TPW Commission

Public Hearing, August 25, 2021


TPW Commission Meetings

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Good afternoon, everyone. The Annual Public Hearing is called to order August 25th, 2:09 p.m.

Before I begin, we'll take a roll call. Aplin here.








CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay. Commissioner Bell's on his way. He's traveling. So he'll be here as soon as he can get here.

This is our Annual Public Hearing and before proceeding with any further business, I believe Mr. Smith has a statement to make and some comments about how the system will work.

MR. SMITH: Yeah. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Carter Smith. Just as a point of order, a public notice of this meeting containing all items on the proposed agenda has been filed in the Office of Secretary of State as required by Chapter 551 Government Code referred to as the Open Meetings Act. I'd like for this fact to be noted in the official record of the meeting.

Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, I just want to join all of you in welcoming people who've come from all over the state to have a chance to speak with you this afternoon. This is a wonderful opportunity for us to hear from stakeholders, again, from all across Texas who have an interest in a wide variety of topics that are under your purview.

I just want to remind folks that have come to the meeting but are waiting to speak, a couple of things. One, if you do have an interest in speaking, please make sure that you have signed up outside. At the appropriate time, one of our colleagues will come get you and bring you into the room likely with another group of individuals so we can kind of manage the numbers of people inside the room. When your name is called, we'd ask that you please come up to the microphone. You'll have two minutes to address the Commission about any topic that have you an interest in. If you don't mind, just so that they know who you are, please state your name and any affiliation or where you're -- where you're from and then please share your thoughts about any appropriate subject matter with the Commission. And we'll be keeping -- keeping time here.

I believe, Chairman, we have somewhere between 70 to 80 people that have signed up to speak to the Commission this afternoon and so we are going to be making sure that we, you know, again hold people to the two-minute timeframe that you've directed us to and we'll do that with a lighting system. Green means go, yellow means start to wrap it up, and red means please finish up.

So with that, thank you for coming. We appreciate everybody being here today to address the Parks and Wildlife Commission.

So thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Carter.

We'll start bringing in guests that would like to speak for the public comment. I also understand in the essence of trying to not overfill the room, that we have another room where the majority of the people are, I believe they can hear us, and we're just going to try to move through this as best can; but we just can't put that many people in one room.

MR. SMITH: That's right, yeah. Exactly, Chairman, that's right. And I believe we have audio that's piped into the other room where they can -- they can hear us. And, again, at the appropriate time we'll have a colleague go and get groups of people and bring them in here to the room. And, obviously, we can use all the chairs that we have here in the room until they're filled up. Thanks.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Very good. Thank you. Do you -- do we have anyone in the room yet ready to start, do you know? And do we have a list of names?

MS. HALLIBURTON: Yes, sir. I'm going to bring those up to you right now.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: We'll see how this goes, and hopefully we'll get better at it as we get involved a little bit. As you heard, we have a lot of people that are here that want to speak and we encourage that and are anxious to hear the comments. We're going to ask everyone to keep it to two minutes. We have -- I don't know -- probably 80 plus people. So we're going to ask everybody to keep it to two minutes. There is a notification that at a minute and a half, it will turn yellow and then at two minutes it will turn red. And so I just want to give everybody a heads up I'm going to try to stop it at two minutes as soon as possible so all of the other people can have their time as well.

I think I'll call a few so you can kind of get ready and stage. First one's going to be Peter Lockwood, if you want to come up. Second will be Chris Mitchell, Haley Biggers, Ashton Ballou, I believe. So that's -- if those people will kind of get in order.

Peter, you've got our undivided attention. What can we do for you?

MR. PETER LOCKWOOD: Good afternoon. My name is Peter Lockwood and I was a cadet at the 21st Battalion of the South Texas Buckskin Brigade which took place at the G2 Ranch in Pearsall, Texas, this past June. Based on my experience, Texas Brigades is something that I think every kid should have the opportunity to do and I will tell you why.

I learned new skills and improved old ones at Texas Brigades and these included taxidermy, plant identification, and public speaking. In fact, being put on the spot and having to answer questions from a mock interview panel about White-tailed deer, has helped me in many situations such as radio interviews, my role as Forage Club President, and community outreach for Texas Brigades. The skills I learned at South Texas Buckskin Brigade are important; but five days at the G2 Ranch with a group of cadets and leaders I formed lasting friendships with, has a more special value.

And herd was called the Los Gauchos and was made up seven boys from all over the state, each with unique backgrounds. We adopted a toad named Captain Benitez and made him mascot of our cabin. We rose before dawn each morning to watch the sunrise and we dominated the competitions to win top herd and earn prizes, including a private hunt we will go on together this January. These are memories I will never forget.

South Texan Buck -- South Texas Buckskin Brigade did not end for me on July -- on June 17th, 2021. We cadets were given a mission to go out in our community and share the knowledge we gained and our positive experiences at camp. I am currently working to complete my many tasks in my book of accomplishments so I can have a chance to become an assistant leader at next year's South Texas Buckskin Brigade. Doing this is really making me try things I would not normally do.

Participating in Texas Brigades was one of the best times of my life. I would like to thank Texas Parks and Wildlife for supporting it and also thank the Parks and Wildlife employees who give their time to help young people become better conservationists and leaders. Thank you for your time.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Peter. Thank you, Peter. Thanks for coming up very much.

Chris Mitchell.

MR. CHRIS MITCHELL: Howdy. I'm the Director for the Texas Youth Hunting Program, and I want to do just two things today. I've got three hunters from the program because we believe they're the best spokespeople to tell you about the Texas Youth Hunting Program; but I did ask Dee Halliburton to pass out what we call our information graphic that has the statistics for the Texas Youth Hunting Program, and we are entering into our 25th season this year.

Just as a Reader's Digest version, you know, last year was a little -- we were a little bit off on our numbers; but we still ran 164 hunts and took 806 kids, along with their parents. So 1,612 people participated in the program last year. And we've already got landowners that are coming back who sat out last year because of the virus situation. So we're really excited and we really appreciate and need Parks and Wildlife and the Commission's support to get these kids outdoors and I think one of the big lessons that we learned last year was people want and need to get outdoors and this program is a great way to get them out into safe, educational, and mentored hunting opportunities.

So we've got three youth right behind me and we will let them tell you their experience about Texas Youth Hunting Program hunts. Thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Chris, is it Haley is one of your --


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Welcome, Haley.

Thank you, Chris.

After Haley will be Ashton.

MS. HALEY BIGGERS: Good afternoon. My name is Haley Biggers. I'm from Danbury, Texas, and I'm 16 years old. I attend Angleton High School. At nine years old had you asked me what was the Texas Parks and Wildlife, what is TYHP, I would have never been able to answer this. At the age of nine, I took my hunter's education class and the rest is history.

Since then, I've participated in numerous youth hunts through the Texas Parks and Wildlife TYHP Program and volunteered on several more. My dad works a lot as the sole provider and these hunts have provided us plenty of time to have our deepest conversations on the way to and from these hunts. Many of our -- okay. To this day, my dad has -- each hunt that we've ever attended -- marked in his Google Maps on his phone. The best places that I've ever been on those hunts, most beautiful places.

Through the program, I've made many memories and have had plenty of stories to tell, from the time I was soaking wet in my tent to the time that I was in the hospital from a spider bite on the way home from a hunt and let's not forget the ones that I can't share here, but I definitely share with my family for many years to come. Texas Youth Hunting Program has offered me the opportunity to provide for my family, as well as expose other family members to the Texas Youth Hunting Program.

I kept the freezer stocked with meat during a time when my dad was unemployed from a car wreck. I even took my grandpa, his dad, as my chaperone. He knew nothing of deer hunting and was a little freaked out when we did a necropsy. Texas Youth Hunting Program has taught me to respect the outdoors and to conserve our wildlife resources. It was through the Texas Youth Hunting Program that I found out about the Texas Brigades.

I have been on two Brigades, and this year I was an assistant leader at Bobwhite Brigade. Through both of these programs, I have learned how to identify plants, identify the stomachs of an animal, and even learned how to track different animals; but the most important value that I've learned from Texas Youth Hunting Program was to friendship and teamwork. I have Texas Youth Hunting Program friends that I still talk to to this day and we get together regularly to hang out, have fun, and we've even gone on several of these hunts together.

Through everything I've done, everything through the TYHP, Texas Parks and Wildlife, and the Brigades have done for not just me, but my family and community and everything I've learned, the one thing that will stay with me long after the venison is gone is the memories that I've made. Memories that will last a lifetime and that no one can take away from me. I will always hold a special place in my heart for both of the these programs.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Haley.

MS. HALEY BIGGERS: Thank you for your time.


Is Lori next?

MR. CHRIS MITCHELL: It should be James Boutte, if that's okay?

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay. I don't have him, but okay.

Go ahead, please.

MS. ASHTON BALLOU: My name is Ashton Ballou and I'm 17 and I got started with the Texas Youth Hunting Program about four years ago. My first hunt, I was able to go with my dad and my sister and my grandpa and we made so many good memories. Before I was able to join this program, you know, I had been fishing. I had never done any hunting and I my dad wanted us to get into this program because he went hunting with his dad and he wanted to have the same experience with us and to make those good memories.

And my first hunt, I didn't know if I would be able to pull the trigger and commit and going on that hunt the first night, you -- there's no hunting. It's all teaching. They teach you about wildlife and conservation and that -- hearing from those guys and those amazing people, they taught me so about the outdoors and wildlife and it really sparked my love for it.

You know, I always liked being outside; but going on that hunt, it really sparked my love for it and I had such a good time. I made so many good memories and had so many good friends I still talk to to this day. Like she said, we make such good connections and it helped me find my passion, which is archery. So I've actually started to go on archery hunts and I now work in a bow shop and I'm hoping to continue that into the rest of my life. And my dad actually, he loved the hunting so much that he wants to become a guide and he got my mom, who doesn't do any hunting, she's not outdoorsy, she doesn't want anything to do with it; but he convinced her to come along with him and to become a cook. So it's gotten our entire family outside and sparked my love and helped me find my passion and it's a great program that provides so many good opportunities to so many youth and so I just wanted to say that and thank you for your time.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Ashton, thank you.

Okay. I didn't catch the name of the next one.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: James Boutte. Is James here?

MR. JAMES BOUTTE, JR.: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Come on up, James.

MR. JAMES BOUTTE, JR.: Good afternoon, everyone. My name is James Boutte and I'm from Cypress, Texas. I'm speaking on behalf of the Texas Youth Hunting Program. I attended the Super Hunting Cave Creek in January 2021. I would like to thank Mr. Chris Mitchell and the Texas Youth Hunting Program for inviting me to speak today. I would also like to thank Mr. David Baxter for inviting me to Super Hunt over the years.

The hunt meant a lot to me because I was able to have an experience that I will remember for the rest of my life. As a God-fearing student athlete, church, school, and sports is what occupied my time the most. I didn't think I would really enjoy hunting, but I was wrong. It took a lot of getting used to.

First, I had to become comfortable with shooting. My dad had bought me my first rifle just months before the hunt. We went to the shooting range where I shot for the first time to improve my accuracy. Arriving in Fredericksburg, Texas, I had to take hunter's ed the very first day. Mr. Mitchell was a great teacher and I ended up getting a 96 on my exam, even though I was shooting for a perfect score. All of this was worthwhile because I got to put what I learned into practice the next day.

I shot my very first doe the next day. I got to meet a lot of new people and most importantly, I got to spend quality time in the beautiful Hill Country with my granddad and my dad. I learned a lot about the sport of hunting, ranging from hunting safety and what is ethical. Just a few days changed the way I looked at the sport, realizing that anyone can enjoy it.

I have already recommended this trip to my family and friends so that I can make more memories like I have from the first trip. I definitely look forward to coming back and becoming involved in the future. The Texas Youth Hunting Program gave me an experience that I will never forget. Thank you for having me.


And really want to thank the young people, the youth, for coming out. That's just excellent. Sounds like y'all had a great time. Thank you for coming and sharing with the Commissioners.

We're going to go with Lori Olson, Kirby Brown, Monica Morrison, and Sissy Sailors, I believe.

Is Lori here? Hi, Lori.

MS. LORI OLSON: Hello. My name is Lori Olson. I'm the Executive Director of the Texas Land Trust Council. TLTC works with more than 34 land trust members to enhance the conservation landscape of Texas.

TLTC began in 1993 under the umbrella of Texas Parks and Wildlife and in 2003, we were launched as an independent organization to serve and support all Texas land trusts. To date, land trusts have helped conserve over 1.84 million acres of Texas, with over 1 million of that conserving partnership with private landowners via conservation easements.

Today I'm here to applaud the efforts of one of our more steadfast partners in TPWD. I applaud their efforts to safeguard our fish and wildlife resources, making science-based management decisions that keep the public interest at heart. I applaud their efforts to provide parks and recreation opportunities for all Texans and the diligent way in which they have managed limited resources over the years to do so. And I applaud their efforts to help conserve lands in cooperation with private landowners, providing guidance on wildlife and management issues, as well as funding for permanent protection via the Texas Farm and Ranch Lands Conservation Program.

