Presenter: Larry McKinney

Commission Agenda Item No. 4
Science Review Update
May 24, 2007

I. Executive Summary: The Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Plan created by an ad hoc committee of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission in 2002 set as a priority goal to improve science and data collection and undertake a complete review of all scientific and conservation programs. That review was initiated in 2003 and completed in 2005.

The mission of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is "To manage and conserve the natural and cultural resources of Texas and to provide hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation opportunities for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations." To achieve this mission, TPWD has historically collected data on the terrestrial and aquatic resources of the state through the efforts of field staff in the Wildlife, Resource Protection, Coastal Fisheries and Inland Fisheries divisions. Three resource management emphases are fundamental to TPWD's conservation mission: (1) wildlife management - Wildlife/State Parks Divisions; (2) freshwater fisheries management - Inland Fisheries Division; and (3) saltwater fisheries management - Coastal Fisheries Division. Conservation is not the exclusive responsibility of any particular division. All divisions have responsibilities in ecosystem management (habitat, water quality, etc.).

TPWD staff routinely review and provide recommendations on activities (404 permits and water permits, etc.) that may adversely affect fish and wildlife. Often special studies are initiated to answer questions important to the conservation of species and the habitats upon which they depend. Management and regulatory decisions depend upon comprehensive and ongoing monitoring to detect status and trends in species populations and/or ecosystem health. Extensive databases have been developed to support these analytical needs.

Policy, regulatory and management decisions affecting fish and wildlife resources must be based on sound science to achieve conservation goals. An effective conservation model consists of three elements: good science - studies and monitoring necessary to build knowledge base and identify ecologically significant trends; sound management practices to use scientific knowledge in effective and common sense applications; and, a comprehensive strategic plan that incorporates those tools in a coordinated manner to achieve identified goals. The fundamental element of that model is the scientific base, and it is important to assure that it is sound and has the highest quality and most appropriate application of means and methods. The best way of doing so is via peer review and assessment of our science base.

Outside experts were engaged to carry out the peer review. An American Fisheries Society panel of national experts reviewed TPWD Inland and Coastal Fisheries Divisions practices. The Wildlife Management Institute reviewed practices in the Wildlife and State Parks Divisions. In perhaps the highest-profile review, a National Academy of Sciences panel reviewed river instream flow work practices done by TPWD, the Texas Water Development Board and other partners.

The various reviews were completed by 2005 and the results were very satisfactory. In all areas, the reviewers acknowledged a fundamental soundness in the science base of the management divisions. Additionally, the reviewers had specific recommendations they felt would help improve the science base. Since 2005, the various divisions affected have evaluated and implemented those recommendation where deemed appropriate. Staff will brief the Commission on the implementation progress to date.