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|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2005-11-07                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than nine years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: Steve Lightfoot, 512-389-4701, steve.lightfoot@tpwd.texas.gov ] [SL]
Nov. 7, 2005
TPWD Unveils Possible Hunting and Fishing Rule Changes
AUSTIN, Texas -- The success of resource management efforts on a variety of fronts has led Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists to recommend several possible changes to next year's hunting and fishing regulations. Among the topics being considered include: an expansion of special regulations affecting the harvest of whitetail bucks based on antler characteristics, creation of an upland game bird management permit program and elimination of the trophy red drum and tarpon tagging requirements.
TPWD staff briefed the Regulations Committee of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Wednesday, Nov. 2, on a slate of possible changes designed to increase recreational opportunity and further enhance the state's fish and wildlife resources.
The annual regulatory review process begins each fall after resource assessments by biologists and game wardens, as well as independent recommendations received from various groups. During this scoping portion of the process, TPWD gathers public input and weighs the biological implications of each issue before presenting the commission with a set of proposed regulation changes in January. Additional discourse is sought during special public meetings in the spring, and the commission at its April 2006 meeting determines the final regulation changes.
Following is a summary of those potential changes.
Potential Wildlife Regulation Proposals
White-tailed Deer
Expansion of antler restriction harvest rules in all or portions of 40 additional counties in East and Central Texas. The rules are currently in place in 21 southeastern counties. The purpose of this potential proposal is to ensure a balanced age class structure for a healthy deer herd by shifting harvest pressure away from young bucks, which typically comprise upwards of 60 percent of the annual harvest. Under this regulation, a legal buck is one which has (1) at least 1 unbranched antler, or (2) an inside spread measurement of 13 inches or greater. Under the suggested provisions, the candidate counties would see an increase in the buck bag limit from one to two; however, no more than one buck may have an inside spread measurement of 13 plus inches. The candidate counties are: Bell, Bosque, Bowie, Burleson, Camp, Cass, Cherokee, Comal (east of Interstate 35), Comanche, Coryell, Delta, Eastland, Erath, Fannin, Franklin, Gregg, Hamilton, Harrison, Hays (east of Interstate 35), Hopkins, Houston, Lamar, Lampasas, Leon, Marion, Morris, Nacogdoches, Panola, Rains, Red River, Rusk, Sabine, San Augustine, Shelby, Somervell, Titus, Travis (east of Interstate 35), Upshur, Williamson, and Wood.
TPWD is also looking into standardizing harvest regulations in Upton County, which currently has split regulations, to four deer, no more than two bucks, and no antlerless permit required
Upland Game Birds
Expansion of the successful Managed Lands Deer Permit program to include similar provisions for adjusting season length and/or bag limits for upland game bird species, including quail, turkey, pheasant, chachalaca and lesser prairie chickens on properties with a wildlife management plan where certain habitat management practices are implemented.
Alligator
Include regulations governing the recreational take of alligator in the Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation.
Potential Freshwater Fishing Regulation Changes
Lake Colorado City (Mitchell County)
Change harvest regulations for red drum from the current 20-inch minimum length limit and three fish daily bag limit to no length and no bag limit.
Mountain Creek Lake (Dallas County)
All fish species in Mountain Creek Lake are managed under statewide length and bag limits. The regulations would be changed to catch-and-release only for all species.
Marine Creek Reservoir (Tarrant County)
Current harvest regulations for largemouth bass consist of statewide 14-inch minimum length limit with a five fish daily bag limit. The regulation would be changed to an 18-inch minimum length limit. The five fish daily bag would be retained.
Statewide baitfish exceptions
Add Kinney County to current list of bait fish exceptions. Current regulations are: "In Brewster, Crane, Crockett, Culberson, Ector, El Paso, Jeff Davis, Hudspeth, Loving, Pecos, Presidio, Reeves, Terrell, Upton, Val Verde, Ward, and Winkler counties, the only fishes that may be used or possessed for bait while fishing are common carp, fathead minnows, gizzard and threadfin shad, golden shiners, goldfish, Mexican tetra, Rio Grande cichlid, silversides (Atherinidae family), and sunfish (Lepomis)."
