TPW Commission

Work Session, May 26, 2021


TPW Commission Meetings


MAY 26, 2021






CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Well, it's been a year since I've done that. It's a real -- it's a real thrill to be back and see people. Maybe we're getting closer and closer to being back to normal.

Well, welcome everybody to our first in person meeting.

Carter, when was it? Was it February?

MR. SMITH: Well, it would have been -- was it March or January was our last --

MS. CLARK: January.

MR. SMITH: January was the last official.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: January. So hope I remember how to do it.

All right. I'm going to call -- take a roll call. Chairman Morian present.

Vice-Chairman Aplin?






CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Foster's present. Hildebrand's present.


COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Okay. Bobby Patton present.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Okay. Everyone's present, but Commissioner Bell.

COMMISSIONER ROWLING: Blake Rowling's present.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: We'll call this meeting to order May 26th, 2021, at 9:19 -- 9:18 a.m.

Mr. Wolf -- Mr. Smith. I'm sorry. Mr. Smith has a statement to make.

MR. SMITH: You bet. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Just as a reminder since I started off with the first faux pas of the meeting, we need to push that button on your microphone to engage it when you're speaking. So but, yeah, Mr. Chairman. Thank you. Public notice of this meeting --

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: You're reminding everybody?

MR. SMITH: Yes, I was just reminding all the Commissioners to do that, myself included, so.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Everybody. Yeah.

MR. SMITH: A 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.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you, Carter. First order of business is approval of the minutes from the previous Work Session, March 24th, 2021. They've been distributed. Do we have a motion for --


CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Vice-Chairman. Seconded by?


CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Abell, thank you.

And again, I apologize. We're going to still have to call the roll. Hopefully, we can do away with that in the future; but I'm advised that we have to continue to do this.

Okay. I vote yes.




CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Foster, are you a yes?

COMMISSIONER FOSTER: What am I supposed to do right here?



(Chorus of yeses)





CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Commissioner Scott. So everyone approved except we had no vote from Commissioner Bell. Motion carries.

For you two new -- we have to go through this. We don't normally do this when -- Legal counsel advised us going back to our original when we did this remotely to go through the roll call and record everybody's individual vote.

So we'll move to Work Session Item No. 1, Update on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's Progress in Implementing the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Plan, Mr. Smith.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Carter Smith with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Just as a point of departure with respect to the Land and Water Resources Plan as a whole, I'll just remind the Commission that the Sunset Commission has recommended that we do an overhaul of that plan. As you know really for the last, I'd say, 10 or 15 years we've used that plan as kind of an overarching visionary plan for the Department as whole under which all of our plans are nested around kind of four major goals having to do with science and stewardship and outdoor recreation and public education and then also responsible business practices.

The Sunset Commission has directed that we realign that plan back to its original purpose when it was conceived back in 2001 and to have it really more oriented as a statewide resource recreation and conservation plan. So with specific metrics about conservation and recreation related considerations. So that is something that Clayton's going to be working on with a larger cross-disciplinary team inside the Agency and something that we're going to need to work more closely with the Commission about going forward. So I just want to give you a heads up about -- about that.

Let's see. Next slide. With respect to Internal Affairs, last meeting we reported that our Assistant Commander Mike Durand was promoted to Major and Director of our Internal Affairs related team. That leaves a spot beneath him for Assistant Commander. That position as been posted. We have a number of very, very qualified, very talented applicants for that position and so Mike and Clayton are going to have their hands full with that -- with that selection. And so, but look forward to reporting back to the Commission on that in August after a decision is made. Obviously, a very important position with that -- with that unit.

American Fisheries Society, I think as some of the Commission know, is the professional society of fisheries biologists, fisheries scientists, aquatic ecologists. It's comprised of both academic and nonacademic members. Each year the Southern Division gives an award for the best scientific paper and this is not the first time that our Inland Fisheries team has been recognized by that body for their outstanding scholarship and research and I'm thrilled that our Heart of the Hills research team -- Warren Schlechte and Dan Daugherty and Nate Smith and Dave Buckmeier -- were selected for their latest research on Alligator gar.

And this is a continuation I guess, Craig, of the 10 or 12 years of investments in science and research, applied science and research on matters related to the management of gar from life history and biology to management practices. This is more obviously in the human dimension's realm. It was also a nice feather in the crown to see other colleagues in Inland Fisheries, specifically from our River Studies and Conservation team get the second runner up for their work on the conservation status of native fishes in Texas streams and so everything from native minnows to Guadalupe bass and looking at their conservation needs. So proud of Megan and Stephen and Kevin and Sarah for their important work. So kudos to the team on that, Craig. Really, really, proud of you there.

Let's see. Next slide has to do with a couple of recognitions of our game wardens across the state and I think all of y'all are acutely aware that one of the great hallmarks of our Law Enforcement team is really that commitment to community oriented policing and making sure that our game wardens are well embedded in the communities in which they serve. This was exemplified recently over in Kerr County. Car Wardlow, a native of Llano who works now over in Kerr County was honored with the Game Warden of the Year by the local Rotary Club. Colton Thomas down in Live Oak County recognized by the Safari Club International, their South Texas Chapter as the Game Warden of the Year. And so we're proud of Colton and Car and just, again, another extension of the terrific work, Chad, that the team is doing out in the field. So kudos to Colton and Car.

Next slide has to do with really a water safety related matter. I think the Commission is familiar with the fact that the Coast Guard is inarguably one of our most important partners on our coastal and inland waterways. We work very closely together on everything from federal fisheries related enforcement to interception of Mexican launches that are coming over illegally to harvest fish in the Gulf and the South Texas bays to water safety again on inland and coastal waterways.

One of the issues that has been particularly vexing as of late has been conflicts between kind of smaller pleasure recreational craft in the larger barge traffic going into the Port of Houston and Port of Galveston and obviously the big wakes that are created from the barges and some of the recreational boaters not being as advertent to that as they should to and the result sometimes being tragic from a water safety perspective. And so we were very pleased to see our Assistant Commander Cody Jones, national recognized expert in water safety and past president of the National Association of Boating Safety Law Administrators be asked to serve on this working group to see what else we can do from an education and outreach perspective.

And, Commissioner Scott, you remember this issue came up down there on the Sabine waterway with respect to shrimpers and barge traffic and some of the conflicts. And, again, this is just kind of an extension of what we're seeing with these barge related issues on the coast.

So, let's see. Next -- next slide. We've got a number of anniversaries that we're celebrating this year and one of those is the 25th Anniversary of our Nature Tourism Program that's very capably led by Shelly Plante inside the Department. It was started by John Herron, who ran our Wildlife Diversity Program 25 years ago to really build on this growing trend and interest in non-consumptive use and enjoyment of wildlife. So birding, looking at bat emergences, studying butterflies, taking pictures of wildlife. And John was really ahead of his time in creating this program at the Department. And two of the programs that were created at that time was, one, the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail, which was a partnership with communities along the coast from an economic development and a nature tourism perspective, created maps and sites for the public could go whether they wanted to see Whooping cranes in Rockport or songbirds when they were falling out after the spring migration over the Gulf at Bolivar Peninsula or shorebirds down at Boca Chica and it was a huge success. So much so that other parts of the state wanted to be part of it and so today we've got nine of these coordinated wildlife trails across the state, 900 different sites where wildlife enthusiasts can go on public and private lands to enjoy wildlife. And the program has been emulated now, I think, in 40 states and in a number of different countries. So excited about its growth, but also the emulation that's occurred across the country and the globe.

It's also the 25th anniversary of the Great Texas Birding Classic, which is a tournament of bird watchers that compete as teams who see over a month-period who can see the most birds around the state. Just like everything else during the time of COVID, we saw a huge increase in this. Roughly a 60 percent increase in participation, almost 200 teens that participated in the event around the state. And through the Classic, they raise money which ultimately is invested back in habitat related projects around the state. So it's a nice way to connect nature tourism with conservation. So, again, really proud of Shelly and Joshua that work in that program and what they're doing to promote these opportunities around Texas.

Let's see. Next slide. Tomorrow night is the Lone Star Land Steward Awards. What Clayton calls affectionately the Academy Awards of land stewardship. A chance for us to herald and recognize private landowners for their exemplary stewardship of lands and waters and fish and wildlife and environment that we call home. And each year through a competitive process, we select the best of the best to represent, again, those exemplary stewards across different ecoregions, as well as the statewide award.

Tomorrow -- and Justin Dreibelbis is here -- there will be a ceremony that we'll have. Because of the current climate, we're going to do it virtually and so I hope everybody will tune in. Dee will make sure that you have that link. It will be on at 6:00 o'clock and we'll stream it live and once again, we've got an extraordinary group of honorees. I mean just very, very deserving; but also just a very, very special group of people that reflect the unique composition of landowners and very dedicated land stewards across our state.

So, Justin, we're excited about tomorrow night and looking forward to that.

Had the chance to visit with Commissioner Foster a little bit about this this morning and this is the second phase of a research project that our Wildlife team, along with partners at Sul Ross and Tech and A&M and others have been involved in, Texas Bighorn Society, to look at some of the implications and perhaps ramifications of the burgeoning Aoudad populations out in the Trans-Pecos and while we don't have good population figures, certainly anecdotally we know that those numbers of Aoudads have exploded in the last 10 to 12 years in the mountain ranges out in the Trans-Pecos. And with that, of course, has come more hunting opportunities, which has been good, and an opportunity for landowners to diversify their income; but it's also brought, I think, important scientific and management questions about interspecific competition between Mule deer and Aoudad and Bighorn sheep for forage and space and water and habitat. And so we've got one phase of the study that's looking at the overlap there in trying to draw some conclusions just about how much competition there is between species.

The second part of the study is one that I wanted to mention today and it has to do with the concern about Aoudads potentially serving as a vector for Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae or Movi, which is a bacterial-borne, respiratory-related disease that's typically found in domestic sheep and goats. It's been a big problem with respect to Bighorn sheep die-offs in the western part of the sheep range. And up until recently, we really haven't had a problem or at least a known problem with Movi out in the Trans-Pecos with our Bighorn sheep. Last year we had a pretty significant die-off due to pneumonia there at our Black Gap Wildlife Management Area and there was concern about whether or not Aoudad may be the vector for that. We know that Aoudad possess the Movi, the bacteria. And so there's a study going on at our Mason Mountain Wildlife Management Area that our Wildlife team is involved in to look at whether or not Aoudads can transmit that bacterial-borne pneumonia and disease from nose-to-nose contact and also through shared water sources.

Again, important implications out in the desert as we think about the use of water guzzlers and the importance of water out there and, again, whether or not there might be some issues that we're going to need to manage around. So we look forward to reporting on the results of that study when they're finalized.

But, John, I know that's an important one to our team out West and many of our private landowners out West that are interested in how best to manage and interface all these -- all these species there.

Next slide really has to do with a quick update on Alligator gar. And for the last 10 or 12 years, the Commission has really invested a lot in trying to elevate the status of that fishery in Texas and also bring some more scientific and biologically based management and harvest principles to bear on the management of this very, very unique species of fish. And across its historic range, Alligator gar have declined fairly precipitously. At least particularly older age class gar and Texas has been really one of the last reservoirs for healthy and robust populations across all age cohorts of Alligator gar and, obviously, we want to -- we want to keep it that way. And so the Commission has invested in a number of rules and regulations. As I said, our Inland Fisheries team has been very focused on helping to increase the body of knowledge about Alligator gar, which really to date wasn't very well-known prior to this effort.

Last year the Commission put in place a couple of new rules relating to Alligator gar. One, a mandatory reporting of all Alligator gar harvested, save and except in Falcon Lake; and also a prohibition on the harvest and possession of Alligator gar larger than 4 feet in size in that stretch of the Trinity River basically below Dallas to the I-10 bridge I guess at Winnie and so in that particular area. And if somebody wants a chance to harvest a larger gar over 4 feet, there's a new permit system that we put in place last year in which somebody can put in an application and be drawn through a random drawing.

So we're in the heart of Alligator gar fishing season right now, which typically extends from March into July. May is really kind of the premier month for the gar fishermen to be out with rod and reel and bow. We're still obviously accumulating data and we'll have more to report after kind of the second year of these regulations. But what Craig and his team have learned to date is that of the almost, let's say, a thousand gar that were reported harvested last year across the -- across the state, 85, 86 percent of those were under 6 feet in size. Roughly, 13 percent of that gar harvest took place in the Trinity watershed. Most of them in and around the upper reaches of Lake Livingston and then also down where the Trinity River dumps into Trinity Bay and ultimately to Galveston Bay. Choke Canyon is a big point of emphasis for gar fishermen. No surprise to our Fisheries biologists. Roughly 10 percent of the harvest reported came out of Choke Canyon.

And something that certainly Robin and his team have been documenting for sometime has been the increase in gar in those estuarian areas along the coast. And so 45, 48 percent of the gar that were reported harvested came out of our coastal counties. So think about places like the Guadalupe Delta or the Nueces Delta where those rivers are meeting the bays and that's proven to be a pretty prolific and productive spot for folks to be able to chase gar.

Other things that we have learned, you know, roughly two-thirds of the gar fishermen are doing it through rod and reel, and another 20 plus percent are doing it through bowfishing and then the remainder are doing it through some kind of a jugline or a trotline.

Probably on the Trinity River, Craig, that basis is probably more half and half, right, when we look at the split between bowfishermen and those using more traditional rod-and-reel related techniques. So a lot still to learn and I think after we get through, again, this spring and summer fishing season, we'll have some more updated data to bring y'all and look forward to sharing that with y'all as soon as we -- as soon as we have it.

Speaking of anniversaries, last one I want to bring up is the 35th anniversary of the ShareLunker Program. This has been, again, one of the preeminent citizen science, angler engagement programs that our Inland Fisheries team has led and in the spirit of continuing to develop and promote Texas as the premier bass fishery in the United States, which I say unequivocally it is, the Inland Fisheries biologists have done a great job with the ShareLunker Program, encouraging fishermen who catch bass 13 pounds or larger to donate those bass to our broodstock program and our selective breeding program there at Athens at the fish hatchery to breed and the broodstock then is split. Some of those fish are kept to be used in our breeding program and then some of them are put back in the lakes and reservoirs in which they were caught.

But in the last few years or a couple years ago, Craig and his team decided that we probably needed to kind of re-brand that program a little bit and figure out a way to engage more anglers in the celebration of the catch of big bass across the public lakes and reservoirs in Texas. And so as y'all will recall, three new categories were established: Our Lunker and Elite classes for bass under 13 pounds and then the Legacy class for bass over 13 pounds. This year, we're in the throes of, again, collecting those Legacy class fish. There have been 20 some odd fish, I guess, that have been caught to date that have met that category. A dozen of them have come out of San Angelo, O.H. Ivie. So that reservoir has come back in a big way.

Four new lakes that have reported ShareLunkers caught out of them and five state records, including at Tyler and Eagle Mountain Lake and Lake Travis right here in Austin. So really excited about the work that Craig and his team have done on recasting and re-branding this program and, again, I think the anglers are really excited about their chance to participate in it. So good stuff on that front.

Mr. Chairman, I think that concludes that part of my update and I'd being ready to transition back to the Legislative update if you're ready for that.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: I've got one question about Alligator gar.

MR. SMITH: Uh-huh.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: There was a picture floating around on social media. I think on one of the streams I saw. You were -- I think you were copied, but it showed a boat with about a dozen gar over 4 feet with four fishermen. Do we follow up on stuff like that --

MR. SMITH: We will. Yeah, when we --

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: -- legally? I don't know when these -- this picture was taken. I don't know if it was an old picture or --

MR. SMITH: I don't remember the particulars of that one, Chairman. We see those pictures with some regularity, just to be honest with --

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: This is just -- this is just recent.

MR. SMITH: If you saw it, I suspect our Law Enforcement team saw it. I don't know if Jarret is here, Chad.


