Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Hide Alert Show Alert

Stay up-to-date on operations adjustments and temporary closure of TPWD offices, state parks, recreation facilities and water access points due to COVID-19. Please follow guidance from local authorities, Governor Greg Abbott and the Texas Department of State Health Services.

 

TPW Commission

Special Commission Meeting, July 16, 2015

Transcript

TPW Commission Meetings

July 16, 2015

TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT
COMMISSION HEARING ROOM
4200 SMITH SCHOOL ROAD
AUSTIN, TEXAS 78744

COMMISSION MEETING

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Good morning, everyone. This meeting is called to order July 16th, 2015, at 9:02 a.m. Before proceeding with any business, I believe Mr. Smith has a statement to make.

MR. SMITH: I do. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners.

Public notice of this meeting containing all items on the proposed agenda has been filed in the Office of the Secretary of State as required by Chapter 551 Government Code referred to as the Open Meetings Act. I would like for this fact to be noted in the official record of the meeting.

Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, I just want to join all of you in welcoming everybody. We have got a bunch of people that have come in from all over the state, not only is this room full; but so, too, is our overflow room. I do want to make sure that if folks need another place to go, that we've got an additional room where folks can go or if you need a place to make a phone call or have a private conversation, please let our folks know out there so that we can accommodate you while you're here.

I know people in this room, as well as the folks in the overflow room, have an intense personal interest in terms of the discussion that we're about to have. We know that it has a direct and indirect impact on every single person in this room and we appreciate the fact that you care and that you cared enough to join us today. And so on behalf of all of us, thank you for that. We've got a lot of folks that are here that have not had an opportunity to come to a Parks and Wildlife Commission meeting before and so if I could just quickly, kind of here are the rules of the road of the protocol as we go forward today.

Just  and everybody will get this. Just out of respect for the meeting and deliberations of the Commissioners, I'd ask everybody to silence your cell phone if you don't mind. Also, if you've got a conversation you need to have, if you don't mind stepping outside so it doesn't disturb the rest of the meeting, that would be great and very helpful. Bathrooms are around the hall out here for those of you who need those. Feel free to make yourself at home whenever you need that, come and go. Just ask that you do it as quietly and discretely as possible.

Last thing I'll mention, testimony today is invited only. And so there's only a certain suite of folks that have been invited to speak to the Commission and I want to let you know who those are. Dr. Walt Cook from Texas A&M, The College of Veterinary Medicine, will present to the Commission. He'll be followed by Dr. Andy Schwartz, epidemiologist and Assistant Director at the Texas Animal Health Commission. After Dr. Schwartz will be Clayton Wolf, who's the Wildlife Division Director with the Texas Parks and Wildlife; and then we've also invited special invited testimony from some of the leading stakeholder groups that are keenly interested in this. We have David Yeates, who's the CEO and President of the Texas Wildlife Association. We have Chase Clark, who's the President of the Texas Deer Association. We have Dr. Roel Lopez, who's a professor at Texas A&M and the Director of the Institute for Renewable Natural Resources and the current President of the Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society. And we have Chris Timmons, who's the President of the Deer Breeders Corporation.

And so those will be the speakers today, and the Chairman will manage that as we go forward. Again, we appreciate very much all of you joining us and thanks for being with us today.

Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, I'll turn it back over to you. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you, Carter. And, again, we want to thank everybody for being here today. We're here to discuss Chronic Wasting Disease. This Commission and this Department take the Chronic Wasting very serious. As Carter said, we have several invited guests that are going to speak; and after the  after we've heard from all of our guests today, we're going into an Executive Session to discuss our  with our legal counsel to discuss what our options are. So we appreciate you being here today.

MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman, if I could, also I do want to acknowledge a couple of our State Reps that have joined us and I'm sorry, I should have said that  Representative Lyle Larson is here with us and Representative John Kuempel.

And so, Representative Larson and Kuempel, thank y'all for being with us today. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Yeah, thank  welcome for being here.

Okay. Our action item for today is Chronic Wasting Disease, discovery and response. Our first speaker is going to be Dr. Walt Cook, Texas A&M University. Please make your presentation.

DR. COOK: Thank you, Chairman Hughes and Members of the Committee or the  I'm sorry  the Commission. And there we are.

I was basically asked to give you a 101 Chronic Wasting Disease update. I've got a little cheat sheet that's being handed out that's got my contact information on the back and it pretty well summarizes what I'll be discussing here this morning. It's my pleasure and I'm honored to be here. I'm saddened that I have to be here under these particular circumstances, however. And I did want to mention that this is basically a compilation of lectures that Dr. Don Davis, who's retiring from A&M now, and myself have put together over the years. So I've borrowed some slides from him that I wanted to acknowledge. That does not mean that he necessarily agrees with me on everything I'm about to present and so I'll just submit that.

So Chronic Wasting Disease is one of the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies or TSEs in humans. Creutzfeldt-Jokab Disease is the main one that we're concerned about and then there is a variant of Creutzfeldt-Jokab Disease, which basically has been transmitted from cattle and then Kuru is a human-to-human disease amongst cannibals, which is essentially disappearing now. Cattle, BSE, Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy is the one that's got all the headlines and has had the link to human variant Creutzfeldt-Jokab Disease, although I will mention that even with that disease, it's very rare for humans to get that, even humans that have been exposed to it.

In sheep, we've had Scrapie. We've literally had Scrapie for hundreds of years in sheep, and there's no association with human disease in that  in that Scrapie. Chronic Wasting Disease affects some cervid species we'll talk about, but there's no evidence that it can be transmitted to humans. And then there are a variety of other TSEs that are out there in mink, cats, some other species; and none of those have been found to be transmissible to humans.

So BSE is one of the significant driving forces beyond the hysteria of all transmissible spongiform encephalopathies that are out there; but it's the only one that's been shown to be zoonotic, and we need to keep that in mind. It's the only one that's ever been known to be transmitted to humans. It  the variant CJD that humans can get has a very long incubation period and one of the interesting things that we find with variant Creutzfeldt-Jokab Disease is that humans  older age humans that get exposed, tend to be less likely to come down with the disease than younger people that get exposed.

So the concept that we're going to talk about here is the prion. That's what we usually think of as the infectious agent. And the prion is basically an abnormal form of a normal protein that's found in the brain and so we call that normal PrPc. The "C" stands for cellar because it's associated with normal cells. And that's found in most tissues, but particularly in the central nervous system and particularly in the brain and it's dominated by alpha helices  that's not particularly important, but we'll have that in as comparison. And it is capable of being digested by proteases, by enzymes that destroy proteins.

We don't really know what the purpose of the cellular PrP is, but we do know that it binds copper and so may have a role in protecting the brain and other tissues from copper toxicity  excuse me. We know it has some superoxide dismutase activity. So it may have a role in preventing damage from free radicals and it may have a role in maintaining nerve-to-nerve transmission or homeostasis or it may serve as a cell service receptor.

The first prion that was kind of described was the Scrapie prion and so you'll see often in the literature, they still kind of use that as the model. So you have PrP with a subscript or superscript SC for Scrapie or sometimes it will be written as PrP with Res for "resistant" or in particular with Chronic Wasting Disease, the proper terminology would be PrP sub  or superscript CWD. But in contrast to the normal cellular protein, we've got beta sheets instead of the alpha sheets. So there's a conformational change in the normal cellular protein that gives rise to those aberrant forms in Scrapie or Chronic Wasting Disease or BSE.

The aberrant form, the prion form, is in contrast with the normal cellular form, is highly insoluble and is resistant to those protease enzymes. So here we've got a picture. It shows kind of on the normal  the normal side on the left is your normal cellular PrP protein, and on the right is the abnormal form or the prion form or the infectious form. And essentially what happens here is you get one of the abnormal forms gets introduced, however that happens, then it interacts with one of the normal forms. And when they come together, the abnormal one basically changes the conformation of the normal one and makes it into an abnormal one and now you've got two abnormal ones that then go out and contact other normal proteins and convert them and so that way it kind of snowballs until you get conversion of a large number of these proteins. And when that happens, the structure of the brain breaks down ultimately.

And so what you can see here, this is a picture of a microscopic picture of a brain of an animal infected with Chronic Wasting Disease. You can see all these holes in this picture. So those holes kind of make it  microscopically  resemble a sponge. Now, if you had the brain sitting in front of you, you would not notice anything different about it. It would look completely normal to you; but microscopically it will have those holes and so they call that a spongiform change and, hence, where it gets its name.

History of Chronic Wasting Disease, it was first identified in elk in Colorado State University at one of their research pens. The origin of it, that was in the late 60s; and originally, they thought it was a nutritional problem because they saw these animals were getting skinnier and acting weird and they tried a whole bunch of different diets to try to resolve it and, of course, they were unable to. The origin is unknown. There are several hypotheses, and these aren't all of them by any means. But one might be that it's a natural disease of elk and deer. One might be that it's basically a change from Scrapie, the disease of sheep, that then somehow got adapted to deer and elk. Maybe that elk and deer were fed feed that was contaminated with brain material or other material that had some kind of a TSE in it, or that it's a spontaneous genetic mutation in the deer prion. And like I said, we don't know and there are certainly other hypotheses as well.

The species that are involved, the classic species are White-tailed deer, elk, and Mule deer and Black-tailed deer; but we also know more recently that moose can be affected, although there's been very few numbers of moose. Sika deer are kind of an interesting one. The Koreans have reported that they had some Sika deer that had Chronic Wasting Disease, but that's never made it into the scientific literature; and so because of that, officially they're not considered a susceptible species. And Red deer we clearly know are susceptible to Chronic Wasting Disease and the hybrids of these species, as well.

So what do we see with Chronic Wasting Disease? Well, the first thing is reduced appetite and polydipsia/polyuria means that they're drinking a lot and they're urinating a lot. And the classic sign, of course, is the loss of body weight. They get skinnier and skinnier. Oftentimes, they'll carry their head down low and their ears will be lowered.

The damage that occurs to the brain seems to affect the animal's ability to swallow; and so you'll see an increased salvation, slobbering, and drooling. Incoordination, ataxia means that they're kind of stumbling around and sometimes their head will shake a little bit and they have this kind of classic wide-body stance, like a sawhorse type stance is what we refer to it. Now, none of these signs are pathognomonic. You cannot diagnose Chronic Wasting Disease just by looking at an animal. You have to test it to know whether they actually have it.

So here is an elk. This elk was an elk from the Sybille Research Unit where I used to do some work. And so this is the classic signs that you can see how she's standing there with that sawhorse stance, you can see how emaciated she is, you can see she's drooling, her ears are down, her head's down, and she has that kind of rough hair coat. That's another classic sign that we often see.

Here is an elk at the Colorado facility. Again, you can see the same things here  the emaciation, the drooling, the poor hair coat. Another one  another one from the Wyoming facility. Again, that classic sawhorse stance that they get. And a Mule deer at the Fort Collins facility. Same kind of thing, we see the emaciation. You can kind of appreciate the sawhorse stance there a little bit, the ear's down, head a little bit droopy. And this is an actual wild animal, a wild Mule deer. And, again, you can see the emaciation. This one's a little more attentive; but still doesn't look very healthy, certainly.

