Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Regulations Committee

Nov. 2, 2011

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

BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 2nd day of November 2011, there came to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission in the Commission Hearing Room of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex, to wit:

APPEARANCES:

THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION:

THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:

                                                                     1

       1                         PROCEEDINGS

       2                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Good morning,

       3  everyone.  We'll call the meeting to order at 9:16.  And

       4  before I turn it over to Carter, I would just like to

       5  welcome our newest Commissioner, Commissioner Bill

       6  Jones.  Appreciate you being here.  Commissioner Jones

       7  has a long and distinguished history of service to this

       8  state and certainly has a passion for all of the things

       9  that we're interested in and that we're entrusted with.

      10  So it's great to have you, we're lucky to have you, and

      11  appreciate it.  Looking forward to it.

      12                 COMMISSIONER JONES:  Thank you.  It's

      13  good to be here.

      14                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  And we'll go

      15  ahead with public notice.  Mr. Smith.

      16                 MR. SMITH:  Okay, great.  Thank you,

      17  Chairman.  Public notice of this meeting containing all

      18  items on the proposed agenda has been filed in the

      19  Office of the Secretary of State as required by Chapter

      20  551 of the Government Code, referred to as the Open

      21  Meetings Act.  I would like for this fact to be noted in

      22  the official records of the meeting.

      23                 Also, just real quickly, I want to

      24  acknowledge we've got a new court reporter and she's

      25  joining us for the first time, Paige Watts, right over




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                     2


       1  there diligently taking notes.  I don't want to

       2  interrupt her too much.  She's with the firm Sunbelt

       3  Reporting.  We're delighted to have her here with us.

       4  Just as she's taking notes on the stenograph, I just

       5  would remind everybody if y'all would remember to speak

       6  in the microphone, that would help her a lot in terms of

       7  being able to pick up everything said so she could have

       8  that documented.  So, Ms. Watts, welcome.  All of us

       9  look forward to working with you.

      10                 THE REPORTER:  Thank you.

      11                 MR. SMITH:  So thanks for being here

      12  today.

      13                 Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

      14                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Terrific.  Now I

      15  call the Regulations Committee meeting to order.  First

      16  order of business is approval of the previous Committee

      17  meeting minutes from the August 24th, 2011, meeting,

      18  which have already been distributed.  Do I have a motion

      19  for approval?

      20                 COMMISSIONER SCOTT:  So moved.

      21                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Moved by

      22  Commissioner Scott.

      23                 COMMISSIONER HIXON:  Second.

      24                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Second by

      25  Commissioner Hixon.  All in favor?




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                     3


       1                 (A chorus of ayes)

       2                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Any opposed?

       3  Hearing none, motion carries.  Thank you.

       4                 Committee Item No. 2 is an update on

       5  permits to control protected wildlife causing

       6  depredation, Clayton Wolf.

       7                 MR. SMITH:  You need to --

       8                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Oh, I'm sorry.

       9  Excuse me, yeah.

      10                 MR. SMITH:  Yeah.

      11                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Yeah, okay, I got

      12  ahead of myself.  Committee Item 1, which is our update

      13  on progress and implementing the land and water plan.

      14                 MR. SMITH:  Yeah.  Thank you,

      15  Mr. Chairman.  I appreciate it.  I'm going to pass out a

      16  handout first.  Let me just pass this around.  Let me

      17  hand that to you.  One of the things that we do on an

      18  annual basis is Ross puts together a stocking report,

      19  all that our inland and coastal and wildlife divisions

      20  have done with respect to stocking fish and game in our

      21  state's lands and waters.

      22                 And I think you're going to find it's a

      23  fascinating report.  There's a long and rich history of

      24  the Department being involved in stocking game to help

      25  provide opportunities for our hunters and anglers and




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                     4


       1  there's a little bit of history here that I think also

       2  for some of the newer Commissioners, that I think you

       3  will enjoy reading, you know, going back to the 20s when

       4  the Department started stocking turkey around the state

       5  and the 30s, deer and all of the trapping on the King

       6  Ranch that went in that populated so many parts of the

       7  state with deer.  Inland Fisheries has been doing this

       8  since the 40s, of course, coastal fisheries and all of

       9  the great work on stocking our bays with Redfish over

      10  time.  You know, I think it's something like 600 million

      11  fingerlings in the last 30 or 40 years.  So a lot of

      12  that -- a lot of that history.

      13                 This report also in addition to giving

      14  you that and kind of a snapshot of what all we did in

      15  2007 -- or '11 with respect to stocking game, also gives

      16  you a little bit of sense of kind of priorities going

      17  forward.  And so, you know, for instance on coastal

      18  fisheries y'all are aware that, you know, we're looking

      19  to trying to shift some of our efforts to help be in a

      20  position to stock more Spotted Seatrout.  We're also

      21  looking at how we expand our flounder stocking efforts,

      22  still very much in its formative stages; but our team

      23  has done a great job on that.

      24                 Inland is certainly holding steady.  Been

      25  doing a great job obviously with the Florida Largemouth




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                     5


       1  Bass.  I do think it's important to note too,

       2  particularly in this time of drought, that water for our

       3  hatcheries to continue our fish production is likely to

       4  be more limited in the future and so that's going to

       5  impact our ability to do more on our winter trout

       6  stocking programs around the state.  That's a very, very

       7  popular program in communities around the state and just

       8  depending on what happens with the drought, our hatchery

       9  production, particularly on the inland side, may be

      10  significantly impaired depending on water availability.

      11  So I just want to -- I just want to forecast that.

      12                 On the wildlife side, you know, we've got

      13  plans to go back and trap Bighorn sheep up in the Baylor

      14  and Beach mountains in the Diablo's and look at some

      15  additional stocking there at Black Gap Wildlife

      16  Management Area, but also at Big Bend Ranch State Park.

      17  And so, you know, we're looking at this at least for the

      18  short term as potentially being the last stocking of

      19  sheep at Black Gap for the short term and we've had a

      20  lot of success there.  We've had a lot of success with

      21  this initial stocking of sheep there at Big Bend Ranch

      22  State Park.

      23                 As y'all will recall, I think we stocked

      24  46 -- I'm looking at Mitch Lockwood for confirmation and

      25  I see a general nodding of the head yes and so I think




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                     6


       1  my numbers are mostly right, Mitch.  And thankfully,

       2  really we hadn't had a lot of mortality with those

       3  sheep.  We've had a few lion kills out there at Big Bend

       4  Ranch, which is kind of to be expected, but not a lot.

       5  Also, you know, our biologists put satellite

       6  transmitters on those sheep and, you know, they were

       7  doing what we all expected them to do, which is some of

       8  those sheep are moving back and forth between Mexico.

       9  So, you know, that speaks to the importance of having

      10  kind of a bi-national look at the habitat on both sides

      11  of the river there.

      12                 So again, that stocking report I hope you

      13  find useful.  Ross put that together working with our

      14  divisions and if you've got any questions on that going

      15  forward, please do visit with him and hopefully you'll

      16  enjoy reading through that.

      17                 The other item that I want to report on

      18  and this is a matter that gained some notoriety in

      19  September with the sentencing of a deer breeder in

      20  Cherokee County that had been the subject of literally a

      21  four-year investigation.  This individual knowingly and

      22  willingly smuggling, you know, 37 deer from multiple

      23  states into Texas.  So knowingly and really wantonly

      24  violating the State laws against smuggling live deer

      25  into the state and then selling those animals and




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                     7


       1  animals that had been in pens with those animals to

       2  other breeders without those breeders knowing what was

       3  going on.

       4                 So, you know, this individual knowingly

       5  exposed other deer breeders to risk.  Also, you know,

       6  potentially in bringing deer in from out of state,

       7  created a potential where, you know, wild deer could

       8  have been exposed to diseases that we're concerned about

       9  and trying to keep outside of our borders, like TB and

      10  chronic wasting disease.  And our special ops team did a

      11  great job working on this.  Convicted under the Lacey

      12  Act, which is a very, very high bar for someone to

      13  receive a Lacey Act violation.  I mean, that's the most

      14  egregious and most significant of wildlife violations.

      15                 And so this individual was formally

      16  sentenced in September, had to pay a $1 million fine to

      17  the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Also, a half

      18  million dollars in restitution to Parks and Wildlife,

      19  which we've distributed out to various programs and also

      20  had to forfeit a lot of his stock, really all of his

      21  stock of froze semen straws that he still had remaining.

      22  So, you know, I want y'all to know we still take this

      23  directive very, very seriously to do everything we can

      24  to protect our borders.  Our special operations team is

      25  working very, very hard to catch and apprehend people




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                     8


       1  that are trying to just brazenly, brazenly violate those

       2  laws and in doing so, put our wild game at risk; but

       3  also other breeders that are unknowingly purchasing deer

       4  from someone taking those risks.  So I wanted to share

       5  that with you, and give you that report.

       6                 Commissioners, if you've got any

       7  questions, I'll be happy to answer any of them.

       8                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Any questions?

       9  Thanks, Carter.  I appreciate it.

      10                 MR. SMITH:  Thank you, uh-huh.

      11                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Committee Item 2,

      12  Update on permits to control protected wildlife causing

      13  depredation.  Now we're ready for you, Clayton.  How are

      14  you?

      15                 MR. WOLF:  Doing well.

      16                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Good.

      17                 MR. WOLF:  Mr. Chairman and

      18  Commissioners, for the record, my name is Clayton Wolf

      19  and I'm the Director of the Wildlife Division.  And this

      20  morning, I'm going to give a brief presentation to you

      21  on depredation permits.  That's permits to control

      22  wildlife that would otherwise be protected by the Parks

      23  and Wildlife Code for numerous purposes, but

      24  specifically this morning my presentation is going to

      25  focus on crop depredation and permits that we issue for




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                     9


       1  depredation of agricultural -- commercial agricultural

       2  crops and even specifically depredation on these crops

       3  that is being caused by White-tailed deer.

       4                 For the benefit of some of our newer

       5  Commissioners and as a refresher, I do need to -- I

       6  think I need to provide a little bit of history.  Back

       7  in 2004, the Agency was receiving quite a few complaints

       8  about crop depredation, primarily up in the San Angelo

       9  area and primarily on cotton.  And so for several years,

      10  we had a series of meetings.  We were called up into the

      11  area by elected officials and by farmers to explain the

      12  statutes that govern depredation permits and how we

      13  administer those permits.  Folks weren't necessarily

      14  pleased with the way we were administering those permits

      15  and there were several major points; but one of those

      16  was the process at that time, prior to 2009, was

      17  cumbersome.

      18                 An individual actually couldn't apply

      19  directly to the Department.  They had to go through the

      20  County judge or the mayor and oftentimes the judge or

      21  the mayor, they weren't quite sure why they were even

      22  involved in this process.  Also, this process required

      23  that our biologists go out and assess the damage and

      24  confirm the damage out there and then make

      25  recommendations to alleviate that damage.  But most




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    10


       1  importantly, the applicant had to certify that they had

       2  implemented our recommendations before we could issue a

       3  permit.

       4                 And just simply put, for 99 percent of

       5  the cases our recommendation was the construction of a

       6  high fence.  Our biologists feel like really the only

       7  long-term solution to crop depredation is to erect a

       8  high fence at the interface of rangeland and cropland to

       9  keep the deer out and then at that point, any deer that

      10  get in or that remain on the cropland side we would

      11  issue a permit for.  Those recommendations weren't

      12  necessarily well received by a lot of farmers out there.

      13  During that time, there were certain market things going

      14  on.  The price of steel was going up.  Fencing prices

      15  were going up.  Profit margins for farmers was going

      16  down.

      17                 So nonetheless, there was still quite a

      18  bit of consternation and displeasure with our

      19  recommendations.  So at that time, Representative Scott

      20  Campbell was the representative out of the San Angelo

      21  area.  He asked that we implement a pilot program in Tom

      22  Green County only and the sum and substance of that was

      23  to dispense with the high fence recommendation and just

      24  let's see what happens if we don't recommend a high

      25  fence and we issue permits.




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    11


       1                 However, we got -- we only got two

       2  participants and I'll report some of the harvest or the

       3  kill data on this a little bit later, but it still

       4  wasn't -- we didn't receive a lot of reception, and only

       5  issued two permits.  By April of 2008, Representative

       6  Drew Darby was the State Representative up there who had

       7  inherited this issue and so we held -- we -- at his

       8  request, we held a meeting in Wall, Texas, and basically

       9  did a one-stop shop for permit issuance.  We brought in

      10  the County judge.  We solicited -- with the help of

      11  Representative Darby, brought in a lot of farmers and

      12  we, in that process, issued 25 permits in an attempt to

      13  get a lot of permits out there and just monitor and see

      14  what would happen as a result of that.

      15                 It was not that effective and at that

      16  point, an individual started really blaming carcass

      17  utilization as a barrier as opposed to receiving the

      18  permit because then and now, the statutes just do

      19  require that the carcass be kept in edible condition and

      20  then donated to a needy individual or a charitable

      21  organization.

      22                 So in 2008, I pulled together a deer

      23  depredation working group and we met in Lowake, Texas.

      24  Commissioner Duggins came to that meeting up there and

      25  enjoyed a steak with us at the famous Lowake Steak House




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    12


       1  and as a result, we compiled recommendations from the

       2  working group.  We provided those to Representative

       3  Darby and he and Senator Seliger coauthored House Bill

       4  1965 that was enacted in 2009; and then on the heels of

       5  that at our August Commission meeting in Fort Worth,

       6  this Commission adopted new rules associated with the

       7  program.

       8                 The major changes at that time from the

       9  statutes and the regs, the County judge and the mayor

      10  were removed from the process and the applicant could

      11  apply directly to us.  We were given rule-making

      12  authority, which we previously did not have.  We

      13  maintained status quo for species such as Pronghorn,

      14  Bighorn, and Mule deer; but the big change was that the

      15  applicant did not have to implement recommendations

      16  necessarily and for White-tailed deer purposes only, the

      17  process was expedited.

      18                 We are actually required to issue the

      19  permit in ten days.  Our staff is still notified.  Our

      20  staff in all cases right now is still notified, and we

      21  do -- we have held up at least one permit.  But the

      22  bottom line is we do not -- we do not make a high fence

      23  recommendation in most cases and the permit is expedited

      24  and goes out the door and then we monitor.

      25                 So I'm going to show you a series of




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    13


       1  slides from 2005 to 2011, and the format of the slides

       2  is all the same.  The green counties that are

       3  highlighted are the counties that received crop

       4  depredation permits and the number inside that county is

       5  the number of permits they received and then the total

       6  deer taken is in the top left.  The other colored

       7  counties, those are public safety permits.  Those are

       8  basically permits to airports that we issue, and the

       9  kill on those from those permits is negligible.

      10                 So in 2005, we had those two permittees

      11  that we signed up through our pilot program and they

      12  killed six deer.  In 2006, we actually dropped down to

      13  one permittee in Tom Green County and that one permittee

      14  killed 14 deer.  And in 2007, we had one permittee that

      15  killed 32 deer.  If you remember in 2008, then that's

      16  when we did our second phase and we signed up 25

      17  permittees and they reported killing 109 White-tailed

      18  deer in Tom Green County.  And then in 2009, that's when

      19  the statutes and the regs changed and you'll see that we

      20  issued permits over a much broader area, 35 in total is

      21  what you have on your screen, 35 crop depredation

      22  permits in total.  And in 2009, those permittees

      23  reported taking 305 White-tailed deer.

      24                 And we did have one permit out there in

      25  Pecos County for Mule deer and we used our conventional




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    14


       1  protocol.  It was basically a vineyard that had a high

       2  fence around it and a hole in it and so the applicant

       3  had to first fix the hole and then also made an attempt

       4  to run as many animals out as possible and then after

       5  that point, we issued a permit to take the rest of the

       6  animals that it couldn't get out of there.  So that was

       7  our normal process; but for the rest of these, no high

       8  fence recommendations.

