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TPWD Seeks Outside Review of Science Practices
AUSTIN, Texas — This month, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department began a voluntary review of its scientific methods by three separate outside groups. The focus is not the agency’s management or policy decisions, but the science upon which those decisions are based.
The highest-profile review is a National Academy of Sciences study of the methodology used by TPWD and other agencies to determine Texas river instream flow recommendations. The estimated cost is $300,000, to be paid by the Texas Water Development Board. The NAS brought together a panel of national experts on water science and engineering for the review.
The department, the TWDB and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality are now beginning a complex, long-term series of studies on Texas river instream flows, to be complete by 2010. Water experts from the three agencies have given their work plan to the NAS, which will issue a report expected to include recommendations for improvements by this October. Anyone can follow the process at on the Web (http://www.twdb.state.tx.us/InstreamFlows/NASreview/NAS_overview.html).
The American Fisheries Society is leading a science review for the TPWD Coastal Fisheries and Inland Fisheries divisions. The Wildlife Management Institute will review the TPWD Wildlife and State Parks divisions’ science-based activities. Funding for both of these efforts is coming from federal State Wildlife Grants, $55,000 for the fisheries review and $70,000 for wildlife/parks, with work to be complete by January 2005.
"Our biologists have been doing good science for a long time, and parts of what we do have been peer reviewed," said Ron George, who has for many years coordinated dozens of research projects annually for the Wildlife Division.
George said these often involve university researchers working alongside TPWD biologists. When TPWD scientists publish reports in scientific journals, such as the Journal of Wildlife Management, these are sent to several anonymous experts in the field for review. He noted that other activities have not been peer-reviewed.
"I suspect the Wildlife Management Institute may tell us that some of what we’re doing is state of the art, the best in the nation, such as our private lands technical guidance program and Landowner Incentive Program, which are models that are being copied in other states and at the federal level," George said.
"I also expect they’ll find some things that need a little improvement, and a few things that are outdated and need to be eliminated."
The Wildlife Institute will also review scientific methods used by the Natural Resources Program staff in State Parks. These employees coordinate stewardship services, natural resource data collection and monitoring, and develop management plans for state parks.
The American Fisheries Society will review TPWD sampling procedures, data collection, and methods used to evaluate data. They’ll be working with Dick Luebke, head of Inland Fisheries Division research at the Heart of the Hills Fisheries Research Station near Kerrville, and Mark Fisher, Coastal Fisheries Division science director.
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