MR. SMITH: Jarret, if you wanted to speak on that? One of y'all come up to the mic.


MR. SMITH: Either one, yeah.

COLONEL JONES: Push the button?

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COLONEL JONES: Chairman, yes, sir. Craig and I were recently just talking upstairs about, I believe, that particular post and thread. And we do get a lot of pictures on that. We follow up on each and every one of them. I can't go into great detail about how we're going to --


COLONEL JONES: -- implement that, but we're in the process right now of investigating that.

MR. BONDS: And I'm not sure which picture you may be referring to, but I can recall one picture that came to our attention recently was some bowfishing activity. It was in the Sabine River and we did follow up and two of -- at least two of those larger gar were reported in our harvest reporting system. So that was something that we were actually encouraged to see that those fish were reported. But, yes, we're --


MR. BONDS: -- regularly communicating between Inland Fisheries and Law Enforcement as those come to our attention.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: I'll send you this picture just to --

MR. BONDS: Okay.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: -- like I say, circulate it around. I count 15 gar and there are four fishermen, so.

MR. BONDS: Okay. I'd like to see that.

COLONEL JONES: Yes, sir. Thank you.


Thanks, Carter.

VICE-CHAIRMAN APLIN, III: Hey, Craig can you speak a little bit? Carter did the Toyota ShareLunker Program. But give us a little bit more color on what we do with the fish, the offspring, just the stocking -- we are -- I mean, we're the number one bass fishing state in the country and that's -- that's big. And so the success is -- is, you know, proven itself. But give us just a little bit of color on what we do with these fish, the hatchery, and what we do with the offspring, if you would?

MR. BONDS: Sure. Thank you, Mr. Vice-Chairman. I'd be happy to. For the record, Craig Bonds, Director of the Inland Fisheries Division. And this is -- this is a pretty big deal for us and I don't know if y'all are fully aware, but we've undertaken an exercise to fully convert our Florida Largemouth bass broodfish to be fully comprised of offspring of these selectively bred ShareLunkers. And so this is a big did deal because prior to recent years, we've been stocking Florida bass that years ago we acquired from the State of Florida and they've produced great bass fishing in the State of Texas, no doubt.

However, we're taking now these selectively bred offspring, creating our own broodfish lines from those angler donated -- offspring of those angler donated fish and instead of stocking tens of thousands of ShareLunker offspring out into our waters in the state, we'll be stocking millions of ShareLunker offspring out into the state every year. We stock anywhere from about 8 to 12 million Florida bass fingerlings every year and starting next year, 2022, we will be pretty much completed, our conversion, and most of those, if not all of those fingerlings, will be direct offspring.

And what we're learning from our genetic capabilities is pretty powerful, is the -- we have parentage analysis for all of the fish that we're using as broodfish in our hatchery program, including the ShareLunkers. And when those fish are stocked and then they come back to us from anglers or our biologists go out there and sample those populations, we're finding very interesting linkages back to our hatchery program. It's really exciting. We're taking bass fishing to a whole new level, and I'm really proud of our staff. They're doing great work.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Okay, thank you.

Any other comments or questions?

Then we'll move on to Work Session Item No. 2, Legislative Update, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Rules Needed to Implement Legislation Passed During the 87th Texas Legislature. Mr. Smith, Mr. Murphy, would you make your presentation?

MR. SMITH: Great. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. Again for the record, my name is Carter Smith and I'll handle this, although at the end we may have an issue and need to bring James up just to get request for permission, something proactively in anticipation of some rules that we'll need to get in front of the Commission in August; but I may be able to handle that too, so.

We've got five days until sine die. Lots of people are counting and I think suffice to say, I think the Department has had a very strong Legislative Session in no small part due to the support of the Texas Legislature, the Commission, lots of friends and partners out there that have engaged on various and sundry Parks and Wildlife related issues, both on the budget and the statutory related fronts.

I would remiss if I didn't acknowledge both Allison Winney and David Eichler, our -- and Cidney Sunvison as well. Three members of our Intergovernmental Affairs team who've just done yeoman's work and terrific leadership during what all of you know was a very unusual and unprecedented time down at the Capitol. And so really, really proud of their work.

Mr. Chairman, what I thought I would do is touch on some of the highlights budgetarily that I'd say the Commission was the most familiar with and then also some of the key bills. Reggie is going to give a more detailed financial overview in just a little bit, but let me highlight on some of the -- highlight some of the key things financially. Obviously, I'm not going to talk about all of our budget. I'm simply going to talk about a couple of things, not the least of which were a couple of exceptional item requests that we have. Again, these are the things above and beyond the base budget that we ask for to see if we can get special authorization to be able to fund.

You know, I'll also remind y'all, as well as our new Commissioners, that when we submitted our Legislative Appropriations Request back in the fall, given the state of the economy and the likely revenue forecast potential for the State, you know, we were seriously contemplating and thinking about what very serious and substantive budget cuts would look like for the Department as a whole, as well as all state government. And so where we're landing now is a very significant departure from that planning and so, you know, as they say, plan for the worst and hope for the best. And, again, I'm pleased about where we've landed.

This table shows a slide of some of the key items that we requested and the Commission was particularly involved in. Obviously, the Law Enforcement related helicopter. We only have one functional helicopter now to serve the entirety of the state for all of our surveillance, emergency response, disaster relief, routine patrols, fish and wildlife surveys. And so we were very pleased to see the House and Senate come together in HB 2, the supplemental bill, to provide funding for that. And, again, thank you to the Commission for y'all's leadership and advocacy for that. That was critical.

The next item on there, funding and FTEs to implement the mandatory CAPPS. That's our centralized accounting, payroll, and personnel related system. The first agency to go through both the HR side and the accounting and budgetary and payroll side of that. Because of the unique nature of our funding streams and the cost accounting that we do, CAPPS really wasn't built for an Agency like Parks and Wildlife. It was built really for more agencies that are more of a single stream general revenue. So as Reggie can well attest, we've had some pretty substantive growing pains acclimating to that and so we were asking for funding to be able to continue on with the necessary personnel to effectively implement that and as you can see in the Budget Conference Committee between the House and Senate, we got most of what we asked for. Not all of it, but most.

The third item, URMFT, one of the thousand and one acronyms that we have at Parks and Wildlife and that may be an underestimate, that's the Unclaimed Refund of Motorboat Fuel Tax. One of those revenue streams that we get that funds our invasive and exotic species work and our Law Enforcement related work. There was a disparity between what the Legislative Budget Board estimated would be available for the Department versus what the Comptroller estimated. The Comptroller had estimated that there would be $2.6 million less than what the LBB had plugged into our budget and if that was the case, then we would be looking at a budget cut to the Agency. And so we asked the Legislature to harmonize that and they did and substituted that delta with general revenue funds in conference. So we were pleased about that.

The last problem, which was again a good problem to have, was the estimate of additional available revenue from that portion of the sales tax that we know as the sporting goods sales tax and estimated roughly 68.1 million dollars more that is available to the Department for state and local park related investments next biennium. So the question du jour was how best to spend that and where to invest it and that's something we spent a lot of time with the Legislature on during the course of this session.

And so with respect to that 68 million, where did the Legislature put it? Just from, again, a macro perspective and you can see there in the middle column our request that corresponded with the different categories and then what the House and Senate conferees that worked out the final details of the budget, where they wanted to make their investments. Obviously, we couldn't be more pleased about, again, in general where that is. Critically important dollars to be invested back in state parks. You'll see those 46 new FTEs. Just to put that in perspective with almost 90 parks, you know, that really only equates to half an FTE addition to parks. So it's not a lot as we really think across the needs across the system. But these are all, for the most part, going to be field personnel for Rodney. They're going to be park rangers and park police officers and maintenance specialists and customer service representatives, again, where we need those positions the most out in the field. And, again, some additional capital that Andrea and her team will use to invest in that huge backlog in deferred maintenance that we have.

You can see that the conference elected to invest even more dollars than what we had suggested into the Local Parks Grant Program. Again, one of our most popular programs across the state. And for the first time and I'm really pleased about this, the Legislature was very supportive and appreciative of the critical need for the Department to be able to have some capital for the acquisition of inholdings and buffers around our state parks, recognizing that there are lots of potential threats around our state parks that we need to try to address through free market transactions and willing sellers and so forth. You know, proverbial holes in the doughnut that we want to pick up to be able to build out a park and provide some more amenities. So this is the first time in a long, long, long time that we've actually had any state-based authority for being able to spend funds on additional land for state parks. So that was a -- that was a huge deal with respect to this budget.

There are also a number of budget riders that I wanted to just quickly brief the Commission on. As y'all know, these are basically two-year directives that come with the budget and specify how certain revenue streams or programs are going to be operated or funded, which the funds are going to be expended and there's a couple of these which have been on the Commission's radar screen that I want to highlight. Specifically, Riders 14 and then 35 and 36.

Rider 14 is really a rider that's anticipating the issue that we have in this year now, the last year of the current biennium in which the Comptroller has collected more revenue from the sporting goods sales tax than what was originally estimated. So, for example, in the current year there's $41 million more available to the Department to spend on state and local parks. The way that would go absent this rider is the Legislature would basically pro rata allocate those additional funds if collected -- again, this is all hypothetical -- based on how they appropriate the dollars now. And so our notion was if that were to happen in the next biennium -- in other words, there's more sporting goods sales tax collected than what they're anticipate -- we want to at least be able to have the benefit of a conservation with the Legislature about where those dollars should be spent because two years from now, the situation could have changed dramatically. We could have had a series of storms, hurricanes, floods, et cetera, that mandated that we needed to spend some more capital dollars or, again, some other need. So this rider took care of that and Allison has worked really hard to get that over the goal line.

Riders 35 and 36 relate to new fees that were authorized by the Legislature and approved by the Commission for our Managed Lands Deer Permit Program and our oyster mariculture related program and because of the timing of the standup or setup of these new fees which are occurring right now, essentially the last quarter of the last year of the biennium, we're collecting fees that without these riders, we wouldn't have the ability to spend that money. We wouldn't be able to UB or move those unexpended balances into the next biennium. And so essentially, that revenue would be stranded and while dedicated, would be unexpended and that wouldn't be fair to the promise and pledge, for instance, that we made to landowners that those fees would be used to hire more Wildlife biologists that we desperately need out in the field or we wouldn't have the revenue needed for Robin's team to go back and monitor the implementation and build out of some of these oyster mariculture permits. And so you can see both of those riders were adopted and so we're really, really pleased about that development.

Next slide has to do with some other miscellaneous riders that I thought we would -- would highlight and, again, I'll mention a couple of them, not all of them. Texas State Aquarium, a half a million dollars in general revenue for their new Wildlife Rescue and Recovery Center. They do terrific work with respect to helping with the stranding of marine mammals or in the sea turtle related recovery and rescue and so this would help provide an additional grant that we'll give to them that's dedicated to support that facility and, again, they're a terrific partner. Midway down you'll see the Recreational Trails Program and the Legislative direction to place a million dollars a year from the sporting goods sales tax revenue into our Recreational Trail Grant Program. This is one of those competitive grant programs that the Commission administers and gives out grants to communities and nonprofits and municipalities to build hiking and biking and off-road trails all over the state. Obviously, there's a huge demand for that.

Up to now, all of the revenue for that program has come from a federal excise tax on gasoline and so it's all been federal revenue. This gives us a million dollars a year in state revenue to amplify that and, again, a huge demand for that. So I think that will help that program a lot.

And then last, but not least, we've worked very closely with the El Paso delegation and the leadership about another $5 million investment on the ultimate build out of the replacement of the Wyler Tramway out in the Franklin Mountains. And so that was good to see that one come to fruition.

What's not included on this list, but what came out yesterday, there's another roughly 20 to 25 million dollars in dedicated local park grants and other special projects that will flow through the Department's budget in which either general revenue or some portion of our sporting goods sales tax that's used for our competitive grant programs is dedicated for specific park and other projects around the state and there's a fairly long list of those projects and I'm not going -- I'm not going to go through those, but I've got a list of those if you want to see them. But, obviously, we'll be working with those communities to make those grants come to fruition as directed by the Legislature.

With respect to priority bills, again, when we think about, you know, what were our -- really our highest priorities going into this session, as the Commission knows, it was, you know, a good budget, which I think we have more than received thanks to the support of the Legislature and the Commission and partners; but also the passage of a clean sunset bill and candidly, everything after that was lagniappe. But most of these priority bills have either passed the House and Senate and gone to the Governor or hopefully will soon do so. Again, the sunset bill, the first sunset bill passed by both chambers and sent to the Governor for hopefully his signature. Every other bill on this list, save and except one, has either been signed by the Governor or passed by both the House and the Senate or is in one case awaiting hopefully Senate approval and that's a permit authorization of a commercial fishing license issue, kind of a clean-up one. The one that unfortunately didn't make it -- we ran out of time last night -- is the second one and I really hope that the Department and the Commission will pursue this with vigor next session. It's one of those scratch-your-head related issues; but basically at this juncture our employees that are traveling outside of their duty station for some work related responsibility, by law are not allowed to purchase their groceries within the confines of their duty station. So if we're sending a video crew or a team of Fisheries or Wildlife biologists or game wardens outside of their county of duty, they have to buy their groceries in another place outside of it. And please don't ask me the underpinnings for why such a restriction exists, but we decided to pursue an exemption for that with the Legislature and we really appreciate Vice-Chair Gervin-Hawkins and Senator Sue -- Senator Hughes for pursuing that, but we ran out of time in the House last night; but it's a -- it's a big issue for us administratively and from a morale perspective and so hopefully we can get that over the goal line next session.

Next slide, last couple of bills here in various stages you can see, like the veteran days for waterfowl hunting. Congress passed a bill in 2019 that gave states the ability to dedicate two additional days for members of and veterans of our armed services. We don't have the authority to do that with the Commission and so we needed to go seek authority to get y'all the authority to do that and as you can see, that has passed both chambers and has been sent to the Governor, again, hopefully for his signature. These other bills again in various stages. Hunting on over submerged lands, an important issue over in East Texas where we get that periodic submerged and flooded timber and concerns about trespassing in those tributaries and flooded bottomlands which obviously occur with some regularity and this just gives landowners the ability to post those areas and to keep people from the trespassing by water to get back in areas on private lands where they shouldn't be hunting. It also gives our game wardens some additional tools to be able to enforce that. The boating while intoxicated with a child passenger, really an important one for us from a water safety perspective that amplified some penalties for those who are charged with a BWI who have with them a child under 15. And, again, as we go into water safety season and I'll remind the Commission that really starting now, Memorial Day through Labor Day, our game wardens are very, very busy, as are our state park police officers on all the waterbodies across the state making sure that people boat and fish responsibly and safely and clearly we want to do everything we can to prevent or preclude accidents or drownings and so this amplified penalty we think will help.

Again, all in all, really we're in a very good position from our priority bills and I want to compliment David and Allison again for their hard work and I also want to publicly thank our many partners who worked very, very hard down at the Legislature with the Legislature to see these through to fruition.

As in any session, there are bits of legislation that are or that require Commission rule-making. Candidly, those are pretty ministerial. The Legislature passes a bill, it's signed by the Governor, and it basically directs a state governing board to adopt certain rules to put things into effect. These are examples of bills that will require some rule-making by the Commission. In order to meet the deadlines of that legislation, we're going to have to seek your approval in the August Commission Meeting so that they can go into effect on September 1st of 2021 or as soon thereafter as the legislation allows.

And so really what James and I wanted to do today is simply request your permission to publish rules in the Texas Register as necessary to implement legislation passed by the regular session of the 87th Texas Legislature. Again, that's kind of a perfunctory related function of the Commission at this time of year in the session that we need to secure your approval on.

So with that, Mr. Chairman, I'll stop and see if you or any of the other Commissioners have any questions for me or James with respect to the rule-making.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you, Carter. Congratulations to you and your team. I think you did a -- we had a fantastic session.