Catfish
TPWD will be seeking public input on the possibility of making bowfishing a legal means of take for catfish.
To comment on freshwater fishing proposals, send an e-mail to ken.kurzawski@tpwd.texas.gov.
Potential Coastal Fishing Regulation Proposals
Largetooth sawfish (Pristis perotteti)
The National Marine Fisheries and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service have listed the smalltooth sawfish as endangered and, therefore, it is now endangered in Texas under PWC Chapter 68. Because of the extreme difficulty that anglers will have in distinguishing the smalltooth sawfish from the largetooth sawfish, protection of both is believed to be the only way to protect the listed species. This proposal would prohibit the taking of both.
Red Drum
TPWD will scope two proposals to eliminate the red drum tags. Either option would continue to ensure protection of red drum in Texas and provide the benefits of having the tags without the administrative issues of maintaining tags in the license system. The options presented are:
--One red drum larger than 28 inches may be taken as part of the 3 fish daily bag limit.
--One red drum larger than 28 inches may be taken in addition to the 3 fish daily bag limit
Tarpon
A potential proposal to eliminate the trophy tarpon tag and implement a bag limit of one fish with a minimum size limit that corresponds to the state record. This will allow fishermen to continue to challenge that record while preventing the retention of any other tarpon that may be caught.
Black Drum
TPWD also will scope a proposal similar to the tarpon recommendation of one fish above a maximum size limit (i.e., set at the state record) for black drum.
Southern Flounder
Changing the possession limit on flounder so that it is equal to the bag limit for the recreational fishery. This is already the case in the commercial fishery. This will create some redistribution of the current catches in the recreational fishery and basically limit a person to 10 fish per trip instead of the 20 fish bag they can keep if they fish past midnight now. Part of the rationale is that since flounder mortality from the recreational and commercial harvest makes up only 18 percent of its mortality, changes in the directed fishery will not have a large impacts to the overall population. Current trends in the fishery suggest that recent emphasis on shrimping effort and bycatch are starting to show signs that the flounder fishery is improving.
Tripletail (Lobotes surinamensis)
TPWD will scope a proposal to list tripletail as a game fish, place a minimum size limit of 17 inches and a 3 fish bag limit. Alabama has a 17-inch minimum * and bag limit of three and Florida has a 15-inch limit and bag limit of two.
In addition to these potential proposals, TPWD is looking at the possibility of increasing the fee for hunter education courses from $10 to $15. The increase would enable the agency to recruit more hunter education instructors and thereby provide more convenience through additional class offerings and related enhancements to the program.
Public comment about these issues and others of interest may be made to TPWD, Regulatory Proposals Public Comment, 4200 Smith School Road, 78744, by phoning 800-792-1112 or by visiting the Web (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/)
* Correction, Nov. 7, 2005: The original version of this news release incorrectly stated length limit. The typographical error has been corrected. (Return to corrected item.)
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[ Note: This item is more than nine years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: Tom Harvey, 512-389-4453, tom.harvey@tpwd.texas.gov ] [TH]
Nov. 7, 2005
Lake Houston State Park Transfer Proposed
AUSTIN, Texas -- On Nov. 3, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission heard a proposal to transfer Lake Houston State Park from the state park system to the City of Houston. Commissioners directed Texas Parks and Wildlife Department staff to move forward with formal negotiation with the city and to hold a Dec. 5 local meeting to get public input. The commission could approve the transfer at its Jan. 25 meeting.
Key factors behind the proposed transfer include low public visitation of the state park and a lack of state resources to fully realize public opportunity there, assurances through a legally binding agreement that there would be no change in the park's current recreational character or natural resource and historical characteristics, and clear enthusiasm from the city and counties involved to assume management of the park.
"Because of the financial constraints facing the Texas state park system, and the fact that here we appear to have local partners who have the passion and resources to do a good job of resource stewardship and public service, this transfer looks positive for the park and its resources, for the public and for government," said Robert L. Cook, TPWD executive director. "But, we will do our due diligence as we move forward to make sure this is the right thing to do."