Well, how is Chronic Wasting Disease transmitted? Well, we know it can be transmitted by close contact with other infected animals or the infected food and the environment can be contaminated and that can play a big role. Chronic Wasting Disease prions are shed in the saliva and the urine and feces and so other animals that come in direct contact with those materials can be infected or those materials can contaminate the environment. In addition to that, if an animal dies that has Chronic Wasting Disease, as that carcass decomposes, the brain and spinal cord in particularly will also contaminate the environment with the prions. And we do know that once the environment is contaminated, it stays contaminated for many years, if not decades; and I think part of that is dependent on how heavily contaminated it is.

So how do we diagnose Chronic Wasting Disease? Well, the gold standard is immunohistochemistry tests performed on the obex or retropharyngeal lymph nodes of the head. So the obex is basically the brain stem and the retropharyngeal lymph nodes are two lymph nodes that lie on either side of the pharynx. The immunohistochemistry test is an antibody test  base test. So basically, you take an antibody to the prion and that antibody is tagged with a dye that will show up when that antibody binds to the protein, to the prion. There are other tests out there. There's and ELISA that's more rapid, not quite as sensitive. There are some other tests that are being worked on that are in development that look like they may be very sensitive and more rapid. All the tests that have been officially recognized tests are postmortem. In other words, the animal has to be dead in order for you to get  obviously, to get a sample of the brain stem or of these lymph nodes, the animal has to be dead.

However, there are some antemortem tests  in other words, live animal tests  that have been used  have been used actually quite extensively in research, and that's a tonsil biopsy or a rectal biopsy. So when this  when these animals get infected, the infection spreads throughout their lymphatic system and so any place that you've got lymphoid tissue, you can have prions; but it usually starts at the head and then goes towards the back. So for that reason, the tonsils will turn positive more quickly or earlier in the stage of the disease than the rectum will; but there are lymphoid tissues in the rectum, and so that can be used. And as I mentioned, there are others in development, including a test of actually testing the saliva.

So in the old days, we used to use just microscopic examination and so you'd look for the spongiform change and if the animal had that spongiform change, you would call it a positive and if it didn't, you'd say it was either negative or a not detected. Well, spongiform change comes along pretty late in the progression of the disease. So this immunohistochemistry is much more sensitive. It allows us to detect animals well before they become clinically apparent with Chronic Wasting Disease. So here you can see this is an obex and you can see the little pink staining there on each side. That's your IHC, your immunohistochemistry binding to that, to those prions in that location.

How do we prevent Chronic Wasting Disease? Well, there's no vaccine available. There is some work being made towards vaccine development, some promising work; but it's still several years off I would say at best. Once animals get infected with Chronic Wasting Disease, it is invariably fatal. Although, animals can live for a very long time with it. It can take anywhere from a couple of years to many years before the animal actually dies. But preventing exposure is how you prevent disease. So, for example, importing cervids from a known Chronic Wasting Disease endemic area is not a good idea because we know that we can transmit the disease that way. And that means both live and dead animals. It's important not to bring in particularly brain and spinal cord, but other organs from known infected areas to new areas, as you can transmit it that way.

Saying that, we recognize we can't stop natural migration. So wild animals are going to migrate, and we know that that's one way that CWD has expanded its range. There is an interesting aspect to Chronic Wasting Disease. And first, I'll just tell you about the disease Scrapie in sheep. For the disease Scrapie in sheep, the strains that we have in the United States, there are genetic forms of sheep that are completely resistant to Scrapie and that's been for useful in the Scrapie eradication program because by using those genetically resistant animals, you can develop a herd that's resistant to Scrapie.

Unfortunately with Chronic Wasting Disease, there is no absolute resistance as there is with Scrapie in sheep. However, there are some genetic variations that are relatively resistant. Which means that they're less likely to get infected in the first place; and if they do get infected, the clinical course is longer. So whereas an average, say, Mule deer or White-tailed deer might die of Chronic Wasting Disease two and a half years after getting exposed, these more genetic resistant animals might live three and a half, maybe even pushing four years before they die; but they will ultimately die if they get infected.

So there's no evidence of natural transmission of Chronic Wasting Disease to domestic animals, livestock, or other non-cervid species. You can experimentally transmit it by intracranial inoculation. In other words, putting brain tissue from a diseased deer in  directly into the brain of a domestic cow. You can transmit the disease that way; but we recognize that's not realistic, that's not the natural way animals get exposed.

An interesting aspect is that by using mice, you can put mice and breed mice that have  that are exhibiting the normal cellular protein of deer and those mice, if you expose them to Chronic Wasting Disease, they'll come down with a TSE. But if you give them the human form of that PrP protein, those mice will not come down with a TSE. So we do have some evidence  not only do we have no evidence that Chronic Wasting Disease is transmissible to humans, we do have some evidence that it is not transmissible to humans. We also know that in Colorado and Wyoming where this disease has existed for at least 40 years and probably 50 or 60 years in the wild, we know that a lot of hunters have consumed meat from animals that were positive and there's no evidence of any human disease.

Both the Wyoming Health Department and the Colorado Health Department track  excuse me, will track hunters that have hunted in their endemic areas and specifically looking to see if any of those hunters will die of a neurologic disease and they have found no associated risk with hunting in those areas. So it does put wildlife agencies at a bit of a conflict because at least most wildlife agencies require that harvested game be consumed. At the same time, they also  it's just standard practical advice to advise against consuming meat from any diseased animal, and that's basically following the standard that we use for domestic meat production. Animals that are diseased are not passed for carcass consumption. And so as a wildlife agency, you really can't tell people they should eat something from an animal that's diseased, regardless of the cause.

That does send a mixed message to the public, though, because on one hand you're saying this disease is not known to be transmissible to humans, the evidence is that it cannot be transmitted to humans; but don't eat it. I'll tell you that myself  in Wyoming, it's left up to the individual hunter if they get a positive animal. And I harvested an elk several years ago, and the adult turned out to be positive for Chronic Wasting Disease. Well, I ate it. That was my choice; and I don't think I look like I'm wasting away, do I?

We do know that as our detection methods have gotten better, we're able to detect prions in additional tissues. Several years ago I could have told you that we find prions in brain and spinal cord and some internal organs, but we don't find it in skeletal muscle. Well, now the test  the techniques have gotten more sensitive, and we do find it in skeletal muscle. However, it's at a much lower level. So the brain is the  has got the most  the highest level of prions; then the spinal cord; then the lymph nodes; some other organs, heart; and then skeletal muscle has the least that we're able to detect right now. So it's kind of a reasonable precaution not to eat brain, the spinal cord, or the lymph nodes of head of any animal; and luckily most people don't want to eat that stuff anyway.

So here is the map of Chronic Wasting Disease as of May. You can see as of May 2015, only the far little corner of West Texas is included; and so Texas isn't showing up there as being one. The yellow shows where wild infected CWD animals have been found, and the gray is showing where captive has been found. So you can see the state of Wyoming there, and it's more than half yellow. So Wyoming has a lot of Chronic Wasting Disease and has had for a long time.

Should we be concerned about Chronic Wasting Disease? Well, I'm going to show you some evidence that we should be concerned about it; but that doesn't mean we need to panic about it. There's no evidence that it has a widespread population level impacts, but some local populations have experienced declines that we believe are due to Chronic Wasting Disease. The long-term impacts on metapopulations is unknown at this point, and we also know that different areas may experience different levels of Chronic Wasting Disease. There's an awful lot of variables that go into  into the equation.

Chronic Wasting Disease can kill in different ways. The most obvious is direct mortality. You can appreciate those animals that I showed you pictures of. They weren't going to be alive for very much longer when an animal gets to that state. So animals can die directly from Chronic Wasting Disease. However, in the wild, it's usually from indirect mortality. So we know that animals with Chronic Wasting Disease  and this stands to reason  are more susceptible to the hunters and they're more susceptible to predators. They're more susceptible to forms of trauma, including being hit by a car. One that I didn't put on there, but I should have, is secondary diseases. I mentioned to you that these animals tend to have a more difficult time in their swallowing. Well, because of that, sometimes they'll aspirate and they'll get fluid or food down into their lungs and so a lot of times they'll die acutely of aspiration pneumonia; but that was originally incited by the fact that they had Chronic Wasting Disease.

We also know that, of course, Chronic Wasting Disease in the end stages looks like those pictures I showed you; but we know that it doesn't  an animal is not perfectly healthy one day and the next day it looks like that. There's a long transition. And as a human being, we can look at an animal and we can appreciate when it looks normal and we can appreciate when it looks like it has  it's starting to have signs of Chronic Wasting Disease. But these form of indirect mortality that I'm telling you about  like predation and being hit by cars  those forms will occur oftentimes very early in the disease. An animal that you and I would look at and we'd say that animal looks normal, still is at increased risk from mortality from predators, hunters, and cars.

So Chronic Wasting Disease transmission, I've already talked about this a little bit, the direct transmission animal to animal, the indirect transmission of animal to the environment and to an animal. And the point I'm making here is that direct is probably more important early. What I mean there is early once when the disease arrives to a new location. So when an area that has not had Chronic Wasting Disease before, when it first comes into that area, the most important form of transmission is going to be directly from one animal to another.

As that disease has been there longer, the environment gets more contaminated and so  and then indirect becomes more important later as that disease has been there. And as with most diseases, there's pretty good indication that the dose plays a role. So a higher dose that animal is exposed to, the more likely they'll come down with Chronic Wasting Disease; and maybe to some extent, it may have an impact on the course of how long that disease takes to progress.

So I want to share with you a couple of studies from Wyoming and Colorado. This is to serve as a cautionary tale. I'm not trying to predict what's going to happen anywhere else because there are too many variables, and I also want to put the caveat in there that there are some populations in Colorado and Wyoming that have Chronic Wasting Disease that don't seem to be experiencing any impacts. So Table Mountain, Colorado, this is wild population. This is a non-hunted population. It has abundant habitat, Mule deer. But it has a high prevalence, 41 percent of the males and 20 percent of the females have Chronic Wasting Disease in this area. And from '88 to 2006, that population declined by 45 percent; and so the question is: Was that due to Chronic Wasting Disease?

Well, they used tonsil biopsies and radio collars to look at survival and what they found was that having Chronic Wasting Disease dramatically reduced life expectancy. So a negative animal that they collared, their life expectancy from the time they were collared was about  a little over five years. Whereas a positive animal  and, again, many of these positive animals were ones that we would not recognize as having the disease yet; but their life expectance was only 1.8 years. And another interesting finding that they found was that mountain lion predation was four times higher for the Chronic Wasting Disease positives than for the negatives. But that study, they were not able to absolutely conclude that their population reduction was due to Chronic Wasting Disease. They could only say that it certainly had an impact on life expectancy.

A more thorough study was done in Glenrock, Wyoming; and I was part of this study. This is a White-tailed deer population that is hunted. This particular population at one time was known for producing a large number of trophy bucks. It was a pretty famous area. And the game wardens have noticed that over the years, they've had fewer and fewer of these really nice, big trophy bucks; but it's got a high prevalence. In this herd, we're looking at 29 percent of the males being positive and 42 percent of the females being positive and the prevalence has been increasing over the last several decades since surveillance has been conducted.