But the pace of our collective conservation effort is not keeping up with the pace of our population growth or demand for these programs. According to Texas A&M Natural Resource Institute, land fragmentation continues on an upward climb, as does land conversion away from agricultural -- agriculture open space to suburban development. In addition, Texas has more than 1,300 species of greatest conservation need, nongame wildlife that are imperiled due to habitat loss, and in need of conservation action.

Additional conservation of our natural lands and native habitats is essential to both our economic development and our quality of life. Our availability of water resources, our ability to mitigate flood events, provide food and fiber, sustain our wildlife, and provide recreation for our burgeoning population would all be served by significant additional state investments in on-the-ground conservation efforts.

These conservation investments can serve to match federal funding opportunities, preserve lands that will keep our wildlife thriving, and provide recreation. In addition, funding to boost conservation partnership with private landowners will help safeguard our natural and agricultural resources and buffer our Parks and Wildlife management areas, all at a reduced cost and without long-term management obligations for the state.

Texas Land Trust stand as ready partners to enhance and dramatically increase our conservation efforts in the coming years. With a push for significant additional funding at the state level, we can leverage federal funds and accomplish so much to benefit Texans across the state. Thank you very much for your service. I appreciate it.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Lori.

Kirby Brown.

MR. KIRBY BROWN: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. By the way, congratulations, Commissioners, new Commissioners. Thank you for your service.

I'm Kirby Brown. I'm a consulting outreach biologist for Ducks Unlimited. Ducks Unlimited is the largest wetland organization in the world and on behalf of Ducks Unlimited, our more than 1 million members and 60,000 members in Texas, we want to thank the Parks and Wildlife Commission for your long-term wetlands partnership that we have together. It's been a great -- I mean, a great partnership.

The Commission has long recognized that waterfowl are a shared resource and that wetland habitat conservation has to take place not only here in Texas, but on the breeding grounds in Canada where most of our waterfowl are produced, especially critical during the droughts that we have right now up there.

Texas annual contribution through the Multistate Fall Fights Program since Texas migratory bird stamp fund specifically for wetlands conservation in Canada, long-term banding data from ducks that we harvest here in Texas, those ducks come from Saskatchewan and Alberta at a 48 percent rate. So it's most of our ducks. It's very important. And Texas is the only state that's providing funding for wetlands in Mexico.

Our Texas hunters, the migratory stamp dollars that you send are leveraged by DU, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, our Canadian partner, so you're getting a leveraging of a minimum of four, sometimes up to seven times depending on where things are in the Canadian breeding grounds. And here in Texas, we've got a lot of projects with Texas Parks and Wildlife. We've got the 30th year anniversary of the partnership with the Texas Prairie Wetlands Program, the longest running private lands partnership of its kind with 90,000 acres of wetlands with private landowners in Texas.

We assist WMAs, state parks, and right now the Tim and Karen Hixon project at Guadalupe Delta WMA, which many of you are familiar with, is under contract and construction is beginning. Significant work at a lot of the WMAs on coastal breakwater projects, including the recently completed Dagger Island breakwater with Coastal Fisheries and CCA Texas. Our recent partnership at Big Lake Bottom acquisition with the Parks and Wildlife Foundation, NACA, and Kathy and Ed Cox, Jr., former Commissioner. Also new funding for wetlands at Richland Creek WMA with partners Bonneville Environmental Foundation and Facebook, PepsiCo, Litman Foundation. It's amazing to see those corporate dollars coming in and we're able to capture those together and work on them.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Kirby. Let's wrap up.

MR. KIRBY BROWN: Thank you very much. We appreciate you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you so much for coming.

I'll ask everyone to kind of remember to help me with the time if you can. Those that have spoke, if you will when you've finished, you can exit to make room for the others coming in so we -- we don't want to overcrowd. But thank you so much for coming. Really appreciate it and it's so neat to see you young kids. Thank y'all.

Monica, you're next. And then Sissy, then Jodi Bole, Dan Ballard.


MS. MONICA MORRISON: Good afternoon. Thank you. My name is Monica Morrison. I am the founder of Texas Native Cats, an organization focused on providing education, outreach, and advocacy for our five species of wild native cats.

Three years ago this month, I came before this Commission to speak on behalf of our Texas mountain lion. I provided information about the cat's status, now designated as imperiled/threatened by the Agency, the trapping that causes most of the species' mortality, and that mountain lions can be killed by anyone with a valid hunting license and they don't have to report it. Trappers have required trap check times for mountain lions.

I said that in one West Texas study, 200 mountain lion kill sites showed no livestock depredation and that they do kill feral hogs, which I imagine you know amount to 52 million dollars in damages every year to this state. They also kill deer with Chronic Wasting Disease. And I'm here again because, quite frankly, nothing has changed in the three years.

In your packets that you have of information, some also provided by me, you'll find some letters from some prominent concerned individuals in this state, all native Texans. Patricia Harveson from Borderlands Research Institute; Ben Masters, noted film maker; and Pamela Harte, West Texas rancher. Other well-known individuals have joined in our effort to conserve mountain lions in this state.

Allow me to mention just a few of their comments. All other states have a science-based management plan for mountain lions. The rate -- excuse me. The rate of survival in one West Texas mountain lion study was a low 56 percent. Other states have a significantly higher survival rate. A big tom cat got his toe or his front toes caught in a trap and ripped them off. He was later found dead in another trap from dehydration and exposure. A black bear, a threatened species in this state, had bitten off his hind leg after getting caught in a leg-hold trap.

Commissioners, no other state treats its mountain lions the way Texas does. In your packet, you'll find a summary of all other states' regulations that have a resident mountain lion population. One state stands out for all the wrong reasons. As I said three years ago, you have the authority and the ability to implement regulations to conserve this cat. I urge you to do so while we still have the species. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Monica.

Sissy. Jodi on deck.

MS. SISSY SAILORS: Next. Hi, I'm Sissy Sailors. I'm from San Antonio, Texas, and I am working with the coalition that is hoping that you will help us ban wildlife killing contests. As a proud Texan, I value our wildlife and I value our wildlands and we applaud the Commission and TP and W for the efforts you make to manage our game population. At the same time, I'm very concerned that we allow these wanton wasting wildlife killing contests to continue.

I am not against hunting. I am not here to urge you to stop hunting. It's the killing that bothers us -- we've got several studies and I have not given you a copy of this yet, but I certainly will -- from Ohio State University, America Wildlife Values Project that show a substantial shift away from what used to be our -- I don't know -- not us versus them, but our you are imaging wildlife for the benefit of humans to a more mutualist type management where it's for the benefit of the animals as well as the benefit of the human beings.

We feel like the wildlife of Texas belongs to Texans. It shouldn't be up to a few individuals to go out and slaughter several of our coyotes, bobcats, or fox. In fact, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and Wildlife Management Institute have noted these studies and underscored the need for state wildlife management agencies to appeal to a broader constituency, not just those who hold the former way felt about managing it for our benefit.

And a 2019 survey by National Shooting Sports Foundation found that about 84 percent of people support hunting for meat. We have no problem with hunting for meat. It's the other hunting or killing that we have a problem with. Wildlife belongs. It is important to all Texas citizens, not just the very small percentage of people who participate in this activity. We can support hunting as a tradition while approving restrictions on irresponsible killing activities that have no real connection at all to the state's wonderful sporting legacy. I appreciate your time. Good luck.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Sissy.

Jodi. After Jodi Dan Ballard, then Mike.

MS. JODI BOLE: Good afternoon, Commissioners, Chair. Thank you for being here today to listen to all of us. I am here to urge you to reevaluate your current policy that allows -- allows -- wildlife killing. I'm a landowner. I own a ranch in Georgetown, Texas. I own a farm that I work Granger, Texas, and I'm very concerned about how this unregulated, unmonitored killing contest is absolutely encouraging trespassing, which we are seeing more and more as a problem on our private property. I'm a big private property advocate.

I don't believe this contest is for the use of predatory control. If you look at the definition of control, it means to have power to run something in an orderly way. Right now this contest is an unregulated free-for-all. Also I believe this practice will have unintended consequences. I'd like you to think about that. This contest actually increases predatory conflicts which impacts our ranches and my neighbors and our farms.

As you're probably aware, the positions that you're in, when you kill an alpha male, an alpha pair of coyotes who are the dominate breeding partners in a pack, they start overbreeding which increases the population of coyotes. So these killing sprees are actually very counterproductive.

In the years my family has owned our herd -- we own Black Angus -- I have never had an issue with predators killing a calf and statistically on managed ranches, it is not that common. Managed ranches. Using donkeys is a great way to protect your herd -- we have several -- and there are many in kill pens and those who are ranchers know exactly what kill pens are. Please go pick some up.

To say killing contests are a means to control predatory populations is really a sham. Everyone knows it. It's just a cover for killing free wildlife for free money by a handful of people in our population that do not represent all Texans, proud Texans, ranchers, farmers. If you really are concerned about predatory issues, I believe the Wildlife Program at the Texas Park and Wildlife Commission could do better. Thank you very much for your time.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Jodi.

MS. JODI BOLE: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Dan and then Mike, Avedis maybe.

Go ahead, Dan.

MR. DAN BALLARD: Good afternoon. I'm Dan Ballard. I'm a native Texan. I lived in Texan -- in Texas all but three year -- three months of my life. So all 65 years here. I grew up hunting and fishing, and I enjoyed hunting and fishing. Wildlife killing contests, in my opinion, are not hunting or fishing.

We protect our predator birds. We fully protect our predator birds. We do not protect our predator mammals: Bobcats, coyotes, foxes. It's a free-for-all. These contests that they have where they pay an entry fee, they raise prize money -- you know, like they may raise $150,000 in prize money -- hand it out, hunters come in and kill freely using calls, electronic calls. They're killing a fox every 15 minutes -- sorry -- one team -- one team is killing a fox every 15 minutes for 24 hours. They publish their results. One team of two guys kills 94 foxes in 23 hours.

And the Parks and Wildlife Commission very appropriately, I think, has on its website discussion about ethical hunting practices and this is not an ethical hunting practice to go out and kill an animal for prize money every 15 minutes. That's one of the 717 teams that were on there. That's just one team did that.

In another year there, two teams -- the top two teams killed 28 bobcats. Twenty-eight bobcats. And your website says that ethical hunting is not wasting or exploiting game or nongame animals. I agree with that completely. I think that's true. Don't exploit them and waste them. I think it's wasteful, it's exploitative, and it gives hunting a bad name. The public optics on this are not good. I think that when the public finds out what's going on, it just -- it just -- it just makes hunting look bad and hunting's not bad. Hunting's a good thing. So let's -- if we could regulate it, that would be great. Thanks.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Dan.

Mike, you're up. Avedis next, Joshua.

Mike McClabb? Mike, going once. Mike, going twice.

Do we have -- is Avedis in?


I wonder if we have a problem. How about Zach Halfin?

MR. SMITH: Chairman, maybe we could hold those names aside and see if they emerge here in a little bit.


MR. SMITH: Okay.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Their main topic was river issues. Are these people available?

Niel Pollson? Is Niel around? Followed by John -- where's John Blaha? Hey, John.

Bill Burge and Shane -- hey, Shane. Got a whole bunch of people now.

How are you, Niel?

MR. NIEL POLLSON: Good. Thank you. My name is Niel Pollson. I'm concerned with the Gulf coast oyster fishing process. I have been visiting the Rockport/Aransas/Corpus crass -- Corpus Christi region for the past eight years and I'm now a full-time retired resident in Aransas Pass for two years. Also an avid recreational angler.

I am aware of the current tourism attraction and the recreational fishing appeal, as well as the historic, colorful maritime past in this region. I am also aware this region has been a world class tarpon fishing and world class shrimping location and that both industries have experienced dire declines through excessive overfishing and uncontrolled fishing practices.

I believe unless immediately regulated, the oyster industry is facing the brink of exhaustion and will suffer a similar fate to that of the tarpon and shrimp industries. There are a number of actions if applied expeditiously that will alleviate this risk and encourage preservation of our oyster heritage for future generations to come.

Limit the Rockport/Aransas oyster fishing season to the same timeframes as those in Galveston and other Texas fishing grounds. Limit the number of oyster boats allowed to fish in the Rockport/Aransas region. Limit the number of catch oysters harvested per boat per day. Actively engage the oyster fishing license buy-back program. Disqualify and cancel any and all fish -- oyster fishing license permits that either are not attached to vessels or alternatively that are attached to vessels that do not participate in the oyster fishing season.

It is not just about the oyster industry. The entire maritime ecology in this region is dependent on the oysters reefs developed over many decades and if this problem is not arrested immediately, a very valuable Texas resource will be imminently destroyed, rendering the once prolific Gulf coast region barren and infertile. Thank you for your time.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Niel.

John's up, then Bill, then Shane. Mic after Shane.

Hello, John. How you doing?

MR. JOHN BLAHA: Chairman Aplin, good to see you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Good to see you.

MR. JOHN BLAHA: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. My name is John Blaha and I live in Rockport, Texas, and I'm speaking here today as a recreational angler. I'm here to share with you my concerns for the health of Copano/Aransas Bay, specifically regarding the level of oyster harvest in these bays during the public season.

