sir.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you.
Michael Biggs, Janice Bezanson.
MR. BIGGS: Mr. Chair, distinguished members of the Board, Mr. Cook, we had a meeting earlier this year. My name is Michael Biggs, for the record. I'm sorry.
We had a meeting down in Athens, Texas, and we had the — Mr. Cook and Inland Fisheries Director had the lead at that time. And stuff — and some of the issues that we were bringing up at that time — we had to really talk to them. And this is something that we need to bring to the board.
I'm a tournament angler. And I teach the youth here in the State of Texas how to fish. I cannot go and take a child out to an area lake, whether it be Lake Benbrook, Caddo Mills, or anything like that, and take them out there and say, now we're going to fish, and they get bit one time that whole day.
We as a group — we need to do something about this. I opened up my Bassmaster's magazine. Started reading an article. First thing it says, we're going to stock Florida strain bass in the lakes that got hit and devastated by the Golden Algae bloom.
It is stated that the Florida strain bass bite less than a northern strain bass or a Kentucky. Why can we not stock these fish in our lake? Why can we not put more of the northern strain in the lakes? They say they're doing it, but statistically, even on y'all's records, through y'all's website, it states that more Floridas are being stocked than the actual northern strain bass.
I would like to be able to take every one of these kids that I teach out there to be able to catch a fish, and to enjoy everything I did growing up, because I had a great time when I was growing up. I could go out to the lake, and I could catch fish all day long. I can't even do that, and I'm a professional.
I cannot go out to these lakes now and keep — and catch a five-limit stringer every time I go out fishing. But when I was a kid, I could do it. Please, could you all really take this in consideration, because this is something that — it's not me.
I'm not thinking about me. I'm thinking about that little one. I don't have kids of my own. I'm teaching y'all's kids, y'all's grandkids, people that you might know. I'm teaching these kids how to do this.
And I would like the board to really take this in consideration, and Mr. Cook, take this in consideration as we stock these lakes, to put something more into these lakes that we can get out of it, and so can the youth of the state of Texas. Thank you very much for your time. I appreciate it.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you.
Janice Bezanson. Sparky Anderson will be next.
MS. BEZANSON: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, I'm Janice Bezanson. I'm the Executive Director of Texas Committee on Natural Resources, TCONR, as we call it, from the acronym. We are a 35-year-old conservation organization, and for the last six years have been the state affiliate of the National Wildlife Federation.
I know that this is not a real popular time to be talking about anything that costs money, but — with all the budget crunches we're dealing with, but I still have to bring out the issue of land acquisition, because it is one that is vitally important to my members and to Texans all over the state.
Our population is growing rapidly. The Land and Water Conservation Plan put together by Parks and Wildlife makes it very clear that the number of state parks, state natural areas, state wildlife management areas that we have today is not going to be adequate to serve the public as our population grows.
And the only way we're going to head off real problems and tremendous strain to those resources, and overuse of those resources is to have an aggressive program to acquire more land that is owned by the state.
The other issue that I think is facing us the most — our major issue is water, water development, water diversion. With the TCEQ deciding that they do not have authority to leave water instreams for environmental water, for fish, for wildlife that lives along the banks, for the bays and estuaries downtown, downstream, we don't really have a mechanism now to protect our fisheries.
We don't have a mechanism to protect our riparian zones, and we don't have a mechanism to protect our bays and estuaries.
You, as Commissioners, have tremendous capacity to have influence in this area. Even if you don't have a specific decision-making or permitting authority, what you all say on this issue, how big an issue you make water, is going to make a lot of difference in the decisions that are made by the Legislature, by state agencies, by — even by federal agencies.
So I'm basically here to just bring to your attention land acquisition and water instream flow protection as the major issues that are of concern to my members. Thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you.
Sparky Anderson, followed by Jim Murray.
MR. ANDERSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commission members, and Mr. Cook. My name is Sparky Anderson. I'm now the Executive Director of SMART, which stands for Sensible Management of Aquatic Resources Team. Some of you have heard me testify on behalf of Clean Water Action. And I've recently come aboard with SMART as its new executive director.
As you've heard, there is obviously still a growing concern about aquatic vegetation management in our state. But in particular, I'd like to make you aware of three programs I think we can get a head start on to help solve some of the problems that we're having with aquatic vegetation management.
The first is under the Clean Water Act. TCEQ, two-and-a-half years ago, recognized that we have a problem with our permitting program for water discharges in our state, and not addressing aquatic habitat as a thing to protect in the water column.
In most cases, they've been thinking about protecting the water chemistry. Well, I'm happy to say that they have come up with a plan, a program that they want to put in place that will start addressing water pollution and its impact to aquatic habitat.
That program, unfortunately, is still awaiting approval by EPA. It might be helpful for the Commission to write a letter to the EPA and urge them to pass this very important measure.
The second is under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services. They are getting ready to launch a new aquatic habitat management project. This will be a national project, but the focus will begin in the South, the southeastern states.
I would encourage staff, by the direction of the Commission, actively engage in this program, and take advantage of the opportunities, which may include federal funding.
The third is the recent Act by the Texas Legislature, the passage of the $5 Freshwater stamp. As you've heard, that stamp did get approved, and it will be used to help the fisheries.
But there is also a second stamp that was approved with that Act, and that includes a voluntary $5 stamp that everybody can buy. And the monies from that stamp would be earmarked specifically for habitat protection and enhancement. It's one thing to grow the fish in the hatchery. It's a second thing to give them a fighting chance to survive, and to turn into that lunker that we all desire.
We'd encourage you to get behind the promotion of that voluntary stamp. Obviously the $5 Freshwater Stamp everyone is going to have to buy. But the voluntary stamp, once that program begins next year, will be a great use for helping to protect habitats.
We don't want to end up in the courtroom having to deal with nuisance vegetation and the management procedures. We'd rather prevent these problems in the first place. These are three programs I think you and your staff ought to get behind.
We also look forward to working with you on other innovative programs. Thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you.
MR. MURRAY: Good afternoon, Gentlemen. My name is Jim Murray. Evidently somebody is screening the list of the order that they're speaking, because I registered under as the Zapata County Chamber of Commerce, and Falcon Lake, which had nothing to do with these guys right ahead of me, but I got lumped in with them. But I do agree with them.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: There was no nefarious scheme involved.
MR. MURRAY: I promise you, you've got more trust in them than I do, Commissioner Angelo. The — I'm a fishing guide on Falcon Lake. I'm also the member — a director in the Zapata County Chamber of Commerce.
I came up here last year, and I looked all of you in the eye, except for three new ones. And I got nods, and I felt I got the impression that you all were going to do something to help our situation down there.
Exactly one year later, other than a pittance stocking of black bass, absolutely nothing has happened. Mr. Ramos has been appointed the head of a task force down there that hasn't met since last December.
I know that water would help us as much as anything. But even at 40-something feet low, we still have a very large lake down there. We have absolutely no legal facilities on the lake. What I'm talking about, we do not have a boat ramp. If that was out here in west Austin, you all would have a riot up here.
I mean, this is pitiful. And this didn't come up the last year. This has been going on seven or eight years we've been asking Parks and Wildlife to come build us a ramp in our own state park down there.
I mean, this is the last time I'm coming up here. I'm going to start donating guide trips, putting my time and money into my local politicians, because one of Parks and Wildlife guys told me that they're only accountable to the governor or the State Legislature.
I've spent my whole adult life working with them, and they have done nothing down there. They are obsessed with putting grass carp and poison in our lakes. And I mean, we've got a big, beautiful lake down there, and you can't even launch a big boat on it. I'm a little more forceful than I was last year. But I'm asking for y'all's help.
I mean, I don't want to give Zaffirini all my extra cash to get her to start calling these guys. But I mean, do you get where I'm coming from? I mean, we don't have boat ramps. We got two species of fish that have ceased to exist in Falcon Lake. Right this minute there's probably two dozen illegal Mexican gillnets in the lake, and you can't find a warden on there, unless he's checking your boat registration.
Help us out, and I'll help you. You can ask your biggest ally, if I hadn't helped you for 20 years. But this year, you lost me. Thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Well, thank you, and I think you've made your point. That's — we'll look into it.
Diane Wassenich. And I'm sorry, I forgot to mention that one, followed by C.O. Smith.
MS. WASSENICH: It's okay. I respond quickly. My name is Diane Wassenich. I'm the Executive Director of the San Marcos River Foundation. And I'm here today to thank you all for everything you've done to make water an important issue this year.
I know some of you, your chair, and Mr. Fitzsimons have worked very hard on this issue, and I'm sure others of you have as well. And you know as well as I do, but I'm going to take the opportunity to say that we believe that many Texas rivers are over-appropriated by the admission of TCEQ Water Rights Division themselves, because of new studies that have been completed in recent years.
And since we realize that nothing was going to happen in time, our group did apply for a water right to try to save the Guadalupe Estuary. We do have the support of 30 groups of Texans that totalled to around 150,000 Texans, in this effort, because we all realize it's an emergency.
Our permit, as you know, was denied in March, but we continued to work through the legal system, because we believe that our effort is all that stands between the end of the health and productivity of the Guadalupe Estuary, and that's why we're doing what we're doing.
I want to thank you all for what you've done thus far to make this issue apparent and visible. And I hope that as new commissioners come on, you will explain to them what you've learned in the last few years about this issue, because we think it is life or death for the Guadalupe Estuary, and for others.
We also believe that, according to the National Wildlife Federation survey that was done by an unbiased, very well-known polling firm, that most Texans strongly believe that water should be reserved to keep our rivers flowing and our estuaries healthy.
And so you have the support of all of — almost all of Texas behind you when you do try to do your best to keep our rivers flowing and to keep Texas Parks and Wildlife a wildlife agency, and not just a parks agency, because if we have no water, we'll have no wildlife. Thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you.
C.O. Smith, followed by Ed Stuart. Mr. Smith? Ed Stuart, followed by John Bird.
MR. STUART: My name is Ed Stuart, and I'm the Animal Control Officer for Point Venture, Texas. Mr. Chairman, distinguished members, my issues aren't as big as the other fellows, but we're a small village with a big deer problem.
The surplus deer in our area — just for your information, Point Venture is located just opposite of Lakeway, on the eastern side of Lake Travis. I'm here to ask you for some better guidance on how to manage the surplus deer issue that we have.
What are the issues involved? Well, I hear that it's a safety issue. What's the safety issue? There was one person with a car accident, one school bus full of kids, one death.
What's a lethal — what's a lethal solution? In a small community, if you tried to do a lethal solution, you have to worry about public safety. You have to worry about accidents. And things will happen.
What about insurance? As a member of the City Council in Point Venture, as well as being animal control officer, I have to look at these issues from a people safety point of view.
I submit to you that your Texas Parks and Wildlife — Wildlife section says — you'll forgive the pun, but the buck stops here. So if you could give us better guidance, I'd appreciate it. Thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Mr. Stuart, are you familiar with the item that's on our agenda tomorrow, to discuss the deer issue?
MR. STUART: That's why I'm here. Uh-huh.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Will you be able to come tomorrow and address that?
MR. STUART: You bet.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Fine, thank you.
John Bird, followed by Ellis Gilleland.
MR. BIRD: Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, my name is John Bird from the Friends of Garner State Park. At Garner State Park, there is a need to make repairs to the riverbank behind our historical pavilion building.
This was due to damages from the flood in 1998, and also the flood of last year. Last year was a 500-year flood. The Friends of Garner urges that action be taken to preserve this historical building and dance floor. This building and dance floor was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps back in the '30s and early '40s. We urge you to take action on this.
Also, the staffing at Garner State Park has fallen below acceptable levels. And by this, I mean that basic services are not being provided. And that's clean rest rooms, a park that's mowed and well-kept.
There are shifts at Garner with no law enforcement officer on duty, or any ranger in the park. And this is during the summer, during our peak periods. It's understandable in the off-season.
At times, even the fee booth — the collection booth, when people come in for day use in the park, is not staffed because there is not enough people to fill the jobs.
We also have a sewer line that needs to be replaced. And have inadequate staff or money to buy the materials to do that.
In conclusion, the gem of your state park system is in need of some repairs, and we also need adequate staffing at this park. Please consider this in your funding decisions as you move along through the process. Thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you.
Mr. Gilleland, followed by David Langford.
MR. GILLELAND: My name is Ellis Gilleland, and I'm speaking for myself and Texas Animals, an animal rights organization on the internet. I've given you a handout from The New York Times, an article, August 17, 2003.
The title of the article is — it's an article, The King Ranch is Facing Texas-Tall Challenges. And I was struck by the similarity between managing King Ranch and Parks and Wildlife. And King Ranch was up and running and successful before the Civil War, long before anyone in this room was born. And it will be up and running — still running after we're all dead and our bones have turned to dust.