       9                 In 2010, the permit numbers went down to

      10  23.  Remember, 2010 we had a little bit more moisture

      11  out there and that seems to be the pattern.  When we

      12  have drier years, we have more crop depredation problems

      13  or complaints.  And those 23 permittees to date report

      14  killing 256 deer now.  The permitting -- or the permits

      15  are valid for a full year and so all of those permits

      16  have yet to expire and so we will probably get a few

      17  more reports, but I suspect this is probably the bulk of

      18  the kill for 2010.

      19                 And then 2011, of course, we have no

      20  harvest reports that are required at this point; but the

      21  number of permits that we've issued is 41, which is the

      22  most we've ever issued.  So we probably anticipate just

      23  a little bit with the drought that we're in, a lot of

      24  depredation on irrigated crops; but like you can see in

      25  Tom Green County, not many permits because dry land




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    15


       1  cotton didn't even come up and so where the permits were

       2  issued moves around a little bit.

       3                 If we look at a summary of reported kill

       4  for those reports that are already due to us and have

       5  been turned in for 2009 and 2010, you'll see the

       6  majority of the recipients report killing no animals.

       7  And then as you see on the chart there, ten of them

       8  reported killing one to five and then five reported

       9  killing six to 25 and on up and then we have two

      10  recipients in that time frame that reported killing in

      11  excess of 100 deer.  I can tell you that's less than 150

      12  deer.  But I don't want to leave you with the impression

      13  that that's -- that those statistics are necessarily

      14  going to reflect what happens in 2011, because we have a

      15  pretty extraordinary year.

      16                 As I've said, the reports are not due

      17  yet; but law enforcement did, as just a matter of some

      18  fact gathering for this Commission meeting, sent the

      19  game wardens in Uvalde County out to do a spot-check

      20  because our permittees have to keep a log of what's been

      21  taken up to that point and they have to keep that on

      22  them.  And so our game wardens went out in Uvalde County

      23  and checked the six permittees in Uvalde County.  Three

      24  of them reported not even utilizing the permit yet,

      25  hadn't killed a single animal.  But the other three had




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    16


       1  reported killing a total of 301 deer.  And in fact,

       2  really one of them reported killing 150 and the other

       3  one 130.

       4                 And so I think we can -- with that, we

       5  can expect that our kill for 2011 probably will be as

       6  high as we've seen.  We probably will still see quite a

       7  few that don't use the permit at all; but because of the

       8  drought and particularly on irrigated crops, I would

       9  suspect that we're going to see our highest kills per

      10  permit out there for 2011.

      11                 And with that, I would be glad to answer

      12  any questions.

      13                 COMMISSIONER JONES:  Might I ask a

      14  question, Mr. Chair?

      15                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Please.

      16                 COMMISSIONER JONES:  I assume the permits

      17  aren't limited to deer season.  It's whenever you see

      18  the animal, if you have a permit you can take it?

      19                 MR. WOLF:  That's -- that is -- that is

      20  correct.  In fact, we do encourage folks to utilize deer

      21  hunters and deer seasons.  But for our warm season crops

      22  particularly, cotton and some of the produce that's out

      23  there, the depredation is occurring during the summer

      24  months and so that's when they really need those

      25  permits.  We do issue some permits on winter wheat and




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    17


       1  oats across the state, but cotton almost comprises about

       2  50 percent of our permit recipients.  They're the ones

       3  that report growing cotton.

       4                 COMMISSIONER JONES:  And are the permits

       5  issued to an individual who can then issue them to

       6  hunters that they invite to their place, or are they

       7  specifically for the individual shooter?

       8                 MR. WOLF:  The permit is issued to the

       9  individual, but they name shooters on the permit and we

      10  have to get some specific data.  They have to turn that

      11  into us.  And so there are named individuals and only

      12  the named individuals that we have on record are allowed

      13  to shoot and they also must keep a harvest log and then

      14  turn that into the applicant.

      15                 COMMISSIONER JONES:  Okay.

      16                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Clayton,

      17  what's -- just to get a sense and seeing it move around

      18  by county, what's working well with the program?  What

      19  is not working as well in terms of, you know, original

      20  intent?

      21                 MR. WOLF:  Well, we --

      22                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  And what would we

      23  alter?

      24                 MR. WOLF:  Well, we talked about this a

      25  little yesterday.  As far as at my level, at Mitch's




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    18


       1  level, Alan's level, we're not -- we're not receiving

       2  the complaints that we were receiving prior to 2009.  We

       3  were spending quite a bit of time going out there.

       4  Our -- the way we administered that program was

       5  perceived to be pretty restrictive and so that -- those

       6  complaints have really dwindled.  Now, we are still

       7  getting complaints.  Harmony Garcia is our person in the

       8  Permit Office that issues those permits and she says she

       9  does still get complaints from farmers about carcass

      10  utilization.  But as y'all may recall, you know, we had

      11  a person come to our annual public hearing and complain

      12  about their neighbor who they heard was killing 200 deer

      13  and that was in Uvalde County and so that's why we

      14  wanted to check Uvalde and just see if we had permittees

      15  that were killing quite a few deer.

      16                 And so I suspect that now the pendulum

      17  will swing and those folks that are adjacent to these --

      18  to this farmland are the ones that are not going to be

      19  happy if they have a hunting operation if they believe

      20  some of the more valuable animals are being killed, I

      21  suspect that that's where we'll start getting more

      22  complaints from.  But as far as crop depredation, when

      23  we investigated this prior to 2009, we had some of the

      24  most restrictive -- the most restrictive program.  Many

      25  other states are fairly liberal.




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    19


       1                 And so we -- I guess we used it as a

       2  backdrop to know that we were at one end of the spectrum

       3  and we've moved that bar some.  It's -- it was a big

       4  change for us.  Folks are -- like I said, this is a very

       5  unique year; but I don't doubt now if we have hunting

       6  operations that are adjacent to some of these farmlands

       7  and there's not much forage out there on the rangeland,

       8  that some of our cooperators, our deer hunters, are

       9  going to see some significant changes in the deer

      10  population out there on adjacent properties.  So there's

      11  some -- I would say there's going to be some

      12  repercussions that probably won't fair well for our

      13  hunting public.

      14                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  That's helpful

      15  background.  I appreciate it.  Any other questions?

      16  Mr. Bass.

      17                 COMMISSIONER BASS:  Clayton, the permits

      18  allow the permittees to hunt at night --

      19                 MR. WOLF:  That's correct.

      20                 COMMISSIONER BASS:  -- correct?  And do

      21  they still require them to notify the local warden when

      22  they're going to be activating the permit?

      23                 MR. WOLF:  Yes, there still is a

      24  notification requirement.

      25                 COMMISSIONER BASS:  And are there any




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    20


       1  protocols for what happens to antlers?

       2                 MR. WOLF:  The antlers have to be

       3  destroyed.  So they have to be -- they have to be cut in

       4  two and they also have to report to us or keep on the

       5  log some dimensions on the antlers.  But to be honest

       6  with you, I can't remember if that's just points and

       7  spread or what that is.  But, you know, one thing we

       8  wanted to see is were there trophy animals being taken,

       9  which are obviously the more valuable animals and so

      10  those data are to be recorded on the log.  But they are

      11  not to keep the antlers.  The antlers are to be

      12  destroyed.

      13                 At least to this point and we've done

      14  some asking, law enforcement has been monitoring the

      15  program very well, and we have had a few violations.

      16  One permittee that actually wasn't growing a commercial

      17  crop and there was some lack of documentation on

      18  donation of the meat.  But other than that, all the

      19  reports are everybody else's paperwork is in order; so

      20  they're keeping accurate records as a whole.

      21                 COMMISSIONER BASS:  Thank you.

      22                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  One other quick

      23  one, Clayton.  What would be some examples, other than

      24  fencing, of recommendations for, you know,

      25  recommendations for compliance or in the -- obviously,




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    21


       1  we don't do that now, right?

       2                 MR. WOLF:  We can still do that.  In

       3  fact, we had one and this is -- you know, there was a

       4  fear initially that I guess we might not monitor this as

       5  closely.  When Harmony gets an applicant, an application

       6  for a permit, the first thing she does is notify the

       7  biologist and that permit is going to go out the door in

       8  ten days unless our biologist says stop.  We had at

       9  least one case where the biologist did go out on site

      10  and look and most of the depredation appeared to be

      11  feral hogs and the permitee was in the process of

      12  constructing a low net wire fence and so we held up the

      13  permit.  Our recommendation was finish the net wire

      14  fence.  We want to see if you're still -- if you still

      15  have deer depredation out there or if this is just hog

      16  depredation.  And so we held up it up until the fence

      17  was done and there was still some deer depredation, so

      18  we issued the permit.

      19                 But as far as other recommendations out

      20  there, you know, there's folks concocting up certain

      21  recipes to repel deer and noise makers.  But in short,

      22  you know, the deer get used to that, doesn't last very

      23  long.  And even different mechanisms for electric fences

      24  have been tried with some degree of success, but

      25  probably more limited degree.  So really the only -- the




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    22


       1  only fail-safe is to construct a fence.  And even when

       2  we looked up in Tom Green County and looked at some of

       3  the prices for cotton, in some cases when the

       4  depredation was so severe, it would -- you know, the

       5  fence would pay for itself, you know, within ten years

       6  easily if the data that was being provided to us and the

       7  market sustained itself as it was at that time.

       8                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Great.  Any other

       9  questions?  Commissioner Duggins.

      10                 COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  Do we spot-check

      11  any of the permittees who are reporting zero kills?  It

      12  seems sort of odd to me that you would be concerned

      13  enough that you would go apply for a permit and then

      14  have 35 people not report a single kill.

      15                 MR. WOLF:  I -- I don't -- I won't be

      16  able to answer that one.  Law enforcement may be able to

      17  add to that, but I do know that Scott Vaca and David

      18  Sinclair sent out a request and at least from the

      19  information I saw, it looks like our game wardens are

      20  monitoring these permits closely.

      21                 When we did our pilot project in Tom

      22  Green County, a large number -- first, a large number

      23  didn't report and we had to follow up and the reason

      24  they didn't report is they didn't kill anything.  We

      25  believe strongly that folks think it's pretty easy to go




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    23


       1  out there and shoot deer on their field and so they

       2  think that getting the permit is an easy solution.  And

       3  it might be easy one night or two, but then it becomes a

       4  chore and a task.  And in some cases, those deer are

       5  not -- you know, they're not out there when they drive

       6  out there.  So, you know, I find it reasonable that

       7  folks think that's the solution and then when they go

       8  attempt it, it doesn't work out that way.

       9                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Any other

      10  questions for Clayton?  Thank you.

      11                 MR. WOLF:  Thank you.

      12                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Appreciate it.

      13  All right.  Committee Item 3, Implementation of

      14  Legislation during the 82nd Texas Legislative Session -

      15  Senate Bill 498 - regarding permits to trap,

      16  transport -- transplant and process, TTP, surplus

      17  White-tailed deer, request permission to publish rules

      18  in the Texas Register, Mr. Alan Cain.

      19                 MR. CAIN:  Thank you.  Mr. Chairman,

      20  Commissioners, for the record, I'm Alan Cain, the

      21  White-tailed Deer Program Leader and this morning, I'll

      22  be presenting a proposal to amend the trap, transport,

      23  and process regulations to define the conditions under

      24  which a qualified individual may be issued a TTP permit,

      25  a Trap, Transport, and Process permit.




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    24


       1                 Under current regulation, the TT --

       2  permit -- P permit is available only to property owner's

       3  associations or political subdivisions and private

       4  landowners may not apply for a TTP permit unless they do

       5  so through a property owner association or a

       6  governmental subdivision such as a County Commissioner's

       7  Court or a County judge.

       8                 Senate Bill 498 was enacted by the

       9  Legislature this session, and that defines a qualified

      10  individual as an individual who has a wildlife

      11  management plan approved by the Department.  The bill

      12  also requires the Commission to adopt regulations or

      13  rules to determine the circumstances under which the TTP

      14  permit may be issued to that qualified individual or

      15  that they may obtain that TTP permit.

      16                 So staff propose the following rule that

      17  would allow a TTP permit to be issued to a qualified

      18  individual if that individual has been in reasonable

      19  compliance as determined by the Department with a --

      20  with the recommendations of the wildlife management plan

      21  for two years immediately proceeding the TTP application

      22  and that wildlife management plan must recommend the

      23  harvest of 100 deer in the year of the application for

      24  the TTP.

      25                 The intent of these requirements is to




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    25


       1  encourage the use of traditional management methods,

       2  including hunting, to lower deer population before more

       3  drastic measures are taken to remove those -- lower

       4  those deer populations.  In addition, it would limit the

       5  applicability of this rule to landowners who do not have

       6  the option to apply for a TTP through their property

       7  owner's association or political subdivision.  So

       8  essentially these places where you've got a property

       9  owner's association, a small acreage landowner, and he

      10  perceives there to be a deer problem, you know, two or

      11  three acres and he wants to remove those deer, this

      12  would limit his ability to do that as a qualified

      13  individual.

      14                 Essentially, staff wanted to leave these

      15  difficult questions concerning deer management within

      16  the property owner's association in these small places

      17  up to these elected officials.  In addition, the 100

      18  deer minimum would also limit the applicability of this

      19  rule to those types of individuals.  I would also like

      20  to point out that during the 2011 -- or '10 and '11

      21  season last year, the Department issued 23 TTP permits.

      22  The average number of deer requested to be removed on

      23  those permits was 192 individuals and that ranged

      24  from -- the range was from 12 to 505 individuals.  And

      25  of the 23 permits, there was 18 that had a request to




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    26


       1  remove 100 deer or more and only five less than that and

       2  those ranged from 12 to 70 animals, so.

       3                 And in summary, you know, this rule

       4  creates a mechanism for individual landowners to obtain

       5  a TTP permit; but only after they've made a bona fide

       6  attempt to meet management recommendations of the

       7  wildlife management plan that defines clear goals and a

       8  strategy to reach those goals.  So essentially, we

       9  wanted folks to focus on their management plans and the

      10  goals of deer management, rather than the tool that they

      11  use to get there.  You know, a lot of times folks are

      12  coming after a permit and not necessarily looking at the

      13  bigger picture.  So that's part of what we were trying

      14  to accomplish there.  In addition, we want to encourage

      15  the use of the additional hunting in times when hunter

      16  recruitment is an important issue.  We want to make sure

      17  that we're encouraging that where we can.

      18                 However, keep in mind that individuals

      19  that do not meet the requirements of this qualified

      20  individual may still apply for a TTP permit through the

      21  normal regulatory mechanisms that exist now.  So they

      22  can still go get one, but it would have to work through

      23  the property owner's association or a County judge or

      24  another political subdivision in those situations.

      25                 And that concludes my presentation.  I




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    27


       1  would be glad to answer any questions if y'all have any.

       2                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Thanks, Alan.

       3  Any questions?  Commissioner Duggins.

       4                 COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  What do you mean

       5  by reasonable compliance versus, say, substantial

       6  compliance?

       7                 MR. CAIN:  That's a good question.  I

       8  think the intent when the White-tailed Deer Technical

       9  Committee met this summer was that we wanted folks not

      10  just to have a plan that they stick on the shelf and

      11  forget about.  They needed to be working towards

      12  implementing some of the habitat management practices or

      13  attempting to meet harvest management recommendations.