This park lies in three political jurisdictions: the City of Houston, Harris County and Montgomery County. Because the city has all of the park acreage in its ETJ, it is the only government entity eligible for transfer of the entire park.
"We're constantly trying to expand our available recreation opportunities, preserve our green space and improve the quality of life for citizens," said Houston Mayor Bill White at an event to announce the proposed project locally on Oct. 28. "This park project shows what good can be accomplished when we all pull together to make it happen."
The mayor emphasized that with the requested transfer, Houston would gain significant resources to serve its northern metropolitan area. A city news release said "rapid growth in north Harris and south Montgomery County areas begs for the preservation of Lake Houston State Park in the face of impending area development and state budget constraints."
"Planning, preserving and partnering for today and tomorrow is what this effort is all about," said Joe Turner, Houston Parks and Recreation Department director. "Twenty years from now Lake Houston State Park will be surrounded by residential development. What a marvel it will be to have an incredible 5,000-acre park right in the middle of such a development for everyone to enjoy."
Lake Houston State Park contains 4,919.5 acres and is located near New Caney, thirty miles northwest of Houston. The state park was purchased from Champion Paper Company in 1981 and was opened for day-use in 1992; overnight use began in 1995.
The park is situated at the confluence of Caney Creek and the East Fork of the San Jacinto River and extends northward to FM 1485. The terrain consists of many bayous, lakes and canals. Most parts of the park are heavily wooded.
In the early 1980's, the state purchased 4,710 acres from Champion Realty Corporation. In 1990, 202 adjacent acres were bought from the San Jacinto Girl Scout Council, which had been home to Peach Creek Girl Scout Camp since 1955. The Girl Scout Camp and Horse Ranch lodges, camping areas, and trails have all been updated for state park use. Current activities include camping, nature study, bird watching, hiking, biking and horseback riding.
Fiscal year 2005 revenue generated by the state park was $41,695. Annual expenses include about $125,000 in personnel costs and $61,000 in operating expenses.
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[ Note: This item is more than nine years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: Tom Harvey, 512-389-4453, tom.harvey@tpwd.texas.gov ] [TH]
Nov. 7, 2005
Seagrass Protection Authorized for Redfish Bay
AUSTIN, Texas -- The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commissions on Nov. 3 voted to authorize seagrass conservation measures to protect ecologically important seagrass beds in the Redfish Bay State Scientific Area near Rockport. The new rules will take effect May 1, 2006.
Shallow-water seagrasses in Texas bays provide vital nursery areas for diverse marine life, food and cover for game fish, bottom stabilization, and better water quality. Seagrass has declined in many areas on the Texas coast. In Galveston Bay, 95 percent of all seagrass has disappeared. In the Redfish Bay area, the total acreage of seagrass has declined by 13 percent since 1958. The area marks the northernmost extent of one important species commonly known as turtlegrass. This species is particularly susceptible to propeller damage because of the long recovery time when damaged.
This past January, the department acted to continue the Redfish Bay State Scientific Area through 2010 and sought input from anglers, fishing guides, conservation organizations and others on the best ways to protect shallow-water seagrasses from motor boat propeller scarring.
On Aug. 25, the TPW Commission authorized department employees to move forward and take public comments on the proposed mandatory seagrass rules, and the department held three meetings on the Texas coast to get public input.
The new rules define "seagrass plant" as five marine flowering plant species: clover grass (Halophila engelmanni), manatee grass (Syringodium filiformis), shoalgrass (Halodule beaudettei), turtle grass (Thalassia testudinum), and widgeon grass (Ruppia maritima).
The rules make it illegal to uproot seagrass anywhere within the state scientific area. This has been called the "area wide" seagrass proposal for Redfish Bay. Violations would be a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500. A separate proposal to create three smaller propeller up or "no prop" zones inside the state scientific area was not approved by the commission.
Alongside the new rules, department staff said they intend to continue and expand a concerted public education campaign, including extensive efforts to identify and mark access points into the area to minimize seagrass loss.
