TPW Commission

Public Hearing, August 30, 2012

Transcript

TPW Commission Meetings

TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION
AUGUST 30, 2012

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

COMMISSION MEETING

REPORTED BY: PAIGE SLOAN WATTS

PROCEEDINGS

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Good morning everyone, welcome. We appreciate y'all being here. This meeting is called to order August 30th, 2012, at 9:05 a.m.

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

I want to join the Commission in welcoming everybody. We've got a full house, standing room only. Means only one thing, we must be here to be talking about deer. So it's nice to see everybody who come in from all over the state and we're going to kickoff the meeting this morning and recognize colleagues that have been with us for a long time and given just some extraordinary service to the State of Texas and I hope y'all will stay and stay through that.

After we finish that part of the meeting, the Chairman will take a quick break and allow those of you who do not want to stay for the duration of the meeting -- all of you are welcome, let me assure you -- but for those of you who want to leave, we'll let you do that and then we'll start the rest of the meeting. Just as a reminder when we do kickoff the rest of the meeting, if there are action items for which you want to speak to the Commission, we want to remind you to sign up out front. At the appropriate time, the Chairman will call you forward by name. We ask you to come up to the microphone and you'll have three minutes to address the Commission and just ask that you state your name clearly and who you represent and what your position is, for or against on a certain topic.

Last thing, the acoustics in this room are not great. We're working on those. And so if you've got any cell phones or Blackberries or PDAs, we respectfully ask that you silence those or turn them off. If you've got a conversation to have, if you don't mind stepping out just out of respect for the rest of the room. So other than that, we're delighted to have you and hope everybody has a safe and festive Labor Day weekend.

So thank you, Mr. Chairman.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Great. Thank you, Carter.

Now we're looking for approval of the previous minutes from the previous Commission meeting held May 24th, 2012, which have already been distributed. Motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER HIXON: So moved.

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

(Chorus of ayes)

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

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

COMMISSIONER FALCON: Second.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Falcon. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed? Motion carries.

I think we're into special recognitions and service awards. The best part of the morning.

MR. SMITH: All right, thank you. Good morning, Chairman, Members of the Commission. For the record, my name is Carter Smith and it's my privilege to present a number of awards and recognitions that we have and I want to kickoff really with a special thanks. We have forged really a seminal partnership with Burlington Northern. Many of you know them, obviously. The country's preeminent railroad. And on their own volition, they have developed a new web based security platform that will allow license agents to be able to track with great exactitude contents in railroad cars, realtime information about what kind of things that they have stored there, whether there are hazardous materials or chemicals that we ought to know about.

It gives officers access to information about specific safety procedures, contact information. We're very, very proud of the fact that as we serve the State in our role as first responders there on sites at Parks and Wildlife management areas with our game wardens out in the fields, our park peace officers, our hazardous materials, hazmat kills and spills teams, our biologists, that they're going to have a safe and immediate way to access this web based information.

And they're kicking it off with a partnership with the Department. I want to thank Commissioner Scott and turn this over to him. He brought this to the Agency's attention and said, you know, this is something that could really help improve public safety and our response in the hopefully very, very rare event in which we have a car derailment and we need to know immediately what's in it and so awfully excited about this. Gary Teeler has been our point person on this with the Agency and let me turn it over to Commissioner Scott to say a few words about it and introduce our guests. So, Commissioner.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Thank you, Carter Mr. Chairman, fellow Commissioners, it's with great honer that I would like to read a little note into the record because this is a groundbreaking event. We are the first state in the Union and actually in North America to be given all of these programs statewide and it's going to be a tremendous help to all of our people out in the field. Let me just read this into the record.

First I want to welcome Dennis Kearns and Ed Chapman of the BNSF and Dr. Jim Boone from Operation Respond. Dennis is the BNSF Regional Assistant Vice President here in Austin and handles their political things. Ed is BNSF's Director of Hazmat Materials in Fort Worth. Jim is President of Operation Respond in Washington.

Earlier this year, BNSF and the nonprofit Operation Respond formed a unique partnership to apply today's technology to improve emergency response and public safety in rail and other hazmat incidents. We know that incidents often -- and our law enforcement personnel proudly say off the pavement. For sure hazmat related accidents and incidents are unpredictable and can occur anywhere. As many miles of rails and roads across our parklands and all through our cities, we all know that time spent waiting for the right information is time lost -- excuse me -- in safely responding to a hazmat incident.

That's why the BNSF and Operation Respond are working together to provide information and guidance that fits a broad based, all hazards approach. The kind that we typically face involving life safety as well as the environment and wildlife. Responders to a complex all hazard emergencies need quick access to a wide variety of emergency data, graphics, schematics, and images at the scene. This is even more important if there's a weather, wildfire, or other natural disaster event going on at the same time. Hurricanes and wildfires are real examples, as we know, when everything seems to be happening at once and often does.

The bottom line for us is in the Parks and Wildlife system, the primary responders are our dedicated people who may be dealing at the same time with lots of issues at the immediate scene of an accident or incident in addition to a possible hazmat release. With this new software, Texas Parks & Wildlife people will now be even better prepared to perform their duties safely and efficiently if they encounter dangerous materials in any aspect of their duties. BNSF's donation of Operation Response new wireless software to the Department is a true first. We are honored that our game wardens and other field personnel will be the first in the nation to have this remarkable capability accessible on their smart phones and laptops.

This technology will give our game wardens and other professionals at the scene an easy to use tool to get the lifesaving information they may need to safeguard themselves and others in rail and highway or other incidents. I understand that our newest cadet class has been familiarizing themselves with the software and they represent the new generation that takes quickly and easily to this technology.

The BNSF routinely and safely carries many dangerous commodities every day and is consistently recognized for their outstanding safety record by their customers and the railroad industry. So I just want to add one further item of recognition that means a lot to us and to the citizens of Texas. The BNSF railway's leadership and initiative in providing this donation to our Department is a wonderful example of their longstanding commitment to public safety for the communities they serve. I especially want to thank Ed Chapman for his dedication and hard work making this donation possible and Dennis Kearns for his leadership and community outreach on issues that positively affect rail safety in Texas. Thanks, Dennis and Ed.

We are grateful to them and to Operation Respond for making this lifesaving software available to us and it is with great pride that I have been involved with this for a number of years and that we can bring it to Texas first. I think Ed would like to say a word or two and then we can thank the BNSF for their wonderful donation.

MR. CHAPMAN: Yes, Ed Chapman from BNSF Railway and Hazardous Materials in Fort Worth. It's nice to be able to speak where I don't need an interpreter. Although, I am on the wrong side of the Brazos River from my original education. Okay. I do one of these.

Ben Franklin said that it's not that we plan to fail. It's that we fail to plan. And preparedness planning is really what it's all about at hazmat at BNSF. We have regional plans. We have local plans. We have system plans. And you might think that that's a lot to really worry about because it's only about one out of every 10,000 hazmat shipments that we transport that get into any kind of problem across the railroad while they're in transportation. But preparedness planning; be ready; being able to it; the Boy Scout motto, be prepared; all these things come together and if you're the officer or the warden out in the field, having a tool in your hand that leverages technology so that all the wonderful volumes that I have on the shelf that collect dust and so forth are right there in your hand, we think this is a great thing.

When you couple that with BNSF's vision of community outreach, supporting the communities, the things that make the community tick and so forth, that's an outreach program by putting technology in someone's hand that far exceeds what we can do by providing traffic flows to develop the type of information on what passes through a community, community training that we're big into and so forth. But again, to just be able to leverage that technology and even so us old fossils can understand how to use it, too, I think that's a very important thing for the Texas Parks & Wildlife folks to be able to have and leverage.

So I think that the partnership with BNSF is just a starting point. It's certainly not an ending point. We've got a long ways to grow here and I'm kind of reminded of the old fellow out on the -- my favorite barbecue joint that's kind of rocking back and forth on his chair. A little boy runs up and he says "Hey, mister. You lived here all your life?"

And he kind of reflectively looked around and he says "Well, no, not yet."

So we have just begun and, no, we're not yet done with the deployments; but I think it's going to be a very productive tool. We really can't gauge the outreach, the benefit that it may have to the officers, personal protective of that also to the general public. So we appreciate the interest that's been shown, the great roll out through Assistant Chief Teeler and the support of Dick Scott. Thank you.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Thank you, gentlemen. Also just for the record, Dennis Kearns happens to be a huge park enthusiast. So you're more likely to see him out in the state park than you are in one of these rooms.

So let's turn on to recognize one of our colleagues in law enforcement. The Association of Midwest Fish and Game Law Enforcement Officers Association is the oldest of its kind throughout the entire country. It's been around for almost 70 years and could not be more proud of the fact that today one of our very own, Chelle Mount out of Tarrant County who's been with us for nine years, is being recognized as the officer of the year and I think it's very fitting that Chelle is getting this.

She has been a great leader in community outreach. You heard us talk to the game warden graduating cadets about that yesterday and just how important that outreach is to that job as being an ambassador. She's been out front in youth ed. programs, women in the wild program, hunter ed., all kinds of outdoor education programs. Meanwhile, she's been our point person on dealing with invasive and exotic species, commercial fishing, our fisheries issues with wholesalers up in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Worked very closely with the Fish and Wildlife Service on helping to stop the illegal importation of a lot of illegal aquatic products that get smuggled into the state.

She's just got a great attitude. She's been very proactive working with local prosecutors and the judges to help educate them on the Parks and Wildlife Code and just truly been a great, great ambassador for this Agency and Law Enforcement. My privilege to recognize our colleague Chelle Mount, Chelle.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: All right, I don't know if I can make it through this next one. We've got four colleagues that are retiring. Collectively, they have 145 years of service. To tell you how much trouble we're in, I've got four and a half. So whatever you can do to talk them out of leaving, I implore you to help. I haven't done a very good job.

We'll start off with our old friend Colonel David Sinclair. David has been us for 40 years. I'll tell this story. You know, we all knew. You heard about the bet with Pete that he lost yesterday in the Capitol with David. But David's last day here, I've got to tell you was very surreal. And so end of the day comes and goes and I'm finishing up as I usually do and at 7:45 or 8:00, I turn out the lights and I walk over and, of course, Sinclair is still in his office as is customary, last day.

And there on the radio his Willie Nelson, "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain" is the song. He's got Brad Chappell in there. They're talking about, what else, deer cases and Sinclair says "Hey, we need to brief you on this." Well, it's 8:00 o'clock at night. Okay, his last night. And I'm listening to him and Chappell brief me on these deer cases and I'm looking around and there's books and there's papers and there's boxes and his e-mail deal is open and I'm thinking, hey, pal, you've got three and a half hours to clean this place up and then you're out of here. We can handle the deer cases, so let this one go.

At about 11:15, I'm going to bed and I turn to Stacy and I said, "I will bet you dollars to doughnuts that David Sinclair is still at that office." So I went him a text. Three seconds back, David, yep, finishing up, promise I'm out of here.

