Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
April 7, 2005Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 7th day of April, 2005, there came to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, in the Commission Hearing Room of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Headquarters, to wit:
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION:
- Joseph B.C. Fitzsimons, San Antonio, Texas, Chairman
- J. Robert Brown, El Paso, Texas
- Ned S. Holmes, Houston, Texas
- Alvin L. Henry, Houston, Texas, Vice-Chairman
- Peter M. Holt, San Antonio, Texas
- Philip Montgomery, Dallas, Texas
- John D. Parker, Lufkin, Texas
- Donato D. Ramos, Laredo, 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
April 7, 2005
Name/Organization, Matter of Interest
Jim Kiehne, Kiehne Ranches, 21403 Hwy. 62 — 180, El Paso, TX 79938, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation, Testify, For
Clayton Williams, Midland, TX, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation, Testify, For
Rowdy McBride, Self, 4900 (illegible) Foxboro St., Midland, TX 79705, Item #4 Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation, For
Ellis Gilleland, “Texas Animals”, P. O. Box 9001, Austin, TX 78766, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation, Testify, Against
Darrell Yock, Box 2081, Fort Davis, TX 79734, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation, (Mule Deer), Testify, Against
Marty Berry, 2757 Ocean, Corpus Christi, TX 78404, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation, Testify, Against
Kit Bramblett, 11 Ranches in Hudspeth County & Culberson County, Box 157 Sierra Blanca, TX 79851, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation, Testify
Dan Allen Hughes, Jr., 307 Grandview, San Antonio, TX 78209, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation, MLDP, Mule deer, Testify, For
Bob Nunkey, Box 308, Sabinal, TX 78881, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation, Testify, For
Jerry Bramblett, McAdoo Ranch, Box 157, Sierra Blanca, TX 79851, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation, Against
Nelson H. Puett, Self, 108 Bluff Park Circle, Austin, TX 78746, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation, For
Greg Simons, Wildlife Systems, P. O. Box 5121, San Angelo, TX 76902, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation, (Mule Deer-MLDP) Testify, For
George Strickhausen, IV, P. O. Box 1011, Rockport, TX 78381, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation, (Mule Deer-MLDP), Testify, For
P. J. Fouche, 3360 N. Hwy. 46, Seguin, TX 78155, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation, (Mule Deer-MLDP), Testify, For
Bill Miller, Miller Ranch, Box 56, Valentine, TX 79854, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation, (Mule Deer-MLDP), For
Earl Baker, Cross L. Ranch, P. O. Box 670, Van Horn, TX 79855, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation (MLDP-Mule Deer), Against
Steve Dutton, 525 College, San Antonio, TX 78209, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation MLDP — Mule Deer, Testify, For
Tom Beard, Box 668, Alpine, Texas 79831, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation, Testify, Against
Julia Donaho, Rancho del Cielo; Alberto Bailleres, P. O. Box 3076, Kent, TX 79855, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation, Testify, For
Mike Livingston, Desert Mule Deer Association, Box 595, Marfa, TX 79843, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation, Against
Wyck Livingston, Desert Mule Deer Association, Box 1357, Marfa, TX 79843, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation, Testify, Against
Stuart Sasser, P. O. Box 907, Corpus Christi, TX 78403, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation, Testify, For
Shawn Brugeth (illegible), P. O. Box 398, Marfa, TX 79843, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation, Against
Lane Sumner, Myself and Jobe Ranch, Box 3008, Kent, TX 79855, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing, Proclamation, Testify, For
Ralph Donaho, JDC Ranch Partners/Ranco del Cielo, P. O. Box 3076, Kent, TX 79855, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing, Proclamation, Testify, For
James L. Hayne, Paisano Cattle Co., 217 E. Houston, San Antonio, TX 78205, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation, For
Jon Means, Means Ranch Co., Box 489, Van Horn, TX 79855, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation, Testify
Ron Helm, Helm Land & Cattle Co., P. O. Box 399, Van Horn, TX 79855, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation, Testify, For
Beall B. White, Brite Ranches, 2438 FM 535, Rosanky, TX 78953, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation, Against
Ralph Richards, Jobe Ranchers, P. O. Box 3318, El Paso, TX 79923, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation, Testify, For
George Fore, Sierra Blanca Ranch, and La Jolla Ranch, Box 394, Sierra Blanca, TX 79851, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation, Testify, For
Rick McIvor, 06 Kokernot Ranch, P. O. Box 148, Fort Davis, TX 79734, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation — Representing 06 Ranch, Testify
Fred Trudeau, Beach Mountain Ranch, 501 E. Koenig Lane, Austin, TX 78751, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation — Mule Deer, For
Richard Nunley, self, Box 765, Sabinal, TX 78881, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation — For
Don Houser, HIP-O Taxidermy, 2801 E. Hwy. 90, Alpine, TX 79830, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation — Proposed MLDP for Mule Deer, Testify, Against
Hughes Abell, Self, 2630 Exposition Blvd., Suite 106, Austin, TX 78703, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation — Mule Deer MLDP, For
Lane Laning, SF Game Ranch, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation — Mule Deer, For
Robert Saunders, Texas Deer Association, 1001 Congress, Suite 200, Austin, TX 78701, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation — MLDP for mule deer, Testify, For
Malcolm Calaway, Ranches & Desert Mule Deer Association, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation — Mule Deer, Testify, Against
Jerry Johnston, Texas Deer Association, P. O. Box 1203, Castroville, TX 78009, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation, Testify
Richard B. Negley, self, 101 Aylesbury Hill, San Antonio, TX 78209, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation, For
Peter French, self, 202 Grove Place, San Antonio, TX 78209, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation, Testify, For
Chris Gill, self, 310 Paseo Encinal, San Antonio, TX 78212, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation, Testify, For
J. P. Bryan, Marathon, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation, Testify, For
David Hayward, Texas Deer Association, 8300 Que Pasa Ranch Rd., Anderson, TX 77830, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation, Testify, Internet Hunting-Against, Mule Deer MLDP, Testify, For
Karl Kinsel, TDA, San Antonio, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation, Border Closure, For, Internet Hunting, Against, Mule Deer, For
Larry Whigham, Texas Organization of Wildlife Management Association, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation, Antler Restriction, Testify, For
John C. Oncken, Texas Sportsmens Association, President, P. O. Box 151, Barker, TX 77413, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation, Antler Restrictions, For
Kirby Brown, Texas Wildlife Association, 401 Isom Rd., Ste 237, San Antonio, TX 78216, Item #4, Action — 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting/Fishing Proclamation, Testify, For
Ellis Gilleland, “Texas Animals”, P. O. Box 9001, Austin, TX 78766, Item #8, Action — Public Lands Proclamation Amendments
Kirby Brown, Texas Wildlife Association, 401 Isom Rd., Suite 237, San Antonio, TX 78216, Item #8, Action — Public Lands Proclamation Amendments, Testify
Ellis Gilleland, “Texas Animals”, P. O. Box 9001, Austin, TX 78766, Item #11, Other Business, Testify
|1||Lonestar Aquafarms||Goods||25,000 Juvenile Red Drum (fish) (25,000 x 1.50/fish)|
|2||Jim Atkins||Goods||Honda ATV-Model, Rancher AT|
|3||Saltwater Fisheries Enhancement Association||Goods||Chipawa Snake Boots|
|4||Texas Ranchers and Landowners Association||Goods||Colt AR-15 Rifle (Serial# LGC 032042)|
|5||Texas Ranchers and Landowners Association||Goods||Colt AR-15 Rifle (Serial# LGC 032043)|
|6||Friends of Garner||Goods||10' shredder|
|7||Friends of Garner||Goods||Four Dell Dimension 2400 computers|
|8||Mark Henry Nasworthy, III||Goods||Undivided interest in real property at the former San Angelo Fish Hatchery|
|9||Jack Monte Jones||Goods||Undivided interest in real property at the former San Angelo Fish Hatchery|
|10||Partners in Palo Duro Canyon Foundation||Goods||Four Yerf-Dog brand utility vehicles, 2WD|
|11||Coastal Conservation Association||Goods||7 Dell desktop computers|
|12||Wal-Mart Foundation||Goods||Miscellaneous Ammunition|
|13||Bagley's Floor Services||Goods||Lees Carpet Tile: Raised floor panels using Lees carpet tile (raised floor half concrete, half hollow)|
|14||Bagley's Floor Services||Goods||Tate Raised Floor Panels: Raised floor panels using Lees carpet tile (raised floor half concrete, half hollow)|
|15||8th Judicial District-Adult Probation Department||In Kind||Adult Probationers performed maintenance and cleanup functions at WMA|
|16||Brazos Mutual Funds||In Kind||Caterer Services|
|17||Brazos Mutual Funds||In Kind||Caterer Services|
|18||San Antonio River Authority||Cash||Sponsorship support for statewide water communications initiative|
|19||San Antonio River Authority||Cash||Sponsorship support for statewide water communications initiative|
|20||The Boone Pickens Foundation, A Communities Foundation of Texas||Cash||Sponsorship support for statewide water communications initiative|
|21||The Boone Pickens Foundation, A Communities Foundation of Texas||Cash||Sponsorship support for statewide water communications initiative|
|22||Friends of Garner State Park||Cash||35,000 site maps and 20,000 (hiking) trail maps.|
|23||Brazos River Authority||Cash||Sponsorship support for statewide water communications initiative|
|24||Brazos River Authority||Cash||Sponsorship support for statewide water communications initiative|
|25||South Texas Health System||Cash||World Birding Center Mission|
|26||Louis C. Lerner Foundation||Cash||Specific gift to museum|
|27||Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority||Cash||Sponsorship support for statewide water communications initiative|
|28||Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority||Cash||Sponsorship support for statewide water communications initiative|
|29||American Electric Power||Cash||Small survey equipment|
|30||H E B Tournament of Champions||Cash||Antler Associates- Wildlife Expo Sponsorship|
|31||Parks and Wildlife Foundation||Cash||Development project-Lone Star Legacy|
|32||Parks and Wildlife Foundation (Anheuser-Busch)||Cash||To be used to cover TPWD expenses for 2005 ACTRP|
|33||Parks and Wildlife Foundation||Cash||Development project-Hixon|
|34||Parks and Wildlife Foundation (Anheuser-Busch)||Cash||Cash donation for Expo|
|35||St. Mary Land & Exploration Company||Cash||Pledge for future construction of approximately 39 feet of breakwater as part of the Goose Island Restoration project|
|36||Wal-Mart Foundation||Cash||Nature Center programs and activities|
|37||Parks and Wildlife Foundation (Coastal Conservation Assn)||Cash||To be used to cover TPWD expenses for 2005 ACTRP|
|38||Edward Martin Doran Trust Dated November 23, 1988||Cash||First distribution from Edward Martin Doran Trust to "National Museum of Pacific War"|
|39||The Sportsmen's Club||Cash||Antler Associates- Wildlife Expo Sponsorship|
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Good morning. The meeting is called to order and before proceeding with any business that Mr. Cook has a statement.
MR. COOK: Thank you, sir. A public notice of this meeting containing all items on the proposed agenda has been filed in the Office of the Secretary of State as required by Chapter 551, Government Code, referred to as the Open Meetings Law. I would like for this action to be noted in the official record of this meeting.
So that everyone here today who would like to address the Commission will have that opportunity in an orderly fashion, the following ground rules will be followed:
An individual wishing to speak before the Commission must first fill out and sign a Speaker-registration form for each item on the agenda on which you wish to speak. Those forms are available out here at the table outside, so if you want to speak to the Commission and have not done so, please fill out and sign one of those forms on each of the Agenda Items.
The Chairman is in charge of this meeting, and by law it is his duty to preserve order, direct the order of the hearing, and recognize persons to be heard. I will be assisting the Chairman today as Sergeant at Arms.
Each person will be allowed to speak from the podium one at a time. When your name is called, please come to the podium, state your name and who you represent, if anyone other than yourself. And we’ll also kind of do that on an on deck, like if there are several to speak the Chairman will call somebody to the podium and then he’ll say, Next up will be so and so. So be ready.
Then state your position on the agenda item under consideration, add supporting facts that will help the Commission understand your concerns. Please limit your remarks to the specific agenda item under consideration.
Each person who wishes to address the Commission will have three minutes to speak. I will keep track of time on this little device right here and notify you when your three minutes is up. When your time is up, please resume your seat so that others may speak. Your time may be extended if a Commissioner has a question for you. If the Commissioners ask a question or discuss something among themselves, that time will not be counted against you.
Statements that are merely argumentative or critical of others will not be tolerated. There is a microphone at the podium, so it is not necessary to raise your voice. Shouting will not be tolerated, and I ask that you show proper respect for the Commissioners as well as other members of the audience.
You will not be recognized out of turn by raising your hand or interrupting others. Disruptive or offensive behavior will be grounds for immediate ejection from the meeting.
If you have written materials that you would like to submit to the Commissioners, please give them to Carole Hemby or Michelle Klaus, who are seated here to my right, and they will pass those materials out to the Commission. Thank you, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Bob.
Next is approval of minutes from the previous meeting, which have been distributed. Is there a motion for approval.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: So move.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Moved by Vice-Chairman Henry. Second?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Second by Commissioner Holmes. All in favor, please say Aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion carries.
Next, acceptance of gifts, which have been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: So move.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Moved by Commissioner Holmes.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Second by Commissioner Brown. All in favor, please say Aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion carries. Next Bob?
Service awards and special recognition.
MR. COOK: I was going to loan the Chairman my reading glasses, but I have to have them, or we’ll be in a lot of trouble, so —
Thank you, sir.
On the retirement certificates today, we have one employee who is here to receive her retirement certificate: Ann Storey, in the Wildlife Division, Fish and Wildlife Technician V, in Tyler, Texas, with 23 years of service. Ann began her career with TPWD in April of 1981 as a Wildlife Technician in Tyler. Her first duties were carried out under the supervision of Walter Arnold and Robert Van Cleave, at what was known at the time as the Texas Parks and Wildlife Management and Research Station. Her duties included overseeing daily operation of the Game Bird Farm that was then in operation, including husbandry of game birds and maintenance of all the physical structures and facilities on the management and research station. When the Game Bird Farm operations were shut down, Ann’s job responsibilities changed to include outreach and wildlife surveys working with TDCJ in meets there on the grounds. Ann was highly involved in the wood duck nest box distribution program, assisted the District V District Leader with coordinating the statewide midwinter bald eagle surveys, and she worked tirelessly to successfully implement the Phase I activities of the new Nature Center there in Tyler.
In September of 1994, Ann was nominated during the first Employee Recognition Award Program and won the category for which she was nominated. Ann was involved with numerous outreach activities and was also a valuable asset to the Youth Tent at the Annual Wildlife Expo Event in Austin.
Retiring with 23 years of service, Ann Story.
MR. COOK: We have quite a number of service awards today, and the first one means a lot to me. I’ve known this gentleman for a long, long time, and he’s done us a great job. And these are service awards; he’s not going away; he’s going to stay with us.
And this is in the Law Enforcement Division, Max Hartmann, Game Warden from Doss, Texas, with 35 years. Max began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as a Game Warden Cadet on February 1, 1967, attending the 20th Game Warden Training Academy at Texas A&M University. Graduating in June, 1967, he was assigned to Gillespie County, Fredericksburg, Texas. In November 1971, Max transferred to Blanco County, Johnson City, and in March of ’73, back to Gillespie County and stationed out of Doss, Texas.
Max retired from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in August 1995 with 29 years of service to accept an appointment from the Gillespie County Commissioners Court to the office of Justice of Peace. He ran unopposed for this office in 1998 and was elected to another term. His desire to return to the duties of Game Warden outweighed his desire to sit in that office, so Max reinstated to his former station and position in Doss, Texas, on October 1, 1998. Max has received honors as a Top Individual Shooter in the State Game Warden Combat Matches in 1973, Shikar Safari Texas, Outstanding Wildlife Officer of the Year, in 1993, and in 2003, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Employee Recognition and Awards Program, recognized for innovation in developing a user-friendly hunting license.
With 35 years of service, Game Warden Max Hartmann, Doss, Texas.
MR. COOK: Next, from the Law Enforcement Division, Kenneth N. Hand, Game Warden, Annona, Texas, with 30 years of service.
Kenneth Hand began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as a Game Warden Cadet in 1975, graduating from the Game Warden Academy at Texas A&M in May of ’75. Upon graduation, his first duty station was in Titus and Camp Counties. He later transferred to Red River County, where he presently serves. With 30 years of service, Kenneth Hand.
MR. COOK: From the State Parks Division, Kenneth M. Moore, Park Ranger, Blanco, Texas, with 30 years of service.
Kenneth Moore came to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in December 1974 at Blanco State Park as a Park Ranger II. He has been instrumental in the promotional and planning efforts surrounding the Blanco Classic Car Show, a community effort sponsored by the local Masons that donates a portion of funds received to the Blanco State Park. Kenneth also provides support to the Blanco State Park Friends Group Parade, which also provides support to Blanco State Park. He was promoted to lead Ranger V, and with this promotion has come the opportunity to assist at a greater level with the day-to-day operations of the park.
During his tenure, he has worked under three superintendents. With 30 years of service, Kenneth Moore.
MR. COOK: From the Law Enforcement Division, Audie D. Nelson, Captain Game Warden, Bastrop, Texas, with 25 years of service.
Captain Audie Nelson began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as a member of the 34th Game Warden Academy in February of 1980. His first duty station was Rockport. He was named the Gulf Coast Conservation Association Game Warden of the Year in 1983. He transferred to San Antonio in 1991, and was stationed there until 2003, when he was promoted to the Regional Staff Lieutenant for Region IX in Temple.
In addition to his Lieutenant duties, he also became the Supervisor of the Austin Law Enforcement Communications Center in September of 2003. Audie was promoted to Captain of the LaGrange district in Region IX in February 2004. Recently, he assisted with the development of the Warrants Section in the new Law Enforcement System. He currently is the Law Enforcement Division’s Web Team Member and a member of the Warden’s Applied Recon System, which is involved in applying geographic information systems for law enforcement use in dealing with natural resources, disaster, and emergency management. With 25 years of service, Captain Audie Nelson.
MR. COOK: Also from the Law Enforcement Division, with 25 years of service, Danny Tuggle, Game Warden from Granbury, Texas. Danny began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as a Game Warden Cadet in 1972. He graduated from the Game Warden Academy on December 29 of ’72 as a Game Management Officer. This title was changed back to Texas Game Warden shortly after his graduation. His first duty station was Levelland, in west Texas. He took a leave of absence to work on the Alaska Pipeline. Upon his return, he was stationed in Amarillo for six years, then transferred to his present duty station in Granbury, Texas. With 25 years of service, Danny Tuggle.
MR. COOK: From the Law Enforcement Division, with 20 years of service, Alfonso Campos, Chief Game Warden, Austin, Texas.
Al Campos began his career at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as a Game Warden Cadet on January 2, 1985, and in June of that year he received his first assignment in Austin, Travis County. He was promoted to Instructor at the Game Warden Training Academy in October of 1992, and to Assistant Chief of Marine Enforcement in 1997. In November of 2003, he realized a career goal when he was named the Chief of Marine Enforcement. In that capacity, he serves as the Boating Law Administrator for the State of Texas and enjoys the interaction with boating safety professionals and constituents every day. With 20 years of service, Chief Game Warden Al Campos.
MR. COOK: Also from the Law Enforcement Division, with 20 years of service, Captain Scott A. Davis, Midland, Texas.
Captain Davis began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as a Game Warden Cadet, graduating from the Game Warden Training Academy on June 7, 1985. His first duty station was in Sinton, San Patricio County. On March 1, 1994, he was promoted to District Supervisor in Region I, Midland, Texas, where he serves today. With 20 years of service, Captain Scott Davis.
MR. COOK: From the Law Enforcement Division, with 20 years of service. Colonel Pete Flores. Col. Flores, a native of Laredo, Texas, and a 1983 graduate of Texas A&M University with a B.S. in Recreation and Parks, began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department on January 2, 1985, as a Game Warden Cadet. His first assignment as a Game Warden was in Anahuac, Chambers County, in June 1985. He was stationed in Bryan, Brazos County, from 1993 to 1994. In 1994, he was promoted to District Captain in Beaumont. He transferred to San Antonio in 1997 and served as District Captain there until 2002, when he was promoted to Regional Major for Region I in San Angelo, Texas, serving all the west Texas area. In 2003, he was promoted to Lt. Col., Game Warden, Deputy Director of the Law Enforcement Division and assigned to the Austin Headquarters. He served in that capacity until his present promotion in March 2005 to Colonel and Director of the Law Enforcement Division. With 20 years of service, Col. Pete Flores.
MR. COOK: He wanted me to read his whole name, which is Peter Paul Flores, just so ya’ll know.
