Recent Legislation Affects Texas Wildlife, Parks – Lake Mohave

AUSTIN, Texas — New limited-entry management programs for the Texas
oyster and Gulf of Mexico shrimp fisheries, changes in game bird stamps
hunters are required to buy, creation of an all-terrain vehicle trail
program and new or clarified enforcement powers for game wardens are
among the outcomes of bills passed by the 79th Texas Legislature.

– Lake Mohave

The deadline for Gov. Rick Perry to sign or veto bills was June 19,
and a number of bills that became law affect the Texas Parks and
Wildlife Department, its constituents and the state’s fish and wildlife
resources. Below are descriptions of selected bills.

The descriptions below do not constitute legal definitions and are
solely intended to provide brief summaries of new legislation. For
general information on most new laws that affect hunting and fishing
this fall, see the Texas Outdoor Annual booklet, available free in
early August wherever hunting and fishing licenses are sold.

Unless otherwise noted below, all new laws take effect Sept. 1.

  • HB 505 — This bill makes it a Class C
    misdemeanor to discharge a firearm across a private property line while
    hunting or engaging in recreational shooting. The bill contains a
    provision so there is no violation if the person shooting owns both
    sides of the property line or has obtained written landowner permission.
  • HB 506
    Currently, when private property becomes flooded by a public river or
    stream, that land can then be used for hunting. This bill requires a
    person to obtain landowner consent in order to hunt any wild animal or
    wild bird on private land that has been submerged by public water when
    the land is conspicuously marked as privately owned by a sign or signs.
  • HB 883
    Under the Texas Artificial Reef Act of 1989, the Texas Parks and
    Wildlife Department administers the Texas Artificial Reef Program on
    sites permitted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This bill allows
    private citizens, groups, and/or associations to deploy reef material
    under guidelines and rules established by the Texas Parks and Wildlife
    Commission. It would also allow law enforcement agencies that have
    confiscated a derelict watercraft to transfer it to TPWD for use as an
    artificial reef. This bill took effect when the governor signed it on
    May 27.
  • HB 942 — This bill provides that any
    boat 35 years old or older will be included in the antique boat
    classification, which gives boat owners greater flexibility with the
    placement of identification decals. The current definition for an
    antique boat covers any boat manufactured prior to 1968.
  • HB 1076
    As a token of appreciation for the sacrifices being made by active duty
    Texas service members, this bill directs the TPWD Commission to waive
    all fees for hunting and fishing licenses for Texas residents currently
    on active military duty. A Texas resident is defined as a person who
    has resided continuously in the state for more than six months prior to
    applying for a license.
  • HB 1636 — Currently,
    the Parks and Wildlife Code defines “resident” as an individual who has
    resided continuously in Texas for more than six months immediately
    before applying for a hunting, fishing, or other TPWD license. However,
    there are no requirements for documenting whether or not a person is a
    bona fide Texas resident. This bill gives the Texas Parks and Wildlife
    Commission the authority to establish the proof required to demonstrate
    residency for the purpose of obtaining a department license or permit.
    This bill was technically effective when the governor signed it on June
    18, but as a practical matter it won’t take effect until the Parks and
    Wildlife Commission adopts the proposed requirements at the Commission
    Meeting on Aug. 25.
  • HB 1959 — This bill will
    provide an enforcement tool to deter unlawful hunting of deer with dogs
    in certain East Texas counties where the activity has historically
    occurred. It is not intended to prevent lawful hunting, including
    trailing a wounded deer in counties where that is legal. The bill
    applies to 22 East Texas counties, including Angelina, Hardin, Harris,
    Harrison, Houston, Jasper, Jefferson, Liberty, Montgomery, Nacogdoches,
    Newton, Orange, Panola, Polk, Rusk, Sabine, San Augustine, San Jacinto,
    Shelby, Trinity, Tyler and Walker counties. The bill authorizes the
    department to specify the type of firearm a person may have in
    possession during an open deer season, if that person is hunting on
    someone else’s property with a dog. The bill imposes the same penalties
    on hunting deer with dogs as are currently imposed for hunting game
    animals at night, hunting from a vehicle on a public roadway, and
    hunting with artificial light–three examples of violations which
    decreased dramatically in recent years after penalties were increased.
  • HB 2025
    This bill transfers jurisdiction of the Admiral Nimitz State Historic
    Site-National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg to the Texas
    Historical Commission. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department currently
    administers the museum as part of the state park system. This bill took