HB 51 and establishment of the oyster mariculture program in Texas are both great steps in the management of commercial oyster business in Texas. These two measures are only the beginning to ensuring the health and future of Texas oysters. The 2021 oyster season saw an influx of oyster boats into the Copano and Aransas Bay systems like many have never seen before.

The large fleet of fishermen worked these two systems over relentlessly as a result of the Galveston Bay Season closure. As a recreational angler that has been in the Rockport -- lived in Rockport for 18 years and fished the area since the early 1990s, I have fished reefs in the past that essentially no longer exist. Historic reefs that many anglers fished in both Copano and Aransas Bay system simply aren't fishable for many anymore because so much has been taken from them.

A few points that I feel are very important for the future of oyster habitat: Consideration given to a thorough review of the metrics used to determine if a fishing area should be closed; expand the oyster lease program to the entire Texas coast; the buy-back program will only be effective once the unused licenses are removed; unused licenses should be -- should not have to be paid for by the state and should be removed from the fishery immediately.

There's great concern within the Aransas County community and recreational anglers from across the state about the level of pressure placed on the oyster systems of these bays. The ecosystem services oyster reefs provide to the marine ecology are second to none and must be protected. The Coastal Bend is a growing target for -- of the commercial industry and that is very import -- very apparent in the purchase of multiple properties by the industry on Copano and Aransas Bays. The industry seems to be shifting down the coast and we must protect and take care of what we have in a reasonable manner that puts the ecosystem first above all other interest.

Thank you for your time and I appreciate it your efforts and your time.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, John.

Bill, Shane, Mic, and then Scott. By the way, for those of you that didn't know, when you finish if you'll -- you're welcome to exit. That will make room for more people. We're trying to keep concentration down to a minimum.

Bill, how are you?

MR. BILL BURGE: I'm good. How are you guys?

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Good. Thank you.

MR. BILL BURGE: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. My name's Bill Burge. I live in Aransas County. And avid outdoorsman and angler and a certified Texas Master Naturalist. I'm here today to share with you my concerns about the health of Aransas and Copano Bay systems, specifically regarding the level of oyster harvest allowed in those bays during the public season.

As you know, the two primary measures used to measure -- or to manage oyster harvest are sacks per day per boat, percentage of undersized oysters, as well as catch rate from sampling by TPWD. These measures have become inadequate to safeguard our bays from overharvest based primarily on changes to the way the fishery works.

This past season, as many as 300 oyster boats were observed working in the Aransas/Copano Bay system. Most of these boats are part of a mobile fleet that has come down from Galveston and other points on the Gulf coast as their local reefs damaged or depleted. At this point, approximately 80 percent of all oyster boats in Texas are now operating in our bay system, which is roughly one-seventh the size of the Galveston Bay system. So we've got a ton of boats.

If you look at the numbers, the -- the sheer volume of boats means that the reductions in daily sack limits over time from 90 ten years ago down to 30, really have had no impact on the total number of oysters harvested. The average -- the average number of oysters harvested the past 12 years is about 14 million pounds a year. Last year, the -- based on the trip counts, there were 35 million pounds of oysters taken out of Aransas and Copano Bay and that's, to our mind, unsustainable.

Reefs have no opportunity to regenerate. They're sinking deeper and deeper into the bays and nothing in the current regulation recognizes the value of the actual reef structure itself to maintain the bays and maintain water quality, wave and erosion control, and support sea life.

So in conclusion, I'd like you to take a closer look at how -- how we manage the oyster fishery and determine measures that -- that reflect the full value of those oyster reefs to the community.


MR. BILL BURGE: Thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Shane, you're up. Next, Mic, Scott, and then Gary Glick.

MR. SHANE BONNOT: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. My name is Shane Bonnot, and I'm with the Coastal Conservation Association. I appreciate the opportunity to give comment.

First of all, I want to thank the Department on the part of CCA on their response to the freeze event this past February. It was a historic event. Record number of finfish were killed mostly on the lower coast and we're glad to see that the Department got out there and did their assessment and analyze impacts from these events isn't always an easy thing to do, but the Department followed approved protocols to come up with their best estimate.

And in that process, it's become apparent that there likely needs to be more done to manage Speckled trout in several bay systems, including the Matagorda Bay Complex, San Antonio Bay, and of course the Upper and Lower Laguna Madre. So we urge the Commission to consider additional management actions moving forward that will help expedite the recovery of Speckled trout and do so in a manner so that any rule-making is completed before next year's heavy use season which begins next summer.

Now, we've heard some comments regarding the oyster fishery along the middle coast. The current targeted sampling program has been in place for about ten years. That's the program the Department uses to monitor the status of our reefs. We think it's time to refine that criteria and include some components that gives consideration to the topography the reefs. The vertical relief of the reefs.

Failure to recognize that would be a tremendous oversight and rather than managing complex structures, which are what reefs are supposed to be, we ended up managing gravel parking lots and we get into situations like we have in Galveston Bay where we have very little vertical relief, a storm comes in, and then it becomes silted over. So we don't want to see that happen in any other bay systems, so we ask the Department to look at those protocols.

Thank you for your time. I appreciate the opportunity to give comment.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Shane.

MR. SHANE BONNOT: Thank you?

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Shane.

Mic, Scott, Gary.

MR. MIC COWART: Good afternoon. My name is Mic Cowart. I'm a member of the Sabine Reef -- Friends of the Sabine Reefs. I'm also the Port Manager for the Sabine Pass Port Authority. What I'd like to talk to you today is the ongoing destruction of marine habitat along our coastal waters.

On or about 2010 when the BP disaster occurred, the Idle Iron policy was put into initiative and the result of that was the destruction of over thousands of oil and gas platforms in our coastal waters. What that meant to the coastal fishery was the complete destruction of those ecosystems were using that substructure as their system for thriving for life for those marine animals. All the types from sponges, corals, and then all of the elements of the different fisheries that we have along there.

From that, what we've also seen is just a really negative impact to our coastal fisheries as well. Those oil and gas platforms served as the opportunity for recreational fishermen to take advantage of those resources and fish in accordance with Texas Parks and Wildlife regulations and federal regulations, which created a great, great income opportunity for us along our coastal marinas, our boat sales, and also our fishing tackle as well and fishing likens which -- fishing license which generates revenue for the Texas Parks and Wildlife.

I have provided -- I hope that you have the handouts that I provided which illustrates what I'm speaking of today. There's several different snapshots of what existed in 2019 of the oil and gas platforms just mainly along the Texas coastal waterways. As you view those pictures as depicted, the gray dots represent all of the rigs that have now been removed and the red ones represent those that are still there.

The second page, that illustration does show you what is left, which is very, very, very few rigs that we have left. The alarming part of this and what's so urgent about this issue is, is there's ongoing removal of these structures. This wasn't just a one-time initiative. It's ongoing decommissioning of the structures and complete removal of them, which completely removes the habitat not only for the ecosystem, but also for the recreational fisher to have that opportunity as well.

So as you can see, it has been devastating to us along the Gulf coast, particularly the upper coast. There are --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: You need to wrap up, Mic.

MR. MIC COWART: There are several things that are going on though that would help that. That's the reefs to -- Rigs-to-Reef Program, permitting reef sites, and also grassroots efforts that we have. What we're asking you though is to step up for those efforts through the Rigs-to-Reef Program, permit more areas along the coastal waterway so we can use those for opportunities, and continue to support the grassroots effort as you can, as best you can. Thank you for your time.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Mic.

Scott, you're up. Then Gary, then Mike McClabb. Trying to keep everything to two minutes, guys.




MR. SCOTT MCLEOD: Good after -- good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. I come to you today to discuss my concerns with the oyster overharvest and oyster reef management. My name is Scott McLeod and I've been a game warden in the Rockport area since 1993 and I retired this last April.

Experts such as Dr. Jennifer Pollack of the Harte Research Institute referenced the amount of oyster reefs may be presently depleted up to 85 percent. Dr. Pollack also stated it may take a large oyster reef 2 to 400 years to develop and some reefs may be approximately 1,000 years old.

The quantity of oysters harvested per year and in Texas are astonishing. According to TPWD's records, the 2020-21 oyster season, 761,605 sacks of oysters were harvested from Texas public reefs. This equates -- this equates to over 76 million pounds. Of this total, 621,344 sacks -- over 62 million pounds -- were harvested from our local bays mostly within Aransas County and Calhoun County. This means 81.6 percent of the state's total public reef harvest were harvested from our local bays, mainly Aransas and Calhoun County.

I have personally witnessed over the last 28 years some of our smaller reefs completely disappear due to overharvest. I have also witnessed most of our large public oyster reefs dwindle in size with every year due to overharvesting. The passing of House Bill 51 and TPWD's biological closure matrix in place today can be fine-tuned to help prevent many of the reefs from overharvesting.

In conclusion, our bays cannot sustain this amount of harvest. I request a review of the biologic -- biological matrix that the biologists have that was put in by House Bill 51. This type of --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: You need to wrap up, Scott, please.

MR. SCOTT MCLEOD: Yes, sir. Thank you for your time.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you so much. Appreciate you being understanding.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Gary, then Mike, then Avedis.

Hello, Gary.

MR. GARY GLICK: Thank you for your work for Texas wildlife. I bet you're mostly volunteers, which means you're probably damn good at everything you do and smart enough to get stuff done and foolish enough to volunteer. I'm familiar with the paradigm. I'm from Friends of RGV Reef. It's a nonprofit in the Rio Grande Valley, has about 30,000 followers.

We requested a permit from Texas Parks and Wildlife to build a nursery reef. They gave us that permit in '16. We put 72 million pounds of recycled concrete in it and put about 250,000 snapper back in the water every year according to biologists. We've got skin in the game.

We're very disturbed about the destruction of South Texas reefs by overharvesting from cross-border out-of-Mexico fishermen. I've got some numbers. The -- the interdictions from Parks and Wildlife and Coast Guard are in 2017 were 31 interdictions; 2018, 62 thousand 1974; 2020, 148 interdictions. They catch about 5 to 10 percent. That means that in 2020, there were 2,000 un-interdicted boats that came across the border and caught fish.

Parks and Wildlife and U.S. Coast Guard actually caught 37 tons, which is 78,000 pounds of snapper that they -- that they caught. That means that the catch was probably anywhere from 790,000 pounds up to 2,000[sic]. The total allowable recreational catch in federal waters off Texas waters is only 265,000 pounds a year. This is three times that much.

Magnuson Act, let's see if we can't get that changed so these guys aren't back on the beach in 36 hours. Let's try to get CPB, the Coast -- Customs Border Protection, the Coast Guard, TPWD to cooperate on the purchase of technology. You can't see these guys on Seaborn radar. We need better technology and NOAA's going to recommend to Congress that Mexico be considered to be an IRR, an illegal fishing that's unregulated and unrecorded this -- in September I think it would be good to support that. Thank you, gentlemen. We've got a real problem down on the border.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Gary.

Is Mike in?

MR. MIKE MCCLABB: Is that Mike McClabb?


Then Avedis, then Joshua, then Zach.

MR. MIKE MCCLABB: Gentlemen --


MR. MIKE MCCLABB: -- Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. I was here several years ago on the task force dealing with the tubing -- tubing debacle in Martindale on the San Marcos River with all the trash, drunkenness. And one of the -- the Commissioner at that time said, "We need you to go to the Legislature and plead your case. We're trying to get the word through."

So I told him, I said, "Why can't I work with you?"

Well, guess what I did? I got to elected to Martindale City Council. And I said, "You know what? I've got to get in government. I've got to get involved."

So we passed the can ban about three years ago. We followed New Braunfels. New Braunfels did the right thing, and they did the can ban. The trash disappeared. They had a better crowd of people. Let me say something. I love to drink beer. I love to tube. But I don't want to trash our beautiful San Marcos River, and now it's even worse. It's even gotten worse.

There's 12,000 people at a time coming down the river. There -- we've got photographs of the garbage, the trash, the drunkenness, and we need your help. You know? San Marcos River is the most -- one of the most beautiful rivers in the State of Texas and you guys can help us -- and ladies too -- that we need help. And New Braunfels did it and the little town of Martindale did it, but we need more help because you know the counties are limited with their power. You know?

But you being Texas Parks and Wildlife -- you know, linear state park, can ban, something has to happen. Because, for example, Florida, Colorado, you don't see trash on their rivers. We -- we've got trash out -- out -- it's disgraceful that we have such a beautiful river and asset that we let get trashed. That's one of our beautiful spots and we need to really protect it and I wish you could help and if you want to contact me, I will gladly help you in any -- any way I can. Please, please help us.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you for --

MR. MIKE MCCLABB: Thank you, sir.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: -- coming, Mike, and thank you for getting involved.

Avedis, Joshua, Zach.

How are you?

AVEDIS SEINERSIBA-SHAIAN: Good, sir. All right. Thank you, Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Avedis. I've lived in Central Texas for my entire life, San Marcos for the past six years now, and I'm here representing the Eyes of the San Marcos River. We're a habitat conservation nonprofit. And we have a serious problem with the amount of trash that's showing up on this river, as more and more counties and rivers start to outlaw cans and disposables.

The tubing outfitters now are just making record profits with the amount of people they're able to put on the river and in turn, there's no -- little to no oversight of how much trash is really being thrown into this river and we go out every weekend of the summer counting thousands of people just drinking nonstop and filling the river with all these cans and we pluck tons and tons and tons and of bags of them all day long.