MR. SMITH: Well, thank you, Chairman. I -- again, we had a lot of support. A number of them are here out in the audience and I won't make their faces turn red and embarrass them, but we had a lot of support. The Commission was very engaged, as you know, and very grateful for the legislative leadership too, for their focus on things that were really important to the effective operations and functions of this Agency and so I want to thank you as well, Chairman, for being always so accessible.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Are there any questions or comments? Hildebrand?

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: A couple. One, congratulations. Really nice, well done on all of your legislative efforts. I've just got a general question. What's the status of Battleship Texas? I see your Rider 34.

MR. SMITH: Sure, sure. So the Battleship Texas things are proceeding as well as can be planned. You know, the operations have been transferred to the Battleship Texas Foundation. They're working with their contractor Valkor to finish up all the engineering and plans and permitting to move the ship to a port where they can put it into a dry berth and they've worked with a company to purchase, interestingly enough, a dry berth in the Bahamas that they're waiting to get clearance to bring it over to Galveston, we believe, which ultimately the ship will be barged over to be put in there and then ultimately replace the hull on that front.

The Battleship Texas Foundation is also looking at where the ultimate home for the ship will be and there's interest in a variety of communities on the Texas Coast for hosting the ship there. Clearly the BTF or Battleship Texas Foundation wants it in a place that will maximize tourism and consistent with what we worked on with the Legislature, Commissioner, a place where it will generate enough revenue to deal with the ongoing O and M costs, which you can imagine are substantial for a 100-plus-year-old battleship.

So things are proceeding, I would say, Rodney. It's still -- its berthed right now at San Jacinto. We continue to work with them. The rider that was mentioned there in that list was simply stipulating that the annual reporting or quarterly reporting that we have to do with the Legislature, was restricted essentially to the management of this capital program that I mentioned. We didn't want to be in the position of having to report on all of the myriad operations of the Battleship Texas Foundation who now have responsibility for it. So that's a sum and summary. Rodney, did I miss anything that's of note?

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Great, thanks. I was recently on a tour of the ship channel and saw the Battleship Texas. That is a herculean effort to renovate that. So job well done on finding a...

MR. SMITH: A partner to do that?

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: A good partner to do that with. So thank you.

MR. SMITH: Yes, sir. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Are there any other questions?

If not, I'll authorize staff to publish the proposed rules in the Texas Register.

With that, we'll move on to Work Session Item No. 3, Financial Overview, Request to Exceed Capital Budget Transfer Limitations. Mr. Reggie Pegues, please make your presentation.

MR. PEGUES: Good morning, Commissioners. My name is Reggie Pegues, Chief Financial Officer. I'll be doing a financial overview of revenue summary, budget adjustments, and I'll be bringing to your attention an action item for tomorrow relating to a request to exceed our capital budget funding.

First, I will begin with our revenue summaries. And just overall, pretty much all good news from a revenue point. We're meeting or exceeding all expectations, continuing the trend from earlier in the year. I'll begin first with our license revenue. Through April, we've hit 97.6 million. For the months of March and April, those -- 8.6 million and the 6 million -- those exceed the numbers from last year and so we're again on a record pace and that's even with the dip in February revenue that was due to the winter storm, but we recovered nicely in March and April.

Moving to the revenue comparison for the prior four years, you'll also see that compared to the last four years there's a slight 8.6 percent increase in our revenues. Again, this is kind of fallout from just people doing more outside activities as a result of just the recent COVID pandemic that we have going on.

Moving to the next slide, this is a comparison, this year to last year. This lays out the 8.7 percent increase that translates into $7.8 million. Again, and the big increase is in nonresident fishing and that's a bi-product of this year versus last year. Travel restrictions have been lessened, so more people are getting out on the road and more people are coming to the state. So that kind of clarifies the 21 percent nonresident fishing.

Moving on to state park revenue. Through April, we're at 43.3 million. Again, there was a slight dip in February; but March and April have pretty much refunded -- responded strongly. And the 8.2 million for March is actually the highest single month in recent history and the April revenue of 6.2 million was the sixth best in recent history. So the trending continues to go up.

Moving to the next slide. Again, this is a five-year comparison. Again, for FY '21 there's a roughly 48 percent increase from FY '20, which is phenomenal, that translates into $14 million. So we're, again, at a record pace for our State Parks revenue.

Moving to the year-to-year comparison which lays out the increase. Entrance fees, facility fees, again, as more people are coming back outside, we're see a corresponding increase in our revenues and also our visitation versus '21 to '20, the 33 percent increase for total visits and 39.5 percent for paid visits.

Moving on to boat revenue. Again, this continues to trend, slight dip in February, and then an increase in March and April. Comparison to the prior four years, '17 through '20 were pretty much -- pretty much consistent. FY '21, there's a large increase and that's primarily due to registrations and I'll go a little bit more into detail of the registrations in this next slide here.

The registrations, the 21.4 percent increase, this is, just again, more people are getting out again. So that's increasing the registrations or people are legally getting out again and so that shows an upswing in regulations -- in registrations. The retained sales, that 100 percent increase, that's due to just, one, an increase in just the price of vehicles and, again, just more people getting out as results of the -- the difference between this year and last year.

So that concludes my revenue summary. If there aren't any questions, I'd like to move on to our budget adjustments.

This is our budget summary as of FY '21. We have an adjusted budget of 61 -- 691.9 million dollars and we have budget adjustments since our -- since February of 23.2 million. The first category operational/noncapital UB, these are remaining operating funds from FY '20 that we can move into FY '21. We have a unique rider in our bill pattern that lets us carry forward any operating funds from the first year of the biennium into the second year of the biennium. So that's 2.2 million.

Next category, 17.8, our largest category. This is an adjustment to our federal funds. Again, these are federal funds that we either brought forward from FY '20 to '21 or increases in our apportionments that occurred in fiscal year. The biggest increases in that were in sport fish restoration and wildlife restoration.

Next category, appropriated receipts -- and that UB, that's for unexpended balances. That 1 million basically represents gifts, donations, transactions that occur since the beginning of the year that increase our internal budget.

The next category, capital construction/unexpended balances. Again, we have the authority to transfer unexpended balances from the first year of the biennium to the second year of the biennium. That 1.5 million, roughly half of that is related to our Minor Repair Program. The next item, employee fringe/unemployment. These are just adjustments to our retirement, insurance, type of pay, just those are basically estimates and so throughout the course of the year, they tend to fluctuate. So this is just an adjustment to match our budget with our projected expenditures. And that gets us to our adjusted budget of $691.9 million.

Any questions?

If not, I would like to move on to the next item and this kind of overlaps with some of what Carter mentioned regarding the sporting goods sales tax. He mentioned for 22-23, we've had an additional 68 million -- well, for FY '21 we got $41 million under basically the same authority. What he also mentioned was for F -- for 22-23, we're requesting language that gives us a little bit more control of where the funds are. For FY '21, that 41.8 million was basically allocated in proportion to our original amounts. So this additional increase of 41.8 million, we really have no say in how it's allocated and so the way the funds were laid out, there was some opportunities. Now, when those funds came in, they gave us additional cash and additional budget authority.

What they did not give us was additional capital budget authority and we have some priority needs relating to our State Parks Division that we'd like to use this additional funding of the 41.8 million. But in order to use these funds, we need additional capital budget authority and under general appropriation requirements, the Commission has to submit a request to both the Legislative Budget Board and the Governor's Office to approve this request. Once the request is approved, then we can make those necessary transfers to make those purchases.

This next slide is going to be an act -- going to be presented tomorrow as an action item, but I would like to go through what these adjustments are. And this replaces -- there's a handout in your binders. This replaces that one and the reason for the change is as a result of some of the legislative action downtown, some of those actions kind of necessitated our making adjustments on our end. So there were adjustments in 22-23 that Carter went into. Well, so now we're going to adjust our '21 amounts to kind of compensate for that. And I'll also go -- I'll also explain the differences between what's in your binders and this new handout here, which you should have also received a copy of that.

But the first item, construction and major repairs, these are for disparities, construction projects. The original amount was 21 million. We reduced it to 16 million and we also adjusted the funding by a combination of our capital account and Fund 64. That decrease from 21 to 16 million, we increased our capital transportation item. That item of 9.9 million, we adjusted that upwards and that's a result of in 22-23, our original request for transportation items was 9.2 million. This amount was basically split in half. Some of it was applied to local grants. So to offset that, we're increasing our FY '21 amount to get those kind of necessary items.

Capital equipment, we increased that to 4 point million dollars to accommodate some sports equipment, some additional radios. That brings our total request capital budget to $33.7 million. The remaining 8 million of that is for noncapital items in the State Parks Division.

And, again, tomorrow I will present the formal action item. I wanted to give you detail for that today. Are there any questions?

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Are there any questions from the Commission?

If there are no -- no questions, I will place the item on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Thank you very much.

MR. PEGUES: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Work Session Item No. 4, Internal Audit Update. Ms. Brandy Meeks, please make your presentation. Good morning.

MS. MEEKS: Good morning, Chairman, Vice-Chairman, and Commissioners. For the record, my name is Brandy Meeks. I'm the Internal Audit Director. This morning I would like to update you on the status of our fiscal year '20 and '21 internal audit plans, as well as our ongoing and completed external audits and assessments.

This first slide shows the statuses and the next slide show the status of our fiscal year '20 internal audit plan. As presented last Commission Meeting, all of our performance, IT, and cybersecurity projects, as well as our special projects are now complete and I am happy to say that as of May 13, all of our 25 state park fiscal control audits are now complete as well.

This slide and the next two slides are going to show the status of our fiscal year '21 internal audit plan. All of our performance, IT, and cybersecurity audits are currently in various phases of the audit process. No. 3 under performance audits, you will see that the audit of selected contracts has not started; but actually that started yesterday. So we are underway with that one as well. And I will be providing a Q3 follow-up report before June 30th of this year for audit activity in the third quarter.

We do have ten state park fiscal control audits on this year's internal audit plan. Two of those are now complete, six of those are in various phases of the audit process, and two have not yet started and I fully expect us to be able to complete all ten of those by the end of this fiscal year.

As far as special projects and administrative duties, No. 4 under special projects, we are currently implementing new audit software. We are in the configuration phase at this point, but I do anticipate us having that fully configured, tested, and go live by the end of this fiscal year. And I do thank Executive Management and the Commission for approving that audit software. It's really going to help us out.

Administrative duties, No. 3, I will be working with Executive Management and the Audit Committee on implementing the sunset and peer review recommendations. That will be completed by the fourth quarter. We also filled our Auditor II vacancy with an exceptional candidate. He is already on-boarded and is already starting to participate in the state park audits.

As far as external audits and reviews are concerned, we do still have one in process and this is Deepwater Horizon Restoration Natural Resource Damage Funds audit. That is currently in the reporting phase and I do anticipate that report coming out at the end of this week or early next week. And then we've also had two external audits that have completed since our last Commission Meeting. That is the OIG U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program Grant audit, as well as the SAO's report on the implementation status of prior State Auditor's Office recommendations.

That completes my presentation. Thank you for listening, and I'm happy to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you, Brandy.

Any questions from the Commission?

If there are no further questions, I will place the item on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action. Thank you.

MS. MEEKS: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Work Item No. 6, something we do every May, so we can hunt on our public lands. Justin Dreibelbis, please make your presentation.

MR. DREIBELBIS: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Justin Dreibelbis. I'm the Private Lands and Public Hunting Program Director in the Wildlife Division. As you mentioned, each year we come to you in May requesting a couple items related to the Public Hunting Program. First, we ask for action on an open season on public hunting lands for the coming season and we also ask for your approval for public hunting activities on state parks for the following season.

In order to provide hunting activities on public hunting land, the Commission must provide for an open season. The open season is typically from September 1st to August 31st. The Commission is also asked to approve specific hunting activities on units of the state park system, which are included in your briefing materials. Staff proposes hunts on 45 units of the state park lands for the 21-22 season. There are a total of 1,353 proposed hunt positions, of which 390 are youth positions, and we're also proposing 46 groups which can be comprised of -- from one to four hunters.

We've had four public comments on the item, all in favor. And I'll be back tomorrow to request action on this item. I'll be glad to answer any questions you might have.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: One question. What is the process that you undergo or review in terms of which state parks you allow hunting on? How does that -- walk that -- walk me through that.

MR. DREIBELBIS: Sure. So in our Public Hunting Program, we go through a formal proposal process each year where our WMAs, state parks, all these areas submit their hunting proposals according to deer populations, whatever wildlife population will be hunted. Then there's also the -- you know, considerations for public use and all those different things go into those decisions for each state park.

It's not required. Each state park is certainly not required to host public hunts. It's strongly encouraged if they have the public use, I guess, abilities to be able to do that. Some areas will close the parks. Some areas will actually keep the park open and just close the areas for safety reasons. So it really is kind of variable from park to park which areas host hunts, but...

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: And once again, who makes that decision in term of the variability?

MR. DREIBELBIS: That would be a park-to-park decision, superintendents.

MR. SMITH: So, yeah. And, Rodney, you may want to come and address it. But normally our superintendents work closely with the local wildlife biologists to determine, you know, whether or not there's a biological basis to support it, again, the management of the different uses there. As Justin said, we really encourage it. Roughly half of our parks allow hunting; but ultimately, the superintendent makes that call, and makes a recommendation up to Rodney and it goes to Justin.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: So roughly about 50 percent of the state parks allow some form of hunting?


MR. FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think that's about right. Yeah.

MR. SMITH: About right, uh-huh.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Okay. All right. How many parks do we have?

MR. SMITH: 86? 85?


MR. SMITH: 88.


COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: 88. And the type of hunting that occurs on each of those specific 40 some odd parks is all different, I assume? I mean, you've got deer hunting and --

MR. FRANKLIN: Yes, sir, that's correct.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: -- bird hunting and --

MR. FRANKLIN: That's correct. For the record, my name's Rodney Franklin, State Parks Director. But as Justin and Carter alluded to, all of those decisions are worked in concert with the local wildlife biologists to determine what type of hunt will happen and the particular logistics of each hunt working with the wildlife biologists based on surveys and the lay of the park and those sorts of things.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: How much activity you've got? I mean, certainly you don't want a bunch of bikers, you know, with folks with high-powered rifles, you know, running around with bikers there.

MR. FRANKLIN: That's correct. That's why we include the park's superintendent on those decisions to determine which areas make the most sense for a hunt compartment based on the activity and which activities we'll close, quite frankly. Sometimes we'll close biking trails for that exact reason.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Great. Thanks very much.

MR. FRANKLIN: You bet.

MR. DREIBELBIS: It can certainly be a balancing act for State Park staff for sure, but we very much appreciate Rodney and his team's support.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Any other questions?

Thank you very much. I'll place this item on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Move on to Work Session Item No. 7.


CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Am I missing something? I went to the wrong one. Excuse me. Go back to item -- I'm sorry. Public Lands Proclamation, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. Okay, thank you.

MR. DREIBELBIS: All right. Good morning again. For the record, my name's Justin Dreibelbis. I'm the Private Lands and Public Hunting Program Director in the Wildlife Division.

So at the March Work Session, the Commission authorized staff to publish a list of proposed amendments to the Public Lands Proclamation. This morning I'll go through each one of these proposed amendments briefly.

As a safety precaution on our WMAs and state parks, loaded firearms are prohibited in vehicles, campsites, parking areas, check stations. Our first amendment would alter the definition of loaded firearm to include some new technologies in modern firearms from a safety perspective. Our second amendment concerns youth hunting on public hunting lands and it would eliminate a conflicting provision regarding an age limit for participation in youth hunting during the federal youth-only waterfowl season. Recent federal action allows individual states to establish any minimum age for participation provided it's less than 18 and removing this current provision will allow the Department to have a uniform standard for participation in all youth hunting activities on public lands.