And we learn the next day that that night, Brad tells us that, you know, right at the stroke of midnight, Sinclair turns off the lights in his office and the entire electricity in the building goes off. The air conditioning, every single light. Very, very fitting. David has as had a great and extraordinary career. You know, grew up on a farm up in the Panhandle. Graduated from Tarleton State. Went to Crockett County where he was a field game warden and then he was in Kerrville for 16 or 17 years. A couple of weeks ago, I had to give a talk to the Sheep and Goat Raisers Convention and afterwards was visiting with some of the ranchers and there were two of the elderly ranchers that came up and waited patiently in line and they walked up and the only thing they wanted to know is "Do you remember an old game warden named David Sinclair?" And I said, "Yes, I remember an old game warden named David Sinclair," and they said, "He was a good man, he was a good man," and they left, enough said.

David has been just an extraordinary member of our team. He's a charter member of the Game Warden Association. He was our honorary keeper of the Mutual Association. He and Jim Stinebaugh created the Law Enforcement Employee Awards. Worked his way up to captain. Ultimately to the major over Fisheries and Wildlife Law Enforcement, then Chief of Staff, and his last position is our acting Colonel of the Law Enforcement Division. And I think you know there's no more consummate professional than David.

If you needed help, you went to David Sinclair. He was always there. You ask anybody in this building if you needed someone, David was always the first one to come running. Just a great, great guy. We're going to miss him dearly. Forty years of service, David Sinclair. David.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Now, not that David Sinclair needs to teach -- be taught anything about the rules of this Agency. But just to make sure he's doing everything lawfully, we're giving David a lifetime license. So, David, thank you for your service.

(Round of applause)

MR. SMITH: You know, Bill Granberry is another one of our great stalwarts throughout the Agency. And grew up down in that Victoria country. He's been with us for 39 years. I mean, let me hear the whoops. He went to Texas A&M. Yeah, I'm going to look this way, Commissioner. I've got to keep my eye on all the Aggies here, I'm getting awfully nervous about.

Wonderful career. Started out as an hourly there at Galveston State Park, an intern. Quickly, I mean just almost immediately worked his up to Superintendent. Saw the -- really the creation of that park from scratch. One of our most heavily visited parks. Obviously, as you know, heavily impacted from Hurricane Ike. But Bill just had a lot to do with developing that special place. Transferred down to Lake Texana as the Park Superintendent. Ultimately promoted to the Regional Maintenance Specialist and then in May 2002, was promoted to Regional Director in Kerrville. So he had a responsibility for really all of the Hill Country parks and he lead us proudly for ten years.

He's been recognized in employee awards. When we went through some of our response about how we improved park kind of fiscal processes. He led the effort to make sure that we had a standardized way to count visitors coming into the state parks. He was on site throughout it all with the Bastrop complex fires and really had kind of principal responsibility for communicating to those of us back at headquarters with what was going on. He's just a consummate professional. I'm awfully proud of our colleague Bill Granberry, 39 years of service to State Parks. Bill.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Starting on Tuesday, you're going to see some new attire around here. We're all going to be wearing shirts that are going to be WWGD. What would Gene do?

So I can't even believe this day has come. Thirty-four years of service, Gene McCarty is leaving this Agency. It has been an extraordinary, extraordinary career. As all of you know, the separation disorder complex for me and the rest of us -- for all of these colleagues that are leaving, but I have to say particularly with Gene -- is particularly acute. You know, I have the privilege of having an office next to Michelle and then Carole and Ann Bright and the most common words you will hear out of our little cluster is a plaintive cry that happens about, oh, a half dozen to ten times a day and it goes like this, "Gene, help."

And so Gene immediately rides to the rescue where he bails us out of whatever ditch we've found ourselves with the cart. Again, it's just hard to describe Gene's career. He started out in Inland Fisheries as a Hatchery Technician up in Electra there at the Dundee hatcheries. Had six different duty stations. He was responsible for building our CCA Hatchery, the John Wilson Hatchery there in Flower Bluff literally from scatch and we celebrated 30 years of that a couple of months ago down there at Flower Bluff with our colleagues from the old CP&L and CCA.

And one of the things you get to hear, of course, is all the stories about how hatcheries are built back then and the guys from CCA and CP&L and Gene. And, of course, as a classic Parks and Wildlife deal, we had about half the money to build a hatchery. And so as we found out, you know, half the stuff, you know, got carried off from some CP&L project that I'm not entirely sure was surplus property. So suffice to say, they contributed a lot to making that hatchery run.

Gene went on to develop, you know, Sea Center. Again, one of our great flagship facilities. As a coastal fisheries biologist, he's been in the trenches in you name it, from the Red fish wars to the limited entry programs with shrimpers to the license buy-back programs. Came up to Austin and really tasked with being the principal legislative liaison for the Agency. Responsible for working through the consolidation of the Game Stamp Programs. He's one, if not the most trusted, trusted people by all the legislature and the Commission and this Agency to go to for realtime facts and data.

He knows where all the bodies are buried. He knows why things happen, when they happened, who got mad at us, and why they happened and he saves us from ourself about every single day with his institutional memory. Gene has just been a tireless leader. There's no one in this Agency that bleeds more Texas Parks & Wildlife than Gene McCarty. Thirty-four years of service, Brother Gene, come forward.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Let's get all the DDs to come up, yeah. No crying, Lydia. Gene, do you want to say anything?

MR. MCCARTY: I'm going to keep this brief, partly because it's my nature. Mostly -- mostly because the longer I stand here, the more likely my emotions will get to me and then I'll become the target of my good friend Craig Hunter's jokes about babbling biologists.

MR. HUNTER: Too late.

MR. MCCARTY: When I was a kid fishing up and down the banks of the Guadalupe River, it was my dream to be -- to work for Parks and Wildlife. Very few people get to live their dream. I've been truly blessed to work for Texas Parks & Wildlife for 34 years and to live my dream. Words cannot express my appreciation and gratitude to -- for the opportunity to be part of this great organization and to serve the mission and the goals of this Agency and the wonderful people that work for it.

I want to take this opportunity to thank each of you personally for everything that you do for Texas Parks & Wildlife and everything you've done for me. It's been an honor to have worked with you, and it is has been an honor to serve the many dedicated colleagues that make up the Texas Parks & Wildlife family. Thank you.

(Round of applause)

MR. SMITH: Now, Gene, if you think I'm going to let Craig Hunter have the satisfaction of giving you a ticket for not having a license on opening day of dove season, you've got another thing coming pal. From all of us, a lifetime license, Gene. Thank you.

(Round of applause)

MR. SMITH: You know, our next colleague that we're going to recognize, Al Vielma. One of the nicest guys that you will ever meet. Been an extraordinary leader in Law Enforcement and had a great, great career with this Agency for 32 years. Graduated from the Game Warden Academy in 1980. Stationed there in Texas City where he was there on the coast for four years and then he was moved back to Comstock over in Val Verde and Terrell County area, which was a little closer to his home ground there in Southwest Texas.

Served the State proudly as a Game Warden right there on the border for ten years working in the ranch country and then he promoted to Staff Sergeant and moved into the San Antonio Regional Office and not surprisingly given Al's really exemplary leadership, he just moved up from Sergeant to Lieutenant to Captain and ultimately Major. And before his retirement, Al oversaw all of our South Texas operations. Has just done an extraordinary job. He's respected by every single one of us in this Agency. He's a great friend and he's a great man. Al Vielma, 32 years of service. Al.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Well, we're moving on to service awards and it's fitting that we're going to kick this off with recognizing all of our bosses, Michelle Klaus. She started 35 years ago, well before there were any child protection laws. Started out -- started out in Inland Fisheries -- where is -- Dr. Saul around -- and so where she was quickly introduced to this Agency and my goodness, she's just had an extraordinary career here and could not be a more special lady.

She worked in Inland Fisheries. She went to HR then in '90 and she wrote this I think for all of our benefit, she got her dream job in the executive office, I'm sure Michelle. And where -- yeah, nice try. She worked on the Wildlife Expo Banquet and supported the foundation and supported the Commission and then became, you know, Special Assistant to the Executive Director and I think this is really a remarkable statistic. In her 35 years, she has served with great pleasure 42 Parks and Wildlife Commissioners and four Executive Directors and I want to tell you nobody does it with grace, nobody does it with the decorum, nobody does it with the sense of humor and levity that she brings to her job.

She is incredibly competent. Never met anybody like her. She's able to juggle so many tasks. Every single person that calls up to the office, they want to talk to Michelle. And if they don't get to talk to Michelle and they end up talking to me, they tell me how much they wished they were talking to Michelle. So we try to make sure she doesn't leave the phone because she's just such an extraordinary ambassador for this place. She loves her job. We love her dearly. She makes Texas Parks & Wildlife the great, great place it is. Michelle Klaus, 35 years of service.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Floyd Randolph is our Maintenance Specialist V at Lake Livingston State Park. One of the great jewels there in the State Park system. And I think one of the great things about Floyd is he grew up there in Livingston. He knows everybody and was born, raised there, married a lady from there, raised two kids from there. Right out of high school, he started working there at the state park. And the last 35 years, he's been with us the entire time. The only employee that's been there really since the park was opened to the general public.

Throughout his time, he's gradually moved up the ranks to his current position. Very, very active in the community, practicing our community based conservation. His colleagues at the park tease him because he knows everybody in town and everybody loves him. You know, they call him the mayor of Livingston and he's just a great representative for us and we're very proud of his 35 years of service, Floyd Randolph. Floyd.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague, Terry Rodgers, has been with us for 30 years. He's our Superintendent at Inks Lake. Another great, great park. And like so many of our colleagues in State Parks, he's got a wonderful history. He worked with a variety of city and county parks there on the coast. Bob Hall Pier over there in Nueces County, Hazel Bazemore.

Ultimately moved to Austin to work -- I guess for the City over at Decker Lake. He said -- that's what he said. He said after a brilliant six weeks at Decker Lake and 13 applications to Parks and Wildlife, we finally had the good sense to hire him to be Assistant Superintendent over at McKinney Falls where I think he quickly had a little buyer's remorse.

The first weekend at McKinney Falls that he was on duty, we had 85 campers and 84 campsites, lost electricity, and the sewer backed up into the visitor's center. It's welcome to the world of our state parks, colleagues, as they handle that. Terry and his family moved to Blanco where he was on our team for 18 years. Ultimately moved over to Inks Lake State Park in 2007.

Just been one of the great, great leaders inside the Agency. A couple of his highlights from his career. He was on the security for Lady Bird Johnson's funeral and I know he's very, very proud for that. Provided security for President Bush's visits to the Admiral Nimitz Museum and is involved in a variety of other things, leadership positions throughout his time at the Agency and we're very, very proud of Terry. Let's honor him for his record of service. So, Terry.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague who's been with us 30 years, Mark Abolafia-Rosenzweig; and you can quickly understand why around here we just call him Mark AB. And Mark -- many of you have got kids that are kind of college age, and I love this story. Mark may be the only one on our team who grew up in Brooklyn, and we're tickled to death to have him. But so there he was studying psychology at Brooklyn College. He's three and a half years into a psychology degree there at Brooklyn College and he picks up and moves to Oregon State to go study forestry. Can you imagine the conversation around his parent's breakfast table? What in the hell is that boy doing?