The reason why is because their management can look over the horizon. Now, they didn't do it in one year, two years, five years. They did it for over 150 years. Now, that's what you very wealthy and esteemed gentlemen are being paid and appointed by the governor to do, to look over the horizon. And you're not doing it. You're not looking beyond the eight-foot fences that you can hunt — and your own self-interests.
You have to be visionary. I'm going to read a quote, one paragraph, a one — a line quote from the article which says — The New York Times article, "I see a day when nonconsumptive wildlife operations outstrip consumptive operations, but it ain't happening yet, said Bruce Thompson, King Ranch's director of security and wildlife."
That's the gist of what I'm about. That's the vision — the visionary aspect of their management. And that's what I'm asking you to aspire to. The last visionary and the only visionary that's ever sat on this board was Attorney Dinkins, and she quit last year. I know of no other visionary, or near-visionary.
Representative Allen filed a bill, I don't know if it will pass or not, giving the governor authority to reconstitute this Commission, throw everybody out and get new people. I don't know if it will pass.
If the King Ranch managers are not appointed in your place, or one or two, then I ask that you become and think like — and look over the next hill, the 40 or 50-year hill and become like King Ranch managers.
Forget the shoot/kill answers to all questions. The answer to all problems, broken bones, snake bite — cut taxes — cut the tax rate. The P&W corollary is shoot/kill. Please look over the hill. Thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: David Langford, followed by Daniel Aplin, Jr.
MR. LANGFORD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission. After that, I'd like to bring you a little good news. I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you today. I'm wearing a different hat. I am here representing the Education and Outreach Advisory Committee, particularly the Executive Committee of that committee, who is chaired by Dick Bartlett, who is recovering from surgery, the Honorable Susan Combs, Ag Commissioner, Ramona Bass, the vice chairman, Dr. Ron Howard from Texas A&M, Chris Castillo-Colmer [phonetic] from TEA, and myself.
Commissioner Henry, your dream is a reality. The strategic plan is done, and completed. I know it was a dream of yours, and it was also very much supported by Former Chairman — immediate Former Chairman Armstrong, and hopefully, by the new chair as well.
It's been over a year in the making. The Advisory Committee worked very hard on it. The staff task force worked very hard on it. Lydia Saldaña and Steve Hall, if they get one more email or phone call from me, are going to find a tall building to jump off of, I'm sure.
And the Parks and Wildlife staff executive leadership, up to and including Executive Director Bob Cook — we've all worked really hard for the last year. It — or actually, for over a year. It is scheduled to be implemented beginning September 1. Department-wide, here it is. It's a reality.
It is a fabulous plan, lots of work from lots of people. When you have the plan delivered to you in its final form, please cast a favorable eye on it and help us implement it into the years ahead. I thank you very much. I'd like to say in closing I don't know what's going to happen, Commissioner Rising, with your seat, or Commissioner Angelo, with your seat. But I have enjoyed working with you all for your term on the Commission. And I'll give you a little preview of the hunting and the rivers deal coming up also, before the red light comes on.
And that is, it's real simple. Treat it like you did all the rest of the state lands. Do the science. Issue the permits. And hang those that would violate it. Thank you very much.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Daniel Aplin, followed by Jim Morrison.
MR. APLIN: Good evening. My name is Daniel Aplin, Jr. I'm a third-generation commercial fisherman. I was — the first time I ever went on the water, I was six months old. My momma carried me.
The reason I'm here today is to talk to you all about you all's article that you all had in you all's magazine in 2001. The article was about the crab fishing industry, I am a commercial crab fisherman, and about the droughts affecting the crab fishing industry.
And nobody knew why the crab fishing industry, according to this article, was going down worse and worse year after year after year. Well, the reason it's been going down is we haven't had a hard freeze since 1989.
1989 was the last year. It's been 14 years. When you have a hard freeze, it kills fish. That's predators to crabs. It's not because of the crab fishermen catching all of the crabs. It's because we haven't had a hard freeze, and the drought.
What happens when you have a drought, your salinity stay high inside, and the saltwater predators come inside, and they consume the crab, shrimp, and what have you. That's what's causing it. Thank you. You have a good evening.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you.
Jim Morrison, followed by Edward Morrison.
MR. JIM MORRISON: Mr. Chairman, my name is Jim Morrison. I am Chairman of your Artificial Reef Advisory Committee. This is my 13th year as chairman, and I can tell you that the Offshore Artificial Reef Program is doing well.
In 2002, we had eleven rigs that we recycled into artificial reefs, and in 2003 it slipped to five. One of the more exciting things that we're working on, Chairman Armstrong, before she had left, had written the Maritime Administration for us to try to acquire the World War II aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Oriskany, which is now located in Beaumont, Texas.
And we want to keep it in Texas and place her offshore to create an underwater park memorial, and a tremendous fishing opportunity and tourist designation for the state.
We are still working on the Texas Clipper. We're making progress on that. We've had a little problem. Coastal Fisheries has some EPA issues that they're working through. And I understand that we're making some progress there.
We've had some controversy this year over the Galveston Causeway. Many people would like to see the Galveston Causeway recycled into an artificial reef offshore, and create a tremendous snapper habitat right off of Galveston.
We've worked strongly with TxDOT to try and overcome some hurdles. We've made progress. We haven't finished as well as some of the people in the public wanted to.
I want to, at this time, take an opportunity to thank Hal Osburn, who I'm going to miss. Hal and I have been working on this program since '89. And it's in good hands with Paul Hammerschmidt. But to have someone like him, who started with us when Senator Brown passed the bill, and worked through all these issues — political issues, problems for 12 years which I won't bore you with now, but — and we sure will miss him. I'm sure glad we have Mr. McCarty still around, former Coastal Fisheries Director.
When you fill that position, I sure would — you all — Bob, when you look at it, is to take a look at someone who supports the Artificial Reef Committee. I'm available to speak to any of you at any time on this issue. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you. Edward Morrison, and Jim Kolkhorst to follow.
MR. EDWARD MORRISON: Gentlemen, I'm Edward Morrison, and I'm deputy leader of the First Texas Volunteers. And we work on the Battleship Texas. We've put in thousands of hours working on that thing for preservation, restoration and presentation to the public as a ship.
I myself have about 7,500 hours of that behind me. I've been working on it for 17 years. We're — we just do this in support of Parks and Wildlife organization down there just because we love the work. We love to see the ship, even more popular than it is now.
What we've — what I've been asked to talk about is something that some of us have been thinking of. I myself have had the courtesy extended to me by some other parks. If I go to some place and identify myself, a lot of people will let me come in free, and see their park.
This — there is no uniform policy in Parks and Wildlife to make that the case. And I'd like to recommend that we formulate such a policy. I might say that we could just have a formulated uniform policy for recognition of any individual of volunteer status as a member — a non-paid member of Parks and Wildlife, and have that set up for us as we come in.
I'd like to see that happen throughout Parks and Wildlife, among all the parks, so that we could all take part in something like this on a uniform sort of basis.
That's my recommendation, and I don't have anything to bitch about.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: We thank you for all you've done. And I'm certain that will be looked into. Thank you.
Jim Haire, followed by Steve Ross.
MR. KOLKHORST: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, my name is Jim Kolkhorst, and I'm the president of the Washington on the Brazos State Park Association.
Our association has been affiliated with Washington on the Brazos for more than 60 years. It's one of the oldest fringe groups, if not the oldest in the state. I have with me today Tom Skaggs, a 27-year veteran of the Parks and Wildlife, and one of the finest rangers in Texas.
Washington on the Brazos is a sacred site in the history of the State of Texas, as the site of the signing of the Texas Declaration of Independence, and also the home of the first President of the Republic of Texas, Anson Jones.
Over the course of the last seven years, the state has invested over $7 million of our taxpayers' money in this wonderful and worthy site, with new visitors facilities, and the opening of the Barrington Living History Farm.
Because of budget issues, position losses due to hiring freezes, and delayed rehiring, some of our facilities have been short-staffed since opening, only allowing Barrington Living History Farm to be open five days a week.
A lot of the significant investments that the state has made in these facilities, I would ask that the Commission please consider allowing WOB — Washington on the Brazos, to hire the two positions that we are short, so that the public, when they come to our site, the consumers, will have the type of experience that I know the state intended for them to have when they came to Washington on the Brazos, the birthplace of Texas.
Thank you so much for your time and your energy dedicated to Parks and Wildlife, and also to Washington on the Brazos.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you.
Jim Haire, followed by Steve Ross.
MR. HAIRE: I'm Jim Haire from Tyler. I appreciate this opportunity. Anheuser-Busch has an unusual level of influence at the department. It's well-documented. The Houston Chronicle told in detail how Anheuser-Busch objected to how the department addressed drinking and boating in a safety campaign, and had the department make changes.
Anheuser-Busch has also been allowed to advertise alcohol at the department's youth-oriented Wildlife Expo, in spite of the department policy against it.
Here's some parts of the pattern of how the alcohol relationship appears to be affecting Texas boaters. See if you agree that the department may be increasing the risk of death and injury to the very people it's supposed to be protecting. Number one, the department provided Texas boaters a chart showing how much alcohol they could drink and still boat.
Number two, the department fails to inform Texans of the exaggerated effect of alcohol on boaters and indicates to boaters that the effect from alcohol is the same in boats as in cars.
Number three, a department-related beer ad illustrated the fun of drinking and boating by just using a designated driver. The ad ignored research that shows that the designated driver strategy is not safe in boating, because drinking passengers more easily fall overboard and drown.
Number four, three Texans were killed in three separate alcohol-related boat crashes on one weekend on one Dallas-area lake. The department did not issue a press release on the deaths, which included a six-year-old, girl, but afterwards, the department did issue a press release about the department's concern that Texas shrimp may someday catch a virus.
The department was later asked in a Dallas boating article if Texas is a dangerous boating state. But the department again chose not to mention the alcohol deaths, and instead told Dallas boaters that Texas is a safe-boating state.
Number five, Texas recently became number one in the nation in boating deaths. But again, no press release from the department.
A conflict of interest clearly exists. The department's failure to fully warn the public of the alcohol-related dangers on our waterways illustrates the seriousness of that conflict of interest.
And finally, the department has now expanded its beer advertising into our public schools, even though alcohol kills five times the number of Texas kids as all other illegal drugs combined. The department is now reaching more kids with beer ads than with fishing events.
Sunset's Senate Bill 305 clearly intends for the department to provide copies of its publications free of beer ads for youth audiences. However, the department has indicated in writing that Senate Bill 305 does not stop the department from advertising alcohol in our public schools.
In closing, this Commission needs to stand up to Anheuser-Busch and their lobbyists. And there's letters in your file documenting lobbyists are involved, and you need to do what's right for Texas boaters, Texas children, and your employees. Thanks very much.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you.
Steve Ross, followed by Susan Schaffel.
MR. ROSS: Good afternoon, Commissioners. I am Steve Ross. I am here representing Texans Standing Tall, the statewide coalition to reduce underage drinking, specifically, its president, Janet Taylor, who could not be here today, and asked to be represented, and just to give these remarks.
First of all, Texans Standing Tall would like to thank the Commission for responding to Senate Bill 305, passed in the 77th Legislature, which prohibited the advertisement that promoted the sale of tobacco in the publications sponsored or published by the department.
The bill also mandated that the Commission shall adopt rules regarding the type of advertising appropriate for youth. Now, in the 1999/2000 Outdoor Annual, 40 percent of the ads were for alcohol and tobacco.
By 2001 and 2002, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Outdoor Annual contained just five alcohol ads. The recently-released 2003/2004 Outdoor Annual is totally devoid of alcohol or tobacco ads, a first since 1995.
We applaud the Commission for making over 3.1 million fishing and hunting booklets available that are alcohol and tobacco-free. This is especially important, because the Texas Parks and Wildlife figures show that 40 percent of these booklets go into the hands of youth 18 or younger.
Our beautiful Texas parks and the great diversity of wildlife are our second-greatest resource in this state. Our children are our first. Helping to reduce alcohol marketing to children reduces the cost of underage drinking in our state.
Last year, 615 young Texans were lost to alcohol-related deaths. Again, that's five times more than all of the other drugs put together. The first age of use in this state is 12. And the cost of underage drinking is pegged at over $4.5 billion a year to this state.
The members of Texans Standing Tall again thank the Commission for its work. However, we remain concerned that alcohol product ads are still in some Parks and Wildlife publications, specifically even the August 2003 issue of the Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine contains a complete full ad for Budweiser, a product of Anheuser-Busch.
Outdoor activities, such as hunting and fishing, are family-oriented activities. And we thank the Commission for its work in preserving the land, while also trying to protect the youth from underage marketing. Thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you.
Susan Schaffel, followed by James Crockett, Jr.