Our final item would change the name of the subchapter to the Public Hunting Proc -- the Public Hunting Proclamation, which we feel would more accurately describe the contents of the subchapter since nearly all of it is related to public hunting activities. It's also important to note that public hunting is not restricted to public lands. We have over 100 -- I believe 110 public hunting dove leases that are located on private land. And so for all these reasons, we feel like a name change is appropriate.

Public comment, we had three total comments. Two in favor, one against. The one against was not germane to the proposal. And I'll be glad to answer any questions you might have. I'll be back to request action on these items tomorrow.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Any questions?

All right, thank you. I'll place the item on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Now we'll go to Work Session Item No. 7, Aerial Wildlife Management Rules, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. Claudia Solis and Stormy King, please make your presentation.

MS. SOLIS: Good morning, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Claudia Solis and I'm the Deer Breeder Program Leader in the Wildlife Division. This morning I'll be presenting the published amendments to the rules governing the management of wildlife and exotic species from an aircraft.

In 2016, the Commission promulgated regulations to set forth the circumstances under which the Department could choose to refuse to issue or renew an aerial wildlife management permit on the basis of criminal history. Current regulations provide the Department the refusal to issue or renew an aerial wildlife management permit for any applicant who has a final conviction or assessed an administrative penalty for a list of enumerated violations, including violations of Chapter 43, Subchapter C, E, L, R, or R-1; Parks and Wildlife Code Class A or B misdemeanors; State jail felonies; felonies; Parks and Wildlife Code Chapter 63 concerning the unlawful possession of live game and game animals; and the Lacey Act.

The Department has reasoned that it is appropriate to deny the privilege of taking or allowing the take of wildlife resources, especially for personal benefit to persons who exhibit a demonstrable disregard for the laws and regulations governing wildlife. Similarly, it's appropriate to deny such privileges to a person who has exhibited demonstrable disregard for wildlife law in general by committing more egregious violations such as Class A or B misdemeanors and felonies, Parks and Wildlife Code felonies.

In promulgating the regulations, the Department inadvertently overlooked the inclusion of violations of state and federal Airborne Hunting Act -- laws in the list of the predicate offenses in which the Department can refuse to issue or renew an aerial wildlife management permit. The Department believes that it is intuitively obvious that the rules regarding the refusal of issuance or renewal of an aerial wildlife management permit should include provisions regarding violations of either or both the state and federal laws governing the management of wildlife from an aircraft. The proposed amendment to include Chapter 43 Subchapter G in the federal Airborne Hunting Act would remedy this oversight.

I checked this morning. So I need to update this date, but we've had a total of two comments -- or sorry, two responses. Both in favor, completely agree, with no additional comments provided. And tomorrow, staff will be seeking a motion for you to consider the adoption of the amendments presented to you today. I'd be glad to take any questions.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Any questions?

Thank you.

COMMISSIONER BELL: I have one question, Mr. Chairman.

Just -- this is Commissioner Bell. There we go now. Now I've got volume. What percentage of hunting is done as aerial hunting? I mean, it's just interesting.

MS. SOLIS: I couldn't tell you those numbers right off the bat -- I don't have them in front of me, but I'd be glad to produce them to you.

COMMISSIONER BELL: Okay. I was just curious.

MR. KING: If I may, Commissioner. I'm Stormy King, I'm -- for the record, with Law Enforcement. Just to understand this is limited to basically depredation or control hunting. It's not sport hunting.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Good clarification. Thank you.

Any other questions?

Hearing none, I'll place the item on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Work Session Item No. 8, Commercially Protected Finfish Rules, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes, Mr. Jarret Barker.

MR. BARKER: Hey, good morning. For the record, my name is Jarret Barker. I'm with the Law Enforcement Division, Assistant Commander over Fisheries Enforcement. Be making a presentation today about commercially protected finfish rules. This presentation centers around a letter that the Commission received and the Department received earlier this spring that involved a request to fully repeal Chapter 57.

The Agency staff felt that this was not warranted at that time. However, the request did prompt a review of the Administrative Code regulations and this presentation should offer clarification of why those regulations exist and what we recommend maintaining.

Okay. So in 1981, the 67th Legislature debated House Bill 1000 and passed legislation that ended the commercial harvest of Spotted seatrout and Red drum on the Texas Coast. This was an important piece of legislation to protect those two species of fish and that, you know, we all enjoy as recreational catch. With the passage of House Bill 1,000, commercially protected -- commercial fishing for Red drum and Spotted seatrout ended, but we still needed to allow for the legal sale of farm-raised Redfish and imported Redfish and Spotted seatrout from other states. So therein lies the framework for Chapter 7 -- Chapter 57.

At that time, Chapter 57.361 and 371 through 75, each one -- each section, one regulating fish farmers, the other regulating the imported products. In 1989, Chapter 48 of the Parks and Wildlife Code was renumbered to the Texas Agriculture Code. That took aquaculture and fish farming out of the purview of Texas Parks and Wildlife and placed it under the Department of Agriculture. Therefore, it eliminated the need for one set of those regulations.

So that prompted the legislative action in 1991, which repealed Chapter 66.201. That was the original legislative action that placed Red drum and Spotted seatrout under commercial protection. There was a full repeal of that. It was basically rewritten as Parks and Wildlife Code Chapter 66.020, which is what we have in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Code today. It expanded that commercial protection from just Red drum and Spotted seatrout to 23 other species of fish. Namely those fish are the ones that are important to sporting recreation. That's our Black bass, Snook, a number of species.

At that same time, Parks and Wildlife Code Chapter 47.0181, 0182, 0183 were added. These sections expanded invoicing to all aquatic products. Prior to this, the dealers who handle aquatic products either wild-caught, foreign, whatever they may be, did not have to produce invoices for those products to establish where they came from. But that's an important key to management of the state resource in determining the lawful existence or trade of that product.

1994 amended the TAC Chapter 57. It removed the required invoicing requirement for retail fish dealers and restaurants and this really speaks to the heart of the letter that the Texas Aquaculture Association sent to us last spring. These invoicing requirements were problematic for retail fish dealers and restaurants at this time because every time they purchase a box of Red drum, they had to initiate an invoice and then submit it to the Department. There's thousands and thousands of sales of these fish that go to restaurants. So the restaurants and the retail fish dealers were excluded from that reporting requirement; but the reporting requirement was left in place for wholesale fish dealers such as HEB, Sysco, the big-box companies that buy very large quantities and then distribute these products across the state.

Well, last spring, as we all very well know, COVID hit and some of the restrictions nationwide shut down restaurants. They shut down retail fish dealers. And so the Aquaculture Association had nobody to sell their products to. The wholesale dealers had largely shunned the sales of Red drum and Spotted seatrout to avoid the additional invoicing requirements that are imposed in the TAC. So they could sell shrimp. They could sell all of these other products by generating their own invoices and shipping those out.

The TAC requirements were, you know, somewhat cumbersome for them. So the Aquaculture Association was left without the ability to sell their products. Therefore, they initiated the request that we repeal these regulations.

In 2013, this is still a little bit more history, but the report -- the reporting requirements were moved from paper, which generated thousands of pieces of paper being mailed to the Department at various locations, and we shifted everything to an electronic reporting system to -- in an attempt to go paperless. What we've since discovered is there's nobody really monitoring those electronic submissions because the sales don't represent a wild-caught product that we are charged with managing. They represent a farm-raised product that we are just ensuring did not come from the wild. So it was a little bit of a check that we're not really looking at this, we probably don't truly need it.

The way we do manage and ensure that wild-caught products don't enter the commercial markets is right there at the boat ramp, right there where the commercial harvesters land their products. We look at what they have on board, make sure that it's a lawful size, it was caught legally, and that's where we intercept and do 90 percent of our patrol prevention. We also do market inspections. We will go into a retail store or a wholesale dealer and look at the products that they have on hand. Right here you can see under the glass various filets. They have the products labeled. So if there was something that caught our eye that was a species of importance here in Texas, we would look at their invoices and determine, did they buy them from another lawful source and were they legally caught?

The invoicing requirements that are in Chapter 47, when Chapter 66 was rewritten, we also got the invoicing requirements to Chapter 47, they provide a very robust set of regulations that all wholesale retail and dealers of aquatic products have to adhere to. These invoices will trace us back to the commercial harvester, the importer on record, or an aquaculturist who is not truly under our purview, but they are interjecting products into the overall market and that is really how the flow of seafood works through. And it's not just seafood. A lot of the products that are raised by an aquaculture fish farmer, wind up being sold as bait. They play a big role in the bait, especially when you're talking about the freshwater fish locations and, you know, you're going in and buying two dozen minnows to go catch Crappie on Lake Fayette or some location.

Again, these invoices, they give us the invoice number, the name and address of the shipper/receiver, the dealer license, the product of the species that is being shipped, and the copies are maintained for one year. So we are always going to intercept illegal activity. What you're seeing here is oysters that are improperly labeled and available for sale. They had no tags on the bags that indicate the waterbody that they're harvested from. So we're always going to intercept illegal shipments. Here in the other picture you can see two anglers, they're recreational fishermen, who had a great day on the bay and caught an abundance of Redfish. They were attempting to sell these Redfish without a commercial license into an illegal location.

The market is always going to be tested and we have avenues within the Enforcement Division to intercept these, but it doesn't represent a sustainable source of fish that could supply HEB or a big-box company. They're not going to set up an account for two anglers who, you know, have a lucky day.

So in our review, we recog -- we recognize that there's redundancy within Chapter 57. Some of the language is identical to the language that is in statute. We're recommending removing that. Removing that will alleviate having to revisit and change the TAC if the statute is changed due to a legislative process. There's redundancy within the invoicing and, quite honestly, since we're not reviewing and looking at these invoices, they're clearly not needed; but the invoicing requirements that are in Chapter 47 sufficiently offer the protection needed to ensure that the wild-caught resource is protected. So we're comfortable repealing those.

We have -- last Commission Meeting, we recommended or requested proposal to post some changes to the Texas Register. We have. We have not received any comments against or for the recommended action. So the staff does recommend, you know, or will recommend if placed on the agenda, repealing 57.372, repealing 57.373, and a repeal of 57.374 and a no change to 57.375 which sets up a framework for future regulation if we need it for activities that may occur in an exclusive economic zone. And with that, I'll entertain any questions; but that concludes my presentation.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Any questions by the Commission?

Hearing none, I'll place the item on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action. Thank you.


CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Work Session Item No. 9, Statewide Oyster Fishery Proclamation, Temporary Closure of Oyster Restoration Areas in Galveston Bay and Matagorda Bay, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register, Emma Clarkson. Good morning.

MS. CLARKSON: Good morning. Good morning, Mr. Chairman, fellow Commissioners. For the record, my name is Emma Clarkson. I'm the Team Lead for the Habitat Assessment Team in the Coastal Fisheries Division. Today I'll be presenting a proposal to publish an amendment to the Texas Register to temporarily close four oyster restoration sites until November 2023.

So the Natural Resource Code Chapter 76 grants the Parks and Wildlife Commission the authority to close an area that is being reseeded or restocked. Multiple reefs across the coast are being planted with cultch material to restore degraded and lost substrates. A two-year closure gives the oyster larvae that recruit to the fresh cultch the opportunity to grow to a harvestable size and repopulate the reef.

Successful oyster restoration projects are dependent on that larval recruitment and growth within the first two years. So all of our restoration projects have been successful and the reefs that were closed for two years are still healthier than natural reference reefs up to nine years later. In the past, restoration efforts have been funded primarily by grants; but the conservation measures of the Shell Recovery Program of Senate Bill 391, 82nd Legislative 2011, and the Dealer Cultch Recovery Program of House Bill 51, which is the 85th Legislative Session 2017, have led to a more stable source of funding for oyster restoration. So this will result in continued large-scale, long-term oyster restoration activities across the coast in the future.

To date, the Coastal Fisheries Division has restored 450 acres of reef in Galveston Bay, 40 acres in Sabine Lake, 30 acres in Aransas Bay, and 9 and a half in Matagorda Bay using this cultch planting technique. Over 22,000 cubic yards of cultch have been placed across 40 acres as a result of House Bill 51 alone.

I'm very proud of this. Here's a picture of the oyster growth on our recently restored reef on Grass Island reef in Aransas Bay. This is one that we closed last year. As you can see, the oyster growth creates the habitat itself. So the two-year closure allows this structure to develop uninterrupted by dredging activity and allows two cohorts of oysters to recruit to the site and grow to maturity. Very proud of that picture.

In 2021, four reefs are being restored using the cultch planting method, including three in Galveston Bay and one in Matagorda Bay. Funding for these restoration projects was generated from a mixture of sources, including the National Marine Fisheries Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief Grant and donations from CCA, Building Conservation Trust, and Shell through the Parks and Wildlife Foundation. Over $2.2 million are being invested into the restoration of these reefs.

The temporary closure is requested only for the exact footprint of the restoration site and not the entire reef on which the restoration is occurring. A total of 200.3 acres will be temporarily closed, including 118.3 acres in Galveston Bay and 82 acres Matagorda Bay. So this map shows the location of acreage of the proposed temporary closure areas in Galveston Bay. The light gray indicates oyster reefs. The dark gray is land. So you can see North Todd's Dump is almost directly east of Eagle Point in Galveston Bay. Dollar Reef is in-between two previous restorations, just to the south of that. And then Pepper Grove is in East Galveston Bay. Likewise, this shows the location acreage of restoration site in Matagorda Bay. So it's just inside the mouth of Keller Bay.

We respectfully request to publish this amendment in the Texas Register. We propose that all four sites aforementioned will be temporarily closed for two harvest seasons and will reopen November 1st, 2023. We will also remove the language for the previously restored areas where the temporary closure is expiring in November of this year. This concludes my presentation. Thank you for your time, and I'm happy to take any questions you may have.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you very much.

Any questions?

Hearing none, I authorize staff to publish the proposed -- proposed changes in the Texas Register for the required public comment period. Thank you.

Work Session Item No. 10, Chronic Wasting Disease Rules, Zone Boundary Designations, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Legislature -- Texas Register. Mr. Mitch Lockwood, please make your presentation.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Mitch Lockwood. I'm the Big Game Program Director for the Wildlife Division. And this morning, I will provide you a presentation with three objectives in mind. First of all, to provide you a briefing of our recent detections of Chronic Wasting Disease here in the last couple of months. Secondly, to request permission to publish proposed amendments in the Texas Register, amendments to the comprehensive CWD rules. And third, to seek your guidance regarding the necessity for further discussions with stakeholders in an attempt to enhance our CWD detection probability in the future and to prevent further spread of this insidious disease.

Now most of you know this topic well enough to know this is not going to be a short presentation and it's not going to be a simple presentation. Just when you thought you were going to get out for an early lunch, here comes deer and CWD. I will begin by discussing the discovery of this disease in an 8-and-a-half-year-old free-ranging Mule deer buck in the Buffalo Springs community just on the east side of Lubbock and this was back in February.

This was a deer that was exhibiting clinical symptoms. It was dispatched by the local PD and our local wildlife biologist collected and submitted this sample to the diagnostic lab. This deer was located in a political subdivision that has a very high density of deer. There are White-tails and Mule deer there; but the White-tails, in particular, is very, very high. Not unlike what many of us are pretty familiar with in other urban areas of the state such as the Lakeway or Hollywood Park communities.

The source of this disease introduction to this area is unknown at this time. Now you may recognize here that there is no known obvious connection with this finding in the Lubbock area to any of our existing CWD zones. Now to refresh your memory on these zones, those zones that are depicted in red on this slide are the containment zones which are areas in which we know the disease to exist. The areas that are shaded in yellow are known as surveillance zones and these are areas in which there's still much concern for the potential of CWD. As far as hunters are concerned, the rules between the red and yellow zones here, or the containment and surveillance zones, are the same. But there are more restrictions with regard to the movement of live deer from containment zones as opposed to surveillance zones.