So we did a study where we took tonsil biopsies in radio-collared animals, and basically we were looking at cohorts. So we would capture as many fawns as we could initially and tonsil biopsy them and then recapture them every year, take another tonsil biopsy, and then compare positives to negatives. And it was a pretty extensive study. I'm not going to go into all of it, but this is kind of the important results. The lambda  the lambda is the population growth rate. So if you want a population to be stable, the lambda needs to be at 1.0. Anything over one, the population is growing. Anything less than one, the population is declining. And the lambda in this case is 0.89. So it's declining relatively rapidly, about a 10 percent annual population decline. And the prediction is that if nothing changes, that population will go extinct in 48 years; and our results pretty clearly indicate that these declines are due to Chronic Wasting Disease.

The good news is, as I said, if nothing changes. Well, so we know that we can reduce hunting pressure. And, in fact, the model suggests that if you eliminate doe harvest in this area, that population will be stable. Some other interesting findings from that study was that Chronic Wasting Disease had the biggest impact on the two-year-old age class and that the age structure shifted to younger deer. So over time, the average age of the animals went down; and that may be what explains the reduction in trophy bucks. If you have fewer animals living to be  to make it to their prime years, then you're going to have fewer animals that get old enough, big enough to be the trophy-sized animals.

One of the other interesting things that we found was that we didn't find any new infections after deer were six years old. So the two year olds were ones that were most likely to get new infections, but the six year olds and older were  we were not getting any new infections in them. So that kind of correlates to what I mentioned with variant Creutzfeldt-Jokab Disease in humans where I mentioned that the older people that were exposed to it were less likely to get infected. So that's just kind of an interesting finding, I think.

So as I said, I don't want this to be predictive. I'm not saying that what we saw in Glenrock is going to happen elsewhere. We don't have any evidence of large-scale impacts, and we know there's an awful lot of variables that go into how Chronic Wasting Disease is going to impact a population. Among those are animal density. Clearly it's density dependent, and when the animals are more densely  and that kind of stands to reason, particularly when you're looking at that direct transmission. The more densely populated that population is, the more easily transmission can occur.

Also, when that happens, you also get the environment more heavily contaminated; and so that level of contamination of the environment builds up with animal density. Genotypes, as I mentioned  and we found that in that study, that genotypes make an impact. The species that are involved, in the wild we know that White-tailed deer and Mule deer tend to be more susceptible than elk do. There are a bunch of hypotheses for why. We also know that soil type can have a big impact on how long the environment stays contaminated and how available those prions become for infection. So the bottom line is there's no way to predict what's going to happen with Chronic Wasting Disease when it gets introduced to a new population.

Some recommendations about how to manage Chronic Wasting Disease  first of all, don't panic and use common sense. We know that once Chronic Wasting Disease gets established, it's virtually impossible to eradicate. Now, if you can get a handle on it before it's established, maybe you have a chance. But once it's established, you're looking at controlling or containing it; and let's recognize that. Recognize that it may have population level impacts, but  and recognize that we can mitigate for those and those decisions may have to be made; but importantly, that will take decades to occur. So it's not something we have to react to immediately and worry about in that regard; but recognize that in the coming decades, it may become something that needs to be addressed.

As I mentioned, there are several things that are occurring, research that's being done, particularly with regard to both treatment and with regard to vaccination. Those options may become available before Chronic Wasting Disease builds up in any new populations to a concernable level and try to prevent environmental contamination. As far as I'm concerned, the environmental contamination is what makes Chronic Wasting Disease difficult. If it was simply an animal-to-animal transmission thing, I don't think we would see the prevalences in those areas get nearly that high and it would be much more easy for us to deal with and manage. But with that environmental contamination, that makes it more complicated.

So how do we minimize environmental contamination? Well, we've talked about this in the CWD task force. The clear and obvious thing that needs to happen is that we don't bring that infectious material into new areas. So we don't want people bringing in particularly brain, spinal cords, and internal organs from known endemic areas to new areas. So many States have implemented this. They're requiring carcasses be boned out or at least that the brain and spinal cord be removed before those carcasses are brought in to their states and I think that's a very wise thing to do and I would encourage the Commission to consider that. And to the extent possible, remove live sources of the Chronic Wasting Disease prion. So if you've got a known positive animal, that animal needs to be removed. That's just plain and simple, and I think that's common sense.

We also want to sacrifice or remove high-risk animals. Well, what are high-risk animals? First of all, any animal showing signs that are consistent with Chronic Wasting Disease would be considered high risk. So we want to remove those animals and not let them contaminate the environment. And any animal that's had known contact with high-risk or with known positive animals should be removed as well.

If animals are going to be kept alive, one of my recommendations  I know one of the things that both the CWD task force and others have talked about is possibly using some of these live animal tests that are out there. I would want to see sequential tests being done on those animals. And so the reasoning is we know the tonsil biopsy test is almost as sensitive as the postmortem obex and retropharyngeal lymph node tests. It's almost as good. So the difference is if you get a false negative on an obex, you don't have to worry about that because that animal is dead. That animal is not shedding prions into the environment. If you get a false negative on a live animal test, that animal is still alive and could potentially be shedding prions.

So we know at the very early stages of the disease when animals first get infected, that there's a lag period there before they will test positive. So that's why I would want to have a second test done, just in case that animal was very recently infected when the first biopsy was done. Six to nine months later, let's test that animal again, make sure that it is truly negative.

I do support trying a new approach. I'm kind of excited about some of the things that are being considered here. This is in contrast to what's been done in other states; but as several others have said, Texas is not like any other state and I think you can be proud of that. So I'm happy to assist any way that I can. I know Texas Parks and Wildlife and Texas Animal Health Commission are going to lead the response, and I support their efforts. I know that it's a difficult thing for them to manage. There's no doubt about it. And I also want to applaud the Texas deer industry for supporting a novel approach. We clearly know any time you're doing something that hasn't been done before, there are some unknown risks that are out there and I'm proud of the people being willing to take those risks.

And with that, Mr. Chairman, I'll conclude my formal presentation. I don't know if you were wanting to take questions at this time or 

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you, Dr. Cook.

Does anybody have a question for Dr. Cook?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I do.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Commissioner Duggins.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I'm trying to make sure I understand your recommendation on what you refer to as a high-risk animal.

DR. COOK: Uh-huh.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Could you define again what you consider to be a high-risk animal?

DR. COOK: Sure. I kind of went through that fast. I apologize. So a high-risk animal, number one, clearly any animal that has signs consistent with Chronic Wasting Disease. And so I don't care whether that animal was in a pen or if that animal is in the wild, that animal needs to be removed and, of course, tested to find out for sure; but I would consider that to be a high-risk animal. Then if we have animals that have known contact with another animal that has tested positive, those animals are clearly at risk for having received Chronic Wasting Disease either from the same source as the positive or potentially from that positive animal itself. So those animals I would consider to be high-risk, and it would be my recommendation  I know others  some others disagree, but that would be  my recommendation would be to remove those animals, as well.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And when you say "animals," are you limiting that to White-tailed deer or are you including, for example, elk or exotics?

DR. COOK: I would clearly include elk because we know elk are definitely susceptible and mule deer, too, for that matter. I guess the real question comes down to Sika deer. Sika deer are officially considered not to be a susceptible species. Although, like I said, the Korean experience indicates that they might be. So I'm not sure how you would deal with Sika deer. At the very least, I think they need to be live animal tested.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But do you limit it to Sika or would you include other exotics? Would you test other exotics?

DR. COOK: Oh, let me be clear on that. Certainly nothing that's not a cervid. So antelope species and things like that, there's absolutely no reason to be concerned about them at all. The only animals I'd be concerned about are other cervids. Now Fallow deer, in particular, have been looked at where they've tried to naturally expose Fallow deer  well, they did expose Fallow deer to Chronic Wasting Disease naturally and the Fallow deer did not come down with it. So Fallow deer may be a cervid that's not susceptible.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any other questions? Dr. Cook, I have a  one question.

DR. COOK: Sure.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: You talked about the tonsil and the rectal test. You said it's almost as accurate as the postmortem test. Can you quantify "almost"? I mean is there a percentage? Is it 100 percent on the test where we test the brain cord and what if we just test the tonsils?

DR. COOK: Okay. So if you use the brain test as the gold standard  and so as the gold standard, you're going to set that at 100 percent. Obviously, that's not true. Nothing is 100 percent; but if we call the brain test 100 percent, then the tonsil biopsy test is at 97 percent. So it's very close. Now, when is a tonsil going to fail? The primary time the tonsil is going to fail is when the biopsy is inadequate. So the tonsil biopsy test, it's a really good test; but it's technically challenging, it's more expensive, and you need some skills to get enough tonsil to make it a valid test.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Okay. Thank you.

DR. COOK: Certainly.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any other questions for Dr. Cook?

Thank you, sir.

DR. COOK: You're welcome. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Commission.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Next up is Dr. Andy Schwartz, Texas Animal Health Commission. Please make your presentation, sir.

MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman, before Andy goes forward, if I could just remind the speakers that all of our guests that are out in the hallway or in the overflow area don't have the benefit of seeing the slides. So if you see something that you're going to talk about that you think may warrant more description, I'd ask that you keep that in mind for our other listeners. Thanks.

DR. SCHWARTZ: Thank you, Carter. I'll try to talk in pictures. You might be able to pull that off, but not me.

So good morning, Chairman and Commissioners. It's a privilege to have a chance to address you today. I'm Andy Schwartz, Assistant Executive Director at the Texas Animal Health Commission. I do want to recognize our Executive Director, and that's Dr. Dee Ellis. He's here on the front row. He's our State veterinarian and also our Assistant  I mean, he's our Executive Director.

So, let's see here. So I would like to present to you today some of the details of this specific case that has us all in this meeting today and hopefully answer any questions you might have. So obviously while we're here today is that Chronic Wasting Disease has been diagnosed in a deer that was in a breeder operation in Texas in Medina County. These preliminary positive results were on tissues submitted by the breeder operation, by the management of this operation. This particular herd was enrolled in our Status Program; and I'll talk some more about that, the Texas Animal Health Commission Status Program, so.

The NVSL, the National Veterinary Services Laboratory, confirmed this  these positive findings. And as a result, the Animal Health Commission notified the owner. So let me  I think a bit of  if you'll  if you'll allow me, let me go forward just a bit and see  I think a different version of my presentation is showing than I'd anticipated, so.

So let me just go through the timeline here. So the initial positive, presumptive positive, was on June 25th, 2015. The Animal Health Commission and the Department officials began meeting via phone call and conference calls and we based our initial meetings and response on the CWD response plan that was revised in 2012 and revised again in 2015, that was intended to be our guide in this sort of an event. So this particular  the signal animal, the positive animal on this case was a two-year-old natural born addition to this White-tailed breeder deer operation in Medina County.

The representatives from the Texas Animal Health Commission and Texas Parks and Wildlife  I'll call you the "Department"  met with the herd owner on July 1st and began to gather information on this operation, the specifics about the herd, and to discuss a plan for it. The Texas Animal Health Commission is the lead agency in conducting the disease investigation, but we're definitely working closely with the Department in gathering that information and obviously in there's  and conducting the operations, any operations that are conducted will be jointly. There's obviously some overlap in authority between the two agencies, and we're  I mean, I would say that we're working quite well with Carter's staff in this situation.