MR. COOK: From the Communication Division, with 20 years of service, Steve Hall, Manager V, Austin, Texas. Steve Hall began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in January in 1985 as Assistant Hunter Education Coordinator. He implemented the Mandatory Hunter Education Program in 1987, which has since certified over a half million students. He became the Education Coordinator in 1988, overseeing the state’s Hunter Education, Target Range, Water Safety, and Project Wild Programs. With an emphasis on outreach by the Department, in 1992 Steve helped develop and coordinate the first Texas Wildlife Expo and has since been on its Program Committee, managing special events.
In 1993, Steve started Aquatic Education Program, created the Outdoor Woman Program, and worked with the Texas Game Warden Association in the acquisition and development of the Parrie Haynes Youth Ranch. In 1996, he worked with a committee to develop the Coop Grant Program and recommended Darlene Lewis as program Coordinator. In 1997, he implemented the Mandatory Boater Education Program and also helped develop the Texas Youth Hunting Program. Since 2002, Steve Hall has spearheaded the Department’s outreach, education, interpretive, and strategic planning efforts. He has been working with many national initiatives, and for his work in hunger education he received the Hall of Fame Award from the International Hunter Education Association. With 20 years of service, Steve Hall.
MR. COOK: Look at this tie this guy’s got on. Now is that a Hunter Ed guy, or what?
(Laughter and applause.)
MR. COOK: From the Law Enforcement Division, with 20 years of service, Willie Gonzalez, Assistant Chief, Austin, Texas.
Assistant Chief, Willie Gonzalez, a graduate of the 39th Game Warden Academy, began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in January 1985. His first duty station was Rio Grande City, Starr County. On April 1, 1993, Willie transferred to Kingsland, Llano County. He was promoted to Assistant Chief of Marine Enforcement at Austin Headquarters on January 2, 2004. With 20 years of service, Assistant Chief of Marine Enforcement, Willie Gonzalez.
MR. COOK: From the Law Enforcement Division, Larry W. Hand, Captain, Tyler, Texas, with 20 years of service.
Captain Hand began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as a Game Warden Cadet in 1985, graduating from the Game Warden Academy on June 7, 1985. He graduated from The University of Texas at Tyler with a Bachelor’s degree and received a Master’s degree from Texas A&M University. Upon graduation from the Academy, his first assignment was Galveston County. He transferred to Denton County in January 1989. During the summer of 1992, he and his partner, Karen Simmons, arrested 16 DWI suspects from Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend of that summer. He was promoted to District Supervisor on March of 1994. In May of 1997, he transferred to District Supervisor over the nine-county Tyler District in Region VIII, where he is today. With 20 years of service, Captain Larry Hand.
MR. COOK: From the Law Enforcement Division, with 20 years of service, Scott Allen Haney, Captain Game Warden. Captain Haney began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department on January of 1985 as a Cadet in the 39th Game Warden Academy. Upon graduation, Scott was assigned his first duty station in Corpus Christi, Nueces County, and remained there until his transfer to Decatur, in Wise County, in December of 1988. In June of 1994, Scott was promoted to Lieutenant Game Warden in Region 8, Mount Pleasant, and in February 2002, Scott was promoted to Captain Game Warden in the Fort Worth District, Region 2. With 20 years of service, Captain Scott Haney.
MR. COOK: From the State Parks Division, with 20 years of service, Sandra D. Sweeney, Park Ranger II, Smithville, Texas.
Sandy began her employment with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in March 1983 as a seasonal worker at Buescher State Park, while also working part time in the Accounting Department at the Austin Headquarters. Sandy was promoted to Park Ranger I in 1986 and in March of 1993 was promoted to her current position of Park Ranger II. With 20 years of service, Sandy Sweeney.
MR. COOK: From the Law Enforcement Division, Marvin Tamez, Captain, Corpus Christi, Texas, with 20 years of service.
Captain Tamez started his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as a Game Warden Cadet on January 2, 1985, graduating from the Game Warden Academy, Class number 39, on June 7, 1985, and was originally assigned to Riviera in Kleburg County. In September 1992, he transferred to Corpus Christi, Nueces County, was promoted in July 1998 to Sergeant in the Environmental Crimes Unit in Cleburne, Johnson County. In March of 2001, he returned to Corpus Christi in the Environmental Crimes Unit and remained there until he was promoted in November 2004 to Captain and Supervisor of the Environmental Crimes Unit stationed in Austin, Texas. With 20 years of service, Captain Marvin Tamez.
MR COOK: From the Law Enforcement Division, with 20 years of service, Inez Tipp, Program Administrator III, La Porte, Texas. Inez began her career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in 1979 as a Dispatcher in La Porte. She worked for about a year in this position and left to follow her husband to Colorado when his job moved there. In 1985, she returned to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, where she worked for four years. Inez left her dispatching duties to work with the South Houston Law Enforcement Office, where she worked for five years. She transferred to the La Marque office, where she worked for four years before being promoted to supervise the Law Enforcement Communication Center in La Porte. In 2000, she received the Employee Recognition Award for Innovation, and in 2003, Inez was part of the Communication Center Team that received the Employee Recognition Award for Outstanding Team. She has actively represented the Houston Communications Center on the Clear Lake Chamber Homeland Outreach Committee, and the U.S. Coast Guard’s Houston-based homeland security efforts. With 20 years of service, Inez Tipp.
MR. COOK: From the State Parks Division, with 20 years of service, Carlos Torres, Park Ranger V, Needville, Texas. Carlos came to the department in December of 1984 as a Park Ranger II at Brazos Bend State Park. In 1989, he was named Lead Ranger at Brazos Bend, where he directed the Park’s maintenance staff. During his tenure as Lead Ranger at Brazos Bend, he has organized multiple campground renovation projects as well as resource management projects. With 20 years of service, Carlos Torres.
MR. COOK: From the Law Enforcement Division, with 20 years of service, Allen Dale Waters, Greenville, Texas. Dale began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in 1985 as a Game Warden Cadet, graduating from the now-famous 39th Game Warden Training Academy in June of 1985. He was stationed in Clarkesville, Red River County, and stayed there until transferring to his home in Greenville, Hunt County, in April of 1991, where he works today. With 20 years of service, Allen Waters.
MR. COOK: From the Coastal Fisheries Division, Eric D. Young, Fish and Wildlife Technician IV, from Palacios, Texas, with 20 years of service. Eric began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in February of 1984, as a Seasonal Fish and Wildlife Technician II at the Perry R. Bass Marine Fisheries Research Station in Palacios. Eric has worked on research ponds as well as in genetic and life-history labs. He has also had the opportunity to learn, share, and be a part of history with the Buffalo Soldiers Program. With 20 years of service, Eric Young.
MR. COOK: From the Inland Fisheries Division, with 20 years of service, Kevin W. Storey, Natural Resource Specialist, Tyler, Texas. Kevin began his career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in January of 1985, working in the Inland Fisheries Division as a Fish and Wildlife Technician II at the District 2-B Office in Waco. In 1989, he was promoted to Assistant District Management Supervisor in District 3-C in Tyler. In 1998, he made a lateral transfer across town to District 3. He became District Management Supervisor in 1990 and is responsible for management of reservoirs such as Lake Fork, Lake Tawakoni, Cooper Reservoir, and Pat Mayse Reservoir. With 20 years of service, Kevin Storey.
MR. COOK: From the State Parks Division, Joyce S. Woodson, Administrative Tech III, Gonzales, Texas, with 20 years of service. Joyce began her career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in January of 1985 as a Clerk I at Palmetto State Park. She was promoted to Administrative Technician III and became the Office Manager at Palmetto. During her tenure, she has had the opportunity to serve under three Park Mangers. While at Palmetto, she has worked closely with managing the merchandise of the Park Store, as well as showing outstanding customer service, befriending many returning campers and park hosts. She continues to share with park staff and customers the importance of managing and conserving the natural resources of Texas for future generations. With 20 years of service, Joyce Woodson.
MR. COOK: Commissioners, I have a very, very special presentation that we want to make now to a very special gentleman. I know that his wife is with him, and I believe a youngster, and I want us to all recognize this gentleman and this family who have served us so well.
On December 12, 2004, Game Warden Billy Hefley was patrolling for hunting violations in the vicinity of the Canadian River in Potter County, Texas, when the Potter County Sheriff’s Office received two 911 calls about a woman being shot. Warden Hefley was only a short distance from the location, so he was first to respond to the 911 calls. As he arrived, Warden Hefley observed two people: an adult male and an adult female. The woman appeared to have blood on the front of her shirt. Warden Hefley immediately tried to assist the woman and administer first aid. The man began to approach Warden Hefley, and then suddenly he stopped and turned away from Warden Hefley. As the man turned back around, Warden Hefley could see that the man was holding a .38 caliber revolver. A struggle ensued between Warden Hefley and the man, at which time the man fired his revolver at point-blank range towards Warden Hefley until the revolver was empty. During the barrage of fire, Warden Hefley was shot in the left cheek and right arm. In addition, the shots left powder burns on Warden Hefley’s uniform shirt. During the struggle, Warden Hefley was able to fire his duty weapon one time. The single shot did not strike the assailant, but it stopped the assailant’s intent to cause harm and restored order. After the assailant was subdued, Warden Hefley returned to check on the woman and found her to have two gunshot wounds to the abdomen. While checking the woman, she advised Warden Hefley that the assailant had murdered a man before his arrival. The woman then pointed to where the man’s body had been dragged and hidden from the roadway. The woman, who ultimately survived the shooting, was transported to the local hospital, where she underwent emergency surgery. The suspect is now awaiting trial for murder, attempted capital murder, and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Warden Hefley’s professional action, while seriously wounded, prevented the situation that had already gone bad from getting a lot worse. Warden Hefley’s actions no doubt saved the woman’s life, perhaps the lives of other innocent people, his own life, and the lives of other responding officers. It is with great pride and admiration that I present the Medal of Valor, law enforcement’s highest award, for conspicuous gallantry and bravery at the risk of his own life. I present to you, Game Warden Billy Hefley.
MR. COOK: Thank you, Billy. We appreciate it very much.
That concludes our presentations today. Thank you Commissioners and folks.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: We’ll take a moment as those who were here for the awards clear the room, and then, Gene, we have some students, A&M students, coming in. So just a moment.
First order of business, Item 1, Approval of the Agenda. Is there a motion for approval.
COMMISSIONER WATSON: So moved.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Commissioner Watson and second by Ramos. All in favor, please say Aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion carries.
Next on the Agenda is Item 2, Action Item: Boat Ramp Grant Funding, Tim Hogsett.
MR. HOGSETT: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Members of the Commission. I’m Tim Hogsett, from the Recreation Grants Branch of the State Parks Division. This morning, we are bringing to you recommendations for funding for four boat ramp facilities. These boat ramps are — this is pass-through federal aid from the federal Sport Fish Restoration Act. And these are 75 percent matching grants to local governments, and the local governments agree to operate and maintain these facilities for their lifetime.
We’ve received four applications requesting $1,309,463 in 75 percent matching funds assistance. The first application is from the City of Granbury, requesting $500,000 for the construction of a three-lane boat ramp, parking lot, access drives, loading docks, restroom, and other associated facilities. The boat ramp is to be located on Lake Granbury, in Hood County, Texas.
Aransas County Navigation District Number One is requesting $258,443 to improve and expand the capacity of an existing four-lane boat ramp and parking area by constructing a second parking area, restroom, fish-cleaning station, and to refurbish the existing ramp. It is located on the north side of Cove Harbor in Rockport, in Aransas County, and is on Aransas Bay.
The City of Childress is requesting $139,833 for the construction of a single-lane boat ramp and associated facilities on Lake Childress, six miles west of the City of Childress in Childress County.
And finally, Ochiltree County in far eastern part of the Panhandle is requesting $411,187 for the construction of a one-lane boat ramp, parking area, courtesy dock, retaining wall, lighting, and other associated facilities. We do have an issue with the amount of retaining wall that they are asking for, and we expecting that actual award will be a little bit less than this.
The recommendation we are bringing before you today is funding for new construction and renovation projects in the amount of $1,309,463 is approved for boating-access facilities in Hood County, Aransas County, Childress County, and Ochiltree County, Texas. I’ll be glad to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any questions for Tim? We have one person signed up to speak on this issue. If you’ll stand by for any questions, Tim. Keith Callahan, City of Granbury.
MR. CALLAHAN: Good morning. I’m Community Services Director for the City of Granbury, and the Mayor, City Council and City Manager want to thank you for your support with our projects.
This is a ramp that will be — We have a ramp now that’s about 30 years old that was built when the lake was put in. It’s right in the wind. We feel like this will be a great asset for our citizens and our visitors that come to Lake Granbury. And again, we want to thank this Commission and Tim’s staff for all his hard work and for helping us make this happen. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Sir. Any questions or discussion for Tim on Item 2?
None? Is there a motion on this item.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Move approval.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Moved by Holmes, was it? And second by Commissioner Brown. All in favor, please say Aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion carries.
Next up, we have a briefing item, Agenda Item Number 3. Larry?
MR. MCKINNEY: Mr. Chairman, Members, for the record, I’m Dr. Larry McKinney, Director, Coastal Fisheries. I want to take the opportunity today to give you a briefing on the Coastal Fishing forecast basically for what’s coming up this season. Of course, fishing is an important part of our activities, and we certainly depend on it. It makes a tremendous contribution to the economic health of the state, and certainly we need to sell licenses and have those folks out there helping us. So I wanted to give you a quick view of what it looks like this year.
To start with, there are a number of things that we do that support those fishing activities, and I want to give you an update on some of those activities. For example, we had our annual Crab Trap Removal Program going this year again it was quite successful. We didn’t get as many crab traps as we would like, but I think that’s basically because we are working our way out of a job which is a good thing on this type of thing as we’re moving along. We’ve done quite well over the years. The number of crab traps are going down and the crabs are going up, so it’s being very, very successful. We’re going to take a look at this program over the summer to see where we want to go with it next. How we want to continue to make it viable, but it’s having a great effect and it’s being recognized around the country.
The program was up for an Environmental Excellence Award here in the state. A number of other states around the Gulf are now copying this program, so it’s a big success and very, very helpful. So we’re very proud of it and the work that Art Morse and all the crew are doing down there, and all the volunteers with CCA, a big supporter in this program, CCA has been, and we appreciate all of that, all the volunteers that we have helping us on that.
Seagrass, just a quick update there. We’re taking a step back on seagrass this summer to take a look at how we can do a better job of protecting the seagrass resources around the state. It’s a step back, but it’s going to allow us to take a couple of steps forward because I think at some point in the future in the next couple of years we’ll be coming to you all for some action to protect seagrass on a statewide basis, not just some local areas. I’m quite proud of that, and I think it’s an important activity of ours.
On habitat restoration, just to give you a quick update on that as well, we’ve been working across the state for many years to restore wetlands habitats, and you can see by the graphic here, we’ve been very successful in leveraging small amounts of money and bringing others together.
The last couple of years, our focus has been on our state park system and those years, particularly in the Galveston Bay, but one of our big projects has been Goose Island. And I’m going to tell you that in the last few weeks we’ve had the opportunity — we’ve had offers of over $1 million from one group, half a million dollars from another, and just yesterday, another group has stepped forward and would like to put $1 million into that restoration project. This is a situation we’re not familiar with. We’re usually having to go and scrounge up money, and the restrictions we’re operating under, we’re going to have to decide how to do this, because we can’t use all this money on this project. But it’s nice to have that problem rather than the other. So we’re quite proud of that, and it’s going to make a big contribution to those resources along the coast. So we’re happy with that.
In the Artificial Reef Program, that program under Paul Hammerschmidt and his crew has really been expanding and there’s going to be some neat things come out of that in the next several years. Not only more recreational fishing and diving opportunity, but we’ll talk very briefly about red snappers later. It’s going to be a very significant part of the red snapper recovery program that we’re going to have to work on because we’ve got some issues there.
One of our premier projects is the Texas Clipper, which is the old Texas A&M training vessel that I even served some time on years ago. You know, unlike the Titanic and the Bismarck, this thing is almost proving unsinkable, but at some point I’m gonna put that thing on the bottom if we can at all. And we’re going to invite you all there to see that happen.
I would tell you also that not only have we bought a ship, we bought you all a bridge. We didn’t buy the land in Florida, but we did buy the bridge in the Galveston Causeway, and we worked out a deal with TxDOT and others that we are going to put significant parts of that bridge as it is destroyed and replaced by a new one, fortunately, out to make artificial reefs with. That’s a big project, and we’re quite proud of the group that’s working with it as well.
Let’s go and take a look at our Coastal Fishing Update for the year. First of all, you know, we set a very high benchmark last year in our fisheries surveys. For example, we saw in Spotted Seatrout, we saw an increase in overall landings by 11 percent, and both ends of the coast were particularly contributing to those landings. The middle of the coast, we had a little bit of a decline there, so, but other ends covered that.
Red Drum was just a spectacular year with an increase of 31 percent in landings, particularly along the lower coast. There, it is just phenomenal. I don’t know how we can get any better than that, but we’re going to try. It was a little lower on the upper end of the coast, but the trout picked it up, up there. So the benchmark is high for where we’re going into.
We do have some continued concerns with flounder. We’re going to be looking at that species very closely over the summer. A few little highlights: in Sabine and San Antonio Bays, we did have some plusses there, so there’s some bright spots. But most of all flounder we’ve got to take a look at.
Let’s take a look at the spring and fall prospects based on our sampling programs from last spring and this fall. First of all, the off-shore and near-shore we do expect to see another good year. There’s going to be a lot of pressure there, I think more pressure, but we hope and anticipate that we’ll have a good stock, and so the off-shore fishing should be good. The one area that we’re going to have some concerns with is Red Snapper. And we’ll see more about that over the summer. And I anticipate that in August you’ll see a briefing from us on our concerns with that. The stock recovery that we’re anticipating is not occurring, and there will have to be steps taken to address that. And so that is an issue that will come back in front of us that we’re going to watch and participate in very closely.
Take a look down the coast, a little bit. First of all, based on the fall and early spring monitoring, our Spotted Seatrout and Red Drum numbers in all of our bays will either equal or exceed the long-term averages. So we’re looking for another good year coming forward.
Let’s take a look at some of the individual bays, starting at the upper end of the coast. The Sabine Lake, looking there, our landings have increased there for flounder over the last two years, as we’re talking about there. The gill-net catch rates have increased as well, so the one brighter spot for flounder seems to be in Sabine Lake and so we’re looking at that. We expect the catch rates of all of our species of interest are the highest they’ve been since 2000. So Sabine Lake is again looking good there, and that’s good news.
Galveston Bay. We look there. In the last three years the Gill net Catch Rates have been the highest that we’ve seen in 20 years for Spotted Seatrout, and that’s a big plus. What we’re also seeing on top of that is the juvenile numbers, the catch for 2004, are higher than for all previous years. So we not only know we have a strong adult base in Spotted Seatrout, we have some young coming on, so we look for good things for Spotted Seatrout in Galveston Bay. It’s should be climbing greatly.
Matagorda Bay. We expect about an average year in trout and Red Drum this year. Again, in Matagorda Bay the flounder different places they’ve had some good runs of flounder there in the Bay, so we’re kind of looking at why that’s happening, but they’re there too. That’s pretty helpful. There are some other opportunities that we’re looking at there, although sometimes we hesitate to talk about them. The Tripletail, there’s a little bit of a fishery there in Matagorda for this species. Some people really follow it, but it’s one that has some interest. And we’ve even had a few — the last three years we had Croaker runs at different places in Matagorda Bay, which we haven’t seen in other places on the coast. So that’s kind of a neat opportunity that’s unique to, not unique, but it’s certainly interesting in Matagorda Bay.
And another area in Tarpon. The Tarpon fishery — we had a Tarpon fishery off the coast some, but really there’s some in-shore and Pass Cavallo area, there’s some growing interest and some folks that are targeting those down there from a guide perspective, and having some success kind of quietly. But we’re very interested in it to the point that you’ll be hearing from us in the next year. We’re going to start a program with CCA to take a look at Tarpon what we can do with them. It’s a very exciting opportunity. We’re going to be raising some funds with them. So I’m excited about it to see what we can do to promote Tarpon and see what we can do to bring those things back.
San Antonio Bay. Taking a look there. Red Drum, it was — Red Drum are down in ’04, but they’re certainly coming back. Our fall Gill Net Catches were highest again since 1983. They were huge. They’re popping back, so we’re looking for good things in that regard.
Another little thing that’s kind of sneaking in there is the big Trout, and some of our creel surveys noticed we’re seeing some bigger Trout showing up in San Antonio Bay here and there, and I think that’s kind of a secret spot, so if people will have some interest you might have a shot at some bit Trout in San Antonio Bay more so than perhaps in the past.