    effect when the governor signed it on June 18, and TPWD is in the
    process of developing an agreement with THC to transfer operation of
    the museum as directed by the legislation.
  • HB 2026
    This bill repeals some ambiguous language and clarifies statutes
    related to taking wildlife resources, possessing wildlife eggs, and
    disposing of seized wildlife, including exotic livestock and fowl. It
    also repeals the alligator hunting license and allows a person to take
    an alligator with a general hunting license. The bill repeals the
    maximum number of acres for a private bird hunting area and clarifies
    area sign placement. Internet hunting is banned under the provisions of
    this bill with a fine of $200 to $2000 and/or 180 days in jail. A
    person may not engage in computer-assisted remote hunting of any animal
    or bird or provide or operate facilities for computer-assisted remote
    hunting if the animal or bird being hunted is located in Texas. The
    bill also provides a $25 to $500 penalty for a person leaving public or
    private water who does not remove and lawfully dispose of any harmful
    or potentially harmful aquatic plant clinging to the person’s boat,
    trailer or vehicle.
  • HB 2027 — Currently, a
    person may legally hunt state-owned riverbeds in Texas, but this bill
    makes it illegal to shoot a rifle, handgun or arrow from the bed or
    bank of a navigable river or stream in Dimmit, Edwards, Frio, Kenedy,
    Llano, Maverick, Real, Uvalde, or Zavala County. It does allow
    continued hunting in these areas with a shotgun, as long as the hunter
    is using a shotgun loaded with shot or buckshot (not slugs).
  • HB 2032
    The bill broadens the scope of the Operation Game Thief (OGT) Committee
    of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to better support the
    efforts of game wardens to stop natural resource crimes. For the first
    time, it allows OGT to consider reward claims for phone tips involving
    boating while intoxicated (BWI), environmental crimes enforcement and
    several other offenses. OGT operates a toll free phone hotline, (800)
    792-GAME, that allows citizens to report wildlife crimes in Texas, and
    callers can receive cash rewards if convictions result. This bill
    amends the law to allow OGT to consider a reward claim for many other
    violations wardens routinely enforce, including those related to
    shrimping, oystering, water pollution, and solid waste dumping,
    antiquities destruction or damage, arson and criminal mischief,
    criminal trespass, theft, tampering with identification numbers,
    tampering with governmental record, boating while intoxicated,
    intoxication assault, intoxication manslaughter, and payment of sales
    tax on boats and boat motors.
  • HB 2037 — This
    bill permits game wardens to seize personal property and sell, destroy
    or use it if the property owner is convicted of hunting on private
    property without landowner consent. Property that may be seized
    includes items such as a firearm, knife, spotlight, GPS unit, radio,
    mobile phone or other item, but not a vehicle, aircraft, or vessel.
    Under current law, personal property may be seized for some crimes, but
    if the violator crosses onto private property and the landowner files
    criminal charges for hunting without landowner consent, there is no
    provision for seizing the hunter’s property.
  • HB 2555
    This bill provides a legal defense to prosecution for people who act to
    show mercy by humanely dispatching a suffering animal that has been
    left mortally wounded by a non-hunting incident or appears to be a
    diseased animal or an animal that poses a risk of harm to themselves,
    people, or other wildlife. Currently, a person who finds such an animal
    or bird can be prohibited from killing it because it may be out of
    season or because the individual lacks a legal weapon. This bill took
    effect when the governor signed it on May 24. Proposed rules for
    implementing this new law will be adopted at the TPWD Commission
    Meeting on Aug. 25
  • HB 3024 — This bill
    amends the Agriculture Code to facilitate the sale of fish by the owner
    of a private facility to manage fish in a private pond. (Current law
    does not allow
    the sale of fish without an appropriate license issued
    by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department or an Aquaculture License
    issued by the Texas Department of Agriculture.) Under the terms of this
    bill, fish must be collected and purchased by an aquaculture license
    holder. Sales must be documented within thirty days by an invoice
    submitted to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department by the purchaser.
  • SB 272
    This bill establishes a license moratorium for Texas commercial oyster
    licenses due to overcapitalization (too many boats working the water).
    It essentially creates for commercial oyster fishing the same type of
    limited-entry management approach that has been successful in recent
    years for bay shrimping and other Texas fisheries. A central concept of
    the limited-entry strategy is to reduce the number of boats working the
    fishery over time through attrition. This happens when TPWD retires a