I love it. So he went and got a forestry degree from Oregon State and decided he wanted to work in state parks and heard that Florida was a good spot to go and thank God he got a flat tire and got stuck in Texas and we had the good sense to hire him and he's been with us for 30 years. He's worked his way up a variety of positions. His first one was a Park Ranger I at Varner-Hogg. He then was over at Monument Hill and Kreische Brewery. Then he was the Manager at Palmetto there between Luling and Gonzales. And then most recently, of course, he's been the Park Manager there at Guadalupe River State Park.

And Mark has also been instrumental really in helping to lead the Tex Parks Project and the implementation of that, which of course as y'all know is our big revenue registration system for Mark AB and for the whole Agency and Mark has just done a great, great job with that.

I'll tell this quick story. His son interned with us this summer and really did a masterful job. Ann Bright, of all people, came running into the office one day and she said, "Oh, my gosh. You'll never believe this." And you know lawyers. They know one thing on the computer and it's, you know, Word Perfect 2.0 and she said, "Mark's son is an intern and he's just created this amazing thing. It's a spreadsheet and if you plug something in over here, it will plug something else out over here and if you change this, it will change that." I mean it was the proverbial, you know, one giant step for man and one great leap for mankind for Ann. And so Mark has done great things, too, himself and his son. Awfully proud of Mark AB, 30 years of service. Mark.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague is really one of the most accomplished naturalists and ornithologists that we have on staff. Some of you have Brent Ortego. I mean he is just a phenomenal birder and really a go-to guy for anything on the coast about migrating shorebirds, waterfowl, wading birds. He's our point person on helping manage waterbird rookeries on the coast, Bald Eagles; he's just really -- he's an expert in all things avian and he's had a great, great career with us.

He started out in a variety of things. He was a liaison to U.S. Forest Service. Worked a lot on the Red-cockaded woodpecker program over in East Texas. Worked in the planning program. In '99, he was promoted to Wildlife Diversity Biologist and then has moved over to Victoria where he's been stationed for the last 15 years or so and he's been our point person on recovery efforts for Attwater Prairie Chicken. Again, anything having to do with nongame stuff in South Texas, Brent has been our go-to guy. Just a great biologist, very accomplished. Awfully proud of his service, 30 years of service, Brent Ortego. Brent.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague, Cathy Hamby, I just can't say enough about her. She works in our AR and our license team and I'll talk a little bit more about that in just a minute; but, again, 25 years of service to this Agency and really helps this place run.

She started off in June of '87, worked in customer service in Boat Registration. Ultimately got promoted to work in our Revenue branch. Worked as a Staff Services Officer, again working with the Revenue and Finance Director. And then in 2003, she really found her calling and thank God for us when she was promoted to the License Issuance Team Lead and she leads a team of three folks and they're really in charge in so many ways of one of the most important things we do at this Agency in terms of selling hunting and fishing licenses to our customers to help them get in the out of doors.

It something that generates $100 million for this Agency and so that customer service, being present to answer questions, serving as a problem solver and liaison for, you know, the 1,650 license agents that we have out in the state, she is on the front lines and I'll tell you it's not a month goes by in which Michelle and I don't get a call or a letter for someone calling to tell us just how amazing Cathy Hamby is and she really is.

And of course most recently as we have been transitioning into the new license vendor, Cathy has played a critical, critical role in that regard and so she's been very busy; but she's just doing it with great excellence. Awfully proud of her, 25 years of service, Cathy Hamby. Cathy.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague in Administrative Resources, Renee Serrano. Renee has also been with us 25 years. She's a Senior Purchaser, and so she oversees purchasing throughout the Agency. She's really a valuable member of our team. She's had a great career.

She started off as a temporary position in State Parks. Then transferred over to Coastal Fisheries. Ultimately went to Infrastructure, and was hired on in a permanent position there. She then transferred over to Communications to work for Hunter Ed., before assisting the Media Production team and then she left the dark side and went over to Administrative Resources to join that team there and just been a great and dedicated colleague behind the scenes and making sure that we purchase things wisely and responsibly and lawfully. And Awfully proud of her 25 years of service, Renee Serrano. Renee.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague is with our Coastal Fisheries team and Johnny Rios has been with us for 25 years and he's a Captain for our research vessel out in the bay, Research Vessel Nueces, and couldn't have a better person than Johnny to do this, as Robin and his team can attest.

He grew up in that little harbor town of Fulton. As a boy, he worked on shrimp boats and commercial fishing boats and learned how to outfit every single boat imaginable. Wisely, Coastal Fisheries saw him and his great talents and potential and hired him to join their team. He's been a Technician and Captain for us. He's been responsible for planning and designing and rigging and outfitting multiple research vessels that are so, so essential to the biological work and the sampling work that y'all know is such a great hallmark of our Coastal's Fishery team out in the bay as they perform their stock assessments.

He's got a Coast Guard hundred ton captain's license. As I said, he captains our Research Vessel Nueces. He's also our safety officer for the Corpus Christi Bay Team. He's a great colleague. Awfully proud of him. Johnny Rios, 25 years of service. Johnny.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague y'all know well. He serves on the Executive Protection team, Steve Densmore. And Steve has been with us for 25 years; again, just one of those consummate Law Enforcement professionals.

Started out his career in State Parks at Colorado Bend, a pretty good spot. Really a neat part of the world. In '91, he promoted to the Lead Ranger at Lake Lewisville and then '92, he moved over to Lake Ray Roberts where he was promoted to Unit Manager and then in 2007, Steve was promoted to Lieutenant and so in that responsibility, he has complete regional oversight of the parks in his area from a law enforcement perspective. And again, no finer professional than Steve.

One of his many, many areas of expertise is in swift water rescue. And so he really has lead responsibility for training our park peace officers and our game wardens in swift water rescue. For the last 19 years, he's taught that at the Academy. And just a testament really to Steve's training, a week or so ago we had the Law Enforcement awards and we recognized a number of wardens that had saved lives because of their rescue in swift water and all of which they were able to utilize their training. Steve no doubt had a huge, huge role in making sure that those officers were well prepared to serve the State. I'm very, very proud of Steve Densmore, 25 years of service. Steve.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: You really do have my back. I'm going to look around and see if Sonya Banda is right behind me here next time. Okay, next one. Twenty years of service, Sonya Banda. She's an Accountant IV with us. She began with us in '92 and great story, starting as an hourly worker working with the Magazine team and handling subscription renewals.

Moved over to the Executive Office and was involved in handling correspondence for the Commission and the Executive staff. '94, she moved into the Boats Division as an accountant working on a host of things from reconciliations and managing revenue streams and again, just tracking revenue.

I love this. July 8th, 2008, she was promoted to an Accountant III after she had gone back to school. She had got her bachelor's of accounting degree, all the while raising a couple of kids and working full time. I mean really, really impressive the kind of dedication and commitment that she shows. She has just steadily worked her way up to a variety of accountant positions.

Today she handles multiple accounts, tracking sand and gravel, conservation license plates, magazines, front counter moneys, very involved in the roll out of our new BIZ financial system and our Tex Park System. We couldn't do it without her. Twenty years of service, Sonya Banda. Sonya.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague is Jan Culbertson, and one of our Coastal Fisheries biologists. She's been with us for 20 years and she started her career in the Artificial Reef Program and you know how important that program is as we go out and create habitat out in the bays and in the Gulf water to help create structure for reef fish and just provide great recreational fishing opportunities and diving.

And during her tenure with the Artificial Reef Program, which she was the coordinator, she coordinated the donation of 38 rigs to reefs, one barge, one tugboat, 300 fly ash blocks, 50 granite blocks, 132 reef balls, 42 concrete culverts, 12 concrete anchor blocks, and a partridge in a pear tree. She's done an extraordinary job of creating habitat out in the Gulf waters and had over 6.7 million of donations.

She's a certified dive instructor. Been involved in a lot of Red snapper work and again, just been a great colleague on the team. In 2002, she transferred to work over in Galveston Bay out of -- again, out of that Dickinson office working with Lance Robinson and quickly became kind of our liaison on oyster related issues and particular concerns about Dermo and that impact to oyster reefs, working with Dr. Sammy Ray.

And she's the author of a number of very, very technical studies. You know, yesterday you know, Commissioner Jones, we had the opportunity in the public meeting to hear, you know, a little bit of a surprising discussion about circadian rhythms and, you know, it was nice to hear you and others wax eloquently from what those teachers at A&M had taught you about that subject. For the laymen among you, at Texas Tech they just taught me that circadian rhythms means that your wife stays up late and you go to bed early. Now for your next biology lesson, Commissioner Jones, I'm going to send you Jan's paper -- A Synoptic Survey for Non-indigenous Ichthyofauna in Selected Tidal Bayous of Galveston Bay. So we're going to take you -- taking you to ichthyofauna from circadian rhythms.

Jan has been a great colleague. Again, worked on so many things, on habitat restoration and oysters. We're awfully proud of her service to our Coastal Fisheries team. Twenty years of service, Jan Culbertson. Jan.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: We're going to get to recognize another one of our longstanding colleagues from Coastal Fisheries, Alan McNabb. And he's our Maintenance Specialist out of the Rockport office and when you're trying to maintain a fleet of boats and trailers and research vessels and trucks, you've got to have somebody that knows how to work on all that equipment and all those boats, all those vehicle and keep them humming.

He was hired in '92 as a Maintenance Technician in that Rockport office. Responsible again for managing all that gear and equipment. He helped design and fabricate the giant mobile aquarium that maybe some of you have seen in past expos or other places around the state that the Coastal Fisheries team uses for education and outreach. He got promoted to a variety of different positions. Very involved again in helping to -- with the acquisition and outfitting of a variety of research vessels. He just does so many, many things behind the scenes to help support that Coastal Fisheries team. Integral part of it. Twenty years of service, Alan McNabb.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague is out of our Infrastructure team, Scott Smith. He's been with us for 20 years. And Scott started his career with his Force Account, and again these are -- we've talked a little bit about our Force Account teams before. These are highly, highly specialized teams of artisans and craftsmen and masons and really construction specialists that go around the state and work on very unique construction projects. There's a lot of historical restoration. I mean these are very, very talented men and women that work on those Force Account teams and get sent off into the field literally for weeks, if not months, at a time.

Scott started his career there. Quickly worked his way up the ranks in Infrastructure. In May of 2005, he became Manager of the Field Operations branch. Again, leading a team -- construction managers, inspectors, surveyors, and force account team. He's a graduate of Natural Leaders Program and we're really proud of his leadership in the Agency. Just a great colleague. Twenty years of service, Scott Smith. Scott.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague is out of our Inland Fisheries team and Danny Lewis, he's a Research Specialist IV. Danny started out as a volunteer and the team there quickly realized that he had great talents and hired him in a temporary position working on a fisheries management crew. He's got a lot of computer expertise. Created a regional accounting system for Inland Fisheries over in East Texas, providing computer support to our field staff who need it to account for all of their survey and biological data.