One of the things that we noted there, and this pretty much holds for the central coast, as opposed to a lot of other years, we’ve had so much freshwater inflow, which is good, it’s a good thing. That’s one of the reasons we’re going to be enjoying some good fishing for the next several years. But certainly, the fishing, if you’re looking for the Trout and the Redfish, and the big ones, it’s going to be down-bay fishing in a lot of these areas. You’re going to be looking down behind these islands and other places, because these bays are very, very fresh right now, which is, again, a good thing. But if you’re looking for fish you may have to go down bay a little bit, and that was just a note our guys mentioned.
Aransas and Corpus Christi Bays. Let’s take a look at Aransas. Our guys are basically saying that the forage base up in the Aransas system is the best they’ve ever seen. It’s tremendous. Everything bodes well. Our 2004 Gill Nets were the third highest on record for both Redfish and Spotted Seatrout, certainly since 1983. We really expect to see some good there. It’s very interesting at what’s going on in that area. We have some of the highest fishing pressure that we have anywhere on the coast there. More people come to that area than to any place else. But the landings of trout and reds just continue to go up. That system is carrying that pressure. I don’t know how long it will do it, but it certainly is doing it now, and that’s one of the places I go a lot, so I add to that pressure so I can — I don’t catch as many as I should, but they’re there.
Corpus Christi. Taking a look there, again, our Bag Seine Catches rates for Spotted Seatrout are the highest since 1992. The 2003-2004 catch rates for Red Drum are highest since 1991. What’s happening, and we’re looking at this very closely in Corpus Christi Bay, what’s happening down in Corpus right now is we’re having really a natural experiment. This is the last few years—last year and probably this year—this is the first time since the dams went in at Choke Canyon that we’ve had as much fresh water come into that system as we did before those dams came in. And, of course, we had a ten-year drought before that. So we’re going to be able to see in the next couple of years just what fresh water really means to a system when it comes in. We’re already starting to see it, but we’re going to watch it closely, and it will demonstrate how valuable that fresh water really is on a scale that really is meaningful. So we’re excited about it, and we’re looking at it very closely.
Upper Laguna Madre and Baffin Bay. This one has a lot of people’s attention, of course, and we’ll take a look there. There we go; keep them both in.
I’ll tell you right now that Spotted Seatrout are at record numbers in our Gill Net Surveys there. And when we look at our gill nets at trout over 25 the same. So that system is continuing to produce a lot of trout and big trout, and we’re watching it closely to see where it’s going. But again, it looks like it’s going to be a productive year for Baffin Bay, which is good.
One other note. Kyle Spiller, who is our ecosystem leader for that part of the coast, he always tells me, Please, whatever you do, push the Black Drum Fishery. Every time we go in there with gill nets, our gill nets get full of Black Drum, and it takes us hours and hours to clean them out. So we sure would like — we have a good commercial fishery there — but there’s a real opportunity for recreational fishery. So push the Black Drum and tell people to go after them because we’re tired of taking them out of our nets. But there’s lots of them. And I guarantee it’s true. If you’ve ever tried to pull a Black Drum out of a gill net, the thousands they get, it’s a chore, but it’s a good one. It’s a good problem to have.
Lower Laguna Madre. Juvenile and sub-adult Redfish, again, are at record numbers in the Lower Laguna Madre, which is a big plus. So it’s coming on there as well. We expect our Flounder and Spotted Seatrout to be about average numbers. We are going to look very closely at the Lower Laguna Madre.
We have some issues going on down there that we’re seeing in our sampling where the juveniles are not showing up in the numbers that we think should be there. So we’re going to look very closely at that over the summer, because we do have some concern. The adults are there and doing all right, but not what that system should carry. As my ecosystem leader, Randy Blankenship, tells me down there, the Lower Laguna is a lot different than the other system. Our catch rates on our gill nets are twice as high as any place else, so the standards down there are pretty high. We have lots of trout, but they’re not where he thinks they need to be. He’s concerned about it, and when he gets concerned we all get concerned. So we’re all going to look at that very closely.
Just a point there is that Lower Laguna is always a neat place to go to fish, because you never know what you’re going to pull in. There’s an opportunity to catch all types of things down there. You never know what’s going to come on the line, and we don’t want to miss that opportunity. We’re always promoting that as well.
But overall, in summary, I wanted to move very quickly to that, I want to tell you that from a coastal fishing standpoint we’re looking at another really great year. We would encourage all of our folks to go out and get on the water. The time of the year is getting about right. The winds are still kind of blowing, but they’re starting to slack off, and the water temperatures are coming up, so basically it’s time to go fishing. With that I’ll end my briefing and certainly answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Commissioner Montgomery.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Larry, do the data or the judgment of any of our folks lead to any conclusions other than dramatically increased fresh water inflows as the cause of these big increases you’re showing?
MR. MCKINNEY: Everything is aligning, I think, as a good year. I will tell you that one contributor to that has been the shrimping regulation in 2000. That has greatly affected the forage base and so forth, and nursery areas we have set aside. That contributes to it as well. So I think it’s a combination of all those things.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any other questions? Commissioner Brown.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Dr. McKinney, what problems, if any, do we have with either brown tide or red tide?
MR. MCKINNEY: Red tide, fortunately, we haven’t seen yet. It may be they’re coming. The brown tide has shown up in Baffin, and we’ve flown some aerial surveys, and it’s been spotty here and there. It has not been severe enough as we’ve seen — as it has been in the past — to knock the fishing back any or to really change fishing behaviors much. But we’re watching it pretty closely because it has popped back up. We don’t have any real facts yet, but when you have freeze events and fish kills and you drop all that matter on the bottom of the bays and we get some nutrient loading in some of those places that normally may not have it. That may contribute, so I think that has unfortunately helped that situation. But right now we’re keeping our fingers crossed that it’s pretty minimal and showing up in small areas, not broadly as it did.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Commissioner Holmes?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Larry, are the shrimp numbers in the Lower Laguna coming back at all?
MR. MCKINNEY: Our shrimp along the coast, you mean?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Mainly in the bay itself.
MR. MCKINNEY: They are up. The shrimp numbers are up, particularly out in the off-shore areas, so that it’s a positive trend. So I can say that. I can give you some more specifics at some point, but they are positive. We hope they’re going to keep going.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Commissioner Watson.
COMMISSIONER WATSON: (Indiscernible.)
MR. MCKINNEY: Certainly, a significant contributing factor. The Flounder numbers on a coastwide basis, the decline may have leveled off. We’re not quite sure. We’re still connecting some data, but it’s still enough to be concerned with. Yes sir. So that does contribute to it. Absolutely does.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Along that same line, tell us about the numbers of bay shrimpers that are active now. I know that we surveyed those opening days and have a pretty good rough idea what’s out there obviously, but fresh water inflows are helping. Tell us what that trend is.
MR. MCKINNEY: Well, the numbers are, we hope, well, we know they are declining. We’re buying back. The biggest factor this year, of course, is fuel prices are off the charts. So that is taking out a lot of marginal folks. At least having them put their boats at the dock. Now, if fuel prices come down or level out, or the situation changes, they may come back in. But that is knocking it back and certainly making it more attractive for buy-back programs that we have and that type of thing to put them out of the fishery on a permanent basis.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Anything else for Dr. McKinney? Larry, I want to thank you for the hard work you did helping us on fresh water inflows and your staff. If it had not been for your staff’s work and the good answers that they been able to give, we wouldn’t be looking at the positive fresh water inflow provisions in Senate Bill 3.
MR. MCKINNEY: I appreciate that. On behalf of the staff, they have worked hard on this. This is a big milestone, and we just hope to keep it rolling. Thank you all for your support, and honestly, we can do the technical type work, but without the support that you all have given us and the agency, we couldn’t have gotten here. So I think everyone deserves a pat on the back, and let’s move forward.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Keep it up. Thank you, Larry.
Next up, Item Number Four. We have an Action Agenda Item, the 2005-2006 Statewide Hunting-Fishing Proclamation. Ken Kurzawski, Freshwater.
MR. KURZAWSKI: Good morning, Commissioners. My name is Ken Kurzawski, Inland Fisheries Division. And I’m here to once again briefly give you a rundown on our proposed fishing regulations for the upcoming year. This will include the comments that we have received through the Public Comment Period over the last month.
The first one is on Lake Nasworthy. We’re proposing to change the Red Drum limits. We currently have the standard inland regulations that we have on our reservoirs where we stock Red Drum, the 20-inch length limit with the three-fish daily bag, and we’re proposing to remove both those length and bag limits. This is because there was a power plant operating on that reservoir. It is no longer operating, the Red Drum need that warm water input, and they will eventually succumb to mortality. We’d like to allow anglers to take as many of those as possible. Most of the comments that we’ve received on that, all that have come through our Web page, and those were mostly for this proposal.
The next one is also in San Angelo on the North and South Concho Rivers. The current regulations there are a no-minimum-length limit on Channel and Blue Cat, and a five-fish daily bag. We also limit the angling on their pole and line only. These are the regulations that we use on our community fishing lakes, small bodies of water within urban areas where we’re doing events and trying to promote fishing. We’ve had some problems there with where these boundaries of the rivers and where the regulations into statewide stop and start, so we’re proposing some changes there.
For the South Concho, above Lone Wolf Dam, we’re going to change back to the statewide regulation, which is the 12-inch minimum for catfish and there’s no gear restrictions. For the North Concho, from O C Fisher Dam to Bell Street Dam, and the South Concho from Lone Wolf Dam to Bell Street Dam, we’re going to maintain those special regulations. This is a section of the river where we have fishing events and that we’re working on to promote fishing, and these regulations are more conducive to that. And our goal there is to hopefully clear up some of the confusion about those regulations and allow some increased harvest and use on those areas where we’re not using for events. Most of the comments that we did receive on this one were also in favor of it.
The Final Proposal is on Toledo Bend Reservoir. We currently — Spotted Bass are under a 12-inch minimum-length limit there. We’re proposing to change those to the statewide limit, which is the minimum-length limit. Our goal there is to standardize with Louisiana; they are also going to move in this direction. And this is also standardized with our statewide regulations. And most of the comments we received on this one have also been in favor of the change.
Those are all the changes that we have proposed, and based on these comments staff would recommend that you approve these as originally presented. If there are any questions, I’d be happy to answer those.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Ken. Any questions for Ken on freshwater? Thank you Ken.
Next up, Robin Riechers, Coastal.
MR. RIECHERS: For the record, my name is Robin Riechers, I’m the Director of Science and Policy for Coastal Fisheries Division. As Ken indicated, I’m here for Coastal to present the statewide hunting and fishing proclamation, and our issue today deals with the harvest of live mollusk and intertidal species.
Again, our regulatory proposal was for a seasonal closure that would occur from November 1 to April 30, and it would basically close the take or close that area for the take of live shell-bearing mollusks. They’re shell, starfish, and sea urchins in this area that we’re proposing to close in the South Padre Island area, and it’s depicted by the slide you see there. It basically runs from the end of the North Jetty at the Brazos Santiago Pass inward to a line basically 1,000 yards out from that inshore area all the way up to Marisol Drive.
Our second proposal dealing with intertidal species is also — is a bag-limit proposal. It would create a 15-univalve snail bag limit in aggregate, with no more than two of the following items in the bag at any one time. And those include lightening whelk, horse conch, Florida fighting conch, pear whelk, banded tulip, and the Florida rock snail. When you look at the public comments we had in regards to this proposal, we basically had overwhelming support for both proposals. When you look at the closed season, it’s basically 92 percent in support, and when you look at the bag limit, it was over 96 percent in support. With that, staff recommend would like Inland Fisheries that we adopt the proposals as published, and I would be happy to answer any questions at this time.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any questions for Robin on Coastal statewide fishing proclamation?
Next up, Mike Berger.
MR. BERGER: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, I’m Mike Berger, Director of the Wildlife Division. I’m here to talk to you about the Wildlife Proclamation Regulation Changes for the upcoming year. As noted, these items were presented to you in January, posted in the Texas Register, and had public comment.
The first has to do with our — there’s a slide showing our current Doe-Day regulations with a seven different Doe-Day possibilities. In an effort to simplify that and increase some opportunity, we’ve reduced those to three in addition to the fully open- and closed-season counties. The public comment on these has been overwhelmingly in favor of each one of those published changes.
Next is the 1-buck and 2-buck aggregate limits. There are currently 171 counties with a 1-buck bag limit, and in east zone (the blue counties) and west zone (the red counties), hunters currently are restricted to taking one buck from each of those zones. The change would eliminate the zones and the aggregate bag limit. Now in addition, there are 47 counties with a 2-buck bag limit, and the change would allow a hunter to take two bucks in any two-buck county and another buck in any other two-buck county. So our proposal is to remove the zone limits and aggregate bag limits, so this would be the map with all one-buck counties in blue and all two-buck counties in green. If the proposal for the southeast Texas antler restriction regulations is adopted today, there would be a two-buck limit in those lighter green counties down there. The proposal for this, again, was heavily in favor of adoption.
The antler restriction regulations, as I mentioned, the green counties are those where there was an antler restriction experiment ongoing for the previous three years, we would propose to extend those regulations to 15 additional counties in the area so that this coming season there would be 21 counties that would have the antler restriction regulation. The regulation would mean that a legal buck would be defined as having a hardened antler protruding through the skin and at least one unbranched antler or an inside spread measurement between the main beams of 13 inches or greater. So this would be a 2-buck bag limit, at least one of which must have an unbranched antler. The comments on this were heavily in favor, about 90 percent in favor of this proposal.
The Mule Deer Managed Land Deer Program. At its January meeting, the Commission discussed various options and facets of a Managed Land Deer Program for mule deer and directed the staff to publish a proposal for public comment. As you know, this has generated a lot of discussion and comment. As proposed, the program is completely voluntary, and in order to participate a landowner would need to have a written wildlife management plan for his property. He would have to have population survey data for the current year and two preceding years, would need to have harvest data for two preceding years, and would have to be conducting three habitat management practices to benefit mule deer on that land. In return, he would be given a harvest recommendation cap, and he would have a lengthened season that would begin the first Saturday in November and extend through the first Sunday in January. As I said, the public comment on this issue after the public hearings–six public hearings, three in the Trans Pecos and three in the Panhandle–have been heavy. At the present time, as of this morning, the score was 2529 in favor of the proposal and 1564 opposed to the proposal.
The next item has to do with the current spring turkey seasons. Currently, there are four different options in addition to closed. Our proposal is to simplify those seasons and increase opportunity where we would have the large area in red would go from Saturday closest to April 1 and run for 44 consecutive days, and this is an expansion of opportunity of seven days. In the brown counties, the easternmost counties, are those of the Eastern Wild Turkey, and there would still be an area there that would require mandatory check stations and shotgun only. The brown counties in southeast Texas have Rio Grandes, and the season would be the same as for Eastern, but it would be Rio Grande Turkeys instead. The comment on this proposal was heavily in favor as well.
With fall turkey season, you can see there are a number of different regulation opportunities as well. We propose to simplify that to make them concurrent with the current deer seasons in those areas. So the red would be consistent with the north zone white-tailed deer season. You can have four birds, either sex. The yellow, the south Texas zone, would be consistent with the south Texas Deer season and have four birds, gobblers or bearded hens. And then there’s a special longer season in those four south Texas counties. In addition, we would add open the fall county season in Cameron, Zapata, and Tarrant counties. These proposals were heavily in favor of adoption as well.
We propose to implement a spring youth-only turkey season. This would be for the Rio Grande birds. Anywhere there’s a Rio Grande season open, we would propose to have a special youth season open the weekend immediately prior and the weekend immediately after the opening and closing of the Rio Grande turkey season. Again, public comment heavily supported this proposal.
With regard to Lesser Prairie Chickens and the Managed Lands Program, we understand and know that Prairie Chickens have been losing habitat. You can see that the season was open in only those eight counties in two parts of the Panhandle. We feel it’s appropriate because of their status, and while we’re working on proposals to encourage work with federal and state agencies and private landowners to develop a plan to help restore those birds that we would allow hunting only on properties that have a wildlife management plan containing a Lesser Prairie Chicken component, and those managed lands, then, would have the same season and bag limit. It’s a two-day season, two-bird-a-day bag limit. Hunting would be available only on those properties, and those properties would have a harvest quota. Again, the comment was heavily in favor of adoption.
Regarding the Managed Lands Program for Quail proposal, it’s generated quite a bit of discussion as well as within the Quail Technical Committee and the Quail Council. The Quail Council met last week and discussed this and indicated its support of the Managed Land Program for Quail and of using incentives and flexibility to encourage habitat management for these birds. They believe that a plan focused on habitat development and improvement that incorporates a scientific basis for flexible harvest guidelines and seasonal quotas instead of a daily bag limit would enhance Texas’ reputation as a leader in quail conservation. Therefore at this time we would recommend that this proposal be postponed until the next regulation cycle in order to give the Quail Council, landowners, and other interested parties time to develop a different package of incentives.
Hunting by remote control. As it turns out, technology has reached a state of development that allows firearms to be controlled via computer from remote locations, and such apparatus theoretically could be used to hunt birds and animals. Under such a scenario, the Department would have no way of establishing compliance with its licensing laws were someone to be out of state. So the Commission, and the Commission does possess the authority to regulate the means and methods of take for game birds and game animals — so we are proposing to require that a person hunting game animals or game birds be physically present and personally operate the means of take. The public comment on this proposal was very heavily in favor of adoption. I would point out that there were few votes that were opposed, and most of those were opposed to the concept and not opposed to the recommendation itself.
With regard to a review process for deer permits, managed land deer permits and antlers and Spike-buck control permits, it has been recommended that we formalize the review process for these. Under this process, a permittee who was denied a permit could request a review by senior Wildlife Division personnel. The document in your briefing book refers to this as an appeals process, but in order to clarify that this is not a judicial proceeding or matter, we would refer to it as a review instead. The public comment on this matter was largely in favor as well.
Trailing wounded deer with dogs. When the Department a few years ago began to relax the restrictions on trailing wounded deer with dogs, Hunt and Washington counties were left out of that change at that time. And the Wildlife Division and Law Enforcement personnel believe that there is no longer a need for that restriction in those two counties, and we would propose to remove them. The blue counties would remain a prohibition on using dogs to trail wounded deer. There was a heavy vote in favor of this in the public comment as well. Therefore, we would have the recommendation you see here with the modification to cause by withdrawing the quail proposal, that’s Section 65.62, we withdraw that from the recommended motion you see. That concludes my comments; I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you very much, Mike. Stand by. We’ve got quite a few people signed up to testify, and I’ve segregated those are testifying on more than one of the recommendations. So those of you who are here on multiple issues, we’ll take that at the end and start out on the Mule Deer MLD proposal. First up, Clayton Williams, and Rowdy McBride, be ready after Mr. Williams.
MR. WILLIAMS: Thank you. Morning Commissioners. A lot of you I know. I’m here to support the Managed Program. I’m here to brag on the Commission some. I’ve had ranches in Wyoming and Oregon, and the landowner is generally in an ongoing battle with the game wardens and the commissions in those states. It has allowed me to doubly appreciate the attitude that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has had and how they have worked with me and other landowners. I applaud you for that. That’s one of the reasons that I would like to join and be entitled to some of the expertise that you can provide me as a rancher.
There has been controversy; almost us versus them. My grandfather came to Pecos County in 1883. He had land since some time after that. I was born in Alpine, grew up in Fort Stockton. I can tell you that all the deer are not in Jeff Davis County. I’m here to tell you too that the deer live on land, not in mule deer clubs, and most of the land out there is owned by large ranchers. I’m here to tell you that I represent today several of the larger ranches in Jeff Davis, and particularly Pecos Counties. Glass Mounts for sale. Barry Beale in Jeff Davis County, 95,000 acres. Jeff Davis-Brewster-Pecos, I have 185,000. Old Gerold Latta, San Antonio, built the Astrodome, has nearly 280,000 acres. He bought the Elsinor Ranch, which I had a grazing lease for seven years. I’m here to tell you I represent him and his son. Malone Mitchell, ?, Terrell County, Pecos County, long-term ranchers. Malone has 240,000 acres. His father has 110,000. So I’m telling you that I represent a substantial group of old-line people that by and large have lived there with one exception for three or four generations. I wanted to clear a little air on that particular situation.
Now, we’ve been doing a lot of things wrong as hunters. I have. I love to hunt. I killed my first deer 62 years ago, and I consider myself a trophy hunter. I thought I was managing well, cause we were only shooting the big, mature bucks, only the 10-, 12-point bucks. What I find, and what my friends in Fort Stockton find, particularly, that our deer herds have deteriorated. And so we started investigating that. Why is that? Because we’re shooting the top. In rancher’s language, we’re shooting our breeding herd bulls every year and letting the inferior breed. We had a study that was worked with the Parks and Wildlife some years back that at the West Powell Ranch before I bought it, they captured —
MR COOK: You’re about out of time, sir.