      14  So, you know, if they're working with that biologist,

      15  they're going to be active in a sense that they're doing

      16  maybe some grazing management or they're implementing

      17  some of these practices with the biologists out there

      18  working with them.  And in addition, to make sure that

      19  they're trying to meet harvest goals through traditional

      20  methods, through hunting versus, you know, just applying

      21  for this and trying to remove deer.

      22                 COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  Your thought is

      23  that the bar ought to be reasonably low, fairly low; so

      24  if you're making a good-faith effort to comply, that's

      25  sufficient rather than actually implementing the --




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    28


       1                 MR. CAIN:  Well, I think there needs to

       2  be some -- well, that's a good point.  There needs to be

       3  some implementation.  And it's not just something we --

       4  we don't want to have a plan, and then them not do

       5  anything.  But we don't have a standard like they need

       6  to meet 50 percent of the management practices.  We

       7  haven't defined that or don't want to.

       8                 The individual biologist will have the

       9  discretion to, you know, determine if that's a

      10  reasonable attempt to meet management recommendations.

      11  However, there will obviously be oversight by the Big

      12  Game Program, myself, or Clayton in situations where

      13  there is a concern that either we're being too lenient

      14  or too harsh maybe in those situations.

      15                 COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  Okay.

      16                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  (Inaudible)?

      17                 COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  If that's what

      18  they recommend, yeah.  I mean, it seems to me if you

      19  want to ensure that there's more follow through as

      20  opposed to effort, you would use the word "substantial."

      21  But if you -- if you and the Committee believe it ought

      22  to be more flexible, then I think "reasonable" is a

      23  better choice of word, a better word.

      24                 MR. CAIN:  Flexibility is important I

      25  think because each individual landowner is obviously




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    29


       1  different in what they can accomplish, you know, with

       2  their means and what their habit -- what exists out

       3  there and what can be done.  So I think the flexibility

       4  is important, but that's a good point.  I appreciate

       5  that very much.

       6                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  I think it is a

       7  good point.  I think, you know, if we could just -- if

       8  staff could take a look at, you know, how -- how we

       9  comply or how the permittees comply and how when they

      10  don't comply, what are the reasons for it.  You know, it

      11  would be good to have a little bit of detail on that to

      12  better understand the motivations.  You know, whether

      13  there -- it could be anything.  It could be weather,

      14  drought, obviously all of the things we're dealing with

      15  this year in particular.  But just to get a sense that

      16  it's being done, conducted in the proper spirit of the

      17  permit system.

      18                 MR. CAIN:  We can do that, thank you.

      19                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Okay.

      20                 COMMISSIONER HUGHES:  Are these permits

      21  being issued for Mule deer also, or just While-tailed?

      22  I know White-tailed we're talking about here.

      23                 MR. CAIN:  I believe it's just

      24  White-tailed.

      25                 UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER:  Yes.




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    30


       1                 UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER:  Yeah, it's just

       2  White-tailed.

       3                 COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  But there was

       4  discussion about -- I mean haven't we talked about doing

       5  that?  Expanding it to Mule deer?

       6                 MR. CAIN:  I don't know.

       7                 COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  Oh, I'm sorry.

       8  I'm confused.  I was thinking about crop depredation.

       9                 MR. CAIN:  The depredation --

      10                 COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  Forget it.

      11                 MR. CAIN:  Yes, sir.

      12                 MR. SMITH:  Chairman, I just want to make

      13  sure we understand kind of this direction with respect

      14  to kind of the reasonable effort.  Are you comfortable

      15  with us just kind of monitoring that as we go forward

      16  and then kind of coming back to y'all and let you know

      17  what our biologists are seeing as they're applying kind

      18  of reasonable discretion in the field and if we feel

      19  like at some point we need to come back with some

      20  recommendations to tighten that up and further define

      21  it, would that be an appropriate course?

      22                 COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  That's fine.

      23                 MR. SMITH:  Okay.

      24                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Yes.  I mean, I'm

      25  comfortable if staff is comfortable and we're actually




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    31


       1  looking at it and assessing the reasons for compliance

       2  or lack of compliance; but I don't think we need to

       3  necessarily come back to the Commission unless we...

       4                 MR. SMITH:  See something?

       5                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Right.  Unless we

       6  see something that's, you know, not in keeping with the

       7  intent of it.

       8                 MR. SMITH:  Okay.

       9                 COMMISSIONER JONES:  Can I ask just a

      10  couple of threshold questions?  I assume when you get

      11  permission -- get permission to do this program, you

      12  have to have a place to put the wildlife.  You have

      13  to -- you have permission to trap, but then I assume --

      14                 MR. CAIN:  These deer will be processed.

      15  So once they're caught on a ranch --

      16                 COMMISSIONER JONES:  Oh, okay.

      17                 MR. CAIN:  -- they'll be killed and then

      18  the meat is donated to a charitable organization.

      19                 COMMISSIONER JONES:  Okay.  So it's not a

      20  move?

      21                 MR. CAIN:  No.

      22                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  No, they have to

      23  be transported to a central location.

      24                 MR. CAIN:  A processing facility.

      25                 COMMISSIONER JONES:  Got it.  Okay,




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    32


       1  that's different.  That's different, all right.

       2                 MR. CAIN:  Yes, sir.

       3                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Thanks, Alan.

       4  Any other questions?  Thank you.

       5                 MR. CAIN:  Do we need to -- just a point

       6  of clarification.  Do I need to request to publish this

       7  in the Texas Register?

       8                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Yes.

       9                 MR. CAIN:  Okay.

      10                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  I was just there.

      11  If there is no further discussion, I'll authorize staff

      12  to publish the proposed changes in the Texas Register

      13  for the required public comment period.  Thank you.

      14                 MR. CAIN:  Thank you.

      15                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Item 4,

      16  threatened and endangered nongame species - de-listing

      17  of the Brown Pelican and clean-up of the threatened

      18  species list, request permission to publish proposed

      19  changes in the Texas Register.  Wendy Connally, good

      20  morning.

      21                 MS. CONNALLY:  Good morning.  Thank you,

      22  Chairman, Commissioners.  For the record, my name is

      23  Wendy Connally.  I'm the Rare Species Program Lead in

      24  the Wildlife Division.  Staff requests your permission

      25  to publish proposed amendments to the Department's list




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    33


       1  of state threatened and federally endangered nongame

       2  wildlife found in Texas Administrative Code Section

       3  65.175 and 65.176, respectively.

       4                 My presentation today outlines the few

       5  proposed amendments to both the threatened and

       6  endangered species list.  Currently on the threatened

       7  species list, we have the scarlet snake.  We would like

       8  to clarify that as the only two subspecies of scarlet

       9  snake which occur in Texas.  So we're adding the

      10  subspecies epithet to those -- to that name.  Also on

      11  the threatened species list, we already have the

      12  northern cat-eyed snake.  We would like to clarify that

      13  only one subspecies occurs in Texas.  So we would like

      14  to add the subspecies epithet to that list.

      15                 On the endangered species list, we would

      16  like to add two aquatic animals, the Comal Springs

      17  riffle beetle and the Comal Springs dryopid beetle.

      18  These are already on the federal list of species.  We

      19  would also like to update nomenclature for two

      20  endangered species, the Houston toad and the

      21  golden-cheeked warbler based on recent scientific

      22  research into their taxonomy.  And lastly, we would like

      23  to also showcase a little bit of recovery, a success

      24  story, and promote its removal from the federal

      25  endangered species list and the state compatible list.




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    34


       1                 In the nearly 40 years between federal

       2  listing and de-listing, Brown Pelican breeding in Texas

       3  went from nearly zero to over 6,000 breeding pairs,

       4  which represents about half of the detected breeding

       5  pairs throughout its entire Atlantic and Gulf Coast

       6  ranges.  The Brown Pelican de-listing is the result of

       7  the restoration and protection work of many hard working

       8  people and groups.

       9                 One project which continues to contribute

      10  significantly to the long-term stability of the Brown

      11  Pelican population in Texas is the North Deer Island

      12  Salt Marsh and Rookery Island in Galveston Bay.  TPWD

      13  accepted the Presidential Coastal America Partnership

      14  award in 2009 on behalf of a large coalition of public

      15  and private partners who contributed to that particular

      16  project.

      17                 That is it.  I will entertain any

      18  questions, please.

      19                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Questions?  Thank

      20  you very much.  Appreciate it.

      21                 MS. CONNALLY:  Thank you.

      22                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Okay.  I'll

      23  authorize staff to publish the proposed changes in the

      24  Texas Register for the required public comment period.

      25                 Item 5, nuisance alligator control rules,




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    35


       1  request permission to publish the proposed changes in

       2  the Texas Register, Mitch Lockwood.  Good morning,

       3  Mitch.

       4                 MR. LOCKWOOD:  Good morning.

       5  Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission, for the record,

       6  my name is Mitch Lockwood.  I'm the Big Game Program

       7  Director and believe it or not, my presentation this

       8  morning has nothing to do with deer or deer permits.

       9  Instead this morning I'll present some proposed changes

      10  to the way in which we handle nuisance alligator

      11  complaints.

      12                 Much like the Brown Pelican success story

      13  that Ms. Connally referenced in her presentation, the

      14  once endangered American alligator is doing very, very

      15  well in Texas today.  Too well by some folk's standards.

      16  In 2007, we estimated approximately 150,000 alligators

      17  just within a three county area of prime habitat in the

      18  upper coast.  Hurricane Ike did have a big impact, a

      19  negative impact on nesting activity in this area; but

      20  anecdotal information indicates that the population had

      21  not been adversely impacted.

      22                 In fact, the number of nuisance alligator

      23  complaints that we've received from the mid and upper

      24  coasts has not declined any in the past five years.  And

      25  as y'all know, this area is an urban, industrial area.




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    36


       1  To say the least, it's an area that has a lot of people,

       2  a lot of alligators, and it's a perfect recipe for

       3  wildlife/human interactions or conflicts.

       4                 The Department filtered approximately

       5  1,100 complaints in each of the last few years and under

       6  our current procedures, the cost associated with 1,100

       7  complaints is in the neighborhood of $121,000 of staff

       8  time.  That's just salary.  That doesn't include

       9  operating expenses such as fuel cost, equipment cost, or

      10  administrative cost.  When we get a cost -- when we get

      11  a call, we first must determine whether or not it is,

      12  indeed, a nuisance alligator situation.  This typically

      13  requires a site visit, which consumes about four hours

      14  of staff time.

      15                 If it is determined to be a nuisance

      16  alligator situation, then we contact a nuisance control

      17  hunter who contracts directly with the Department.  They

      18  pay the department a per foot price for each alligator

      19  taken.  But there are only 28 people in the state who

      20  are willing to conduct nuisance alligator control

      21  activities.  Quite frankly, there's very little, if any,

      22  incentive for them to do so.  The alligator market has

      23  not been good in the last several years and this fee

      24  that they pay the Department, this contract fee, cuts

      25  into their profits.  And quite frankly, if the alligator




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    37


       1  is not large enough or if it's too far away, then

       2  they're not likely to respond and in that case, the

       3  Department ends up removing the alligator, which eats up

       4  a lot of time and resources.

       5                 All alligator removals are authorized on

       6  a case-by-case basis by the Department, and we simply

       7  cannot afford to continue to operate in this inefficient

       8  and costly process.  The proposed rule would implement a

       9  market driven approach that would allow control hunters

      10  to contract directly with the landowners where this

      11  nuisance alligator problem occurs.

      12                 We hope that this would incentivize more

      13  people to become nuisance control hunters because this

      14  proposed process would still allow them to process or

      15  sell the alligators as they're currently allowed to do.

      16  So if they contract directly with the landowners, they

      17  could cover their overhead costs, their cost of going

      18  out on site, making that site visit, capturing the

      19  alligator, and then actually make a profit when they

      20  sell the alligator.

      21                 The Department would still respond in all

      22  emergency situations.  Since Department staff would not

      23  be directly involved in a case-by-case basis, we do

      24  believe that it would be important to ensure that all

      25  nuisance control hunters are adequately trained.




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    38


       1  They're qualified to do this.  We need to make sure that

       2  they're qualified to determine whether or not the

       3  alligator is, indeed, a nuisance alligator.  We would

       4  like to be sure that they minimize all threats to human

       5  safety and that all nuisance alligators are treated

       6  humanely.

       7                 For this reason, the proposed rule would

       8  require prospective permittees to complete a Department

       9  administered course in the proper methods of alligator

      10  control and to pass a test to assess that knowledge

      11  before a permit could be issued.  So under this

      12  proposal, the Department could refuse permit issuance

      13  if, in the Department's determination, an individual

      14  lacks the skill, the experience, or the aptitude to

      15  adequately perform these nuisance alligator control

      16  activities.  The proposal limits the take to bona fide

      17  nuisance alligators, which is defined as an alligator

      18  that is depredating or a threat to human health or

      19  safety.  The proposal does not modify the current

      20  tagging requirements.

      21                 By federal law, alligators cannot be

      22  exported from any state that is not approved for export

      23  from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.  And

      24  to be approved for export, the State must require that

      25  all harvested alligators are tagged with a CITES tag,




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    39


       1  which is an identification marker that allows lawfully

       2  taking crocodilian species to be differentiated from

       3  protected look-alike species.  The proposed rule would

       4  prescribe the reporting, notification, and recordkeeping

       5  requirements for nuisance control hunters.

       6                 It would prohibit nuisance control

       7  activities without the written authorization of the

       8  landowner.  The rule would also require each control

       9  hunter to maintain a daily log of all nuisance control

      10  activities, which would include the case number of the

      11  nuisance alligator complaint.  So every one of these

      12  calls would still have to come through one of our law

      13  enforcement offices, and the dispatcher would have to

      14  issue a case number in every one of these cases.  So if

      15  they go directly to the nuisance control hunter first,

      16  then that person would advise them to contact the

      17  Department and get this case number; so we will be able

      18  to trace all of these -- any complaint.  So this log

      19  would include the case number, the date and the location

      20  of each nuisance alligator captured, the sex and the

      21  length of each alligator captured, and the disposition

      22  of each alligator captured.

      23                 The rule would also require control

      24  hunters to retain an invoice or a receipt for each

      25  alligator that's taken that is eventually sold or




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    40


       1  otherwise transferred to another individual.  And the

       2  rule would continue to require control hunters to

       3  complete an alligator hide tag report immediately upon

       4  the take of a nuisance alligator and to submit it to the

       5  Department within seven days of take.  That's a current

       6  requirement that we have and we would continue with it

       7  and we would also continue to require the quarterly

       8  reports, that they submit quarterly reports of all

       9  nuisance control activity.

      10                 As has been established with other

      11  permitting programs, we propose that the decision to

      12  issue a permit should take into account an applicant's

      13  history of convictions involving the capture and

      14  possession of live animals and major violations of Parks

      15  and Wildlife Code, your Class B and Class A misdemeanors

      16  and felonies.  The denial of such a permit would not be

      17  automatic.  It would be within the discretion of the

      18  Department.  Factors that may be considered by the

      19  Department in determining whether or not to refuse

      20  permit issuance would include the seriousness of the

      21  offense, the number of offenses, the existence or

      22  absences of a pattern of offenses, the length of time

      23  between the offense and the permit application, the

      24  applicant's efforts towards rehabilitation, and the

      25  accuracy of information provided by the applicant




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    41


       1  regarding the applicant's prior permit history.

       2                 The proposal also provides a mechanism

       3  for persons who have been denied a permit, who have been

       4  denied permit issuance to have the opportunity to have

       5  such decisions reviewed by Department managers.  The

       6  proposed new subsection is intended to help ensure that

       7  the decisions affecting permit denial are well founded.

       8  This is an established process that has been in effect

       9  for various deer permit programs for the last few years.