So one  and early on, we realized that we needed to have a Chronic Wasting Disease working group, a smaller group built from within our agencies to address the specific questions that come up in conducting the investigation and managing all the animals, exposed animals and possible trace in-herd. So we formed a multiagency working group that  with representatives from the Texas Animal Health Commission, the Department, from USDA Veterinary Services, and TVMDL, the diagnostic lab and the lead diagnostic lab in our state.

And we asked that working group to address an investigation over a five-year span. That means animals that were added to this particular operation in the past five years, the herds that those came from and then animals removed from this operation within the past five years. And that's based on some national standards for conducting these type of investigations, but it's also based on the science. And we heard Dr. Cook say that the incubation, it might take years for these animals to develop the disease and so  and that could be  and our accepted standard is five years, and so that's why we expanded the investigation to include that timeframe.

So the initial effort of that working group was to address herd plans for trace-forward herds. That's  when I say "trace-forward," that means an animal that was in this, in  what I call the "index" herd, where the positive deer was found  animals that have been removed from that operation and have since gone on to other operations. So those are trace-forward animals and I'll tell you some specifics about that in a moment, as far as specific numbers. So the immediate need was how to address these animals because they're in a number of different operations and the recipients of these deer are all  were very concerned about the impact it would have on the health of their herd and their ability to move animals. So our initial effort was based on developing a plan for dealing with those trace-forward animals where the animal could be found and tested and so that protocol has been shared with the recipients of those animals and with their veterinarians and other livestock officials and so we've got a plan forward when we can  when the animal is found and tested.

So what are we talking about here, about the number of animals? So the trace-in facilities, that's the facilities that have sold to this index herd within the past five years, it takes in 30 facilities and 126 deer moving into this operation. The trace-forward, that means the animals that left this herd as potentially exposed, includes 835 deer to 147 facilities. Out of those 147 facilities, 96 were breeder/other breeder deer operations; 46 were release sites; 3 were deer management permit operations; and 2 were international movements.

So just a word about what we've been doing to try to keep the public informed. We had a joint  mounted a joint agency press release on July 1. We've had numerous stakeholder updates via e-mail. We've had conference calls with the deer industry groups, a number of those. Conference calls with veterinarians who will be working with the producers, the deer breeders. We had the hearing early last week with the Culture  I'm sorry, earlier this week. The times run together for me, so. The hearing at the Culture, Recreation, and Tourism Committee earlier this week and we had a joint  our joint CWD task force between the Department and the Texas Animal Health Commission held a meeting this week to seek input from the deer industry and experts within our own state and that meeting was held here earlier this week.

So let me just mention briefly about our  the Texas Animal Health Commission Certification Program and this  our program is voluntary. Deer breeders can enroll if they choose to and one of the major benefits is once they reach the highest level, the certified level, they are allowed to move susceptible species interstate. So the White-tailed deer that have reached  in-herd that have certified status, can move to another state. And that meets the federal interstate movement requirements. An added benefit of that program is that it helps assure the health of that herd that's enrolled.

So the requirements for that enrollment are that the herd have a complete inventory on file and that each animal have two forms of identification. One that's nationally unique, a unique traceable ID nationally; and the second is a unique within the herd ID. Requirements also include that the  there be an annual inventory reconciliation. That's an on-site visit by a regulatory official or a private veterinarian. So one of our employees or a private veterinarian goes out and inspects that herd to make sure that all the animals are present. It also requires that the herd owner or manager submit samples from eligible deaths and those are animals died in the herd for any cause if the animal is 12 months of age and older and that's based on what we heard Dr. Cook say earlier is that incubation  the shortest incubation is about 14 months. So we know that we probably don't need to test younger animals than that.

So within the state, we have 189 herds enrolled in this program, about 19,000 animals. And you see  well, those who can't see the slide, I'll just explain it  that the certified herds in the state, those that have reached the highest level, there are 58 herds in that category. Some of them are Reindeer and Fallow deer, which we don't consider CWD susceptible; but the owner has chosen to enroll them in the program in the event that it's ever found that they are susceptible.

So just as a last comment on this certification program, I would say as the herd enrolls, they're given a particular status by your enrollment if they meet qualifications. So as soon as they enroll and have their inventory verified, the receive first-year status. So they keep that status until the next anniversary and if they meet all the requirements of the program, they're testing all the eligible death losses, they move to year-two status and that progresses through year-five. After five years of complete monitoring, they're awarded a certification, certified status; and that's the highest level that I mentioned earlier.

So let me just back up then. So some considerations that we are dealing with in this particular situation are that we know from literature  and Dr. Cook shared this, as well  exposure to new animals is either from an infected deer or from a contaminated environment. So in this particular case, this positive deer, this two-year-old White-tailed buck, was born in that operation. It never left according to the very detailed records that the owner maintains and looking at the information in the TWIMS database, as well. So that animal was born on the property, lived its entire life on the property, and then  but then was found dead.

It had been  sustained some injuries from the  likely from the pen-mates. It was penned with seven other male  seven other bucks the same age. So as required by the participation in the THC Herd Certification Program, the brain tissue or key tissues were submitted from that animal. But my point being is that it likely got exposed to Chronic Wasting Disease on the property. So that's a concern.

We do know that the incubation period is long for this disease. We consider five years the maximum, but it may actually go longer than that. We know that, you know, the animal can be shedding the prion before it shows clinical signs. We know in this particular case, this herd was young. So the  if you take a young herd and you take a long incubation disease  long disease incubation period, you  animals may be  leave  be exposed in that operation, leave the operation, and not show clinical signs yet. So we're somewhat concerned that, you know, there may be more disease out there than the one animal.

So with that being said, we think this poses a significant risk to the operations that have received deer that might be exposed; and so we're following up on those. I'll just talk briefly about that process and so I believe  like I said, this slide is not the  somewhere in the middle of the night I probably sent the wrong slide presentation. So I'll take blame for that. But I'll just tell you: How many operations are we talking about here? I told you the 30 trace-in operations, 147 trace-out operations. Each of those were sent a hold order by the Texas Animal Health Commission and are being contacted personally to resolve the issue.

So I mentioned earlier the trace-out  forward protocol that's already been developed. So the owner is given the option if they have that animal and present that animal for testing and it's tested negative, we intend to release that hold order and allow  and return that herd to the status of the remainder of the herds in the state. We're developing plans for situations which is more complicated where that trace-forward animal, that exposed animal, is no longer there to be tested for whatever reason or the owner is unwilling to have it tested with the postmortem test, the only official test as Dr. Cook has shared with you. So in those cases where the animal is not present to test or where the owner is unwilling to have it tested with the postmortem test, we'll develop a customized herd plan for that operation and it's based on the incubation period of the disease.

So we're talking about a lengthy herd plan up to five years for each of those operations. But in each case, we'll take into consideration how long it has been since that particular animal may have gotten exposed. So maybe it left the index herd three years ago. Maybe there's a way to give them credit for that time since then, you know, in that case and shorten the quarantine period to two years after that. So I'm just giving that as a possibility of something we're willing to look at.

We're also working up plans for how to address those herds that sold deer to this operation. They  they are the potential source of infection. And so we'll  those are difficult, as well, because  but we're working with the herd owner at present, the Department and we are working with the herd owner to develop a testing plan for the index herd that hopefully will get us more information and help with the investigation. I would mention that this breeder operation has two release sites. One in the  in a  in a high-fence pasture around the breeder pens in Medina County and another in Comal County and the Animal Health Commission has put those operations under quarantine, as well.

Within the high-fenced area  within the release area near the breeder pens, there are, of course, White-tailed deer that have been released; but the other susceptible species that are present are elk. There are some elk there. We know from the owners compliance with Animal Health Commission requirement that when elk are moved to another facility, that movement  a transfer form be filled out, an ID be recorded on that form, and that was done in this case. So we know that there was some movement of elk from this operation and we're following up on those and those are being put under hold order, as well, like the White-tailed deer that left the breeder pens.

So next I want to show you a map of where these trace-in operations happened. So since June 1 of 2010  so that would be five years ago, or a little over five years now  the herd  this particular herd received deer from 30 operations and you can see on this map where these operations are located. Those of you who can't see the map, I'd just describe it as the Hill Country and somewhat down to the Big Bend area is where these operations are concentrated. Although, there are some in far East Texas near the Sabine River.

The next map shows you where the trace-out deer went. These are the trace-forward animals that  where did these exposed animals go and these are the 147 operations that I mentioned earlier and these have basically the same distribution pattern as I described earlier, the Texas Hill Country all the way down to the Big Bend area and then up toward northeast Texas. And with that, I will conclude my presentation and take questions.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you, Dr. Schwartz.

Any questions for Dr. Schwartz? Commissioner Duggins.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: If I understood you correctly, you said that any facility that was a trace-out or receiving facility, you considered to be a high-risk facility?

DR. SCHWARTZ: Those  those exposed animals, yes, would be  we consider them exposed as, you know, potentially infected and so they are at risk. I mean, it's  to me, you know, the high-risk animals are  as Dr. Cook described, the highest risk animals are those that have been in direct contact with the  you know, with the positive deer or in that same environment. And  and we have  the owner has detailed records on where the deer are kept in the operation, but we also know this  we could be dealing with an environmental contamination, you know, in the pens; and so all of these animals are considered at risk, yes.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And you said  I think you said that any of these animals that were shipped from the affected site, the trace-out or trace-forward animals, should at a minimum be tested. Did I hear that right?

DR. SCHWARTZ: That's one option that they'd have. If the animal can be found and be tested, it would clear up that receiving herd or that receiving operation if it's tested and not detected or negative on 

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. But when you say "tested," what tests are you referring to? Because I understand that there are two tests that can be performed on a live animal, one being the tonsil biopsy and then the other being rectal and I think there's a  if I understood the initial presentation, there's a vast difference between the reliability and the number of tests that must be performed between those two variant tests.

DR. SCHWARTZ: I appreciate that question. So at the current time, the only official test that is recognized in  by the USDA is that postmortem test, that  of the brain stem and obex. So what was mentioned earlier are other tests that have great promise as far as, you know, diagnostic power and that's the live animal tests, the tonsil biopsy and rectal mucosal biopsy; and we're willing to consider using some of those tools as we go forward. But to ultimately clear that trace or that animal, we would need test negative results on those official tests. There's some concern if we use a test other than the officially sanctioned test  those that are accepted by the USDA  that it could affect our State's status, our ability to send deer out of the state.

Each year, USDA reviews our CWD Herd Status Program and to see if it meets their requirements for interstate movement. And so if we use a test in this investigation that's not official or not recognized by the USDA, there's a chance it would jeopardize that status. Now, I have not determined from USDA yet if that's actually a fact or not; but I'm in the process of doing that now, sir.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. My next question is you mentioned that there are elk at the affected site and are the elk in close proximity or have they had the opportunity to come in contact with either the environment or the other  the White-tailed deer herd?

DR. SCHWARTZ: That's a very appropriate question. So the breeder pens are surrounded by an alleyway. I've not been there personally, but it's been described to me as 25 to 50 feet wide. And so there is a buffer around the breeder pens of this alleyway and then outside that are  is the pasture, about a 2,000-acre pasture where the elk and the White-tailed deer are in. And so if there was any direct contact, it would have to be an animal in the alleyway and something coming up from the pasture. So it seems min  that there's minimal contact there. The owner has informed us that the elk are not worked through the working facility. But they may have, you know, at some point be  come through the unloading facility. So there's not known direct contact at this time.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Animal-to-animal contact?