He ingenerated our initial Angler Recognition Water Body Record List put together by state records and big fish awards to put all that together. He's our Regional Support Specialist out at Tyler and again, provides that critical support service to our colleagues out in the field and Inland Fisheries and just does so, so many things behind the scenes. I'm really proud too of this fact. Danny is the President-Elect of the organization of Fish and Wildlife Information Managers across the country and so nice to see a colleague taking a leadership role in his profession across the country. It's fun to see him get recognized. Twenty years of service, Danny Lewis. Danny.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague is on our Law Enforcement team, Deborah Holloway; and she's out of Rockport. Been with us for 20 years. Actually, started in Coastal Fisheries working at the Rockport Marine Lab and she had the responsibility of cataloging the biologist's library there and trying to make order out of that chaos. Robin, I suspect there was plenty of work there to be done.

She then left and went back to school and fortunately after school came back to join the Law Enforcement team, again there in Rockport as an Administrative Assistant again helping to make sure that that office runs very, very smoothly and efficiently. She's volunteered in a bunch of things on her own time to support programs that are important to the Agency. A Game Warden Association Go for Fish not Drugs, fishing tournaments. She's a longstanding volunteer at the Parks and Wildlife expo. She's involved in helping us with the new license system and we're very, very proud of her 20 years of service to the State of Texas, Deborah Holloway. Deborah.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague is on our Legal team, Boyd Kennedy; and Boyd has been with us for 20 years. And he was initially hired to be the lawyer to really serve as the liaison to Law Enforcement and to work with them on all their cases and supporting them. I mean he is a go-to guy on this stuff across the state for our game wardens, our peace officers, prosecutors around the state.

He has been involved in some of the most fascinating cases that this Agency has ever, ever seen. I was getting reminded this morning from Clayton and Brent, back in the early 90s when the Agency took on the dog hunters over in East Texas, Boyd had the position of defending the Agency's rules over in East Texas. And let me tell you, if that was a chance to get hometowned, it was going to be on that.

And one of the best, very best lines in the annals of Parks and Wildlife history over there somewhere deep in some piney wood's courtroom as Boyd was testifying for the State and defending us, there was a JP that was called to give testimony in the case who was a dog hunter and this Justice of the Peace -- so that gave you some sense of what we were up against over there -- he had a deer dog named "Creeping Jesus" and there on the stand, he described "Creeping Jesus." He said he was slow, but he was true.

And Boyd has over his time has seen all kinds of things throughout his career. He's defended our building with old permits from individuals who clearly are not playing by the rules. Fixed a lot of legislation over the years. Right now, he's teaching a class in wildlife law at Texas Tech and passing on his ample, ample knowledge. Really an expert on navigable streams throughout the state, among many things. Just a great colleague and legal mind. Twenty years of service, Boyd Kennedy. Boyd.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague in State Parks has also been with us 20 years and Tony Merino began his career at Bastrop State Park and Lake Bastrop State Park actually, which is now owned by LCRA and then moved over to Bastrop State Park owned by the Department. And again, has steadily worked his way up as a Park Ranger. He worked at both Bastrop and Buescher and then has supported the whole complex.

Obviously, on the front lines during the fires there during the Labor Day Bastrop County, county complex. Certified wildland firefighter. His knowledge of that area is just priceless and he's Maintenance Specialist V and just doing great things over at Bastrop. Twenty years of service, Tony Merino. Tony.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Okay. Last but certainly not least is Dana Wright. Dana has been with us as a Wildlife Biologist for 20 years, working up in the -- kind of the extremes of the Rolling Plains around Paducah and Childress and just had a great, great career with us.

She started out as a Fish and Wildlife Technician in Amarillo. Then moved over to Paducah to work with that regulatory district doing surveys and supporting private lands work. She got promoted to the Assistant Manager at the Matador Wildlife Management Area, which I hope all of you have a chance to see somewhere. Just a phenomenal example of that country there on the Pease River and really, really a neat and special wildlife management area.

In October of 2011, she was promoted to the Assistant District Leader. During her tenure, Dana has worked again with countless landowners. She provided great technical assistance to landowners and wildlife management plans by herself affecting over a million acres. She's done surveys on everything from Lesser Prairie chicken to Pronghorn to turkey to dove to quail to Mule deer to White-tailed deer to all kinds of nongame species. Fittingly, she got the Employee Recognition Award for her community outreach and also was part of the Outstanding Team Award for her work on the state bison award.

The Soil and Water Conservation District recognize her as the Conservation Professional of the Year and for those of you who have been in the last couple of Lone Star Land Steward Award ceremonies, too, you'll regularly see some ranchers from up in her country that Dana has been working with in providing guidance with that are just doing exemplary stewardship on the ground with their land managing and for wildlife and she's a huge, huge part of it. We're awfully proud to have her on our Wildlife team, 20 years of service, Dana.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman and Members of the Commission, that's it. Thank y'all.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. Thank you all for being here. Appreciate it. And at this time, I would like to inform the audience that everyone is welcome to stay for the remainder of the meeting. However, if anyone wishes to leave -- and I think several people do -- feel free to do so.

(Recess taken)

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Are y'all ready to get started? The first order of business is Action Item No. 1, approval of the revised agenda.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Move for approval.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Moved by Commissioner Duggins.

COMMISSIONER FALCON: Second.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Second Commissioner Falcon. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

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

And Action Item No. 8, Boater Education Deferral Rules, has been withdrawn from the agenda at this time.

Moving on to Action Item No. 2, Operating and Capital Budget, Mr. Mike Jensen.

MR. JENSEN: Good morning, Commissioners. I'm Mike Jensen, Division Director of Administrative Resources. This should go fairly quickly today since we've gone over this material yesterday. I would like to recognize briefly Justin Halvorsen in the back. He's the Budget Manager. He's the person who really helps pull this data together. Sitting behind him is Kim Dudish. She's our Director of Contracting and Federal Funds. She's done a good job the last couple of years of improving how we manage those funds.

Chairman Friedkin, yesterday you had a question about the DMV donations. We have 456,000, almost 457,000 as of yesterday that were donated.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thanks.

MR. JENSEN: State park fees so far this year is 40.2 million, almost 40.3. So that's good. That's 7.7 percent ahead of last year. And license sales have been really taking off for the license that -- the license year that started on August 15th. We've collected 12.3 million just since August 15th. So that's about 20 to 24 percent each day it's changing a little bit, so that's great.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: 20 to 24 percent ahead of last year?

MR. JENSEN: Yeah, 24 percent ahead of last year for the first two weeks of the license year, so that's --

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: That's great.

MR. JENSEN: -- great. And Gene's not here, but I just wanted to recognize him and thank him for the support that he's given me and my staff. And this last Friday, I have a three and a half year old daughter and she believes everything I say and I told her he was the Lorax. So she came and asked him "Are you the Lorax?"

And when Gene was telling me he was going to retire, I was threatening to go down to ERS and have a picture of a Lorax with this little slash if you see this guy, don't let him in. But he made his plans. We really appreciate the work he's done and this is his dream job and it's I guess my father's dream job, too, because my father always wanted me to work here. So I'm glad I'm here. I'm glad I got to work with Gene.

Yesterday we went over this, how we cross-walked the budget from General Appropriations Act. We start with 267.9 million and we bring in some adjusted amounts for federal funds, 7.3 million appropriated receipts, 850,000. We have an estimated UB of 42.1 million and most of that is construction related and we have fringe benefits of 39.3 million. So our adjusted budget that we're starting with is 357.53 million for fiscal year 2013.

Yesterday we went through the source of funds. I'm not going to read through all the detail on this, but our primary source of funds are General Obligation Bonds. We have GR dedicated, which is a variety of sources including conservation and license plate funds. We have general revenue, primarily the sporting goods sales tax and some unclaimed motor fuels tax. We have other revenue, which is appropriated receipts and earned federal funds. We have federal funds and Account 9 is the Game, Fish and Water Safety Account and Fund 64 is the State Parks Account.

And I think your briefing books have an Exhibit A and an Exhibit B. Your Exhibit A cross-walks with how our budget appears in the Appropriation Act. It's broken down by strategy. Exhibit B is more operationally how we look at the budget. So your Exhibit B will have the object of expense. It will also give you the detail on our capital budget on that same exhibit. When you break that down, we have 357.53 million. Most of that is salaries and other personnel costs for about 139 million. And the next larger piece is the capital budget, about 76.61 million in our operating funds of 79 million.

I'm not going to go through the detail on this. Most of the divisions in '13 are going to be operating at FTEs that are consistent with what the cap actually is. We have a few divisions who are budgeting slightly above the FTE cap, planning for some attrition throughout the year; but we will not exceed the cap. We have the ability to average over the year. So this breaks down the budget for each division and it also breaks down the capital construction budget and capital IT and GLO transfer. You have greater detail in your Exhibit As and Exhibit B.

The FTE cap for the upcoming fiscal year is 3,006 FTEs. Departmentwide budget we went through yesterday. It's a holding pot for the uncertified authority that's related to Rider 25, which is the opt in for vehicle registration and Rider 27. Based on the revenues that we're receiving this week, we're hoping that we'll be able to move some additional Fund 9 and Fund 64 into 13. We'll know better sometime next week after we look into the Comptroller's revenue system.

We went through this yesterday. Basically, the divisionwide budget is 29.28 million. The capital budget, it's primarily construction and major repairs. We have a large UB amount of 73.25 million. We have parks minor repairs, 3.02 million. Information technology at 4.6 million. We have transportation items of 2.38 million and capital equipment, 690,000. Our master lease purchase program of 70,000. Yesterday we mentioned that the funding through the license plates, the capital conservation accounts, we have a list of projects which are Exhibit C and that Exhibit C kind of walks you through in greater detail the plan to spend 288,000 of license plate funds in fiscal year '13 and that's going to be an action item for your approval this morning.

And as I mentioned yesterday, the Commission has a budget policy and an investment policy. The budget policy just has one minor revision to it where -- because of the change in committee and subcommittee structure, we have it so that any budget adjustments greater than 250,000 and the approval of donations can be approved by the Chair or Vice-Chair or any other designee that's a Commissioner that they designate. That's the only change to the budget policy, which is Exhibit D.

And Exhibit E is the investment policy. We have no changes to that whatsoever. All of our funds are held within the Treasury and we receive the interest that will come back to benefit the Department. And since we went into the detail of this yesterday, I'm going to read into the record for y'all the proposed recommendation for you to act on. The Executive Director is authorized to expend funds to operate the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department in accordance with proposed fiscal year 2013 operating capital budget and Exhibits A and B and approves expenditure of fiscal year 2013, Texas Parks & Wildlife Conservation Capital Account funds, including additional funds realized in fiscal year 2013 for the individual projects listed in Exhibit C and the Commission also approves the budget policy, Exhibit D, and the investment policy, Exhibit E.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thanks, Mike. Any questions for Mike? Okay, nobody is signed up to speak on this item. So motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER JONES: So moved.