    license after a boat leaves the business, thus reducing overall fishing
    pressure and creating more economically viable conditions for those who
    remain in the fishery. The bill authorizes regulated issuance and
    renewal of commercial oyster licenses based on historical participation
    in the fishery. It is needed because the commercial oyster fishery is
    the only Texas inshore open-access commercial fishery resulting in
    economic instability. This is a particular concern during high Texas
    oyster production years that correspond with poor production in other
    states along the Gulf of Mexico. In those years, new entrants from out
    of state can enter the fishery to take advantage of high production,
    thus reducing profits for traditional Texas fishery participants. This
    bill took effect when the governor signed it on May 20.
  • SB 454
    This bill establishes a license moratorium for Texas gulf shrimp
    licenses due to overcapitalization (too many boats working the water).
    It essentially institutes for the Texas gulf shrimp fishery a
    limited-entry management approach similar to that which has been
    beneficial for bay shrimping and other Texas fisheries. The industry
    has suffered in recent years from new entrants in the fishery and
    market conditions as well as increased cost of production. Furthermore,
    a moratorium on shrimp licenses in federal waters (beyond nine nautical
    miles offshore) is anticipated. The result of the federal moratorium
    will be to drive more shrimpers into the gulf waters; thus a license
    moratorium for Texas gulf shrimping is necessary to further limit the
    destabilization of the market for existing participants. SB 454 allows
    regulated issuance and renewal of commercial gulf shrimp licenses based
    on historical participation in the fishery in order to provide greater
    economic stability. This bill took effect when the governor signed it
    on May 20.
  • SB 489 — This bill authorizes the
    TPWD Commission to adopt rules to revoke and suspend boat dealer
    licenses for rules infractions. It also requires boat dealers,
    distributors, or manufacturers to enter into a license agreement with
    TPWD and it redefines “dealer” to eliminate the requirement that a
    dealer be at an established or permanent place of business. The
    department currently has authority to issue marine dealer licenses, but
    there is no procedure to revoke a license.
  • SB 804
    This bill strengthens TPWD’s legal claim to collect money from the sale
    of hunting and fishing licenses and other licenses and permits that
    support conservation work. One key feature of the bill is to prevent a
    significant financial loss of conservation revenue to TPWD in the event
    of a license deputy bankruptcy. This bill took effect when the governor
    signed it on June 17.
  • SB 1192 — This bill
    reorganizes the existing three Texas game bird stamps–the white-winged
    dove stamp, waterfowl stamp, and turkey stamp–into two new stamps. The
    new $7 Migratory Bird Stamp will cover all migratory game birds, such
    as ducks, geese, doves, and cranes. The new $7 Upland Game Bird Stamp
    covers all resident game birds, such as turkey, quail, and pheasants.
    The new configuration would provide funding to all species currently
    covered by the existing stamps, as well address concerns about
    declining species like mourning doves and quail. The new stamps will
    enable the department to improve its ability to measure hunter
    participation, and harvest of a number of these species. The stamp
    reorganization would provide much-needed flexibility for TPWD to use
    stamp funds where the greatest species and habitat needs lie. For
    example, research is needed for mourning doves, which population
    surveys indicate have been declining for years. However, white-winged
    dove stamp funds currently cannot be used for mourning dove research.
    The stamp reorganization is also expected to provide funding and
    flexibility needed to research and address quail population declines.
    This bill was technically effective when the governor signed it on June
    17, but as a practical matter it won’t take effect until new season
    hunting and fishing licenses go on sale Aug. 15.
  • SB 1311
    This bill establishes, within the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department,
    a program to provide a system of trails and recreational areas for use
    by off-highway vehicles. The program is to be self-funded through the
    purchase of decals, fines levied for offenses relating to the operation
    of off-highway vehicles, and funds and grants received from the federal
    government and other sources determined by the department. The
    legislative analysis for the bill estimated nearly 60,000 off-highway
    vehicles were sold in 2001 in Texas and about 1.3 million users of
    off-highway vehicles and off-highway motorcycles in the state. However,
    Texas has only about six sites specifically intended for off-road use,
    and none of them use a management program. The bill envisions
    designated trails to allow off-road recreation while protecting natural
    habitats by limiting off-road vehicle usage in sensitive areas.

– Lake Mohave

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