And over the years, you know, the problem has just steadily gotten worse as these towns get bigger, these counties get bigger. More and more people are coming here because they realize this is the only place they can still get away with it and we need y'all's help. Something to, I guess, implement oversight along the rivers and ensure that fewer people are able to exploit this resource because this is one of the most precious rivers we have in the state and the longer we let this problem go on, the worse it seems to get.

I mean, in the past few years working habitat conservation in Central Texas, we've seen how effective legislation and outreach can be. Working with Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan, for example, we have taken initiatives to do environmental restoration, setting up litter posts, doing outreach efforts to teach people about how important this is; but there's only so much we can do as volunteers. We need y'all's help. You know, if it's any -- anything at all to be done, even implementing linear state parks along this area to protect it, instituting can bans along this river as other communities have done to bring the problem under control. It's -- there's only so much we can do and this is why we come to these sessions to really make this problem known.

And so we really want to appreciate -- we appreciate y'all's time and effort and listening to us and we just hope that you can give us any help. So, thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Avedis, thank you for coming. Thank you for being prompt with your time. Appreciate it.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Joshua, you're up.

Zach, then Heather.

MR. JOSHUA SARKARDELIN: Hello. My name is Joshua Sarkardelin. I am a citizen of San Marcos, Texas, and a member of the Eyes of the San Marcos River. I'm here today to speak in support of the proposed plan by Tom Goynes to turn to the San Marcos River into a linear state park. It has not happened in Texas. It's happened in several other states with a lot of success.

The reason I'm talking about this is because on the San Marcos River, we have a problem circling around the culture of tubing and binge drinking. I've personally organized three of the Eyes of San Marcos River river clean-ups every Sunday over the course of the summer and we're seeing numbers within the five to 10,000 range for people getting on the river on single days. We're seeing trash that we just cannot keep up with. Pulling out 40, 50 bags of trash a day on a single clean-up and also on consecutive days. So that's, you know, two or three days in a row we can pull those kind of numbers out.

We are really struggling with the workload. We're really struggling with getting local support, and so we're really trying to appeal to the state to see if they can do more to help us out. I believe y'all have received e-mails regarding a lot of details, pictures and videos and from our clean-up efforts and if y'all ever want to get in contact with us so that we can talk about some of these problems, that would be amazing. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Joshua, thank you. Appreciate you helping me with the time.

Zach, then Heather.

How --


CHAIRMAN APLIN: -- are you, Zach?

MR. ZACH HALFIN: I'm all right. Thank you, Chairman and Commissioners. You've got a lot of people that want to come and talk to you today. So I'm going to try to make this quick.

I'm the President and founder of a group called the Eyes of the San Marcos River. We created this group -- there's a little history behind it. The drought between 2010 and 2012 created an awareness of what the bottom of the river looked like in New Braunfels and so New Braunfels enacted a can ban. That can ban that happened in New Braunfels, accompanied with the drought and other rivers not running, created a surge of popularity of the San Marcos River. The San Marcos River became the new spot to come and party.

We created the group because on this section of river that we're talking about, there were banks of the river that were completely beer cans. It was Elephant ears, which is an invasive plant, growing out of beer cans and that was the state of our river. That was in 2013, 2014. We've been doing river clean-up since then.

Since then, this section of the river has become more popular for recreational traffic. I would -- I'd be willing to bet that this section of the river gets far more traffic than any other near by state parks. It gets more traffic than any of the other tubing sections of river in the State of Texas now. It has become a section of river that you had to provide your own transport to now there's five different outfitters doing busing of people. There's party buses that come in from Austin and party buses that come in from San Antonio. It's become quite the popular place to come and have a party.

There's been very little done by the outfitters down there, outside of a lawsuit that a landowner was able to get passed, and -- and it's gone from bad to worse. We used to be happy getting five or six bags full of trash for our clean-up effort. Now we have five or six bags apiece. We load our kayaks and our canoes to the brim, to the weight capacity, every time we go out. It's a huge amount, truckloads of trash.

I sent an e-mail providing lots of pictures over the last year, videos of the bottom of the river in this section of the river. We would just really appreciate it if y'all could come in and help. This section of the river is adjacent of Caldwell and Guadalupe County. Neither one of them seem to have the interest or the resources to help us out on this section of the river. It is the most beautiful section of river that we have in our area and it's become extremely popular and we'd appreciate the help from you guys creating a linear state park. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Zach. Thanks for getting involved and thank you for -- everybody -- for all the clean-up you're doing.

MR. ZACH HALFIN: Yes, sir.


Kevin, you're next and then John.

MS. HEATHER HOWARD: Good afternoon, Chairman Aplin, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Heather Howard and I'm here on behalf of the Upper Trinity Regional Water District. By way of brief background, the Upper Trinity Regional Water District is a wholesale regional water and wastewater service provider serving the Denton and Collin County areas, which -- as you may know -- is one of the fastest growing areas in North Texas.

Earlier this summer, I'm pleased to report that Upper Trinity broke ground on one of the newest water supply lakes in Texas: Lake Ralph Hall in Fannin County. The Parks and Wildlife Department has been an instrumental partner in advancing development of that historic project. Upper Trinity is already coordinating with the Department on implementing fish stocking and public hunting lands programs. They've also been involved with the Department's "Clean, Drain, and Dry" initiative which is looking to thwart the proliferation of Zebra mussels in Texas waters.

Upper Trinity is honored and grateful to have the opportunity to participate in your programs. I want to make a personal comment. I've been in state government a long time and I have never been asked by a client to go to an agency to just say thank you and not ask for anything; but that is, indeed, why I'm here today. On behalf of Upper Trinity and Upper Trinity's general manager Larry Patterson, who is a gem of Texan -- who you haven't met him, you need to -- I want to thank the Commission, Carter Smith, and your incredible team for your partnership and commitment to the natural resources of this state and for helping us get this important project off the ground.

Upper Trinity is truly turning dirt on history and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has been a very integral important partner in that initiative. So I would also like to take this opportunity on behalf of the District to invite the Commission and anybody within the Agency to tour the Lake Ralph Hall site.

I can tell you firsthand seeing what it is today and envisioning what it is going to mean for Texans and future generations, will truly take your breath away. It is worth your time. It's awe-inspiring. I think it's something -- I know that the District is immensely proud of, but I hope that this Agency and the entire -- the entire state can -- can really take pride in implementing and advancing.

So thank you for all you do for natural resources in the Great State of Texas.


MS. HEATHER HOWARD: I appreciate you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you very much.

Kevin. Kevin Davis. John True, then Sarah, then Bernadine.

Kevin, how are you?

MR. KEVIN DAVIS: Hey. Doing great, sir.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Good to see you.

MR. KEVIN DAVIS: Good after -- good afternoon, Chairman. Good afternoon, Commissioners, Carter. My name's -- for the record, my name's Kevin Davis and I'm representing the Deer Breeders Corporation.

A little background on me. Some of y'all know my face. A 25-year honorably retired Texas game warden here at Parks and Wildlife. Proud of that opportunity to serve the people of the State of Texas and proud of the efforts of staff and this Commission along the way.

During my tenure here at Parks and Wildlife, I worked to improve relations between deer breeders and law enforcement specifically and the thought process was that if we had a better relationship, it would equate to more meaningful regulations and better compliance and I'm proud to say that we did improve compliance while I was here.

Today you're going to hear a lot of emotion. It's been on my experience on both sides of the aisle when you mention deer and CWD management, there's going to be some emotion in the room. I'm hoping that we can move past emotion and I'm hoping that we can talk about reasonable, meaningful regulations that protect everybody. One of the things that we're faced with this summer is the reality that we had CWD this past spring detected in six of our facilities, and that's horrible news for everybody.

We have responded as -- Parks and Wildlife as an agency and as breeders, we've all responded and breeders have come to the table and made some proposals that are common-sensed based and increased surveillance. We did that with the hopes that we would create enough confidence inside the pen that we wouldn't have to live test every animal prior to release.

I think important to the discussion is the reality on the landscape. And so CWD has been detected in 16 free-ranging White-tailed deer in the State of Texas ever. Sixteen. Eight of those have been detected in Medina County where we know we have a serious problem. The other eight have been detected along the Texas border in Dallam/Hartley Counties and in Val Verde County. None of those counties -- there's been no allegation of any breeder influence in those -- in detection of White-tailed deer in those counties. But the more important of that discussion has it's been detected nowhere else in Texas in a free-range White-tailed deer. Meaning that the artificial movement of deer has not contributed to the detection of CWD in White -- in free-range White-tailed deer in that timeframe. I'll take questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Kevin. Thank you for coming.

MR. KEVIN DAVIS: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: John, you here? I think I saw you. Yeah, there you are.

We have John True, then Sarah, then Bernadine, then David Yeates.

Hello, John.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: How are you?

MR. JOHN TRUE: Thank you. Chairman Aplin, members of the Commission, thank you for the opportunity to speak today. For the record, I'm John True, President of Texas Deer Association.

Since April, we've heard over and over again how the predictive models from 2016 failed on achieving adequate annual surveillance desired to mitigate the risk of CWD in deer breeder pens. TDA, DBC, and EWA proactively reached out to Parks' staff with a matrix detailing additional surveillance, while also setting up something that's never existed: A protocol that everyone can use going forward if and when CWD is detected in the future. I urge you to take a look at that and study its merit before enforcing any additional unneeded oversight.

CWD was first detected in wild Mule deer in the Hueco Mountains in 2012 and in deer pens in Medina County in 2015. I've continued to ask the questions: Question, what have we learned since those discoveries?

What we know is CWD doesn't pose any threat to humans. We also learned from Parks and Wildlife staff that the population of Mule deer out in the Hueco Mountains hasn't seen any negative affect on it since CWD was first discovered there. We've also learned that the longest animal on record testing positive as a trace animal has been 20 months, showing how unnecessary a 60-month trace-out really is.

The goals of the CWD monitoring program: Early detection and stopping movement if it's found. Facility 1 and 2 this year legally stayed open for business after unknowingly having a CWD positive animal die. The March 14th rules that the Commission passed, guarantee that that will never happen again. Our proposal actually shortens the amount of time even more to turn in a test from 14 to 7 days, as well as establishing additional annual surveillance.

We have rules and regulation put into place to detect CWD; but so when CWD is detected based on those rules, are the rules failing or are the rules working? If CWD is such a problem worthy of emergency rules and regulations, why isn't anyone else legitimately looking for it other than breeders?

Commissioner Patton at the May 26th meeting had a great idea about using the MLD Program to get more tests to truly figure out where this disease resides on the landscape of Texas. There are over 12,000 MLD permits use -- in use annually. We presented a plan that would guarantee five tests per holder at their cost. That would provide over 60,000 tests this year. Testing animals who die from a bullet don't have near the value as testing animals who die of natural mortality in pens, but it's a great start at looking for it outside of deer pens. Surely everyone sees the merit in using the MLD Program to show that we're taking this disease seriously on all fronts.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, John.

MR. JOHN TRUE: Thank you, sir.


MR. JOHN TRUE: Appreciate it. Thank --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: -- see you.

MR. JOHN TRUE: -- y'all.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Sarah, then Bernadine.

Hello, Sarah. How are you?

MS. SARAH BIEDENHARN: Hello. How are you, Chairman Aplin --


MS. SARAH BIEDENHARN: -- Commissioners? Thank you for your time today. Good afternoon. I am Sarah Biedenharn, President of Texas Wildlife Association. I am joined today by several other TWA leaders and members and I'm also representing many who wanted to be here today, but could not join us in person. Our position statement and comments have already been shared with the Commission in writing, so I'll just briefly touch on one of those points.

The deer breeding industry does have a direct economic impact in Texas. While we can debate what that exact dollar amount is, the truth is that there are 962 deer breeders contributing to our hunting economy as of today. However, the fact remains that this is a very small piece of the overall hunting industry. There were 1,272,540 licensed hunters during the 2021 season and there are 250,000 landowners in Texas who have collectively contribute significantly more in total dollars to our state's economy.

If CWD becomes endemic in Texas, it would not only wreck the hunting industry, but would devastate the majority of the ranchers who rely heavily and in many cases primarily on hunting revenues. As a landowner and rancher myself, I urge the Commission to adopt strong science-based rules to slow the spread of CWD and to protect the hundreds of thousands of Texans who will be directly impacted by the repercussions of not doing so.

These rules may alter the way some do business, but this disease impacts all of us and could put many of us out of business. Thank you for your time. I'll take any questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Sarah, thank you very much for coming.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Bernadine, you're next. Then David, Grahame -- now, where's Grahame?


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Bernadine, you're up.

MS. BERNANDINE DITTMAR: -- and Commissioners, I'm Bernadine Dittmar. The widow of Dr. Bob Dittmar. I am representing his legacy, which includes the sixth and seventh generation, our two children and our four grandchildren; but most of all, I'm here representing the native wild deer of Texas.

Deer management is part of the Dittmar family DNA. We are founding members of the Doss and Harper Wildlife Management Association for over 40 years. We have followed the recommendations of Texas Parks and Wildlife for year -- yearly deer harvest. We've had the joy of witnessing this herd improve, never having to question if the meat was safe for our family to process and consume.