DR. SCHWARTZ: Animal-to-animal that we 

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But there's 

DR. SCHWARTZ:  know of. But I think we'll need to keep and assess that as we go forward because the  you know, the disease got  you know, we felt like it got into this one positive animal somehow. So it either was in an animal brought into the operation or there's contact somehow over the years that no one's aware of, you know. There's some concern about this prion being transferred even with water runoff, say, from a contaminated environment to another environment where, you know, a susceptible animal might engage it. So right now, those animals are under restriction and we're following up on that  those elk that left, you know, as potentially exposed and we'll work with the owner in dealing with those animals that are in that release site.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Are there any other cervids at the site, besides the White-tailed deer and the elk?

DR. SCHWARTZ: No, sir. There are other  there are other exotics, but no  no other susceptible species.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: What exotics are there?

DR. SCHWARTZ: There  I'm sorry. I don't have that list in front of me. But I think there's, you know, Blackbuck, a kangaroo  I'm sorry. I don't have that off the top of my head. It's  but I don't believe there  Sika deer have been discussed. I don't believe there are Sika deer there.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Commissioner Scott.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: When you were talking  well, there you go  on the trace-out facilities, to follow up on Commissioner Duggins' question, the one with the little blue dots, you were saying that the only way to check is to do a mortality test. Are you referring to doing a percentage of each site that did it or are you talking about killing or having to do a test on all of them? What order of magnitude are we talking about to certify that a site is okay or not okay?

DR. SCHWARTZ: I'll break it down into two situations. One is where the trace animal is available for testing and so in that case, only that trace  only that exposed animal would need to be tested. If that animal is no longer there but could have exposed other animals on site, that's where we would come up with a sampling procedure that would give us confidence over time that CWD had not been transferred to that facility, so. And we'd develop that, you know, depending on the type of operation. You know, it could involve something like, you know, a sampling of hunter harvested animals if it's a release site or something along that line.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any additional questions for Dr. Schwartz? Thank you, sir.

DR. SCHWARTZ: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Next presenter, Clayton Wolf, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Wildlife Director. Please make your presentation, Clayton.

MR. WOLF: Chairman and Commissioners, for the record, again, I'm Clayton Wolf. I'm the Wildlife Division Director at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. And this morning my role is going to be to, in one way, take it a step further. You've heard from some of the experts, and you've heard about the particular site. We'll talk a little bit about our involvement with our partners at Texas Animal Health Commission, the working group, and the task force; but also I want to talk about some of the management considerations and those considerations off of those sites that have those herd plans or for which those herd plans are being developed.

And I do want to let you know that as we put together this presentation and my staff  Mitch Lockwood, Bob Dittmar, and others  they compiled information from all the states. I'll present to you a broad array of strategies that other states use. I want you to please understand that this is not in any way suggesting that we are necessarily considering all those strategies, but we felt like it would be most informative to let you know that range of strategies that other states use, maybe their rational; but clearly a couple of these strategies are some that our working group and our own staff really have not contemplated.

First off, I think it's also important  we've done this at several presentations  is to emphasize that we do have a CWD management plan. That management plan was developed in cooperation and conjunction with Texas Animal Health Commission in 2012 and there are three overarching goals within that plan that we use as the compass for all of our decisions. Even though we do get down into the details and the weeds, we have to keep reminding ourselves, you know, what our ultimate goals are. And if you don't mind, I'd really like to read those. Particularly for those that are not here in the room.

Goal No. 1 is to minimize CWD risks to the wild and captive White-tailed deer, Mule deer, and susceptible species in Texas. Goal No. 2 is to establish and maintain support for prudent CWD management with hunters, landowners, and other stakeholders. And finally, minimize direct and indirect and conservation in Texas. And on that last note, I do  I am going to cover just a few statistics that talk about the magnitude or the importance of hunting in Texas and how important it is for us, for our Agency, for Texans, and for our rural economies.

Texas has approximately 3.9 million free-ranging White-tailed deer and we about 700,000 deer hunters that pursue those deer annually, harvesting about 600,000 deer. A survey is conducted by Fish and Wildlife Service every five years, and those data are used to generate several reports. Texas ranks No. 1 in the nation in hunting related economy with that economic output or that  after that multiplier effect of $3.6 billion. $2.1 billion of that is attributable to deer hunting. So clearly deer hunting takes up the lion's share, and is very important.

I'm also reminded that in this survey, economic value that is not part of this calculus is real estate values. And we know now that, you know, everyone wants a piece of Texas and land values in many parts of the state are driven by recreation and they're driven by hunting and hunting is very important in part of that calculus for land values and that $2.1 billion does not include those real estate values. Y'all are aware of this. Over 10,000 sites in our MLD Program, 24 million acres. We also have the largest deer breeding program in the nation with over 1,300 deer breeders; and they have over 110,000 captive deer in their facilities. But we also have some unique programs. We move over 2,000  or we permit private individuals to move over 2,000 free-ranging deer annually by Triple T permits and we also have 160 DMP permittees that are allowed to detain deer in breeding pens for a short period of time. That can be wild deer, and that can also be breeder deer included in those DMP pens.

So this slide right here depicts our sampling history since 2003 when we started sampling for CWD across the state. For those not in the room, there's some numbers by ecoregion. But the grand total since 2003 of the number of samples collected by TPWD biologists on hunter harvested deer is 29,855 samples. Additionally, we have program requirements for our deer breeder program and deer breeders have submitted to us test results for 12,759 samples and also our Triple T permittees and TTP permittees are required to do CWD sampling and we have records of close to 6,000 samples. So when you add all those up since 2003, we're at about have been collected by our staff or submitted as a result of our various programs out there. A pretty significant sampling effort.

Obviously this Commission is aware in 2012, we detected CWD in the Hueco Mountains of West Texas. This was not part of our normal sampling; but we had gotten word from New Mexico Department of Game and Fish that there were some positives just across the border and through some strategic sampling working with private landowners, we detected a couple of positives in 2012. And so, of course, we came to this Commission seeking rule making and some regulations to help us manage and mitigate the risk of CWD in this remote area of West Texas.

The map here in front of you, of course, depicts those zones that we  that you allowed us to delineate and that's the containment zone in far West Texas, which encompasses the area that has the CWD positives. The next zone out, moving east and south, is our  is the high-risk zone. And then outside of that even further east is the buffer zone. And so the regulations that y'all chose to adopt were associated with these varying zones. And I'm not going to go into detail on those; but just to highlight a couple of concepts that may be important as we move forward, you did establish  in addition to establishing these zones, we established mandatory check stations in the containment zone. I'll talk a little bit more about check stations in a minute. But also, we also restricted deer movement in the containment zone.

But the general principle was as you got closest to or in and around the positive site, the restrictions on deer movement were very limited. In this case, we allowed no deer movement. And then we started reducing those restrictions as you moved further out away from the site. So closer to the site, higher risk, we had a lower tolerance for deer movement. Additionally, the mandatory sampling  and I'll talk about this some  getting those samples is important and sampling around those known positive sites is the most  are the most valuable data.

Of course, I also want to remind you that the condition surrounding this West Texas occurrence are quite different than what we have right now. You saw the map from Dr. Schwartz, or I have a map here. It's a heat map of the counties in Texas and these are  this is a heat map that depicts all of those trace-out facilities, the trace-forward exposed facilities that  from that breeding facility. And so there's 66 counties here and the numbers there show  with the commas between them  are the number of breeder facilities, the number of release sites, and the number of DMP facilities. I do need to also let you know this is only associated with the trace-outs on the breeder facilities. There's also a nursing facility for one year on site and so there's another half a dozen other facilities implicated as trace-outs. Actually, that's just five new ones. So this map does not encompass the complete universe of trace-outs, but only those from the breeding facilities.

But obviously we can see the geographic scope of this and the connectivity that's created by deer movement is quite different than West Texas where we really had no artificial movement of deer in a remote area and lower deer populations and lower hunter numbers. And, of course, Dr. Schwartz also showed you this map of the locations of those 30 trace-in facilities in Texas.

So a couple of common themes. One of the first things we think about in making a better risk assessment and determining which are appropriate management strategies is determining the distribution and the prevalence of the disease. Obviously, that was the purpose of our initial sampling in 2003 was to see if we had it and if we had it, to determine the distribution and prevalence and when we detected it in West Texas, we moved forces out that direction to get better sampling. But as you heard from Dr. Schwartz, there is already a plan in place for those exposed sites, those trace-in sites and those trace-forward or trace-out sites. There's plans that  the TAHC Herd Plans, which we are working in conjunction with them, really are the plans for sampling on those exposed sites.

But for other free-ranging herds, just like we did in West Texas, we may consider different regulations for enhancing our sampling for distribution and prevalence. In this particular case, we only know that to be in White-tailed deer. But if that were to occur in other free-ranging species out there, just like in West Texas, Animal Health Commission may also consider some broader regulations. So this simple schematic that I put together hastily here in front of you shows an example ranch, the index facility, in orange there in the center of the screen and within that, the breeder facility. And simply what I'm trying to illustrate here is that the area in orange and determining prevalence and determining the distribution, would be covered under the Herd Plan; but we also want to consider all those areas outside of that. And that's not necessarily on a ranch basis. It could be concentric rings or some other form of geography; but the simple fact of the matter is we may want to consider intensified sampling around those areas based on risk level, and there really are two risk levels that we're looking at right now.

The CWD positive site is the highest risk level. So in our calculus and what we are seeking input from you on, as well, is as we look at this, you know, we and other states have considered mandatory or voluntary sampling  and I'll show you some examples in a minute  but obviously as we get closer to that site where we have known positives, we want to get more samples.

Our trace-out or those trace-forward sites and the other exposed sites are lower risk. And as Dr. Schwartz indicated, some of those may actually come off the list if someone is able to find that animal, test it, it's not detected, and be able to test out and be cleared.

So strategies across the nation: Voluntary and mandatory. We actually used mandatory check stations, as I said, in that zone in West Texas. Some states use  have had mandatory initially and gone back to voluntary. And, in fact, our staff and our CWD task  or our staff was considering a proposal to look at mandatory testing in our high-risk zone in West Texas  that's the second zone out  because we really are not getting an adequate number of samples. The bottom line is we want samples, and obviously we want to implement the least onerous method out there. We want to get the most samples. We don't want to impede hunters or create any kind of restrictions that make it tough to go out there and hunt. Our ultimate goal is to try to figure out how to get the most samples around that area.

And obviously in the parts of the state we saw on this map with our Managed Land Deer Programs and other mechanisms, we may have some additional mechanisms to get those samples. If I just list off some of the states that have used voluntary sampling, those are West Virginia, Iowa, Ohio, New Mexico, New York, and Kansas. Some of the states that have mandatory sampling  and when I say "mandatory sampling," none of the CWD states do it statewide. It will be a regional aspect of mandatory sampling and it may even be temporal. It may be just for a certain period of time. But some of those states obviously include Texas, Wisconsin, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Colorado, Wyoming, Michigan, and Illinois.