      10                 This review panel would consist of the

      11  following individuals or their designees:  The Deputy

      12  Executive Director for Natural Resources, the Director

      13  of the Wildlife Division, and the Deputy Division

      14  Director of the Wildlife Division.  A request for this

      15  review must be submitted within ten days of notice, of

      16  the notice of the denial, and then the review must be

      17  scheduled within ten days of the Department receiving

      18  that request.

      19                 And finally, we propose an annual permit

      20  fee of $252, which is identical to the current fee for

      21  an alligator farmer's permit.  We currently -- as I

      22  mentioned a while ago, we currently have 28 people in

      23  this state who are willing and who are authorized to

      24  conduct these nuisance alligator control activities.  We

      25  do expect this number to increase with this proposal




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    42


       1  because we think it does provide some additional

       2  incentive for people who are engaged in this activity.

       3  But currently with those 28 individuals, our annual

       4  revenue is approximately $9,800.

       5                 If we were to continue, if we were to

       6  move forward with this new process and continue to have

       7  only 28 nuisance control hunters, then our annual

       8  revenue would only be around $7,000; but we would no

       9  longer have $121,000 of staff time dedicated to this

      10  activity.  But again, we do expect there to be large

      11  growth in this program because of this market driven --

      12  market based approach and so we anticipate additional

      13  revenue as well.

      14                 And that concludes my presentation.  I'll

      15  be glad to answer any questions you might have.

      16                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Mitch, you may

      17  have said it.  But the conditions for permit denial and

      18  also the conditions for the review process are similar

      19  to other permits that we have; is that right?

      20                 MR. LOCKWOOD:  Yes, sir.  They're similar

      21  to some of our deer permits, our deer breeder permit

      22  program, our DNP, Triple T, TTP, and I'm probably

      23  leaving some out; but we follow this same process.  And

      24  again, one thing I did try to emphasize is something

      25  that we've emphasized over the last few years with




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    43


       1  respect to our deer permitting programs, a conviction --

       2  even a conviction to say Chapter 43, Subchapters C, E, L

       3  or R, does not automatically result in subsequent permit

       4  denial.  It still does depend on a number of those

       5  factors I mentioned, such as the egregiousness of the

       6  violation and the number of offenses, etcetera.

       7                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Thanks.  Any

       8  questions?

       9                 COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  You propose that

      10  there be no fee for the control tag?

      11                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  I'm sorry?  For

      12  the tag?

      13                 COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  For the tag, yeah,

      14  under N on Page 46 of the book.  But you do have a fee

      15  on all the other tags.

      16                 MR. LOCKWOOD:  I think that's a little

      17  misleading in the way it's written in that I think it

      18  implies that we currently charge for a fee for these

      19  tags for nuisance control alligators and we do not.  But

      20  you're right, we do have a fee for other alligators that

      21  are harvested, alligators that are harvested by hunters.

      22  Alligator farmers do have to pay a fee for their tags.

      23  But our current process does not require a fee for

      24  nuisance control alligators, for those gators to be

      25  tagged.




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    44


       1                 And as you've noted, we propose not to

       2  add a fee at this time.  And, Commissioner, the main

       3  reason -- we did spend a good bit of time talking about

       4  that and trying not to come up with a process that's

       5  going to result in a loss of revenue.  It's very

       6  important to us that we try and incentivize more people

       7  to get involved in this activity so that we can truly

       8  depend on the private sector to help us with these

       9  problems.

      10                 So again, just to reiterate.  You're

      11  right that we're not proposing -- we're proposing that

      12  there is no fee for those tags, but that's not a change

      13  from our current process.

      14                 COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  If this program

      15  expands the way you hope it will, can we come back and

      16  look at this again as a tagging factor, there's no fee

      17  for the tag?

      18                 MR. LOCKWOOD:  Absolutely.  I think for

      19  one, we want to monitor and make sure that we are

      20  recovering our costs associated with administering this

      21  program and so that's something we're going to want to

      22  keep a close eye on as we move forward anyway.  We're

      23  also going to want to keep a close eye on these reports,

      24  these logs that they're required to keep and these

      25  reports, monitor the take, and make sure that we're not




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    45


       1  leading -- you know, don't end up with any resource

       2  concerns either.  And so we want to look at all aspects

       3  of this closely as we move forward, including whether or

       4  not we need to eventually charge a fee and if this $252

       5  annual permit fee is adequate as well.

       6                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Good, thank you.

       7                 COMMISSIONER HIXON:  Is the tag -- is it

       8  a CITES tag for everything?  I mean for farmers, for --

       9  you know, depredation, for -- is it all the same tag?

      10                 MR. LOCKWOOD:  Yes, ma'am.  Again, for

      11  Texas to be qualified to be approved to export

      12  alligators, then any alligator harvested in the state

      13  has to have a CITES tag.

      14                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Obviously, this

      15  is part about departmental efficiency with no measurable

      16  impact on the resource, negative impact on the resource;

      17  so certainly the principal seems to --

      18                 COMMISSIONER SCOTT:  There's plenty of

      19  them.  We've -- I've got to get some -- we've got a

      20  bunch of property in that little red circle down there

      21  on the Neches River and we killed -- well, my nephew got

      22  one over 13 feet last year and so -- and there's houses

      23  that back right up to it; so I mean I know exactly what

      24  he's talking about, you know, they get up in the yard.

      25  So Ralph and I were briefly talking what makes a lot of




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    46


       1  sense to me is to get the thing going and try to get

       2  more people involved, you know, so we just basically

       3  save money in the Department.  That's the way that I see

       4  it.

       5                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Makes the swim in

       6  the pool kind of interesting.

       7                 COMMISSIONER SCOTT:  Yeah.

       8                 MR. LOCKWOOD:  If you think about it --

       9                 COMMISSIONER JONES:  You'll go a lot

      10  faster.

      11                 MR. LOCKWOOD:  -- it's not a lot

      12  different, in my opinion, than the direction we went

      13  with White-tailed deer back around 1990 and --

      14                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Yes.

      15                 MR. LOCKWOOD:  -- the Department decided

      16  to get out of the trapping business and return it to the

      17  private sector.

      18                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Thanks, Mitch.

      19  Any other questions?  Okay, I'll authorize staff to

      20  publish the proposed changes in the Texas Register for

      21  the required public comment period.

      22                 MR. LOCKWOOD:  Thank you.

      23                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Appreciate it.

      24  Item 6, 2012-2013 statewide hunting proclamation

      25  preview.  I guess we're starting with Alan Cain and




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    47


       1  Robert Perez.

       2                 MR. CAIN:  All right.  There we go.  For

       3  the record again, I'm Alan Cain, White-tailed Deer

       4  Program Leader and today I'll be presenting several

       5  potential changes regarding White-tailed deer hunting

       6  regulations.  And, obviously, Robert Perez, my

       7  co-presenter, will be addressing some potential

       8  regulate -- or potential changes regarding game bird

       9  regulations.

      10                 Last year the Department received a

      11  petition for rule-making from State Representative Jodie

      12  Laubenberg requesting archery only season, deer season,

      13  in Collin and Rockwall Counties.  And in the process of

      14  formulating staff recommendations to the petition for

      15  rule-making request, staff determined that there was --

      16  that hunting opportunity could be provided in these two

      17  counties.  In addition, Dallas County could be

      18  potentially considered in there, which adjoins Rockwall

      19  County.

      20                 Currently the Wildlife Division staff

      21  monitors deer populations that are resource management

      22  unit scale, determine impacts of the harvest regulations

      23  on those deer populations.  However, in urban and

      24  suburban areas that are characterized by highly

      25  fragmented habitats containing isolated and very -- and




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    48


       1  variable deer populations such as Collin, Rockwall, and

       2  Dallas County, monitoring efforts in those areas are

       3  essentially meaningless.  They just wouldn't provide any

       4  valuable data.

       5                 In addition, populations in closed

       6  counties, which would include Collin, Rockwall, and

       7  Dallas right now are not monitored either.  Seasons have

       8  been closed in Collin, Rockwall, and Dallas for

       9  approximately 25 years or maybe a little longer,

      10  presumably on the assumption that there lacks a

      11  sustainable deer population in those areas because

      12  there's a lack of native habitat available to support

      13  those deer populations obviously.  In a situation -- in

      14  these areas, staff do realize that there is some small

      15  pockets of habitat in these counties obviously with a

      16  few deer.  For example, the photo that you see on the

      17  slide there on your screen, that's a buck that an

      18  individual from Collin County sent in and just giving us

      19  an example of the type of deer that are available in

      20  some of these small pockets up there and so they wanted

      21  those opportunities to potentially hunt those animals.

      22                 The situation in these counties is

      23  similar to nearby Grayson County, where the majority of

      24  that county wouldn't support deer populations except in

      25  the narrow band along the Red River and Lake Texoma and




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    49


       1  the Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge up there.  Grayson

       2  County has had an open season, restricted archery only

       3  since -- well, I guess for -- since the early 60s.  And

       4  in analyzing Representative Laubenberg's petition for

       5  rule-making, staff determined that there was no

       6  biological reason not to allow hunting in Collin and

       7  Rockwall County, however small that hunting opportunity

       8  may be; but it was a chance to allow for that.

       9                 In addition, it would provide an

      10  additional method for addressing nuisance deer issues

      11  where the use of archery equipment wasn't prohibited by

      12  county or municipal ordinances out there.  So it may be

      13  used as a tool to address some of these urban deer

      14  issues that may arise in there.  In addition, staff also

      15  determined that Dallas County, obviously next to it, was

      16  suitable for a deer season in this urban hunting unit

      17  type approach, you know, where it's not a resource

      18  management unit where we monitor the population, more

      19  this urban hunting unit style approach.  And for

      20  simplicity sakes and avoidance of law enforcement issues

      21  resulting from potential different regulations that we

      22  could put in those counties, staff proposed that the

      23  Grayson County season structure should be employed in

      24  all four of these counties that currently exist in

      25  Grayson County.




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    50


       1                 Staff also note that traditional

       2  biological rationals that we use to monitor deer

       3  populations to justify season lengths and bag limits are

       4  moot in the case of these particular counties, given

       5  that the continued urbanization of these counties and

       6  the sparse deer habitat that exists will likely decline

       7  in the future and, in fact, by urbanization.  So staff

       8  suggests these potential changes, which is to implement

       9  the season structure in Collin, Rockwall, and Dallas

      10  County that currently exists in Grayson County, which

      11  would include a special and general archery season with

      12  a four deer bag limit to include two bucks and two

      13  antlerless deer and antler restrictions would apply for

      14  bucks.

      15                 In addition, staff recommend removing the

      16  permit requirements for harvest of antlerless deer in

      17  Grayson County and then that would not be required in

      18  Collin, Rockwall, or Dallas Counties either.  Again, the

      19  chosen season structure is to provide uniformity in

      20  regulations and ease of enforcement.  Not necessarily

      21  biological management of the resources in these

      22  particular counties.

      23                 Galveston County is another closed county

      24  that has a closed season, but contains fragmented

      25  habitats that support deer populations and currently all




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    51


       1  counties surrounding Galveston County, including Harris

       2  which is Houston, have an open general deer season.

       3  These counties are similar in characteristics to

       4  Galveston in that they have or are characterized by

       5  fragmented habitats and small but huntable deer

       6  populations are located throughout those areas.  You

       7  know, Fort Bend, Harris, Brazoria County.

       8                 Staff determined that like map, more

       9  Texas counties -- there's no biological reason not to

      10  allow for a deer season in Galveston County and it could

      11  be provided under the current regulatory structure of

      12  the surrounding counties that are there.  Galveston

      13  County fits within Resource Management Unit 12, which is

      14  a unit that we do monitor the deer population in.  Staff

      15  do not see a biological reason to prohibit hunting in

      16  this area and the regulation is not expected to have a

      17  negative impact on the resource, but should provide

      18  additional hunter opportunity where available in these

      19  areas and also give folks a chance to manage their deer

      20  populations in these small but isolated pockets of

      21  habitat.

      22                 Additional hunting opportunity would

      23  consist of an archery-only season, a general deer

      24  season, and a special late muzzleloader season.  The bag

      25  limit would be four deer.  Two bucks, antler




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    52


       1  restrictions, and then two antlerless deer.  And a

       2  permit would be required after Thanksgiving on and

       3  essentially so they would have -- up front, they would

       4  have a 23- or 27-day doe season up there where a permit

       5  would not be required; but it would be -- that's what

       6  staff would -- potential changes we're looking at.

       7                 Before we get to questions, a couple of

       8  points.  You'll probably notice in your agenda that

       9  there was an item under the nonsubstantive, housekeeping

      10  changes referring to clarification of LAMPs counties.

      11  Staff looked at that a little bit closer.  We determined

      12  that the changes for that particular clarification were

      13  unnecessary, and so there's no discussion on that item.

      14                 And then in addition, I wanted to give

      15  you a quick update.  In response to requests for

      16  permission, we are conducting a survey of West Texas

      17  landowners and hunters to gauge their interest in the

      18  extension of the Mule deer/MLD season in that country

      19  out there.  We mailed opinion surveys to Mule deer/MLD

      20  cooperators and on, Mule deer/MLD landowners in those

      21  areas, Mule deer/MLD agents and Mule deer hunters in

      22  those areas and they just went out I think October 21st

      23  or somewhere around there.  We're expecting the results

      24  back in about two months, and we'll be able to present

      25  those results to the Commission hopefully at that time




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    53


       1  after we've had a chance to analyze that information.

       2                 And if you have any questions about the

       3  deer proposal, I'll be happy to try and answer those.

       4                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Quick

       5  clarification, Alan.  So Grayson County currently is not

       6  full season either sex, but it would be in addition to

       7  the other three counties; is that right?

       8                 MR. CAIN:  It's --

       9                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  No?

      10                 MR. CAIN:  It has an archery season and a

      11  general season.

      12                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Yes.

      13                 MR. CAIN:  And it's restricted obviously

      14  to archery equipment only.  And the thing we're changing

      15  in Grayson County is we're moving -- is to harvest an

      16  antlerless deer, you have to have MLD permits and we're

      17  taking that requirement out.  Like Collin, Rockwall, and

      18  Dallas, there's just there's so few deer and they're

      19  limited just to certain pockets there.  It's not a

      20  resource concern, and we want to be consistent with the

      21  regulation for law enforcement issues.

      22                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Good, thanks.

      23  Commissioner Duggins, yes, sir.

      24                 COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  When we had -- I

      25  guess three years, two or three years ago when there was




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    54


       1  a push to open up Grayson season to rifle and we had

       2  those meetings up there, there was a very vocal group of

       3  landowners and hunters and so my question is is there

       4  any reason to run this proposed change by any of those

       5  folks or have you done so?

       6                 MR. CAIN:  We haven't run it by the

       7  public up there.  The law enforcement and our biologists

       8  are aware.  They all were okay with these proposals.

       9  There was some concern by staff there might be a little

      10  hesitancy by the folks up there in Grayson County

      11  removing the requirement for MLD permit; but again, it's

      12  to be consistent with the regulation.  We're not sure

      13  that there's a resource concern in those areas up there.

      14  But I mean, I would expect as we go forward that through

      15  public comment and public hearings that we get feedback

      16  from the public and can adjust.

      17                 COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  Well, I just would

      18  encourage maybe some communication with them so they

      19  don't hear about it through the Texas Register.

      20                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  That's a good

      21  idea.

      22                 MR. CAIN:  That's a good point.

      23                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  They are vocal

      24  and -- yeah.

      25                 MR. SMITH:  Yeah, we'll be especially




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    55


       1  sensitive about that.  Absolutely.  And we -- there's

       2  some good points of contact up there in Grayson County

       3  in terms of kind of who are the influence leaders there

       4  that we can certainly reach out to and start to have

       5  substantive discussions on this, make sure they

       6  understand what the proposal is, and bring that feedback

       7  back to you in January.