I told my darling husband many times as he agonized over the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease across Texas, that one of his greatest contributions would be working with Texas Parks and Wildlife fighting for the health of our native wild deer herd, which is so important to our family, our heritage, and generations to come. All he ever wanted to do was to make a difference that would positively impact the future despite it often not being the popular or most economically advantageous choice.

He believed in doing the right thing because it was the right thing, not because he would receive accolades or compensation for his work. We want our grandchildren and future generations to experience the love of the native wild deer herd as we did. I am asking you to maximize your effort to protect the native wild deer herd health. In the year to come, you'll be making many decisions. Please let your first concern be: How will this affect the native deer herd of Texas that belongs to every Texan in this beautiful state of the ours. I appreciate the opportunity to be here today to remind you of the Public Trust Doctrine and to hope you remember the conviction and the passion Dr. Bob had in trying to mitigate the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease to protect these animals. Thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Mrs. Dittmar, thank you for coming. I could never put in words what Dr. Bob has done for this state and for -- and for the wildlife. Just an incredible man and missed by so many people here. Thank you.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: David, you're up. How you going to follow that?

MR. DAVID YEATES: I cannot even begin to try. Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, for the record, my name is David Yeates. I'm here representing Texas Wildlife Association. First thing I want to do is recognize the immense effort that the staff of Parks and Wildlife and Animal Health Commission have poured into this. It's -- watching it firsthand, it's remarkable. So thank you. It's a tough job, but they're doing it very well.

Sitting on the task force to hammer out these rules, you know, I've asked the question: Where -- what's the sticking points? Where are our problems? And we're really talking about two things. Mr. True touched on them already. One is the antemortem testing for breeder deer going to release sites. That decision was vindicated, I guess, by the -- by the recent confirmation this morning of that component of the rule package detecting a CWD positive deer in Duval County. I know it's not popular, but it is a linchpin.

That component of the rule package is the only thing that gets the probability model close to 50 percent. Close to a coin flip. With all of the other surveillance in the pens, that one component is the only thing that really moves the ball and it moves it all the way to 43 percent. So we're still at a -- we're still adopting a great deal of risk by allowing this tool which was requested by deer breeders in 2016 and provided.

The second component is the surveillance outside of the breeder network. Wholeheartedly agree we need to continue looking. You know, I tip my hat to the Department for the amount of effort that's gone into road kill surveillance, et cetera. Texas Wildlife Association will continue to encourage hunters to submit samples throughout hunting season.

And finally I want to recognize the broad support that this Commission has to do the right thing. Y'all have been provided a litany of sign-on letters, including one from us that had 21 like-minded conservation organizations signing it and an online petition with 360 signatures as of today. So thank you very much for your time. I appreciate it.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, David. Good to see you.

Grahame, Joel, Mickey, Dr. Dennis Gourley. How are you, old friend?

MR. GRAHAME JONES: Good, sir. How are you?

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Good to see you.

MR. GRAHAME JONES: Chairman Aplin, members of the Commission, Director Smith, as well as the employees who work daily across the state every day, boots on the ground, support roles, it takes all of you, everyone saving the turtles. I'm a proud fifth generation Texan, past Director of TPWD Law Enforcement, past CCA state board member, and lifelong hunter and angler. I come before you today on behalf of the Texas Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. I'm proud to voluntarily serve as a Texas Chapter Chair.

I'm joined today by Joel Smith, our Vice-Chair; Mickey Reves, our Policy Chair; John Sertel, our R3 Chair; and Tim Brehmer, our Events Chair. I also see that Shane Bonnot is here representing one of our fantastic partners CCA, and he serves on the state board as well.

I'm humbled by the opportunity to stand here today and voice my support for the incredible work accomplished by the Department and their many partners and, of course, all of you here today. Let me begin by quoting David Langford, someone who I admire and respect deeply and the quote starts, "Keeping the interest of all Texans in mind, the course forward regarding CWD and the health of our publicly owned deer herd is clear today and far into the foreseeable future."

TPWD, with the assistance of the Texas Animal Health Commission and Texas Veterinary and Medical Diagnostics Laboratory, should continue to have and exercise full authority to manage the health of our wildlife resources, including deer. The Texas Chapter of BHA fully supports this statement and the direction, as well as the direction of the Department to slow the spread of CWD, which in turn follows the doctrine of the North American Model of Conservation and the Public Trust Doctrine as well.

Private landowners are the lifeblood of conservation in Texas and most huntable lands in Texas are privately owned. Without the steadfast stewardship by landowners in Texas, TPWD could not accomplish its important mission. On the other hand, the far majority of Texans -- arguably more than 90 percent -- are not landowners. As important as R3 is -- Recruitment, Retention, Reactivation -- at the end of the day, it boils down to one thing, access, a place to hunt.

Rural properties and the many family ranches are becoming subdivided hunting lease -- hunting leases are becoming more expensive. The Department has done a masterful job in maintaining and partnering to provide over 1 million acres of publicly accessible land located throughout the state. These areas include property owned by the Department, leased by the Department and other state and federal agencies, forest products industries, cooperative -- cooperating private landowners and once again our landowners come to the rescue.

And I'll finish up. BHA is committed to addressing the physical issues of access, but also to the protection of valuable habitat; implementation of responsible and -- of management policies; and resistance against the privatization of public lands, waters, and wildlife. Thank you for your commitment to our natural resources and for your service to the State of Texas.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Grahame. Good to see you.

Joel, you're up. Then Mickey, Dr. Gourley, Brian Treadwell.

MR. JOEL SMITH: Good afternoon, Commissioners and Chairman. My name is Joel Smith. I'm the Vice-Chair of the Texas Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. Backcountry Hunters and Anglers seeks to ensure North America's outdoor heritage of hunting and fishing in a natural setting through education and work on behalf of wild public lands and waters.

For our part, we have three priorities in the State of Texas to carry that mission out. One is to strengthen relationships and build strong partnerships with private landowners, public agencies, and other conservation partners to increase access and opportunity in the state for hunters and anglers. No. two is to maintain and enhance public lands and waters in Texas to improve habitat and recreation for future generations. And the third priority is to cultivate a grassroots community of conservationists through education, advocacy, and legislative involvement, then mobilize that community to expand opportunity and participation in the outdoors.

There are a variety of ways that we accomplish these goals in the State of Texas. These include organized statewide clean-ups of state managed hunting properties, a strong R3 component centered around our adult-mentored hunt program, introducing new hunters as adults into the outdoors. Additionally, outreach events and monthly pint night get-togethers across the state to engage new, current, and prospective members of our organization on a host of hunting, fishing, and conservation minded topics that affect the State of Texas.

We also partner with other outdoor conservation -- some of them are in this room -- to -- in an effort to create awareness and support for conservation projects across the state. I'm here today in support of TPWD's emergency protocols in regard to CWD. Ten years ago when I first shot my shot -- I shot first White-tailed deer, I didn't know what CWD was. It was a year later that the first Mule deer showed up with a positive test and since then, one county after another has popped up with positive cases and it's been one excuse after another explaining away -- thank you for your time.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Joel, thank you. Appreciate you staying on time for me.

If you've spoke, if you would please exit when you can. We need to make room for the next group. We have a lot of people outside. We want to be sensitive and get them in the room as fast as we can. So any way you can help me, I appreciate it.

Mickey, you're up. Then Dr. Gourley, then Brian.

DR. MICKEY HELLICKSON: Hi, everyone. My name is Dr. Mickey Hellickson. I am a certified wildlife biologist and have bachelor's, master's, and doctorate degrees in wildlife biology. Since 1994, I have provided professional White-tailed deer management recommendations to over 180 landowners across the United States and Mexico, totaling over 2 million acres. And since 2015, I have been a proud licensed deer breeder in Texas.

I -- in general, I oppose the implementation of the new emergency rules because the rules just enacted in April are more than sufficient to provide -- to prevent future CWD outbreaks within the deer breeding community. Many of you picture deer breeders as the rich white guy with the jacked-up truck, the big house, the trophy wife, and the private jet. I know because I also had these same misrepresent -- misperceptions as recently as ten years ago. However, after having been a member of the T -- TDA since it was formed and after being a member of the DBC and after attending their conventions and other events, I would guess that I know deer breeders in the State of Texas probably better than anyone else on this Commission.

In my view, the average deer breeder is very much like the average cattle rancher. He or she is a person from a rural background who likely grew up on a ranch who was taught to respect wildlife, even though nearly everything that takes place while cattle ranching, takes place in private. He or she works hard 365 days a year to not only raise a family, but also raise a herd of cattle for which he or she hopes to sell enough calves every year to be able to pay for food and clothes for the family, to make the loan payments on the ranch and the truck, and to also save enough for the kids' college education. He or she hears about the big cattle rancher with the jacked-up truck, the big house, the trophy wife, the private jet and knows he or she is not that same type of person at all.

He or she also knows they would never inject their cows with hormones just to make a quick buck. He or she would never lie or cheat or disobey state laws either because he or she is just like the average deer breeder. The new emergency rules will do nothing to stop the outlaw from continuing to break the law, but will very likely completely choke out the vast majority of law abiding deer breeders in our state.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Dr. Hellickson, please --


CHAIRMAN APLIN: -- wrap up. Thank you for helping me stay on time.

Dr. Gourley, you're up. Brian Treadwell, Roy Leslie, and then Chris. Dr. Gourley, how are you?

DR. DENNIS GOURLEY: Well, good morning. Good afternoon. I'm Dr. Dennis Gourley. I'm a veterinarian from New Braunfels, Texas, and I've been working with the deer producers for over 14 years. Quoting the new emergency provisions, TPWD states, quote, unfortunately it is clear the Department's existing disease detection rules were not effective in detecting CWD earlier in the deer breeding facilities.

With the existing CWD antemortem testing results in 2021, is this a pandemic? Calls from Texas Legislators ask me, "Dr. Gourley, do we have a CWD panic -- pandemic on our hands with the captive deer as stated by the laypersons and TPWD and what do we do?"

After explaining the numerical facts to me, they ask me, "Are these numbers stated to accomplish more testing and more controls?"

And I tell them that under 0.25 infectivity, they call it a pandemic. I believe that there's a need to -- for TPWD to examine some of the genetic genotype research and the nutritional copper levels over 80 parts per million research being done on some of these positive herds. Why? Yes, it's easier to eliminate; but, however, Texas needs to be a leader instead of a follower, especially with the U.S. spending millions and millions of dollars financing CWD controls.

Should the control of CWD have a more proactive science approach or should we be listening to some of the personal[sic] of TPWD explaining to the public and Legislators and producers that there's a pandemic out there, that the statements of certain husbandry practices and reproductive technologies are to be the problem for the current conditions? We need the professional staffs of TPW to be communicating data and proof.

Yes, some actions of controls are warranted; but TPW and the U.S. DNR are struggling with the slaughter controls to go ahead and control CWD in the United States, when we really do not know the beginning boundaries of the CD -- CWD epidemiology and we have relatively no statistical data from the free-ranging deer population here in Texas.

What's the basis? Are we going to put forth the same effort in testing all deer in Texas versus the efforts of the captive deer in Texas? If so, how? And if not, why?

I believe Texas needs to have more emphasis on the preventative measures of control, rather than emphasizing slaughter control. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Dr. Gourley.

Brian, how are you?


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Roy, you're up and then Chris.

MR. BRIAN TREADWELL: Howdy. I'm Brian Treadwell. I'm a fifth generation rancher and a past winner of your Statewide Lone Star Land Steward Award. In April of 2017, I petitioned TPWD requesting enforcement of the visible, external, dangle ID requirement for breeder deer found in 4335.61(a). At the time, I bolded my last sentence to you guys saying with -- when the -- with the absence of external, visible ID in breeder deer, it creates a human health risk and exacerbates disease trace-back in -- outside of the breeder pens.

Now, we have a statewide, manmade CWD epidemic which includes how many release sites where business as usual allows the removal of the external, visible ID because if the released deer carried the require identification, the sources could be spotted from a helicopter. The Commission also rejected my May petition requesting stopping all artificial movement of C -- of CWD susceptible species. There is no legitimate argument to make the artificial movement of White-tailed deer a private property issue.

The land can be private property, the water in the aquifer can be private; but the White-tailed deer is a public resource and not available for compromise. The threat to our native species is not ours to forfeit. We need to step up our bio-security and halt all deer hooves from hitting a trailer floor. The disease outbreak trace-back map shows how the artificial movement of breeder deer exasperated[sic] what should have been a few isolated disease locations.

Your duty is to the cultural and natural resources of the state and that duty is really to our children's children and it has nothing to do with the profit potential from a $200 permit.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Brian.

MR. BRIAN TREADWELL: No questions? I asked for the meeting. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you for coming. Very much appreciate it.

Roy, then Chris, then Chuck.

Hello, Roy.

MR. ROY LESLIE: Hello, hello, hello. My name's Roy Leslie, representing myself and I support the strict Chronic Wasting management rules promulgated by Parks and Wildlife. I'm a low-fence, no lease landowner in northwest Kendall County and I'm not here to talk about the 12,000 White-tailed deer that have escaped or gone missing from deer breeding pens. I'm not here to talk about the Google Earth map showing data critical to breeder and release site neighbors. I'm not here to speak about visible ID or the lie about improved genetics or how much these index facilities look like superfund sites.