MR. WILLIAMS: I’m already overdue. I may take a little extra time. The guys at Alpine did. So we’re shooting our minor deer; we’re shooting our 10-points and the inferior deer are breeding our herd. To me, we need a change in season, we need a change in management. If I could manage my own herd perfectly, I would shoot — for fun — I would bring the boys school and my employees, we’d be taking the 6- and 8-points, because they’re never going to become 10-points. We’d let the trophy deer wait; we’d take them after Christmas and let them continue to pass their genetics on. Thank you for the time. I applaud and appreciate what you guys are doing. I appreciate you sticking your neck out, and I want to tell you a lot of other people do too. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Rowdy McBride. And Ellis Gilleland, be ready.
MR. MCBRIDE: Hi. I’m Rowdy McBride. I’m a guide and outfitter in west Texas; have been for about 20 years. I’m for the MLDP for the fact that when you get to manage your herds the way you want to be able to grow trophy mule deer and hunt them after they’ve rutted, I think it can’t but help our mule deer population out there. For this many years, we’ve been hunting them before they’ve had a chance to breed, and it has deteriorated the deer. Anyway, it just to me makes perfect sense to be able to harvest them after they’ve passed on their genetics.
The other is just the freedom of choice; to be able to manage the deer herd how you would like to. If I was really in it and maybe more as a commercial operation, I probably wouldn’t join the voluntary program because I can take as many hunters as I want in 16 days. So commercially it’s not good, but for the deer itself I think it’s a good program. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, sir. Mr. Gilleland. And next up, Darrell York.
MR. GILLELAND: My name is Ellis Gilleland, private citizen speaking for Texas animals, which is an animal-rights organization over the Internet. Giving you a handout of several pages beginning with the Texas Register, February 25, 2005, beginning on page 1029. I will address three items: bighorn sheep, hunting with dogs, and quail hunting.
On the first, the bighorn sheep, it says in the Texas Register, given the extremely remote and inaccessible areas that are a characteristic of desert bighorn habitat, it is unrealistic to expect sheep to be located on it without use of motorized vehicles, a pure BS, and I don’t know what the guy was smoking when he wrote this. You do not need motorized vehicles; in fact you can’t take a motorized vehicle up on the side of a mountain in Davis, where the bighorns are. What this is, the subterfuge is, is authorizing helicopter hunting of bighorn sheep for people that can afford $50,000 or $100,000 to kill an animal. Very few people have a helicopter. For example, Mr. Bass, he has a fleet of helicopters, so he can go up there without even stepping out of the bird and knock off a bighorn. And he has the money to do it. I cite him as an example because I know him so well, and he hunts animals from helicopters on his ranches.
Dealing with the dogs hunting the deer in east Texas, you had security checks at this front door here for 10 years now. Nobody has been shot in this room for 10 years, so why don’t you just do away with security checks because it’s obvious nobody’s going to carry a gun in here. Do away with the security checks. Hell, no, you’re not going to do away with it. And that’s the reason why please do not do away with hunting dogs in east Texas. They’re obeying the laws and they can continue obeying the laws by leaving the law there.
On the quail, this is completely bogus because, if you check the Texas Register publication, there’s nothing about 90 quail. There’s a figure of 45 quail if authorized in excess of 45 authorized with the landowner. Any landowner can give a quail hunter an affidavit and he can hunt 1,000 birds. Read it; you’ve got it in your hand. And it’s so worded that it applies to hunters outside your management area. In other words, any Jim Bronie walking down Hwy 35 can go off in the ditch and shoot a thousand quail. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Gilleland. Darrell York, and next up, Marty Berry.
MR. YORK: Good morning. I’m Darrell York. I’m ranching in Jeff Davis County, and I really don’t do speeches, but there’s nobody in this world that enjoys visiting more than I do. And that’s what I am. I’m here to visit with ya’ll.
Over at Fort Stockton, at the hearing over there, this lady came up and she said, I’m here to represent the desert mule deer. I was sitting back there thinking, What in the world am I gonna say? Cause I don’t prepare things. I thought, Well, if I’m not here to represent the desert mule deer, what in the world am I here for? I’ve met good people, and we’ve had a lot of fun while we were here.
The present season was set long ago with the best interests of the deer, the hunters, and the landowner in mind. And, you know, there’s a lot of things that we’ve tried to improve on, and sometimes we’ve messed things up. Unfortunately, the mule deer is a very fragile critter, and I don’t think there’s room in there to make a mistake. I know there’s not.
Having said this, some of you know it, some of you are aware of it, some of you may not be. But for decades, in west Texas, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has had a credibility problem. A lot of us remember when mid-seventies, when the Department tried to take our ranches away from us. They told us this was not a willing buyer situation. ’89, the National Park Service — we found them on our doorstep. The personnel from Parks and Wildlife were introduced as part of the team. We underwent the criminal trespass situations with the biologists. But you know what? Things happen. Things happen.
What we’re looking at now is the fact that in year 2000, I believe under the reign of Andy Sansom, the Department created a mission for themselves to manage our land and our natural resources. Now, unfortunately, the mule deer has been used as an incentive, a pawn, or bribe, whatever we might want to call it, to get people to sign into this. They’re giving them a 60-day extra season to do this.
The deer deserve better. Let’s treat folks the way we want to, but let’s please let’s don’t do that to the deer. It’s not a good thing. If they knew what we're doing here in this room, I think they’d all go nocturnal this evening.
But anyway, I’m through. I appreciate you guys. We’ve had a good time here in Austin. Smelt some good moisture. That’s nice; we enjoyed that. If ya’ll been wondering, this is not my speech. I be some of you thought I was fixin’ to read this. Rick Tate, President of the Davis Mountain - Trans Pecos Heritage Association, which is a property-rights association, asked me if I would please give this to ya’ll. He asked if you’d please read this before you make your decision. He’s got some comments in here. He told me, I didn’t read it, that might be helpful. So God bless you guys, and man, I appreciate you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. York. If you’ll hand that to the staff, they’ll make sure it gets around. Tell Rick hello for me.
Marty Berry. And Kip Bramblett be ready.
MR. BERRY: Good morning. I’m Marty Berry. I’m from Corpus Christi, Texas. I think the gentleman that just spoke, he brings up a good point. I think Parks and Wildlife may have an image problem in west Texas. It may have an image problem in south Texas. But I do believe this is a fine program. I’m involved in the white-tail end of the MLD; I will be involved in the mule deer end of the MLD when and if ya’ll approve it. I think that it’s been a long time coming. It’s very progressive on y'all’s part. It’s going to save our west Texas mule deer. I wish we had a way to provide money for predators out there, because we know it’s in a tough way out there in west Texas. The rain takes care of a lot of problems, but this is a good program. You know, Parks and Wildlife may come with some baggage when they step in west Texas, and that area of the state really doesn’t like people in their back yard. But this is a good program. Wonderful program. Please consider it highly. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you. Mr. Bramblett and then Allen Hughes be ready.
MR. BRAMBLETT: Good morning. My name’s Kip Bramblett, and I represent ten ranches in Hudspeth and Culberson counties. They belong to the Bean’s, the Leudeches, the Brambletts, the MacAdoos, the Snyders, and the Stevens. They’re not quite as big as Clayton’s ranches, but they’re people too, and they have a real interest in this deer hunting program.
I read the handwriting on the wall yesterday, and I told my wife, You know, we might as well go home. And she said, No, this is a democracy; this is a representative government, and we’re going to have our say. So we’re here today to tell you how we feel about the MLD Program for the mule deer.
We’re all opposed to it. I will tell you frankly that those numbers you received about for and against are not good numbers. Had we known that they were going to go to a gun convention and ask everyone if they wanted to extend the hunting season 60 days, we would have simply gone to a tree huggers convention and told them if you’re on the side of this program you can stop them from extending the deer season. And we could have come up with a bunch of signatures too.
In 2003, when this program was proposed, we had three public meetings in the Trans Pecos area, and I went to two of them. I went to two of them again this year. In that signup form, there was a place to vote for or against. And 87 percent of the people in 2003 that went to those meetings were opposed to this program. In the ’05 program, they left the for or against off. I suspect that was not by accident that they left it off. I believe that if they had left it on there you would have found out that people going to the meetings, the people living in the area, the people that deal with the mule deer all the time, would have been 90 percent or better against this program because this program is a little more onerous than the one they proposed in ’03, because it’s wronger.
If you really want to harvest the mule deer, as one of the gentlemen ahead of me said, after he’s mated, then what you need to do is stop that November hunt and put it all in December and January. The mule deer need your protection. They’re not the same as the white-tail. The mule deer population is actually declining. Now one of the real reasons it’s declining is the predators, and you’re not proposing to do anything about that, but you’re going to extend the season. So you’re going to get rid of a lot of them.
I was in the same class at A&M with Clayton, so I guess I can take a little more time too.
CHAIRMAN FITZSIMONS: I’m going to tell them in a minute, Mr. Bramblett, why you have special status here.
MR. BRAMBLETT: But again, those mule deer need your protection, and this is not a good thing for the mule deer. Mule deer are not the same as white-tail. The white-tail population all over Texas, as I understand it, are getting greater. The mule deer population is not getting greater, and hunting them more is not going to help them. Thank you, and I really appreciate you gentlemen for giving us your time.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Mr. Bramblett, thank you. And Mr. Bramblett, for those of you who don’t know, made a very important donation to the Texas Water Trust, the only one we have in the Rio Grande, and he has been a great conservationist and done a lot for our water, and I thank you Mr. Bramblett.
Mike Berger, would you address the issue of the forms, because I was there and you did record for and against. Am I incorrect.
MR. BERGER: I don’t know. I didn’t go to those public hearings. I have not seen the forms, so I can’t really comment as to whether they were —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: What you showed us yesterday, you did have a breakdown though of the —
MR. BERGER: I had a breakdown of how the comments came in and the numbers of comments.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Including the public hearing?
MR. BERGER: Including the public hearing.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Ok, Thank you. I just wanted to clear that up. Thank you.
Dan Allen Hughes. And Bob Nunley be ready.
MR. COOK: Mr. Chairman. While Mr. Hughes is getting to the microphone, I’d just comment that I generally let the Aggies have a few more minutes, anyway.
MR HUGHES: Well, Mr. Commissioner, I’m an Aggie, but I don’t need very many minutes. I’m going to make this short and sweet.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Can I put all the Aggies in a row here?
MR. HUGHES: What’s being passed out to you right now — by the way, I’m Dan Allen Hughes, Jr.; I’m from San Antonio, and I’m in favor of the MLDP proposal — What’s being passed out is a map I’ve put together in somewhat of a hurry in the last couple of days. And basically, I just called my neighbors and polled each of them if they’re for or against this proposal.
If you look on this map, it’s just a southeast corner of Culberson County and the north part of Jeff Davis County. In yellow on the map are two ranches that are owned by my family: the Apache Ranch and the Kent Ranch. Also, highlighted on this map, along with my ranches, is a little over 700,000 acres, representing 16 different ranches who are in favor of this proposal. I finished this late yesterday afternoon, and after I finished it I have had two more ranches call me who would have liked to have been added, and my drafter would have killed me if I had called her last night and asked her to come back and please add a couple of more. But that’s over 100,000 additional acreage. The reason I did this is just to point out there is widespread support for this proposal. There’s been some very vocal opposition, but I think if you took this same map, and if I had time I’d have liked to have done it for the whole Trans Pecos region, I think you’d see that there is very widespread support.
I just came today to ask you guys to please pass this proposal, and I think if you do, the beneficiaries — it’s not really a battle of who’s for and who’s against; it’s for the mule deer. And the beneficiaries and winners are going to be the mule deer if you’ll pass this proposal. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, sir. Bob Nunley. Next up, after Mr. Nunley, Jerry Bramblett be ready.
MR. NUNLEY: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. Thank you for allowing me to testify today. My name’s Bob Nunley. We ranch in west Texas. I have two ranches. I’ve ranched out there all my life. We also ranch in south Texas, have several places. We use MLDPs in south Texas with excellent success. Our hunting business depends on it. It depends on our reputation for raising good deer. We see no reason that it won’t work in west Texas. We already employ the same management practices, improvement practices out there, and we have a tremendous reproduction, a huge amount of deer. We are missing the tool that would allow us to remove inferior deer and keep our numbers in check.
Obviously, I support the program. I see no reason we shouldn’t be given the opportunity to employ a voluntary program to improve our deer. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Nunley. And Jerry Bramblett, and Nelson Puett be ready.
MS. BRAMBLETT: Good day. How are you gentlemen? I am opposed to the proposition. We have worked a lot of time trying to maintain the mule deer in west Texas, and I have four sisters, and we’re all opposed to this program. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, ma’am.
Mr. Puett. And Greg Simons, be ready.
MR. PUETT: My name is Nelson Puett, from Austin, Texas. We have two ranches: one in Culberson County, one in Hudspeth County. I’m strongly in favor of the MLP Program. There’s a lot of reasons that most people will go into. I want to give you a face of two of them: my two daughters, Callie Puett that’s 16, and Elizabeth Puett that’s 13. The way the season’s set right now, they cannot start hunting until the Saturday after Thanksgiving. We travel on a Friday, they hunt one day. To be back in school on Monday here in Austin, we have to pack up and leave on Sunday. This program needs to be in place to give youth of Texas an opportunity to get out to West Texas, enjoy the big country, enjoy hunting mule deer. I hope that ya’ll pass it. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Puett. Greg Simons. George Strickhausen, be ready.
MR. SIMONS: Good morning. I’d first like to say thank you to our Wildlife Commission for volunteering their time to be here and listen to our input today.
My name is Greg Simons; I’m a private wildlife biologist and own a company called Wildlife Systems. We take care of the hunting operations on several different properties scattered around the state, including a couple of large ranches in the Trans Pecos region. We’ve also done some work with some mule deer programs in other states as well.
The point that I want to make today is this: the Managed Lands Deer Permit concept is not a new concept at all. It’s been around for a long time here in Texas, with white-tailed deer. It’s proven to be a successful and effective program. It’s proven to be popular with the landowners. It’s proven to be user friendly. Otherwise, there would not be some 2900 permittees that control some seven million plus acres that are enrolled under this voluntary program. For those critics that say, Well, a managed lands deer permit may work well for white-tailed deer, but it won’t work for mule deer, I beg to differ with them.
Colorado has what they call their Ranching for Wildlife Program, a very similar concept to what we’re talking about today. It involves mule deer. It’s voluntary. It provides extended hunting seasons that extend well into the mule deer rut. Utah has what they call their Cooperative Wildlife Management Units, a very similar concept to what we’re talking about today. It involves mule deer. It’s voluntary, provides hunting seasons that extend well into the rut. Both of these programs have proven to be very successful and effective programs in those states.
I’d also like to add that some of the most prestigious mule deer programs in the United States happen to be on privately owned properties that are located in Colorado and Utah and are enrolled under these voluntary programs. You guys have provided us with the maximum flexibility that we need to be able to manage our white-tailed deer here in Texas. Consequently, Texas is considered the premier destination in the United States for hunting white-tailed deer.
I feel like the time is appropriate that mule deer managers and landowners that have mule deer on their properties be provided with the set of tools that will allow us to elevate our mule deer operations to the next level. I think it’s time that the State of Texas move forward with its mule deer program. And I feel like the Managed Lands Deer Permit would be a big step in the right direction. It could be a win-win situation, not only benefiting those landowners that are enrolled under the program, but ultimately, and more importantly, benefiting the mule deer resource. Thank you for your time.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you Mr. Simons. Mr. Strickhausen. And P.J. Fouche be ready.
MR STRICKHAUSEN: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. My name is George Strickhausen. I’ve been observing and hunting mule deer in west Texas for 25 years. I believe under the auspices of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department that the Managed Land Deer Permit would benefit the future genetics of the mule deer herd. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you Mr. Strickhausen. Mr. Fouche. And Bill Miller be ready.
MR. FOUCHE: Good morning, gentlemen. My name is P.J. Fouche. While my accent is different, I do spend part of my time in Texas.
If I may, I’d like to give you a bit of a parameter of landowners being able to manage their trophies or the animals on their ranches. I’ve been fortunate enough to operate hunting safaris and management programs in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Central African Republic, and a little bit of Cameroon, and, of course, Texas. The white-tail management project for south Texas is probably the best in the world. And if you look at countries like South Africa, Zimbabwe, and the bottom part of Zambia, where the landowners are allowed to manage the animals, they brought certain species that were very vulnerable back.
You look at countries like Cameroon and Central Africa, where you’re not allowed to do it, there’s big problems. Certain species are now facing extinction as are certain areas in Zambia. So I think, looking at what’s happening worldwide, where the landowner has the opportunity to protect their wildlife, manage your wildlife, there’s only one answer: it’s for the benefit of the wildlife.
Therefore, having been able and fortunate enough to hunt in west Texas, guide hunt and be part of a management program out there, I’m very much for it. Thank you, gentlemen.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Fouche. Bill Miller. And Earl Baker, be ready.
MR. MILLER: Good morning. My name’s Bill Miller. I represent Miller ranches in Jeff Davis and Presidio County. We are a former statewide Land Steward Award winner, and we very much support the MLDP program for mule deer. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Miller. And congratulations on your award. Mr. Baker. And after Mr. Baker, Steve Dutton, be ready.
MR. BAKER: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Earl Baker. I ranch in the Eagle Mountains. I also represent H.L. Richie, Burnix Ranches, and Dr. Hurt Pate and his family, and Rimrock Ranches in Culberson County. That’s about 200,000 acres.
First of all, Mr. Vernon Bevill, I believe it was, said yesterday he was giving you some information on your migratory birds. And he said when you implement something on a landscape basis that’s this important, you need to have biology and science behind it. And you simply don’t have it.
I’m not going to argue the MLDP issue; I’m going to argue the rut. And what we seem to be operating on here is the theory that a deer is a deer is a deer. The difference between mule deer and white-tailed deer biologically is in the rut. Mule deer lose, somebody said yesterday, silly. They lose their instinct for survival totally. That’s why none of these western states Mr. Simons mentions, these exclusive properties in Utah and Colorado — I’m from New Mexico — 45 years I’ve been hunting deer in New Mexico — Arizona. I’ve lived in Arizona ten years, Arizona — New Mexico. I’m familiar with the programs in Colorado and Utah. Success is in the eye of the beholder.
Some of those properties have had relative success, and it’s very limited, very exclusive numbers. The big difference is — the good news and the bad news about Texas is it’s private land, it’s private land. Those properties are essentially noncontiguous. We don’t have this problem that is going to be prevalent if you implement this with the rut where deer commingle.
Mule deer are as nomadic as white-tailed deer are territorial during the rut. I passed out a letter yesterday; I hope that you had time to examine. And this is going to create problems from now on for landowners. And this has been the big issue for over two years that this has been discussed here, and it seems like this just keeps coming back. We’re going to hunt the rut.
We want a vacation hunt in the rut. And you’re going to have people culling the neighbor’s deer when they come over. I don’t want to have that deer on my property. Look at him. That may be to some small operator or small acreage that doesn’t feel the need to be in the program; a good deer to him. And we’re going to have this continuing problem from now on if we don’t address that issue.
All the Commission has to say is we’re not going to hunt the rut, just like all the other western states deer management do not have general rifle hunts for the rut. In fact, New Mexico just reduced this year their archery hunt during the rut from the typical 30-45 days, depending on the year, to one week because of this problem.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Baker. Mr. Dutton. And then Tom Beard, be ready.
MR. DUTTON: Good morning. I’m Steve Dutton from San Antonio, and I’ve been hunting in the Van Horn area for many years for mule deer and I’ve participated in the MLD Program on my place in the Hill Country. I’ve found the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department staff to be excellent. I found the program to be excellent. And it resulted in me following better management practices than I was before the program.
I also think that the mule deer program is a better tool for mule deer than it is for white-tailed, because many of the management plans that will be put in place will center on increasing the quantity of the herd rather than reducing the quantity of the herd. And in short, I’m for the program. I believe the result will be increased awareness and knowledge of good management practices, improved habitat quality, better health, quantity, and quality of the mule deer herd, and increased hunter opportunity. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you Mr. Dutton. Mr. Beard. And then Julia Donaho, be ready. Tom, it’s good to see you. Julia Donaho and then Mike Livingston be ready.
MS. DONAHO: Good morning. My name is Julia Donaho. I represent Rancho Del Cielo, in Jeff Davis County, and Alberto Barierrez, an absentee landowner and a past Trans Pecos winner of the Land Steward Award.
My husband and I, along with many of our neighbors, have worked tirelessly over the past two years to gather support for the MLDP Program. One of our main tasks, however, seemed to be to explain the program. Unfortunately, many people didn’t understand it, and they still don’t understand it. This is a voluntary program, which seems to be hard to get across to some. And if some choose not to participate in it, that’s their right. But please, Commissioners, don’t discriminate against those of us who are in favor of it. Don’t deny us the right to use this management tool to improve your resource and our program.
We also believe we have a legal right to this program, just like the south Texas people do. Thank you for your time.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you Ms. Donaho. Mike Livingston. And then Wyck Livingston be ready.
