Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission

Regulations Committee Meeting

May 25, 2011

Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 25th day of May 2011, there came to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission in the Commission Hearing Room of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex, to wit:APPEARANCES:

THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION:

THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:

P R O C E E D I N G S

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Good morning, everyone.  Chairman Holt is not able to be here this morning so I guess you are all stuck with me for the day.  This meeting is called to order May 25th, 2011, at 9:14.  Before proceeding with any business, I believe Mr. Smith has a statement to make.

MR. SMITH:  I do.  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  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 Act.

I’d like for this fact to be noted in the official records of the meeting.  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Okay.  And we’re going to start with ‑‑ I think we’re onto Regs, Regulations Committee.  First order of business is approval of previous committee meeting minutes from March 30th, 2011, which have already been distributed.  Do we have a motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER HIXON:  So move.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT:  Second.

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

(A chorus of ayes.)

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Any opposed?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Hearing none, motion carries.  Committee Item Number 1, Update on Parks and Wildlife progress in implementing the TPWD Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Plan.  Carter.

MR. SMITH:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners.  Just a couple of things.  Maybe as a quick point of departure, if I could, Chairman, we have a special guest today.  I see him in the back  — Van Burgess from the Coast Guard.  He oversees the recreational boating safety program and works very cooperatively with our law enforcement division.  He’s in from Washington.  He’s been a great partner.  Jeff Parrish, who works very closely with him on our various recreational boating safety-related things and so I want to acknowledge him.

To his right is his daughter Anna and rumor has it that she’d love to come to Texas and be a Texas Game Warden so let’s  — keep her in your sights and so, Anna, thanks for joining us today.  So welcome to both of you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Welcome.

MR. SMITH:  Mr. Chairman, a couple of things that I want to share with the Commission this morning, if I could.  First, we don’t have any updates on any action items so we’ll dispense with that in this committee.

A couple of things.  I think, as all of you know, we are still waiting the guidance from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under Service Regulations Committee on framework for both the early season migratory game bird regulations and the late season.  The Service Regulation Committee will be meeting in June to propose or agree upon their framework for the early season migratory birds, so dove and teal and snipe and rail and gallinule.

I guess probably the most important thing to note in all of that is a proposal that’s on the table with respect to the opening date of south zone dove season.  As it stands right now, the service framework would require that we open the south zone on September 23rd.  The central flyway states, along with Texas, have proposed a change that would allow Texas to open the south zone, from here on out, on the Friday immediately prior to the third weekend in September and so, if that’s approved, that would give us the flexibility this year to open dove season in the south zone on September 16th, which would be the earliest that we’ve had a chance to open that.

And there’s some good continuity reasons because, as you know, you have the special white-wing season that’s open in South Texas for the first two weekends in September.  This would then allow us to have dove season open in South Texas on the third weekend and so, kind of keep that constant.  So we hope to have a decision from the Service Regulations Committee shortly and, if so, certainly that will be our recommendation going forward.  And, as you will recall now, the Commission has traditionally delegated the authority to set that to the Executive Director, in consultation with the Chair of the Commission.

The other issue has to do with the Service’s continued deliberations on the late-season regulations  — obviously, the big ducks that they are looking at.  They’re still in the process of doing their habitat assessments, reviewing the harvest assessments from last year, looking at production on the wintering grounds  — there’s been a lot of water up there in the pothole region so we’re expecting good production but there are a couple of changes that we expect or are hoping may be made, including the addition of a 16-day Canada goose season that would be concurrent with the September teal season in the east zone and also modifications, or prospective modifications, to the duck and goose seasons that result in the season’s opening and closing one week later.

So, we don’t expect those final frameworks to be approved until July and so we’ll come back to you with recommendations in August at the August Commission meeting.  So, just a quick update on that front.

Also, just want to give the Commission a heads-up that the Wildlife and State Parks staff have had discussions and have come to an agreement on the proposed changing of stewardship and responsibility for a couple of wildlife management areas that have historically been managed by the Wildlife Division.

One is the Walter Buck Wildlife Management Area which is adjacent to South Llano River State Park, and the decision has been made to transfer that wildlife management area over to the management of the State Park where we have a staff there.  All of the research and management and public hunting that has transpired there on site is expected to continue under this arrangement and it just makes sense to consolidate that under one management regime and so the Wildlife Division and State Parks Division have agreed to that.

Also, we have a wildlife management area near Fredericksburg that some of you may have had the pleasure of going to called the Old Tunnel Wildlife Management Area.  This is the vestige of the old railroad that ran from, I guess, Fredericksburg over to Comfort, and in that tunnel is a very significant roosting area for  — primarily Mexican free-tailed bats, and so it’s a great bat viewing place in the Hill Country on a summer evening.  Sometimes we get upwards  — I guess, Clay, 500, 600 visitors a night that come to see it.  If you ever have a chance in the area, swing by the Alamo Springs Café.  They’ve got maybe the world’s best cheeseburger and then you can go and see the bat emergence at night.  It’s really, really wonderful.  But, we’re going to transfer that property over to State Parks Division and have them manage it so we just wanted to let you know about those changes.