I'm here to talk about insurance -- keep your eyes open -- about natural and not so natural disasters, war, armed conflict, insurrection, terrorism, asbestos, floods, mud slides, earthquakes, and nuclear hazards and all those calamities liability insurance companies exclude from the farm and ranch insurance policy. Insurers deem these ordinary -- these extraordinary events so catastrophic, that they are up front and in bold type excluded from coverage. To this frightening list, add Chronic Wasting Disease. Chubb, the world's largest publicly traded property and casualty insurer, will not defend or pay damage claims arising from Chronic Wasting Disease or any other TSE.

This overlooked exclusion takes up a full page of their farm and ranch liability policy. While deer breeders faithfully minimize the risk to native free-range White-tailed deer, Chubb ranks Chronic Wasting right up there with the catastrophes it refuses to defend. Other insurers will follow.

If you're involved in the deer feeder -- in deer feed lot business, better check your liability policy. Your neighbors might agree with Chubb. You may be uninsured, uncovered, and twisting in the wind. War, floods, armed conflict, earthquakes, terrorism, nuclear accidents, and Chronic Wasting. Please don't compromise. Compromise brought us here today. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Roy.

Chris, then Chuck, then James Boutte, Jr.

Hello, Chris.

MR. CHRIS METHNER: Hello. How are you today?


MR. CHRIS METHNER: Good afternoon, Commissioners. Thank you all dearly for the opportunity to voice our opinions today. My name is Chris Methner. I am a graduate of Texas A&M University and I've been a wildlife and fisheries biologist for the past 18 years. We mange low-fence and high-fence properties, fisheries, as well as White-tailed breeding facilities all across the southeastern United States.

I would like to first mention whether you're a pro-White-tailed deer breeding, anti-White-tailed deer breeding, or somewhere in-between, it is wonderful that this building is full of people who share a common love for the species and are here to support the future preservation. I truly believe the only reason anyone would not approve of the White-tailed breeding industry is due to the lack of understanding of what the primary uses of White-tailed breeding facilities are and the volume of positive impacts this industry has on the amount of acres dedicated to wildlife management in the State of Texas.

Over 800,000 White-tailed deer are harvested annually in Texas and every single carcass is moved one way or another. Some are moved across the state and even across state lines. Many are compiled at processing operations and taxidermists. Each carcass has the ability to shed the infected prions that come with CWD. In comparison, the White-tailed breeding industry only released 26,912 deer in 2020 solely onto properties surrounded by game-proof fencing.

Also please understand that White-tailed breeding facilities test their deer at astronomically higher rates than any other avenue of spread to ensure the animals do not contain CWD, which makes these animals some of the safest in the state. Of all the ways CWD has the ability to spread -- whether it's hay, natural movement of free-ranging deer, birds, carcass movement, cross-species contamination, environment, or the release of White-tailed from a breeding facility -- the breeding facilities are a tiny speck of the avenue this disease spreads.

Since 1967, this disease has spread from Colorado across 26 states and four provinces. It is my opinion the focus needs to be directed on solutions such as genetic resistance, which is the very avenue that solved Scrapies, the sheep version of CWD, which the White-tailed breeding industry is the only group that has an ability to breed in genetic resistance. As well, in my opinion, with live testing presenting the same confidence as postmortem testing, it is not proactive to euthanize thousands of healthy White-tailed deer in breeding facilities and cripple an industry that has such an enormous impact on the rural economy in Texas. Thank y'all for your time.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Chris.

Chuck, you're up. Then James, then Tom Hewitt.

Hello, Chuck.

MR. CHUCK GRECO: Hello, Chairman Aplin and the Commission. My name is Chuck Greco and I have a ranch in Kimble County and on that ranch, I support White-tailed deer. We support all other kinds of wildlife and I don't raise any kind of domestic livestock.

I'm a member of the Texas Wildlife Association. I serve as a Regional Director and I've been in the Texas Parks and Wildlife's Managed Deer Program for ten years. The recent detection of Chronic Wasting Disease in permitted deer breeding facilities has me really concerned about the spread of CWD, its impact to my ranch, and its impact to the hunting culture of my family.

Our ranch is a registered release site for White-tailed deer that we have purchased from breeding facilities. I therefore very much rely on the Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Texas Animal Health Commission to establish rules that will manage and to monitor this disease for us. I'm here today expressing my support for Texas Parks and Wildlife and for the Texas Animal Health Commission in adopting strong, science-based rules, as well as adopting permanent rule changes that will require antemortem testing of all breeder deer before they're released, and that a permanent ID tag will be required for all deer released that would be clearly could be seen from a distance.

Does the Commission have any questions for me?

CHAIRMAN APLIN: I don't guess. Thank you, Chuck, though. Appreciate you --

MR. CHUCK GRECO: Thank you for the opportunity.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: -- coming and giving us your point. Thank you.

James, you're up. Then Tom --

MS. HALLIBURTON: Mr. Chairman, James was one who already spoke. He --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Oh, sorry. And then Tom and then Marty.

MR. TOM HEWITT: Good afternoon, Chairman and Commissioners. I support Texas Parks and Wildlife Department CWD management plan. Texas did not want CWD in the deer population. Current and future hunters will thank TPWD for doing all it can to prevent CWD from spreading.

My background is a parent who introduced his daughters and grandchildren to the outdoors. I'm involved with Operation Orphan since the mid 80s, introducing disadvantaged children to the outdoors. I'm the founding Director of TYHP. We need your support with the CWD management plan. We need the outdoors and the deer population for children in the future. Thank y'all.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Sir, what's your name?

MR. TOM HEWITT: Hello, Carter.

Hello, Clayton.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: What's your name?

MR. TOM HEWITT: Tom Hewitt.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Tom Hewitt. Thank you, Tom, for your words and thank you for your --

MR. TOM HEWITT: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: -- speed. I appreciate that.

Marty next, then Jeff Jones, then Josh Jones. Marty, you're help. Hello, Marty?

MR. SMITH: Marty, you're up.

MR. MARTY BERRY: Howdy. I'm Marty Berry. I'm here today to say I appreciate everything y'all have done, but you've been on -- your people have been on the wrong path. CWD does not exist in Texas. There's no one that's ever done the test to tell you that it does. All you've been looking for is a folded prion, the same test that we use for Scrapies. If you do that same test, which is an IHC, you get the same result, a positive folded prion. So if you don't do the third test, which is called a Western Blot, you don't know.

To start with, we've never had a death from CWD in the State of Texas. This disease is so perilous to White-tails, but we can't find one dead one that has a spongiform encephalopathy? Not one?

Never have we found one. It's like HIV and AIDS. So we test and if I sent the same paper in to A&M and said, "I want to test for Scrapies," and I send the same sample, it would come back positive for Scrapies if there's a folded prion. It's only in the paper. You send it to Iowa. They confirm it, and they confirm it the say way. They say, "Yes, we take this paraffin block. It's a block of paraffin and we slice it and we test it the same way that Texas A&M did and guess what? There is a folded prion."

Do they do the Western Blot? No, sir, because it wasn't requested. So we have 5,287 positives in the United States since 2009, I believe. I think that's the date. They've done nine Western Blots. It could be all Scrapies. We don't even know. You don't know. You're making decisions from people that haven't told you this -- and I'm going to send you in the next two weeks all the research that come straight from Ames, Iowa, White-tailed deer get Scrapies easier than CWD. That was their study and that's what happened.

Why don't we look at that? Parks and Wildlife says in their preamble when I open it up, we're going to use science-based -- we're going to look at science-based stuff. There's a lot of things that have been said today here. Most of it's not science-based. I wish you would look at the Scrapies. We need a Western Blot on every sample. They're sitting in Ames, Iowa. You can still do it. It's patently unfair to put rules on millions of deer breeder when we may not even have CWD. You don't know. I don't know. It's a 50/50 right now. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Marty.

Jeff. Jeff Jones, Josh Jones, Jerry Johnston.

MR. JEFF JONES: Good afternoon, Chairman and Commissioners. Thank y'all for your time. I appreciate it. I'm going to start with a couple questions if you don't mind. What is the source of CWD? Where is it coming from? And if we don't know and we don't know, how do we regulate that?

For the record, my name is Jeff Jones and I am currently the Vice President of the Texas Deer Association. I'm speaking on behalf of myself today and not the TDA. We all know that CWD was first found in the wild in the Texas, the wild, and I think it's time to admit CWD could be spontaneous. Especially considering the positive in Hunt County and the certified positives in Uvalde County. We certainly don't know enough to admit CWD can't be spontaneous.

That being said, why is the focus of CWD mainly on captive White-tail? With approximately 90,000 deer in pens, why is this our focus? If this disease is so horrible and devastating, shouldn't our focus be on the 5.7 million in the wild, as well as the pen deer? Why don't we require every MLD permit holder to test X amount of deer they harvest? Why does it just have to be about deer breeders testing?

Out of 5.7 million wild deer, the state has tested approximately 100,000 deer since 2003. Deer breeders have tested approximately 110,000 captive deer since 2006. It certainly appears the focus of finding CWD is currently placed heavily on the deer breeders. It's time for this Commission and Texas Parks and Wildlife to truly help breeders combat CWD. The focus must be on the 5.7 million, as well as the deer in captivity. We the people of the great State of Texas urge you to do your share of testing in the wild. Only then will you convince me that CWD is truly a concern. Thank you for your time.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Jeff.

Hey, Josh, you're up. Then Jerry, then Matt. Howdy.

MR. JOSH JONES: Good afternoon. My name is Josh Jones and I'm a Texas landowner and a White-tailed deer breeder. Thank you for your time in allowing me to address y'all today. I want to start with talking about the Texas Parks and Wildlife CWD management plan from last August.

You had three goals: To manage free-ranging and captive White-tailed deer in health conditions, to establish stakeholder support, and to minimize direct -- and direct impacts of CWD to hunting. My request is that you invest time in educating ourselves in the recent developments and understandings in the genome markers that are CWD susceptible and CWD resistant, as well as the implementation of higher copper supplementation as -- and other identified metallic ions as a baseline in the White-tail diet. These supplements when fed at a consistent and appropriate level, have proven to disallow a pre-ton -- prion to mis-fold.

Breeding for the appropriate gnome markers as proven to resist positive detection with extreme accuracy after being exposed to deer that test positive in excess of a year and in enclosed settings up north. Today there is more scientific data and clinical studies evident -- available providing proactive avenues to implement and eradicate CWD over time. The emergency rules are acceptable as a containment strategy as an initial plan of action. However, they are not sustainable for liability of -- or cost protective for the state.

Based on the happenings of 2021, comparing the ripple effects of the 16 native deer who tested positive at check stations versus the six deer farmers who found positive deer in their herds, the actions taken suggest unintentional discrimination of substantial proportions across the industries financial -- financially against breeders compared to the landowners affected by the native deer who tested positive.

I implore you to please assist me in implementing your number -- your -- implementing your goal of establishing safe deer in both captive and native and stakeholder support. CWD was -- is not a result of deer breeders. There's a wealth of misinformation out there right now that people are opinion-based. There's research out there that has been completed that shows preventive and practical ways to handle this issue. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Josh.

I'll remind everybody after you finish, if you will exit so we can bring more people in.

Jerry, you're up. Then Matt, then Jerry[sic] Sanders, then Brent.

Jerry Johnston, how are you?

MR. JERRY JOHNSTON: I'm doing great. How are you doing?

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Fine. Thank you for coming.

MR. JERRY JOHNSTON: Well, this visit today kind of brings back old memories. I think the first time I stood here was in about 1978. Anybody else born in 1944 or earlier? Anyway, I've been on the planet a little while and I watch this stuff. What I do, I guess I'm known as the founder of the Texas Trophy Hunter Association. And it, of course, printed the magazine. It still prints a magazine. We have trade shows.

In 1999, we started a television show, an outdoor channel and one of the programs we put together was about CWD. And myself and one of your ex-employees, he was your Big Game Program Director for 30 some odd years, I -- Horace Gore? Anybody remember Horace Gore?

Okay. We took him, the television guy, we went out there, did a tremendous show. After it aired and at the end of the year, we were awarded their highest level of achievement. Kind of a crazy name for an award, but it was called the Golden Moose Award and we won that. And they used our television show, the people of Michigan used a copy of that in court over this whole CWD thing that's going on. So what I'm trying to say, I'm not going to get into -- everybody else has already said anything I could have said because, you know -- but, you know, all this stuff started with Beth Williams back in Colorado and I'm here to testify as long as I've been on this planet, it exists. I think there is. I mean, it I just got a name. That's all it did. Beth's the one that named it, but it's been here since God put a White-tailed deer on this planet. I think it is a population mechanism like other things, anthrax, so on and so forth.

I just don't see what I heard going back that far, that it was going to devastate the elk herd, the Mule deer herd. They've got more today than they did and that's where it started; but see, that don't mean anything. It didn't start there. It got named that there. So I'm saying that we got to live with this. There's people in this room that are more dedicated to this profession than a doctor is. They love it. It's part of their life.