MR. LIVINGSTON: I’m Mike Livingston, from Marfa, Texas. We’ve lived and ranched in that country since 1876. We’re against this MLDP. I know lots of people out there. Very few are in favor of it in Presidio County.
Now, I would like to challenge the petition put forth by the proponents of the MLDP. The petition was signed under the idea that it would a compromise that was being proposed by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, which did not include the rut. The proposal that is before the Commission now includes hunting the rut. So this petition is at best suspect, if not null and void. In other words, many who signed the petition and letters prior to January 25 were doing so in support of the compromise proposed by Mr. Brewer.
Now, I’ve heard a little more stuff on how this adversely affects the small landowner. But I know that is not the problem. Ya’ll have heard enough on that. I know the problem is politics. I think our wildlife should be put above politics, and I urge you to make your decision on science and biology.
Now, I have a question in closing that is three parts: I’d like to know have you done an environmental assessment? If not, do you plan to do one? If not, why not?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Livingston. Mike, would you address the biological issue there, and I think you may want to review Clay Brewer’s testimony at the last meeting that the rut actually was part of the regular season last year, and the other question of how these plans biologically are established.
MR. BERGER: The wildlife management plan is what you’re meaning on the ranches. There’s going to be an assessment of the habitat, of a population, the harvest history of the property, and an assessment of how much that habitat, as it improves over time can support in terms of a deer population, and what a recommended harvest quota would be for that property to maintain the goals and objectives of that particular landowner for his land. So that would be how that quota is established.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: That answers the environmental impact statement question?
MR. BERGER: I believe so. In terms of the rut, the rut varies from year to year. I mean it’s not fixed dates, and as I understand last year the rut occurred during the established 16-day season, that that season did extend and cover part of the rut period.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Mr. Wyck Livingston up. And then Stewart Sasser be ready.
MR. LIVINGSTON: My name Is Wyck Livingston, and I have lived and ranched in Marfa, Texas, most of my life. I would like to start out by saying to you, Mr. Fitzsimons, that I commend you for eloquently configuring your own conquest for the MLDP proposal. You say you are tired of this issue year after year. Well, I believe that a job worth doing is a job worth doing right. And if we can’t get it right we should listen to our biologists.
If the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department keep letting political influences call the shots, soon we won’t need the state agency to manage our wildlife. You said, Mr. Fitzsimons, that this issue is not biologically based, but simply a reward program. Then if it is not biologically based, we shouldn’t be here today debating the MLDP.
It has been said that this program has worked great for the white-tailed. If so, why are there only around 7 million acres participating when the white-tailed habitat ranges around 100 million acres? If you want to reward the ranchers, reward the ranchers that have taken care of your mule deer generation after generation when there was no political interest.
I would like to say to my Texas Parks and Wildlife Commissioners that any decision made today be because of biological, and not economical based reasons that further deepen the political pockets. If you proceed with this MLDP proposal, for God’s mule deer, you will sever the main west Texas artery that feed you. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Livingston. Mike, will you address the biology issue on recommended harvest and whether or not it is in or outside the rut? Mr. Livingston’s question?
MR. BERGER: The harvest would be based on what the habitat and what the population on that ranch could support. That would be the harvest quota for that property, and in terms of biology, the deer harvest can occur at any time, and it’s a numbers problem. And the landowner, again, and this program is voluntary, has control over when during that longer season proposed, when he has the opportunity to harvest and when he does not. And from a biological standpoint, it doesn’t matter to the deer harvested whether they’re shot the first day or the last day.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mike. Mr. Sasser’s up. And then Shawn Brugete be ready.
MR. SASSER: Chairman Fitzsimons and Commissioners. Thank you for the opportunity to speak today.
I’m here to speak in favor of the MLDP program for west Texas mule deer. I just want to thank the Commission for the type of regulations and policies that are coming out in the last few years that are more pro property rights type regulations, giving more responsibility to landowners to better regulate and improve the habitat for his wildlife and do things for his property. I think this is the proper way to go. It’s a friendly Parks and Wildlife type program. I encourage the fact that you continue to make these kinds of programs voluntary. For those type of landowners that don’t want to enter these kind of programs and manage their land more intensively, then it’s great that the Parks and Wildlife is there to maintain those seasons for him to better handle his own property.
I just want to say I would like for ya’ll to vote in favor of the MLDP program for mule deer. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Sasser. Mr. Brugete. And Lane Sumner be ready.
MR. BRUGETE: My name is Shawn Brugete, and I’m an awfully small landowner. I only own 200 acres in Terrell County. And I’d just like to know what is this program going to do for me?
You talk about increased hunter opportunity, well, 12 years ago I bought this property so my son would have a chance, when he was born is when I bought it, so he would have a chance to hunt. Now, under this program I’ll never, ever, get a permit to hunt deer. Hence, I’ll have 200 acres of worthless land, no hunter opportunity.
Secondly, to these folks that have a lot of property and have a problem culling out their deer and not getting enough permits or whatever, open your doors and let the public hunter in, and that will take care of your problems. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you Mr. Brugete. And Lane Sumner. Ralph Donaho be ready.
MR. SUMNER: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Lane Sumner. I’m a wildlife biologist and ranch manager on the Jobe Ranch in Culberson County. I’m very much in favor of this program. It will be good for the resource and the landowners as well.
It’s been brought up that it will affect your neighbors. Well, right now, under the current situation, I try to talk to my neighbors and find out how many deer they’re killing now under the current season to determine how many deer I need to kill on the ranch that I manage, because I know deer don’t stay just on my ranch. They move around now, and I have to consider my neighbors now under the current plan as well as if this program goes into place. But I’m very much in favor of it. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Mr. Donaho. And James Hayne, you’ll be up next. Be ready.
MR. DONAHO: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Cook. I’m Ralph Donaho, from Kent, Texas. And I’ve been managing mule deer for 15 years. We’ve been under the Parks and Wildlife Management Program for 11 years. Not the MLDP program, of course, but the Management Program.
Our problem is today we have too many deer. The program has worked. We’ve increased the numbers, and we need more time to manage. We need more time to take chronic wasting disease samples. It’s very difficult to keep your numbers in check, take care of a very few hunters, and the landowner in 16 days. We need more time.
This program will work. It has been working all over Texas. It’ll work for mule deer. It’s good for hunters. It’s good for the mule deer. It’s good for habitat. It’s good for ranches, and ranchers, and the local economy. It’s also very good — it’ll give our youth more time to hunt during the Thanksgiving holidays and especially the Christmas holidays.
And one point I’d like to make. The people that are going to enter this program — don’t think for one second that during the rut we’re going to kill our prize bulls, that we’re going to kill the best buck we’ve got. It’s not going to happen. We’re interested in taking out the management deer and keeping our numbers in check, and letting those good bucks live on. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Donaho. Mr. Hayne, Means, be ready.
MR. HAYNE: Hello Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. Thank you for having this session for all of us this morning. I’d like to tell you I’m representing my family, and we’re very much in favor of the Managed Land Permit Program.
My family has been ranching since the 1880s in Brewster, Presidio, and Kendall Counties. Ranching operation was started by Alfred Gage, and is now represented by my wife, Roxanna Gage, Cato Hayne, and my sister-in-law, Joan Megley Kellerher [phonetic].
We certainly believe in management, and to that end we’re trying to do our part with expanded waterings, with a full-time trapper, and with other things that we believe are necessary to cooperate with the Parks and Wildlife Department. So we certainly vote in favor, and I thank you very much. Go Spurs!
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you Mr. Hayne. Jon Means. And then Ron Helm be ready.
MR. MEANS: Good morning. Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak on this issue. My name is Jon Means. I’m a ranch man near Van Horn, Texas.
I would like to think everything that can be said has been said on this MLDP. I stand very strongly in support of the MLDP. It’s fair, it’s voluntary, and it will improve habitat. It is the right thing to do. I hope that we are not denied the opportunity to participate in a program that long-term will be very beneficial to west Texas. Thank you for hearing my comments.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Means. Ron Helm. And then Beau White be ready.
MR. HELM: Thank you for letting me speak today. My name is Ron Helm. I’m from Van Horn. My wife and I actually live and ranch out there between Van Horn and Fort Davis, which is about on the Culberson-Jeff Davis County line.
We are not a relatively large operation. Considering the operations around us, we are small. But we were for the MLD program, and along those lines I’d just like to say that times change and situations and priorities evolve. And I think through the last 25 to 35 years we’ve seen what have been traditional operations start to elevate their wildlife management and enhancement programs to top of the list now. That’s no big secret, but I also think this MLDP program is a step in the direction that we can take now to have the next tool that we can use to truly manage the deer and truly influence the composition of the deer herd.
Yes, I think it should forevermore be voluntary, and I would fight to see it that way for people like me that want to stay in it, and for the people that do not want to be in it. A lot of these people here today are my friends and my neighbors. We have differing opinions. I certainly wouldn’t want to ever deny them their ability to do what they feel is right on their properties.
No, I don’t feel like this program is going to force my neighbors to join or me to join my neighbors. I don’t feel like it’s going to work that way. It has not in the white-tailed situation so far. I have not heard of a situation that said, Yes, I’m gonna have to do it because my neighbor’s doing it. If heard of it, Yes, I want to do it because I’ve seen what has happened at my neighbors have done it.
So in those regards, I’d like to encourage the Commission to vote for this MLD program. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Helm. And Mr. Beau White. And Ralph Richards be ready.
MR. WHITE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Bob. Ya’ll put me up here, Joe, right after two of my best friends, and I’m opposed to it. But Ron and Jon are very good friends of mine, long, lifetime friends, and we will be after this.
I represent the Bright Ranch, J.E. White Sons, the Highland Ranch companies, nearly 200,000 acres in west Texas, in Presidio and Jeff Davis Counties. I’m a fourth generation rancher. I currently live here in Bastrop County. But I certainly feel this is wrong. I don’t think you should do it.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department owns and manages land out in that area: Black Gap, Big Bend Ranch. They have no success stories to show from improved management like this. Hasn’t happened. You don’t have the biology behind it. You’re implementing the will of a few on the majority of the landowners, not the stakeholders, the landowners in west Texas to implement this program.
There are different species, different climates, and different environments than south Texas. The white-tailed program there has been very successful in south Texas. It will not work in west Texas. If you believe implementing south Texas methods and hunting methods in west Texas will work, I hope you’ll bring your pointers to west Texas and hunt scaled quail, guys. I think you’ll be very disappointed in the results.
Thank you. Please vote no on this.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Beau. Mr. Richards. And George Fore be ready.
MR. RICHARDS: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission. Thank you very much.
My name is Ralph Richards, I’m from El Paso. I am here on behalf of the Jobe family and the Jobe ranches, one of which is shown on the map that Mr. Hughes gave you. We’re very much in favor of and support the program. We want to thank you for going through the effort to consider it, and want to point out a couple of reasons we’re in favor of it.
We like that it’s voluntary. We think that it provides a lot of flexibility. It will promote good management as a lot of people have already said. In the desert ranches, you have a lot of large areas that have relatively low deer populations. We believe that this program offers some real advantages in those situations. It will improve the management; it will improve the deer herd. It also promotes better habitat.
On the property rights issue, there’s a number of people have raised questions about property right issue. We do not think that it denies anyone a property right. It is a voluntary program. In fact, to deny someone the right to have this type of flexibility would be a denial of a property right to people who want to participate in it. The people that don’t want to participate in it don’t have to, and we think that you’ll have an improved deer herd and hunting program in areas where you have the program. And we support it and ask you to support it. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Richards. Mr. Fore. And Rick McIvor be ready.
MR. FORE: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. Good morning. My name is George Fore. I live in Hudspeth County, Texas, just north of Sierra Blanca. I represent the Sierra Blanca Ranch, the Jackson estate, and the Dillworth-LaJolla Ranches.
In 1982, I made a hard commitment to mule deer management, and began predator control, water distribution, grazing rotation, and those kinds of things. And in about five years I had tripled the size of my mule deer herd as nearly as we can count. And coincidentally doubled the size of our antelope herd. Then I high centered, and I’ve been that way for about eight years now. And my problem is that I need more Parks and Wildlife involvement from biology to tell me about my habitat. I can count my deer, I see their condition, I can judge genetics and all that kind of stuff. But I do not know from anything about what my capacity is potentially. Parks and Wildlife biologists know that.
Another problem is quality control—quality management. If you ship your best cattle, or if you do not make a distinction between your high-quality animals and the sorry ones, then pretty soon you’re going to be out of business or on the very bottom of it in the feeding chain. It’s the same with mule deer. We’ve made some headway, but, my goodness, you can’t do a quality harvest on 180,000 acres with 101st Airborne in 16 days. We need some time. And believe me, I’m not out to kill out all of our trophy bucks. In fact, we’ve only taken three in the last 12 years. Everything else has been management or cull deer.
So obviously, we are very much in favor of this program. We appreciate the fact that you and your staff have worked so long and hard to get it to this point, and I very much hope you’ll vote for it.
Let me add this. You do not have an image problem in my part of the world. We’ve had a succession of good wardens in the time I’ve been there, and really good biologists, and we have a great field biologist right now. I only wish we had about ten of her. But I need that involvement for technical assistance. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Fore. Mr. McIvor. Mr. Fred Trudeau be ready.
MR. MCIVOR: Chairman Fitzsimons, Commissioners, Mr. Cook. Thank you very much for allowing us to be here today and address some issues that I think are very important to the quality of what’s going on out in west Texas of mule deer.
I’m representing the 0-6 Ranch, which is approximately 122,000 acres. We are located in Jeff Davis and Brewster counties. Our program has been going now for 17 years, and I have been the wildlife manager, holding the position on that ranch, for 17 years. We have successfully managed our herd. We’ve taken these deer — I take a very, very serious approach towards the aging, the weights, and the sizes of these deer. We have found that our deer population is increasing, that our numbers are changing because of predator control. I feel that that number right there, or that factor right there is very important to something that needs to be looked at down the line.
You know, we average taking 35-40 deer, mule deer bucks a year, off of this acreage. This includes, management and trophy deer together. We do harvest these deer at the same time, and this is during a nine-day period, season. I feel that it’s adequate for an individual to have a choice. I also feel that the management practices that take place on our ranch alone, the 0-6 Ranch, I spend very valuable, quality time, daily with these animals.
I have to say that the reason why we’re able to do this in nine days is because of the time spent out looking at these animals, knowing prior to these other ones coming in. And I just want address — OK. I’ll just close in saying, you know, for, as far as biologically, I don’t know if there’s information out there, data information that’s come in from recommended biologists ya’ll have sent out there to come back in, but we hope that you really highly consider this thing as something that will have an impact on the mule deer and the 0-6 Ranch will go on record as opposed to hunting to the extension of the MLDP program. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: That’s fine, Mr. McIvor. Mr. Berger? A few people have mentioned predator control. Is that part of the, on the menu of management.
MR. BERGER: The habitat management practices are what we are looking for in the plans, and predator control can be a component of that plan. But it would not count as one of the three there.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you. Mr. Trudeau. And Mr. Richard Nunley be ready.
MR. TRUDEAU: Chairman and the rest of the Committee. Thanks for hearing me. My name is Fred Trudeau, and I am representing Mr. Kirt [phonetic] Johnson with the Beach Mountain Ranch in Van Horn, Texas.
We are definitely, adamantly in favor of the MLDP. I’m sure there’s a lot of us around that have heard these exact same arguments when we were talking about doing it in south Texas and how it wouldn’t work and things along that line. But one thing I’d like to bring up because we’re all getting up here and saying the same things. I think the key word in this is manage, and a lot of the — in my opinion. And a lot I feel like is lost in what I’m hearing in some of the opposing views is manage, and it’s voluntary.
Manage is the key word in anything we do with a program like this. You have the landowners that are behind it. You have the people that are willing to put a lot of time, a lot of effort, and a lot of money to better their ranches. You don’t have landowners that are going out there, signing up for these things, and if they don’t see improvement, they’re voluntarily going to get off of it. But they’re doing it from a history, and they’re doing it from past history of facts that they’ve seen work.
And I think that if we can all remember the key of this whole thing, it’s been a great program; it’s worked. And the whole key we have to remember is manage. Because each ranch and each landowner that has the investment and the time to do on their property and their ranch what they want to do to improve their overall ranch, hopefully should be given that right. Thank you for listening.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Trudeau. Mr. Richard Nunley, and Don Houser be ready.
MR. NUNLEY: Richard Nunley from Sabinal, Texas. I’m involved in four MLD Permits, on four different ranches. I need the MLD Permit in west Texas on our country in Brewster and Presidio counties. I know from experience that we can improve the quality of our mule deer out there. I support the program. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Nunley. Mr. Houser, and then Mr. Hughes Abell be ready.
MR. HOUSER: My name is Don Houser. I own and operate Hippo Taxidermy in Alpine, Texas. I’m a relative newcomer to Alpine, but previous to moving there I ranched in the Texas Panhandle for 25 years. We were very fortunate in that area that we had mule deer populations and trophy white-tail right next to each other. I could drive a quarter of a mile to see a trophy mule deer, turn back and go down the hill and see trophy white-tail.
Watching the experiences during the rut of these animals, the differences were so vast on the mule deer and the white-tail during the rut that hunting a mule deer during the rut has no ethical or practical reason. Everybody uses the word, silly, idiot. They don’t care. They’ll stand there and let you hit them with rocks. The white-tail will still flee if he sees you; if you make a noise, they will still head back to the cover. The only reason I can see for hunting any mule deer during the rut is for economics: strictly for money, convenience.
It’s called hunting. People should not have such an easy hunt on something that’s such a fragile species. Desert mule deer represent 5 percent of the population of the entire deer species in Texas, and you’re talking about increasing the hunt by five times as long. I just morally think it’s the wrong judgment on a fragile animal as the mule deer.
I’ve also worked on ranches in Arizona and New Mexico. I’ve seen what a little bit of extended pressure can do to some deer herds: mule deer. Once the damage is done, four to eight years from here, if this thing doesn’t work out, we’re going to be talking about recovery practices instead of management practices: how to bring them back.
So I’m opposed to it. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, sir. Mr. Hughes Abell, and Lane Laning be ready.
MR. ABELL: My name is Hughes Abell. I operate a ranch in Culberson and Jeff Davis counties. And for all the good reason which have already been stated, we are strongly in support of the MLDP, and we thank you for what you’ve done to bring it to this point. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Abell. Mr. Lane Laning, and then Robert Saunders be ready.
MR. LANING: Thank you very much. My name is Lane Laning. I’m a wildlife manager, 5-F Game Ranch, in Nolan County, which isn’t in far west Texas, but we’re in west Texas. It’s southwest of Sweetwater. And there are mule deer north of us and west of us.
We recently began, about five years ago, participating in MLDP Program with the state, and I can say without hesitation that it has been a huge success in transforming our property from a property that had 3,000 acres and had 23 deer and had been totally mismanaged, and allows us now to have a herd of over 400 deer. And we’re really working aggressively to work on the quality, not the quantity. I’ve heard some fairly emotional people talk about it, but I can truly say I think the benefit we have really seen in the MLD program is it allows us to take time in really working with our deer.
Trying to manipulate a herd in such a short period of time, I think the gross misrepresentation here is that we’re going to extend the season; we’re just going to kill everything out. I know working with our wildlife biologists, they carefully drive all over the ranch. We look at all the habitat and try to predict how many deer can survive on that piece of property. It isn’t just a random number picked out of a hat. They look at the brush, they look at the habitat, annual rainfall, the history of three years of deer counts. It’s not just an arbitrary number that’s plucked out of the sky. It’s something that we very carefully go over and try to predict how many deer will that piece of property support. And then it allows us to give us enough time to carefully go in and manage that property.
I think the misrepresentation is that most people think we’re going to extend the deer season and we’re going to have an unlimited amount of kill. I can truly say we could kill a lot more deer on our property without the MLDP, but working within the confines of working with your biologists, I think they’ve taken great care in trying to understand how much a property can support. So I am hugely in favor of it.
I’ve seen, as far as like people have said, you know, It won’t work in west Texas, well, we were going to change the name of Sweetwater just to Sweet because we didn’t have any water left because it’s been so dry out there for ten years. But I can tell you, as dry as it has been, we’ve seen a huge improvement in our deer herd by manipulating this.
And again, I think the misrepresentation is most people think by extending the season we’re just going to keep slaughtering deer until there’s none left. And I think that’s a gross misrepresentation, because you’re really going to control how many deer you can kill and really work on the quality. And I think it is a recovery program, because I think the west Texas deer herd has been totally depleted by mismanagement.
So I strongly recommend that this could be a really successful program. And again, it’s a voluntary program. I don’t think the state is mandating every property owner in west Texas has to participate in this. I think it gives the people that want to participate in a management program a great tool. And it can be used to the benefit of everybody.
So I, again, I’d say, we’ve used it. We’ve been very successful. It transformed our little piece of property in a great success story, and I really hope you give other people that opportunity to be that successful with their ranches.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Laning. Robert Saunders, and then Malcolm Colloway be ready.