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

(Chorus of ayes)

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

Next is Item 3 Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program Recognizes 75 Years of Wildlife Conservation and Partnership, Ross Melinchuk.

MR. MELINCHUK: Good morning.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Good morning, Ross. How are you?

MR. MELINCHUK: Good, thank you. Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Smith, my name is Ross Melinchuk. I'm the Deputy Executive Director for Natural Resources. This year we're celebrating 75 years of conservation made possible by the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program or WSFR. This vital funding stream stems from landmark federal legislation that directs taxes paid on hunting and fishing equipment and motor boat fuels into State fish and wildlife conservation and education programs.

Federal funds are made available to states on a 75/25 matching basis with the states contributing 25 percent matching funds in the form of cash, in-kind, and volunteer services. Along with hunting and fishing license sales, WSFR is really the financial foundation of the North American model of conservation.

The success story that is WSFR was spawned out of a conservation crisis of enormous proportion that faced this nation in the late 19th and early 20th century. Here in Texas, deer, turkey, and other game animals were nearly extirpated by the turn of the century. Desert Bighorn sheep, for example, had virtually disappeared from West Texas mountaintops by 1960. TPWD has and continues to use WSFR funding to restore many species, including Pronghorn, Bighorn sheep, Eastern Wild Turkey, and others. A sea change occurred in 1937 when Congress passed the Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid and Wildlife Restoration Act. To put that into context, gasoline was 10 cents a gallon in 1937.

P-R, as it is known, levies an 11 percent excise tax on rifles, shotguns, ammunition, and archery equipment and a 10 percent tax on handguns. The tax is paid by manufacturers, not by customers at checkout counters. So most people aren't even aware of the tax and what it is benefited. Since the passage of P-R, Texas has received more than $300 million for wildlife research and conservation, the creation of wildlife management areas, hunter education programs, shooting range development, and a lot more.

Texas is one of only three states that receive the maximum available in P-R funding every year, which this past year was almost $17 million. In 1945, Texas used WSFR funds to purchase a little over 5,300 acres in West Texas and in so doing, established the first -- the State's first wildlife management area. Sierra Diablo WMA today encompasses more than 11,000 acres and is a stronghold for desert Bighorn sheep in Texas. This native species is making a comeback across West Texas thanks to restoration work that began in the Sierra Diablo mountains and continues today. More WMAs followed, all made possible by WSFR funds.

In 1948, Black Gap became the State's second WMA. Gene Howe and the Kerr followed in 1960. As you see here, the release of deer on an early restoration project at the Gus Engeling WMA drew quite a crowd back in the 1950s. Today, there are 49 WMAs in Texas covering more than three-quarters of a million acres. Almost all created with the help of WSFR funds. They serve as vital research and demonstration areas. They provide public hunting, fishing, camping, and birding opportunities.

The success of P-R prompted Congress in 1950 to pass the Dingell-Johnson Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act, mandating a similar excise tax on fishing equipment. D-J has channeled nearly $350 million into Texas for fisheries research and conservation, the creation of fish hatcheries, boater and angler education programs, boat ramp and marina construction and more. Following the devastating drought of the 1950s, there was a boom of reservoir development that splashed new lakes across the state. Fisheries managers saw a chance to provide quality fishing in these new warm water habitats.

WSFR funds helped pay for biologists and other resources to create and develop freshwater fisheries through innovative fishing regulations, fish stocking programs, and fish habitat improvements. The Sport Fish Restoration Program was instrumental in turning Texas' system of lakes and reservoirs into the freshwater fishing mecca and economic powerhouse that it is today. More than 1.8 million freshwater anglers spend almost 27 million days fishing in Texas every year and in the process, generate 2.3 billion -- that's with a B -- dollars in annual retail sales and support more than 33,000 jobs across the state.

Fishing truly is big business in Texas. Throughout the 1980s, virtually all the Sport Fish Restoration funds in Texas were used to construct new fish hatcheries and renovate old delapidated ones. Tens of millions of dollars flowed to renovate hatcheries at Dundee, Possum Kingdom, A.E. Wood, and the CCA Marine Development Center. In the 1990s, Sea Center Texas and the Texas Freshwater Fishing Center in Athens came online. These facilities uniquely blended research and fish production with visitor aquaria, and youth fishing ponds. Today, our salt and freshwater hatchery program is an integral component of the State's overall fisheries management program.

Besides vital conservation funding from hunters and anglers, WSFR funnels boater funds to projects that are intended to get people out on the water. In 1984, Congress passed the Wallop-Breaux Amendment to D-J. This provided another funding stream from a portion of federal gasoline taxes attributed to motor boats through a formula based on boat registrations in each state. This has helped build hundreds of boat ramps across the state and several major marina projects such as the one at Corpus Christi waterfront. All this has led to an extensive array of public access to our lakes, rivers, streams, bays, and estuaries.

Outdoor education programs provide the hands on enrichment for people to get started in the outdoors. Quite simply without WSFR, there would be no Texas hunter, boater, or angler education programs. Over 50,000 Texans were introduced to fishing in 2011 alone thanks to our angler education programs. And since 1992, nearly 1 million youth and adults have been trained in hunter education.

As a result, the number of Texas hunting accidents and fatalities dropped to an all time low this past year. P-R and D-J were hard fought legislative victories. It took years of pushing by hunters, fishermen, and conservation groups and several failed attempts before they finally passed. Together they symbolize a uniquely North American concept that has morphed from a user pay/user benefit into what is now a more aptly termed the user pay -- public benefit model of fisheries and wildlife conservation.

And now Tom Harvey is going to outline for you our plans on how we plan to mark the 75th anniversary here in Texas. Tom.

MR. HARVEY: Thank you, Ross. Good morning, Commissioners. And let me just first say thank you for your service to support the work that we try to do here at the Agency. My name is Tom Harvey. It's my privilege to work in the Communication Division with Lydia where I facilitate the work of the media communications group. These are the talented writers, editors, photographers, video and radio producers that are telling the stories of this great Agency and this great state and this year, we're telling the story of the 75th anniversary.

We're celebrating the 75 years of conservation achievements. We're carrying the message in our magazine, radio and video series. Look for a feature article in the November issue of our magazine about the 75th anniversary. Plus a Legend, Lore, and Legacy Profile of Phil Goodrum, who led the start of the Wildlife Restoration Program in Texas. We're creating a special video that's going to show in every hunter and boater ed. class and will encourage outdoor news coverage to reach hunters, anglers, and boaters.

This effort is getting support at the highest levels. You may have noticed the framed proclamation from Governor Perry on the wall by the door on the way into the Commission Hearing Room. Right next to it is one of the 29 vinyl banners we have on display at fish hatcheries, wildlife management areas, our Law Enforcement license sales offices, and at special events like the Toyota Texas Bass Classic that's coming up at the end of September.

We distributed 700,000 of these wallet cards, which all of you should have one of these. These are a wonderful tool. They've gone out to more than 600 of our license vendors, the people that sell hunting and fishing licenses. They show basic hunting and fishing regulations. Plus, we've added a panel that tells people about this 75th anniversary. This really puts this message right in the hands of the people that we want most to receive it. And the bottom line is we're asking folks to spread the word this year and especially this fall as hunting season cranks up. If you love wildlife, thank a hunter. If you love rivers, lakes, and bays, thank our anglers and boaters, as the national 75th anniversary effort says, it's your nature.

And I would just like to close by saying that this really sets the stage for a continuing celebration of the history of this Agency and this state. In 2013, we're planning for the 50th anniversary of Texas Parks & Wildlife and we're going to be looking to tell these important stories on into next year. So if you have any questions, I'll be happy to answer them.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thanks, Tom. Appreciate it. I missed the number on the WSFR funding for this past year. What was it approximately? I missed that, Ross.

MR. HARVEY: About 16 --

MR. MELINCHUK: 17 million almost.

MR. HARVEY: Almost 17 million.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: That's fantastic. Okay, that's great work. Thank you. Appreciate all you're doing. That's great.

MR. HARVEY: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: All right. Item 4 is Definition of Existing Easement, Harris County, Pipeline Corridor at San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site, Mr. Ted Hollingsworth.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good morning. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This item is essentially a housekeeping item. In May, you authorized the Chevron Pipeline Company to install two new pipelines adjacent to an existing easement at San Jacinto Battleground, just east of Houston.

In the process of surveying for those lines, we discovered that a line installed in 1969 roughly in this location in the map wandered outside of the easement that had been granted in 1969 and basically trespassed onto the park. And so what we're recommending is that we grant an easement for that line. Chevron has agreed that any time they need to access that line in the future, they'll get a surface use agreement from the Department to work, even if they're operating within that easement.

They've agreed to our 2012 rate schedule for that easement to cover that pipeline, and we think that's the best solution. We're going to issue an easement over an area that's a minimum area necessary to identify where that pipeline is. Interestingly, it wanders in and out under an existing fence that's a bollard, a post and bollard fence. And in drilling those holes with a tractor and auger, no one has ever hit that pipeline. We think it would be good to make sure that doesn't happen in the future, so we'll determine how to mark that pipeline.

And staff does believe that issuing the easement is in the best interest of the Agency and recommends that the Commission adopt the resolution you have attached as Exhibit A. I'd be happy to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Ted, remind me. Does that line have any product in it?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Oh, yes, sir. Yes, sir, it's an active --

COMMISSIONER JONES: High flowing line?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: -- pipeline. Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER JONES: What is the product? Do you remember?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: They actually change the products that are in those line from time to time and I don't recall -- is it in the notes? I don't recall what's in that specific pipeline at this time.

COMMISSIONER JONES: That's fine. My main question was whether it had product in it.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yeah, it's an active pipeline. It connects a plant just south of the park to a facility in Mont Belvieu, which is about 20 miles north.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Commissioner Duggins.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Ted, is Chevron going to release the right-of-way that it thought it -- where it thought the line was and the line is not or what are we doing?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: That right-of-way actually corresponds with the highway right-of-way and it is undefined. It simply says that Chevron may place pipelines anywhere within the highway, the state highway right-of-way. And so that -- and there are four other lines in that highway right-of-way currently and so we don't see any need to -- unless the highway department wants it altered, their use or nonuse of that right-of-way doesn't really affect the state park.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And is Chevron going to mark the line with markers so that we don't have a fence --

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir. They're actually going to work directly with the staff on the ground at the state historic site to determine how to best mark that so that the markers don't -- aren't an aesthetic -- an intrusion and yet where obviously future park managers and rangers will know exactly where that line is.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any other questions for Ted? Okay. All right.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Let me just add that safety should win out over aesthetics when it comes to a pipeline like that.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: I believe that staff would agree with you, sir.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Yeah, okay.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: There are standard pipeline markers and they're all over the park now and the question isn't whether to install those. It's where to install those to make sure that there's no confusion in the future about where that pipeline is.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. Motion for approval? Commissioner Morian.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Second.