       8                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Prior to the

       9  proposal formally --

      10                 MR. SMITH:  Oh, sure.

      11                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Informally prior

      12  to the proposal in the Texas Register?

      13                 MR. SMITH:  Yeah, yeah.

      14                 MR. CAIN:  Yes.

      15                 MR. SMITH:  Yeah, we're still just being

      16  in scoping phase; so absolutely.

      17                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Good, good idea.

      18  Good.  Any other questions for Alan?  Please.

      19                 MR. SMITH:  I guess, Chairman, before we

      20  leave deer, just a couple of things I would like to

      21  bring up and Alan's mention of a survey that we're doing

      22  on the MLDP Mule deer permit holders and kind of

      23  attitudes about seasons and so forth.  It's probably an

      24  opportune time just to mention that internally, we have

      25  started some discussions about the MLDP program as a




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    56


       1  whole.  Just I want to make sure the Commission knows

       2  that this program has grown I think beyond our wildest

       3  dreams.  Very, very successful.

       4                 At the same time, you know, I will

       5  confess that we've got a little permit fatigue and we're

       6  also seeing in some cases a departure from how all this

       7  started, you know, with working with landowners on how

       8  we manage habitat and accomplish landowner's goals with

       9  respect to their deer management and wildlife

      10  management.  And the MLDP was an important tool to help

      11  accomplish that.

      12                 What a lot of our biologists are seeing

      13  now are people coming and just wanting immediately to

      14  start talking about the permit and how many deer permits

      15  can they get, when am I going to get it, how quickly can

      16  I get them, why can't I get them; and I think it's

      17  probably a good time that we step back with the volume

      18  of interest here and take a close look at that and work

      19  with our biologists and stakeholders, have a discussion

      20  with the White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee to give us

      21  some kind of counsel and input on that program and look

      22  at some improvements and refinements that should be

      23  made.

      24                 Because again, ultimately we want -- we

      25  want our substantive conversation with private




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    57


       1  landowners to be about wildlife habitat and helping them

       2  realize their goals.  And we've got a lot of permit

       3  related tools to help landowners; but rather than having

       4  the conversations always start at this permit or that

       5  permit, let's figure out a way to maybe we start back at

       6  some of the basics.  So I just wanted to kind of

       7  forecast those discussions that are coming in that our

       8  desire, Mr. Bass, to kind of talk to the White-tailed

       9  Deer Advisory Committee and get some counsel and

      10  strategic direction on that.

      11                 COMMISSIONER BASS:  Carter, if I'm

      12  correct -- and correct me if I'm not -- but the number

      13  of biologists that we have in the field and available to

      14  go visit with private landowners today, is the same

      15  number we had in the field before the MLD permit was

      16  ever instituted.  So we've gone from zero MLD acres and

      17  associated tasks for the biologists, to 20 something

      18  million acres and I don't know how many permittees that

      19  is; but it's a bunch.

      20                 MR. SMITH:  Do you know, Alan?

      21                 MR. CAIN:  It's about 7,400, somewhere in

      22  there.

      23                 MR. SMITH:  Yeah.

      24                 COMMISSIONER BASS:  And we still have the

      25  same number of biologists in the field, I believe.




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    58


       1                 MR. SMITH:  Yeah.

       2                 COMMISSIONER BASS:  Which is, I don't

       3  know, less --

       4                 MR. CAIN:  There's probably -- if you

       5  look at the district biologists and the bulk of that,

       6  it's probably 85 or 90 and then you have folks in the

       7  WMAs that do assist a little bit.

       8                 COMMISSIONER BASS:  So the workloads on

       9  that group of biologists is exponentially expanded;

      10  therefore, their ability to engage each landowner in

      11  meaningful discussion of what are your goals, what do

      12  you want to do, here's how we can help you, here's what,

      13  you know, I've run the gamut.  The ability for those

      14  biologists to be hands on is -- you know, they're spread

      15  pretty thin.

      16                 MR. SMITH:  Absolutely.

      17                 COMMISSIONER BASS:  And that's obviously

      18  a, you know, some kind of a weak link in this whole

      19  thing at this point.

      20                 MR. SMITH:  Yeah.

      21                 COMMISSIONER BASS:  What you do about it

      22  is another question because it really (inaudible).

      23                 MR. SMITH:  Yeah, yeah.

      24                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  But that's a good

      25  point of consideration for this review, I think.  That's




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    59


       1  a very good point --

       2                 MR. SMITH:  I think, Mr. Bass, you --

       3                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  -- process to go

       4  through.

       5                 MR. SMITH:  If y'all are in support of

       6  that, we would like to do that.  I think you nailed it,

       7  Mr. Bass, and I think, you know, it becomes a question

       8  of what's the highest and best use of our biologist's

       9  time and where it's evolved into more of issuing

      10  permits, you know, one, again I'm not sure we're having

      11  the depth of conversations we could have to work with

      12  landowners who are really committed to improving habitat

      13  on their property.  Also, to be fair, it becomes a job

      14  satisfaction issue for our biologists.

      15                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Sure.

      16                 MR. SMITH:  And I want to make sure that

      17  we're mindful and cognizant of that as we think about it

      18  and so --

      19                 COMMISSIONER BASS:  If there's ways we

      20  can restructure systems so that they spend less time at

      21  their computer doing paperwork, whether it be digital or

      22  physical, and more time in their truck and with the

      23  landowners, you know --

      24                 MR. SMITH:  That's success.

      25                 COMMISSIONER BASS:  -- that's better job




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    60


       1  satisfaction, better customer delivery, and there may be

       2  some ways that we can do that.

       3                 MR. SMITH:  Yeah.

       4                 COMMISSIONER BASS:  I don't know.  But

       5  that type -- that type of thing, it probably should have

       6  been part of this.

       7                 MR. SMITH:  Good, good.

       8                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  When you look at

       9  the growth in MLDs, I mean you look at a WMP application

      10  as kind of a leading indicator of what's in the pipeline

      11  for future -- potentially future MLDPs, correct?

      12                 MR. CAIN:  Yes.

      13                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  And what is

      14  that -- how is that trending as an indication of what we

      15  can expect in terms of growth over the next couple of

      16  years?

      17                 MR. CAIN:  If you look at just the trend,

      18  it's a steady growth rate.  And I don't know -- you

      19  know, percentage, it's probably growing 5 or 10 percent

      20  a year.

      21                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  But it's doing

      22  that?

      23                 MR. CAIN:  But it's doing that.

      24                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Okay.  So it

      25  continues to underscore the popularity of the program?




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    61


       1                 MR. CAIN:  Yeah.

       2                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  And the interest

       3  in the program, so that's good.

       4                 MR. CAIN:  Yes, sir.

       5                 COMMISSIONER BASS:  And I think, you

       6  know, we have to at some level be mindful of the

       7  integrity of the program.  You know, these programs are

       8  based on, you know, habitat related issues and if we're

       9  not able to deliver the expertise to the landowner and

      10  also some kind of audit function that, you know, yes,

      11  things are really happening, there is compliance; then

      12  at some point, you know, I think we need to be worried

      13  that the integrity of the program gets undermined.  It

      14  takes a lot of time to do a bite count survey and that

      15  type of thing and it's valuable information; but, you

      16  know, we still have -- you know, we have the same number

      17  of guys --

      18                 MR. SMITH:  Same number of biologists.

      19                 COMMISSIONER BASS:  -- doing it and a lot

      20  more acreage to cover, so it's...

      21                 MR. SMITH:  Yeah, we just --

      22                 COMMISSIONER BASS:  It's an issue.

      23                 MR. SMITH:  Yeah, it's timely.

      24                 COMMISSIONER BASS:  And has been --

      25                 MR. SMITH:  Yeah.




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    62


       1                 COMMISSIONER BASS:  -- for a long time.

       2                 MR. SMITH:  I think we just want to bring

       3  this to the fore and really think through thoughtfully.

       4  I mean I guess, Alan, the statistics I'm aware of is

       5  about eight years ago we had seven or 8 million acres

       6  under wildlife management plans and today, we have

       7  almost 27 million acres of land and just a steadily

       8  escalating demand, you know, for a variety of services.

       9                 And as Alan said, I don't see that

      10  changing.  You know, the individuals that are buying

      11  land today are largely attracted to the land because of

      12  their interest in recreation and wildlife.  And our

      13  biologists provide I think an extraordinary service and

      14  counsel to landowners who want to seek that out.  But we

      15  certainly well exceeded the capacity component now, and

      16  look forward to kind of working on this with you.

      17                 COMMISSIONER BASS:  Is there any -- I

      18  mean it's one out every 6 acres in Texas basically.

      19  That's a bunch.

      20                 MR. SMITH:  Pretty extraordinary, yeah,

      21  yeah.  Anything else on that, Chairman?  Any other

      22  direction or --

      23                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  That's exactly

      24  right, and I think those are good points.  I think

      25  people are increasingly -- landowners are increasingly




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    63


       1  understanding of and educated with regard to the

       2  importance of habitat and the connection that habitat

       3  management has as a backbone to wildlife and other

       4  recreational resources, so I agree.  I think it's --

       5  growth is a great thing, but it also sometimes poses

       6  some challenges, so I think it is time we take a look at

       7  that.  I agree with that.

       8                 MR. SMITH:  Good, good.  Chairman, if I

       9  could, just one other issue real quickly.  I don't have

      10  a lot of detail on this.  But Commissioner Martin, who

      11  was hoping to be here, you know, had asked me about, you

      12  know, what's the legality of using suppressors as a

      13  legal means to hunt White-tailed deer.  Obviously, our

      14  rules do not allow that.  Now you can use a suppressor

      15  to hunt feral hogs and coyotes.  You know, there are

      16  some states that allow that.  Alaska and Kansas and

      17  Mississippi come to mind.  You know, states that have

      18  had an interest in that with respect to being able to

      19  use a rifle to hunt in kind of near urban areas to just

      20  to help, you know, muffle the sound and for hearing

      21  protection and so forth.

      22                 And so she did ask if we would look into

      23  that and get some more information for the Commission,

      24  and I just -- I wanted to let you know that we'll

      25  explore that.  So I just wanted to make sure you're




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    64


       1  aware of that.

       2                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Thank you.

       3  Questions for Alan?  Robert.

       4                 MR. PEREZ:  Okay.  Good morning,

       5  Mr. Chairman, Commissioners.  For record, I am in fact

       6  Robert Perez.  I am the Upland Game Bird Program Leader,

       7  and I'll be presenting the game bird portion of the

       8  Wildlife Regulation's preview.  The first potential

       9  change is in regard to pheasant, which would be the

      10  elimination of pheasant season in three coastal counties

      11  in response to an absence of population.  Those counties

      12  in yellow are Chambers, Jefferson, and Liberty.  These

      13  are the only coastal counties with a current pheasant

      14  season.

      15                 Back in 2003, the Commission adopted

      16  closure of the pheasant season in Wharton, Fort Bend,

      17  Brazoria, and Matagorda Counties for the same reason,

      18  absence of population shown there in black.  These

      19  populations were the result of over 17,000 pheasants

      20  stocked by the Department in the 1970s and 80s.

      21  Populations have gradually blinked out over time as

      22  these birds are not well adapted to the climate and

      23  available habitat present day.  This potential change

      24  would effectively close the pheasant season on the Texas

      25  coast.




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    65


       1                 Next is a recommendation regarding Lesser

       2  prairie chicken.  In 2005, the Commission adopted rules

       3  to created a managed lands permit approach for the

       4  harvest of Lesser prairie chicken, which allowed for the

       5  harvest only on lands with approved wildlife management

       6  plans.  Prior to this time, Lesser prairie chicken had a

       7  two-day season, general season with a special permit.

       8  These 2005 rules were adopted in response to long-term

       9  data and to declining population for Lesser prairie

      10  chicken.

      11                 Then in 2009, the Commission adopted --

      12  the Commission suspended the season, which effectively

      13  closed any opportunity for Lesser prairie chicken

      14  harvest in Texas; and since that time, populations have

      15  continued to decline.  It now appears that the

      16  resumption of prairie chicken hunting will not take

      17  place in the foreseeable future.  Because there's no

      18  longer need for the rules, staff recommends the repeal

      19  of the language which sets forth the requirements for

      20  the harvest of Lesser prairie chicken on managed lands.

      21                 The final item for preview is in regard

      22  to quail.  The potential change would be the

      23  reconfiguration of the current quail season structure.

      24  Over the next few months, the Wildlife Division's

      25  Upland's Game Bird staff and technical committee will




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    66


       1  review season length, bag limits, and the possibility of

       2  regional differences or zones for the Texas quail season

       3  and determine if modifications to the 2012-2013 season

       4  are warranted.

       5                 Current drought conditions across Texas

       6  have had significant impacts on wildlife habitat.  These

       7  conditions coupled with the long-term decline in quail

       8  and predictions that the drought could continue through

       9  the spring breeding period, may necessitate changes to

      10  the existing season structure for quail.  Staff

      11  recommendations will be submitted for review by the

      12  Upland Game Bird Advisory Committee and formal

      13  recommendations will be presented to the Commission in

      14  January.

      15                 According to National Breeding Bird

      16  Survey, Bobwhite quail have significantly declined in

      17  Texas.  Over the past four decades, they've declined at

      18  a rate of about 2.8 percent per year.  There are,

      19  however, major differences in trends among Texas

      20  ecological regions.  The Rolling Plains, for instance,

      21  had the lowest count on record this year.  While the

      22  Gulf Coast observed quail numbers well above average in

      23  suitable habitat.  Other regions, like the Piney Woods,

      24  have not had huntable numbers of Bobwhites for the most

      25  part in decades.




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    67


       1                 Harvest has declined along with

       2  populations.  Quail hunters also mirror this trend.

       3  There's been decline of over 75 percent in harvest and

       4  hunters since the mid 1980s.  Quail face many challenges

       5  for their survival, but these are the big ones -- lack

       6  of fire, improper grazing, exotic grasses, habitat loss

       7  and fragmentation, and more recently long-term drought.

       8  Harvest regulations alone will not reverse quail

       9  declines.  But under the current climatic conditions,

      10  they will likely help some birds make it through tough

      11  years that may not have otherwise.

      12                 In addition to potential regulatory

      13  changes, the Department will continue its conservation

      14  efforts and expand its programs for quail and grassland

      15  birds.  Here are a few of our current activities as

      16  outlined in the Upland Game Bird strategic plan.  On the

      17  ground, field staff directly interact with landowners

      18  and managers to restore and conserve native habitats and

      19  our wildlife management area staff work diligently to

      20  create and maintain habitat on state lands.  Manpower, a

      21  newly created conservation delivery specialist position

      22  with the Oaks and Prairie joint venture, which when

      23  filled, will target building cooperatives and

      24  partnerships to help native grasslands and Savannahs in

      25  this key area of the state.




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    68


       1                 Incentives, like our pastures for Upland

       2  Birds Program help landowners kill out exotic species

       3  like Bermuda and replace them with native grasses.

       4  Educational opportunities, this includes ongoing

       5  intensive game bird management workshops directed for

       6  field staff and, of course, landowner field days.  We

       7  also have a newly created quail web page with plenty of

       8  great information and links.