We request permission to publish a proposal for a containment zone and a surveillance zone in this Lubbock area. This proposed containment zone delineation began with a 5-mile radius and then we selected easily recognizable features in or around that 5-mile radius to come up with a relatively simple zone delineation. We use this same strategy for the proposed surveillance zone, except we began with a 15-mile radius in that case. And so the containment zone that we would like to propose, has an area of 75 square miles. Whereas the surveillance zone has an area of just over 700 square miles.

As I zoom out with this slide here, you will notice that -- you will notice the relatively small size of these zones, of these proposed zones in the Lubbock area, especially when compared to some of the other West Texas zones. Mule deer home range data indicate that these zones encompass sufficient acreage based on the information that's currently available. The zones to the northwest, of course, are much larger; but there we're dealing with CWD in three different species -- White-tailed, elk, and Mule deer -- and we have significant travel corridors up there that can allow for extensive movements of deer and this disease across the landscape. Whereas in the Lubbock area, that area is surrounded almost completely by extensive agricultural land. There is the exception though we recognize of the Ransom Canyon area, which is where this deer was located which could be a significant corridor. But outside of that area, that significant agricultural land has proven to be a significant barrier to deer movement. So we would focus our surveillance efforts in that Ransom Canyon area to try and get a better idea whether this disease is, indeed, established in that environment and if so, what prevalence we might be looking at and what the geographic extent of the disease might be.

This CWD positive deer was located more than 170 miles from the closest known case of CWD to the northwest. You'll notice with this slide that our CWD surveillance within 100 miles of this CWD positive animal over the past six years, has not been insignificant. In fact, with the data on this slide, you'll see that we've collected over 2,000 samples within a 100-mile radius over the past six years and that comes out to an average of 346 samples per year, which according to the USDA Epidemiological Model that is commonly used for detection probability estimates, these numbers each year provide us more than 95 percent confidence that the prevalence of this disease would be less than 1 percent. But keep in mind, this area -- these numbers that I'm reporting to you would -- would -- would be for that total area encompassed by that 100-mile radius. And as we know, this is a focal disease. It's a cluster disease. So we actually could have a relatively high prevalence in that Ransom Canyon area with a zero percent prevalence everywhere else around that. And so that's something that, again, we should get a better idea and a better understanding of with some strategic sampling in that Ransom Canyon area.

To close this topic, I'll let you know that we did have a public meeting in Buffalo Springs back in March. It was a very well attended meeting and there was much interest in sampling deer for this disease and not just from hunter-harvested deer, but they would like to consider some strategic surveillance efforts, if you will, strategic approaches to reduce the population and reduce disease prevalence and I suspect we are going to have more discussion with that community regarding how we might accomplish some of those strategic sampling practices.

If there are no questions on this Lubbock proposal, I'll shift our attention to a much more complicated situation that arose on March 23rd, when our diagnostic --

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Just real quick. You have -- we have no idea how -- it seems like such an outlier that one deer in the Lubbock area. Are there any deer breeding facilities in the area? Is there any hypothesis as to how that deer was affected in that area? It just seems like such an outlier.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Good question, Commissioner Hildebrand. There are some hypotheses. A lot of folks out there have a lot of different ideas. Some speculate that potentially this disease could have been moved to this area through carcass parts. Hunter harvests a deer, somebody takes them home, processes them at the kitchen table, discards the carcass parts, you know, out back so to speak. That's certainly one possible way.

You asked specifically about deer breeding facilities. There are no current deer breeding facilities within this zone. There are some just on the west side of this zone that have raised elk in captivity and one that still does, if I'm not mistaken. But pretty significant barriers to movement from those facilities to where this deer was found. And so there's also -- I'll just mention one other. We could probably spend the next ten minutes talking about all the possibilities. But one other that may have some merit to it is the potential for spontaneous occurrence of this disease.

We do know of spontaneous occurrence of some other TSEs, or Transmissible -- Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies. There's no -- no evidence of that in White-tailed deer. There's some belief that may be the case in Red deer. But that could be a source there. But there's still much for work to be done on that. So a lot of speculation at this time, Commissioner.

Moving on to this --

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Hold on just a second, Mitch.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Oh. Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Going back to your original slide that shows -- and I was here when we found the first two cases out there in West Texas and we created this containment zone and surveillance zone. What's what statistics have we gotten back now that we've been doing this -- how long -- six, eight years?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Since 2012 in the Trans-Pecos. Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: So what statistics have we gained from the original two containment and surveillance zones that we've been doing all these years?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Well, I'm trying to think of which -- which approach to -- how to respond to that, Commissioner. There's -- this is an area in which, as you know, we have very light density of deer and, therefore, we have a very light harvest of Mule deer. And it's strictly Mule deer out there and, of course, it's strictly Mule deer bucks that we're getting. And so that is the zone where we have our lightest surveillance compared to all other CWD zones in the state.

The disease has spread in this area. It formed -- it began in the Hueco Mountains. And if I might turn to this screen behind me and use my pointer here -- it's not going to work on this screen. But it started in the Hueco Mountains over much closer to El Paso there on the -- on the -- well, little bit west of center of that red zone, if you will. And that is where we have, we believe, about 9 to 10 percent of the mature bucks harvested in that area have tested positive for CWD. The prevalence of the disease could be less than that though because the disease research shows the disease tends to be more prevalent in bucks than does and we're not sampling does. They're not getting harvested. So we'll just say about 9 to 10 percent of the bucks harvested have tested positive.

We then have found the disease spread. It appears to have spread to the east a little bit in the Cornudas area and we've had a couple of positives over there. And then to the west of there in El Paso, actually in the Franklin Mountains, we fear we've got the highest prevalence of the disease in the state there. We have very few samples there; but they're road kills and we have a strong partner over at El Paso with DHS who collects these samples for us, submits them to the lab, and a high proportion of those are testing positive for the disease. So we do have some concern there.

In the surveillance zone, Commissioner, we have -- first of all I should say that if it wasn't in the fourth year, it would have been in the fifth year since we started with this mandatory sampling over there. We actually shrunk these zones. You may remember that. They are larger than they are today and we did that based on our -- the data that we had at that time. The concern that we have, while we still have not found CWD in the surveillance zone in far West Texas, we have a great deal of concern for the potential for that disease still to spread through -- from the Sacramento Mountains down through the Guadalupe Mountains in New Mexico, I mean, down through Guadalupe Mountains and ultimately into the Delaware Mountains and then it's just a chain of mountains as you know, and we really fear that it's a matter of time. It could already be there. The harvest is as light as it is, it's going to be very, very hard to detect; but with that, we certainly are having some discussion about how necessary continued mandatory surveillance is in this area and we'll continue to have those discussions.

So I get a little long-winded, but did I begin to address your question?

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Not exactly. You threw out 9 to 10 percent. What is a physical count? How many deer are we talking about over these five, six years we've been doing it?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Well, I printed a lot of stats for questions today and that's one that I did not print; but it's going to be in the neighbor of around 20 positive animals in that area.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: On both of them?

MR. LOCKWOOD: For the containment zone in far West Texas in the Trans-Pecos region.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Over the last eight years?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Yes, sir. And in the Northwest Panhandle, those numbers are going to be -- I shouldn't be guessing here. I used to know this in my sleep. But somewhere around a dozen or so. But the percent appears to be about 1 to 2 percent in White-tailed deer and 2 to 3 percent in Mule deer. Again, I should not use the term prevalence because we're really just looking at bucks; but the proportion of bucks that are harvested that are testing positive.

MR. SMITH: Mitch, and is it pretty typical to find kind of that level, that sort of low levels of detections early on and then the concern obviously with time, it spreads a little more insidiously? I mean, is that what you would have expected?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Well, that's a very good point, Carter. That is, indeed, the case. So this disease it's -- you hear me refer to it as an insidious disease. It's a disease that is hard to recognize in the early stages. It is not like anthrax. It does not operate like EHD or Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease, both of which can kill a lot of deer in a very short period of time. Very short period of time where you see carcasses on the landscape. You don't see that in the early stages of CWD. It acts very, very slowly and then through time as prevalence slowly increases, it reaches a threshold where then it begins to really jump up in prevalence. And the research indicates that that is achieved during a 15 percent prevalence, which may take well over ten years to get to that 15 percent prevalence; but once it does, then it shoots up very rapidly.

I have a graph that starts in 2002 with a 15 percent prevalence in one area of Wyoming and ten years later, it was at 50 -- 57 percent prevalence was estimated. Again, the term prevalence is probably not the right term to use; but the proportion of the sample deer that tested positive. So this is the opportunity to just emphasize the criticality of the management. When the disease is left unmanaged, eventually you will notice it and there's no turning back. With anthrax, with EHD, I like to use the phrase there's a dormant period. It does a lot of damage. Either one of those diseases can do a lot of damage; but then they go dormant, so to speak, and that population is able to bounce back. If CWD is left unmanaged, it will only increase in prevalence. It will not decrease. It will not stay the same. If it's left unmanaged, it will increase and it will get to a point where there's population limiting factors as has been demonstrated in the number of cases in this country. But thank you for providing that.

Okay. Moving on to what we learned on March the 23rd of this year. I received a phone call from our diagnostic lab and strong partners at Texas A&M University advising us that CWD had been detected in five different deer. There were five CWD suspect positive deer in two different deer breeding facilities in Uvalde County. Both are located on the same property. I will use the next several slides here to discuss CWD detection in what is now five different deer breeding facilities. They're located on four different properties in Uvalde, Matagorda, Hunt, and Mason Counties and I'm going to refer to these facilities as Facility 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

Beginning with these two facilities in Uvalde County. And, again, you'll see they're located on the same property. There's a high fence between the two. So you -- basically what this is, is two high-fenced pastures each of which contains a deer breeding facility. Both of these facilities are enrolled in USDA's Herd Certification Program, which is administered by Texas Animal Health Commission.

I'd like to take just a couple of minutes to refresh your memory or maybe introduce to some of you to what this Herd Certification Program is. It's a voluntary program. It is a program that's developed by USDA. It's administered by Texas Animal Health Commission. Now while I say it's voluntary, anybody who wants to participate in interstate commerce or to transfer deer out of Texas, they've got to be not only enrolled in this program, but they've got to achieve a certified status which comes after five years of compliance in this program.

Of course, the Texas borders are closed to any imports of White-tailed deer and Mule deer; but to export out, one does need to achieve this certified status. Today, we have about -- we have about 950 deer breeding facilities in the state right now that are current. About 33 percent of those are enrolled in the program and about 14 percent of them have achieved this certified status.

Well, Facility 1 is shaded in red on this slide and this facility actually does have this certified status. And, again, this is -- this status is considered to be the elite status. It's the status where we would least expect to detect CWD because they are expect -- how do you get -- I said you had to comply for more than five years, which these deer breeders did; but comply with what? They're expected to test 100 percent of the mortalities that occur in the facility and some of the recent changes in the HCP Program also involve an annual inventory inspection, if you will. It's not necessarily a complete reconciliation, but the idea is to try and confirm the head count at least matches. And then on a three-year cycle to start with, sure enough, a herd reconciliation that involves basically identifying every single animal in the facility and making sure that those animals match up with the inventory on file. And that's probably been in place just long enough now for us to be coming around to that cycle to where we should start seeing some of those inventory inspections occurring.

So, again, this Facility 1 where it was first detected had a certified status. Facility 2, which is in the yellow polygons in this facility -- I mean on this diagram -- had a fourth-year status. So, you know, a year away basically from certification.

It looks like based on the information we have available today and based on the diagnostic findings, it looks like the disease started in Facility 1 and then spread to Facility 2. We should be able to either confirm that or refute that after we're able to obtain postmortem test results for all the animals in that facility. That should shed a whole lot more light and help with the epidemiological investigation.

Now when we got this phone call from the lab, we immediately generated a contact trace report identifying all the animals that had transferred deer to or received deer from one of these CWD positive facilities in the five years preceding that first mortality of a CWD positive deer. We contacted every one of those individuals to advise them of the situation and to advise them that their facility status was now currently Not Movement Qualified, which simply means they are not able to move deer in or out of their facility at this time. That was 119 different facilities that we contacted for the first facility and we had 38 facilities contacted for the second facility and there was some overlap between those two actually.

A little bit more detail about Facility 1. Again, it had a certified status. At that time, there were 102 White-tailed deer and we now know that there were seven CWD positive animals that had been in that facility. Three never left the facility, three were transferred to Facility 2, and one was transferred to Facility 5 which is in Mason County and we'll touch on that here in just a little bit.

Now initially there were five positives from about 80 samples or so that were submitted back in March for deer that had died throughout the report year, which began April 1st of 2020. And the earliest of those mortalities that tested positive occurred on September the 2nd, 2020. We'll come back to that fact here in a little bit.

Facility 2, again, had a fourth-year status. This is a much larger facility. The certified facility hasn't been in operation nearly as long, but Facility 2 has been in operation for more than 20 years. This facility had at that time 486 White-tails on record and we knew of two positives that had been in that facility. Two CWD positive deer. One that had never left Facility 2 and one that was transferred to Facility 4 in Matagorda County and we'll touch on that here in just a little bit as well.

Now moving on to the next facility in Northeast Texas. I told you that on March 23rd, we learned about the cases in Uvalde County. One day later, I received another call from our partners at the diagnostic lab to advise us of a new case of CWD. This one completely separate on nearly the other side of the state in Northeast Texas. We commonly say in Hunt County. It looks like it's actually kind of on the border of Hunt and Kaufman counties. This I will refer to as Facility 3. This facility was also enrolled in the USDA and Texas Animal Health Commission Herd Certification Program and it had a fourth-year status. So it was getting close to certification. This is a relatively large facility that had 380 White-tailed deer on that date and at this time, we still know of only one positive animal.

I should have clarified something on the previous slide. I mentioned seven positive animals from Facility 1, and then later I said we initially had five; but later this deer breeder submitted more mortalities for testing to the lab and we found two more positives in that case. So seven in Facility 1. Two at Facility 2, which still -- both of which still contain a lot of deer. Facility 3 still contains close to 400 deer. We only know of one positive there. And let me see here. And so as I shared with you earlier, we con -- we began contacting these individuals that you will hear me refer to as a trace-out facility. Meaning the deer traced out of the positive facility to somewhere else and we'll talk a little bit more about these trace-out facilities here in a bit.

But as always and as you well know, we work very, very closely with Texas Animal Health Commission on a number of factors, not the least of which is Chronic Wasting Disease management. We're very fortunate to have the strong relationship with them that we do. And -- and they certainly lead through these epidemiological investigations and we share the task though of visiting with these trace facilities and advising that removing and testing these trace deer -- again, a trace deer is going to be a deer that has been exposed to CWD -- and advising these folks that testing those deer is imperative. They need to remove them from the facility and get them tested.

Well, unfortunately -- I'll say fortunately we have a number of breeders in this position who took the responsible action. They did remove the deer from these facilities and they had them tested expeditiously. Unfortunately, two of them learned that they did, indeed, have CWD in their facilities by testing those trace deer. The first of those two is located in Matagorda County. This info -- this facility was also enrolled in the Herd Certification Program. It had a fourth-year status. There were 221 White-tails in that facility and at this time, we're aware of only one positive animal.

I will tell you that this facility has since been depopulated. Meaning that there are no deer remaining in the facility and we are awaiting postmortem test results on all 221 of those deer. Those test samples have been sent to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa. And, again, we're pending test results. Obviously, we're hopeful that we don't find another positive in those and that depopulation event occurred on May the 17th.

The other CWD positive trace facility is located in northern Mason County. Both of these trace facilities received the CWD positive deer from the Uvalde County facility about six weeks after the CWD positive -- the first CWD positive deer died in that Uvalde facility. Now you may be thinking: How's that possible? How do you have deer that dies of CWD and then six weeks later there's deer leaving that facility, being transferred to other places in Texas?