I wish y'all would just leave them alone and let's, you know -- that's all I've got to say. But one more thing. When I got here this morning, I prepared some stuff that I wanted personally to pass out to you, but the lady says, "You need to give that stuff to us." So I gave 15 white envelope to the girl. I hope you get them.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: We will definitely get them. Thank you, Jerry.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Matt, then Jerry[sic] Sanders, then Brent. We're going to try to just move along as fast as we can. We've got a lot, a lot of people.

Thank you, Matt.

MR. MATT WAGNER: Greeting, Chairman Aplin, Commission members, and Carter. I'm Matt Wagner. Past President of the Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society and a certified wildlife biologist. I also teach wildlife law and policy at Texas State University and consult on private ranches in Central Texas. I retired five years ago from this wonderful Agency.

TPWD is the most innovative and landowner friendly agency of its kind in the United States. The staff here spend endless hours engaging stakeholders before, during, and after any regulation proposal. It's hard work; but ultimately you end up with rules that endure through the years, strengthening the public/private partnership we enjoy in this state.

Today the partnership is threatened. Deer breeding is a private enterprise of a public resource for economic gain. Like any business venture, deer breeding's future depends upon an understanding of the risks and the benefits to public and private resources and when you overlay a disease like CWD, the risk increases exponentially; but the benefits do not.

And who bears the risks? Along with deer breeders, there are 4 million White-tailed deer, 700,000 deer hunters, 250,000 landowners, and a $2 billion hunting economy that generates millions for local economies and these are all at risk if CWD continues to spread. The Department and their stakeholders have gone to great lengths to balance the risk of transmitting CWD with the needs of deer breeders. The system of testing, monitoring, and enforcing is highly complex and requires more and more resources in terms of budget, personnel, and database management. And in spite of these elaborate rules to reduce the risk of spreading CWD, it continues to spread. Why?

Because the Department is attempting to solve an adaptive challenge, CWD, with a technological fix. CWD is an adaptive challenge because it requires new knowledge, how it originates, how it moves in the environment. Understanding that will require new learning. Until then, the prudent thing to do is to halt the movement of deer that we know exacerbates the problem.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Matt, let's try to wrap it --

MR. MATT WAGNER: Short of that, the Department should require mandatory live testing before deer movement and visible ID --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Matt, let's try --

MR. MATT WAGNER: -- for released deer.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: -- to wrap up, please.

MR. MATT WAGNER: Thank you very much.


Jerry, Jerry Sanders. Oh, Jenny. Sorry, Jenny. You don't look like a Jerry.

MS. JENNY SANDERS: I wasn't sure.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Sorry. Brent's next and then Marko.

MS. JENNY SANDERS: Thank you. Chairman Aplin, Commissioners, Mr. Smith, thank you for entertaining this testimony. I am Jenny Sanders from Lufkin, Texas. I am a natural resource professional. I'm a hunter. I'm a landowner; but most importantly, I'm the mom of two boys who are counting on me and you to ensure that the same healthy wildlife resources that we've all grown up with are still thriving for them as they grow up and then also for their children and grandchildren and into the future.

I could spend my whole time up here, my whole two minutes listing all the reasons that prudent and aggressive regulatory protocols and response to CWD are warranted and necessary. Instead, I'm going to leave you with one simple point for you to think about as you consider permanent rules in this matter. That simple appointment is this: Every relevant stakeholder group in the state, except deer breeders, is in favor of swift and aggressive action to mitigate the spread of CWD.

Proof of this fact is in the letter that you received yesterday from over 200 individuals calling for 100 percent antemortem testing prior to release and the retention of those visible ID tags that you've heard other folks talk about upon a release of breeder deer into the wild, per the statute, I might add. This letter was signed by landowners, environmentalists, researchers, hunters, veterinarians, and a multitude of other thoughtful leaders, each of whom have clear-eyed concern about the long-term sustainability of our wildlife resources.

This falls in stark contrast to the singular focus of the deer breeders, their own short-term financial gain. This should be a very simple decision. Thank you for your continued leadership and resolve in this matter. Texas is behind you. We are pleading with you to make your decision based on what's best for the resource and what's best for Texas. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Jenny. Thank you for coming.

Brent, you're up. Then Marko, Then Gary Stokes, David's after that group.


MR. BRENT GEISTWEIDT: Thank you, sir. Thank you. Thank you, Commissioner Aplin, and thank you, Commissioners, for this time. I've been in the ranching business all my life. I inherited 300 acres in Doss, Texas, from my great-grandfather. I've witnessed and White-tail hunting industry and the White-tail breeding industry bring more to agriculture than anything else I've witnessed in my life.

It's brought hundreds of families back to the family farm and has allowed them to raise their children, including me. I've heard a lot of discussion today. I'm a deer breeder for 25 years. I've CWD tested hundreds and hundreds of heads. I've been certified in a Texas Animal Health Commission for 17 years. I've also tested all of my herd for TB and brucellosis. We have complied.

We first started this as a voluntary testing. CWD is real. Y'all have heard a lot today. I can't add any to it. We have to manage it. We have COVID out there in the world today. Who's positive? Who's negative? Who do we test? I'm a white, gray-headed now old man according to my children. Do we test me? Am I susceptible? So far thank you, Jesus, I haven't gotten it. I beg you, divide and conquer is the oldest strategy in war and it works every time. The 30 years I've been working in wildlife, it grieves me to see us divided. The real enemy is out there.

Everyone in this room today that I've seen loves wildlife, me included. I spend every day all my life loving the dirt, loving the land. If you're in ranching and farming, it's passion. It ain't money. I can make a lot more money going to Houston, Texas. Thank you for your time. God bless this state.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Brent. God bless this state, you're right.

Marko, Gary, David.

Marko, how are you?

MR. MARKO BARRETT: Doing well. Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Smith, my name is Marko Barrett. I'm a past President of Texas Wildlife Association and the current Chair of that organization's Big Game Committee. I'm also a proud participant, landowner participant in your Texas Youth Hunting Program.

As a landowner, hunter, small business owner, I'm deeply concerned about the recent detection of Chronic Wasting Disease in six and potentially now seven White-tailed deer breeder facilities across the State of Texas. There are many ways that people postulate that CWD is spread, but the greatest risk of spreading Chronic Wasting Disease is via human movement of live animals.

What does a Texas endemic with CWD look like? What does it mean for landowners and hunters like myself who rely so heavily on the state's public trust resource for recreation? A large part of the value of my land is due to the recreational opportunities that the resident deer population provides. What does it mean to this Department that relies on the $114 million in 2020 numbers of hunting and fishing license sales? Will CWD have population level impacts that will reduce the number of deer? Will it have an impact that reduces the age structure of deer making it harder for animals to get to maturity?

This is a particular concern to me as my management plan is geared towards the harvest of large mature male animals beginning at six plus years old. There are studies and models out there that say both of those things are possible should the infection rate get high enough. We just don't know, and that's unsettling. I personally would like to encourage the Department to aid in studies that would help answer some of these questions. Unfortunately, I don't CWA -- CWD going away any time soon.

In addition to the direct impacts that CWD could have to the state's deer herd, what are the affects of our state's hunting community? This state has a thriving population of deer hunters; but the advancement of the urbanization and land fragmentation in addition to the time pressures due to increased -- increasingly busy work schedules are making it harder for people to get in the woods, into the brush country, and on the plains to chase deer around as much as they used to. When we are already dealing with all of these downward pressures on hunting, I can only imagine what the added fear, whether justified or not, of CWD being zoonotic would do to our hunter numbers.

Hunters hunt for meat and if they worry about getting sick from meat they acquire from harvesting deer, they'll have less incentive to hunt. For the sake of all lanterns -- landowners, wildlife enthusiasts, and hunters, please do everything you can to implement strong, science-based rules to arrest the spread of this disease.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Marko.

Gary, then David.

Hello, Gary.

MR. GARY STOKES: Good afternoon. I'm Gary Stokes, D-Bar Whitetails. We're six years enrolled in Animal Health, five years certified herd. We've been 100 -- 100 percent testing on all our mortalities for the last five years. I guess my question today is why do we have to do 100 percent testing to release on our own ranch?

We started out our ranching business as a low-fence operation and we try to manage our deer population to the best of our ability and grow our deer to their maximum potential. It got to where you couldn't do it because we would feed them and the neighbors would shoot them. We eventually decided to game fence half of our ranch. Half our ranch is still low-fence. And the reason for us getting in the deer breeding business was to enhance our genetics on our ranch in our high-fence so we would have to maximize the deer that -- the quality of deer that we -- that we would have.

So I guess my question today is why do we have to 100 percent test of everything we release?

And the next question is what is the validity of the CWD testing?

We had a trace-out from the Gonzales Ranch. The deer was 36 months old. The deer was tested and non-detected prior to us taking delivery on it four years ago. Okay. Gonzales -- us getting that deer from Gonzales and it was a trace-out, Mr. Lockwood told us that we had to euthanize that deer, even though it had already been tested at 36 months, it was non-detected. The deer was heavy bred. Probably lacked a month until full term.

And then the third question I'd like to ask and it's been brought up already is why is the burden of CWD testing been put on the deer breeder and not on the whole population? Thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Gary. Appreciate you being on time for me.

David, then we're going to go Jonathan Letz, Katherine Romans -- David, you're up -- Trey Harbour.

Hello, David. How are you?

MR. DAVID SYNATZSKE: Just fine, sir. Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission, Parks and Wildlife staff, and interested individuals that are participating in this meeting, my name's David Synatzske. I'm a retired Parks and Wildlife biologist. Spent 40 years with the Department. I'm a Director Emeritus with the Texas Wildlife Association and an honorary member of the lifetime member of the Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society.

I would like to begin by the commending past TPWD Commissioners, as well as the current Commissioners, in addressing the issues that are so pertinent to us today in this world of both viruses in the human population as the CWD has been brought to our attention here. I think the Agency as a whole and the Commissioners in the past have done an outstanding job, along with the Texas Animal Health Commission, of coming together and creating a plan to deal with CWD.

I've been retired for about eight years. I've been involved with other organizations, and I find that y'all need to be commended for that action. I think that nobody is going to be a winner in the CWD actions that are to come, whether it be a deer breeder, a landowner, a hunter, an enthusiastic person that just enjoys photographing and absorbing White-tailed deer. We all are going to suffer as a result of the CWD and we need to take into account that everything is being done that can be.

I commend you for your actions in the past and hope that you have a successful decision-making process with this CWD issue. Thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you for coming, David. It was good to see you.

Jonathan Letz, then Katherine Romans, Trey Harbour.

MR. JONATHAN LETZ: Chairman Aplin, Commissioners, Mr. Smith, my name's Jonathan Letz and I'm Vice President of Texas Wildlife Association. I'm a landowner, a rancher, and a small business owner in Kerr County. I believe that Texas -- TWA's position statement on CWA[sic] has already been provided, so I'll keep my comments extremely brief.

My family purchased our ranch 85 years ago and my grandfather started leasing that ranch for White-tailed hunting in 1937. Deer hunting has been part of my family's heritage and leasing part of our family's operation of the ranch ever since that time. It's an integral part of our family and our financial success of our ranching operation.

Our family situation is no different than thousands of other families across this state. We rely on deer hunting and ranching. CWD threatens to change the hunting heritage and the financial livelihood of these thousands of families forever. CWD threatens to significantly impact the hunter, the businesses, the communities, the landowners, and much of what we call Texas. It is important that we do what we can to stop the spread of the disease.

I urge you to adopt science-based rules and we support the recommendations of your staff and that of the Texas Animal Health Commission. My ranch is largely low-fenced. As a landowner, one of the other concerns I have is the inability to determine if a deer on my ranch has been released or is escaped from a breeding facility or it is released on some other property. I understand that releases are only on high-fence properties, but that doesn't mean the deer don't escape.

Visible ear tags on all released deer would greatly improve the ability to monitor the release of deer. In the future rules, I urge you to adopt such consideration. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Jonathan, thank you. Thank you for speeding through it. I appreciate it.

Katherine, you're up. Then Trey, then Mike.

Hello, Katherine. How are you?

MS. KATHERINE ROMANS: Hey, there. I'm good.


MS. KATHERINE ROMANS: Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Smith, thank you so much for the opportunity to speak with you today. My name is Katherine Romans. I'm the Executive Director of the Hill Country Alliance. We are a regional nonprofit that works across 17 counties of Central Texas on issues dealing with land and water conservation as we grow as a region.

I wanted to come first and foremost to celebrate the exemplary staff of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. At the Hill Country Alliance, we are very fortunate to have a long working relation -- relationship, in particular with the Inland Fisheries Division and I would be remiss if I didn't name a few of our most important partners. Tim Birdsong, Ryan McGillicuddy have just been fantastic partners in elevating the work of riparian protections in our region. We work with Angela England, Kristen Eggers, and David Buggs on these issues as well and, of course, that goes all the way up to the top with Carter Smith. Just fantastic partners.

I'm also here to express the Hill Country Alliance's strong support for the emergency order to contain the spread of CWD. You've heard this conversation over many folks coming up to talk to you today. You know that in the Hill Country, in particular, hunting is an important source income for many of our landowners and we would be remiss if we weren't doing everything we could to protect that important source of economic income.