MS. SCHAFFEL: Good afternoon. My name is Susan Schaffel. On May 30, 2003, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission unanimously passed a policy to protect native wildlife from predation, disease, and other impacts presented by feral and free-roaming cats.
Conservation groups, federal and state agencies, and wildlife rehabilitators supporting this proposal included the American Bird Conservancy, Defenders of Wildlife, National Audubon Society, Florida Audubon Society, Florida Wildlife Federation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Florida Animal Control Association, and the USDA. And this list just names a few.
In passing the policy, the Commissioners took a courageous and important step in protecting migratory songbirds, shore birds, ground-nesting birds, as well as rare endangered native mammals from stray and feral cats.
Florida set an example for other state wildlife agencies to follow. The Commissioners pledged the cats will be removed from state lands in the most humane way possible, and expressed a willingness to work with all involved.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission's chief responsibility is the adoption of policies and rules, and to carry out all programs of the Parks and Wildlife Department, and to protect native wildlife in Texas.
It is no secret in your agency that cat predation is of major concern. While there are numerous other issues which contribute to the decline in bird populations, cat predation on wildlife has gone mostly unaddressed.
In the City of Austin alone, just for example, there are about 100,000 free-roaming cats, many which prey on wildlife daily. My understanding is that Texas Parks and Wildlife has concerns about feral and free-roaming cat colonies in suburban and rural areas.
Free-roaming cats add significant predation pressure on native wildlife, in addition to that by our natural predators. Your own agency has printed a brochure in 1997, Cats and Wildlife, a Conservation Dilemma, which shows you are completely aware regarding the importance of this issue.
There is clear scientific evidence that supports these predation figures. And if you would like to see Florida's 30-page research report, I will be glad to send each of you an email, which will direct you to the study on line.
Today I have a copy of the Florida policy and other studies on cat predation. I am here today asking this Commission to implement a policy similar to Florida, and uphold your duty to protect our native species from non-native predators. Thank you for your time.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you. Dr. Crockett, followed by Tim — I believe it's Lucy.
MR. CROCKETT: Hello. My name is James Crockett. I have some issues I'd like to express concerning the lifting of the hunting ban on the riverbeds of Dimmit, Uvalde and Zavala Counties.
This ban has been in effect for about 40 years. I believe this issue warrants in-depth studies and current game surveys before lifting this ban. I am also aware that several state legislators are deeply concerned with your actions.
Our law enforcement officials and our courts will be greatly overwhelmed. With current budget restrictions, I don't think we will be getting the needed game wardens to patrol these riverbeds.
I recently had my property — river property boundary surveyed. I invited the local sheriff, who is here, Terry Crawford, the county attorney, and the game wardens to view this surveyed boundaries. There is no legal way for people to enter this river except by trespassing on my property.
I strongly believe your lifting of this ban will promote trespassing. I have two children, age eleven and 13. We love to swim, fish, hike and canoe along the river, along with many other people. I don't think a high-powered rifle complements these other activities.
If you proceed with the lifting of this ban, I hope you have implemented regulations for the rivers that you impose on other public hunting lands. Thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you.
Tim — is it Lucy?
MR. LEWRY: It's Lewry.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Lewry. I'm sorry.
MR. LEWRY: Call me anything but late for dinner.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: I apologize.
MR. LEWRY: It's all right. My name is Tim Lewry.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Followed by — excuse me, Tim, Diane Dooley.
MR. LEWRY: My name is Tim Lewry. And basically, I'd just like to back the man who just spoke. He pretty much said everything I had to say. And we all live along that river over there. He did a survey. It tells you pretty much where the boundary is. And also minnows — 18 inches off the edge of that water is the boundary lines. High-powered rifles — pretty dangerous.
I run a little stock down there. We fish, swim, recreate there. Friends, people come. You know, we try to get along with everybody. High-powered rifles are not going to get along with people. It's dangerous. I just wanted to say that. Thank you all.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Diane Dooley, and then Dr. Triplett.
MS. DOOLEY: My name is Diane Dooley. I live at Montell, and I have lived close to the riverbank, as we have much more population than we had ten to 20 years ago. We have no deer due to anthrax. We need the safety and environment of our humans our animals and our homes. Thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Next will be Steven Evans. Doctor?
MR. TRIPLETT: I am Dr. Triplett. I am from the Montell area. And my property faces on the river. And I have had a lot of shooting all around the area. All I'm asking you all to do is not support opening the river again to hunting.
I sure don't want to have to be looking for bullets in your grandma.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Steve Evans, followed by Jim Viglini, I believe. Steve Evans?
MR. EVANS: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, thank you for inviting me to speak today. My name is Steven Evans. I am a private wildlife biologist from Uvalde County. And what I'd like to do today is just make three points concerning the hunting of state-owned portion of stream beds in Uvalde and Zavala Counties.
And I'd just like to give you three points for your consideration. And the first being that the only survey data on the white-tailed deer population on state-owned stream beds in Uvalde and Zavala Counties shows that there is not a harvestable population of white-tailed deer within these stream beds. An aerial survey conducted by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists in February 2001 showed a deer density of only one deer per 5,984 and a quarter acres.
The biologists conducting that survey noted that the four white-tailed does that were seen on this survey were transient animals, and they were not residents of the stream beds. So this is taking into account, then, there are practically no harvestable deer within the 23,937 acres surveyed.
Now, this is only one survey. And as a biologist, I have to take that into consideration. But I'm not aware of any other surveys that show contrary data. At the least, more surveys should be conducted to determine average population numbers, and to determine what harvest limits should be set, just as it is recommended on private property by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. And this should be done before hunting is allowed.
Secondly, the portion of the riparian zone owned by the state is poor deer habitat. It — and so the results of the survey are not surprising. The habitat that is owned by the state consists primarily of gravel bar and surface water.
Many of these streams provide mature hardwood habitat, which is prime turkey roosting habitat. And all this — the good deer habitat or the better deer habitat and turkey habitat occurs on the adjacent private property, primarily.
So the temptation for anyone hunting on these areas is going to hunt where the higher density of animals occurs, which is on the adjacent private property. That's just the case, the way these — the geography of these stream banks lay out within the riparian zone.
And third and last, if the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department mission statement is to be upheld, particularly to conserve and manage our natural resources, then the least that should be done is to set the same standards for management and regulations for hunting and fishing on state-owned stream beds as those that are in place on other lands under Texas Parks and Wildlife jurisdiction.
I find it ironic that Texas Parks and Wildlife encourages good stewardship of Texas natural resources on private property, but those same standards for wildlife management would not be applied on the state-owned portions of these stream beds. Thank you for your time.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Next we have Rob Fergus.
MR. VIGLINI: My name is Jim Viglini. I own property in Montell in Uvalde County on the Nueces River. I only just found out about your lifting of the ban on the hunting and the possibility of the hunters coming and just parking themselves right outside my bedroom window.
I was really amazed to hear you say that you had no authority over safety. But I have to thank you because you've just put my safety, my neighbor's safety in danger by your decision, which I think should have been a consideration.
You may not have any authority on it, but you should have considered it. And it seems like, to me, you did not. Somebody shooting north, south, or west, where I am, with a high-powered weapon, have a good chance of hitting somebody, or someone's residence. If they shoot to the east, there is people working livestock over there.
The biggest problem is safety. And then it's followed by all the negatives that can include the quality of life associated with the unsupervised, uncaring individuals doing as they wish, compounded by the fact that they know as much — they know as much as ourselves that we don't have the enforcement to come out there and supervise all of this. So we're stuck with it.
My wife and I had property on the Frio River for 23 years. We encountered projectiles coming our way. One time we even got pelted with shot from a hunting operation that was going on very close to us there.
I really don't want to go through it again. I request that you reconsider your decision to place — and place an immediate moratorium on the hunting on these rivers until the safety issues and the other problems can be resolved, because there is a whole lot more people that are unhappy about this than they are happy. Thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Rob Fergus, followed by Denise Rogers.
MR. FERGUS: Good afternoon. My name is Rob Fergus. I wish I was here representing a big organization with a big, fancy title. But I'm just here as myself, representing me, and maybe my six-year-old first grader.
There seems to be a lot of concern about hunter safety with this issue of the stream hunting, mainly because hunters make mistakes, people get hurt.
Along those lines, the dove season starts on Monday. And I haven't heard the news lately. I hope that the killdeer population in Crawford will be safe when the hunting season starts. I don't know where the president's going to be.
If that's a pot shot, I apologize. But I did want to say that the term "pot shot" came from market hunting in the 1800s when hunters would put a big cannon-size gun on a boat and they would shoot ducks on the water or birds on the ground. And it wasn't considered sporting.
As sportsmen, we know that we don't shoot animals on the ground. We don't hunt out of season. Unfortunately, tens of millions of birds are being killed on the ground or out of season in Texas.
And that's mainly due, not to the humans who have passed laws that effectively limit the human hunting that goes on, but according to the latest estimates 6.5 million feral and free-ranging cats are killing 200 to 650 million small animals in the state every year.
That's a lot. That's 20 to — or sorry, that's ten to 35 small birds or animals for everyone who lives in the state. That's a lot. And when we're talking about birds, birds are about 20 percent of the animals that are killed by these cats. And mostly these are ground-nesting and ground-feeding animals like the quail that we hunt, and the mourning doves who feed on the ground.
And with quail coming off of a 20-year annual decline of 4.7 percent, we can't afford to let the cats running around out there killing all these ground-feeding and nesting birds.
About 10 percent of the animals that are killed are small reptiles, with 70 percent being small mammals. I'll just end real quickly. I've got — that six-year-old daughter of mine — she's never seen a horny toad. She's proud to be a Texan, but she — the only horned lizard she's ever seen is on the Texas Parks and Wildlife license plate that's on our family station wagon.
And I think that's a shame. The cats are eating all of these little animals and the birds that we're hunting, and want to enjoy and share with future generations. This may not be the biggest issue that faces you today. There is many people here with greater concerns. But it is something that you can address quickly and easily by adopting a similar policy as to that adopted in Florida by their commission.
Thank you very much and God bless the Commission.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Denise Rogers, followed by Susanne Friday.
MS. ROGERS: I'm Denise Rogers, and I live in Montell, Texas, which is on the Nueces River. And I would just like your consideration in considering what — we're talking about shooting on the river. We all have families. Most of us here represent our own families and families around us.
And I would like to say that if you owned property on the river, would you like to have hunters shooting at your families also? That's just something to think about. Thank you.
MS. FRIDAY: Hello. I'm Susanne Friday. I'm a director with the Texas Hill Country River Region. And I have a letter here from our executive director I'd like to read to you.
"Dear Commissioners, Swimming, tubing, kayaking, fishing, birding, horseback riding, wildlife viewing, quiet scenic beauty, crystal-clear rivers — these are just a few of the reasons that visitors come to the Texas Hill Country year after year.
"Uvalde County is renowned for being a safe and family-oriented vacation destination. Nature tourism is our main product, and depends on safe rivers and the preservation of wildlife.
"Here in Uvalde County, over 80 million tourism dollars each year can be attributed to these nature tourism activities.
"The river region has longtime been a favorite of sportsmen as well. Hunters in those area lodgings engaging in hunting —"
You all make me nervous. I'll tell you what, you all put the ban — you know, the ban was there. You took it off. You can sure put it back. I'll put that in for myself.
"Establishments that manage for wildlife also feel that uncontrolled hunting in the rivers will be detrimental to their nature tourism. Our main concern is for visitor safety also. Over the last 20 years, Uvalde County River Region has seen a phenomenal increase in the numbers and types of people using the rivers for recreation.
"Since the establishment of this office five years ago, our visitorship has increased 46 percent. We feel strongly that the safety of visitors using the river will be put in jeopardy from firearms randomly discharged along the river corridor.
"Because of the high number of feral and exotic animals that are always in season, and the lack of permitting, lack of limitation on numbers of hunters in a given area, nor any information given explaining gradient boundary — and that's a big issue there, and an already understaffed game warden enforcement, this will be a very dangerous situation.
"After the passing of Senate Bill 155 to ban motorized vehicles in Texas riverbeds, we were dismayed to find out that the ban on hunting in rivers would be lifted, especially months before Senate Bill 155 goes into actual effect.
"We feel that to allow hunting in the rivers will only encourage the continued and future illegal use of motorized vehicles to retrieve downed game. What kind of chaos and visitor endangerment will ensue with this lack of policy and the lack of enforcement?
"When state parks have public hunts, they advertise and close the parks to the general public, have a selection process, a limit on hunters, and kinds and numbers of games taken, and park rangers to oversee the process.
"There seems to be an understanding in this scenario that two types of activities don't mix. Because Uvalde County's tourism industry is dependent on the safety of its visitors and the health of its wildlife, the Texas Hill Country River Region, which serves as the Uvalde County Convention and Visitor's Bureau, opposes river hunting in Uvalde County.