Well, you may all remember our discussions that we had last spring and last summer that ultimately resulted in rule amendments that you adopted last November. You may remember that I shared with you that it was not uncommon for deer breeders to collect their samples throughout the year and to store those samples in their facility and then as the near of the report year -- as the end of the report year got closer, they would then submit all those samples just, you know, in time to get test results back to not ever lose their Movement Qualified Status. This wasn't uncommon. But you-all recognize that what has happened now in that northern Mason County was a real possibility, recognize that that was a threat and a risk that needed to be addressed and the amendment that you adopted was to require samples to be submitted to the lab within 14 days of collection and that's where we stand today. But those rules didn't become in effect until sometime this past spring. So this individual was compliant with surveillance and testing requirements and submittal requirements -- I want to be clear about that -- was compliant, but that's how this disease was able to spread out of a facility where CWD already existed.

The concern is, is when did it first occur is that facility? It's possible that this disease spread well before we ever knew it existed. I'll touch on that here in just a little bit.

More on this Mason County facility. This is also enrolled in the Herd Certification Program, and this one also had a certified status. This is not one of the larger facilities, with 93 White-tailed deer. And to date, we only know of one positive animal. If I remember correctly, he received four trace deer. He removed -- very responsibly removed and tested all four and, again, unfortunately one of those did test positive.

So as you well know, as I've already said, we are very blessed to have a really great working relationship with our sister agency, the Texas Animal Health Commission. And with permission of Dr. Hunter Reed, who's one of their field epidemiologists, I'm going to borrow a couple of slides here that he prepared for the CWD Task Force meeting that we held earlier this month on May the 5th. With this slide, Dr. Reed was trying to describe what he saw as two separate disease events. Kind of two what appear to be independent disease events. I'll start with the one that's in the top right-hand corner of this graphic and that's Facility 3. That's the one up in Northeast Texas. That's the simplest one to discuss at the moment, at least it appears so, because we know of only one positive deer and it never left the facility.

Something I failed to mention earlier that this would be a good time to bring up is that Facility 1 and Facility 3 -- so Uvalde and Hunt County -- both had been what many people consider to be closed facilities for the past -- a little more than five years. Meaning they weren't truly closed. Obviously, they were moving deer out of the facility; but they were not introducing deer into the facility for that period of time, which is an interesting fact. I'll touch more on that here in just a little bit as well. If I move to Facility 1 down there. Again, it had seven positive deer in that facility. Three of which -- that we know of, of course -- three of which never left the facility. Three were transferred to Facility 2, again, on the same property. And then one was transferred in October of 2020 to Facility 5 in Mason County.

And then finally with Facility 2, that one to date, we know of two positive animals that have been in there. One had never left. One had been transferred in October of 2020 to Facility 4 in Matagorda County. One thing I'll mention too is that facility -- the diagnostic test results for Facility 1 and Facility 3, give a very strong indication that this disease had been in both of those facilities for quite a while. Easily for a year, more than a year. Some would argue easily for two years; but that is arguable. But I don't know anyone that would argue that the disease has likely been in each of those facilities for more than a year before we ever detected it. That's an important point for a future discussion item.

One more slide that I'll share and borrow from Dr. Reed is one that he used to try to describe the timeline of exposure for Facilities 1 and 2 in Uvalde County. This looks a little bit complicated. I think I can simplify it if I draw your attention to the top right-hand part of this slide, that little graphic. Basically, we'll start with the horizontal blue line that represents the life span of the deer. Then you have a red box over that line that represents the likely exposure period, which ranges from 6 to 30 months depending on a number of variables, including the diagnostic test results that I mentioned a minute ago. And then we have a black horizontal line on -- for five of those deer because five of those deer that have been moved out of the facility and that gives you the date that the deer had been transferred out of the facility and then to the right of that, to which facility it was transferred to.

The main point I want to make with this slide is I want to draw your attention to the left-hand edge of these red bars and you can see that it's -- we believe this disease has been in Facility 1 and even though it's not shown on this slide, we think Facility 2 as well, potentially as early as 2019 and possibly even before that. So, you know, with that I shared with you earlier that the Facilities 1 and 3 were, quote, closed and I'll, you know, use air quotes around this facility. How did these facilities get this disease if they're closed? And the reason I used air quotes is, you know: What does that really mean?

We say that because we know deer haven't come into the facility over that five-year period, but what has? What are some of the commonalities? Do some of these facilities use the same cowboys when they're working deer on an annual basis that could have worked deer in another CWD positive facility? Could it come in on their boots? Could it come in on vehicles? Could it -- there's a number of potential transmission avenues, many of which we probably aren't even aware of at this time. You know, do they use the same sort of reproductive strategies? And if they're doing things like artificial insemination and embryo transfer, what's the source of the semen? What's the source of the embryos? Who's performing them? Is it the same practitioner that's performing these practices between positive facilities?

There's a lot of -- a lot of unknowns at this time. We do know that really some of these -- what some might refer to as artificial reproductive strategies is really the only commonality that has been identified between the CWD positive facilities. In fact, it's actually shared between almost every CWD positive captive facility dating back to 2015 and that's really about the only commonality that's been discovered so far; but, again, a lot of unknowns.

This is a slide that keeps me up at night. We just talked a lot about each of these five known positive facilities, but what this slide shows you is the location of 267 trace facilities in the state. 267 facilities that either supplied deer to or received deer from at least one of those five known positive facilities. And as you look at this slide, what's even more concerning than that is the number of those that are not in captivity anymore or that are not captive facilities. 1,700 deer left one of these CWD positive facilities in the past five years and went to 101 different release sites in Texas, potentially exposing those free-ranging deer populations.

We can locate these trace deer that are in captive facilities, right? I mean, they've got ear tags. We can identify them. We can remove them. We can test them. How do we do that on release sites? And as you know, they're not required to maintain a visible form of ID. There is now -- well, there's options there too, even with electronic identification. And so how do we find a deer that's had the dangle tag removed from the ear prior to release and identify that as an exposed deer and remove it from the population out of a 5,000-acre pasture?

It just can't be done. Out of 1,700 deer that have gone to these release sites, we've removed one so far. We had a landowner that said, "The deer's still tagged. I want you to remove it." We out there that day, and we removed it. Fortunately, it did not test positive for the disease. We've had, to my knowledge, one or maybe two other landowners that have asked for our assistance to do that on their place too. Since it's not a hunting season, they're not able to do it themselves. But as you can imagine, this is what I mean when I say this slide keeps me up at night. How do we remove these from these free-ranging settings?

Now of the 267 facilities that are trace-out facilities, 151 of them are breeding facilities. If I said 151 release sites earlier, for the record, I should correct that to 101 release sites. But of those 151 breeding facilities, 53 of them have been cleared from their hold order. So they responsibly went in. They removed the trace-out animal. They tested not-detected. Texas Animal Health Commission removed the hold order, and we returned their Movement Qualified Status to them. So that comes out to about 35 percent of the deer that went to -- of the facilities rather, that were breeding facilities of trace-out facilities have now been cleared; but only 20 percent of the total number of facilities.

Now of all those deer breeding facilities that we started with, of those 151, 53 percent of them are still holding on to these trace deer. In fact, 50 percent of the trace deer that went to breeding facilities are reported to still be alive in breeding facilities. Again, it's for 53 percent of those. As you can imagine, we were very, very concerned about this, the fact that we still have some of these facilities because of the threat of CWD still could be spreading around the state as I speak to you here this morning.

These facilities that we're -- I'm talking about are called -- we just casually call them Tier 1 facilities. It means that a positive facility sold a deer to that Tier 1 facility. That facility that's a Tier 1 is now Not Movement Qualified; but the people that that Tier 1 sold to, he may have sold to 20 different breeders and release sites over the last few years, they're not Tier 1. They're called -- again, casually called -- Tier 2 facilities. They are still Movement Qualified. They're still moving deer all over the state.

Well, if that Tier 1 guy that's not testing the exposed deer has a positive deer like the unfortunate cases in Matagorda and Mason County, everybody he's selling deer to is still moving deer -- I mean that he sold deer to, and transferred deer to, are still moving deer around the state. And some, as I've expressed this argument, I often hear, "Well, come on, deer aren't being transferred right now. It's May. I mean, these does are heavy with fawns. These bucks are early in their development, antler development. Why on earth would they be moving deer?" And I do not know the answer to that; but I can tell you as I stand here this morning, there are five active transfer permits and 156 transfer permits have been completed in the month of May. I don't know why they're moving deer, but they are.

So how do we manage this situation? We'll start with a relatively easy strategy and that's the one of delineating CWD zones. We would like to, again, request permission to publish a proposed surveillance zone in the Hunt County area. This zone that's depicted in this yellow-shaded polygon on this slide as on the west side of Lake Tawakoni. It encompasses portions of southwestern Hunt County, northeastern Kaufman County, eastern Rockwall County, and northwest Van Zandt counties. And you might notice that you don't see a red polygon in the center of this yellow polygon. We're not proposing a containment zone here. The strategy that we proposing is similar to the strategy that we've used in the past and that is we have no reason to believe at this time that CWD has been established on the adjoining release site. We've only found it in the deer breeding facility. We believe that the quarantine and the Herd Plan administered by Texas Animal Health Commission would serve as that containment zone; but we do think it's imperative that we get surveillance in that area from hunter-harvested deer to provide the confidence that the disease has not yet got established out there and so we propose this zone that you see on the slide before you.

For Matagorda County, we would like to request your permission to publish a proposed surveillance zone. But I will tell you that I hope that before this goes to the Texas Register, I would like to remove this part of the proposal and not propose a zone in Matagorda County. In the event that we're unsuccessful with that because of timing, I'll touch on this in just a second then and if it does get published, I would still be hopeful that at adoption time, when this Commission considers this proposal for adoption in August, that we could withdraw this portion -- this component of the proposal. What I'm talking about is this. I shared with you earlier that this facility was depopulated on May the 17th. Depending on the test results we get, we could determine that a zone is not necessary there. And I'm just going to give you easy example. If zero of those 221 deer that are tested test positive, we have reason to believe that the disease has not gotten established on that release site because this facility did not release deer on that release site after receiving that CWD positive deer from Uvalde.

However, and so I'll finish that line of thought and say so if we think it hadn't gotten established there, we don't see a need to establish a zone there. However, this facility has received many shipments of deer from that Uvalde County facility over the last few years and so it is possible that the disease was introduced before October of 2020 and the findings of this testing that is taking place in Ames, Iowa, right now should be able to shed more light on that. But if it looks like the disease has been there longer and, therefore, potentially on the release site, then this proposal would already be published in the Texas Register and this Commission could consider this for adoption in August.

I would want to mention one more thing here on the -- kind of the what would be the southwestern corner or bottom left of this slide. You have a town there. I believe it's Markham. It's on I-35 -- or Highway 35 rather. That -- can you see there's a yellow polygon there around Markham? What you have -- and you can't see on this slide -- is also a yellow polygon that connects that Markham to the bulk of the zone there for Matagorda County and the idea behind this is to provide a means for hunters to get carcasses to a processing facility legally that exists in Markham.

You might remember in the past like in the Amarillo area, we extended the zone around Amarillo to allow hunters that opportunity to get carcasses to processing facilities. So that looks a little bit like an outlier, and I thought I should clarify that.

Okay. This map gives you an idea of the relative size of these proposed zones. Again, what comes with these proposed zones would be carcass movement restrictions of any harvested deer, mandatory testing of hunter-harvested deer, and then, of course, movement restrictions on live deer. You'll notice that we do not have a zone proposed for Uvalde or Mason County. I think your printed materials actually do have a proposal for a zone around Uvalde County. We have since rethought that. Uvalde County has no release site around those and adjacent to those breeding facilities. We believe and certainly hope those double -- that disease is contained within those double-fenced breeding facilities and, again, no release site adjacent to be exposed. The -- at least through obvious means.

In Mason County, while there is a release site, no deer were released from that CWD positive facility after the introduction of that CWD positive deer. So at this time, we do not see a need to establish a zone up there.

Now let's talk a little bit more about prevention and management strategies. Now as you can imagine here for the last several weeks, there has been a lot of discussion within our Agency, with Texas Animal Health Commission, and for many stakeholders on how to prevent this from happening in the future. It's quite apparent we've got a break in our system, despite a very strong effort by this Commission in 2016. Quite frankly, we know a lot more today than we knew in 2016. We know a lot about the disease, but we also know more about these inventories and the practices within this deer breeding program. And we even had a meeting of the CWD Task Force earlier this month to discuss some of these ideas on how we can prevent this from happening in the future. How do we ensure early detection? Again, clearly we missed it. With Facility 1 and Facility 3, it went for over a year without being detected.

How -- how can we ensure that we detect it early in the future?

This Commission took action back in 2016. We were tasked at that time with developing a surveillance program that would achieve at least a 50 percent detection probability if CWD occurred at 1 percent prevalence and for the next slide, we'll talk a little bit more detail on how we strived to achieve that. And then again in 2020, you adopted amendments and one of which would help with early detection, at least one, and that is requiring samples to be submitted to the diagnostic lab within 14 days of collection.

So I'm not going to go much into detail on the 2016 rule amendments. That was an extensive package. But I'm going to touch on just four areas here that I think were significant with trying to help for early detection. One, we increase the surveillance requirements for testing 20 percent of the adult mortalities. "Adult" meaning, in our program, meaning "16 months or older." They went from testing -- having to test 20 percent to having to test 80 percent. We also implemented at that time a minimum testing requirement for the herd based on the population size. At least 3.6 percent of the eligible aged population -- again, 16 months or older -- have to be tested each year. So if you have no mortalities, there's still surveillance that is required. How do you achieve that? Through antemortem, or live animal testing.

There is a substitution though for live animal testing at a three-for-one rate. Meaning it takes three live animal tests to substitute for one missing postmortem test. Why do we have that? The -- some might think it's because a live animal test is not as sensitive as a postmortem test and that's generally true; but I think a much bigger reason is because sampling a seemingly healthy deer that is standing alive in a facility today has nowhere near the value of a sample from a deer that dies of natural causes. What is that trade off? Is it three deer for one? Is it five deer for one? Is it seven? I don't know. That negotiated rule-making -- through that negotiated rule-making process, we landed on this three-for-one rate.

I will tell you that USDA is about to -- I don't know when exactly -- but I'm advised that they are working on putting out some guidelines that would suggest that that substitution rate actually would -- a much higher substitution -- I shouldn't say much higher, but a higher substitution rate would be justified. I just don't know what that number is. We also at that time discussed release site test -- I mean, we implemented -- you implemented rules for -- to require release site testing on some of the release sites in Texas. Those that had class tier -- Class 2 status and that release site testing was to cease after three years for all compliant facilities.

The models that were developed, again, indicated that we would be able to achieve a little bit better than a 50 percent detection probability by the end of three years. As you know, models are based on assumptions and the assumptions that we used were based on information that was available to us at that time. First of all, we started with a dataset in our TWIMS system which is the data that are reported to us by every deer breeder in the state on an annual basis. We used a three-year dataset starting in 2012. We removed the data for any facility that had known inventory discrepancies. So in other words, if they were missing several deer that could have died in the facility and weren't reported, at that time they were not included in this dataset.

We were assuming a mortality rate of 4.5 percent because that's what the data indicated. We assumed that all deer in the facility had an equal likelihood of being tested. We assumed that all released bucks would be harvested and tested in the hunting season following their release. And we assumed that 100 percent of testing requirements would be met. We had more assumptions than this. I'm about to explain why these on the slide before you are false assumptions, but we had more false assumptions than this. But I think that addressing these assumptions alone will help make it very clear that we really did not meet our goal of a 50 percent detection probability.