"We believe we can design clearly marked running lanes to get in and out of these sensitive seagrass areas in a fishing friendly way," McKinney said. "Local communities, fishing guides and conservation groups have said public education is important, and we welcome their help in that area. In fact, while game wardens will be enforcing the new rules, we expect and depend upon voluntary public compliance and support on this issue, just as with all hunting and fishing regulations."
McKinney said TPWD will monitor the results of the new rules and consider whether stronger steps are necessary if seagrass damage continues.
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[ Note: This item is more than nine years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: Tom Harvey, 512-389-4453, tom.harvey@tpwd.texas.gov ] [TH]
Nov. 7, 2005
Motorized Trail Project Proposed in Crockett County
AUSTIN, Texas -- The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission on Nov. 3 delayed a proposal for a $1,359,500 grant to the Texas Motorized Trails Coalition, a not for profit organization, to acquire 3,329 acres in Crockett County for the purpose of developing a managed off-highway vehicle recreation area.
After hearing public testimony for and against the grant proposal, the commission voted to postpone land acquisition for the project. Commissioners directed TPWD staff to work with parties involved to try to bring to the Jan. 26 commission meeting recommendations to accommodate concerns of some neighboring landowners.
Two recently enacted state laws are driving the creation of new off-highway vehicle recreation areas in Texas.
The 78th Texas Legislature enacted Senate Bill 155 several years ago, which closed all navigable stream beds in Texas, except for some parts of the Canadian and Red Rivers, to motorized recreational vehicles. That law also directed the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to "facilitate development of sites for motor vehicle recreation other than protected freshwater areas."
The more recent 79th Texas Legislature last year enacted Senate Bill 1311, which created an off-highway vehicle trail and recreation area program under the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. One of the stated purposes of this program is to establish and maintain a public system of trails and other recreational areas for use by owners and riders of off-highway vehicles.
Funding sources for motorized trails and off-highway vehicle recreation areas in Texas include an older federal gasoline tax and a newer state off-highway vehicle decal that was created by SB 1311 but has not yet been put in place.
The National Recreational Trails Fund (NRTF) is providing the sole source of funding for the Crockett County grant. This is an 80-20 matching grant that requires the trails coalition to come up with an additional amount equal to 20 percent of the federal grant. These grant funds come from a portion of the federal gas tax generated by gasoline purchases to utilize off-road recreational vehicles, such as off-road motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles. The purpose is to create new and maintain existing motorized and non-motorized recreational trails. A federal requirement is that 30 percent of the funds be spent on motorized recreational trail projects, 30 percent on non-motorized trail projects, with the remaining 40 percent discretionary.
The department is now working with vehicle dealers and others to implement the SB 1311 requirement that a person buying a vehicle sold for off road use on public land in Texas must purchase an annual decal. Revenue from decal sales will provide funding for land acquisition and improvements at existing OHV venues. For the first year of the program, the OHV decal will cost $8 and will be current from Jan. 1-Aug. 31, 2006. After the first year, OHV decals will be good from Sep. 1 through the following Aug. 31, matching the TPWD fiscal year. Department staff and other parties involved are still developing a system to sell, distribute and enforce decals, modeled on the TPWD boat registration program. OHV decals should be available for sale beginning in December, and enforcement of the program will begin Jan. 1. A person caught riding on public land without a decal after Jan. 1 could be issued a citation and fined.
The Texas Motorized Trails Coalition has a track record of developing and managing off-highway vehicle recreation areas in Texas. The organization has operated the 1,800-acre Barnwell Mountain Recreational Area in Upshur County in Northeast Texas since 2000. Facilities include showers, restrooms, an air station, pavilion, office and campsites with R/V hookups and electricity.
In 2003, the trails coalition submitted a grant proposal to acquire 2,200 acres in Uvalde County to develop it into an off-road vehicle recreation area. The project was brought to the TPW Commission in August 2003 but was ultimately discontinued after issues were raised concerning access to the property. Since then, the TMTC has been searching for a more suitable site.