"This statement has been approved by the Board of the Texas Hill Country River Region. Please reconsider the negative impact this will have on thousands of recreationists who visit the river region because it is a safe, beautiful place to enjoy nature. Thank you."
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Wright Friday, followed by John Robinson.
MR. FRIDAY: Thank you, Commissioners. My name is Wright Friday. And I just wanted to — I'm a businessman, and I know all you all are, and a senior citizen now. And I know that you have business plans in your businesses. And I'm sure that Texas Parks and Wildlife has a management plan for opening these rivers.
And we have a ranch that fronts up with two miles of the Nueces River. And in the management plan we have, we're doing — this year we — a couple of years ago we were doing a buck to every 700 acres, and then it went to 500. Now it's 300 acres.
And I know that Texas Parks and Wildlife has done studies, and know how many acres there are in the river systems they're opening. And what I would like to have, since I'm — front the river there, and have a management plan myself, I'd like to have a copy of their management plan that they're going to use, and how many bucks they're going to allow for, say, 300 acres, which is about what they need to do along that area.
I just need a copy so I can see what's going to happen to the — you know, to the deer population that fronts my country. And then I can, you know, make adjustments in regard to that. I'm sure they have a plan. You're businessmen. You have plans. I have plans. Just tell me where I can get a copy of their plan, and I'll sit down.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: I presume you know that there is not any such plan.
MR. FRIDAY: Yes, sir. I know that.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: John Robinson, to be followed by Jewell Garwood.
MR. ROBINSON: I'm John Robinson, a landowner, Llano River. I want to thank the Parks and Wildlife board, and Mr. Cook, and Dr. McKinney for all the help in getting Senate Bill 155 passed. It's unfortunate we have four more months of this to put up with. But I hope I live long enough to see it come back and get our birds and our animals back like it was five to ten years ago. I really appreciate it. I know my family does too.
There is another thing I want to bring up. I'm going to speak on this river thing in a minute about the hunting, because I've personally experienced it.
But we have one game warden in Llano County, that I just — I wouldn't be alive today if it wasn't for Willie Gonzalez. In the month of July he wrote 57 citations. And that's just about what he does every month. He's a hard worker, a real honest individual, and he has really put out a lot of effort. And I'd like to see Parks and Wildlife recognize people that do that. He's a great person, a great family man, and sets a good example for your department.
The shooting in the river — I think people are talking about hunting in the river. I personally have experienced five close calls myself of people just shooting in the river. Only one of those was a person shooting at a doe that was up on my property. And he shot the doe, and I corralled him and took him in. But the other four were people just out shooting a gun just for the fun of it.
So if we're going to get into this, we're going to have to say — not think about hunting. We're going to have to talk about firearms in riverbeds. And some of the shots have been as close to this ceiling to me while I'm working in my pasture.
So it's a real serious thing. And I'm speaking for the Llano River people. And I'm trying to attach to the Nueces River people again, like we did on Senate Bill 155. We appreciate all your help, if you can help us. Thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Jewell Garwood, and I believe it's Jeannie Dullnig.
MS. GARWOOD: I'm Jewell Garwood. I'm here on the behalf of the people from Uvalde. I would like you all to visualize something. I'm on the Frio River. And on the Frio River, there are high cliffs on each side. You all open the gate and let these people come down, how many deer are going to go down in there to be shot at, unless they shoot up on the banks?
The — I mean, if you're giving them a license to steal or encourage trespassing, then my concern is why make more problems for the people that live on the Uvalde County, and off the Nueces River? Thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Jeannie Dullnig? Is it Dullnig? I'm sorry. Is that — did I get that right?
MS. DULLNIG: Close enough.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Followed by William Hollingsworth.
MS. DULLNIG: I would first — I'm Jeannie Dullnig, and I would first like to thank you all for your help and support in the passage of the River Protection Bill. It's a great bill for Texas. And I enjoyed serving on the task force, and I thank you for that opportunity.
Chairman Armstrong is not here, but I wanted to commend her also for a job well-done serving on this Commission. And I just wish her the very best in the future.
I know you said that you have no authority over safety. And I guess that is confusing me also, as to why, then, you would lift this ban.
I believe that safety is the main reason here. And if you will look at this picture, I know it's hard to see, but there are people up in the right-hand side at a crossing in Uvalde County. And you will see in the forefront a deer.
If someone shoots a .270 or a 30-06 from where that picture was taken at that deer, and they miss, I don't have to tell you where that bullet's going.
And over the past 25 or 30 years, there are literally thousands of people who have come to these rivers to swim and picnic and canoe and kayak and bird-watch. And I think they have come largely because they have felt safe, and haven't had to worry about dodging bullets. But they now will be put in harm's way by this decision.
Looking at this photograph again, if someone shoots from the crossing, which is at the far end of that picture at this deer, then my family is put directly in the line of fire. And I am truly concerned about the safety and well-being of my family.
We were there 40 years ago when there was river hunting in the rivers. And it was a nightmare. And there were shots fired in the direction of our house, and there were shots fired over the heads of the family that lived down the road from us. And one of our bulls was shot and killed.
Your shooting safety rules brochure — I've enclosed one for each one of you, and if you will allow me, I would like to read under Number 3. It says, "Never shoot at flat, hard surfaces, such as water, rocks, or steel, because of ricochets."
And here again, in that picture, you can see that the state's property is nothing but water and rocks. So in closing, I would just urge you to do whatever it takes. I know we're late in the game here. We didn't know about this.
But if you could call an emergency meeting, or impose a moratorium and keep this ban in place until it can be looked at more seriously with safety in mind, it would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: This might be a good point for me to reiterate what I said at the beginning, which unfortunately happens to be a fact. And that is that we do not have the authority to close the hunting on these rivers for reasons of safety. And that's just a flat, legal fact.
As far as closing it for the value of the — for the protection of the — biologically the protection of the resource, there is no evidence to indicate that that is justified. So as much as we might be sympathetic to the concerns that you all are expressing, there is really not anything that the Parks and Wildlife Commission can do legally to change the situation that exists as of September the 1st.
Now, that doesn't mean that we don't want to continue to hear the comments. But I also would reiterate what I said at the beginning. And that is, that as we did with the river access with four-wheelers and whatever, we offer — the Commission does offer and the Commission itself and the staff, to work with you to bring about legislative solutions to these problems that you are expressing, because that is the only way that solutions can be obtained.
Now, every other river in this state — and there is 254 counties, other than a very few exceptions that the Legislature previously has closed, have been open to hunting, and continue to be open to hunting.
And all the riverbeds are open to anybody getting on them publicly and shooting firearms every day of the year.
So I very much share the concerns that you all have expressed. And I understand the futility that you — and the frustration that you feel. But we have the same problem, in that we cannot legally do anything to solve the problems you're addressing today.
Now, that doesn't — again, I don't want — I'm not trying to intimidate the rest of you all from speaking, because I think what you're doing today is a very important exercise. Putting the spotlight on the problem is beneficial.
I'm sure there's people that live and own property on the other rivers in the state that have wished for many years that they could put the spotlight on the problems that they've been facing. I've had some of them talk to me about it in the past.
So — with having said that again, let's proceed. William Hollingsworth and — to be followed by John Shudde.
MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, my name is William Hollingsworth, and I'm up here — I'm going to be one of those that's going to go down the river and hunt. And I've been going down that river since I was a kid. And what I can see that the people that own land around there don't want you down there, period.
A lot of it's gotten out of hand because of those four-wheel drivers been going down there and all that. And it's gotten overpopulated. But as of so far, they don't know what's going to happen down there, because hunting hasn't started.
And when they put that you can't go on the riverbed, and this law that's going to pass with the vehicles, that's going to stop a lot of them from going back there anyway. And I just have a issue I wanted to bring up.
I know when you go down that river, five years ago, you'd go back up to west prong, and there was gaps you had to go through. You know, those fences that went across the river, the dry parts. It's on the map, the dry Nueces. And they put fences across there, and on those gates where you could go through, they put trespassing signs, and they've got a lock on them.
Now, I — those are not supposed to be there, but since there was no hunting allowed in there, I didn't have enough money to get a lawyer to get those gates taken down. I just wanted to bring that issue up, that they have some spots back there that are fenced off, and gates are locked, and —
I talked to the game warden today, and he told me to come here and bring that issue up. And I'm glad to see they did pass it.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you.
John Shudde, followed by Cheryl Lowe.
MR. SHUDDE: My name is John Shudde. I thank you for the opportunity to talk just a minute here. We came up on the river access thing, and I was impressed with the Parks and Wildlife. You all are tough people to sit here all afternoon and listen to this.
I also share the concern about safety. We've been on the river for about 45 years before the hunting was ceased. And I can see day hunters being dropped off every three or 400 yards. That's not a safe thing to do.
Second concern is what am I, as a landowner, and we have to have hunting to make the bank note payments on the property — where am I liable for injury to some of our visitors from hunting on the river?
Third, and last, briefly, we've had a terrible anthrax problem. Our deer population has been more than 60 percent reduced. Some of my neighbors didn't even take lease money last year because they didn't have anything for hunters to hunt. Our deer population is hurting. Thank you for your time.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Cheryl Lowe, followed by Fred Wallace.
MS. LOWE: Good afternoon, and thank you for the opportunity to speak before you. My name is Cheryl Lowe, and I'm from Knippa, Texas. I live along the Frio River. And I was very discouraged to hear that you couldn't do anything about the public safety, because I came here today to tell you my sons have personally been shot at three times in the last seven years.
My sons don't matter? I'm sorry, that's not acceptable, Gentlemen. And just to the gentleman who just spoke, if you would come and ask me, any time, sir, you can come hunt on my property.
We have never refused anybody the right to come hunt on our property. We tell our boys what they can cull, what they cannot shoot, where they cannot shoot. And yet, last year, we literally were pelted with bullets and bb's coming from our home [sic]. We have to pass a field to get to our vehicle. And the sheriff couldn't get there in time to protect us.
As our only resource, you tell us, is the law enforcement. And by the time the law enforcement get out there, they're long gone. Tell that to a bleeding child or a bleeding person. That's not right, gentlemen.
For some information for you, for the last seven years on our property, my sons have culled — seven years they have culled five deer. None of them were shot in the riverbed. We have seen no turkeys. We have seen one hog, and one bobcat that were in our front yard.
My home, thanks to the last five years — and we've had two 30-foot floods, now is 20 feet from the bank of the Frio River. Two bedrooms and my living room window face the river. I — would you like to live in my home for the next several months?
I'm sorry. This is not acceptable. Thank you for your time.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Fred Wallace, and then Fred Mayer.
MR. WALLACE: Hello. My name is Fred Wallace. I own a piece of property on the Nueces River. Now, I just want to ask you about something different. I understand what your position is. But maybe to help us in the interim, can you make this a permitted Type-1 area, rather than a Type-2, or just an area that doesn't require a permit at all?
That way, at least we know how many hunters are going to be on the property. As I understand it, a Type-2 type permit, there could be any number of hunters on your land. There could be 50 or 100 people in one little small pasture. On a Type-2, they have to get a permit to go on the property.
I don't know if that's something you could do or not, but I just thought maybe that was something I could bring up, and you might look at it.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: We don't have the jurisdiction to do that.
MR. WALLACE: Okay.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Fred Mayer, followed by Joe Parker.
MR. MAYER: Good afternoon. I'm Fred Mayer. I have a ranch on the Nueces River in Zavala County. And a lot of what I wanted to say has already been said, so I'm not going to repeat it.
But I think that just the pure common sense of all of this is that deer don't live in the river. They live near the river. And the way these rivers — I guess what makes these rivers somewhat unique is that they're all shallow rivers, and they're easily accessible.
But the thing about them that I'm not sure that all of you realize completely is how difficult it is to determine the boundary between the state property and the private property. There is no distinct cutback like you would see on the — you know, the Colorado River, or some of the larger rivers.
These rivers tend to dry up. And unless you're the landowner, or one of the handful of surveyors that know those property lines and know the rules, we're just encouraging people to trespass and poach. And that's the meat of this issue, I think. And it's — you know, nobody wants to be shot at.
You all are all smart people. And we're just talking about common sense here, fellows. And I want to believe that you all are on our side. And I think you are, because no matter what those knuckleheads across the way think, I know that every one of you all is concerned with public safety.
And you know, I — to me, it's just pure common sense. And you know, I think that the rivers in these counties are unique, in a way. And I think that's why this law was passed some 40 years ago, because you know, you've got — like I said, these rivers are shallow. They're easily accessible. These counties are all popular hunting destinations. And the clean and clear water in these rivers attracts these recreationalists.
And the only thing that's changed in the last 40 years is that our population has grown exponentially, as has the use of these rivers. And we had this problem once before. And it's not going to go away. It's just going to get worse.