MR. SAUNDERS: We strongly support.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. And you represent?
MR SAUNDERS: Texas Deer Association.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Texas Deer Association. Thank you, Mr. Saunders.
Mr. Calloway’s up. Jerry Johnston, be ready behind him.
MR. CALLOWAY: Good day. I’m Malcolm Calloway, from Alpine, Texas. My wife and I ranch north of Alpine, Texas.
We manage our deer herds and our quail crops without any ML Permits, no managed-land permits, and we’re increasing our numbers, and we’re increasing the quality of our game, all of our wildlife is getting better and more of it. I represent ranchers from west Texas, and I represent, naturally, I represent our ranch. And I represent the Desert Mule Deer Association, which I’m President of. There’s approximately 250 members, and we’re one year old. And the directors of our association unanimously oppose any change in the season that we have now.
I’d like to address several other issues that have been maybe a little bit misrepresented here for whatever reason. The first one: I happen to know for a fact there have been 4,000-plus cards sent to Mr. MacDonald opposing any change in the mule deer season, any MLDP and any extension of the season. For whatever reason, they didn’t get here. I happen to know for a fact they were sent, but for whatever reason they have not been reported here. That would be versus, what, 2500 plus or minus for it.
These answers were not given while ago at the three hearings: Alpine, Texas, Van Horn, and Fort Stockton, and these numbers came from the Texas Parks and Wildlife that I’m about to give you. There were a total of 248 people attending these meetings. Of these 248 people attending these meetings, 83 spoke at these meetings. Maybe there were other people that would be for it or against it, but out of these 83, 67 percent were opposed to any MLD program; 33 percent were for. And these numbers came from the Texas Parks and Wildlife.
Mr. Fitzsimons and Mr. Clay Brewer, both admitted at the Alpine meeting that there was no research on mule deer to support this program. No research at all. They both stood up in front of the group and admitted there was no research to support any changes.
I have combined, between white-tail and mule deer management and hunting, I myself put those two numbers together. I have 96 years of experience in management in hunting. I’m not that old, just yet, but that’s how many years I have for both of them.
They’re not the same. They’re not the same. Those years of experience show that they’re different, especially in the rut. Why is it so important now, without any research, that we need to jump right into this program? Why don’t we do some research before we do into this thing? Five years down the road, we may be too late.
I have friends on both sides of this issue. But five years down the road we may be too late. Don’t you think the research ought to be done first? I don’t think, and I asked Mr. Fitzsimons — let me finish. Let me just get through. I’m an Aggie but I’m a Colorado Aggie. Just give me an extra 30 seconds, and I’ll try to run through this.
I think the majority, and I’m not talking about the hunters, the majority of the landowners that oppose or are in favor of this deal should be the ones that make the count. Not the hunters. Because when I was only hunting, man, I went for the rut deer. Now that I’ve learned better, I don’t think that the landowners, the minority, which are mostly absentee landowners, should be given a favor over the majority, which probably are landowners that live on their ranch.
The last thing I’m going to say is, Mr. Bevill yesterday on his talk on migratory birds, and I think I can quote it every word, said, — let me make sure that I’m right — Decisions of this magnitude need to have the information correct, and we right now, we don’t have it. That applies for the mule deer also.
Commissioners, please think this into consideration.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Calloway. Mr. Berger, can you address again the question specifically why no statewide research has been done? The biological recommendation. How that’s done on each plan? And the difference between statewide regulations and MLD. He mentioned Mr. Bevill’s statewide on migratory.
MR. BERGER: Let me address that first. His statement was regard to migratory birds, and we should have as much research as we have. This is a program, a new program, an expansion of the program into the mule deer. It’s not possible to have any research data just yet that demonstrates that this will work as we anticipate. The white-tailed deer MLDs have been demonstrated to work. And I comment —
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: It’s done property by property, the biological recommendation?
MR. BERGER: Yes. This is not done individual property owners with regard to their plan.
With regard to the public hearings, I won’t quarrel with the numbers at the public hearings. Our indications here from public hearings were 41 for and 69 against from the public hearings, and that’s roughly 2/3 against, 1/3 for. On the number of cards that we have received so far, we have received 1455 cards. And that’s all we’ve received. And I can’t account for what’s been mailed or not.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Berger. Commissioner Holmes has a question for you on this issue.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Mr. Berger, when the MLD Program is put together and the Parks and Wildlife biologist works up recommendation with respect to the harvest, is that cast in stone in perpetuity, or is it revisited on an annual basis? How often is it revisited.
MR. BERGER: It’s revisited on an annual basis, depending on the harvest data and the population data that are updated annually.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: So it’s recalibrated annually, depending on count and harvest.
MR. BERGER: Yes, sir. On how the condition of the habitat, the numbers of animals present, the habitat management practices, how the weather may have influenced populations that year, so that before the hunting season the permits are given out on the basis of what the herd can support.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: And is it reasonable to assume that that hard cap number, as it changes from year to year, might actually be lower than the number that could be harvested if they were not in the program.
MR. BERGER: When they’re not in a managed-land program, then the statewide bag limits apply. As we discussed earlier: 1-buck county, 2-buck county, 3-buck county.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: But that’s per hunter.
MR. BERGER: That’s per hunter, but the landowner can allow any number of hunters onto their property to hunt. So the — basically, the harvest on a property that’s not under a managed-land program is entirely, 100 percent, up to the landowner. If he wants to underexploit, properly exploit, or overexploit that population, its up to him.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Which means there’s actually no effective control over the harvest on the property owners that are not in the program?
MR. BERGER: That’s correct, sir. Other than the limits on the individual hunter.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: But they can sell as many hunts as they want.
MR. BERGER: That’s correct.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Commissioner Parker, do you have a question for Mike?
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Yes. Mr. Berger. My question to you is, according to the records, when in 2003, was Mr. Brewer back to work with all the various landowners. Was he sent back to see if he could get a consensus of a compromise?
MR. BERGER: He was sent to work with the landowners to see if there was a season or a management program that they would endorse.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: He was sent to see if he could work out a compromise that would be amiable to a broad spectrum of landowners?
MR. BERGER: Yes, sir. He was sent back to try to work with the landowners in that region to try to determine what might be acceptable.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: So that would be a yes. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mike. We’ve got to go on with public comment. Jerry Johnston. And Richard Negley be ready.
MR. JOHNSTON: Good morning, Commissioner Fitzsimons and the Chair. I’m here to represent the Texas Deer Association and also a number of readers that we have in our publication. Go on record as being in favor of MLD Permit, but listening to all of the comments and kind of trying to read between the lines on the sentiment of the fors and against on this situation, I’d like to kind of interject something here that I think is real important.
Bob, on or about what year did we create the late-season doe permit in south Texas? Eighty something.
MR. COOK: Early eighties. I believe Jerry — ’82-’83.
MR. JOHNSTON: Don’t have to be exact. Where I’m headed here is, if it were 1975 today and we were having the same conversation we are having right now, I might be taking the against side. The reason I’m not is because the education, I guess is a good word, of the average deer hunter and what he thinks about in this day and time, and how he has studied and learned, for instance, how to judge the age of a deer on the hoof. He is in tune with nutrition levels; he’s in tune with carrying capacity; he’s in tune with what is maturity on a mule deer or a white-tail.
He’s a lot more educated hunter than he was in 1975, in my opinion, so the average guy on the street these days is 100 percent totally management minded. He’s not interested in quantity; he’s interested in quality. And I think whether it’s a mule deer or if it’s a big south Texas white-tail, that’s what we all strive for. And I think that the average guy has learned how to get there: by passing deer, taking care of carrying capacity, harvesting inferior deer, and so on so forth.
And in that particular regard, if I had to harvest all of the management bucks or inferior deer, whatever you want to call it, on my place in two weeks, I couldn’t get it done. It would be impossible.
And getting back to why I asked the question that I asked Bob, is — I’ve been in the deer industry professionally since 1975, and another ten years or so past that. And what I see here is a situation that happened at whatever year, that was when the department decided to let the ranchers start harvesting does, extended doe season into January, some places into February. And there was a tremendous amount of uproar about it.
Now, it’s an accepted practice. So I think we’re going through a little historical evolution here. And I think that if you allow those guys to use those permits you’re going to start seeing some of those big old donkey deer like they’ve got in the Sonora Desert out there. So I’m in favor of it. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Johnston. Moving along, Mr. Negley’s up, and Peter French be ready.
MR. NEGLEY: Good morning. It is still morning. Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this. My name is Richard Negley, and I don’t own a square inch of land west of the Pecos. But my sister does, and some of my family. And they’ve persuaded me, and after my own study, I’ve concluded this is a good idea. I’m very much in favor of it. I hope you will all vote in favor of it.
I’ve listened with a great deal of interest to some of the opposed comments. And I would just say to them, remember, this is a choice. You have more choices now than you had before. You don’t have to kill every deer that the permit says that you can kill.
If you have a small place and you’re worried about not being able to shoot any deer, don’t join the program. You can enjoy the benefits of the good practices of all your neighbors. There’ll be more deer.
I somewhat feel — I understand what Rocky McBride was saying, and I feel somewhat conflicted also, because I’m in a position of being a lessee, one day, and I predict that if you pass this what’s going to happen is these ranchers will have more time to manage their herd. They’ll certainly have more incentive to manage their herd. They’re going to have bigger deer. They’re going to have, as we’ve seen in south Texas, what they call management deer to sell. So their customers are going to have more choices. It’s always good for a customer to have more choices.
The ultimate result of which will be the price of the big deer will go up. The price of the smaller deer will go up. And the price of the lease will go up. And that will hurt me, but I’ll be happy to see it. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Negley. Mr. French, Peter French, and then Chris Gill be ready.
MR. FRENCH: Almost good afternoon, my name is Peter French. I’m here to support the MLDP for mule deer. Wildlife conservation has always relied primarily on the hunting community for political support and financial resources. Sales of hunting licenses have been falling for years, as a percent of our population and in absolute numbers. Texas is fast becoming an urbanized, nonhunting state, and all antihunters are nonhunters.
Recruiting and encouraging new hunters to support and enjoy wildlife and hunting is a major challenge for Parks and Wildlife. The success or failure of this effort will have major long-term implications on the nature of our state’s political climate and for the health of Texas’ wildlife populations. And yet, despite this, the current mule deer rules discourage students and working people from hunting.
Mule deer hunting is not just for the people of west Texas. Just as Redfish hunting is not for the people of the coast, the wildlife resources belong to all of us, not just west Texas landowners, regardless of whether they live on that ranch or live someplace else. It is logistically impractical for a student or a working person to travel from a distant city, hunt only on Saturday, and return home Sunday in time for work or school. I think Mr. Puett touched on that earlier.
The current dates run from the Saturday following Thanksgiving to the middle of December. These are periods when students must prepare for and take their final exams regardless of where they live. The voluntary MLDP allows a broader opportunity for all of Texas’ students and working citizens to participate in mule deer hunting.
This is a good thing for the mule deer, since in the future, as in the past and present, it will be hunters who primarily support and fund proactive conservation. This expanded opportunity is also important for the biological reasons listed below.
We must join the economic interests of landowners to the biological interests of wildlife for both to prosper. Once the proper science has been applied to create the correct deer harvest levels, it makes no difference if that harvest is achieved in 16 days or in 60 days. The current season, by its extreme brevity, encourages careless shooting and hasty choice of game. The MLDP program addresses this.
A bit on biology here. The correct way to manage deer populations is to correctly establish deer numbers in a given area, ascertain buck-doe ratios, establish desirable harvest goals by sex, age, and size, and then take advantage — take an adequate length of time to carefully harvest at the target level. A longer season makes a huge difference in the landowners’ ability to carefully hunt the desired levels. The bigger the ranch, the more true this becomes, and west Texas ranches, as you all know, are typically quite large.
Hunting the rut is irrelevant if you use the proper science. As established by the best available wildlife science, if you know what you’re going to shoot, then you should shoot that regardless of when you’re going to shoot it. So we should be focused on what we hunt, not when we hunt. And the MLDP will allow the landowner to correctly focus on this program.
Right now, you can’t manage what you can’t measure, and without a season there is no measurement. Our Circle Ranch, outside of Van Horn, has neighbors, some of those mentioned previously by Mr. Bramblett, that hunt bucks at a rate five times per acre as great as the rate that we do. This would be discouraged under the MLDP, since were these landowners to participate they’d be required in all likelihood to reduce their kill level.
But despite this, even with the reduced kill level, they could still make more money by improving the habitat and shooting fewer, but larger, deer. Thank you all very much. I appreciate it.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. French. Mr. Gill, and next up, J.P. Bryan.
MR. GILL: Good morning, gentlemen. I’m here to speak in favor. As an old government biologist once told me, Everything connects to everything. Everything goes somewhere, and there’s no free lunch.
The ecology of west Texas is a desert ecology in which plants, animals, and microorganisms co-evolved over 40 million years at least. These organisms are symbiotic; everything needs everything. It is wrong to think about cattle, deer, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, quail, grass, weeds, water, etc., as if these can be separated ecologically. Change anything, and you change everything.
Since the advent of Europeans, the wildlife of west Texas, mule deer included, have been in irregular, long-term decline. When President Grant was a brand new second lieutenant during the Mexican War in 1850, he took a company of infantry from Brownsville to Austin for supplies. He wrote in his memoirs that at no time on the entire march was his company out of sight of herds of deer, bison, and antelope.
Early settlers accounts report range conditions and stocking rates that sound like science fiction today. What happened to this amazing ecology? The explanation is simpler than overgrazing, although overgrazing has played a part. We have disrupted the relationships between plants and animals under which all life had co-evolved.
As we have steadily destroyed the habitat that supports cattle, we have destroyed its ability to support wildlife, deer included. Deer aren’t in decline because of hunting season length. Deer aren’t in decline because of hunting season pressure. Deer declines are not even the real problem; they are a symptom.
It’s the habitat. Habitat declines caused by human impact are the root cause of the problem. To reverse this, we must adopt, not just sustainable practices, but restorative practices. We must treat root causes, not just symptoms. We must restore the relationships between plants and animals under which all live evolved.
It is a fundamental fact that cattle grazing is necessary for the health of desert grasslands, because desert plants which die of overgrazed also die if totally rested. Plants need grazers as much as grazers need plants. While this fact is initially counterintuitive, if you think about symbiosis, it becomes obvious.
But the rest of the story is the grazing must be done correctly, and this will require a fundamental change in the way we graze our herds, because today in west Texas most grazing systems continue the long-term damage to the ecology, habitat, and wildlife populations, including mule deer. While there is considerable debate about the details of how best to achieve this fundamental change, there is very little disagreement with the fundamental scientific principles on which the range science rests.
Managed Land Deer Permit embraces broad principles of modern range science by requiring water and fence modifications and rotational grazing that allows desert plants to fully recover before they are grazed again. It requires the best science to be used to qualify for the MLD, with great landowner discretion as to the details.
All this costs money: for fences, water system modifications, and labor. But MLDP also extends the opportunity for forward-looking range managers to generate the income to pay for these costly modifications. It offers a wonderful tool for reversing the decline of wildlife habitat and wildlife populations, and the decertification of our desert grasslands.
The wildlife of Texas belongs to all of its citizens, not just a vocal minority of west Texas landowners, however passionately this minority may hold its opinions. And I say minority because the majority of west Texas landowners and the public feel as my family does. We have the right and the expectation that the Parks and Wildlife Commissioners will decide to implement the best biological and scientific knowledge that exists, including the advice of its own staff and approve MLDP.
Our thanks to the Commissioners, the Department, and its dedicated staff for persevering in this effort. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: J.P. Bryan. David Hayward, be ready. We’re almost to the end. We’ll actually get there before dinner.
MR. BRYAN: Mr. Chairman, I was a little concerned. I saw everybody leaving. I thought maybe they heard one of my speeches before. I attended the University of Texas, so I don’t know if that means I get twice as much time as these Aggies or what. But I do want to speak very much in favor of what I think is finally an enlightened program that will bring help to the desert mule deer.
I ranch, about 60,000 more acres or less, south and east of Marathon, Texas. And I’m not here to represent anybody but myself and my mule deer. And here’s what I want to say about this program. I have heard all the complaints and all the protests by those in opposition, and frankly, I don’t find them very persuasive.
Let me tell you why. First of all, I hear them say, Well, this is going to be an interference. This the Texas Parks and Wildlife trying to take our land away from us, by this managed program.
Now, I would suggest something entirely different. You already interfere in our lives, if that’s what it is. You set bag limits, and you set seasons. What you’re offering us is an opportunity to better manage the resource we have. If you don’t want to, you can check box A, and continue to raise that same inferior deer herd, and have your little abbreviated hunting season.
Or you can check box B and say, I’m willing to commit resources to improve my herd. I will agree to better land management. I will agree to better water systems. I will agree to predator control, and also, more importantly, I will agree to the number of deer and the type of deer I can harvest off my ranch.
Now to me, that doesn’t sound like more interference. That sounds like the free enterprise system at work. Because I’m willing to build a better product: a better mule deer. And by the way, I can get more money for it.
Now, I hear various of my friends say, Well, we’re going to be disenfranchised because those of you entering the program, you’re going to attract all our deer onto your ranch, and you’ll shoot them. Well, let me tell you something. We can do that right now. I already do it. I watch the deer jump over my fence from my neighbors. Fortunately for them, I don’t shoot them. But this could easily happen under the system we currently have in place.
Today, there is no restraint on me shooting every foreign animal on my land. I could bring in day hunters, charge them, and kill every deer that sets its foot on my place.
And then we hear about the, sort of, the golden grail of this whole issue: the rut. Like there was something magic about that. We already kill the deer that should be in the rut. We’re killing all of our breeding herd as the season is currently constructed because you only have 16 days in which to do it.
Nobody coming to hunt for 16 days is going to go away empty handed. They’re going to kill anything that they see and more than likely they’re going to kill the deer that we should be preserving. The rut? That opens up an opportunity for us to kill those nocturnal older deer that should rightfully be harvested, and at the same time give us the time to cull out those deer that are truly inferior.
They say something interesting about the Trans Pecos region. They say it promises little, but it gives a lot. And I’ll tell you, unfortunately, we as ranchers and sportsmen have been taking what that country has been giving for far too long. Now, we have an opportunity to give back to it under this managed program, and I strongly endorse it. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Bryan. David Hayward. Karl Kinsel, be ready. I promise we’re almost there. I’m not shuffling back to the front.
MR. HAYWARD: Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Cook. I’m not as old as Mr. Williams, and I’m certainly not an Aggie, so I’d better be quick.
I’ll just touch on a few things here: Internet hunting; I’m the Texas Deer Association President. I represent around 3,000 members and about 40 board members. We voted unanimously against the Internet hunting. It’s just flat ludicrous, as you all know.
Nobody ever likes to speak to Mr. Ellis, but I will address him. It’s not dog hunting in east Texas; it’s blood trailing. And it’s animals that have already been hunted, already been wounded, and need to be found.
The next issue? We do need to get the borders closed to white-tailed and mule deer so we can stop the possible chance of CWD coming into this state. As far as mule deer MLDPs, the board voted unanimously in support of the mule deer MLDPs.
Number one, hunter opportunity, as a few folks have spoken about. I personally cannot afford to go on a trophy mule deer hunt, and I’ve not been able to hunt a mule deer. But I hope that with MLDPs maybe I can afford a management hunt. If you put a big tool box out here, a wildlife management toolbox that Parks and Wildlife supports us with, that’s one tool in that box. If you don’t like it, leave it in the box.
Some of these gentlemen speak about deer jumping the fence. They’re concerned with the mule deer jumping the fence on 100,000 acres, and it they want to find a concern, come to east Texas where you’ve got to try and keep a white-tail on 100 acres. Spend a season on that, and you’ll definitely respect the size of your land properties after that.
That’s all I have. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank, you, Mr. Hayward. Mr. Kinsel, and then Larry Whigham, be ready.
MR. KINSEL: It’s lunchtime. I’ll be quick and fast. First off, I’d like to say I’m glad to see such an audience here to witness what types of issues and controversy that this great Commission and the regulars here often have to go through. I feel confident that even with the dissention between the MLDPs, it’ll reflect the same democracy and the same policy outcome we always see.
Regarding MLDP, as President Hayward said, there was some argument amongst the board, but there was a unanimous decision after we covered all the issues that had been looked at here today as well.
A couple of things, though, bear mentioning in different to what’s been said so far. We recognize two main parts: One, the population management, herd size, which has been discussed adequately, and we also looked at quality management. We talked about it, being avid people involved in MLD with white-tail, not as trophy management. We look at it as cull management.
And looking at it as cull management, it’s real simple. That is what that longer season is about. If somebody wants to think of that as trophy management, and they’re going to shoot all their trophies, they might as well shoot themselves. With 16 days or less to cover that, it is impossible to do the type of cull management that’s necessary in a management situation. More emphasis will be placed on the lower quality genetics, and that’s allowed to be done in the longer season.