So let me start with the first assumption on this slide. That was the mortality rate of 4.5 percent. We now know that's incorrect. Based on data that's been collected over the last six years, based on a much stronger dataset because we do have better compliance today than we had seven years ago, we know that the mortality rate of adult animals in the population was actually averaging 11.4 percent. So what's the significance of this?

I didn't go into detail on how we came up with that 3 percent minimum testing requirement, and I'll spare you that information unless you really want to know; but in short, that 3.6 requirement actually would -- to be consistent with how we came up with it, it really should be 9.12, 9.12 percent minimum testing requirement because the mortality rate is much higher than what we once thought.

Again, we assumed all deer in the facility would have a equal likelihood of being tested. As it turns out, 28 percent of deer breeding facilities tested zero mortalities. Of those that did test mortalities, only -- only 67 percent of mortalities are actually tested. We have had breeders tell us that they intentionally refuse -- they intentionally do not submit mortalities for testing because they don't have to. They can antemortem test as a replacement. And so, again, with that knowledge, it makes us want to be sure that that three-for-one is a sufficient trade. It is an equal -- three samples would equal -- three live samples would equal one postmortem sample to make sure that we're not getting a lower detection probability than what we had hoped for.

As far as releases go over that six-year period, just shy of 150,000 breeder deer have been released. Almost 24,000 of those were bucks that were released just prior to the hunting season. Remember we assumed that 100 percent of those would get tested that season. In reality only about 9.5 percent of those were ever tested for CWD. Obviously, a smaller percent were tested in that same season and only 2.1 percent of all released breeder deer have been tested for CWD.

Unfortunately, the release site testing compliance was very poor. It peaked at 62 percent and that was the first year when the rules were actually the most complicated in that interim rule period and so we proposed simplified rules with regard to release site testing for the 2016 rule adoption and we were hoping that would increase compliance, but it actually decreased. It decreased from 62 percent to where it finally bottomed out last year at 41 percent. There's still some release site testing requirements on sites though that are not compliant.

So as I near the end of this presentation, believe it or not, I would like to remind you that I came to you with three objectives. One was simply to brief you of these recent CWD findings. This slide basically shows you my second and third objective of this presentation and that is, one, to request permission to publish proposed zones to the Texas Register for you to consider for action in August and then also I would like to seek guidance from this Commission on future consideration to take and future discussions that could be had with other stakeholder groups such as our CWD Task Force, our White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee, Mule Deer Advisory Committee, and our Deer Breeder User Group. Again, there were some ideas that were discussed at that May 5th CWD Task Force meeting.

We did not get very deep into these discussions on that day and -- but some topics came up for future consideration. I want to share some of those with you. I'm sure I'm probably leaving some out. No. 1, I think there's going to be some requests to discuss enhanced testing requirements and postmortem testing and then where would that occur? Would that apply just to deer breeder facilities or would we consider release sites again?

I will tell you that, again, I just shared with you that compliance on release sites was very poor and I don't know that there's really any reason to believe that would be any different in the future; but no doubt that is something that would probably be discussed here in the future. But then the thing about release site testing is, is what you hope to accomplish with that is if the disease is released, you hope to be able to detect it early; but then the horse is already out, right? So should that testing not occur on the front end as opposed to on the back end?

And so that leads to this next bullet of potentially some enhanced antemortem testing requirements. Again, is a three-for-one substitution enough? Hopefully, we can learn more in the near future from USDA on what their biometricians have been able to determine based on data from their Herd Certification Program. You know, should there be some antemortem testing prior to being -- deer being transferred out of a facility potentially?

So, again, we want -- we've got to do a better job at early detection. We also have to do a better job with prevention of spread and obviously there's some overlap between the two.

Other things, topics that have been -- come up over the last few weeks that I think would likely be revisited if this Commission would like for staff to go back and entertain such discussion with the stakeholders, that being reproductive strategies. Some of these artificial propagation strategies. Are there ways to address risks associated with that? Obviously 14 -- the timeliness of sample submission. Is the 14-day window, is that -- is that quick enough? Texas Animal Health Commission has a proposal that they intend to bring to their Commission that would require samples be submitted within seven days of collection. Removing trace deer with urgency. I think I made that concern very clear to you this morning that that's not happened very expediently in more than half of these trace-out facilities.

I should stop right now and make one clarification on that though. There's -- there are trace-out facilities from that Matagorda County facility that we have not asked to remove their trace-out deer yet because as I shared with you, we're hopeful that we don't find anymore positives following that depopulation event. And if that's the case, we and Texas Animal Health Commission both plan to clear those facilities from hold orders and so that certainly is acceptable that they haven't removed their trace animals yet.

And then as I near the end of this presentation, I think we could expect some discussion on risk mitigation with regard to live deer movement, carcass movement. Is there a need for enhanced hunter-harvest surveillance and if there is, how does that get accomplished? So lots to discuss. I probably am leaving out a number of items here.

But again with that, Mr. Chairman, in summary, staff would like to propose permission to publish proposed zones in the Texas Register and, again, we're seeking your guidance on whether or not you would like for us to convene meetings of these various stakeholder groups and consider some additional rule-making that may be able to address this concern of not getting early detection and potentially spreading the disease.

I will tell you before I take questions, in the last couple of days we have received two comments from the public. I realize this isn't being considered for adoption right now. One of those comments actually came back as a clarification this morning by form of e-mail as a petition for rule-making; but both of these commenters are urging that this Commission consider a -- basically a moratorium on all movement of live deer until we can get a better handle of this situation. The one that was clarified as a petition for rule-making, actually urged the Commission to call a special meeting regarding CWD as soon as possible and put this in the spotlight as the biggest threat to Texas wildlife.

So if you haven't seen those yet, you will soon. And with that, I'll be glad to entertain any questions that you might have.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: I've got one, Mitch. Thank you. And this is current crisis. What are you doing to the facilities that you have traced out deer that are not testing?


CHAIRMAN MORIAN: What's your -- what's your -- what are you going to do?

MR. LOCKWOOD: So what we have is all these facilities currently are still Not Movement Qualified. Of course, those who they sold to are Movement Qualified. But these trace-out facilities are Not Movement Qualified. I recently notified them over the last two to three weeks, I've been sending out written notification, advising them to remove these animals and to -- and by a certain deadline. That deadline has not arrived for those that received this notice most recently. I've been doing this in stages, if you will, for a number of reasons.

No. 1, there's only so many hours in the day and these are personalized letters and I actually started with personalized -- with phone calls to many of these individuals and so it takes a while to get these out. But the other reason is some did not receive this notification from me until last Friday because at that particular facility, we were still waiting for DNA confirmation. It came before Friday, but not much before Friday, that that -- that basically the deer we thought was positive is -- was identified properly. And so now that we know that there are no issues with identification of positive animals, we have notified these individuals.

Those -- there have been several though where the deadline has come and gone and so down to your question. One of those has received notice from me that if the animals were not removed by a certain date, that the Department would come and remove those animals for postmortem testing. And of course by statute, that would be at the expense of the permit holder, all costs, salary and operating. There will be some more of those letters that are likely going to go out this week to several others that have not responded by the deadline; but, again, the deadline is -- May 31st is the latest deadline that anyone has received to date and so there's still a few days left for some of those individuals to accomplish this by then.

Obviously, our intent is for them to remove these deer as soon as possible and not wait until the deadline because that is exactly what happened in Mason and Matagorda County, right? I mean, the disease was transferred out when it didn't have to be. That's not the right way to phrase that, but could have been prevented. So in summary, the Department can and does intend to remove the animals from facilities where they won't do it themselves. I trust that we will have good cooperation out there moving forward and that we won't -- we won't need to do that ourselves.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Well, I mean clearly in my opinion you need to tighten up. We now know in hindsight there are loopholes that -- not only were there loopholes, there were some that they're going to try to bust through and people are taking advantage of it, which is terribly bothersome to me. But I hope you get cooperation and this Commission will have to give you the direction, but if you -- I don't see if we can do any -- it would be irresponsible if we didn't look at tightening down, fixing some of these things, and trying to protect the native deer herd in Texas.

I hope we don't look back on March 23rd, 2021, and the Uvalde facility and think of the analogy of Mrs. O'Leary's cow; but that's what I see out there right now. So that's my opinion, but I'll listen to what everybody else has to say.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: So this is Commissioner Patton. It occurs to me, I'm thinking of my own Maverick County place and I've done obviously the brain stem testing to detect CWD; but I only do it if I'm going to, you know, Triple T deer off the place. I don't do it regularly. But quite frankly I'd be, you know, happy to and, you know, voluntarily. So it occurs to me, you know, why -- how would you do that being -- you know, step one would be -- this would be under the guidance kind of theory of what you might be looking for. You know, you're going to have a lot of MLDP applications coming in for the upcoming year. You know, start selling the idea that it will be a burden on, you know, the ranch holder to take samples and let's start this year because you're not going to have rules and regulations in place; but to do it voluntarily. Because, you know, for example I would be happy to.

Now leading into the future, make it -- you know, put that burden on the MLDP applicant. You're going to be required to do it much like -- maybe not 20 like I -- is that still the number you have to do for Triple T is or is it more now?

MR. LOCKWOOD: I believe it's 15.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: 15, okay. So maybe not than many; but, you know, pick a number. You know, maybe it would be a percentage of your total tags. But that way you're going -- you're going to have this -- this -- this baseline that will at least be able to not just focus on deer breeders because, you know, they're always the ones, you know, claiming that they're, you know, being picked on. This will be for a statewide effort; but it will also be something that, you know, people want to help with. And I -- you know, I'm happy to. I -- even going back to your Mule deer where I've got, you know, that western containment and surveillance area, I'm MLDP out there; but I just hadn't shot a deer just because -- you know, just maybe kinder, gentler, old age kind of. But -- but, you know, I've got one place in the -- in the zone and the other one in the surveillance and it occurs to me, well, I need to harvest them just for testing. Just to, you know, get information because I kind of got a feeling that a lot of people maybe don't, you know, that are harvesting and aren't submitting because it's kind of, you know, take them to the station.

But really let's kind of pitch-in in the initiative to, you know, to gather data that's going to be important when you -- when you do try to, you know, maybe put a stop to all. You know, I like -- I like language. Don't let the deer hooves in the trailer because, you know, then -- you know, the trailers -- trailers might be the transmitter vehicle, you know, that go to and from different facilities and move around. Hard to know.

MR. LOCKWOOD: And, Commissioner, I think you just hit the nail on the head with that and you had some excellent points there and you're right. Sometimes I think that our permitted deer breeding community feels like that a lot of attention is focused on them and there seems to be some finger pointing; but I want to make very clear from my perspective, it's not about necessarily about where the animal originated, but it's the fact that it's being put in a trailer and it's moving somewhere else in Texas. Whether it originated from a pen or it originated from a pasture, we -- any time we put deer in a trailer, we are -- we are creating risk, period.

There -- you have some really good points and ideas there about how to maybe increase surveillance. I can assure you there's been a lot of talk over the last few year -- last several years about potentially requiring some CWD surveillance for MLDP. I'm sure we haven't had the last discussion on that; but so far, there hadn't been much appetite for that, so to speak. But, again, I'm sure that discussion is not -- that issue is not a dead one.

One thing I would like to take up today here to make clear is that I really see there's two reasons why we test for CWD in the state. One is what I call surveillance and that's when you're referring to, Commissioner Patton. If it's out there, let's try to provide some confidence that we will detect it if it's out there, just general surveillance. But the other reason is to provide Texas Parks and Wildlife Department that we're not about to permit the transmission of that disease from one location to another. And so, again, kind of different requirements here and different purposes for it and so while there could be a lower probability for detecting the disease in an area that may have high requirements, it's still the risk is greater because we're putting deer in a trailer and we're about to move them. And so we don't want Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to permit transmission of that disease.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: I've got more -- a couple -- couple of questions for you. So on Facilities 1 through 5 that you spoke of today, are those facilities all required to terminate all of their deer?

MR. LOCKWOOD: We have not had that discussion with every facility so far, Commissioner. Depopulation event certainly is the safest way to prevent the transmission of this disease and to allow this disease basically to fester within a facility. We have had a couple of examples in the past where we did not have complete depopulation. We had facilities that could continue with some releases onto their site with a pretty stringent plan that involved a lot of live animal testing, pens in which positives were found were depopulated; but pens where the disease wasn't found remained in existence. But I will tell you we have learned a hard lesson in those two examples.

And I'll just I'll go on record to say we realize we failed with those efforts because we did watch that disease continue to spread throughout those facilities in ways that we still don't understand and not just through the facilities, but onto their release sites. But we will have -- we have visited with all but one of those facilities to talk about what the herd plan might encompass. That final facility is the one in Hunt County in Northeast Texas that we'll be visiting with here in just a few days.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: So but you referenced that a Matagorda facility did terminate all their deer, correct?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Okay. They did that voluntarily?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Well, I'm going to say that that was the recommend course of action by Texas Parks and Wildlife and Texas Animal Health Commission and that they complied with those recommendations.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Okay. Now as well, I understand that on these facilities that there are a lot of unaccounted for deer off of those facilities; is that correct?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Commissioner, I'm not aware of any of these CWD positive facilities having unreconciled inventories or deer not accounted for. As far as I know, their inventories are reconciled.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Okay. Can we check that out? What's the cost of antemortem testing?

MR. LOCKWOOD: The laboratory expense, the diagnostic fee is the same, if I'm not mistaken, as it is postmortem. And so I know on our end, we test a lot of deer; so we get a good price. So for us, it's $25. I think on the producer end, it's more in the neighborhood of $40. I might be off by a couple of dollars. Then they would have private practitioner expenses, the veterinary fees, and that range is wide, I think.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: So but, I mean, obviously there would be a discount for the volume. And so, I mean, there are a lot of very practical solutions to this. Why would you not simply antemortem testing every live deer in a deer breeder facility?

I've said this before. These guys, for the most part, make a good living doing this. At $25, $30, $40 a deer, it's de minimis from a cost standpoint and so your three-to-one, five-to-one, if we sit around and wait for the USDA, we'll be waiting for a long time and so why would we not require 100 percent antemortem testing? It just seems like such a simple solution. And you've got 41 percent of compliance on your deer breeder facilities. They're not going to comply.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Release sites.


MR. LOCKWOOD: I don't mean to interrupt you, but I don't want to --


MR. LOCKWOOD: But that compliance figure was for release sites, and you have a good question. I assume it's a rhetorical question. And I don't want to downplay the expense of the veterinary fees too. I don't know if that's going to change your comment; but, you know, that may be in the tune of a few thousand dollars for veterinary expenses. I just don't know that particular answer.

But you -- the question you have, you're not the first person to ask that question. Actually, maybe the first one to ask it. I usually get it in the form of a statement that that needs to occur and I do think that will be something that will be discussed if this Commission asks staff to move forward to have such discussions with --

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: I mean, look, the final comment I'll make and then I'll give the mic up is that this is all very frustrating to me. We talked about this last year. It was ambiguous at best. We had all kinds of various testing and statistical data, you know, and now you've got a real problem it appears on your hands.

And so my question is I don't know why you don't test all the deer in these facilities and I know a tough medicine to swallow would be may be you don't allow deer to be put in trailers for some period of time. You know, that's open for a lot of question and debate and I understand it and I'm happy to hear the scientific facts. But, I mean, as Commissioner Patton said, he would be more than happy to test his deer and I think that responsible operators are willing to do so. This is a business. There should be 90 percent plus compliance, not 40 or 50 or 60. And so a lot more to discuss, but I'm just putting it out there that I think that we need to get a bit for stringent on this process or you're going to have a real problem.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: This is Commissioner Patton. And I was going to comment on Commissioner Hildebrand's statement of -- and even if it isn't 100 percent testing, you know, there ought to be really strict rules on these deer that are going to release sites. So for sure, you know, any deer that's going to be released into the wild should have a test. It's just part of the transfer permit. Maybe it's different if it's going from breeder to breeder; but, you know, or maybe any time a deer hits the trailer, then that live testing is going to be part of that permit. I can imagine owners trying and test every deer in the facility. Maybe ultimately we get to it. But if deer is going to get released, you know, it's a good way to get it before it's already left the barn, so to speak.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Some good comments and to respond to some especially with -- Commissioner Hildebrand, some of your comments, I think I might paraphrase and say one of your questions might be: Why would a deer breeder not test 100 percent of deer that dies in that facility? That may be one of your questions and the answer to that, one of many would be many deer breeders are absentee landowners and not able to find mortalities in time to get a CWD sample. Some would respond to that by saying, well, how -- how applicable is this permit or how suitable is this permit for somebody that can't be there in time to do that?