       9                 Partnerships, we are working at the

      10  national, state, and regional level with a variety of

      11  partners.  And we also continue to work with the Upland

      12  Game Bird Advisory Committee and the relatively new

      13  group, the Quail Roundtable.  The Quail Roundtable was

      14  established in the spring of 2010.  Commissioner Duggins

      15  and landowner Randy Rogers played a key role in the

      16  inception of the Roundtable, whose primary purpose is to

      17  act as a clearinghouse of information where ideas can be

      18  exchanged and activities coordinated among the many

      19  quail interests in Texas and also avoid -- and also to

      20  avoid duplication of efforts.  The Department plays a

      21  lead role in this group, which has met four times to

      22  date.  Membership includes resource agencies like NRCS,

      23  Texas AgriLife, research institutions like Caesar

      24  Kleberg and Texas Tech, conservation landowner

      25  organizations, and ranchers and quail enthusiasts.




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    69


       1                 This concludes my presentation.  If you

       2  have any questions, I'll take those at this time.

       3                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Commissioner

       4  Scott.

       5                 COMMISSIONER SCOTT:  Just out of

       6  curiosity, on your first deal on the Chambers,

       7  Jefferson, and -- like those counties, you know, on the

       8  pheasant deal.  How does that work on people that -- I

       9  know there's one, I don't know how many others -- where

      10  they actually, you know, they buy the birds.  It's not a

      11  native wild pheasant like we're used to, you know, up in

      12  the Panhandle.  How does any of that apply?  I mean, if

      13  there's people still buying and selling those kind of

      14  hunts and the birds get loose, which they will, you

      15  know, what is law enforcement supposed to do at that

      16  point or is there anything that they do?

      17                 MR. PEREZ:  There is a private bird

      18  hunting area license and underneath that license, all

      19  birds are banded, whether it be pheasant or quail, in

      20  any county and that activity can be conducted year-round

      21  and so that's a permit process where you can apply and

      22  get one of these.  Your boundary would be marked

      23  according to that permit, and you could harvest those

      24  birds still in those counties.  Outside of that, it's my

      25  understanding that the season will be closed to that




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    70


       1  species.

       2                 COMMISSIONER SCOTT:  Okay, I'll have to

       3  think about that one.

       4                 MR. SMITH:  I think the issue,

       5  Commissioner, is that it's a great point because what we

       6  don't want to do is inadvertently penalize somebody.

       7  There haven't been wild pheasants in years on the coast.

       8                 COMMISSIONER SCOTT:  Right.

       9                 MR. SMITH:  It does become a little bit

      10  of a credibility issue for us having a pheasant season

      11  in counties with no pheasants, and so folks that want to

      12  come out and -- yeah.  So I think we're just trying to

      13  kind of remedy that, you know, an obvious hunter that

      14  lives over there and sees that they can hunt pheasant in

      15  Chambers County and then they go to look for opportunity

      16  to do that and, you know, then we say, well, there are

      17  no pheasants and, well, why do you have a pheasant

      18  season.  So I think we're hoping that the private bird

      19  hunting area license can help, you know, resolve issues,

      20  yeah, where you have folks lawfully handling that.  And

      21  so that's the intent to still allow that.

      22                 COMMISSIONER BASS:  Was your point what

      23  happens to ones that wander off the marked property?

      24                 COMMISSIONER SCOTT:  Well, what I heard

      25  is you can't shoot him legally, so.




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    71


       1                 COMMISSIONER BASS:  Whereas currently you

       2  can; but it doesn't really provide a --

       3                 COMMISSIONER SCOTT:  Correct.

       4                 COMMISSIONER BASS:  Is there a way to

       5  declare them an exotic in that county to where if you

       6  see one, you can shoot it?

       7                 MR. SMITH:  That's a good question.

       8  Yeah, you know, that's a very good question, Mr. Bass.

       9  I'm not sure about a -- thing about a precedent.  Let us

      10  look into that, yeah, yeah.

      11                 COMMISSIONER BASS:  You know, if my

      12  neighbor keeps releasing them and they end up in my

      13  barnyard and I hate the damn things, (inaudible).

      14                 COMMISSIONER SCOTT:  Kind of like

      15  Giddings, you know.

      16                 COMMISSIONER BASS:  I see your point.  I

      17  never thought of it.

      18                 COMMISSIONER HUGHES:  I have a question

      19  for Robert.  As far as a bag limit on quail, have we

      20  observed or do you observe that landowners tend to kind

      21  of set the bag limit based on the availability of the

      22  number of birds that are out there?  Right now, state

      23  bag limit really -- I think it's 15 right now; is that

      24  correct?

      25                 MR. PEREZ:  Correct.




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    72


       1                 COMMISSIONER HUGHES:  Is there a need to

       2  lower it or just don't the landowners kind of comply

       3  with the number of birds they have?  If they have birds,

       4  they hunt.  If they don't have birds, they don't hunt as

       5  many?

       6                 MR. PEREZ:  I think quail hunters as a

       7  group are very good at self-regulating and that amount

       8  or degree in which they self-regulate varies across the

       9  state.  For instance, some areas like South Texas, we

      10  see a high degree of self-regulation.  In poor years, we

      11  see fewer hunts, areas closed to hunting, reduced bags

      12  or limited number of hours, only one covey rise,

      13  shooting birds only from the covey rise and not chasing

      14  singles.  We see a lot of cases where landowners and

      15  even lease operations are self-limiting far beyond the

      16  State fixed liberal regulations, yes.

      17                 COMMISSIONER BASS:  Are there areas that

      18  are the other end of the spectrum of that?

      19                 MR. PEREZ:  I believe so.  I believe

      20  there are other areas of the state where especially if

      21  someone is paying for a lease out of state coming from

      22  some place and they want to get the maximum benefit of

      23  that property, we see that in other regions of the state

      24  where maybe we'll see an area that receives over

      25  harvest.  That's --




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    73


       1                 COMMISSIONER BASS:  Less active lessees.

       2                 MR. PEREZ:  Correct.

       3                 COMMISSIONER BASS:  Or lessors.

       4                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Any other

       5  questions or discussion for Robert?

       6                 COMMISSIONER JONES:  If this trend

       7  doesn't reverse, this doesn't look particularly good for

       8  quail hunting in Texas, does it?

       9                 MR. PEREZ:  It doesn't look good for

      10  quail.  There have been major droughts in the past, in

      11  the 50s.  There have been major catastrophic fires in

      12  the Panhandle in the 1960s.  And it's amazing how

      13  resilient and how quick the species does recover in

      14  areas of suitable habitat.  I think the greater concern

      15  is we have fewer and fewer areas of suitable habitat.

      16  That's the big issue.

      17                 MR. SMITH:  I think Robert hit that well

      18  in terms of our concern of what's happening on the

      19  ground; but also, you look rangewide at what's happening

      20  with quail, I mean the declines are precipitous.

      21  They're very, very sobering.  And this is, you know,

      22  unquestionably one of our most prized, if not the most

      23  prized game bird in the state.  And, you know, we just

      24  want to make sure that we're having substantive

      25  discussions with the Commission about, you know,




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    74


       1  engaging in this and making sure that we're playing a

       2  leadership role here in helping to arrest this and

       3  address it.  Make sure hunters and landowners are

       4  absolutely as informed as possible about what they can

       5  do to help us address kind of this quail conservation

       6  issue.

       7                 And this drought has really, really

       8  exacerbated things and if ever there was a sense of

       9  urgency and a time to act in a variety of ways, you

      10  know, now is the time.  And so we wanted to have this

      11  preliminary conversation with y'all and look forward to

      12  coming back in January with more feedback and more

      13  concepts to explore.

      14                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Great. I think

      15  it --

      16                 COMMISSIONER SCOTT:  I have one comment.

      17  And I think Reed probably knows Randy Lane down in

      18  Houston.  He's head of that big quail -- one of the --

      19  they resurfaced it.  But my comment would be we know a

      20  few people and I know there's a lot of others; but this

      21  quail deal is such a huge issue that when we come up

      22  with some ideas, we might ought to send out some

      23  invitations and get some communication going with people

      24  that are really serious about managing their asset.

      25  Because as you say, you know, people I know are very




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    75


       1  serious about not overhunting and any of that and so if

       2  we keep -- get some of them in the loop, perhaps that

       3  would be --

       4                 MR. SMITH:  Absolutely.

       5                 COMMISSIONER SCOTT:  Get their input

       6  anyway.

       7                 MR. SMITH:  Yeah.  And, Commissioner,

       8  it's a great point.  I mean there's so many very serious

       9  quail enthusiasts who are very concerned about this and

      10  obviously like Robert said, we've got some regional

      11  differences around the state, but -- and we want to

      12  start trying to acknowledge those as we think about this

      13  issue.  But, you know, where there are individuals that

      14  y'all think would be prudent for us to kind of reach out

      15  to and make sure we're getting input on that, please do

      16  let us know.  Yeah, absolutely.

      17                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  I agree.  And I

      18  think it would be very helpful for the Commission to

      19  have a good -- a better understanding of regional

      20  differences, population dynamics, other factors that

      21  contribute to, you know, these overall aggregate

      22  declines that we see so that we can manage it on a

      23  regional basis perhaps.  But I would look forward to

      24  receiving more information about that.

      25                 MR. PEREZ:  Okay, thank you.




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    76


       1                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Thanks.  Thank

       2  you both.  All right, Item 7 is the 2012-13 statewide

       3  recreational and commercial fishing proclamation

       4  preview.  Starting out with Ken.

       5                 MR. KURZAWSKI:  Good morning,

       6  Commissioners.  My name is Ken Kurzawski with Inland

       7  Fisheries Division, and I'm here today to go over some

       8  of our potential changes to our freshwater fishing

       9  regulations.  We have these in three broad categories.

      10                 First, we are modifying some existing

      11  regulations on four reservoirs.  Aquilla, Fort Phantom

      12  Hill, Proctor, for largemouth bass; and Possum Kingdom

      13  reservoir for striped bass.  Our staff is constantly

      14  looking at what regulations we have on our water bodies

      15  and when we determine that those regulations can be

      16  changed to improve the fishing or simplify the

      17  regulations, we're always looking at that.

      18                 Also, we typically implement some

      19  regulations on newly opened waters to ensure that we

      20  have quality fishing after those waters are opened.  And

      21  finally, we have some gear restrictions on that one new

      22  water body, Naconiche, and also on some of our state

      23  parks.

      24                 Starting out on Lake Aquilla, which is a

      25  reservoir that was impounded in 1982 by the Army Corp.




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    77


       1  Over time, the habitat has deteriorated there.  We

       2  have -- aquatic vegetation is scarce.  There's some

       3  standing timber, but most of it is in shallow water.

       4  The current regulation there is an 18-inch minimum

       5  length limit for largemouth bass, and that was enacted

       6  in 1984.  At that time, we saw some indications in the

       7  population that there were some characteristics that we

       8  could -- growth characteristics, abundance

       9  characteristics, that we could, with that regulation, we

      10  wanted to increase propensity of those largemouth bass

      11  and provide anglers a greater opportunity to catch a

      12  bass greater than 18 inches.

      13                 Since then, we've seen few population

      14  benefits to the bass population with -- since the

      15  18 inches have been implemented.  Over time, angling

      16  effort for bass is very low.  Not many anglers fishing

      17  there, very few bass being harvested.  The major problem

      18  there is with poor habitat sedimentation and is

      19  decreasing the volume and available habitat.  Looking at

      20  the situation there, what we're potentially discussing

      21  is reverting back to the 14-inch minimum length limit,

      22  which is our statewide regulation.  That would simplify

      23  the regulations.  It wouldn't have any impact on the

      24  population itself.  We would retain the five fish bag,

      25  and our staff is looking at some more projects there to




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    78


       1  improve habitat in the reservoir.

       2                 Next, we have a couple of lakes out in

       3  West Texas, Fort Phantom Hill and Proctor.  Both of

       4  these reservoirs are subject to water level changes as

       5  is typical of our many West Texas reservoirs, and now

       6  we're seeing a lot of that around the state in other

       7  parts.  We've tried a number of 16-inch minimum length

       8  limits for largemouth bass out there.  Phantom Hill has

       9  had that on since '94, and Proctor was implemented in

      10  2002.  And our goals were there to increase the

      11  abundance and catch of those bass between the statewide

      12  14-inch minimum and 16 inches.  A lot of times we're

      13  looking to take advantage of when we have good year

      14  classes produced with the rising water levels to see if

      15  we could get some better fishing out of that, out of

      16  those increases.

      17                 What we've seen over time, abundance in

      18  catch rates have varied at those 14, 16-inch bass; but

      19  there's few positives between the pre-regulation and the

      20  post-regulation changes.  Populations have pretty much

      21  remained the same and what our staff are looking at out

      22  there, the ongoing investigation of what are the impacts

      23  of the water level changes in time to the bass

      24  populations.  What we've seen there, we've looked at

      25  Fort Phantom Hill for an extended period of time to do




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    79


       1  some analysis.  We've determined that 92 percent of the

       2  variation in our catch rates in the lake fishing of

       3  bass, eight -- 8 inches or less, have resulted or can be

       4  correlated through water level variables.  So water

       5  levels in certain times a year and also the water levels

       6  from over the winter, winter months.

       7                 And when we look at bass populations in

       8  area lakes with a 14-inch limit under similar water

       9  regimes, we see that the populations are responding in a

      10  similar fashion.  So based on that, we think we -- the

      11  benefits from the 16-inch, we can simplify the

      12  regulation there and go back to the 14-inch limit.

      13                 On Possum Kingdom Reservoir, it's had a

      14  tough decade here.  Fish populations have been decimated

      15  by Golden Alga starting in 2001; and when those events

      16  were happening, we reduced the statewide bag for striped

      17  bass from five to two with special regulation there.

      18  And our goal there was to protect some of the striped

      19  bass in the population while providing some harvest for

      20  anglers because striped bass were an important species

      21  in Possum Kingdom.  Currently, we're still having

      22  periodic fish kills there.  We still are stocking

      23  striped bass.  Let me get to the next slide here.

      24  Unfortunately with those periodic kills, few fish are

      25  being harvested and the bag is really not having any




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    80


       1  impact on the population structure.

       2                 So what we're proposing there is going

       3  back to the statewide bag of five fish striped bass.

       4  That bag is not really having any impact.  We're hoping

       5  maybe when we do have an opportunity where we have a

       6  number of good years of no Golden Alga and it does

       7  produce some fish, that this will allow the anglers to

       8  take those fish.

       9                 In lake -- we have a new lake, Lake

      10  Naconiche in Nacogdoches County.  It was recently

      11  impounded.  Not a real large reservoir, a little under

      12  700 acres.  We've done our typical fish stocking there.

      13  Stocked some threadfin shad, various other species

      14  including Florida largemouth bass; and that's set to

      15  open in angling in 2012.  And typically what we do on

      16  new reservoirs, we try and implement some regulations to

      17  protect that developing fishery.  Typically, angling

      18  effort is high.  You have naive fish in there that, in

      19  many cases, can be easily caught; so we usually try and

      20  implement some sort of regulations to limit that

      21  harvest.  And what we wanted -- we have a good -- that

      22  lake has the potential to be a good bass lake; so we

      23  want to protect those 14- to 18-inch bass from harvest

      24  and ensure that good quality population is established.

      25  So what we're proposing there is to implement an 18-inch




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    81


       1  limit and a five fish bag for largemouth bass and also

       2  additionally we're going to prohibit some of the passive

       3  gear there -- jug lines, throw lines, trotlines.  It's a

       4  little, small reservoir.  Probably a lot of high use and

       5  some of those things will interfere with some of those

       6  activities and also removing those initially will help

       7  some of our catfish populations develop.

       8                 Last change, we have some potential gear

       9  restrictions in State Parks.  We're having user

      10  conflicts in those areas with limited space, such as

      11  manmade structures such as docks, piers, and jetties.