And that's what I think makes everybody scratch their head is what has changed? And that's all I have to say. And I hope you all will support us, and do what you all can do to talk to the Legislators and get this situation fixed. You know, I —
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Let's hold down the comments from the audience.
MR. MAYER: Anyway, that's all I had to —
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Let the gentleman speak.
MR. MAYER: That's all I had to say. And I appreciate any support that you all can give us. Thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Let me comment on your — on what you've said there, Fred. I think — first of all, we might as well all say up front the facts of the situation. And that is that the law was put in — the regulation was put in almost totally for political reasons when it was put in, because of some people that had the ability to get something like that through the Legislature, or through the Parks and Wildlife.
The Parks and Wildlife Department didn't have the authority to do it then, any more than they have to do it now. So this is really correcting a wrong that was committed some many years ago.
Now, as far as the rivers being unique, the people that live on — that own property on the Brazos and the Canadian would say that they've got the exact same problems that you've addressed. And I — yes, but to proceed further, I think we are on your side.
We do know — I don't expect there is anybody on the Commission that doesn't know very well that the definition of what the riverbed is, what the public property is in those riverbeds is extremely difficult. No one can say, standing there looking at it, what those dimensions are, what those boundaries are. And we understand that.
And we are on your side, or at least I certainly am, and I believe that I speak for the whole Commission, in wanting to work with the landowners to address the situation before the legislative body, which is the only group that can deal with it. And we will do that. I think the Commission is committed to do that, as we were with the four-wheelers in the riverbeds. And I think really, that's all we can offer today. And again, I'll say what I said before, that it helps that you all are helping put the spotlight on it. It needs to be addressed.
But the Commission will not be able to accomplish anything in that regard if the people that are in this room, and the friends and others that you know that have similar concerns, are not willing to get involved in the legislative process to help bring it about.
MR. MAYER: We appreciate the help. Thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Joe Parker. Terry Crawford. Joe Parker?
MR. PARKER: Gentlemen, I evidently put my X in the wrong box. I didn't intend to speak today. But I do thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Well, it says Observer Only. I apologize. You're just right.
MR. PARKER: That's quite all right. I've got a big mouth. I'm happy to speak. I just want to thank you for at least listening to this concern. And I know that you're on — what side you're on. And I do appreciate that.
I did have one question. Do you all sponsor the Hunter Safety Course? Parks and Wildlife?
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Yes. Yes, sir.
MR. PARKER: Is that concerned with safety?
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: It definitely is, but it's coming at it from a different direction. We do have the right to do that.
MR. PARKER: I see. But you don't have the right to do anything about firearms?
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: There is a — I believe, if I'm not mistaken, it's a state law that requires that people have a — pass a hunter safety course before they can obtain a license. And that is a state law. And if the state law was that you couldn't fire a firearm in the river, and the Parks and Wildlife was given the authority to enforce that law, then we would be able to do so.
MR. PARKER: I see. Yes.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Commissioner Fitzsimons.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Joe, good to see you. I'm glad you're here. The answer to that, you're absolutely right. Hunter safety is part of what we do. But that riverbed — and this is the problem we had with the four-wheel drives, it is not state property.
Somebody asked earlier, why can't we have Type-1 or Type-2? We don't own that. The Type-1/Type-2s, that's on Parks and Wildlife property.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: It is state property, but it's not Parks and Wildlife.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: It is state property but it's not Parks and Wildlife. And it is the problem we had with the four-wheel drive. It's really a no-man's land. And it's got to be fixed. And we can only close the season for biological purposes.
We can't close hunting to an area for safety reasons, according to the Attorney General. It doesn't make sense to me. But that's the law. And the law is what's got to be changed. And I really hope that all this energy here doesn't dissipate, and shows up in the legislative process and actually gets that done, not just for yourselves, but those other 6,000 miles of river.
MR. PARKER: Amen.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: But it is not, where it's open today.
MR. PARKER: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: And Mr. Chairman, let me just add a point.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Mr. Ramos?
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Yes. To the extent that we have laws that relate to safety, those are laws that were legislatively enacted and asked for us to implement. And that's the big distinction. And I — believe me, I'm very sympathetic. It's almost a no-brainer to think that we should ignore safety.
But the problem is that our jurisdiction and our authority is fixed, and we can't change that. So we're very sensitive to what you're saying. But you really need to truly focus on the legislative angle to this. Thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Yes, sir. Terry Crawford and followed by Peter Denney.
MR. CRAWFORD: Gentlemen, Commissioners, I'm Terry Crawford. I'm the sheriff in Uvalde County. I'm going to address a couple of things that are of importance.
I keep hearing over and over again that you're not tasked with public safety. And I want to impress upon you as public servants, serving as commissioners on the Texas Parks and Wildlife for the State of Texas, that you are tasked with public safety, as well as I am.
My task in Uvalde County as a sheriff is with public safety on a day-to-day basis. And for you to turn away from that and say that you're not tasked with that, is not speaking with your authority.
If I'm not mistaken, you — this board — this Commissioner's board sits atop the Texas Parks and Wildlife to take care of the game wardens that are out there on a day-to-day basis. Am I correct in saying that?
The game wardens, on a day-to-day basis, take care of public safety. That is one of their main jobs, public safety, in everything that they do, for it be hunting, for it be boating, any of those activities, the game wardens, on a day-to-day basis, take care of that. And you all are above them in that essence. You all are there.
Every day they are tasked with that duty. And the same goes for my office and my officers. We're tasked with that duty. Along the rivers in Uvalde County alone, I would estimate, and this is probably a conservative estimation, that there are 1,000 or more houses within 100 yards of every navigable stream in Uvalde County. Probably over 1,000. That's 1,000 households of people that are going to be affected by hunting along the rivers.
We have three game wardens in a 50-by-50-square-mile county, that we have three game wardens and 14 deputies. That's not enough people to tackle the tasks that rescinding this law will put upon us. I'm hearing you say over and over again that you can't change it.
And I see that today, that your resolve in that idea that you can't change it. And — am I out of time?
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Yes, sir. Go ahead and complete your thought.
MR. CRAWFORD: The other issue that I wanted to say to you was if you cannot change it because of safety, here is what I want you to look at. The Parks and Wildlife does have the issue of depletion and waste of game.
There is — of 99 out of 100 game animals taken in the riverbeds, you're going to lose 99 of them, because they're not going to stand still in ankle-deep water while being shot, and then you have a trespass, and then you have a poaching issue after that.
If you are concerned with depletion and waste of game in the state of Texas, you've got to look at that issue. There is not a bird in the country that's going to fall in the riverbed after being shot. And you have trespassing after that.
The landowner has to give permission for that bird or deer to be retrieved. You have trespassing. And if you cannot see the need to change it, then please give us enough help down there during this season of hunting, that we will not be so overrun with hunters from out of state and out of country, out of county, that we will not be able to keep our heads above water. We need your help.
We need your help — if you can't change that, we need your help desperately.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you, Sheriff.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Peter Denney, followed by Carl Hellums.
MR. DENNEY: Panel, how are you all today? I'd like to thank you to be able to speak to you here. I think Terry pretty much covered what I was going to say. My thoughts were really concerned, maybe of the width of the shooting area.
The — actual, if you're down in the river, the width of the shooting area, and about the game in that particular zone, many instances — maybe that area is only about ten yards wide. And that's going to put those — that's going to put the gunfire in a very narrow band of shooting distance.
And that's going to be where the — if they're legally shooting, they're going to be shooting up and down their riverbank — I mean, their walk zone. And if the animals are — like, a deer is shot, the likelihood of it dropping in the exact legal spot are going to be remote.
They're going to run, and they're going to go into private property.
And another thing, if a hunter is maybe — has trekked in to a piece of property, or trekked down the river several miles, say, the — say, if a deer was taken that weighs 120 or 130 pounds dressed out, the likelihood of that deer actually being removed that distance, I think, are going to be remote, because it's going to take one man to lift or carry an animal, or two — even two men to, say, move a deer a mile and a half or two.
That's quite a — that's a big tote. And I just wonder if the game is going to be actually consumed, if it is taken. That's all I have. Thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Carl Hellums, followed by Charles Draper. Carl? You gonna pass, Carl?
MR. HELLUMS: Good afternoon, Gentlemen. I know you all are getting tired, as I am standing up in the back. I have a little more unique situation than most of these people. I ranch on the west prong of the Nueces. This has been a big controversy forever. We've paid taxes on this land forever.
And the young man over here says that he travels up and down the west prong of the Nueces. It is a designated stream. There is no water ever runs in this stream, except when it floods above — it's an overflow of the east prong of the Nueces.
He also says that we have taken the gaps out of the rivers. We have not taken the gaps out of the rivers. They come through the rivers with their big high-wheeled vehicles, run over our fences — existing fences. We put the gaps out in the middle of the river because they always overflow at that time.
So like I say, my problem is a little more unique than most of them. But in the past, 20 or 30 years ago — I have a mountain in the middle of the ranch. I could get on that mountain, see Highway 90 on one side, the river on the other side, and you could not tell exactly which was the most populated. And this is a problem that we have there.
And if we open this thing up again, it was a terrible problem back then. I can just foresee nothing but worse problems in the future. Thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that Carl and I have hunted together. Charles Draper, followed by Roger Hoyt.
MR. DRAPER: Good afternoon, Commissioners. My name is Charles Draper. I'm a property owner on the Nueces River also. I am part of the Stewards of the Nueces River. And I'm really opposed, as a lot of people are here today, to opening up the hunting on the rivers.
I would like to say that by doing this, what you're going to do is lead to the commercial exploitation of these rivers. Just to give you a point of fact, my brother is an outfitter. And he runs hunts down into Mexico, Nole Hace, Hacienda San Juan, Lake Guerrero. He uses Cecil D. Armen Ranch [phonetic]. He runs a couple hundred people a year down into Mexico to white-wing hunt.
You know, he could easily do that here, now, is what you're all proposing. He doesn't have to take them to Mexico. And I would really not like to see that. He takes a lot of the coastal towing, a lot of the people that come out of the Houston Ship Channel, and those areas.
A lot of his Houston customers come out there, and they have huge expense accounts to pay for the cost of entertaining their clients. It wouldn't take anything for somebody to open up a commercial operation like that. I think it would be a tragedy.
And so I'm just here to suggest that, you know, I realize that you all have limited powers with regard to the law, and that it should be passed in the Legislature.
But I would, if anything, advocate from you all to provide more law enforcement, either through the sheriff's department, or Parks and Wildlife, in order to police the poaching, the trespassing, and the things that's going to occur as a consequence of this type of hunting by giving people river access. Thank you for your time.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Rogers Hoyt. And then I believe it's Martin Powell.
MR. HOYT: Good afternoon, Commissioners. My name is Rogers Hoyt. I'm from Uvalde, Texas. I won't belabor the points. I understand what you're saying about your limitations. But I'd just like to be on record that I am opposed to the hunting in the river, and that I feel that the rivers should not be hunted until the Texas Parks and Wildlife staff has done a thorough biological study.
And I would just ask that you please take serious consideration of Sheriff Crawford's comments. I think they're very pertinent to this situation. On one other subject, quickly, I know I only signed up to speak on the river hunting.
But I serve on your Game Bird Advisory Committee, and I just want to take this opportunity, while I'm in front of you, to compliment my staff liaison, Vernon Bevill. He does a wonderful job, and it's a pleasure to work with him. Thank you for letting me say that, and thank you for letting me go on the record about the river hunting.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Martin Powell, if that's correct, and followed by Jimmie Thurmond. I maybe — I'm not sure about the last name.
VOICE: They said he left.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Oh, he left? Okay. Then we'll come with Jimmie Thurmond and Kirby Brown.
MR. THURMOND: Good afternoon. My name is Jimmie Thurmond, and I'm here representing the Texas Wildlife
Association. I never addressed this group before personally. There are a couple of you all that know me, that may not admit it, but they do.
But the association that I represent has been up here more than once for close to 20 years now. There are others who will be here to talk to you in a bit about some of the programs and more of the substance.
I'm here to, number one, introduce myself. But second, to — on behalf of this association, to say thank you to all of you. I know what it's like sometimes to be in a job where you feel like you come away and nobody is happy. So it's — we can — I understand that.
And we certainly appreciate the job that all of you are doing. We'd like to underscore that, to those that are soon to depart, and to Chairman Armstrong, who just recently did depart, I understand.
We appreciate the department's contribution and cooperation with us in our joint partnerships. That's what you'll hear a little more about later today. They're good programs, and they're having positive results. We appreciate the year — the cooperation we get from your staff here. It makes a difference.
Long before my time, I understand it wasn't like that way, when private landowners and others were here, there was not always the close working relationship that's there now.