And so voluntary sampling yields different results; but obviously as we move forward in our discussions with our task force, we'll be trying to figure out the best scheme and we also would obviously entertain any input or your thoughts as we deliberate on recommendations.

Other things  and this  these are along the lines of some other things that we really haven't talked about in Texas, but there are other strategies out there that folks use. Some of the states actually pay taxidermists and others to take samples. So they even train taxidermists to pull the retropharyngeal lymph nodes and obviously taxidermists are a great place to get older aged class animals and those that may  that actually may have a higher likelihood of having the prions in the tissue that's submitted. And y'all have a list of those states in front of you that have tried some innovative techniques for paying to get other samples out there.

You'll also see a note on there about sharpshooting. You know, some states have taken on rather aggressive methods and in some cases, that wasn't necessarily well received by sportsmen. You know, we know there was a lot of press as such in Wisconsin. The point here is not to talk about a method of sharpshooting or who does the shooting; but I'm going to show you a slide in a minute, and what I want to focus on is population management. You heard Dr. Cook talk about this being a density-dependent disease; and I think it's rather intuitive the more animals you have on the landscape for many diseases, the quicker that disease can spread. And so population management can be important. Even if we do that through our technical guidance programs and harvest recommendations on properties under management plans, it will be part of our calculus as we move out there if we discover CWD on the landscape and landowners want to know what can they do to help mitigate the risk or minimize the spread.

This particular slide right here was provided to us by Wisconsin DNR and what it shows is the prevalence  CWD prevalence rate in males and females. The yellow bar being males, and the pink bar being females. And up through 2007  2002 to 2007 for those not in the room  the prevalence rates stayed around 5 to 8 percent, and they were relatively stable. In 2007, I'm told that's when the strategic sharpshooting in certain areas was rescinded and after that, as you can see, there was a pretty noticeable increase in the prevalence rate out there. And so obviously in this one particular case, in this one scenario  as Dr. Cook indicates, population dynamics are different. You have different densities. But in this particular scenario, by backing off on that particular population reduction technique, the prevalence went up. And we also know in Illinois and places where they have maintained some strategic population control, they have been able to keep that prevalence rate at a level level. So clearly, once again just to emphasize, it's not the sharpshooting part; but it's the population control and with our long seasons, with our liberal bag limits, our MLDP Programs, we've got a lot of tools out there that we can arm folks with to consider as we move forward if we find CWD positives in other parts out there on the landscape.

Carcass movements are a consideration. You heard Dr. Cook talk about the prions being concentrated in the spinal cord and in the brain material. We have no carcass movement restrictions in Texas right now, but they are an option to consider. In fact, Dr. Cook I believe alluded to this. Our CWD task force actually had recommended to staff that we come to you with a proposal for some carcass movement restrictions, even before this new discovery; and that was because of the potential to move prions around the landscape. We actually  we pulled down that notion when we had this discovery to put this conversation in a broader context, but obviously it is on the forefront of our task force mind. We were asked about some of these proposals the other day; and so it is going to be part of our calculus as we move forward, whether we can  whether we might recommend some appropriate carcass movement restrictions. If we do that  you know, in Texas, if you don't have a landowner's statement or an MLD tag, you're going to have to keep that head with the horns attached. And so obviously if the recommendation is to leave that head or the brain at site and the spine at site, the head would  you would not have that proof of sex documentation that's required until you get the final destination.

So staff had contemplated other definitions for proof of sex documentation that more closely align with things that are required in other states, like maintaining parts of the sex organs or something like that for law enforcement to be able to identify if it's a male or a female. Other strategies, I won't go into this too deep. There's baiting bans and feeding bans. It's more about animal contact and maybe not just about CWD, but other diseases. But there are numerous states  I'm not going to list those  that have varying degrees of statewide bans, regional bans, or other feeding restrictions.

Live deer movement is a consideration, particularly in Texas. We've already talked about the captive deer aspect. The way Texas Animal Health Commission, with our cooperation, is handling this is the way other agencies, other State veterinarian offices handle this in all other parts of the nation; and so this model is very similar. But for us, we have some very unique aspects. We're the only state in the nation that allows captive deer breeders to release those animals outside of that permitted facility. So you have breeding facilities in other states and you also have what some folks may call a "shooting preserve," but that entire  that entire geography, that entire ranch, if you will, is permitted and many times those are even privately held animals. And so we have a very unique model that's going to have to be part of our consideration as we move forward allowing for that liberation of those animals out there to commingle with other free-ranging deer. And then also our Triple T and our DMP Programs, we have the same considerations we're going to have to look at.

So just as far as how we  the progress, you heard from Dr. Schwartz, we've been working and Animal Health Commission has been getting our feedback on these different herd plans for captive deer. That's  some aspects of those plans are complete, and others are in progress. Mitch  in particularly, Mitch and Dr. Dittmar, our Wildlife Veterinarian, have been working I just say daily. I mean this is for the last couple of weeks, that's all their time, that's all our time has been spent on; and we've gone  in spite of this unfortunate situation, we've grown to know our colleagues at Texas Animal Health Commission and USDA quite well. And we enjoy that, by the way. I probably need to add that clarifier, so  just so I don't make any enemies.

Also, on trace-out liberation sites  and these are sites that are also covered under those plans  or the trace-forward, I think, is a more appropriate terminology. But we also are going to have to consider those sites, as I said, that are not covered by these herd plans, not covered by these hold orders. And so we have to consider what we're going to do with breeder-to-breeder movement and breeder-to-release for the rest of the deer breeding community out there that currently has a moratorium. No one is allowed to move an animal out of a deer breeding pen right now or to liberate those animals.

And so we started that. We started analyzing the information and conducting the risk assessment on that last week. Had another meeting yesterday, a long day; and I'll talk a little bit more about some of the factors that we considered. But  and then in our future deliberations as we get closer and closer to certain deadlines, we're going to have to have those same conversations about our Triple T Program and our DMP Program.

But when I talk  in our conversation about breeder deer movements and liberations, the factors that we were looking at as a part of that risk assessment is the CWD testing history and these  and we have many herds that are not enrolled in those programs with Texas Animal Health Commission, but there are testing requirements and there are reporting requirements within our program. So we have those metrics within our TWIMS database, and we can actually look at the testing history. We also have the movement history. You know, we have one tool here that I have to mention and that's our deer breeder application within TWIMS.

We've heard it mentioned several times. It's the first time that these epidemiologists have had so much information so quickly, and that's kind of a double-edged sword. It's great to have all that information; but at the same time, you can lose focus on the most immediate risk to deal with and so  but it's a fortunate tool and we've been able to provide that data within hours having our IT staff and our Permit staff query the data that they ask for in their risk assessments and their trace-outs and their trace-ins and we're very proud. Our Permit's team has also been involved in this daily and put hours into that effort.

Connectivity is obviously important. We also record that within our TWIMS system. So any kind of analysis we want on the connectivity to the positive site or any of those exposed sites, we can do. The fence status on liberation sites is also part of consideration because, obviously, if some animals of a higher risk level are released, we want to try to make sure they're maintained on site if we have some kind of a shooter buck operation sampling scheme that's a part of the herd plan. And along with that is the identification of those deer. In fact, we also had a proposal from our task force prior to this detection that would  that would have outlined some shooter buck operations and identification and testing requirements to release into the high-risk zone, but we have pulled that down and we're going to consider that in the full context of this whole situation right now.

And then, of course, Dr. Schwartz mentioned TAHC herd status. I think I get everything right when I looked at his slides. I don't think anything doesn't match. But I do want to note that in our talk, the certified herd status  that's that status of folks that are in their sixth year of monitoring with those annual inspections and identification and 100 percent testing requirements. That's the very highest level you can receive. That's the most intensive monitoring. It's the lowest risk; and in our deliberations, we want to make sure that we recognize the value of that. We don't want to disincentivize folks. We want to make sure that there's value to being in that program.

And so as a part of our discussions, we're putting that in the context of breeder movements and liberation movements and considering whether this group of individuals with the lowest risk should have more liberties or get them sooner than some of those others out there that are not at that same level. And we'll be performing that same assessment for different risk levels across the entire spectrum of the deer breeding population.

And so looking forward, we have our working group and our task force. The working group has been, if not meeting in person daily, on the phone. Our task force, we met in here  as Dr. Schwartz said  two days ago and I'm sure we will convene again shortly to get their input and engage them. A couple of deadlines we  that we have looking at that are part of our calculus: This year September 15th, is the deadline to move breeder bucks with antlers on them. If you look at some of the metrics on deer breeder releases, fortunately I guess in this unfortunate situation, July is the lowest number of breeder liberations out there of all the 12 months in the year and approximately 1 percent of all liberations occur in July.

But things rapidly escalate when we move into August and clearly in September. And in August and September, on the average, about the five-year average, we see about 10,000 deer released in August and September. And of those deer, about 75 percent of those are bucks and then the deadline hits and after that until deer season is closed, bucks cannot be liberated with their antlers on them. So folks move a lot of deer to meet that deadline. So there's a lot of people out there that are looking to us to see what kind of recommendations or what kind of regulations, requirements we're going to develop where industry can re-engage and meet these deadlines. And obviously, they want some assurance and some certainty to make their business decisions.

And then, of course, October 3rd, archery and MLD opener. You know, we've got hunters out there that are going to hit the landscape out there and engage in my favorite sport and we're going to want to get information out there. If we have regulations that we need to develop, obviously we need  we're going to need to adequately communicate that to folks and if we have places where we want to intensify sampling, we're going to want to communicate that. And then, of course, November 7th is the general opener out there as it is the first Saturday in November every year.

So with that, I'll just throw one more slide up and that's just the goals again. We always try to remind ourselves as we get into the details and in the minutia, you know, really what those goals are and what we are using as our compass. And with that, I'll conclude my presentation and entertain any questions if you have any.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Are there any questions for Clayton from the Commission?

MR. WOLF: So a correction. Mitch informed me September 22nd is the deadline. Evidently, I did not update my slide last night. So anybody that's in the industry that's listening, we don't want them to panic on that. September 22.

Thank you, Mitch.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Any questions?

Clayton, I've got one question. The facility in question where the Chronic Wasting was detected, you've talked about different levels. At what level was this facility, and what about compliance testing deer in the past? Do you have any information on that?

MR. WOLF: Yes, we do. I'll give some answers, and I'll let Dr. Schwartz step in if he wishes. But they were enrolled in the program. They had a high percentage of testing. I want to say around 93 percent of the 60 some-odd mortalities over the years, but they remained at a lower status level because they were introducing new animals and one of those parameters is as you advance up  let's say you're in the third year. You  if you don't want your status knocked down, you can bring animals in; but they have to be a status three or higher. So that  you know, it's within that closed population.

And so in this particular case, they were testing a lot of animals; but they were also bringing in animals on a regular basis. So they were not able to advance. So they weren't really in that closed system network, if you will. And the other thing that, as a result of that, they have a relatively young age structure within the herd and as you heard the scientists say, you know, CWD becomes more detectable as it gets older. So that likely probably creates a little bit of bias in detectability.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you.

Any other questions?

MR. WOLF: Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you, Clayton.

All right. Next presenter will be David Yeates, Texas Wildlife Association.