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

(Chorus of ayes)

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

All right, Ted again. Item 5, Land Acquisition, Stephens County, 427 acres at Palo Pinto Mountains State Park.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good morning. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This is a pretty exciting item. As you know, in 2007 we sold the Eagle Mountain Lake State Park. It was a small area and there was some opposition to developing it and we took those funds and used it to acquire property much more suitable for a state park about 70 miles east -- west of Fort Worth, now known as Palo Pinto Mountains State Park at 3,333 acres.

At the time we acquired the park, there were two or three tracts that we had really hoped to acquire and we simply ran out of money. The sale of the Fortress Cliffs tract at Palo Duro Canyons last year has enabled us to go back and acquire this tract, which was the highest priority out of those tracts we were unable to acquire. It adds -- it adds some -- it adds some habitat and some features to the park that are going to be valuable to the recreational and operational amenities for the park.

We have an option signed. With your approval today, we'll exercise that option. We'll complete the survey of the property, and plan to close before the end of the year. It's a 427-acre tract. It has almost a mile of frontage on north Palo Pinto Creek. The configuration is, as you see in this map, there's good access to the tract and the staff recommends that the Texas Parks & Wildlife Commission authorize the Executive Directer to take all necessary steps to acquire approximately 427 acres in Stephens County for addition to Palo Pinto Mountains State Park. I'd be happy to answer questions you have.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Questions for Ted? Commissioner Duggins.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Mineral status?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: This tract is actually in the same exact mineral block as the rest of the park. The minerals were severed early in the last century. In this case, in this case the sellers have agreed -- and it is included in the option and will be included in the contract -- have agreed that any future lease of minerals will include a surface use agreement and we've attached the form of the surface use agreement. It complies with our standard surface use agreement and basically gives us the authority to determine placement of any facilities associated with oil and gas development. So we do have that protection for this property.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And I see in the plat that there shows one oil well.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Is that an --

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: It's a conventional --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- active well?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Yes, it's a conventional vertical well. It's been there for a long time. It's still -- it's still producing commercial quantities. We are going to continue to provide access through an existing road. We did have -- we did pay for a pretty extensive geological report on this property. As far as all the current data suggests, the barnett shale, the developable portions of the barnett shale peter out 6 or 8 miles east of this location and as far as is known from the seismic work that's been done to date, it does not appear that it's going to be practical to try and get into that shale and frack it in the future.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: How does the operator access the well?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: There's a road that's actually visible that kind of meanders off to the east from where the well site is and then leaves through that north portion of the property that we're not buying.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So the hatched area we're not buying?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: That's correct, yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: It's for sale. The owner just wants a little bit more than appraised value for it; so at this time, we've not worked out -- we've not worked out an agreement to buy that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay, thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any other questions for Ted? All right. Motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER HIXON: So moved.

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

(Chorus of ayes)

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

All right, Ted, you're up again. Lease Termination, Jackson County, Lake Texana State Park.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good morning. My name is Ted Hollingsworth. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. The legislature in the last session -- actually in the last two or three sessions and the LBB as well, have directed Texas Parks & Wildlife to take a close look at all of our sites, particularly our state park sites and state historic sites, and evaluate whether or not any of those could be managed by other operators, by those that we lease those properties from or by local or county parks departments and we have approached local governments about a number of those sites.

As you know, a few of those have worked out. In this case, Lake Texana is a property we've been leasing for the last half century from the Lower -- from the Lavaca Navidad River Authority and they operate a very similar park directly across the street from Lake Texana State Park. And as we've talked to them over the last year, they've expressed an ability and a willingness to take over the operation of Lake Texana State Park.

In this case, it's a simple matter of allowing the existing lease to terminate and the State Parks division would like for you to know that this has been a very smooth transition, that LNRA has worked very well, very closely with our staff to make sure that that's a smooth transition and to make sure that those programs and facilities will remain available to the public.

The park had a little over -- has averaged a little over 40,000 visitors a year. It is operated at somewhat of a deficit for the Department. Although again, the motive for letting that lease terminate is the fact that we have a local operator who we believe will do a good job of keeping those facilities and programs available to the public. And the proposal is to terminate that lease effective tomorrow with LNRA opening the park to the public effective the next day.

With that, staff does recommend that the Commission adopt the resolution attached as Exhibit A. I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Questions for Ted? Commissioner Duggins.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Is there any reason to ask the River Authority to give us a right of first refusal should it in the future seek to lease it out or sell it?

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: A right of first refusal on leasing the property back?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Just say two years from now they decide they don't want to operate it anymore and they're going to offer it for sale or lease it to whomever. Should we have asked them to come back to us, at least give us an option to enter into a similar lease to the one we're -- you're proposing we terminate.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Brent is here. I consider that really to be a park operations question. Brent, would you address that?

MR. LEISURE: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, my name is Brent Leisure, Director of State Parks. We haven't entertained that discussion and as a matter of fact, I would like to invite the General Manager of the Lavaca Navidad River Authority, who is here today and he would like to address the Commission.

But specific to your question, Commissioner, again, we haven't talked about that specifically. Through a very careful analysis, we tried to identify properties that we thought were well-suited to be managed by other operators. In this case, the Lavaca Navidad River Authority is not only capable, but willing to do this.

Given our funding situation, we haven't considered that as a possibility. Certainly that was one of the factors that weighed into this. But we think that the resources there, the types of facilities, the recreational opportunities that are provided are well-suited for a local operator to do. So I don't know if that sufficiently --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I'm not questioning that and I'm not questioning the ability or the character of the River Authority. I'm just suggesting that things can change and it might be nice given that we do have 40 -- almost 44,000 people who seem to enjoy the park on an annual basis, that at least have some sort of commitment that if something changes in the future, come back to us because we might be able to operate it at that time or might want to operate it. And that way the public retains the benefit of a nice piece of property. That's just a suggestion.

MR. LEISURE: Sure. And one of the things that's obviously important to us is that the -- that resource is conserved moving forward and that the recreation opportunities that we've historically provided or something very similar continues to take place and we've had those types of discussions with the Lavaca Navidad River Authority and I believe and as does our entire team, that they're very committed to those long-term conservation values that we hold very dear to us and our mission.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thanks. We do have one person signed up. I would like to hear from him now. It maybe the individual to whom you're referring. Patrick -- I hope I'm doing this one right -- Brzezowski.

MR. BRZEZOWSKI: Boy, you got it right on the nail. My name is Patrick Brzezowski. I'm the General Manager for the Lavaca Navidad River Authority. I appreciate being here this morning, Commissioners. Thank you.

As to your question, I can assure you you'll be the first one we call if we get into that situation. We have experienced a good partnership over the years. We appreciate that. We've operated Brackenridge Recreation Complex, which is right across the road from this park, the same amount of time that the State has operated Lake Texana State Park. Our plan is to continue to be in operation in the future, and to address your question specifically.

I do have a statement I would like to read and I will. First, as I mentioned, LNRA and the Department has had a great working relationship over the past 35 years. The Department's strong sense of ownership on the leased property and our common goal providing a quality experience to our park visitors has made for this good partnership. As I've said before and other times on this same issue, while we, LNRA, can understand the logic behind the Department's decision, we were nonetheless disappointed with the Department's ultimate decision to terminate its operation of Lake Texana State Park in Jackson County. Upon receiving confirmation of the Department's intent to prematurely terminate our 50-year lease agreement on May 3rd of this year citing budgetary constraints as the main reasoning, LNRA Board of Directors were asked to consider the merit of the Department's basis for requesting termination as contained in our lease agreement.

On May 16th, the Board of Directors concluded that the Department's request was consistent with the termination clauses of our agreement and consented to the termination proceeding under an abbreviated timeline ending August 31st. Over the past months, LNRA has worked with the Department's management staff taking necessary steps to secure the facility. Our focus is now on the unification what is to be Texana Park with LNRA owned and operated Brackenridge Recreation Complex.

On July 15th, the Department ceased operation of the park and closed the gate to the public in preparation of the transfer of operations. On July 19th, LNRA began our effort and at present are busily preparing ourselves reconditioning the facilities and our property in order to assume operation of the facility immediately upon your approval of this item today. While our lease agreement stipulated a 12-month termination timeline, we condensed our effort into a three-month all out sprint to today's finish line, all in effort to continue to provide high quality recreational opportunities at this site on Lake Texana without disruption of services to our visitors.

So we look forward to completion of this termination and we sincerely hope that our cooperative spirit will help the Department to meet your challenges in the future and allow you to sustain operation of other public recreation sites across the state that might be in similar jeopardy. So as far as on the card as for or against, we would be for this item.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

MR. BRZEZOWSKI: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: All right. Any other questions right now? Okay, we have an amended motion -- go ahead, Carter.

MR. SMITH: Well, I was just going to say, Mr. Chairman, I don't think we can emphasize enough how closely Patrick and his team have worked this. That expedited schedule, again, can't be overemphasized and this was a very, very difficult decision for us to terminate this long-standing lease agreement. You know, obviously born out of very difficult fiscal conditions and Patrick and his team and the Board respected that decision and have just literally bent over backwards to help move this forward at a time frame that really met the Department goals. And so I just want you to know --

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you.

MR. SMITH: -- how hard their Board and Patrick and his team have worked to make this possible. This was not an easy ask of them either and --

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Yes.

MR. SMITH: -- just so you know, they've got their own issues that they're deal withing and so I just want to reiterate what a good partner that they've been.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: We appreciate that very much. Thank you.

MR. SWEENEY: If I may. And this is to Commissioner Duggins' point about ongoing relationship. Bob Sweeney from the Legal division. I'm filling in for Ann Bright today, but I am familiar with this item. The entire property on which Lake Texana rests was originally created by the Board of Reclamation, a federal agency, and then was purchased back. And one of the conditions of that purchase back by the State of Texas was an ongoing management agreement that protects recreational uses and wildlife uses of the entire property and not just the state park property. So there is a continued presence, if you will, from the Parks and Wildlife Department by this agreement that is signed -- that is agreed -- it's under the federal law and agreed to by the State and the Lavaca Navidad River Authority.

So we're not completely out of the picture here, even though the lease is being terminated. There is this continued ongoing presence that protects fish and wildlife and recreational values for the entire property. Just so you know, it's not a complete divorce. It's a continued presence that we will have there on the property under federal law as implemented by an agreement that was signed by this Agency, federal government in 2000.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Well, I just -- I move approval; but would like to request given the comments that Patrick made, that we try to include in the termination agreement or whatever that we're doing that should things change in the future, that you come back and give us first right of refusal on any new lease that might be or sale that might be contemplated, if that's doable. If it's not doable, it's not doable.

MR. SMITH: I guess the only thing I would -- point I would raise, Commissioners, if I could, you know, tomorrow literally they're looking at taking over the operations and so any amendment would have to go back to their Board. Could we accept a charge from you to work with Patrick and his team to explore that possibility in a separate agreement? Would that be acceptable to you?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: It's certainly okay with me if it's okay with the rest of the Commission. I just think given Patrick's comments that we ought to try to get that in the paperwork because someday he'll retire and somebody else will have this job.