As long as I'm here for the next two years, which will bring this association's activity, representing landowners and hunters, to about a 20-year stint here in this department, we will always be a rational and constructive voice. I think we always have been, and we don't intend to change that. Thank you again. Have a good evening.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you. Kirby Brown, followed by Howard Johnson.
MR. BROWN: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, it's good to see you again. My name is Kirby Brown, Executive Vice President of the Texas Wildlife Association, and we represent private landowners, hunters and conservationists, as Jimmie Thurmond, our new president just stated.
Our membership owns or manages over 30-million acres in Texas. So we come to you with a large private land space. I want to thank the Commission personally and on behalf of TWA for all that you have done.
I want to thank the Parks and Wildlife staff, Bob Cook, Scott Boruff, the division directors and the staff that are here are a great group of folks. Congratulations to Mike Berger. Where's Mike? Here he is, on his selection as Wildlife Division Director. I think that's an excellent choice.
And I want to especially say thanks to Katharine Armstrong for her leadership that she's provided over the last few years. Incredible. We appreciate the efforts for outreach and communication to landowners and hunters. She really tried to understand our issues and concerns. And we appreciate the joint partnerships we have between TWA and TPW on our youth hunting program. It's a great program. On the big-game awards, which is a great program. And I saw the heads here in the hall. It's great to always see good-looking harvested big-game animals in the halls of Parks and Wildlife.
And we have some young people here today who are going to talk about some of these programs, the Youth Hunting Program, and our Brigades Program, that we're partners with many people on.
So we appreciate those partnerships. And we appreciate the extensive technical guidance to private landowners, the public hunting opportunities of 1.5 million acres that exist out there.
We appreciate the supportive education and outreach. And thanks to your leadership, we have the best wildlife management and habitat anywhere in the U.S. And we're very gratified for that. We look forward to working with you more on water issues, and on instream flows, bays and estuaries. And I want to thank the leadership of the Commission.
I want to thank Bob Cook, Larry McKinney on work with Senate Bill 155 and the four-by-fours in the riverbeds. That was absolutely critical to see that developed and passed.
And I want to thank Jeannie Dullnig for all her work. Thanks so much, Jeannie, for the Stewards of the Nueces and all they did for that.
There are a lot of concerned folks here today, good land stewards, good people who are also hunters, many of them. And they have concerns, and they're speaking out on the closure of hunting in the Nueces River and other Texas rivers. And we appreciate. We know you're on our side. We appreciate that as we go forward.
We are particularly aware at TWA of the history and the legislative sunset process four years ago that developed this and identified your lack of authority. We understand the Legislature's hesitation to act, because we were involved in it and tried to get two bills passed over the last sessions.
So we're upset about that, but that's what happened. We have talked about the current closure, and we recommend maybe a couple of ideas to you.
Number one, we would ask the Commission talk to the General Land Office, who does have that authority in the riverbeds. And we would be glad to help on that. And that we talk with Jerry Patterson about a management plan and harvest plan on the river that might do what we've talked about in the Type-1 areas or other public lands that exist in the state. And secondly — by using science, we think we can come to a conclusion.
Secondly, we recommend TPWD take a lead on a task force similar to the four-by-four task force. And we would be glad to help on that, because we think there are outstanding issues from multiple sides to discuss.
Again, thanks so much for your help. Thanks for all you do. Appreciate it.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you, Kirby.
Howard Johnson, followed by Federico Longoria.
MR. JOHNSON: Good afternoon. My name is Howard Johnson. I go by Smitty. And let me say that my wife and I inherited a mile riverfront on the Llano River a number of years ago from her parents. And we can't enjoy one foot of it.
There is an island that runs out in the middle, and there is a crossing. And we're scared to go down there for getting shot. I know you all say you can't do anything about it. But I want to prime your pump to let you know that it's not right, and it's — liability-wise, a person can be swimming here, and 300 yards down the riverbed, they're deer hunting with a 30-06.
Now, y'all impress me that y'all are kind of passing the buck, and you don't have any duties. I was in on nearly every meeting when Mr. — Dr. McKinney — I don't know if he's here or not, Dr. McKinney led the pack on getting the four-wheelers out. And he did a good job. I commend him for it.
But I was in Dr. McKinney's office a long time before this last bill was passed, and he totally ignored me about coming up and seeing the real issue, to me, safety for lives is a lot more important than a dumb plant in the riverbed. Okay?
Now, I really would encourage you all to take the bull by the horn, this next legislation, and help the rest of us who are still confronted with this situation, and encourage the Legislature. And I want you all to get a good look at me. I'd like to join forces with you all.
You all keep talking about your rivers down there. We have had this situation for over 40 years, and can't get anything done. Okay? And so we need to join forces to go to the Legislature, because you're asking the fox to guard the henhouse.
MR. JOHNSON: Okay. Thanks for your time, and I hope and probably see you all later. Thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Mr. Bloxsom will be next.
MR. LONGORIA: Good afternoon. My name is Federico Longoria. I go by Freddie. And I'm here to represent a private ranch owner in southern east Uvalde County.
The ranch that we have is approximately eleven miles on the river. And we are concerned with the safety issues. I do understand that you cannot comment on those, so I'm not going to waste your time by commenting on those and take those to the proper places.
But what I'm here to talk about is the conservation of the deer herd on the specific instance of this ranch, and also the adjoining ranches.
When we first acquired this ranch in 1990, we had no deer herd. We have spent the last 13 years with a game biologist putting in a lot of time and a lot of money in investment into reestablishing the herd.
We — the first seven years that we owned this ranch, we did not do any hunting on this ranch, and — as per the game biologist's recommendations.
At this point, we are only allowed to shoot cull deer and X-amount of does, down to the specificities where the game biologist is actually telling us exactly which deers are to be taken.
What our concern is with all the droughts, and then we have a flood, and then we have more droughts, and then we have a flood, which is also hurting the deer herd, and it's not recovering as quickly as possible.
And what our concern is is that you're not going to have any control by opening up the deer hunting along the riverbeds, and it's going to cause game management on the adjoining properties and on our property to be completely a waste of time.
I mean, we're here to do exactly what your mission statement is, is to preserve the flora and fauna of the state of Texas. We're responsible hunters. Landowners that have spoken today are responsible hunters. And that's what we're concerned with.
We're concerned with that there is not enough enforcement and a proper study to determine whether or not the hunting on these river lands is good or bad for the deer herd.
I'm not going to waste any more of your time. But in closing, I'd like to say we had one person speaking against the group, in favor of river hunting. And that gentleman scares me. I'm going to be on my ranch one day, and I'm going to run into him. He's going to be armed with a 30-06, and a 12-pack of Miller Lite. What am I supposed to do? Thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: I've been informed that Senator Armbrister has a staff member with us today. I'd like to recognize J.A. Lazarus. Is she still present? There she is. Thank you for being here.
Allan Bloxsom, followed by Pat Noble.
MR. BLOXSOM: Commissioners, I'm Allan Bloxsom. I'm glad I'm not sitting where you are today, because it's not a place I'd like to be.
I really am appalled, though, at the lack of oversight on your agency. Texas Parks and Wildlife lifting this ban is really unexcusable. The lies and misleading information on the public notice was orchestrated by this agency.
I also hereby demand that Boyd Kennedy be relieved of his duties at Texas Parks and Wildlife. The —
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Excuse me, what was that you said?
MR. BLOXSOM: I asked for Boyd Kennedy to be relieved of his duties here at Parks and Wildlife. His abuse and disregard of the Parks and Wildlife regulations, disregard of — your own biologist's information was not used. It was ignored purposely.
The conduct of a few of these bureaucrats here to further their own agenda will not be tolerated by me, nor the majority of the public in the State of Texas.
Your excuse on safety, I understand. But it won't hold water. Your requirement of a hunter's safety course before receiving a hunting license is a fact and a state law. I realize that.
But you're also on notice with these public hearings that you really are flirting with a serious physical dangers of endangerment of other public people, being the public that enjoys the river and adjoining property owners.
You, the Commissioners, and Parks and Wildlife may come under the legal definition of gross negligence. I hope you all have got great insurance for being directors up here, because you may need it.
The first person that's injured on this river regarding the hunting issue, I'm sure will bring a civil suit that will include this agency, as long as — with all the directors here, which I hate to say, the way the litigious society that we are, it will happen.
Sheriff Crawford probably needs at least ten to 15 more deputies to oversee a deluge of hunters that are going to be running up and down these rivers, not just Uvalde County, Zavala and Dimmit County, all the adjoining navigable waterways and streams, which is fingers going every direction.
You're allowing hundreds of hunters to hunt in close proximity to each other for the taking of a few deer and turkey. If you just want, you can tell me that a 30-06 bullet knows where the property line is, and will stop, I will welcome you to tell me how that's going to be done.
Personally, I think you've infringed on my constitutional rights that I still have as a property owner. My wife and children are upset. They're scared as to the unregulated and unsupervised hunting. And to be honest with you, she's all over my back. And she's making my life miserable.
And I can tell you one thing, gentlemen, if my life is miserable, I'm going to make somebody else's life miserable.
Since no one has any common sense here, I guess my only recourse, to let you all know, is to seek common sense from our courts. It's going to cost your department a lot of money. Is it really worth it for this?
You put game wardens and law officers and others in danger having to arrest a poacher, a trespasser. These are people there with loaded guns that have committed a felony.
Money, to me, when it comes to my family's safety, is no object. And I mean that. It's an open checkbook. Fortunately, I've got hundreds of people behind me that are willing to do the same thing.
We might think about meeting together in a few weeks and see if we can figure something out here. Thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Pat Noble, followed by Gil Stoner.
MR. NOBLE: Mr. Vice Chairman, I'm not a landowner. I'm just a hunter of some 35 years in Texas. I've always hunted on lease property, and have always believed in conservation of our deer population.
And I understand you don't have the authority to restrict hunting along the Texas rivers, just like you don't have authority to allow — to open up hunting along Texas highways.
But I think you do have the authority to regulate conservation of the deer populations in public hunting areas. Now, you've got public hunting lands throughout the state. And you regulate the number of deer which are taken off of that property.
And I suggest that you look into doing studies as to the number of animals that are on the riverbeds, and the numbers that should be allowed to be taken every year, and have draws and permits and managed hunting along this area.
And that's really all I have to say. And I'd appreciate your comment along this matter, if the Texas Parks and Wildlife has any authority to regulate, you know, the conservation of the deer along the Texas waterways?
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: As far as doing something like we do on state — Parks and Wildlife-owned properties, we do not, because I think as is pointed out, the riverbed is not owned or under the jurisdiction of Parks and Wildlife.
As far as controlling hunting, in terms of limits and seasons, based on biological facts, we do have that authority.
MR. NOBLE: Right.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: But we have no evidence at this time that there is a biological reason for opposing hunting on the rivers in the specific counties that we're dealing with today.
MR. NOBLE: Can I ask you, who does regulate the hunting of the public riverbeds?
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: General Land Office.
MR. NOBLE: Is it the General Land Office? Who owns that land?
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: The General Land Office. It is public property.
MR. NOBLE: Okay. Now, we have — you're not allowed to hunt along state highways. And that's state land. And I'm sure that the state has a law regulating that. And I guess what we'd like to know here, is who or which state department we need to talk to about having that law changed.
I understand that the Texas Waterway — or riverbeds are really an antiquated law going back to when Texas didn't have roadways, and the riverbeds were a form of transportation. And it's just been grandfathered through the years. And it's a no-man's land, like you were saying earlier.
Who does regulate that? Who would you talk to? Is it General Land Office? Or —
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: I'm sure the General Land Office has some authority over it. But also the State Legislature could —
MR. NOBLE: All right.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: — pass laws that would affect the use of the riverbeds.
MR. NOBLE: So how does this — let me ask you. How is this different from public hunting areas in the state of Texas? There is number of public hunting areas. I've hunted some of them before.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Public hunting areas are either owned or leased by Texas Parks and Wildlife.
MR. NOBLE: Oh, by Texas Parks and Wildlife. I see. Okay. Well, I appreciate your time. And thank you very much.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Well, thank you for being here.
Gil Stoner, followed by Reagan Houston.
MR. STONER: Good afternoon. My name is Gil Stoner. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, for allowing us to speak to you today. I'm a resident of Uvalde County. Here — my place borders the Nueces River on the west side for about two miles.
I guess I came to the wrong place today. I wasted a day. You all can't help me. But I'd like to somehow work with you all. I think you all are on our side. You've bitten off — you've opened — Pandora's box is opened.
Boys, I've been — I've had a gun pulled on me, pointed at me, and my life threatened three times over river hunting. I don't know where they got 40 years. It's 20 years. Three times I've had to defend myself. I'm not in the — I'm not a Marine. I'm not a law enforcement official.