But regardless, others do hire people to be there to look for mortalities and to submit those tests. So I think, Commissioner Hildebrand, there's -- before the 2016 rules and before antemortem testing was an option -- which if you don't already know this, we are the only state in the country that allows for antemortem testing. We're very proud of that fact. But before we had that option, we couldn't have 100 percent testing requirement because if you did and then they missed it, then they're stuck in the mousetrap, so to speak. There's no way out.

But now there's a way out. We have antemortem testing and we have that substitution which is currently at three-for-one. So if you have 100 percent requirement and you miss one, there is still a way to stay Movement Qualified. And so you have good questions, good points, and I think that we're going to hear more of that from our stakeholders.

COMMISSIONER ABELL: I've got a few myself. I don't recall when we change the rule if it applies meaning to the 14 days instead of 12 months. Could a deer be moved within that 14 days? If a deer is discovered dead in a facility and they've got 14 days to test it, can they move deer within that 14-day window?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Absolutely.

COMMISSIONER ABELL: Okay, I think we need to shut that down. That's -- I think once you find a dead deer, until the test results are back, no deer should go anywhere regardless of whether it's 7 days, 10 days, 12 months, whatever, it doesn't matter.

I think we've made some really bad assumptions as far as like, you know, in the model, 100 percent compliance, 100 percent harvest within the fist year. I don't know why we'd ever use a model with those sorts of assumptions. And then as far as, you know, the obvious means of how it's transferred from deer to deer, I'm afraid all the regulations we've made and all the strategies have assumed that it took direct contact from deer to deer. If we don't know that, if we think that it can be transferred in a trailer, then I don't know why we would consider not having a containment zone around a facility just because nothing moved off the property. If there's a possibility it can be airborne or, you know, transferred through fleas or ticks or anything else, until we know that's not a possibility, we need to assume that it is.

I think I understand your point, you know, about the mousetrap, but I think there's a lot of bad actors out to there. There's a lot of people that are using that loophole that it won't matter if it's three-to-one, ten-to-one. If they've got an option to not test a dead deer, they're not going to do it. I think we need to go back and consider the 100 percent and the what-if. You know, what if there's an occasion where they can't test a dead deer for some reason, maybe they have to come before a panel and state their case why they couldn't and be sort of reapproved to be Movement Qualified. But I think it's way too -- it's way too easy right now to be a bad actor in this space.


Go ahead, Commissioner Bell.

COMMISSIONER BELL: One, just maybe a little flip on the perspective too and I yield to all my colleagues who I will proudly say probably know much more about deer than I do. But there are a couple things that strike me just from -- from -- I'll call it a business aspect of what I do. One, I think about cyber issues, right? And how I'm going to tie this back to deer in just a second. The issue with cyber is you've either been hacked and know it or you've been hacked and don't know or you've been hacked know it, right? But the idea is you've been hacked.

So with CWD, let's say that we know that it's out there. But I would like to just sometime we all get -- we can get wrapped around the axle on the times when we will say we've had errors, we've made mistakes, we're operating at less than 100 percent. But also, let's tie into there are several things I think that we're trying to do that are very positive. You mentioned we're the only state in the country that was doing antemortem testing. There were some things where we're leading the way. So there are some places where we want to get better.

In my daily job when I'm doing crisis management, my job sometimes is try to create a nonevent, right? And the question will be: How long do people want to pay me for creating a nonevent? Because as long as -- all of a sudden if nothing is happening for a long time, they're trying to figure out if it was me or if it was someone else. So there's this aspect of, you know, how are we going -- at some point in time, how will we balance all of this out? Because I do agree that, you know, it's a business. There's an opportunity. I mean, as part of the business function, maybe there should be compulsory or mandatory testing; but there's also got to be a way to -- you mentioned the Wyoming example where, I guess, 15 percent is the breakthrough number. Maybe we have to make sure we define how we measure success. So as long as we're keeping things below what is our breakthrough number, that gives a little bit of -- I'll use the term wiggle room -- for exactly how we apply all the rules. And I don't know what that's going to look like and I'm very interested in hearing the discussion that all the stakeholders might have on the best way to approach this.

But the bottom line is, I think, to make sure we don't have this thing spread in Texas to a point where hunting deer would go away, right? I mean, that's -- we want to preserve those resources and that opportunity for people for many generations to come. Because I think Wisconsin is in a bad state, if I recall, or was several years ago. They were in a bad way. Wyoming is in a bad way. We don't want to be walking on those paths, if that makes sense.

MR. LOCKWOOD: It makes sense. I don't know -- for the record, I don't know that any state has experienced -- been able to document a decline in hunting as a result of Chronic Wasting Disease; but we do know through human dimension studies that they've told us while they may continue hunting, they will begin to avoid specific areas where the prevalence has gotten beyond their threshold.


MR. LOCKWOOD: So if I may make one response for clarification for Commissioner Abell. There's -- I think I heard you suggest that perhaps all five of these facilities should have at least a surveillance zone around them. Something -- and I'm not clear at this point if that's something that you would like to see published in the Texas Register for consideration in August, whether that's another one of the bullets on the slide before you that you would like to be included in some of these stakeholder discussions.

If the former, then I feel compelled to just share this thought with you that's come out so far is, you know, if we're looking at all these sites with zones, it becomes hard to defend not applying the same exact zones to every release site that has received deer from these facilities. Those 101 or so release sites, you know, they're just as much -- well, I shouldn't say just as much at risk; but they're exposed. Well, they are just as much at risk as an adjacent site where CWD has not been detected.

And so I think if it would please you, Commissioner, that maybe we could reserve that for a discussion item at some of these upcoming meetings and talk about the larger picture and what other -- let's see the phrase I'm looking for here -- but how this could affect other aspects of this. Unless you are requesting that we definitely publish this proposed zones at this time.

COMMISSIONER ABELL: No. I think my comment was more broad-brush.


COMMISSIONER ABELL: Just that any -- any assumptions that we're going to use, need to be very well-founded.


COMMISSIONER ABELL: Very well-thought out, very well-founded.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Okay. Well taken.

VICE-CHAIRMAN APLIN, III: Mitch, I want to -- I don't know -- echo or support some of the comments that the Chairman gave and my fellow Commissioners. This is concerning. And so when I look at the audit results, mortality rate, we predicted four and a half. It's over 11. 28 percent of the deer breeding facilities tested zero mortality. Does that -- does that mean 28 percent of them went the three-to-one route, just didn't do it? What does that mean?

MR. LOCKWOOD: That is what that means. If they're movement qualified, then that's how they got movement qualified. I will tell you that I do not want to imply that all of those that make up that 28 percent had mortalities and refused to test. A number of those would have reported zero mortalities. So we're having to use that three-for-one antemortem testing.

VICE-CHAIRMAN APLIN, III: And 67 percent of the mortalities were tested. So you're sitting there. There's a dead deer in the facility. You know, just not testing a dead deer is just absolutely, to me, just unacceptable on so many levels. We had 150,000 deer released. 23,000 of them were bucks. Only 9 and a half percent were tested. Only 2 percent of the total deer that were tested. And so I'm hearing from at least the ones that have spoken that we really need to look into this. What percentage did you say Wyoming is dealing with now?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Well, I don't know what the number is today. Their prevalence in that unit up there is going to be a little less than 50 percent, if I'm not mistaken. But I did report a 57 percent proportion of deer that had been tested back in 2012 that tested positive; but, again, that could have been misleading on overall prevalence because of the bias towards --

VICE-CHAIRMAN APLIN, III: But it's put a heck of an impact on them.

MR. LOCKWOOD: It's -- it's -- you can expect close to half of the population has CWD.

VICE-CHAIRMAN APLIN, III: You worded this the way that got my attention that is different than other diseases is that this thing kind of can spread under the radar. And I don't even know if slow is the right word, but it can spread or grow and we can have a false sense of confidence until it reaches a point where it kind of goes crazy.

And another comment is that most, if not all of the most recent findings were from -- were part of the Herd Certification Program, which you described that we describe as the elite program. And if our elite program is experiencing these results and if -- as Jeff said, if we have 40 to 60 percent compliance, I mean, and as Commissioner Abell said, I mean, we've got to -- let's just -- I just want to echo that I think we've got to look at this and I would ask that staff, Carter, I'd ask that you guys and gals get -- you know, not that you haven't been; but I think you've got our attention.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Any other comments?

Well, I'll just echo I agree completely. And while you're at it, will you look at the escaped deer issue? That's always troubled me that over 10,000 -- is that right -- deer have escaped or are unaccounted for. If you can't keep your deer in your facility, I'm not sure you should have a permit.

MR. LOCKWOOD: A number of those -- a large number of those are reported by the breeders as being escaped, but a larger proportion of that number that's well over 10,000 weren't reported as escaped; but when we conducted an inventory inspection, we noticed there were a lot of deer missing from the facility and so we classify those as missing and assumed dead.


MR. LOCKWOOD: In many cases, we know they're dead when we walk over many carcasses while in the facility. But in some cases, we have no evidence of it.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Well, you've got to -- you've just got to crack down on some of these operators that are ignoring the rules and the regulations. And to me, that's a big, big gaping hole in the fence if you have 10,000 escape.

VICE-CHAIRMAN APLIN, III: I think James said -- I'm not sure who said it -- but this logic -- and I know I was here and I regret it. But this logic of a three-to-one, I just don't like the concept at all. If you're sitting there with a dead animal, I don't think there should be any ratio that you can avoid testing. I just -- I'm very uncomfortable with that, and I think this is playing out that that's not good.

MR. LOCKWOOD: So point taken.

Chairman, you asked -- I think you asked for maybe an update. I do have an update on escaped numbers for this calendar year. We've actually had nine different facilities report 172 deer as being escaped since January 1. And the scary thing on that is that eight of those facilities have a Not-Movement Qualified status.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: A Non-Movement Qualified site has got escaped deer.

MR. LOCKWOOD: That's correct. And in May, we had six facilities report 48 escapes. In April, we had eight facilities report 106 escapes. And 10 of those 14 facilities that reported escapes in April and May, either were Not-Movement Qualified or -- well, I'll just say six of those 14 were Not-Movement -- had Not-Movement Qualified status.


COMMISSIONER ABELL: Chime back in one more time. I'm not trying to beat you over the head with the assumption thing. But assuming them dead if they're missing, I have a problem with because certainly a certain number of them are. Maybe they all are. But I would say that there's a certain percentage that are missing and illegally transferred, missing and illegally let go, you know, something like that. So, again, just let's be real careful with what we assume.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Good point. And if I may just explain that a little bit. We make that assumption to err on the side of caution from a surveillance standpoint. There are some of these that definitely claim to us that they were transferred without a transfer permit to their release site. We don't know if that's true or not. But the reason we assume them to be dead is because now we need surveillance for 80 percent of those. And so in many cases they're missing so many, that a live animal test is required for the entire herd. And as you know in some cases, their herd is not big enough and so this Commission adopted another amendment sometime ago to address those that don't have enough animals to live test their way out, by allowing for two rounds of whole herd testing at 12-month intervals.

And so excellent point on the assumptions. In this case, I think it's safe to assume that as far as it's on the side of caution.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Any other comments, questions?

I think you heard loud and clear. Carter, do you have anything you want to add or --

MR. SMITH: I don't. I think your direction is unambiguous. So let us get to work on this. Let us get with the stakeholders and obviously come back in August. I would hope, Chairman, though that there's an opportunity here to keep the Commissioners engaged here between now and then so that we can talk about this issue in more detail because obviously it's complicated. There's a lot of moving parts and dynamics here, a number of which we haven't discussed and so we look forward to active engagement from the Commission on that front.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Get with the -- get with the stakeholders, the ones that are responsible and want to help solve our problem and see if you can't come back with -- quickly -- with some suggestions. And this will never be finalized, but --

MR. SMITH: Sure.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: -- start quicker, the sooner the better, I think.

MR. SMITH: No. I agree, Chairman. And as you know, we've got some committees that are already set up that I think are well-positioned to help us with that. The CWD Task Force that Mitch alluded to, the Breeder User Group, White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee, Mule Deer Advisory Committee, and so forth. All of those committees have good representation from a variety of different wildlife interests with different kind of positions on the deer management continuum that I think will bring important ideas to this. And so there's scientists, there's veterinarians, there's deer breeders, there's wildlife managers, there's landowners, there's ranchers, and so I think you can be assured we'll have a good representative group of stakeholder that whose voices are heard as part of it. So we hear you loudly and clearly. Look forward to follow-up engagement with you going forward. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you. Now do you want -- if no questions, do you have anything you want to authorize changes...

MR. LOCKWOOD: So for now for an action item, if you -- if we call it that, we are seeking permission to publish these proposed zones in the Texas Register for your consideration in August.

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Okay. If there are no other comments, I'll authorize staff to publish the proposed changes in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.

Now we're going to move into the next Work Session Items, which will be held in Executive Session; but I'll go through them.

Work Session Item No. 11, Acquisition of Land, Somervell County, Approximately 106 Acres at Dinosaur Valley State Park will be held in Executive -- heard in Executive Session.

Work Session Item No. 12, Grant of Utility Easement, Galveston County, Approximately a Tenth of an Acre at Galveston Island State Park, this will be heard in Executive Session.

Work Session Item No. 13, Grant of Interagency Easement, Jefferson County, Approximately 21 Acres for Water Control Infrastructure at the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area, this item will be heard in Executive Session.

Work Session Item No. 14, Grant of -- No. 14, Grant of Pipeline Easement, Orange County, Approximately 5 Acres at the Lower Neches Wildlife Management Area, will be heard in Executive Session.

Work Session Item No. 15, work -- Land Conservation Strategy, Southeast Hill County -- Hill Country, sorry, will be heard in Executive Session.

Work Session Item No. 16, Litigation Update Involving Oysters, Chronic Wasting Disease, Red Snapper, this item will be heard in Executive Session.

At this time I would like to announce that pursuant to the requirements of Chapter 551 Government Code referred to as the Open Meetings Act, an Executive Session will be heard -- will be held at this time for purposes of deliberating real estate matters under Section 551.072 of the Open Meetings Act, seeking legal advice under Section 551.071 of the Open Meetings Act, including advice regarding pending or contemplated legislation -- litigation. We will now recess for Executive Session at 12:24.

(Recess taken for Executive Session)

CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Okay. We will now reconvene -- we will now reconvene the Work Session of May 26, 2021, at 2:45 p.m.

Before we begin, I will take roll call.










CHAIRMAN MORIAN: Thank you very much.

We are now returning from the Executive Session where we discussed the Work Session Real Estate Item Nos. 11 through 15 and Litigation Item No. 16.

Regarding Item Nos. 11 through 14, I will place these on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Regarding Item Nos. 15 and 16, no further action is needed at this time.

Mr. Smith, this Commission has completed its work and I declare us adjourned at 2:46 p.m.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

(Work Session Concludes)



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 Turn in date ______ day of _________________, ________.


Paige S. Watts, CSR

CSR No.: 8311

Expiration: January 31, 2023

2223 Mockingbird Drive

Round Rock, Texas 78681


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