MR. SMITH: Well, no doubt he's got good intent and his Board does, too.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And I don't question that. I echo your appreciation for the partnership we've had and the expedited handling of this. I'm not trying to block that in any way.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Okay. So now it's a motion for approval. I would like to entertain a motion for approval as recommended by staff.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: So moved.

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

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries. Thank y'all very much. Appreciate all your work on that.

Action Item 7 is Migratory Game Bird Proclamation Rules, Mr. Dave Morrison.

MR. MORRISON: Good morning, Commission members. My name is Dave Morrison. For the record, I am the Small Game Program Director for the Wildlife division. This morning I'm going to be presenting to you a proposal for the 2012-2013 late season migratory birds, that includes ducks, geese, coots, mergansers, and cranes. But before I get there, I would like to just give you a quick update on the season, the early seasons that have been finalized by the Fish and Wildlife Service.

These are the dates that were approved by this Commission, submitted to the Fish and Wildlife Service by Executive Director Carter Smith, and formally approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and these are the dates that will be -- that are in place now. These have been finalized and as you'll note, there were no changes to what we presented back in March with respect to the early season proposals.

With that, I would like to begin with the 2012-2013 late season proposals. The 2012 breeding population estimates and habitat surveys really provide a very positive outlook for birds this year. This year's estimate of 48 million breeding ducks is the highest we've ever recorded since these surveys began in 1955. As part of these surveys and during the spring, ten species are monitored. As this graph depicts, all but Redheads and Pintails were above last year. That would be the second column from the right. If you look at the long-term average, only the Pintail and Wigeon fall below the long-term average. Many of these species are actually at record levels.

Based on these estimates, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has again proved a liberal framework for Texas that includes 74 days and a six bird bag limit, except in High Plains Mallard Management Unit, where we will have an 89 day season. This represents the 16th consecutive year of this type of season structure.

Habitat conditions could be characterized by average to below average moisture, a mild winter, and early spring across the southern portions of the traditional survey area. Northern habitats of the traditional survey areas has generally received average moistures and temperature. This total pond estimate of the Prairie Canada and the North Central U.S. was at 5.5 million. This was 32 percent below 2011, but still remains 9 percent above the long-term average. So we're still in pretty good shape. Even though the spring pond counts were well above average, things did change during the course of the springtime.

I recognize that this slide is a little bit fuzzy. You're not going to be able to make out details. But what this image indicates is that rains continue to fall throughout the spring. Many of these areas received greater than 200 percent of their normal precipitation. And a particular importance to Texas is Saskatchewan, that portion right there in the center. Take a look at the purples, the blues, and the greens. This is just a lot of water hit the ground and makes for excellent lakes, habitat for late season nesters, brood habitat, and production.

This year, you can expect more than likely probably one of the best fall flights we've ever seen in the history of ducks and duck hunters in Texas could experience one of the best hunting seasons they've had in decades. But as with anything else, all is predicated on winter weather and conditions in Texas.

In 2011, we experienced one of the worst single drought years on record. Coastal wetlands like Brant Lake on Mad Island Wildlife Management Area that were previously never known to go dry, went dry. We actually put trucks and heavy equipment on this area. But if you look at the slide -- at the photo on the right, things have changed and are a lot better this year than they were last.

There are still concerns about the drought of last year, especially to the rice industry. Water restrictions this year caused by the drought of last year resulted in 60,000 acres of rice going unplanted along the Texas coast. The picture on the left is that of an early -- of a second growth rice crop last year, and what that field looks like today. Rice fields are very important to wintering waterfowl and these provide great habitat for ducks as they -- ducks and geese as they fly into Texas late in the winter. We will continue to monitor this as the season progresses.

Now for the specific proposals with respect to waterfowl season. I would like to point out that these season dates and bag limits have been presented to the internal Wildlife division migratory technical committee as well as to the migratory game bird advisory committee and both groups concurred with these recommendations. Dates presented are basically calendar adjustments for last year. This year the High Plains Mallard Management Unit will have a 91 day season with a youth season open on October 20th and 21st, the regular season open on October 27th and 28th, closed for four days, reopen on a Friday which is November 2nd and run for consecutive days through January 27th, which is the end of the federal framework.

As in the past few years, the Fish and Wildlife Service still continues to be concerned about Mottle duck populations. As a result, they have stated that Texas shall have a five day closure at the beginning of this season. In an effort to minimize any confusion, we have established again this year that dusky duck -- and a dusky duck is a mottle duck, black duck, Mexican like duck, or they're hybrids. So the first five days of the season in any zone will be closed to dusky ducks.

This is what the season would look like on a calendar with the green being a September Teal season, which was approved as part of the early season process. The gray represents the youth duck hunts, and the blue represents the regular duck season. In the north and south zones, the season structure is similar to last year and both the north and the south will have identical seasons. Youth season will be the weekend of October 27th and 28th, the regular season will open on November 3rd and run through the Sunday after Thanksgiving, closed for two weeks, reopen on December the 8th and run through January 27th, which is again the end of the framework. The five day closure on dusky ducks is also in effect here and the dusky duck season will open on November the 8th and run concurrent with the rest of the seasons.

This is how it looks on the calendar, again with the green being September Teal, gray being the youth hunts, and then blue being the regular duck season. There's one change from what we proposed originally back in March. The daily bag limit is the only area where we do see a change. If you note that the Scaup season has been struck through and it's no longer two. This year the Scaup bag limit will be part of all others, so it will be six. This is in accordance with the Scaup harvest strategy and it is in response to the increased number of Scaup that were counted this year. All other bag limits remain unchanged from previous years.

The proposals for geese in the east zone, again similar to last year with the light goose season being from November 3rd to the 27th. Canada goose, you will note that there is that early season, but that was part of the early proposal and runs concurrent with the September Teal season. The regular Canada goose season will be from November 3rd through January the 27th. White-fronted geese are a little bit different, simply because we are not -- the framework that we're provided only allows for 72 days. So that season is a little bit shorter simply because the framework for those are shorter. That season will run from the opening day of November the 3rd and close on January the 13th, a few weeks earlier than the rest of goose season closes.

The bag limit will be three Canada geese, two White-fronted geese, and 20 light geese. Possession limit is twice the daily bag limit except for light geese, that has no possession limit. This is how it looks on the calendar. This calendar is a little bit busy. And if you'll note that the maroon with gray font is the early September Teal -- is the early Canada goose season that runs concurrent with September Teal season. The gray with yellow font is the White-fronted goose season. Those dates that are showing up in gray is the Canada goose and light goose seasons and the blue represents the conservation order season that we will discuss in a moment.

In the western goose zone, both the light and dark seasons run concurrent from November 3rd through February 3rd. The White geese possession limit is 20, no possession limit. The dark geese season will run from November the 3rd to February 3rd. There is a difference in the bag limit from the east zone. In the west zone, you can have five dark geese; but it can include no more than one White-fronted goose. The goose seasons out west are a little bit simpler, so you don't have as many colors on this map. You've got the gray, which is the regular season and the blue, which is the conservation order.

Speaking of the conservation order season, we were again proposing to have a conservation order again to address the overabundance of White geese. These seasons will open the day after the goose season closes in the respective zones and both will run until March the 24th. In the west zone, it will be February the 4th. In the east zone, it will be January the 28th.

In Texas, we have three Sandhill crane zones. In Zone A, the season that is being proposed is November 3rd through February the 3rd. This runs concurrent with the goose seasons in that area. Zone B is a little truncated season, a little bit shorter, and it will open on November the 23rd. The reason for the shorting of the season is to allow for any Whooping cranes that may be migrating through the state to get through this area down to the winter areas before that season opens. And in Zone C, we have a season proposal of December 22nd through January the 27th. That is the maximum days allowed. Under federal framework, it is 37. The crane bag limits in Zones A and B is three, while Zone C it is two.

We also are proposing a falconry season in the north and south zones from January 28th until February 11th. This will be the day after the duck season closes. This is the maximum number of days allowable under the framework simply because we're only allowed 107 maximum days and so when you add up the 74, the 2, the 16, and all that, subtract that from 107, we get the 11 days for falconry hunting. Recognize that in the High Plains Mallard Management Unit there is no falconry season because we use the total 107 days allowable.

We did receive public comments. As this slide depicts, we got 93 comments in support of the proposal; 18 in opposition. Many of the general comments were not germane to the proposals themselves; but as in past years, we have comments that don't run it open same day as the deer season, the two should not be the same, run it later. There's all sorts of different comments in there, but a lot of them were not germane to the discussion.

With respect to goose comments, for the general season 77 were in support, 20 in opposition. A lot of those comments were directed at the White-fronted goose season. Suggesting different timings of that season, whether it be closed the same as everybody else, maybe run it later, run it concurrent with the duck season. Those are the type of comments there. Light goose comments, you can see there's 72 in support and 13 in opposition.

There were also comments with respect to the crane, falconry, and youth season. The Gallinule, Woodcock, and Rail season were already part of the original proposal and you can see how those comments came out.

With that, we are asking the Commission to recommend the following: The Texas Parks & Wildlife Commission adopts amendments to 31 Texas Administrative Code Paragraph 65.318, .320 and .321 concerning migratory game bird proclamation with changes as necessary to the proposed text as published in the May 18, 2012, issue of the Texas Register.

With that, I'll be happy to answer any questions you may have.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thank you, Dave. Commissioner Jones.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Dave, do you follow the Wood duck population as well?

MR. MORRISON: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER JONES: I noticed it wasn't on your list.

MR. MORRISON: The Wood duck bag limit --

COMMISSIONER JONES: No, no. Not the bag limit. The population.

MR. MORRISON: Population, that's -- the Wood duck survey is not part of the spring survey because those birds pretty much breed south of that typical breeding area for most of the puddle ducks. They're monitored in different ways, primarily through band reporting, those kind of things. So they are not part of the spring population and habitat survey.

COMMISSIONER JONES: But my question is do you survey them? Do you have a survey technique that you use for them?

MR. MORRISON: Yes, sir. Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER JONES: But is it based on the collection that fall or winter?

MR. MORRISON: No, sir. There's a lot of surveys that are done by individual states and all of those pieces are discussed at the various Flyway meetings. They bring to the individual Flyways that information. For the most part in Texas, Wood ducks are pretty much a very far East Texas species and so any time we discuss wood ducks, we are typically discussing those with the Mississippi Flyway and trying to work our management practice in conjunction with what the Mississippi Flyway does. And as I said, a lot of the information that we get with respect to the population assessment of Wood ducks is tied back to banding efforts and getting that information from the harvest and band returns that type of information.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Do you have an indication of where they are?

MR. MORRISON: They're doing fine because we have seen -- we have seen because of the harvest strategy that we do have in place, that there is a lot of information that's being gathered to make certain that the population objectives are not going down based on increases in the bag limit we had a few years ago.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Thanks. Commissioner Duggins.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Sort of a follow up to Bill's inquiry. Do we have a breeding population estimate for the geese?