I don't know what I'm supposed to do, except I reminded that man — those three men and two times, with little old six-, eight-year-old kids with them sitting up in an oak tree, 150 yards from the river, that I had a weapon too. That's what you all have opened up right here. Somebody is going to get killed, if you want to get down to it.
Now, skip that business. You all can't help me there. You all say it's a biological situation. Hey, the summer of 2001, 60 percent of the deer herd was killed? No, sir. Eighty percent, and that's a conservative figure. I live there. My family has been on that place since 1884. I stay on a horse 12 hours a day.
I ride up and down that river. There is nobody knows what goes on down that riverfront better than I do, for ten miles in both directions. It's a wreck.
They shoot a deer that's crossing the river, he's going to run onto somebody's property. Now, he's poaching and trespassing. How are they going to shoot a turkey when he flies across the river? Hey, we — you all have information on the biological survey that was done in February of 2001. You all didn't look at it when you all did this deal?
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: I'm not sure what survey you're speaking of.
MR. STONER: Hey, there was six — four does and six turkeys. 24,000 acres of riverfront. They flew it in a helicopter, and we're going to turn all these people out and loose to shoot those four doe and six turkey? This is ridiculous and ludicrous.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: I hate to get into a debate here, but I —
MR. STONER: I do. I like to debate. That's why I came.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: I hope — no, I hope that you realize that everybody that owns property — to say again what's been said many times today, on the San Saba, the Llano —
MR. STONER: I'm not interested in them.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: — the Canadian —
MR. STONER: I'm interested in Uvalde County.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: I'm just telling you that these people have faced the same situation you're talking about forever. So I really — I mean, I hate to tell — you're the property owner, and you know your own situation far better than I do.
But I think that you're way exaggerating the situation —
MR. STONER: No, sir.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: — or if you're not, then all these other people have been facing the same problem forever.
MR. STONER: Yes, sir. They have.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: And they're going to continue to.
MR. STONER: Yes, sir. And I can police my place —
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: And you're in the same —
MR. STONER: — the same way we did back when this thing was open, not a problem.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: So now you're in the same boat with everybody else, and we need to start looking to do something about it.
MR. STONER: Boy, it sure was nice when somebody had some sense.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Reagan Houston.
MR. HOUSTON: You know, there are times in my life when my timing has been beautiful, and this isn't one of them.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: You're the last one, so that's very good. You get to make the closing comment.
MR. HOUSTON: Chairman Angelo and all the Commissioners, just to change the subject — maybe if I am the last one, let's close on a positive note.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: I believe you are.
MR. HOUSTON: I want to thank the Commission sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, for all of the effort that you guys made, and Chairman Armstrong when she was here, on such a thorny social issue and political issue as the trucks in the riverbeds of Texas.
It took a lot of courage. We couldn't have gotten it done without you, and of course, the staff, Bob Cook, Larry McKinney, and the many others. And I think that we have done something good for our State of Texas, and I think it will show in the future.
Just one thing on the hunting issue. I just would say we are ranchers in Uvalde and Zavala County. We have about six miles of river frontage. And we — October 1, we will be going into a managed land game permit and wildlife management area under the auspices of Parks and Wildlife. And I respect your comments, Chairman Angelo, regarding your willingness, and you're very clear — and you, Joseph — also that you're going to be with us on this issue, and how to work something out reasonably in the next Legislature.
But in the meantime, I'm going to be managing here. There is no management there. And if there is anything we could do regarding a reasonable permit system in the interim, it certainly would be appreciated. Thank you very much.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Mr. Fitzsimons.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: One last public statement?
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: No, no, we've got one more.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: On the river issue, like Mr. Stoner and others, that's my home county, Dimmit County. And I've lived — my family on that ranch for a long time. So I know what Mr. Stoner is talking about.
But there is a little misunderstanding here today. And when Mr. Bloxsom spoke, it became very clear to me. There is no proposal in front of us. Nobody thinks this is a good idea. There is nobody on this staff who proposed this.
This is a simple case that it was closed the wrong way. And it was found out. We can't continue to do it, because all the other counties or rivers are open. And so it's got to be closed the right way.
There is nobody sitting up here who is advocating river hunting. This simple point has got to get through. It's not even on the agenda tomorrow. There is no vote. There is — this is why I'm trying to explain, that it's just like with the four-wheel-drive.
If this Commission were as crazy and was lacking in common sense, as some of you have alleged today, would we have worked so hard on the four-wheel-drive bill? Two years ago, I was sitting here when the four-wheel-drive issue came up, the same riverbeds. We went to work for you, because again, just like here, it was a no-man's land. GLO said we can't do anything. We didn't have any jurisdiction over it. So we took care of it.
Well, we have to follow the law. And the law has to be changed. When we issued a public — I know that the sheriff's got a tough job there. Yes, we're in charge of the wardens. But the law is that we can't close hunting somewhere for a safety-only reason.
And you know, like I said, I hope you all show up when we can actually — you know, when it's time to get something done. And the Legislature may be in session again tomorrow.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Commissioner Fitzsimons has said it very well. And I know many of you are unhappy with the situation, and maybe you're unhappy with what you heard or not heard today. But I hope that you'll take to heart what he just said, and work with us to see if we can't find some solutions that will make everybody feel better than they do today.
The next person to speak is Jesse [phonetic] Vigil, to be followed by Blane Eikenhorst.
MR. VIGIL: Good evening to you all. My name is Jesus, and I'm here speaking on behalf of the Texas Youth Hunting Program. I would like to share a story about myself and my experience with the Texas Youth Hunting Program.
My family went through many difficult times as I entered my high school years. My brothers began entering and exiting jail like shoppers through revolving doors and abusing drugs.
Thoughts of dropping out of high school became constant in my mind, and it scared me to think of these things. I often told myself none of my older brothers graduated. Neither did my older sister. My father was a migrant worker with a partial second-grade education. And my mother — she dropped out of middle school as well.
Why should I be any different, I thought. I took a long look at my family and I realized that — and I resolved not to give up. I joined the Texas Youth Hunting Program and other programs that aided me. But above all the programs, the Texas Youth Hunting Program was one of the most important.
I joined the program when my agriculture instructor, Cesaro Guerro, brought it to my attention in class. The youth program caught my interest, because it offered me opportunities I had never thought existed, you know, for someone of lower class that we were. We were always in a financial struggle.
When I went on my first hunt, the emotional rush consumed me. I forgot entirely what was going on back home. Throughout the entire hunt, I was busy with skills trials, shooting ranges, camp setup, campfire, and so on. Despite the fact that I came back empty-handed from just about every one of my hunts, it didn't stop me from continuing my participation with the program.
The program has taught me many things: patience, responsibility, teamwork, respect for people, firearms, property, nature, and nature. The experiences, knowledge, and idea the program have given me will be forever imbedded into my memories.
I plan to give my younger brothers the opportunity that was given to me. I recently took the Hunt Master course, so I could continue to help and support the program. I give lots of credit to the program for my successful graduation. The program kept me focused on good grades, because they were necessary to attend the hunts.
On May 31, 2003, I graduated from Stephen F. Austin High School, and became the first in my family to graduate. In addition, I am currently attending the University of Houston, which is also something new in my family.
Finally, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks and sincere hopes that you will continue your magnanimous support of the Texas Youth Hunting Program. While many of you think this story is unique, it is not. There are many more like — many more youth like me, and lives that have been affected by hunting.
I hope this positive impact of the Texas Youth Hunting Program makes you feel good about what your program can do. Thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Congratulations on a great story, and good luck with you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Next, GayLynn Wilmet.
MR. EIKENHORST: Good afternoon, Mr. Commissioner and Chairman, or Mr. Chairman and Commissioner. My name is Blane Eikenhorst. I'm 14 years old, and I attend Brenham High School in Brenham, Texas.
This summer I had one of the best experiences of my life. I had the privilege of being the cadet at the Second Battalion of the North Texas Buckskin Brigade. My brother and my father have been very involved in this program for the past several years. And all I've been hearing about is it.
One of the unique things about Texas Brigades is no matter how much you think you know about it, you can't really know it until you've been a part of it. I've been hunting in Texas since I was three years old, and I was always confident in my skills as a hunter, and my role in conservation.
But what this program allowed me to do is it gave me the confidence and skills to go out and spread that message to other people. That's why I want to thank Texas Parks and Wildlife for all your support of Texas Brigades, and we greatly appreciate your support and contribution of all the Texas Parks and Wildlife employees who invest their time to help and instruct at all the camps.
I would specifically like to thank T. Wayne Schroeder, Jimmy Carne, Scotty Parsons, Misty Sumner, Mike Peteen, Bob Baker, Jimmy Lymburger, Darrell Prahaska, James Edwards, Bobby Eikler, Charlie Miller, Daniel Wright, Cathy McGinney, Charlie Newberry, Ricky Maxie, and Jim Morant [phonetic].
Thanks to all of these folks and everyone else from Texas Parks and Wildlife that contributed directly or indirectly to the cadets and missions of Texas Brigades. Educating today's youth is the only way to ensure that the message of wildlife conservation is spread to the future generations.
I would like to invite the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission and Leadership to attend the Texas Brigade Camp, and see what difference your investment make in the future of the cadets and Texas wildlife. Thank you very much.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: GayLynn Wilmet, followed by Matthew Gray.
MS. WILMET: Good afternoon. Excuse me. Good afternoon, members of the Commission. My name is GayLynn Wilmet, and I am 15 years old, and I live in Dilley, Texas. I recently attended the South Texas Bobwhite Brigade Wildlife Leadership Camp, and learned of the plight of quail in Texas.
I'm here today to extend a sincere, heartfelt thank you on behalf of all those who participated in this summer's Bobwhite Brigade. Your renewed interest in quail management and your staff's involvement in conservation education programs like the Bobwhite Brigade have made many things possible for us.
I have a list of those staff who have participate in the Bobwhite Brigade over the past year, for your files. I hope you will congratulate them for their efforts in ensuring a bright future for the quail in Texas.
The following staff are, David Sinotsky, Tye Bartskowitz, Joyce Moore, Jane Gallagher, Robert Pettis, Chip Brookman, Michelle Haggerty, and Jim Rutlet [phonetic].
We also appreciate the game wardens who assisted with the brigade camps — Kirby McGrory, J.C. Floes, Brian Huckabee, Martin Query, Kathleen Stuman, Mike Morris, and Ron Bennett [phonetic].
Many areas in Texas over the past 30 years have shown a decline in bobwhite quail populations. Bobwhite quail are important in several ways. Economically, quail leases usually surpass grazing leases in South Texas. And ecologically, as bobwhite quail numbers grow, so do at least a dozen other songbirds in Texas, and aesthetically, who doesn't appreciate the poor bobwhite quail on a spring morning.
By helping us ensure the bobwhite quail's future, you give me the hope that my children will someday have the opportunity to appreciate the bobwhite quail like all of you have had in your lifetime.
The Brigade not only teaches you conservation skills of the land, and also how to develop your land for the increasing quail population, but many leadership skills as well, that you may need in the future.
We learned all of this, ironically, in spite of Hurricane Claudette, which resulted in no electricity or showers at camp for two days.
The Bobwhite Brigade supports the ongoing Texas Quail Plan as a comprehensive approach to quail restoration in Texas. An anonymous author once said, the only way to predict the future is to create it.
Cadets like me all across Texas stand locked and loaded to assist in the delivery of this plan, and helping me ensure a bright future for the quail and other wildlife in Texas. Once again, thank you for your support.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Matthew Gray, and then George Rice.
MR. GRAY: It's a real — hi, I'm Matthew Gray from Austin. It's a real pleasure to be here today. But to tell the truth, I'd rather be hunting. Many Texans learned about hunting when they were my age. They were taught by their parents, and they were taught by their parents, and so on.
Things are different now. Very few of my friends have access to the great outdoors. They spend their free time playing youth league sports, watching television, or sitting around the house. They never see wildlife in a natural setting.
In most cases, most of my friends' parents do not have access to hunting land. That's where the Texas Youth Hunting Program comes into play. Last year the Texas Youth Hunting Program provided hundreds of kids like me with a hunting trip.
These hunting trips began with private landowners who care about continuing the hunting heritage we have in Texas today. The kids are required to complete a Texas Hunter Education Course before they're allowed to shoot on a hunt.
We learned about ethics that a good hunter needs to have. We learned about gun safety, and we learned how to care and harvest for our game. And we enjoyed the time with our fellow hunters and our parents.
For many of us, the Texas Youth Hunting Program hunt was an introduction to a lifetime of responsible hunting. In April 2002, I went on a Youth Hunt for Rio Grande turkeys. This was the first time that the ranch had ever allowed turkeys to be hunted. It was also the first time they had ever allowed a youth hunt.