The Crockett County site was chosen because of its remoteness, good paved access and low likelihood to impact natural or cultural resources. Access to the site is via state highways, a paved two lane county road and a deeded easement offered by an adjacent landowner who supports the project.
The department held two public meetings in nearby Ozona this fall to get community input and has also done an initial survey of natural and cultural resources. Several people expressed concerns at a Sep. 13 meeting in Ozona, and a more formal public hearing was conducted and recorded on Oct. 6 to identify specific issues. Concerns voiced at the hearing and in written correspondence involve the possibility of increased traffic, noise pollution, grass fires and erosion. The TPWD staff believes these concerns can be addressed by controlling site development to make sure there are adequate visual and noise buffer zones along the perimeter, plus good fences to control traffic and prevent trespass between the site and neighboring land. The trails coalition has said there are two water wells on the property with 20,000 gallon storage, and the group intends to create a fire substation on site.
Regarding erosion concerns, the site contains no running streams or springs. The project calls for silt retention structures to minimize off-site erosion run-off during storm events, which would be constructed before the site is opened to the public. Few, if any structures on adjacent properties are visible from the acquisition site.
After the site is acquired, all necessary natural and cultural resource clearances and permits would be obtained prior to construction. TPWD would oversee development of a site management plan to guide development, and the department would continue to have oversight and control after the OHV park is operating.
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[ Note: This item is more than nine years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: Tom Harvey, 512-389-4453, tom.harvey@tpwd.texas.gov ] [TH]
Nov. 7, 2005
Gonzales Named Shikar-Safari Wildlife Officer of the Year
AUSTIN, Texas -- Game Warden Raul "Pinky" Gonzales of Refugio has been named "Texas Wildlife Officer of the Year" by the wildlife conservation and hunting organization Shikar-Safari International.
Gonzales graduated from the Texas Game Warden Training Academy in February 1987. His first duty station was in Rockport in Aransas County. During his tenure there, he active in what was then known as the "Redfish Wars," which involved the prevention of gill-netting red drum and speckled trout for commercial gain. His efforts in this area are a contributing factor to the outstanding coastal fishing that many Texans enjoy today.
He hash also been involved in numerous water related search and rescue operations. One such rescue occurred when a boat containing three Texans capsized in Copano Bay in the late evening hours. One of the three men was found clinging to a wellhead a short distance from the capsized boat. He later told Gonzales that he was tired and ready to let go of his grip, and had it not been for seeing the game warden's spotlight nearby, he would have given up and drowned.
In 1992, Gonzales transferred to Refugio County, where year after year he has consistently made numerous apprehensions of violators who take deer and other game illegally from county public roads.
During the spring turkey season a few years ago, he rescued three turkey hunters who were suddenly trapped on their hunting lease due to rising floodwaters. He was able to navigate his patrol boat inside the flooded property, maneuvering around trees, brush, and fence posts to make the rescue. One youth hunter, a frightened 11-year old boy, was consoled by Warden Gonzales, who gave the boy step by step instructions throughout the ordeal.
Earlier this year, Gonzales was instrumental in solving a string of burglaries for the Refugio County Sheriff's Department where a large amount of stolen property was recovered. This case was a direct result of the trust that Gonzales has established in his community. A person who would speak only to Gonzales gave him information that enabled him and Sheriff's deputies to recover the stolen property and make an arrest. Additionally, Gonzales discovered that the suspect had killed two calves. Using crime scene investigative procedures and a DNA forensics laboratory, Gonzales was able to identify ownership and the property from which the two calves were rustled, which lead to a guilty verdict.
Gonzales continues to contribute a column in the local newspaper that is well received by the community and he conducts at least one youth hunt annually in Refugio County to introduce youngsters to the outdoors. Many of Refugio County's youth have taken their first deer on one of Gonzales's annual hunts.