MR. MORRISON: Those are a little bit trickier because of where they're at. What happens with goose population, most of those are --

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Softball. There are too many, aren't there?

MR. MORRISON: Yes and no.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I'm really focusing more on the White than the light geese.

MR. MORRISON: The White geese continue to remain an enigma to all managers. There continues to be problems in the breeding grounds. There obviously continues to be concern that their overabundance is causing damage in the Artic. I sit on the Artic Goose Joint Venture and we'll be meeting again this fall and one of the things on our agenda is to discuss what do we do next. Simply because what has happened, we have spent since 1999 dealing with this light goose conservation order, trying to turn the tide on the numbers of geese.

We're not achieving that yet. Still not achieving it. Those numbers still continue to creep up and up and up, and there still remains concerns in the goose community that we need to do something. However, some of the options that are being floated on the table are probably some options that we've got to think about very carefully because they're pretty dramatic.

And so the Artic Goose Joint Venture is taking the position that we need to continue to look into this and make certain that we're not missing something because recognizing that when we implemented the conservation order back in 1999, we had the full support of hunters, we had the full support of state agencies, we even had the full support of our Congressional delegations across the country because they enacted legislation that allowed for the continuation of the conservation order in spite of lawsuits that were coming at us.

So there are still more White geese than people would like to see. I will tell you that there are more Canada geese than people would like to see. My counterparts in North Dakota and South Dakota continually get complaints, problems with overabundant Canada geese up there. By and large, geese are doing quite well. The problem with geese is where they're at. The ability to survey those is a very expensive proposition. You've got to go to the Artic and when you go to the Artic, any work you do up there is very expensive.

But from the standpoint of population, just as a general rule on all geese, we're looking at basically an average year because production was about average and that's the best we can get from people right now.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And then what about Sandhill crane numbers? Are they holding their own?

MR. MORRISON: Yes, sir. Sandhill cranes continue to maintain those levels. We do have a harvest strategy for those that once they fall below a level, then we implement certain restrictions. They're still doing fine.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay, thank you.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Just as follow up. Can you get me later, not right now, the Wood duck population estimates?

MR. MORRISON: I will see what I can run up for you. Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any other questions for Dave? Thanks, Dave. So motion on the staff recommendation? Moved by Commissioner Scott. Second by Commissioner Hughes. All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes)

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries. Thank you, Dave. Appreciate all your hard work.

Okay. Item 9 is a briefing item, 2012 Texas Outdoor Recreation Plan.

MS. LAGARDE: Good morning. My name is Dana Lagarde and I'm the Local Park Grants Manager in the Recreation Grants Branch State Parks division. Today I'm here to brief you on the 2012 Texas Outdoor Recreation Plan. There we go, okay.

In 1965, the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act was passed by Congress, providing matching grants to states and local governments for the acquisition and development of parkland. Texas Parks & Wildlife is the state agency with authority to administer this program. Funding comes from federal oil and gas leases on the outer continental shelf and every five years in order to maintain eligibility, each state is required to conduct or provide a statewide comprehensive outdoor recreation plan and provide it to a national park service.

Since inception in 1965 through 2011, Texas has received approximately $175 million providing 982 projects throughout the state of Texas for both state park projects and local park grants. And I'll go back -- sorry. 2012 apportionment was approximately 2.4 million and that's being divided up between state park acquisition projects and local park grants. The plan goals include to assess current statewide outdoor recreation and conservation needs and areas of concern, to act as a guide on how to best administer Texas apportionment of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, to create a resource for outdoor recreation conservation initiatives, and to align with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation plan.

The first plan component includes identifying outdoor recreation issues of statewide importance. According to the 2010 census, Texas grew at 20.6 percent versus the national average of 9.7 percent, with the majority of growth being of Hispanic descent. We have three cities over 1 million people, which is more than any other state in the nation. With a growing population, access to outdoor recreation and conservation lands becomes that much more important.

The ten counties with population greater than 500,000 account for 58 percent of the state's population; but only offer 8.4 percent of the recreation conservation lands available for public use. Providing access to outdoor recreation in parks and conservation lands helps to -- excuse me -- helps to fight the obesity epidemic that our state and the nation is facing. Two-thirds of adults and one-third of children are considered obese. According to the Texas Comptroller, obesity costs Texas businesses $9.5 billion in 2009, with a projected cost of over 32 billion by 2030 if current trends continue. Of course providing this access, we have to have resources and they are limited due to recent budget challenges. The 2011 drought and wildfires only added to the limited resources available.

The second plan component includes evaluating demand of public outdoor recreation preferences. In order to accomplish this, we created two public surveys. One was for outdoor recreation providers, and one was for the general public. Together we received approximately 4,000 responses. In addition, we analyzed data from a variety of national and state surveys that already exist and there were three main outdoor activities that kept resurfacing. Trails and pathways, walkways, family gathering places, and bird watching and other wildlife viewing areas.

Number three included evaluating supply of outdoor recreation resources. In order to do this, an extensive inventory of outdoor recreation, parklands, and conservation lands was completed. In addition to fulfilling the requirement for the Land and Water Plan or the Land and Water Conservation Fund, it also fulfills a requirement for the Chapter 11 of Parks and Wildlife Code. According to the inventory data, approximately 4.3 acres of land is available for outdoor recreation and conservation, which equals about two and a half percent of Texas lands.

The next component was to provide an implementation plan for the Land and Water Conservation Fund apportionment. We complete this through the local park project selection criteria that was previously approved and adopted by the Commission. The second part of that is the state park acquisition policy. Number five -- sorry. Number five is to include a wetlands component that identifies wetland conservation goals, strategies, and priorities. This was accomplished through an overview of the Texas Wetlands Conservation Plan and 18 regional plans.

Number six was to summarize the value of parks and recreation in physical, mental, and social well-being. A variety of studies were analyzed and the results included improved cognitive function, increased self-esteem, better self-discipline, decreased levels of depression, lower stress levels, reduced cases of obesity, increased sense of community and belonging, and reduced crime.

Number seven was to include an economic value of outdoor recreation. This included increased property values, job creation, nature tourism dollars, and decreased medical costs. For example, over 200 studies were reviewed by the American Heart Association and they found that for every $1 spent on building bike trails and walking paths, they could save an estimated $3 in medical expenses.

Number eight, we provided sustainable park design guidance for park professionals who are interested in using sustainable practices in existing and future parks. One of the main reasons we did this is because of a grant scoring criteria, we do award points for using environmental and green building. Number nine is to include the history of recreation grants in Texas, and number ten includes approval by the Governor. An electronic copy has been provided to the Governor's office, and we received word that they do plan on signing off on this after the Commission has been briefed.

Six recommendations came out of this document with action items for each one. These are provided to you and in the executive summary. The reason you did not receive an entire copy is because the copy is 300 pages and we were waiting for approval, so. The first recommendation is to promote to the general public and decision makers the total value of parks and recreation as it relates to attracting tourism, economic development, and improving the quality of life. For example one action item, Action Item 1C, is to engage the Texas Interagency Obesity Council to further incorporate parks and recreation as a solution to the obesity epidemic.

The second recommendation, to seek sustainable funding and leverage resources to meet the expanding outdoor recreation and conservation needs of the growing, diverse, and predominately urban population of Texas. Example Action Item 2C is to identify additional resources to implement the Texas Children in Nature Strategic Plan and the Community Outdoor Outreach Program. The third recommendation was to respond to prominent outdoor recreation trends. Action Item 3A was to promote trails, greenways, and linkages to encourage active lifestyles.

Recommendation No. 4 is to manage access to public waters for recreation. Action Item No. 4A includes creating an inventory of boat ramps under the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department's authority. Recommendation No. 5, maintain the commitment to periodically review the open project selection process and grant administration guidelines for state and local parks to ensure they adequately reflect current statewide outdoor recreation and conservation values and trends and are effective and easy to understand. Action Item No. 5B includes continue to utilize the urban park director's focus group to strategize how best to address scoring criteria for urban local park grants.

And the final recommendation is number six, efficiently manage land and water facilities for sustainable public use. Action Item 6C, provide technical guidance and assistance to local governments, developers, and citizens for sustainable park design and green infrastructure. And the last slide includes all the people who were involved in producing this document. There were several divisions and many good people in this Agency and I just wanted to make sure that y'all knew that. I would be happy to answer any questions.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Any questions for Dana? Commissioner Duggins.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Dana, do any of the recommendations include a recommendation about how to break down the apportionment of the funding between the park --

MS. LAGARDE: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: -- between the local park grant versus the state act land grant?

MS. LAGARDE: That is actually one of our recommendations.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And what is it?

MS. LAGARDE: It hasn't actually happened yet. It's a recommendation to provide that process, and that actually is something that we're still talking about.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Historically, how has it been divided? Who's made those decisions?

MS. LAGARDE: I was -- I would ask Carter to answer that.

MR. SMITH: Are you talking in terms of the split between how much we spend on state park acquisition and -- yeah.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Yes, sir.

MR. SMITH: We've done that out of the executive office. It depends upon on what the land acquisition needs. You know, this most recent tranche of money, I think we're splitting it 50/50, Tim, with half of it going to support local park grants and the other half supporting acquisition needs. In the past, it's been split a little bit differently; but it's been more on kind of an annual case-by-case basis.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: If the Commission approves this, will that discretion remain with the executive office?

MR. SMITH: Yes. Yes, it will. And we'll certainly work with Dana and Tim and others throughout the Agency and talk more about that split and come back and report to y'all on that. But I -- the discretion does help just because, you know, there are times in which we would like to provide more funds to local communities. There are other times in which we have a critical acquisition that those funds can really help with state parks.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: That was my main question is to make sure we retain -- that your office retains that discretion.

MR. SMITH: Right, yeah.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Great. Any other questions for Dana? We appreciate all your leadership on this Dana and Tim. Lots of hard work and a lot of people involved, so thank you very much.

MS. LAGARDE: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: All right. Mr. Smith, this has Commission had completed its business and I declare us adjourned.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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

_______________________________

T. Dan Friedkin, Chairman

_______________________________

Ralph H. Duggins, Vice-Chairman

_______________________________

Antonio Falcon, M.D., Member

_______________________________

Karen J. Hixon, Member

_______________________________

Dan Allen Hughes, Jr., Member

_______________________________

Bill Jones, Member

_______________________________

Margaret Martin, Member

_______________________________

S. Reed Morian, Member

_______________________________

Dick Scott, Member


C E R T I F I C A T E

STATE OF TEXAS ) COUNTY OF TRAVIS )

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

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

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and seal this Turn in date _____ day of ________________, 2012.

__________________________
Paige S. Watts, CSR, RPR
CSR No.: 8311
Expiration: December 31, 2012
Firm Registration Number: 87
1016 La Posada Drive
Suite 294
Austin, Texas 78752
Job No. 95411

TPW Commission Meetings


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