      12  People using multiple rods to sort of dominate that

      13  space, prevent use by other people.  So we're

      14  considering, based on State Park's input on that,

      15  limiting the number of fishing poles to two as we do as

      16  on our community fishing lakes, which have some of our

      17  small reservoirs where we have the same issues of

      18  limited space and trying to allow as many people to fish

      19  there as possible.

      20                 Those are all the changes we are

      21  considering at this time.  We did discuss all those

      22  except the State Park one with our Freshwater Fisheries

      23  Advisory Committee and they did give us approval on

      24  those changes and I'd be happy to take any questions at

      25  this time if you have any.




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    82


       1                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Questions for

       2  Ken?

       3                 COMMISSIONER JONES:  I'm just curious.

       4  What's the largest number of poles that you've had

       5  reported somebody trying to dominate a fishing area?

       6                 MR. KURZAWSKI:  Well, I've seen people

       7  use 15 to 20 poles.  I'm sure, you know, game wardens or

       8  State Parks have seen more.  There is no limit.  It's

       9  100 hooks, so you could use pretty much -- that's quite

      10  a few poles and it does become -- you know, if you have

      11  limited space, people can certainly dominate that space.

      12                 COMMISSIONER HUGHES:  Ken, I've got one

      13  question.  On Possum Kingdom since it does not have any

      14  fish right now, with the limit is two, why do we want to

      15  raise it back to five if there's not any fish right now

      16  anyway?  What's the rational?

      17                 MR. KURZAWSKI:  Well, there's really --

      18  it's -- you know, there's so few fish, you know, being

      19  produced, it's really not having any -- it's not having

      20  any -- you know, when they do produce some fish, there's

      21  so few to catch that we really don't see that's having

      22  any impact on the population at all when we do produce.

      23  Like I say, if we do produce some fish, we might as well

      24  have anglers catching them because there's a good chance

      25  unfortunately that Golden Alga is going to come in and




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    83


       1  limit that population in the future.

       2                 COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  Are you looking at

       3  any ways to deal with the algae problem and the impact

       4  of salt?  As I understand it, the salt, double salt in

       5  the two tributaries from the Brazos are very high in

       6  salt, what we might do to work with the -- I guess it

       7  would be the Brazos River Authority on water quality?

       8  Isn't that a big part of the Golden Algae problem?

       9                 MR. KURZAWSKI:  Well, we have -- we've

      10  been, you know, have a number of studies looking at that

      11  and we haven't really gotten any real clear impact

      12  there.  We've implemented some things on our hatcheries

      13  to eliminate those problems; but on a big systemwide

      14  basis, we haven't seen anything that's really going to

      15  have an impact at this time.

      16                 COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  I think we ought

      17  to keep that in mind because I think that the salinity

      18  of that lake -- when the salinity levels go up, it seems

      19  like the problems go up from what I've observed over the

      20  years.  I don't know what you-all have seen.

      21                 MR. KURZAWSKI:  Well, like I said, we

      22  don't -- you know, we spent a lot of time and a lot of

      23  research and have looked at that and we haven't found

      24  anything real definitive and it's something we're

      25  continuing to look at because we sure would like to --




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    84


       1  we would sure like to solve it and be able to --

       2  especially like for Possum Kingdom, get the fishery back

       3  to what it was in the past there.

       4                 COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  Water would help.

       5                 MR. KURZAWSKI:  Yeah, water.  Fish have

       6  this thing about water.  They really need that, too.

       7                 MR. SMITH:  Commissioner, the Brazos

       8  River Authority has applied for a system operations

       9  permit throughout its entire basin.  The TCEQ, kind of

      10  the first of its kind that I think we're aware of, have

      11  been very involved over the last few years working with

      12  the Brazos River Authority to try to address inflows,

      13  environmental flows, and flow levels at different gauge

      14  stations throughout the basin.  And so we were able to

      15  come to a meeting of the minds on that with BRA.

      16                 Now that permit is being reviewed by TCEQ

      17  and so we have some folks that have been working very,

      18  very directly on this and could probably address some of

      19  these issues with respect to salinity regimes and flow

      20  regimes.  But we've had a very, very good relationship

      21  with BRA over the last couple of years working through

      22  this in an in-depth fashion and I'll get Cindy or

      23  Colette to get with you to kind of brief you on that.

      24                 COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  Thank you.

      25                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Thank you, Ken.




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    85


       1  Appreciate it.  Robin Riechers.

       2                 MR. RIECHERS:  Good morning,

       3  Commissioners --

       4                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Good morning, how

       5  are you?

       6                 MR. RIECHERS:  -- Chairman.  For the

       7  record.  My name is Robin Riechers from the Coastal

       8  Fisheries Division and I'm here to present to you today

       9  the 2012-2013 coastal fisheries scoping items.  The

      10  first item I would like to present will be a

      11  clarification of the proclamation regarding take during

      12  a freeze event.  And then the second one will be an

      13  expansion of seagrass protection through a state

      14  scientific area designation.  And then lastly, I want to

      15  update you on some progress we've made in regards to

      16  looking at some recommendations from a workshop that the

      17  Harte Institute held in Corpus Christi that was titled

      18  "Sharing and Conserving Our Bays" and we're looking at

      19  those recommendations and I'll just share with you the

      20  progress in that respect.

      21                 As a reminder, we have the ability to

      22  close certain areas during freeze events.  These thermal

      23  refuges where fish basically congregate, and we used

      24  that authority for the first time last February.  That

      25  event occurred from February 2nd through the 5th.  We




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    86


       1  put out news releases on the 2nd and 3rd.  On the 4th,

       2  we had to extend that closure because the cold period

       3  was extending for a longer period of time.  And in

       4  addition as we did that, of course, we displayed signs

       5  at these access points trying to inform people of these

       6  closed areas.

       7                 I might also mention because I believe it

       8  was brought up the last time we discussed this, barge

       9  traffic also was halted February 3rd in the land cut

      10  area in regards to any ICWW in kind of an informal

      11  agreement that we have with the barge companies in

      12  halting that traffic to try to save fish in the ICWW as

      13  well, the intercoastal.  Obviously, as we went through

      14  this and reviewed the first time that we used the

      15  closure, we do have a few lessons learned.

      16                 The first was we had very good coverage

      17  of our initial announcement about the closure.  Got the

      18  news releases out, got it up on the website, and were

      19  able to do that fairly well.  We did have a little bit

      20  of difficulty in our extension, as that occurred on a

      21  Friday when we tried to get that news release out

      22  regarding that extension.  I can say that basically

      23  because there were only about four of us in this

      24  building -- Carter and Ross and myself and a couple of

      25  others -- it was difficult to get notice out for us.  It




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    87


       1  was also difficult for people who we were trying to have

       2  receive that notice because they weren't at their

       3  offices as well.

       4                 This is a place probably where social

       5  media will help us in the future as far as getting that

       6  word out and so we're going to find better ways to do

       7  that, but we realize that we didn't do as good a job

       8  there as we could.  Another thing we noticed was at our

       9  sites, we're going to try to have some more distinct and

      10  better signage so that people can really identify the

      11  area and the boundary and we're working on that to be

      12  prepared in case that happens this year.

      13                 And the last thing, of course, is the

      14  clarification of the rule that is actually the

      15  rule-making part of this.  And what we would like to do

      16  is to clarify the language there in 57.975.  The

      17  language there is in blue and we want to have it read

      18  now "No person shall take or attempt to take any aquatic

      19  life by any means in an effected area."  Even though dip

      20  nets are not a legal take device, people were using dip

      21  nets and we just want to clarify to everyone that during

      22  that time during those areas, we would prefer that you

      23  not take any of those fish.  The Department of State

      24  Health Services warns you not to take those fish, and we

      25  also would like to go ahead and make sure that people




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    88


       1  don't do that.

       2                 I'll pause there and if anyone has any

       3  question about the freeze or language, we can have that

       4  here and then I'll go to the next section.

       5                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Questions for

       6  Robin so far?

       7                 MR. RIECHERS:  The next thing I would

       8  like to talk to you about is expansion of seagrass

       9  protection by state scientific area of designation.  As

      10  indicated and brought to you in 2010, we basically

      11  redesignated the Redfish Bay State Scientific Area.  We

      12  visited with you at that time about a lot of the results

      13  that we saw in that area to give you a brief history, of

      14  course, of that.

      15                 That started in 2000.  When the area was

      16  designated in 2005, it was renewed.  In 2006, we went

      17  from a voluntary no-prop zone to a no uprooting seagrass

      18  regulation.  And since that time, we've been under that

      19  regulation and been monitoring that area.  As you may

      20  all remember when we presented this in 2010, we had an

      21  extensive education and outreach program in that area,

      22  trying to make people aware of the regulation.  We hit

      23  over 10 million impressions, as they call it, where we

      24  touched somebody with that message throughout that

      25  entire time.




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    89


       1                 Key findings from some of the surveys

       2  that we did of people who were using the areas,

       3  85 percent were aware of the regulation -- greater than

       4  85 percent and also greater than 85 percent actually

       5  changed their boating behavior during that time period.

       6  Probably most importantly was that 45 percent -- we saw

       7  a 45 percent reduction in scarring during that time

       8  period.  So we actually met the consvervation goal that

       9  we were trying to meet there.

      10                 And then another important kind of

      11  conservation fact is that we actually saw scar recovery

      12  from year to year of 53 percent and 86 percent.  That is

      13  quite a bit higher than the previous literature

      14  suggested where they suggested it would take seven or

      15  eight years for scar recovery to occur.  So we were --

      16  that was an important finding for us as well.

      17                 Lastly, obviously, because this is a

      18  rule, there's a law enforcement component as well.  And

      19  as of August 21st of 2011, there have been 17 citations

      20  in the area.  Fifteen were convictions, and two were

      21  pending at that time.  So, you know, a lot of success in

      22  that story and that's why you asked us to go find other

      23  areas and that's what we're bringing to you today.

      24                 When we looked at trying to go forward

      25  and figure out where we could expand seagrass




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    90


       1  protection, we looked to basically create a matrix of

       2  things that we would look at in determining which area

       3  we should expand this to.  And the first was obviously

       4  seagrass coverage.  Do you have seagrass in the area

       5  and, you know, is there seagrass there to protect?

       6                 Most of the time that occurs in shallow

       7  water areas, so that was something we were looking at.

       8  Most of the time if we have damage, it's actually in

       9  fairly close proximity to high pressure or high boating

      10  access and so that's where we would look at that as

      11  well.  The proximity to a Gulf pass, that's actually a

      12  component that we brought in because of the biological

      13  nature of seagrass, protection of larvae, and you get

      14  ingress and egress of larvae in small juvenile fish at

      15  those Gulf passes; so that would rate it a little bit

      16  higher in regards to needing prosection.

      17                 And then lastly, is did you have scarring

      18  in those areas?  Are you witnessing issues in those

      19  areas that were identified?  We started out with 15

      20  sites.  We have narrowed that to these five sites you

      21  see here -- Galveston Island State Park, an area right

      22  off of Galveston Island, Christmas Bay, the Matagorda

      23  Island Wildlife Management Area, Upper Laguna Madre near

      24  the JFK Causeway, and the Mexiquita Flats in South Bay.

      25  It's not to say that all of these aren't in need of some




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    91


       1  protection or in need of us looking at them, but we have

       2  narrowed it down to going forward with one item at this

       3  point.

       4                 We're going to go forward with education

       5  in efforts of making people aware and continued efforts

       6  with working with partners in the other areas.  But our

       7  recommendation to you today is that we scope the area

       8  near the JFK Causeway.  It would encompass about 15,500

       9  acres.  It is a heavy boat traffic area with many access

      10  points, and I'll show you that in a moment.  It has

      11  extensive shallow seagrass flats there.  One of the

      12  reasons we're choosing this particular area is it is

      13  highly -- out of the 15,500 acres, there's about 14,000

      14  acres of seagrass that we were able to document with

      15  ariel photography.  In addition to that, obviously, we

      16  have staff in the area who has worked with this

      17  protection of seagrass.  We've got partners in the area

      18  who've already worked with us, and we've had extensive

      19  outreach efforts already in that area; so we think we

      20  can build on all of that.

      21                 To show you that proximity and why we

      22  believe that proximity will help us in that, the Redfish

      23  Bay State Scientific Area is there north.  Again, that's

      24  32,000 acres and the proposed site is down south there,

      25  listed as proposed site JFK 15,500 acres.  You'll see as




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    92


       1  the crow flies, they're only about ten miles apart.  So

       2  a lot of people using the Redfish Bay State Scientific

       3  Area may also access this area in their fishing

       4  activities and we think we can, you know, utilize that

       5  to our benefit in protecting seagrass there.

       6                 Looking at that area with a little closer

       7  up view, you can see that there's a -- the red dots are

       8  access points, boat ramps; and you can see that there to

       9  the east of -- or to the east of that, there's about 18

      10  miles of developed canals there.  There's apparently

      11  eight miles of undeveloped canals over there.  And then

      12  on the west side, there's about three miles of developed

      13  canals.  So there's a lot of access to this site, but

      14  there's also already some marking by TNC, in Corpus

      15  Christi bays and estuary program, have already marked,

      16  helped mark some of the ingress -- or run lanes that

      17  we'll call them.  We have to be careful.  Some people

      18  use different terminology than we do.  But basically,

      19  the lanes that allow you to get in and out of the area.

      20  So, you know, we believe that's certainly a good area

      21  where our partners are already trying to do some of that

      22  work and we can help with that.

      23                 So with that, that's certainly our

      24  recommendation regarding extension of the seagrass area

      25  or seagrass protection.  Obviously, again, what we will




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    93


       1  have to do is designate it a state scientific area and

       2  we would propose that we scope the no uprooting

       3  regulation as we have in the other area.  Both of the

       4  proposals -- it's mentioned here for this one, but both

       5  went to our CRAC on October 5th, and were both

       6  unanimously supported.

       7                 Is there any questions about that area or

       8  that scoping item?  I'll answer those now, and then move

       9  on to just the briefing portion.

      10                 As indicated, there's no formal proposal

      11  here; but I did want to take a moment to brief you on

      12  kind of our efforts in looking at these recommendations

      13  that came out of this workshop that was hosted by the

      14  Harte Research Institute and we were also a partner,

      15  several of the partners just mentioned in the previous

      16  presentation were there as partners as well.

      17                 Again, the notion of that workshop was to

      18  get waders, kayakers, hunters, airboat folks,

      19  motorboats, anglers, bird watchers all in the same room,

      20  especially down in that area, high traffic area, get

      21  them all in the same room and talk about how are we

      22  going to use and share our bays basically.  They

      23  basically came out with workshop results that had over

      24  50 recommendations and 14 best practices.

      25                 We've created an interdivisional team,




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    94


       1  Coastal Fisheries and law enforcement, to look at these

       2  and try to group and categorize these and we've also

       3  been asked to -- not necessarily one of their

       4  recommendations, but certainly one of the things that

       5  came out of that workshop was a discussion about

       6  low-impact fishing areas as well and we've been asked to

       7  explore that and we're looking at that.

       8                 When we discussed that -- well, let me go

       9  back.  I'm sorry.  As far as the 50 recommendations, we

      10  first have gone through there and tried to group these

      11  things by education and outreach kinds of things and

      12  certainly best practices and that sort of notion as one

      13  of those things.  That may not -- it will require a lot

      14  of work with Lydia and her shop, but it may not be a

      15  regulation or a rule-making kind of notion.  The other

      16  thing, key item that they came out with is expanded

      17  seagrass protection and, obviously, we're before you

      18  today asking to go scope one of those areas.  So that

      19  was one of the key findings there.  And then there were

      20  other numerous recommendations, some of which we frankly

      21  don't even have authority to do; but, you know, we're

      22  trying to go through those and group those and figure

      23  out -- our team is -- which ones of those are plausible

      24  and which ones we might be able to move forward with.