Also, just  — I think Commissioner Martin was the Commissioner that was able to make the OGT shoot this year.  Joe McBride, wonderful patron saint for this Department, helps put that on as a fund-raiser for the Operation Game Thief Program.  A couple of weeks ago, Governor Perry made it out to shoot with his A&M team, which competed against a UT team for winners and bragging rights.  The Teasips did not do well, Scott.  It was really disquieting for the burnt orange.  So, clearly, next year we’re going to have to field a team from Texas Tech if we’re going to get serious about beating these Aggies.  So, anyway, I think everybody had a great time and I think they raised upwards of $80,000 to support the Operation Game Thief Program.  So wonderful, wonderful program.

Last couple of things, Mr. Chairman.  There are a couple of rule changes or regulation changes that we’re asking for the Commission’s permission to publish.  One has to do with some work that the Coastal Fisheries Division has been doing with the commercial oyster industry for some time and so we are seeking permission to publish proposed changes to the Statewide Commercial Fishing Proclamation in the Texas Register for public comment.

The proposed amendments to Chapter 58, Section 21, and Chapter 58, Section 22, would shorten the time daily fishing activities are allowed from sunrise to 3:30 in the afternoon so that’d be the time frame in which they could harvest oysters ‑‑ right now, it’s sunrise to sunset ‑‑ and also reduce the daily sack limit from 90 sacks a day to 50 sacks a day.  Obviously, this is being done in the interest to help protect our oyster supplies in the reefs, improve recruitment, help distribute harvest, and just make sure that we’re stewarding those oyster reefs as well as possible and so, again, this is being done in consultation and work with industry and so we’d like your permission to go forward and publish those for public comment.

The other set of rule changes have to do with the sale of protected non-game and we’re asking for permission to publish these rules to go ahead and get public comment and so we’re asking your permission to publish proposed changes in the Texas Register to rules governing the collection and sale of non-game wildlife.  The proposed amendments would do the following:  authorize the possession, transportation, sale, offering for sale, importation and exportation of dead armadillos by persons who hold a commercial non-game dealer permit; also clarify that blacklist species may be imported, possessed and sold, provided that they are lawfully acquired from out of state and then there’s a couple of housekeeping-type changes to update internal references and so, with your permission, we’d like to go ahead and put all that out there and publish them in the Texas Register for public comment.

So, Mr. Chairman, that’s it for me.  I’d be happy to answer any questions anybody has.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Any questions?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  On the non-game animals.  Is that just to cover armadillos?

MR. SMITH:  It is.  It’s just to cover armadillos.   And so it’s been a bit of an oversight and apparently there’s some non-game dealers that would like to be able to sell various items associated with dead armadillo parts and legally they’re not allowed to do that and so we want to get that clarified.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Other questions?  Thank you, Carter.  Appreciate it.

MR. SMITH:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Committee Item 2, Public Lands Proclamation — Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes and Public Hunting Lands Approval.  Linda Campbell.  Good morning.

MS. CAMPBELL:  Good morning, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners.  I’m Linda Campbell.  For the record, Wildlife Division Program Director for the Private Lands and Public Hunting Program and I’m here today to request your action on three things:  clarification of regulations concerning Public Lands Proclamation, Sections 65.190 and 191, establishing an open season on public hunting lands for the 2011-’12 hunting season and authorizing public hunting activities on state parks for the ’11-’12 hunting season.

The Blue Elbow Swamp, Tony Houseman WMA State Park has been operating as a WMA since 1997 but was never added to the list of WMAs currently contained in the Public Lands Proclamation.  The proposed amendment would correct this.  Also, advancements in propulsion systems technology have increased the ability of shallow-draft vessels to operate in very shallow waters in wetlands, which poses threats to habitat by disturbing soils and vegetation.  Current rules prohibit the use of air boats on Wildlife Management Areas, except by executive order or written permission and several WMAs impose site-specific restrictions on the operation of motorboats.  However, the terms "air boat" and "motorboat" are not defined by rule.  The proposed amendment would supply a regulatory meaning of those terms for enforcement purposes.  Here are the proposed definitions of both "air boat" and "motorboat" and I’ll pause for a minute and let you read that.  We had one public comment in support of the amendment.  Again, the purpose of the change is to enhance enforceability of our existing regulations.

The last two items concern establishment of an open season on public hunting lands and approval of hunting on state parks.  Establishing an open season on public hunting lands allows the department to hold public hunts during the upcoming hunting season beginning September 1st, 2011.  Also, statute requires the Commission to approve public hunting activities on units of the state parks system.  In your Commission booklets, you were provided with the proposed state park hunts on 44 units of state park lands for the 2011-’12 hunting season.  There are a total of 1,842 hunt positions proposed on parks, which is an increase of 97 over last year, of which 271 are youth positions, and this is an increase of 29 over last year.