Five of us shot eight tom turkeys. I shot two, one with an eleven-inch beard, and one with a ten-inch beard. I shot them with a .20-gauge shotgun. Two of our youth hunters elected to do their shooting with cameras. Their camera shot four times within 35 yards. What a weekend. We owe it all to our huntmasters, the Texas Youth Hunting Program. And most of all, we owe our thanks to our landowner.
The landowner was very pleased with the hunt, and asked us to do it each spring for the years to come. Last April, I was asked to hunt on the same hunt and serve as a guide. My hunter shot the largest turkey. It had a ten-and-a-half-inch beard, eleven-inch spurs, and weighed 21 pounds.
The best result of the hunt is that several of the boys now beg their dads to get deer and turkey leases, because for now they are hooked on our hunting heritage.
In closing, please remember to take a kid hunting. And if you need a kid to volunteer, let me know.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Of course he'll be a politician. Very good. George Rice, followed by John Rogers.
MR. RICE: Good afternoon. Thanks for letting me come here and speak today. My name is George Rice. And I'm here to speak to you about the property that you're thinking about purchasing for TMTC, or Texas Motorized Trail Coalition. My wife is here with me as my backup, and we are Jeep enthusiasts.
We have had a senior moment after we retired from our law enforcement careers, and we have purchased a Jeep, unbeknownst to us that we would end up being an off-road enthusiasts.
We represent Jeeps of North Texas, which is — has 360 members. My wife is the treasurer of the club, and our leadership director. We participate in off-road events. And since the House Bill 155 has been passed — and by the way, we support that passage, because we did not agree with the off-roading in the public rivers.
We are members of the Tread Lightly, members of Southwest Four-Wheel Drive, members of United Four-Wheel Drive, and members of Blue Ribbon Coalition.
Our club is a family-oriented club. We sponsor trail rides. We promote safety. We promote cleaning up after ourselves. We also promote TMTC.
TMTC is located — is that already three? I mean, that was a pretty fast three minutes.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Finish up.
MR. RICE: Okay. TMTC is a property that was purchased in Gilmer, Texas, and we are from Mesquite, Texas. So we have about a 125-mile drive to Gilmer to participate in this property. We both have memberships there.
TMTC is an outstanding property for four-wheel drive enthusiasts. It offers all different kinds of levels of off-roading, everything from easy trails to the most extreme trails.
We would like to see this property in Uvalde County purchased for another TMTC property. TMTC and four-wheel enthusiasts work real well together. In the Gilmer area, I am told, that our club has club events there. But you're going to see, for the people in Uvalde County and where you'll see this, is it's going to have an increase for — on the economy there.
They will see increases in their motels, or reservations, restaurant reservations. And I can guarantee you that if there's a Wal-Mart there, they're going to see a big increase of purchases at Wal-Mart.
But also, four-wheel-drive enthusiasts are good people to be around. We do promote safety. And we — the Tread Lightly part — probably some people may not know what Tread Lightly is. But Tread Lightly is a section that we promote that has to do with taking care of property.
I've heard the landowners here today are talking about trespassing. That's one thing that Jeeps of North Texas, 360 members strong, would promote — not trespassing on people's property.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Sir, I think you're finally running out of time.
MR. GEORGE: Out of time? Okay. And so anyways, my final statement is that we would like to support the purchase of the land in Uvalde County for off-road enthusiasts. Thank you very much.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: John Rogers, followed by Laura White.
MR. ROGERS: Good afternoon, Gentlemen. Thank you for my ability to be here to talk to you all. I'm certainly glad I don't live on the river. But what's worse, I live up the creek right next to this 2,000 acres that you all are fixing to possibly put the money up to buy.
I represent the seven landowners that surround this thing. I adjoin this 2,000 acres approximately three miles. It's very, very rough country. From the landowners' standpoint, we are definitely 300 percent against this.
We are not against the four-wheel drive section. This ranch is too small, and too rough, with one pass in the middle. You don't have that much.
Now, who is — this is — from my standpoint, this seems to be more of a promotional deal to buy a piece of land. There's lots of good land. I think some research needs to be done.
The area where we're at is right next to the Montell Creek area, which is mostly — it's rough country. We have lots of beautiful clear water. This ranch has only one spring and one well. Mobile telephones will not work there unless you're up above the 1,600-foot mark.
You have to come through up a county road to the main ranch house. Then you go a mile of private 20-foot easement, to get a 30-foot easement to get into this ranch.
I think maybe that you all need to look at the standpoint, if possible, if this is a good buy, because I know for a fact that he's got it overpriced to you, way overpriced, way above what any land is selling for in our country.
And the four-wheeler people, Jeeps, everything — I'm with them for good places. There can be a better place than this one. Just that it needs to be taken into consideration. And thank you all very much.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you.
Laura White, followed by George Garner.
MS. WHITE: Hi, I'm Laura White, Texas Motorized Trails Coalition Outreach Director. First off, I'd like to thank you all for realizing that off-road, which is not just four-wheel drive, it's also ATVs and dirt bikes, is a legitimate form of recreation.
And we do need to open up parks. And you all are doing that. You helped us open up Barnwell. I'd have to differ with this man. I think 2,000 acres is plenty to play on. And I think our definition of rough is a little bit different than his definition of rough.
We've been told by many people that Barnwell is too easy. They want ledges this tall to climb up. I know that with this — the SB 155 bill, we closed some land that we were using. We don't play in the rivers, so it doesn't bother me too much.
And it also mandates that you all find us new places to take its place. This is a new place you all can help us get. We have proven that we are good neighbors. I know we haven't proven it to them, yet. But we've proven it in Gilmer, that we are really good neighbors. We're great for the economy.
We have over 3,000 members. I also know that we're on a good way to start in the state park system, maybe not just with these two properties, but for numerous private properties that have opened up in the past couple of years.
Most of them would be more like private pocket parks, because they're privately owned. They're closer to the bigger cities, but they're just three — 500 acres. I think there is some way that we can work together with the private individuals to help them come into a park system. And then we'll have a park system.
We have maybe ten parks that have opened up, the biggest one being Trees Ranch. It's 5,000 acres. It's an exotic game-hunting ranch. So far they've had no problems with the wildlife along with the motorized trails.
So basically at this point, I want you all not to forget us, and the way you wrote — the way the bill was written, to keep this land coming. Help us to assuage this man's fears about what's going to happen.
Because like I say, we have done — we have a proven track record now, and you all know us. That's all. Thanks.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: George Garner, followed by Charles Draper, please.
MR. GARNER: I'm George Garner. I live at 123 West Texians, in San Antonio, Texas 78221. And the reason I am here today is not as a paid lobbyist, but as a concerned citizen. I wold like to discuss Senate Bill 155 in summary. This new law is also mentioned in your Outdoor Annual booklet that came out for this year's regulations and so forth.
And it says in Section 90.004, "a person may not operate a motor vehicle on or in a protected freshwater area, hereafter called riverbed, on or after 1st of January 2004."
There is a provision made whereby a county or municipality may allow limited motor vehicle use in a protected riverbed. They will collect a fee for the privilege with the Texas Parks and Wildlife receiving 20 percent of that fee.
This department requires the local county municipality to provide public safety, provide law enforcement, publicize the locations of public access, and have adequate public services. I guess this — such as restrooms. I'm not sure what they mean there.
But anyway, this is never done by the department providing all those amenities without charge. It's going to be a burden for the county.
Section 90.007, under this Senate Bill 155, "Landowners' Rights," says, "Nothing shall limit the landowner from hunting or driving a four-by-four up and down the riverbed." This — the public won't have that right after January 1, 2004. I think this is an injustice. Of course, Parks and Wildlife had no jurisdiction on limiting the hunting on the river. So this is probably no interest to you.
But anyway, in very vague terms, mention was made in the paper of two locations that may become places or sites where four-by-four vehicles may drive without penalty.
I wrote to the Chairman, Robert Cook, on this subject a couple of weeks ago, and have had no response. This is not a user-friendly attitude toward the public. I'm not a paid lobbyist here. But anyway, I have a copy of this presentation I've left with the lady outside. And I really believe we need to — if we're going to take away the rights of these four-by-four —
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Mr. Garner, you need to wrap it up here, if you would.
MR. GARNER: — yes, okay. We need to provide another place. So I don't know who is going to buy it, but we need a place for the people to go. Thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you.
Charles Draper, followed by Dimitry Patent. Mr. Draper? Draper? Patent? Mr. Patent? Followed by Tim Cook.
MR. PATENT: Good afternoon. And my name is Dimitry Patent. And I represent Longhorn Offroad. We are a Longhorn Offroad organization with the University of Texas at Austin. And we help to recruit new members, college-age students that — we help to recruit them into Tread Lightly and Texas Motorized Trails Coalition, and help them get into responsible offroading.
And I'd just like to say that we are for the purchasing of property in Uvalde County. And we appreciate that you have given us this opportunity to get it. And that's all. Thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Tim Cook, followed by Dana Larson.
MR. TIM COOK: Thank you, Commissioners, and Chairman and Director. My name is Tim Cook. I'm here representing the Bass Angler Sportsmen Society, Texas Federation. I'm here a little late to comment with some of my peers earlier in the deal, so I got to hear a lot of interesting talk on a lot of different topics. And —
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: You should come every year.
MR. TIM COOK: Yes, exactly. Much of which it was apparent that you all don't have any authority of. But I do have a topic that you do have authority on, and that is the use of stocking grass carp in Texas reservoirs.
We at Bass Anglers, especially the Bass Anglers Sportsmen's Society, understand completely that vegetation can become a problem. And we are not opposed to control. But we are advocating control using methods that we can control and limit, when necessary. And grass carp are not an option.
Grass carp is like a goat. When your grass gets tall in the backyard, you don't want to throw a bunch of goats back there to keep it nice and trim, because they're going to eat everything they can get their, you know, mouth on.
So grass carp are the same way in that respect.
You spend a lot of our money to raise, stock, and manage large-mouth bass, among many other species, in our bodies of water. And by stocking grass carp, you are allowing those fish to destroy the native vegetation which the large-mouth bass use to reproduce and hide in, and become prolific.
So I would ask you that when the situation arises that you have the opportunity to make a decision regarding the use of grass carp, that you consider our point of view, and use methods that are much more controllable by man and not by carp. So thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: And thank you.
Dana Larson, and George Cofer.
MR. LARSON: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, and Mr. Cook, my name is Dana Larson, and thank you for letting me to have the opportunity to be here. Last week I sent you all another letter on the conversion of the rubble from the Galveston I-45 Causeway into the world's biggest and best artificial reef.
If that conversion does occur, the state should enjoy some $40 million a year benefits for the next couple hundred years.
Unfortunately, I'm getting the sense that not a single pebble is going to go offshore, nor any penny is coming back. In other words, I don't think it's going to happen. Rather than going over what I have just handed out, let me deviate two ways.
Number one, let me endorse what Jim Morrison, Texas Artificial Reef Advisory Committee, previously said. Two, let me emphasize just one aspect of what I've got there. There I listed three problems, six solutions.
I think the most-important solution is that of the ability to create mitigation banks offshore. I've tried to figure out why that can't happen, and I can't. Let me suggest or ask you all to see if you can't find out why mitigation banks can't be created from the rubble that is being created offshore, or taken offshore.
I think if that happens, any contractor, not only the ones for the Galveston's Causeway, but all of the other causeways going up — or coming out up and down the coast — the contractors will have the incentive to take the material offshore.
It won't come out of your pocket, TxDOT's pocket, anybody else's pocket. It will be there for the contractor. But it's an incentive for them to do it, because they know they can get compensated later on. Thank you very much.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you.
I made the mistake earlier in saying that we were through with the folks that wanted to speak about the river hunting. Mr. Cofer, are you still in the audience? I apologize for that. Your slip got buried on the bottom.
MR. COFER: Mr. Chairman, I apologize for being late. Commissioners, thank you for this opportunity. I'll be very brief.
I'm George Cofer. I live in Austin, Texas. But my brother and I chose our great-great-grandparents very, very carefully. And we are blessed to be the heirs of a working cattle ranch within about five miles of the Frio River.
I'm here today to support the landowners to support your efforts. And in particular, I think Kirby Brown had a great suggestion. My family and I would certainly support the idea of a task force to look at the issue.
We were involved in the four-by-four in the riverbed issue, and I appreciate all the hard work that you all have done on this, and that you're willing to do on this. Thank you.
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: Thank you. Is there anyone else in the audience that I've misplaced a slip for? If not, do we have any comments, or just questions from the Commissioners?
VICE-CHAIRMAN ANGELO: There being none, we stand adjourned.
(Whereupon, at 4:55 p.m., the meeting was concluded.)
C E R T I F I C A T E
MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Annual Public Hearing
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: August 27, 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.
On the Record Reporting, Inc.
3307 Northland, Suite 315
Austin, Texas 78731
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