Next, I’d like to address quickly the thing that I do hope becomes a component of this management program. We’ll go past the quality management; let’s talk about the population management. We’d like to see that the mule deer hunting should require the annual purchase of a specific tag or stamp to the individual hunter, create an identifiable source of revenue derived directly from the mule deer resource, enabling state assistance to mule deer counties for predator management.
Regarding three other issues, because I signed up on multiple: One is we are definitely in agreement with regards to the reviews process. We’re obviously opposed as is everyone that I can tell for the most part, to the Internet hunting. And I do applaud TP&W for taking a serious look at there needing to be more time for input on quail MLQP. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Karl. Next up, Larry Whigham, you’re up, and then John Oncken be ready. Kirby Brown is last, but not least.
MR. WHIGHAM: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Bob Cook. I’m Larry Whigham. I’m here representing the Texas Organization of Wildlife Management Associations, and I’m here to say we’re much in favor of the antler restriction. And I started to pass, Mr. Fitzsimons, but I just had to say what we’ve seen in this program, looking at the data so far, is it’s the dandiest bit of micromanaging I’ve ever seen. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Larry. Now you were right, and I was wrong. It worked. John?
MR. ONCKEN: My name is John Oncken; I’m now the President of the Texas Sportsmen’s Association, and I would first like to thank Mitch Mockwood and Bob Carroll for having come out and spend some time and discussed the modifications to the antler restrictions that have been proposed. After much discussion by our organization and a meeting last month, we came up with the following resolution, and I’ll read that for the rest of the people in attendance:
The Texas Parks and Wildlife 3-year, 6-county antler restriction experiment has concluded, and as a result of this experiment it has shown positive benefits for the deer herd. The Texas Sportsmen’s Association has reservations concerning the new plan to add spike tags and create a 2-buck limit, but we lack the scientific proof that such tags would be detrimental. Therefore, the Texas Sportsmen’s Association supports the new Texas Parks and Wildlife plan.
We ask the Texas Parks and Wildlife biologists to present an annual deer herd status report at the Texas Sportsmen’s Association Board of Directors meeting. TSA does embrace the binding verbal promise that if the 2-buck limit proves detrimental at any time, Texas Parks and Wildlife would drop the spike tag.
TSA also resolves to stay the course of protecting and laboring with any and all organizations committed to sound game management.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank John. Thank you for what your organization does. Kirby. Right before you, Kirby, I had a late entry here. Jim Kiehne, El Paso? Did I pronounce that correctly? Kiehne. All right. And then Kirby Brown be ready.
MR. KIEHNE: Chairman Fitzsimons, Mr. Cook, Honorable Commissioners. I’m Jim Kiehne, and I ranch in northern Hudspeth County. I’m representing the Keihne Ranches, which consist of 112,000 acres, the McGuire Ranch, which consists of 195,000 acres, the Double-U Ranch, which is 117,000 acres, the Baylor Ranch, 192,000, the Mayfield Ranch, 47,000, the Guitar Ranch, 38,000, the Taylor family, which is in Culberson County, 200,000 acres.
What I would like to say is that we are definitely for the MLDP program, and since it is almost lunch time, I’m not going to stay up here and repeat all the good things that have been said about the project, except for one thing. That we have had an excellent relationship with our game wardens and our biologists out there, especially Steve Whittaker and Misty Sumner. Thank you for considering our proposal.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Mr. Kiehne. Kirby Brown?
MR. BROWN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Members, Mr. Cook. My name is Kirby Brown, Executive Vice President, Texas Wildlife Association. Our members own or manage over 35,000,000 acres in Texas, and I’m going to go fast because I’m going to comment on lots of this stuff.
We are for the review process by the white-tailed deer committee on MLDs. We think that’ll work well. We are for simplification and consolidation of the buck-anterless, and the turkey regs. Those are good things and we’re very supportive. We are for the youth-only spring turkey season. We co-proposed that with the National Wild Turkey Federation. We think that’s a great thing for kids. We support the Managed Lands Permits for the Lesser Prairie Chickens. We think that’s the way to go as we move into the future.
On Internet hunting, Texas Wildlife Association is adamantly opposed to Internet hunting and supports the Commission’s ban on this issue. This is not hunting, it’s not experiential, it’s unsafe, it’s totally unethical, and we’re opposed to it. 99 percent of hunters in all the sporting organizations are against this. We’re working at the Capitol on legislation and appreciate your efforts. Six states have now passed bills opposed to this.
We support the expansion hunter opportunity in the 21 post oak and southern coastal counties, with the 2-buck bag and the antler restrictions. We think it will lead to more and better management of habitat in this area, and that’s great.
I want to congratulate Bob Carroll and the Oak Prairie Crew on the concept and their extensive data collection that they’ve done. Our folks do want to see continued data collection, especially on the populations in those areas, on the buck and doe ratios, on the youth hunting participation, and on public opinion. We believe this experiment will have implications to expand hunter opportunity in a lot of other counties that are 1-buck counties right now. We just want to make sure that it goes forward with good data.
TWA Executive Committee voted unanimously for the MLD for mule deer. This proposal is everything TWA stands for: We’re for property rights. We’re for less regulation. We’re for broader seasons. We’re for good wildlife habitat and conservation management. It is voluntary. Its harvest and science and population based. It improves habitat for all wildlife. It provides flexibility to landowners. It expands hunter opportunity. It increases youth hunting opportunities, particularly. It allows more time in the field for the hunters to spend their dollars in the local businesses. And this helps our rural economies.
And we greatly appreciate the work of this Commission, and especially the staff, and Clay Brewer, and all of their efforts as they move through this process. And I have a lot of friends in this room, and we have some friends on the other side of this issue, and they will remain friends. And I respect and truly appreciate their concerns. But I think this is going to work. This is the right thing to do. And it will be good to see it go forward.
And finally, we appreciate the Commission withdrawing the Managed Lands Quail Permit at this time, and allowing the Texas Quail Council to work on the incentives and also on the bag limits issue. We think we can bring you something that will be very supportive. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Kirby. Mike? You’re going to set some kind of record. I don’t know if you want to have that record or not.
MR. BERGER: Maybe not — can I just have a quick follow-up. We had one small landowner earlier, said he had 200 acres he felt this program, I believe he said he thought it would hurt him. It is voluntary, as many speakers have said. He doesn’t have to enroll in this program, and he maintains the same hunting opportunity he has at the present time with this new program.
And the other, just a pitch I’d like to make. Our biologists in the Wildlife Division stand ready to work with every landowner whether they’re in the MLD Program, whether it’s for white-tailed deer, mule deer, or whether they want to manage and put emphasis on any other species. Our biologists are there to help them. All they have to do is ask.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thanks, Mike. The small acreage was the only additional question I had for you. Any other questions for Mike Berger? Then Keeping in mind and our friend, Means’ comment, everything that can be said has been said on this issue.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: I did have one question about the minimum. Is there a minimum acreage requirement?
MR. BERGER: No sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Is there a motion on this item?
All in favor? Any opposed? Hearing none, the motion carries. Thank you very much, Mike, for all your work.
Thank you very much. We’ll give a moment for those who are not going to stay and listen to the resolution on habitat conservation a moment to — OK. We’ll have a brief recess.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: We’ll proceed with Agenda Item Number 5, Resolution Designating our representatives to the Biological Advisory Team and the Citizens Advisory Committee. Ms. Ann Bright, would you make the presentation, please?
MS. BRIGHT: Good afternoon, Commissioners. I’m Ann Bright, General Counsel, and I’m here to talk about the Habitat Conservation Plan in Williamson County.
Chapter 83 of the Parks and Wildlife Code provides that when developing a regional habitat conservation plan, a Citizen’s Advisory Committee is to be formed and a Biological Advisory Team. The Commission is required to appoint a representative to the CAC and a representative to the BAT, and the representative to the BAT is to serve as the Presiding Officer.
At this point, I’d like to respond to a question from Commissioner Parker yesterday. The President of the Williamson County Homebuilders Association is on the Williamson County CAC.
Staff is recommending the appointment of Dr. Duane Schlitter to the CAC and the appointment of Dr. Schlitter and Dr. Price to the BAT, with Dr. Schlitter serving as the Presiding Officer of the BAT. We’re asking that this be done by resolution, and we’re recommending the following motion, which would approve the appointment of these individuals to these two committees:
I’m sorry. I’ll be happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: I have a motion and a second. Are there any questions or comments further from the Commissioners? There being none, we’ll vote. All in favor?
COMMISSIONER HENRY: All opposed is nay. The motion is passed.
Thank you, Ms. Bright.
The next item is a briefing from the Huff Wagon Train. Ms. Nancy Herron and Mr. Ken Pollard, would you please make your presentations?
MS. HERRON: Thank you, and good afternoon. I’m Nancy Herron, from the Communications Division. I have with me here today is Ken Pollard, from State Parks, who’s also head of the Buffalo Soldiers Program. He’ll be presenting to you in just a moment.
We are here on behalf of 300 students, staff, and volunteers, who achieved an extraordinary adventure. For three weeks in January, staff escorted students from Texas and California in covered wagons across west Texas. Ken served as the Project Director, coordinating safety and logistics across public and private land. And I rode along with the students in the wagons, took a lot of pictures, and I helped create the Web account of the journey.
This adventure started with California teacher and historian, Bill Coat, who believes that kids should learn history by doing history. He discovered the original diaries of this man, William P. Huff, 1849 Gold Rush hopeful. The diaries recount his two-year journey from Texas to California and back again.
Bud Stewart is the great, great grandson of William P. Huff, and he had these diaries packed away at his home. The question was, are these accounts true or just illustrious fabrication. Off and on for the next 18 years, Coat researched the diaries, and convinced that these diaries had merit, Coat called on middle-school students to help with the final step of authentication. And that was retracing Huff’s route.
So, in January of this year, students and teachers boarded covered wagons and braved the biting wind to find out. And this is a picture of us in one of our more remote areas. It’s a bit blurry because the photographer, a local landowner, flew by himself over us, and he said he just put the stick between his legs and hung out there and took the picture. We’re very grateful that he landed safely.
Ken is now going to give you a little glimpse of what went on behind the scenes. Ken.
MR. POLLARD: Commissioners, I’m Ken Pollard, Program Supervisor for the Community Services Program, Commanding Officer for the Texas Buffalo Soldiers.
Approximately one year of meetings and planning went into the Wagon Train Project. That included the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Texas Historical Commission, and the Texas National Guard. Cross-divisional and interagency planning and support was required along the route. With the logistics and coordination with landowners in Texas and New Mexico.
The logistical challenge of moving the camp daily was multiplied by the different tasks that were required to be accomplished. This is an example of just getting the type of escort duty that was provided by TxDOT. It was also provided by the Department of DPS and also by county and local law enforcement officers.
The logistical challenge for moving the camp daily was multiplied by the different types of tasks that were required, and this is an example that you’re seeing here of just getting the vehicles rigged and equipment into the limited space that we had at some of our campsites. The command post, infirmary, the cook camp tent had to be disassembled, packed, and moved daily. The majority of this work was accomplished by TPW staff.
There were times when conditions or the situation caused the camp to be moved and/or additional tents to be set up after dark. But let me tell you, most mornings looked the same. The students packed their gear and placed it at the designated locations where it could be loaded into their trailers.
Maintaining the nutritional requirements for a 30-day wagon train adventure for students and adults was a daily task challenged by wind, rain, and cold. The mornings started around 4:00 am each day with the warming fire, large cup of coffee, and breakfast preparation. A hearty breakfast was prepared every day of that wagon train. This particular morning, at the Powell ranch, we were feeding about 75 students and adults. Regarding our nutritional requirements, this was a meeting with our protein requirements of that day.
State Parks Communications Division staff worked daily to help ensure the educational requirements of the students were accomplished. The media, both newspaper and television, were all along the route, and the students were always well prepared to visit with them and to share their experience.
At night, the students demonstrated their inspired learning with Nancy, Mr. Coats, and their teachers. Communication Division staff updated the Web daily, and the TPW Webcast site is still providing the opportunity for all to experience the Huff Wagon Train and Diary Project. At this time Ms. Herron will continue with the presentation. Thank you.
MS. HERRON: Thank you, Ken.
The students and staff learned a lot about Texas, about themselves, and each other. This was hard work. No game boys; no days off. Every student took a turn driving the wagons, experiencing west Texas at 3-1/2 miles an hour. Or they walked the land, seeing things through Huff’s eyes, making discoveries such as this fossil and these petroglyphs. They wrote and drew in their journals daily in anticipation of the book that they will publish this summer.
They did chores, like pitching tents and tending the mules. They learned how to be a Buffalo Soldier and how to respect the flag. They appreciated quiet moments, and they witnessed the thrill of the Old West. They saw the beauty of a sunrise and the enchantment of a sunset.
We had a core of 15 students, and then Texas students joined in along the way. And just like an authentic wagon train of the past, the success of the trip depended on strangers learning to work together.
The trip culminated on the steps of the Capitol, and one student from California and one student from Texas read the students’ conclusion, that indeed they saw what Huff had seen over 150 years before. They believed the diaries to be true. And at the end, they paid their respects at the Houston grave of William P. Huff.
Huff found no gold on this journey, and while he was away his beloved wife died while giving birth to their fifth child, the great, great grandmother of Bud Stewart, the man who loaned us those diaries. Perhaps Huff’s real treasure lay in those diaries themselves and what they yielded so many years later: in the friendships between Californians and Texans, the students and our staff; the honor bestowed by communities who came out to wish us well along the way.
We were treated like stars in Socorro and like family by the Friends of Fort McCavitt. We were hosted by gracious landowners who thanked us for using their land. And as one landowner wrote, We wish to applaud the volunteers and TPWD personnel. Their gift of themselves and their time to these students cannot be measured, for they will last a lifetime.
We received hundreds of e-mails from those following along on the Web. One remarked, In these times of government cutbacks and bureaucracy bashing, your generosity of spirit demonstrated what good government can accomplish.
Well, it’s one thing to hear about it, but another to see it in action. So, Mark, if you would run our video news report on this wagon train, please.
MS. HERRON: Well, thank you to Karen Loke and Abe Moore for that excellent report. This project would never have been possible without the dedication and staff from virtually every division in this department. We also have special thanks to Mr. Cook, Mr. Dabney, Ms. Saldana, Phil Hewett from Interpretation and Exhibits for their generous support of this project.
And we also have an exciting announcement. We just learned that Preservation Texas just awarded the Huff Wagon Train Project the prestigious Heritage Education Award for Outstanding Achievement. With that, we’d like to again thank you for your time this afternoon. And if you have any questions, Ken and I would be glad to entertain them.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: We’d certainly like to thank you, Ms. Herron and Mr. Pollard, for everything that you did not make this a success. This was a wonderful opportunity for those kids to experience what it must have been like many years ago. So we personally commend you for that and everything that you did to pull it off. I know some of the other commissioners may have comments that they want to make also.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: I want to add my commendation. It sounds like a wonderful experience, not only for those kids, but for you as well. How many times did it rain on you?
MR. POLLARD: Well, sir, if I can explain this to you, it rained on us a couple of times, but it rained once then it turned to mud. And then the mud froze, all of this within about three hours in Dell City.
MR. COOK: Mr. Holmes, I want to second that. I think probably in our efforts to learn how to make contact with kids and with people, and combine kids and landowners, and talk some about natural resources, and our culture, our history, these folks did a wonderful job. We probably, all of us, especially the ones that were on the trip, but even those who just got to hear and learn about it, it probably benefited us more than the kids. I think that dose of reality and that — here’s a very unique way to make contact with people, and bring people together. It was a good project, and these folks did a great job, and I very much appreciate it.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Thank you. And again, please convey to everyone our appreciation for everything that you did to bring this off. It was great.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: For the record, I’d like to state that on Item Number 5, the motion was made by Commissioner Montgomery and the second by Commissioner Brown.
We move to Agenda Item Number 7. Legislative Rules Review, Chapter 57, Fisheries. Mr. Robin Riechers, would you please make your presentation?
MR. RIECHERS: For the record, my name is Robin Riechers. I’m the Director of Science and Policy for Coastal Fisheries, and as indicated I’m here to present to you the Rule Review for Chapter 57, Fisheries. And this is an Adoption Proposal.
As previously discussed when we talked about this, we are going to recommend no changes to Subchapters C, D, F, H, I, and J, and then I will briefly re-describe the changes to you in the other chapters.
In Subchapter A, we’re broadening or adding species names of oysters and shrimp. We’re correcting the name throughout that Chapter of TCEQ, which was previously named TNRCC. We are adding water spinach to the permit list, and we are increasing discharge notification from mariculture facilities from 72 hours to 14 days. And we are repealing the fees section, which has now been moved to Chapter 53.
In Subchapter A, we do recommend one change to the proposed rules as published, and that is that we include as an exception to the permit a water spinach for personal consumption. That follows along the lines of what we do with other things on that list that can be personally consumed as well.
For Subchapter B, Mussels and Clams, we’re repeating the definitions of prohibited and restricted areas that we get from our Department of State Health and Services. This is basically just for convenience of people who use our code and their code and match those things up.
Subchapter E, we’re repealing the permit fee section in Subchapter E. Again that section has all been moved and aggregated in Chapter 53.
Subchapter G, in Marking of Vehicles Section, we’re clarifying the intent of that rule so that if anybody is carrying aquatic products, they also have to have the fish label on the truck, where before there was a loophole and it was only if they were carrying fish they could get by without that. If they were not carrying fish they could get by without that.
In Subchapter K, the scientific area, we’re extending the redfish bay description to 20-10 and we’re clarifying the coordinates. There was one public comment on this whole Rule Review, and it was in Subchapter K, and it was in favor of the redfish bay extension.
Lastly, in the aquatic vegetation section, we’re again making the name change to TCEQ.
Finally, for your consideration for adoption, to complete this rule review. We would recommend that you repeal Subchapter E; that you adopt with changes as modified in the previous discussion, Subchapters A, B, G, K, and L, and readopt without change Subchapters C, D, F, H, I, and J. And that concludes my presentation.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Thank you. Is there any discussion by the Commission on this item. There are no speakers signed up for the item. Is there a motion on the item?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Move we adopt.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Second.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: I have a motion by Commissioner Holmes and a second by Commissioner Ramos. All in favor, please say Aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: The motion passed, carries.
The next item is Agenda Item Number 8: Public Lands, Proclamation Amendments. Mr. Mike Berger, please. Your presentation.
MR. BERGER: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. We’re here today to address the recommended amendments to the Public Lands Proclamation, and to the candidate state parks proposed for hunting this coming season.
The first proposed amendment is in 65.190, concerning applications, where we replace the term, “nonconsumptive use” with the term “recreational use.” And we remove references to Caddo Lake State Park and the Bryan Beach Unit of Peachpoint Wildlife Management Area. Let me say at the start of these, that these were subject to public comment, and either there was no public comment or all public comment was in favor of the amendments.
Next is to change the definitions of ATV, disabled person, and limited public use permit, and to add definitions for camping, motor vehicle, off-road vehicle, and recreational use. And to remove the definition for nonconsumptive use.
Next, concerning Access Permit Required and Fees, the amendment would allow persons entering wildlife management areas and public hunting lands to fish with a limited public use permit, and again it would remove references to Caddo Lake State Park and the Bryan Beach Unit of Peachpoint Wildlife Management Area.
Next, under General Rules of Conduct, would prohibit camping in any given unit of the public hunting lands for more than 14 consecutive days or 21 days in any 30-day period. It would also prohibit any activity not specifically authorized by the Executive Director or by the regulation of the Commission.
Continuing under Rules of Conduct, it would restrict parking or leaving an unattended motor vehicle anywhere other than in a designated parking area, where there are designated parking areas. Also, to require disabled individuals to have a disabled person’s identification placard or disabled license plate displayed on the vehicle or ATV in order to drive off of designated trails or roads directly into the hunt area.
With regard to establishing an open season on public hunting lands, the candidate state parks are listed in Exhibit B in your book. There are 44 parks to be included in the public hunting lands this year. Two were removed from last year, and those would be the Bryan Beach Unit of Peachpoint and the Caddo Lake State Park. And the additions are Purtis Creek and Tyler State Park. Just for information, we are adding more youth hunts this year, so there’s increased youth hunt opportunity.
And finally, our recommendations are that the Commission adopt amendments of 31 TAC 65.190, 65.191, 93, 98, 99, and 201 concerning the Public Lands Proclamation authorizing open season on public hunting lands to run from September 1, 2005, to August 31, 2006, and authorize the hunting activities designated in Exhibit B to be conducted on the listed units of the State Park System.
That concludes my presentation. I’ll answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Thank you. Is there any discussion by the Commission?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Why would you close Caddo Lake and the other?