MR. YEATES: Yes, sir. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners for holding this special meeting  obviously, it's a great concern to the hunting public here in Texas  and for inviting me to testify.

For the record, my name is David Yeates. I work for Texas Wildlife Association. We're a 30-year-old organization. We have about 9,500 members who own or control about 40 million acres of rural land across Texas. We focus on youth education and hunter recruitment, a natural resource advocacy.

You're being provided a copy of a resolution that we drafted in partnership with input from other organizations who are undersigned on that resolution. I'll note there are other outfits, NGOs, that are contemplating through their leadership joining this resolution, as well. Notably, I saw a letter addressed to the Commission from Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association today on this matter, as well.

The spirit of that document is to do three things: One, to recognize the gravity of this situation; two, express our support for the Animal Health Commission and Texas Parks and Wildlife and their investigation and containment efforts of Chronic Wasting Disease discovery; and three, urge erring on the side of safety in the investigation and containment and surveillance efforts going forward.

I want to personally and from TWA offer our sympathies to the index facility owner and the captive deer breeding industry at large for the impact of this finding on their industry. Further, I can understand their desire for expeditious live animal movement and antemortem testing. However, this issue transcends the captive deer breeding industry alone. As Clayton mentioned, Texas is unique in that we allow captive bred animals to be liberated with free-range this index herd's connectivity and direct exposure to 10 percent of the captive deer breeding industry to 60 something counties across Texas, that creates systemic risk and has a huge impact on the industry and a very real exposure to the native and free-range deer of Texas and those are the deer that everyone else hunts.

The potential economic and social impact of this finding are really twofold. One is the actual impact of the disease to the wildlife and the health and safety of susceptible species here in Texas, most specifically the White-tailed deer and Mule deer. Two is the public perception and how that affects hunter recruitment and retention going forward. Lower hunter participation would erode Fund 9 revenue, while we can almost certainly expect Fund 9 expenses to escalate with monitoring and surveillance efforts going forward. The $2 billion industry that Clayton mentioned earlier is definitely exposed. Rural economies could be impacted and even rural land values  again, Clayton mentioned  are at risk of diminution. I personally have heard anecdotal examples of contracts that have been canceled or gotten soft just since this discovery on rural property. That's a very real consideration to weigh.

And on a related note, I've also heard some pretty farfetched and outlandish rumors of what Parks and Wildlife is going to do, what Animal Health Commission is going to do. So there's a lot of concern. There's a lot of talk going on out there, and I've certainly heard quite a bit of it from my seat. And I think that illustrates the real problem here. The problem is the confusion and conflict and almost mystery surroundings CWD.

I had the pleasure of sitting in the CRT committee meeting earlier this week. There were multiple experts that are very educated people  PhDs, DVMs  that have deep experience with Chronic Wasting Disease. They all disagreed. They all had different opinions. The statement was said, "You get four vets in the room, you'll get five different opinions." We certainly experienced that on Monday. If folks with that level of experience and education can be at odds with one another, that absolutely ends up with public concern; and rightfully so.

So perception is absolutely reality  reality in these matters. So it's imperative for the State agencies to respond to this issue with decisiveness and transparency. That establishes and preserves the public faith in the health and safety of the captive and native deer herds here in Texas. I want to applaud the response and handling of this issue by Parks and Wildlife and Texas Animal Health Commission to date. It's a very difficult job. I urge the public patience as the agencies do the hard work ahead of them, and I understand the public's and share the public's appetite for information and transparency; but also respectfully suggest that we leave the agencies alone to do the hard work. They can't work when they're having to talk to us.

With that, I'll thank you all for your wisdom and your leadership and I'll close and I'm happy to answer any questions. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you, David.

Any questions from the Commission for David?

Thank you.

MR. YEATES: Yes, sir. Thank you very much.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Next presenter, Chase Clark, Texas Deer Association. Welcome, Chase.

MR. CLARK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you this morning. For the record, my name is Chase Clark and I'm here today serving as President of the Texas Deer Association.

I'm a hunter and a landowner in the state of Texas. I've been a permitted deer breeder for almost 13 years. I'm a passionate wildlife enthusiast who is fortunate enough to work closely with landowners across the state of Texas and beyond on a day-to-day basis to improve the wildlife resources on their private properties. I'm the father to two little girls who will be the next generation of Texas hunters. I have brought them up to love deer and the outdoors. I know these two little girls wish they could be here today to support me, but I'm not alone.

As you can see behind me and in the next room and in the hallways, there are a tremendous number of people here who are passionate about this industry and who are listening closely across the great state of Texas to the important events of today. These are ranch owners and ranch hands and pen managers. These are feed and fencing companies. These are store owners and construction crews. These are the good folks that brave the South Texas summertime heat to check their animals and the ones that break the ice on the water troughs up north when most are bundled up inside next to the fire.

The vast majority of these good people depend on this industry for their livelihood and to put food on the table for their families. They support themselves with the values that the development of the Texas deer industry has brought to rural communities. These are the shepherds of the day, and they are my family. I am proud to have them here behind me.

I would also like to express  sincerely express my appreciation to Parks and Wildlife staff, especially Carter Smith and Clayton Wolf for their efforts in communication  communication during the last two and a half weeks. I believe they have made a good faith effort to work with industry to find common sense, science-based solutions to very tough issues. For the last two and a half years, the officers and representatives of the Texas Deer Association have worked  have devoted a great deal of time and effort to building personal and professional relationships with Texas Parks and Wildlife.

These relationships have been very important as we have worked together to examine and discuss the challenges of Chronic Wasting Disease. These recent days have been a fascinating time for myself and for the state of Texas. Less than three weeks ago, I received a personal phone call from Clayton Wolf, informing me that the first ever Chronic Wasting Disease positive sample had been found in a breeder facility in Medina County. At the time, I was on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska with my family with a combination halibut and salmon fishing trip scheduled for the next day. Needless to say, I missed that boat and caught a plane back to Texas.

The first 48 hours were an absolute whirlwind. I was able to visit the family at the index facility, as well as attending hastily scheduled meetings with Dr. Dee Ellis and Andy Schwartz of the Texas Animal Health Commission and Carter Smith of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. One thing was abundantly clear to me in those first days. Things were progressing very rapidly at the index facility and all parties needed to take a step back and look at the situation from a different angle.

I believe your staff showed tremendous leadership in accomplishing this task. Negotiations with the index facility appear to be ongoing, and I am hopeful for a solution which is amenable to all parties. On Monday, many of this  many of us in this room attended a special hearing at the Texas House of Representative's Committee on Culture, Recreation, and Tourism, who heard from a panel of invited experts from around the country as they provided testimony on Chronic Wasting Disease.

There were some clear messages from these experts in the field. One of the messages was that CWD does not pose a human health threat. In fact, recent research has indicated that humans are unable to catch CWD from cervids. A second point was that models which suggested that CWD would decimate wildlife populations have proven inaccurate. In fact, many populations have remained constant or are increasing in areas with known CWD incidents. Other viral pathogens, such as EHD, have proven much more devastating to deer populations than CWD.

Previous efforts to depopulate and eradicate CWD have proven ineffective and have likely caused more harm than good. In fact, most other states have altered their strategies from eradication to management of CWD. And the last point was very important, that live animal tests for CWD  including those you've heard about today, the tonsil and the rectal biopsies  have improved greatly in accuracy over the last five years. These tests, when properly administered, have shown 90 plus percent accuracy in identifying CWD positive cervids.

Monday was a fascinating look at the history of CWD and what methodologies have been utilized in the past to attempt to contain and control the spread of CWD. I encourage each of you, if you are able, to review that meeting in its entirety. On Tuesday, we migrated across the city of Austin back here to Texas Parks and Wildlife headquarters. The CWD task force was another incredibly important meeting of some wonderful minds. This time it was the best experts that Texas has to offer  veterinarians, consultants, and industry experts who have dedicated countless hours to amassing knowledge on the subject of CWD.

Once again, there were some central themes which rose from the group. First, Texas could and should take a different approach to CWD than has been set in other states. This was particularly evident in the discussions regarding the index facility. The task force agreed in principle to a partial postmortem test of that facility to determine the immediate prevalence of CWD instead of a wholesale depopulation.

Live animal tests should play a larger role in Texas' response to CWD, both for the purpose of research and in the case of the specific herd plans you've heard about today designed to give herd owners options whether to test postmortem or utilize multiple live animal tests to improve confidence. The task force spoke about the industry should be allowed to resume commerce. As you've heard in the case of status and unaffected herds, it was clear that the task force felt that those particular facilities should be restored to movement qualification immediately because of their great commitment of time and funds to testing over and above the State approved percentage of 20 percent. It was also clear that the task force felt that hold orders on the index herd and tier one herds was justified as exposed animals needed to be evaluated.

We learned a great deal in those two days of testimony and discussions from experts around the state and around the country. I feel confident that your staff heard these experts loud and clear and will utilize their knowledge to make good, science-based recommendations to the Commission. I would be remiss here if I did not express my equal appreciation to the Texas Animal Health Commission and their epidemiological team. That's a tough word to say.

TAHC was represented to me by all parties on several occasions as the lead agency in this situation and their extensive expertise in animal diseases and cases much like this one in other species provides an invaluable path for all of us to follow. In closing of my brief remarks, I would like to ask this Commission to remember a few things as they consider the challenges of CWD. First, please don't let any cure do more harm than the disease. It is true that caution is warranted to protect the resource; but please consider that there will be financial implications to the good people of Texas standing behind me, sitting in the hallways, sitting in the other room, which you must take into account.

Second, help us get this industry back in business. There's been a great deal of uncertainty as how and when movement qualifications would be restored to this incredibly important rural industry. I encourage you to make that a higher priority for all parties involved. Third, listen to the experts. CWD is a challenge which has been met with some very large hammers in the past. It's time for a new approach, as experts have testified to and discussed at great length this week. Texas has the opportunity to set an example for the rest of the country of a balanced and fair response to CWD.

Lastly, please utilize new technologies. Experts have testified as to the efficacy of live animal testing for CWD. It may no longer be necessary to destroy all these deer, only to discover afterwards that the vast majority of them are not CWD positive.

Thank you for your time today. The industry stands willing and ready to continue cooperating with the agencies in this difficult time. I'd be glad to take any questions you might have.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you, Mr. Clark.

Any questions for Chase? Thank you.

MR. CLARK: Thank you very much.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Next presenter, Chris Timmons, Deer Breeder Corporation. Please make your presentation, sir.

MR. TIMMONS: Thank you, Chairman. Thank you to the Commissioners for giving us this opportunity to address our concerns on this matter. My name is Chris Timmons. I'm President  current President of Deer Breeders Corporation. We are a nonprofit, member-driven organization compromised of deer breeders and deer enthusiasts, ranchers. Our office is located in Mesquite, Texas, with a member base of around 600.

First off, I would like to explain who we are as deer breeders. Most of us grew up in a rural community with animals. We grew up appreciating nature and fearing God. We grew up caring for our animals and saw death at an early age. We are all veterinarians, caregivers, feed analysts, pooper-scoopers all in one, not because we want to or have to; but because we choose to to keep our animals safe, healthy to where they can thrive and be productive.