      25                 When we do talk about low-impact fishing




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    95


       1  areas and as we've found in discussing this, you know,

       2  there are -- just to help everyone be on the same page

       3  at least to what we think we're talking about, is that

       4  they are open to all legal methods of fishing.  They're

       5  typically a lift-drift pole and troll type of area and

       6  they, for the most part, will have some sort of marked

       7  ingress and egress lane that allows people to get in and

       8  out of the area.

       9                 Other considerations that have come up in

      10  those discussions is you could have some sort of

      11  seasonal component to that low-impact fishing area.  You

      12  could have it open for boating traffic at some times of

      13  the year, and maybe closed at others.  Another notion is

      14  that you could, in that same low-impact notion, you

      15  could have some sort of no-wake zone or some sort of

      16  minimum idle speed or maximum idle speed that would

      17  govern that area.

      18                 Lastly, as indicated, we are still kind

      19  of in the development stage here.  We've identified pros

      20  and cons.  We are identifying some studies that we could

      21  do if we conducted a -- or if a low-impact fishing area

      22  were put into place.  We've discussed the concept with a

      23  limited number of stakeholders.  We've presented the

      24  concept both really in two separate occasions before our

      25  Coastal Resources Advisory Committee, more in general




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    96


       1  terms because it's been in the context of the

       2  presentation of the results of that workshop; and we've

       3  agreed to take this back to them at their next meeting

       4  and try to come back with some more specifics in regards

       5  to what some of these low-impact fishing areas -- where

       6  they might be, what they might look like.

       7                 With that, I appreciate the opportunity

       8  to brief you on that and certainly will entertain any

       9  questions.

      10                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Questions for

      11  Robin?  Commissioner Hughes.

      12                 COMMISSIONER HUGHES:  Robin, if we -- if

      13  there was the movement for a low-impact fishing areas,

      14  would we do -- would we do it like on a trial basis?

      15  Say set up a three-year trial and just see how it's

      16  working?  Or a two-year or a five, whatever?

      17                 MR. RIECHERS:  Well, certainly we've put

      18  sunset provisions just like we had in the other state

      19  scientific areas at one point; so there's always the

      20  opportunity to put a sunset provision or a date certain

      21  when it ends and you have to take action to make -- to

      22  extend that.  So that certainly is one thing that could

      23  be built in to that sort of notion, yes.

      24                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Any questions?

      25  Robin, thank you.




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    97


       1                 MR. RIECHERS:  Thank you.

       2                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Okay, Robert

       3  Goodrich.

       4                 MR. GOODRICH:  Good morning,

       5  Commissioners.  I'm Robert Goodrich.  I'm the Assistant

       6  Chief of Fisheries Enforcement for the Department.  I

       7  come before you this morning for a review of potential

       8  regulation change.  Currently in freshwater, most of the

       9  unattended devices -- trotlines and jug lines -- all

      10  require a gear tag.  However, throw lines and minnow

      11  traps do not require a gear tag.  And as you well know,

      12  those devices are left out there.

      13                 Under -- currently under a gear tag

      14  requirement, that tag must contain legibly the name of

      15  the person that set it out, their address, and the date

      16  it was set out and then that device can remain with that

      17  tag for 30 days.  And after 30 days, it must be reviewed

      18  and retagged and retagged with a new date; and that

      19  allows -- that provides for that device to be attended

      20  out there at some point and then it be picked up or

      21  retagged and continue to be fished.

      22                 However, minnow traps and throw lines do

      23  not have that requirement.  And what happens sometimes

      24  is those devices are left out there and because they are

      25  not illegal at that point because they're not required




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    98


       1  to be tagged, game wardens cannot pick up the devices.

       2  So as you well have heard today about low water

       3  situations in many of our lakes and rivers, a lot of

       4  those devices like throw lines, which are attached to

       5  limbs and to the bank sometimes, they become out of the

       6  water, they continue to fish and impact the resource.

       7                 So what we're proposing is a regulation

       8  in effect to require those devices to have a gear tag.

       9  And that gear tag can be made out of any durable

      10  material as durable as the line.  And, you know, I kind

      11  of brought one here today so that I could throw together

      12  and show you.  It could be made out of something as

      13  simple as that Coke can right there.  You can put all

      14  that information on there and it's very durable and they

      15  attach it to the line and it lets us know who's fishing

      16  out there in that -- and who's responsible for making

      17  sure that those lines are checked on a 30-day basis.

      18                 Again, there's a certain safety mount to

      19  that, too, is those limb lines -- as water levels drop,

      20  those are limb lines, those hooks are dangling there and

      21  as people go by in boats or canoes or kayaks and this is

      22  definitely a little bit of a safety issue; but more than

      23  anything, they continue to fish and they pick up, you

      24  know, wildlife, animals and fish, when they're not

      25  attended.  So that's our -- my review of that potential




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                    99


       1  regulation change.  If you have any questions, I'd be

       2  glad to answer them at this time.

       3                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Questions?

       4  Commissioner Scott.

       5                 COMMISSIONER SCOTT:  Out of curiosity,

       6  what is the present ruling like on crab traps and

       7  everything?  Do they have that same requirement?

       8                 MR. GOODRICH:  Right.  And all of the

       9  devices out in saltwater are required to be tagged, and

      10  so everything -- in fact, even -- this is kind of a

      11  clean up because a minnow trap in saltwater is required

      12  to have a gear tag, but in freshwater it's not.

      13                 COMMISSIONER SCOTT:  That's what I was

      14  getting at.

      15                 MR. GOODRICH:  Right.

      16                 COMMISSIONER SCOTT:  So it basically just

      17  makes everything uniform.

      18                 MR. GOODRICH:  This just makes everything

      19  uniform.  It's an unattended device out there that's --

      20  you know, when someone is fishing with a pole and a

      21  line, they're usually there.  But these devices do

      22  remain out there, so this would make all those devices

      23  required to be tagged.

      24                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Commissioner

      25  Duggins.




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                   100


       1                 COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  Is 30 days magic?

       2  I mean, is there any reason it shouldn't be 14 days if

       3  the goal is to try to have people check them more

       4  frequently?

       5                 MR. GOODRICH:  Well, I know that's always

       6  been that way.  I'm not, you know, saying that's

       7  consistent with how we should be; but I think it's when

       8  we set it up originally, I looked back on that and it

       9  was -- like, that gave you about four weekends in a

      10  period of time where people could put devices out on one

      11  weekend and maybe during the course of that month they

      12  could come back out on another weekend and run their

      13  trotlines and -- you know, however, most of the people

      14  that do run those, do them a lot more often than 30

      15  days.

      16                 It's just that we've found that limb

      17  lines -- we call them limb lines or throw lines -- those

      18  tend to just get left and sometimes aren't monitored.

      19                 COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  Well, if people

      20  are checking them more frequently than that and it's a

      21  concern over limb lines, then you might look at whether

      22  you want to move that time period -- shorten that time

      23  period.

      24                 MR. GOODRICH:  That sure is something we

      25  could look at.  I know I looked at some other states,




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                   101


       1  and they do that.  They have --

       2                 COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  Shorter period?

       3                 MR. GOODRICH:  -- shorter two-day periods

       4  and 24-hour periods.

       5                 COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  That's more

       6  consistent.  You wouldn't --

       7                 MR. GOODRICH:  We can certainly look at

       8  that.

       9                 COMMISSIONER SCOTT:  What does Louisiana

      10  have?

      11                 MR. GOODRICH:  They don't have much

      12  regulation.

      13                 COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  That's a

      14  rhetorical question.

      15                 COMMISSIONER SCOTT:  I was being nice

      16  when I said that.  I was trying to give our neighbors a

      17  little credit.

      18                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  We knew that was

      19  coming.

      20                 MR. GOODRICH:  Oklahoma requires it.

      21                 COMMISSIONER SCOTT:  I've got a lot of

      22  buddies over there.  Don't worry, I tell them the same

      23  thing.  Don't worry about that.  No, I was just curious.

      24  I was just thinking if it was the same thing.

      25                 MR. GOODRICH:  Oklahoma and Kansas and




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                   102


       1  even up in Ohio, they all require gear tags on

       2  everything and some of them do limit the time.

       3                 COMMISSIONER JONES:  I just -- to Ralph's

       4  point, one of the things that you want to keep in mind I

       5  suppose is the requirement on your staff and the

       6  monitoring of it.  If you give a person a month and you

       7  go out and check it, you've got to go back I guess next

       8  month to see if they've taken it off.  So, I mean, I

       9  don't know what the impact -- and, again, I'm saying

      10  this without knowing what the answer is.  I don't know

      11  if it's easier on your staff if it's a shorter period of

      12  time, or if it's easier on your staff if it's an

      13  extended period of time.

      14                 MR. GOODRICH:  Well, I think game wardens

      15  are out there all the time.  They're pretty aware of

      16  who's fishing those devices when they're required to be

      17  tagged, so this would bring that back in.  We pretty

      18  much know who's fishing that body of water; but with

      19  limb lines or throw lines, we really don't know because

      20  they aren't required to be tagged.  This would actually

      21  give us more of an identification and the other part is,

      22  too, we can also run that name and address and find out

      23  if they have a fishing license; so that gives us more

      24  ability.  But I'm not sure of a shorter period of time

      25  because we pretty much check on that and when you pull




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                   103


       1  up somebody's trotline they've put out there and when

       2  you've done it once and they may have gotten a citation,

       3  they pretty much don't do that anymore.

       4                 So just having it tagged kind of makes

       5  people realize they put their name out there on the

       6  water on a device that's out there, so they do pay more

       7  attention to it.

       8                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  I certainly don't

       9  see an added burden to enforcement that --

      10                 MR. GOODRICH:  No.  And in fact, this was

      11  reviewed by the field --

      12                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  I mean, that's

      13  the intent that it's --

      14                 MR. GOODRICH:  Right.  And this

      15  recommendation came from the field because they see so

      16  many of these throw lines that are left out there and it

      17  was reviewed by staff in the field and they all

      18  supported it.

      19                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Commissioner

      20  Morian.

      21                 COMMISSIONER MORIAN:  What's the

      22  definition of a throw line?

      23                 MR. GOODRICH:  Well, the definition is a

      24  line with five or less hooks attached at one end to a

      25  fixed object at one end.  So it's going to be five or




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                   104


       1  less hooks and have the line and it's going to be

       2  attached at one end.  If it was attached at both ends,

       3  it becomes a trotline.

       4                 COMMISSIONER JONES:  What if it has more

       5  than five hooks?

       6                 MR. GOODRICH:  It's not legal.

       7                 COMMISSIONER JONES:  Okay, got you.

       8                 COMMISSIONER DUGGINS:  And if this were

       9  to pass and you find a throw line that's not tagged, do

      10  you have the right to cut the thing and remove it?

      11                 MR. GOODRICH:  Right.  That's part of the

      12  thing in the Parks and Wildlife Code, by statute we have

      13  the ability to seize illegal fishing devices.  But this

      14  would make it illegal when it's not tagged and that's

      15  what we do with trotlines and jug lines that we find out

      16  there that are either untagged or out of date, we will

      17  seize those and there's a process of destruction that we

      18  have to go through where we put it up at the courthouse

      19  for ten days, where it was seized, the location, and

      20  then the County judge issues an order and the materials

      21  are destroyed.  So there's a process that we go through,

      22  but we haven't been able to do that with throw lines and

      23  minnow traps.

      24                 COMMISSIONER MORIAN:  Following up on

      25  Ralph, it would be interesting to know what other states




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                   105


       1  do as far as time frame.  You know, about limb lines.

       2                 MR. GOODRICH:  Right.

       3                 COMMISSIONER MORIAN:  If someone hasn't

       4  checked that in 30 days, it's long abandoned.  It makes

       5  sense to have the ability to require people to make them

       6  check them more often.

       7                 MR. GOODRICH:  I know I've checked into

       8  like one there in Ohio.  They have a two-day date, and

       9  another one had 24 hours; so there are some differences

      10  I can sure look into that.

      11                 COMMISSIONER MORIAN:  It would seem that

      12  two weeks for throw lines or trotlines wouldn't make

      13  sense.

      14                 MR. GOODRICH:  Right.  And throw lines

      15  aren't legal on saltwater, so they can't use them down

      16  there; but I can sure check into that.

      17                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  If we could do

      18  that for the January meeting and come back with a little

      19  bit more information and some benchmarking, I think that

      20  would be helpful.  That's great.  Any other questions?

      21                 COMMISSIONER MORIAN:  The abandoned ones

      22  they tie out to a limb and leave in the river

      23  (inaudible).

      24                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Right.

      25                 COMMISSIONER SCOTT:  Well, you know, like




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                   106


       1  there are two points.  I mean, if somebody is fishing

       2  and doing this, if they've left it a week or two weeks,

       3  if anything is on it it's dead and eat up by something

       4  else, right?  So it's common sense.

       5                 MR. GOODRICH:  Yeah.  I think there's

       6  going to be more of a trend not to leave it if they have

       7  their name attached to it.

       8                 COMMISSIONER MORIAN:  Or at least monitor

       9  it.

      10                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Mr. Hughes.

      11                 COMMISSIONER HUGHES:  I've got one

      12  clarification question.  Now, if somebody leaves it out

      13  over 30 days and you seize the -- whatever it is, the

      14  trotline, whatever you're seizing -- does the person who

      15  has the tag on there also get a citation for that or do

      16  you just destroy the --

      17                 MR. GOODRICH:  Well, we will contact them

      18  about that it's left out there and, you know, it's a

      19  process.  It becomes evidence in the case, and we will

      20  go forward with the investigation.  So it -- oftentimes,

      21  they do get a citation.  Because as I said, usually the

      22  warden, once he sees all these tags out there, he knows

      23  who's fishing in the area and he'll contact that person

      24  and let them know that you've got a device out here that

      25  we've seized.  But it is an evidentiary process and, of




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

                                                                   107


       1  course, we have to prove that that device is being

       2  fished by them.  And again, you've just got somebody's

       3  name hanging on there.  You really -- it gets a little

       4  tough on proving that they were actually fishing it, but

       5  we do contact them and a lot of times they'll -- hey, I

       6  didn't tag it.  And, you know, well, that's a citation.

       7  And if we issue them a citation and they take care of it

       8  in court, we return the fishing lines to them.

       9                 COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN:  Thank you,

      10  Robert.  Appreciate it.  Okay, that's the end of Item 7.

      11  The Committee has completed its business, and I will now

      12  call the Conservation Committee to order.



       1                    C E R T I F I C A T E

       2  STATE OF TEXAS   )

       3  COUNTY OF TRAVIS )

       4            I, Paige S. Watts, Certified Shorthand

       5  Reporter in and for the State of Texas, do hereby

       6  certify that the above-mentioned matter occurred as

       7  hereinbefore set out.

       8            I FURTHER CERTIFY THAT the proceedings of such

       9  were reported by me or under my supervision, later

      10  reduced to typewritten form under my supervision and

      11  control and that the foregoing pages are a full, true,

      12  and correct transcription of the original notes.

      13            IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my

      14  hand and seal this Turn in date _____ day of

      15  ________________, 2011.

      16

      17

      18

      19                             __________________________

      20                             Paige S. Watts, CSR, RPR
                                     CSR No.: 8311
      21                             Expiration: December 31, 2012
                                     Firm Registration Number: 87
      22                             1016 La Posada Drive
                                     Suite 294
      23                             Austin, Texas 78752
                                     Job No. 95402
      24

      25




                   Sunbelt Reporting & Litigation Services
              HOUSTON  DALLAS/FT. WORTH  CORPUS CHRISTI  AUSTIN

Back to Top
Back to Top