This year, Dinosaur Valley and Village Creek State Parks are returning to the [indiscernible] and also, as Mr. Smith has said, Walter Buck Wildlife Management Area will become part of South Llano River State Park effective September 1, 2011.  A little bit of background, preliminary hunt proposals were developed last fall through a joint effort by field staff of both State Parks and Wildlife Divisions.  Public hunting program staff maintain close communication with park staff to confirm the hunt recommendations and make the needed adjustments.  Most recommended state park hunts address management needs to control deer numbers and remove exotic animals and feral hogs; however, some of the hunts, for example, dove, quail, waterfowl, squirrel, rabbit, turkey and javelina, are proposed to provide additional recreational opportunities.  So, staff requests that this be placed on tomorrow’s full Commission agenda for adoption.

I’d be happy to answer any questions at this time.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Thanks, Linda.  Appreciate it.  Any questions?  Commissioner Duggins.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  Would you walk through the types of permits, like you’ve got APH, OSR  — what does that mean?

MS. CAMPBELL:  Yes, sir.  Let me get my handout here.  APH is the annual public hunting permit.  That is – those that are our walk-in hunting areas.  That’s the $48 permit that is an endorsement on a hunting license that allows you to use these walk-in hunting areas and we publish the locations of that in a booklet.  OSR is onsite registration for those and on those walk-in areas, we have a place where hunters sign in so that’s  — OSR is required onsite registration.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  And they pay, on the first one, an additional $48?

MS. CAMPBELL:  For the APH, yes, sir.  And those are separate units.  In other words, we don’t draw for those.  Those are primarily bird hunts, some deer hunts in East Texas, so we have about 50,000 roughly.  We had about 50,000 acres open that we leased for walk-in hunting throughout the state and to access those, hunters buy that $48 annual public hunting permit, which is an endorsement on their hunting license.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  And, what does special mean?

MS. CAMPBELL:  Special is the drawn permit.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  Drawn.  All right.

MS. CAMPBELL:  Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  And then, under  — for example, under javelina, the feral hogs  — the hunt dates are only October 14 to 16.  Why would we have such a strict limitation on feral hogs?

MS. CAMPBELL:  Well, I’d probably have to go back to the hunt proposal from the state park, probably having to do with other competing uses of the state park or other types of things that are planned for the park.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  Would that be true with each of these where we have feral hogs and have, appear to have  —

MS. CAMPBELL:  Yes, sir.  I suspect so.  They try to maximize public hunting as much as possible but, as you know, on state parks, they’re trying to meet all of their obligations for visitation and other things so  —

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  Do we ask for comment on that way and the other uses versus people who want to come shoot feral hogs?

MS. CAMPBELL:  Yes.  Well, in their proposals, they look at both the resource needs ‑‑ you know, what animals need to be taken off and then we, of course, take off as many as possible on feral hogs, in particular.  But also, they look at the other uses and, you know, competing uses of the state park system and how they can work in all these hunts on their calendars but, you know, we ask them to maximize, and I think most of them do, the feral hog hunting on all of these areas.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  It seems to me that just giving them two or three days doesn’t seem like you’re maximizing the feral hog limit.

MS. CAMPBELL:  We can certainly go back and check that, Commissioner.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  All right.  The last question, in the column on the right, visitation restriction.  What does that mean?

MS. CAMPBELL:  Visitation restriction is state parks ‑‑ you know, depending on the geographic layout of the hunting area, they may have to restrict visitation in the entire park or perhaps only partial part of the park and so that’s what partial means, that only a part of the park would be restricting visitation during that hunting period.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  Okay.  Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Linda, as clarification, a little follow-up.  Help me  — and you may have just answered the question, but are these  — are the off-take numbers, are they done regionally or by park or are they made by Wildlife and then given to parks  —

MS. CAMPBELL:  They are  —

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:   — or are they established by individual state parks?

MS. CAMPBELL:  They are done via a census method, site specific, for each particular hunting area.  State park staff and wildlife staff in that area work together to come up with those proposed harvest recommendations.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  For that specific site.

MS. CAMPBELL:  Correct.  For that specific site, based on census.  Yes.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Thank you.  Any other questions for Linda?  Thank you very much.  Appreciate it.  No further discussion, I’ll place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda for public comment and action.  Thank you, Linda.  And that could be one of our shortest regs  —

MR. SMITH:  Not sure we should get used to that.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  That’s right.  All right.  This committee has completed its business and we’ll move on to Finance.  Chairman Falcon.

(Whereupon, at 9:33 a.m., the Regulations Committee was adjourned.)

C E R T I F I C A T E

MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission

Regulations Committee

LOCATION: Austin, Texas

DATE:May 25, 2011

I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 17, 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.

6/09/11

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


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