MR. BERGER: Caddo Lake. It was always listed as the Caddo Lake State Park/Wildlife Management Area. The hunting always occurred on the wildlife management area portion, so it’s not a reduction in opportunity. It’s just a clarification that no hunting will be on the state park.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: But you’re hunting the WMA?
MR. BERGER: Hunting the WMA. Right.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Any other questions by the Commission? We will now hear from those who signed up to speak. I will call the name of a person who signed up, and the second person to be on deck. Please be ready. The first is Mr. Ellis Gilleland, followed by Mr. Kirby Brown.
MR. GILLELAND: My name is Ellis Gilleland. I’m speaking for Texas animals. I have no handout.
Yesterday, I heard you discuss a concept, a theory, if you will, called resource protection. I was thrilled, amazed, and I hope it was said in good faith. So today, I’m here to ask you to take this wonderful concept of resource protection and put it into application if you can make that leap in faith.
I would ask you that you suspend the hunting at Choke Canyon State Park for three years so that the wildlife can recover and rebuild the onslaught and devastation it has faced in nine years of hunting. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Thank you. Are there any comments? Now, we’ll hear from Mr. Brown.
MR. BROWN: My name is Kirby Brown, Executive Vice President of the Texas Wildlife Association, and I sure wish I could have been on the Huff Wagon Train. That looked like a blast. Golly.
We just want to go on record as supporting the staff proposal and congratulate Mike and Vickie and Walt and David Riskind for their work along with their staff on the extensive amount of coordination it takes to do this, and also, just want to say our folks are commenting about how much better the habitat at the parks are looking because of the hunting that’s going on there. And we’re very pleased with that. We’re also pleased with the expanded youth opportunity in this proposal. Thanks again.
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Thank you. Any further questions or comments from the Commission? If not, we’ll move to vote. Is there a motion on this item?
COMMISSIONER HENRY: We have a motion by Commissioner Parker, second by Commissioner Holmes. All in favor say Aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER HENRY: Thank you. The motion carries. We’re going to recess for lunch right now and we’ll reconvene after lunch.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Reconvene public meeting at 1:40. Jack Bauer, Item 9.
MR. BAUER: Jack Bauer, Land Conservation Program Director.
Item 9 relates to a proposed land acquisition in Armstrong County as an addition to Palo Duro Canyon State Park. The 17,000-acre Palo Duro Canyon State Park, southeast of Amarillo, we have a proposal to acquire as an addition, about 7800 acres, land that would be in the canyon, on the downstream drainage, and the property would have access to the South Rim.
The site’s very interesting because it contains the location of the famous MacKinzie Battlefield, the Indian battle. Relative to land and water plan justification, this park is identified as a priority park for expansion. This expansion has a lot of opportunity for low-density, low-infrastructure development, kind of a wild and scenic outdoor experience here. It also has exceptional historic and cultural resources on it.
I would like to acknowledge a donation from Amarillo Area Foundation to assist with the acquisition. The remainder of the acquisition would be proposed with equal amounts of Land and Water Conservation Fund and general obligation park development bond funds. Staff has developed the recommendation before you, and I would be happy to answer any questions you might have on this proposed acquisition.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any questions for Jack on the Item 9, Armstrong County? Thank you, Jack. Motion on this item?
COMMISSIONER BROWN: Move.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Moved by Commissioner Brown. Second by Commissioner Holmes. All in favor, Aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any opposed?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hearing none, motion carries.
Next item up, Jack Bauer, Action Land Sale, Kerr County.
MR. BAUER: Commissioners and Chairman, this is a proposed land sale that is related to Heart of the Hills Fisheries and Science Center near Mountain Home, Texas. That view of the water source that we had there is the spring that feeds Heart of the Hills Fisheries and Science Center.
We have a situation here where that spring that we viewed in the first slide is called Stockman Springs, is the sole source of water for Heart of the Hills. It’s located about a mile and a half uphill from the fisheries center, and it crosses private property from a 250-acre tract that the spring is situated on that we acquired in 1992 to add an additional layer of protection to the springs.
Since that acquisition, basically, it’s a piece of property that the Heart of the Hills Fisheries staff maintained under some very basic wildlife management practices to keep the brush off of it. But it is an operational burden for them except for the obvious protection that it provides for the springs.
We brought to you, discussed this yesterday, and we’ve been in negotiation with the landowner to sell. And basically the concept of the transaction would be to — as really was set out in the original appraisal — and I would like to provide a copy of that appraisal or at least excerpts from it to you so that we can have it as part of the record.
Fundamentally, the scope of the appraisal is the scope of the project, and the basis of value that was established in sourcing this appraisal, the concept being that would be a basis of the transaction itself. As we have negotiated with the buyer, there’s been, and as you all brought to our attention yesterday, there have been some issues raised. And fundamentally, it’s the basis of the valuation and issues also of who would own the springs and whether or not the reservations that staff were proposing and was defined in the appraisal would be in the form of a conservation easement or deed restrictions.
Based on the input and the concerns that you raised yesterday, staff has come back to you with a different recommendation, or a recommendation for your consideration today. Basically, the terms and conditions as we would see it would be sale of 245 acres out of the 250 acres restricted, at a sale price of $1.2 million.
Appraised value for the 250 acres with the reservation of a conservation easement is $440,000. With the transaction organized in such a way that Parks and Wildlife would retain a conservation easement versus land-use restrictions on the 245 acres being sold, and actually either a conservation easement or a set of restrictions that would be at least as restrictive as the conservation easement. And Parks and Wildlife would retain ownership and control of the five acres around the springs.
The payment for the land to be done in goods and services: the construction of a 6,000-acre library/laboratory facility on Heart of the Hills that would be approved by Parks and Wildlife staff, Infrastructure and Fisheries Division. Based on that concept of a transaction, proposed land-use restrictions by easement or land-use restrictions are listed here, and they’re also listed in the handout that I gave that would go with the conservation easement that was a component of the appraisal. As you can see, they are fairly extensive.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: You said 6,000 acre -— a 6,000-square-foot facility?
MR. BAUER: Yes sir. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Go back and see if you can get that 6,000-acre facility. That would be a big one.
MR. BAUER: Thank you. So staff is recommending this motion, and I would like to read it to make sure there is no misunderstanding of where staff is at.
Executive Director is authorized to take all necessary steps to enter into and execute an exchange contract to sell approximately 245 acres in Kerr County, reserving a conservation easement with land-use restrictions as outlined in the complete, self-contained appraisal report, completed by James Jeffries, MAI, dated September 4, 2004, or other deed restrictions more restrictive than that of the conservation easement, in return for delivery of a 6,000 square-foot library, laboratory, and research center with approximate value of $1,200,000 on Heart of the Hills Fisheries Science Center, per Texas Parks and Wildlife staff-approved plans and specifications.
I’ll be happy to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Jack, the reason that we owned this in the first place was to protect the springs? Is that right?
MR. BAUER: Yes sir. We have had a water right from the springs along the aqueduct that transfers the water from the springs to the fishery since the ?30s. That water right was re-amended or improved upon in 1993, and after an incident of water quality being emitted from the springs, and a subsequent investigation and suit by the Attorney General’s Office, and the property coming available because of that proposed lawsuit, we acquired the property as an extra level of protection.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Would your staff recommendation maintain that purpose and objective of protecting the spring? Because I’ve not read the whole conservation —
MR. BAUER: Yes sir. I believe it would.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Others? Commissioner Holmes.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Jack, this is a fairly complicated transaction in that you’ve got to maintain the objective that originally motivated the Department to buy the property plus design and have built a 6,000-foot facility. How long have you been working on this? Has it been in the mill for a while?
MR. BAUER: Yes sir. We were contacted by attorneys from the adjacent landowner probably early last summer, early summer of 2004.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Nearly a year ago.
MR. BAUER: And we then met, had discussions, formulated a concept of a transaction which allowed us to define the scope of work for the appraisal, and that was signed, I believe, in August.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Who picked the appraiser? I don’t know this appraiser. Is he somebody that the Department has used?
MR. BAUER: Yes sir. Jim Jeffries is an appraiser that has been in the services of this agency probably for over 20 years. He is used extensively by the Fish and Wildlife Service because of his broad knowledge of rural lands and wildlife habitat values. And over the last 15 years has been — he is a board member of our Land Trust Council as an expert in appraisals of conservation easements. He has developed the skills in conservation easement appraisals very extensively over the last decade. So he is considered, I think, from the agency and other agencies, Nature Conservancy specifically also, as an expert in appraising conservation easement properties.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: And the reason it is in the $4500-5,000 per acre price range in the Hill Country is because of the conservation easement?
MR. BAUER: Yes sir. The value — a conservation easement appraisal requires two, actually two appraisals. It is appraised in fee first, and then it is appraised with the easement, and the difference is the value of the easement. In this appraisal, the way his estimate of value was, I believe, $490,000 in fee, and, I believe, $440,000 with the reservations as the appraisal, as the amendment, the conservation easement and the appraisal was defined.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: In his judgment, and I presume yours, then, it means that we’re getting some multiple of value for this tract.
MR. BAUER: Yes sir. I think what staff, the approach we were looking at is to sell a piece of park land, we really need to justify that the purpose for which it was intended is no longer there. But in this instance where the spring protection is still a component of why we bought it that the property around the spring, which is a management burden to the agency, is, in fact, excess property. So that if we could put restrictive or conservation easement on those lands sold, we’re basically benefiting from that in a three-times-appraised-value or in that range is a pretty strong justification that the benefits received to the agency are justifiable.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: When I look at this appraisal that you just sent around, it seems to, it has attached to it, a conservation easement. And that was the basis of the appraisal.
MR. BAUER: Yes sir, it was.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: In your language, in about the seventh line, maybe, it said dated September 4, 04, you say or “other deed restrictions.” I’d feel a lot more comfortable if you change that “or” to “and.” And that way it still complies with this document that you passed out. It means that it is a conservation easement and it has other deed restrictions that are more restrictive rather than removing the conservation easement and then having just a series of deed restrictions.
MR. BAUER: I understand.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: You referred to it as park land. But this land has never been open to the public, has it?
MR. BAUER: It has not. When I said park land, I mean a TPWD facility. It is under the property list of the Heart of the Hills facility, Inland Fisheries Division.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: So the only purpose, the land, was to protect the water for the hatchery, and that’s your goal with the conservation easement and deed restrictions.
MR. BAUER: Yes sir. And, you know, there are also ancillary cultural artifacts that’s on the property that’s associated with the springs. And we have strong interest in insuring that those resources are conserved.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: So back to your other point, just so I understand, essentially the higher the value of that conservation easement or those restrictions, the lower the value of the remainder, so to speak, that the buyer would actually acquire.
MR. BAUER: Yes sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: You’re not putting it up for public bid. You’re recommending it on a negotiated transaction. And the rationale for that is —
MR. BAUER: Yes, sir. It would be this: First of all, we have the authority to do that, and a negotiated transaction at roughly three times its appraised value, we feel, is a strong proposal. And, you know, I think we have traditionally always had strong concerns and would do things special to maintain a relationship with the adjoining landowner. And I think that was part of the motivation by staff.
Also, as we know, who our neighbor is. There’s a relationship there, and that this would be a doable transaction for the benefit of Parks and Wildlife.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Just to make sure I understand it, we’re maintaining the purpose and the original reason that we bought the land in the first place: to protect the springs.
MR. BAUER: We would be if we did the transaction by this motion and as you have recommended a slight alteration of the motion, we would do that, yes sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: So effectively, we’re maintaining the reason we bought it in the first place, plus we’re getting a new $1.2 million facility.
MR. BAUER: Yes sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: It sounds kind of like a win-win deal to me.
MR. BAUER: We presented it that way. We like to bring you good deals.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: That conservation easement, the last sentence of 4.5, I think it is probably the key sentence offering us a blanket protection of anything that —
I think it’s a terrific sentence in that conservation easement. That covers all of our bases.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Jack, this is an obvious question, but do we need a library at Heart of the Hills Fishery Center?
MR. BAUER: Yes, sir. We have had last spring a lightning strike that hit the building that contained the facility’s library. And being a research facility, there were hundreds of documents here that are one of a kind and relates to and stores data that is irreplaceable.
And when we looked at a sale of this property, and I would suggest that you might talk to Phil Durocher in this exchange too, that the most important need there would be protection of that information and having a place where students and interns can come and work and study and learn there and create a library facility that would be fireproof and create the extra room there that we would need to carry on those facilities. And you understand with the budgets and everything now, to put that facility on the ground now with TWPD budgets would be difficult to do.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And it would be built to the specifications of the Department of the freshwater fisheries?
MR. BAUER: That’s correct. The design input has come from several staff members in our Inland Fisheries Division. There would be significant input and oversight and inspection by the Infrastructure Division. And of course, land transaction guidance from Land Conservation and legal assistance from Legal. So it would be quite a team that would be looking over the best interests of the agency and the construction of this facility.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thanks Jack. Phil, do you have anything to add to the need of the library for your hatchery?
MR. DUROCHER. There’s no question that we need that library. We need a fire-proof library. It really — it was the first question I asked when I found out two years ago when they had the fire in the building, was, What about the library? And it smoked everything up, and we were very fortunate that it didn’t just blow up on us. And we’d have lost 50 to 60 years worth of work.
So that’s very important to us, and your comments, Mr. Holmes, about the negotiated sale, the aqueduct that transfers water from that spring to the facility runs through the adjacent property. And we have a relationship with that landowner, where we have to go in and really maintain that aqueduct. So we feel like it’s important that we have a good relationship. This is a landowner that we know, and we already have access to that property to maintain that aqueduct.
So that’s why, when the opportunity came, we looked at it in this way.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Jack. Just a couple of questions. One, you know, a conservation easement can be for six months, a year, or for in perpetuity, and from what I gather, in looking at the documents, this is a conservation easement that will burden the property in perpetuity forever. Correct?
MR. BAUER: Yes, sir. That is correct.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: It’s not a term conservation easement for five or ten or 20 years, so this tract would always be burdened with that, and we would always be protected under the provisions of that conservation agreement.
MR. BAUER: Yes sir. And as you are aware too, the authority to enforce is with Texas Parks and Wildlife.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: And I don’t think we addressed it, assuming that this were to pass, the actual deed and delivery of the deed of the conveyance of this property would not occur until such time as the library would be constructed in accordance with our plans and specifications and to our satisfaction. Is that the concept?
MR. BAUER: Actually, that was certainly an alternative that we looked at. I’ll call on Ann, here. I think the current level of negotiation is that there would be a letter of credit established in the value of $1.2 million to uphold the transaction.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: And that would basically be to protect the agency and insure the performance of that obligation for the construction of the library.
MR. BAUER: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Is that similar to how we did it with Athens? The delivery?
MR. BAUER: I believe it is. I would call on Phil.
MR. DUROCHER: Mr. Chairman, I’m Phil Durocher with Fisheries.
Somewhat. It was done somewhat that way. The foundation bought the property and actually built the facilities and transferred it to us.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: But it was to our specification?
MR. DUROCHER: Absolutely. We got to approve everything that was built there.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: I have one other question, and then I’m prepared to make a motion assuming that the answer is right. Who drew the conservation easement? Is that our form of conservation easement?
MR. BAUER: We drew up that after a discussion with the buyer. We drew up this document. It’s actually the Nature Conservancy model document, which we’ve used in many instances. We have since, and in cooperation with developing this easement, we now have our own model document, and it basically reads and intent is identical to this.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: And so we’re comfortable with this, the language in this.
MR. BAUER: Very comfortable. Yes sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: On the basis of that, if there are no other questions, I’m ready to -— make a motion.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I have one question. As far as — back on the letter of credit — We’re going to actually issue a deed in return for an issuance of a letter of credit. Is that what we’re doing?
MR. BAUER: Yes sir.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Well, why don’t we just have an issuance of cash versus a letter of credit?
MR. BAUER: That would be an option that would be available to us. That’s not -— they’re going to build it.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: Is that right, Jack? They’re going to build it to our specifications?
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I’m of — I understand they’re actually building the facility?
MR. BAUER: Yes sir. They are delivering — the deliverable of the sale is to put this building on Heart of the Hills Fish Hatchery.
COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Thank you.
MR. BAUER: Yes sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Jack, the question of conservation easement, this is maybe to your point, Ned, conservation easement or, I’m sorry Jack, or other deed restrictions more restrictive than the conservation easement. I’m asking you, Jack, if that would mean that the — I’ll put it as simple as I can — Would the appraisal still be good if you had deed restrictions more restrictive than the conservation easement. Do you feel like you could still justify the appraisal?
MR. BAUER: I think we could. You know, it would have to — I think the way to proceed with that would be to get back in touch with the appraiser, and when the final agreed-to conservation easement or deed restrictions are agreed to, then confirm with the appraiser that that value is still upheld, would probably be the approach that would be best from a business standpoint.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Would that give you the most latitude?
MR. BAUER: I believe it would. I mean — I think it’s going to be very close. But the way you would, the only way you would really, absolutely be sure would be to assign that task back to the appraiser and have him affirm that.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Commissioner Ramos.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: You may have misunderstood the question. What I gathered from our Chairman’s question was that if we ended up with a set of restrictions more restrictive than what is currently provided for in the conservation easement, then the value, the property will be more valuable. In other words, the more that it is burdened, the less value to the buyer and the greater value to us.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: He understood the question.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Maybe I misunderstood.
MR. BAUER: I guess what I was getting to, I can presume and make the assumption that the values will be maintained, but the only way you could actually verify it would be to reassign the task based on the restrictions that you now are going to put in effect to that appraiser and get an update of that appraisal so you’re absolutely sure that the values are maintained.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Now, the only problem I have, Ned, with going from and to or is I don’t want to tie their hands of being able to have the latitude that he describes here. Going back and forth.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: The other alternative that I thought about was just simply, instead of changing “or” to “and” would be to take out or other deed restrictions more restrictive than the conservation easement. And just taking out those words because you already have, with land-use restrictions in the first sentence. And so, what I’m concerned with is that if we go to “or other deed restrictions,” the conservation easement concept will be taken out and then we’ll have to go through another appraisal, and we already have the template that is approved and we can proceed on with the project rather than going back and having it reappraised.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Could I comment on that? If we add the word “and” and other deed restrictions, then it would require that there be additional restrictions. So I agree with you, Commissioner Holmes, to the extent that we delete or other deed restrictions more restrictive, that we go back to the restrictions as originally contemplated and as reflected in the appraisal and the conservation easement.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: And that was really why I asked who drew it? Are we happy with it? Is it our form? Is it a good form? Are we prepared to go with it? And if we are, then let’s go with it.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I think we are, there’s a consensus and go out on a limb here, that we’re trying to preserve the integrity of the appraisal, and the appraisal is based upon a conservation easement with certain restrictions. My only point is that there may be more — the same goal may be obtainable through even more restrictive deed restrictions.
I don’t know. I’d leave that up to you to decide but your point is you’d have to go get another appraisal.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: [indiscernible]
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Absolutely. And I think we need to keep that language. Nothing less. This is a floor. This form is a floor; not less than.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: But when it’s a floor, it is an easement and a restriction is different than an easement. And so, I think we’re better off keeping it as a conservation easement.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: And I agree. I agree with that, but I’m also suggesting that we delete the language starting with “or other deed restrictions more restrictive than the conservation easement.” That that be deleted so that we’re truly focused on the conservation easement as contemplated and as reflected in the appraisal.
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: If that’s a motion I’ll second it.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: So moved.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Is this a problem? With having too many lawyers on a commission. I’m going to introduce a bill -— you can only have one lawyer on a commission.
COMMISSIONER PARKER: On the square footage of the facility. Will that be 6,000 square feet of heated and cooled space?
MR. BAUER: Yes sir. You know, in the Commission Agenda Item, there is a floor plan layout. Yes, that’s it. And that’s a draft; that’s a work in process. But it’s going to be approximately 6,000 square feet of usable space.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Commissioner Ramos.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: I’ll move that the staff recommendation as presented to us be modified to be approved. However that the following language be deleted from the resolution, starting after dated September 4, 2004, the language, or other deed restrictions more restrictive (should be than I believe, it says) that the conservation easement. That last language that I quoted be deleted, but the resolution in all other respects be approved.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Second?
COMMISSIONER HOLMES: Second.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Second by Commissioner Holmes. All in favor? Any opposed? Hearing none, the motion carries.
Thank you, Jack, for your hard work there. Is there other business to come before the Commission, Mr. Cook?
MR. COOK: No sir.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Are you sure?
We are adjourned. Thank you.
(Whereupon, at 2:10 p.m., the meeting was adjourned.)
Approved this the 7th day of April 2005.
Joseph B.C. Fitzsimons, Member
Alvin L. Henry, Vice-Chairman
J. Robert Brown, Member
Ned S. Holmes, Member
Peter M. Holt, Member
Philip Montgomery III, Member
John D. Parker, Member
Donato D. Ramos, Member
Mark E. Watson, Jr., Member
MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Public Hearing
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: April 7, 2005
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 176, 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