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[ Note: This item is more than nine years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: Tom Harvey, 512-389-4453, tom.harvey@tpwd.texas.gov ] [TH]
Nov. 7, 2005
Texas Parks and Wildlife Land Process Improved
AUSTIN, Texas -- The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission on Nov. 3 reviewed a new Texas Parks and Wildlife Department land transaction process designed to make sure that there is adequate and complete public notice of land transactions and that sufficient time is allowed to properly consider transactions.
This process was developed with input from outside stakeholders, including state agencies such as the General Land Office and the Texas Historical Commission, non-governmental organizations such as the Audubon Society, Sierra Club and Nature Conservancy, and landowner groups such as the Texas Wildlife Association.
The process covers four types of land transactions: purchases, sales, trades and transfers. A key provision is that all transactions will be discussed during at least two commission meetings. This means the commission will be briefed on a proposal at one meeting, then there would be a period of review with opportunities for public comment before the commission would act on the proposal at a subsequent meeting. Between commission meetings, a public input meeting will typically be held for major transactions. Any proposed transaction must be posted for public comment at least 30 days before a meeting in which action could be taken.
For land sales, the advance public notice would include sufficient detail to identify the property, price, and basic facts of the proposal. For land trades and transfers, sufficient detail would also be provided. For land purchases, there would be advance notice and an effort to communicate the general nature of the proposal, but this would not include the price, specific location, landowner's name and other details that could affect future land transaction prices or otherwise undermine the agency's negotiating position, a move also designed to protect the seller.
Sales of state-owned inholdings or parcels surrounded by non-TPWD land will be open to the highest bidder, but with the surrounding landowner having first right of offer.
"Housekeeping" transactions of small acreage can be approved by the executive director in consultation with the commission without going through the two meeting process and 30-day public notice.
All transactions are guided by the TPWD Land and Water Conservation and Recreation Plan, a 10-year operational plan which prioritizes public land needs.
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[ Note: This item is more than nine years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ General Media Contact: Business Hours, 512-389-4406 ]
Nov. 7, 2005
Game Warden Service Recognized by Commission
EDITOR'S NOTE: At its Thursday, Nov. 3, public hearing the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopted the following resolution recognizing 110 years of service by Texas Game Wardens. Text of the resolution is provided below as background reference.
Resolution by the
Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Honoring
Texas Game Wardens for 110 Years of Service to the Lone Star State
WHEREAS, The office of fish and oyster commissioner was created by the 24th Texas Legislature in 1895 to enforce the fish and oyster laws of this state; and
WHEREAS, I. P. Kibbe was selected as the first commissioner, at a salary of $150 per month, and he appointed deputies, including William Henry Sterling, one of the first conservation law enforcement officers in Texas, who earned a salary of up to $50 per month, garnered from the sale of licenses and Permits; and
WHEREAS, In 1899, the Fish and Oyster Commission was given jurisdiction over all public waters, including freshwater streams, lakes, and ponds, and four years later the commission's duties were expanded to include commercial shrimping; and
WHEREAS, The agency has undergone several name changes through the years; designated the Game, Fish, and Oyster Commissioner in 1907, Game, Fish, and Oyster Commission in 1929, and Game and Fish Commission in 1951, it was renamed the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in 1963; and
WHEREAS, Two years later, the professionals now known as Texas game wardens were assigned the duty of promoting recreational water safety for persons and property in all recreational waters of the state; and
WHEREAS, In 1971, game wardens were formally recognized as Texas peace officers, with full duties and powers to preserve peace within the state, when the 62nd Texas Legislature extended that designation to all law enforcement officers commissioned by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission; and
WHEREAS, The modern-day equivalent of those early deputy fish and oyster commissioners, Texas game wardens have grown in number from six in 1919 to nearly 500 today; expanding their role to include water-safety enforcement 40 years ago, these dedicated men and women and their predecessors have played a vital role in wildlife conservation for more than a century; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission hereby honor Texas game wardens for 110 years of service to the Lone Star State and commend them for their efforts to safeguard the natural resources of this state for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations; and, be it further
RESOLVED, That an official copy of this resolution be prepared for Texas game wardens as an expression of high regard by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.
APPROVED this the 3rd day of November 2005.
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