Deer breeding is a program that was started by Texas Animal  by Texas Parks and Wildlife that we volunteered for. Just the excitement of breeding and caring for the most majestic animal on the earth was like a dream come true. Through selective breeding practices  not unlike cattle, sheep, horses, or goats  we have developed a superior animal that is craved by hunters and envied by others across the nation.

We've explained  we've expanded the hunting and industry ten times over. Real estate has soared, and many other industries have grown across Texas because of it. We've regulated ourselves as a whole. The CWD program started as a voluntary program, and we all volunteered for it. We've tested thousands of deer for CWD at our own expense. We've spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of our own money on all types of research for deer through Texas A&M and Texas Tech University. We have been instrumental in developing vaccines for deer to ensure herd health. We have even built a research facility at Texas Tech University so they could do research on the live deer.

But yet a finger is being pointed at us like we've done something wrong. We understand the gravity of this disease and of all diseases. We also understand a hold order on movement until situation is assessed, but we feel breeders that have no connection to the index herd or are not a tier one should be released to conduct business. We understand the need for testing of the trace-in animals and animals that's been commingled with a positive animal; but with the availability of rectal biopsies and a live test, we feel that the depopulation of the total herd at this time is uncalled for.

We would like to stress the importance of following science and research and believe this is a perfect opportunity to use this herd to continue the need for knowledge. We ask that practicality and common sense be used by allowing the Pattersons to hunt their animals within their hunting ranch and then be tested. And most definitely we support and ask that if depopulation is inevitable, that indemnity be filed with USDA on behalf of the Pattersons to help with their enormous financial loss. We also ask that all press releases to the public be a unified voice based on facts. False accusations and rumors instill panic within the masses, and the masses are our hunters.

But in closing, I'd like to reiterate that we, as deer breeders, have complied with all rules and regulations mandated by our agencies. How can anyone do more than we have? We want CWD eradicated more than anyone because we have the most to lose. We have our lives, our livelihoods, our life savings invested. We've done our part and we've done our job and now we're being punished for following the rules?

When the first case of CWD was found in the wild in Mule deer in West Texas, there was no eradication and no depopulation of all Mule deer. Hunting wasn't shut down across the state. So basically I'm saying what's good for the goose is good for the gander. So I ask that you don't punish us, but instead work with us so we can continue to do our job and continue to build our rural communities where hunting and caring for animals is a way of life. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you.

Any questions?

Thank you, sir.

Our last presenter today is Dr. Roel Lopez, Texas Chapter of Wildlife Society. Please make your presentation, sir.

DR. LOPEZ: Thank you, Chairman Hughes, Commissioners. As been stated, my name is Roel Lopez and I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you this morning and give the organization's perspective on the issue at hand. I represent the Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society, a professional organization dedicated to the conservation and management of native wildlife populations and their habitats. I'm the current President of Texas Chapter and here representing our 800 plus professional members.

The Texas Chapter is part of an international professional society, the Wildlife Society or TWS, with more than 10,000 members worldwide comprised of scientists, managers, educators, consultants, and others who manage, conserve, and study wildlife populations and their habitats. The goal of TWS and Texas Chapter is to promote excellence in wildlife stewardship through science and education.

The Texas Chapter this morning would like to offer three recommendations to the Commission for their consideration as you move forward in dealing with this difficult issue. The first is to support the Chronic Wasting Disease Management Plan. A management plan was developed and approved in 2012, as has been mentioned, to respond to a future CWD outbreak. The bad news is that day has arrived. The good news is we're well prepared, and some of the other presenters have mentioned that. The CWD Management Plan was developed with stakeholder input and expert opinion and through the best use of available science and lessons learned from other states with CWD experience and because of this plan, we believe we are well positioned to address CWD in the best way possible and would encourage you to support the management plan's measured responses in the next few months. In short, let's let the plan work. As a Chapter, we support the measures outlined in the plan, which are based on science and best available management practices from other states.

Our second recommendation is to provide the agencies time to assess and respond. The leadership of Texas Parks and Wildlife, the Texas Animal Health Commission should be commended for their foresight and being prepared for this outbreak. Because of their preparedness, they have responded strategically and quickly and that's become very obvious just in the last few days. As the situation continues to evolve, it is in our best interest  all of our best interest  to provide the agencies support to best assess this very dynamic situation and respond in the most prudent and practical manner possible. As a Chapter, we support agency leadership and staff and recommend the agencies continue to seek best management practices to minimize risks associated with the disease.

Our final recommendation is to consider response measures in the long term. The actions and measures implemented in the next few months will serve to shape the future of our native deer populations for generations to come. We are at a critical crossroad, and how we move forward should not be shortsighted. For example, restrictions on movement of live CWD susceptible animals will decrease the risk of disease transmission. This is a basic tenet of wildlife disease management.

As a Chapter, we recommend that decisions and protocols err on the side of caution and safety to protect our State's wildlife resources. So in closing, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to be here this morning. I would like to thank you for your leadership in calling for this special meeting on a very important topic; and lastly, your continued dedication to the stewardship of our State's natural resources. The Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society and all its members are supportive of your efforts and the measures outlined in the recently released TWA resolution, which we co-signed. So thank you for your time.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you, Dr. Lopez.

Any questions?

DR. LOPEZ: Appreciate it.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you, sir.

All right. That concludes our presentations. At this time, I would like to announce that pursuant to the requirement of Chapter 551 Government Code referred to as the Open Meetings Act, an Executive Session will be held at this time for the purpose of seeking legal advice under Section 551.071 of the Open Meetings Act. We will now  we're going to recess.

But let me  we have so many people here, let me explain. We don't know how long we're going to be in Executive Session. It could be as short as an hour, and it could be longer. We will reconvene. When we reconvene, we may have a statement or we may just adjourn the meeting at that time. So just for your planning, we don't know how long we'll be before we come back. But at this time, we'll go into Executive Session. Thank you for being here.

(Recess taken for Executive Session)

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Hello, everybody. We will now reconvene the regular session of the work session on July 16th, 2015, at 1:50 p.m. Regarding work item Chronic Wasting Disease, discovery and response, I have a statement to read and then we may have comment by some of the other commissioners and by possibly Mr. Smith.

First and foremost, I want to thank everyone for being here today and for your interest in this important issue. Audio from today's meeting will be available online over the next couple of days. I've also asked the staff to make the PowerPoints presented today available on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's website for everyone who wasn't in the room today to review.

It's important for us all to remember that Chronic Wasting Disease doesn't pick sides. It doesn't make alliances. It affects all of us in this room. We, the staff, the Commission, the hunters, the breeders, etcetera, are all connected on this. I believe that we owe it to the people of Texas and the more than 4 million free-range and captive deer to do everything we can to contain this threat and ensure it doesn't spread. It's important that we hear and consider all perspectives.

I want to thank the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department staff, the Texas Animal Health Commission for their countless hours and tireless effort to come to a conclusion, review and consider the overwhelming amount of information as they work to make the best recommendations moving forward. We want to get back  we want to get business back to normal as soon as possible, but it is important that we do so in a manner that's smart and safe for everyone involved.

Texas is going to be the gold standard for how to appropriately respond to Chronic Wasting Disease. We want to use every opportunity to learn from this event. In moving forward, it's crucial that we not lose sight of the three primary goals of any response: Minimize Chronic Wasting risk to the wild and captive White-tailed deer, Mule deer, and susceptible species within Texas; establish and maintain support for prudent Chronic Wasting Disease management with hunters, landowners, and stakeholders; minimize direct and indirect impacts of Chronic Wasting Disease to hunting, hunting related economies, and the conservations in Texas.

No decision will be perfect. Each possible decision involves some level of risk and based on the information we heard today, I would like to encourage the staff to do the following: First, support the Chronic Wasting Disease working group recommendation to initially test those deemed  those animals deemed at highest risk in the index facility as expeditiously as possible; secondly, assess the risk of on all other breeder facilities and place a premium on allowing the Texas Animal Health Commission certified herds and the wholly disconnected facilities to resume deer movement as soon as possible; use the best available science and don't be afraid to be innovative whenever possible.

Ultimately, I would like for us to not only be particularly sensitive to minimizing impact to breeder facilities; but also minimizing the risk to the State's free-ranging deer herd, which is critically important to Texas deer economy and to other landowners and hunters across the state.

With that, I'll see if any other Commissioners would like to make a  add to this statement.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I'm good.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Commissioner Duggins.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: I want to echo the Chairman's comments, but also say that one of the considerations we want to make clear is that we do not want to rush to make decisions that unreasonably jeopardize the wild deer in this state and the some $2 billion a year spent annually by hunters. So we're trying  as he said, we're trying to do our best to use science and make the best decisions for all of the constituents. And I assure you the Department knows that, and I believe they're doing the same.

And one final comment I would like to make is I would like to urge  I think the Commission would like to urge the owners and operators at the index facility to cooperate with the State in going through the inspections of these highest risk animals as soon as possible, and that will help move this down the road quickly. Thank you very much.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: Thank you, Ralph.

Any other Commissioners like to make a comment?

Carter, before we close, would you like to make a comment?

MR. SMITH: Chairman, I think we understand your direction well. Obviously, we are very advertent to the gravity and the far-reaching consequences of this to all parties that have an interest in that and that's a lot and we will move ahead posthaste, but obviously with your direction to use the best available science. I heard you also say you want us to experiment where possible. We want to maximize the opportunities to learn wherever possible, and we want to balance the risk for the entirety of the State's deer herd and all of our State's landowners and breeders and hunters that are dependent upon a healthy and vital White-tailed herd, as well as other susceptible species. So we will take your marching orders and proceed on that and consult regularly with the Commission as we go forward. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HUGHES: All right. Well, again, we want to thank everybody for attending today. We know it's not why we wanted to get together in the middle of July in Austin, but we are going to work hard at it. We understand all the concerns. Thanks for being here, and I declare this meeting adjourned.

(Meeting adjourns)

In official recognition of the adoption of this resolution in a lawfully called public meeting of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, we hereby affix our signatures this day of , 2015.

C E R T I F I C A T E

STATE OF TEXAS )

COUNTY OF TRAVIS )

I, Paige S. Watts, Certified Shorthand Reporter in and for the State of Texas, do hereby certify that the above-mentioned matter occurred as hereinbefore set out.

I FURTHER CERTIFY THAT the proceedings of such were reported by me or under my supervision, later reduced to typewritten form under my supervision and control and that the foregoing pages are a full, true, and correct transcription of the original notes.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and seal this the 3rd day of August, 2015.

____________________________________
Dan Allen Hughes, Jr., Chairman

____________________________________
Ralph H. Duggins, Vice-Chairman

____________________________________
T. Dan Friedkin, Member, Chairman-Emeritus

____________________________________
Bill Jones, Member

___________________________________
James H. Lee, Member

___________________________________
Margaret Martin, Member

___________________________________
S. Reed Morian, Member

___________________________________
Dick Scott, Member

Paige S. Watts, CSR, RPR CSR No.: 8311
Expiration: December 31, 2016
DepoTexas - Firm Reg. No.: 17
Sunbelt Reporting - Firm Reg. No.: 87
1016 La Posada Drive, Suite 294
Austin, Texas 78752
(512)465-9100
Job No. 241145

TPW Commission Meetings