I'm also here to voice my support for an item that you'll be considering tomorrow: The purchase of Honey Creek Ranch in Comal County. Comal County is one of the fastest growing counties not only in the State of Texas, but in the country, and the opportunity to protect 500 acres adjacent to an existing Texas Parks and Wildlife property represents a disappearing opportunity. And so it's our strong voice of support that you vote favorably for that tomorrow. Thank you again for this opportunity. Appreciate all that you guys do for the State of Texas.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Katherine, thank you.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Trey, then Mike Harbour, Irvin Welch.

Hello, Trey.

MR. TREY HARBOUR: Hello. Hello, my name is Trey Harbour. I'm 16. I'm from Gatesville, Texas. A little over two years ago, I visited Triple C White-tails near Childress. As we're walking down the breeder pens, I instantly fell in love. We walked inside this pen and ten deer came running up. A giant buck walked up to me. He was well -- well over 300 inches. Brad handed me some cookies and said, "Feed him."

As this amazing creature ate out of my hand, I knew right then I was going to raise deer, White-tailed deer. Since that time, I have been extremely busy building my future. I built my breeder pens and purchased a small group of deer the first year. Since then, I have increased my deer herd and spent countless hours learning proper health, health management, and superior genetics and topnotch nutrition and constantly improving my facility.

I know you're probably thinking how is this kid paying for this? Well, I'm a third generation rancher. I have been involved 4-H and FFA my whole life. I competitively show market lambs and goats at all the major livestock shows. Prior to this, all the money I earned showing was going in my college fund. I convinced my parents to allow me to invest in my future now. I have a huge passion for White-tailed deer. There was nothing like the feeling I got finding my first fawn that was born -- born as a result of my vision. I love raising deer and deer breeding is my future. Thank you for your time.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you for coming, Trey. I'm sure you're going to do just fine. Sounds like an ambitious young man.

Mike, then Irvin, then Charly Seale; is that right?

Hello, Mike.

MR. MIKE HARBOUR: Excuse me. I apologize. I've got to gather myself real quick. That was my son right there.


MR. MIKE HARBOUR: Uh-huh. We -- we ranch for a living. Like he said, he's a third generation rancher. Sixteen, seventeen hour days at our house are pretty common. We hadn't been in the deer business very long. The only reason why we are is for him. My wife and I bought and purchased on our own 1,700 acres. We did it with blood, sweat, and tears. On that 700 acres, we couldn't hunt because our neighboring landowners had shot everything and so we high-fenced it and we started pursuing deer breeding business so we could stock our own ranch.

You know, in my life, we -- we ranch. Run sheep and goats primarily. We lived through the Scrapies in sheep. We bred out of that situation through genetic testing and I've heard a lot today about, you know, locking down the White-tailed and all the testing and, you know, it seems like a fellow said a minute ago, the burden has fallen on the breeder. I've ran ranches since I was 19 coming out of high school. We've leased deer hunting to guys all over the country.

You know, these deer are shot. They leave the state. They get processed. None of those deer -- you ever hear of those deer getting tested. So, you know, something y'all might think about is not throwing all the burden on the deer breeder because maybe we need to look at it as a whole -- as a whole wildlife community. Start testing some of these deer that are out in the wild. Maybe trying to track and control where these deer are going once they're harvested and just really looking at the genetic possibilities of us trying to breed out of this situation. And anyway, thank you for your time.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Mike, thank you. Thank you for coming up.

Irvin, then Charly, then Don Gilchrist. Irvin here? Irvin Welch? Going once, going twice.

Charly Seale. I'll set Irvin off to the side in case he shows up. After Charly, is Don, then Brian Wilson. Is it Charly?

MR. CHARLY SEALE: It's Charly.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: How are you?

MR. CHARLY SEALE: I'm fine. Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission, and Carter, how are you? My name is Charly Seale. I'm the Executive Director of the Exotic Wildlife Association. I spent 30 years with the Department of Public Safety and the last 20 with the Exotic Wildlife Association. I have worked with the CWD Working Group here at Parks and Wildlife, also with the Texas Animal Health Commission, and served on the working group with USDA AFAC in D.C. and Frederick, Maryland.

The CFR and the program standards which allows interstate movement of susceptible species, was established for one reason: To mitigate risk, not to eradicate the disease. Texas is now taking a scorched earth policy and in doing so, is destroying the livelihood of many people who make a living through the breeding program.

The program that we currently have under Parks and Wildlife has done what it was meant to do. It detected it. There was one snafu in that whole system and that was the banking of samples and I think that has been corrected or will be. We keep hearing that CWD will destroy our White-tailed deer populations and we see the models that suggest that this could happen in the next 50 years. If you look at these models, one of the things they do not take into consideration is depredation, other diseases, and creating these models. The endemic states, such as Wisconsin as a prime example, their White-tailed herd continues each year to increase.

As the representative of the industry, deer breeders have been on the front line combating CWD. The breeders, through their respective associations, we have literally contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars toward genetic research, nutritional research, and environmental research in an effort to solve CWD and save the public resource.

TPWD is the largest deer breeder in the state, but does not have to follow the same stringent rules as individual breeders. To truly find out where the areas of CWD are, testing should be done at the same level by the same rules on both sides of the fence. We're tired of the finger pointing. It needs to stop on each side of the fence. Twenty-six states have CWD. Eleven of those do not even have deer farming.

In closing, we're asking the Commission to consider the industry proposals that have been mentioned earlier that are common sense and are not punitive in nature. The rules that are being proposed will have forced many breeders out of business because of mere economics. Thank you, sir.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Charly, thank you.

Don, Don Gilchrist, then Brian, then Charles Eckel.

Hello, Don.

MR. DON GILCHRIST: Thank y'all for inviting me. I am Don Gilchrist, owner of G2 Ranch in Pearsall, Texas. It seems that Texas Parks and Wildlife believes that we have a serious chronic panic -- pandemic in White-tailed deer. Whether you have breeder pens, high-fenced property, or a 20,000-acre low-fenced property, and are the Texas Parks and Wildlife properties, all White-tailed deer should be treated the same way.

In 2019 and 2020 season, over 300,000 MLD permits were issued. If CWD is so bad, I believe that all White-tailed deer should be tested when harvested using MLD permits, as we'll as regular hunting license. I also believe all deer should be treated equal no matter where they live or what property they live on. Thank y'all for your time.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Don.

Brian Wilson, Charles Eckel.

MR. BRIAN WILSON: Good afternoon.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: How are you?

MR. BRIAN WILSON: So every year, TPWD continues to play a game with our industry. Y'all decide the impossible task to implement on us, and all we can do is assume that you hope that we fail. When we jump through all the hoops and continue to do business, you once again dream up more impossible tasks. This game y'all play wit our livelihood is getting out of control.

The cost for us to test and release deer into our own pasture for 31 deer that we tested was between $5,500 and $6,000. When closed herds are being infected with CWD, it's time to wake up and realize it's the breeder -- it's not a breeder problem. It's a wild deer problem being brought into our pen environment.

Many of the breeder deer opposition to Triple T, but I don't see any regulations they have to hire a vet to come out and test every deer they Triple T'ed. So is the Commission and TPWD really worried about CWD as much as they are worried about putting us out of business? With knowing this is a wild deer issue coming into the pen environment since we have tested 100 percent of our released deer, does that mean that our deer are truly the only safe deer to hunt in Texas? How far will this go?

Hunting license sales are on the decline already. Our hunters are not coming to Texas to shoot typical small native deer. They come to have us show them big deer and have a good experience.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Brian.

MR. BRIAN WILSON: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you for coming.

Charles Eckel, you're up. Then it's Ronnie.

MR. CHARLES ECKEL: Good afternoon. Thank you for having us, and thank you for your service to the State of Texas. I believe y'all all have packets that were handed out. I hope that they were able make it, leather-bound --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Oh, yeah. They're here.

MR. CHARLES ECKEL: Okay. My name's Charles Eckel. My family and I, a Lyssy family, own Lyssy and Eckel Feeds. In 2001, Lyssy and Eckel began their on target browse testing program to sample and test browse plants consumed by free-ranging White-tailed deer in South and Central Texas. In 2019, the Borderlands Research Center at Sul Ross University sampled every known browse species in Trans-Pecos. To date, all browse species were found to be extremely deficient in copper.

Based on over 25 years of independent international research on copper and prion diseases, in Lyssy and Eckel's confirmation and no beneficial copper that -- no beneficial copper exists in native browse plants in Texas, can a copper deficiency be the cause of the spontaneous eruption of CWD in Texas deer population? In 2015, research -- researchers found out that grass plants bind, retain uptake, and transport infectious prions. Results unexpectedly revealed that plants were able to uptake prions from contaminated soil and transplant them to the ariel parts of the plant tissue.

Could the cycle be copper deficiencies in native browse lead to infected prion proteins, the copper deficiency then causes a mis-folding of prion proteins, the mis-folded prion proteins cause CWD, affected animals then defecate, urinate mis-fold -- mis-folded prions onto plants in the soil, plants then uptake the mis-folded prions, transporting them to the ariel part of the plant? What are we to do?

Texas landowners are already doing the job of preventing the onset and spread of CWD. Landowner commitment, management, and targeted nutrition is the greatest barrier to the spread of CWD in the wild. To date, no deer fed Lyssy and Eckel supplemental feeds have tested positive for CWD. I know I'm out of time. So...

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you. Thank you, Charles, for coming. Appreciate it.

Okay. We're going to hear from Ronnie and then we're going to let everybody -- let the Commissioners and everybody in here take a five-minute break. Then we're going to get right back on it.

Ronnie, how are you?

MR. RONNIE ECKEL: Fine. How are you? Thank you --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Good to meet you.

MR. RONNIE ECKEL: -- Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Carter. Thank you for your service. I thank you for your time. We've been looking at copper for sometime now and our research and our document searches and our browse testing, I believe it shows that there is a strong case for a copper deficiency causing CWD.

CWD is a prion disease, as we're now learning, is Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Lou Gehrig's Disease, Mad Cow Disease, et cetera. It is from a mis-folded prion that causes Chronic Wasting Disease and these other neurological diseases. We believe copper is the answer, and international research over the last 25 years points in that direction. The Japanese found in 1996 that prions need copper to remain healthy and non-infected.

In 2013, researchers at North Carolina State University, a physicist used a 3D model at the Oakwood[sic] National Laboratory and determined that there is definitely a link between copper and Mad Cow Disease. In 2018, the Prion Research Center at Ames, Iowa, found that it is a genetic allele in elk that will extend the lack of susceptible for elk to contract and be susceptible; but they also found that it's a -- it's copper and manganese that also cause the problem.

We are currently funding research at the University of Minnesota to study exactly how the copper complex that we use in our feeds is keeping -- how it's interacting with the prion and perhaps keeping that prion from mis-folding. And I reach out to Parks and Wildlife and all interested parties to let's work together. Let's find a solution. I believe it's a nutritional problem and I believe it's a nutritional solution. Thank you very much for your time.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Ronnie. Boy, wouldn't that be great.

Five-minute break, everybody. We're going to get right back on it.

(Recess taken)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay, everybody. Thank you for understanding for a brief break. We still have a lot of people. So I don't want to make them wait any longer than we have to. We're going to get back to the public comment.

We have Dr. Jeff Weyers, Lavonne Berdoll, David Aaron, and then Ken Schloudt.

Jeff, how are you?

DR. JEFF WEYERS: I'm great.


DR. JEFF WEYERS: Yes, good afternoon, guys. It's truly an honor to be in front of you today because I'm a -- I'm a cow guy. I'm a cattle nutritionist, trained PhD from Oklahoma State. I've had dairy cattle for the last 17 years. It's truly honor to get in front of you and talk about -- talk about this copper issue.

But I am Dr. Jeff Weyers and I'm a research scientist for Zinpro Corporation and for 50 years, Zinpro has been manufacturing organic trace minerals: Zinc, manganese, copper, cobalt, and selenium. And we've been feeding livestock and now we just went into the human space. Zinpro has published 280 -- it's over 280 -- in five different species peer-reviewed published journal articles in trace minerals and the efficacy of their trace minerals. So should we consider copper with CWD?

And today I'd like to specifically speak to you about prion diseases and the bioavailability of copper. Copper is not copper. Okay? Source absolutely matters and when we start talking about the implications that this can have in Alzheimer's, Lou Gehrig's, CWD, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease which is Mad Cow, Scrapie, and then CWD, they are unquestionably caused by a folded prion protein. So there is no question in my mind after doing a literature review on copper and CWD that it has a vital role to play in the prevention of these diseases and it is known in the agriculture world that the oxide form of copper has little to no availability to the animal.

In 17 years of feeding dairy cattle and beef cattle, I have never once fed copper oxide. And I do want to point out that there has been research conducted on cervids with copper by WOLF and others, Connor and others, Miller and others. And in this research, the results were disappointing; but not surprising, since the research in those papers utilized copper needles. This stuff is not available to cervids.

The big difference in our source of copper, is that the Availa copper is it gets to the bloodstream. It has to get through that rumen, which deer have. It has to get to the stomach in its form that we fed it in. It has to get absorbed. Has to get into circulation and to the target tissues. We have proof that that happens with our -- with our copper.

I do want to point out that recently scientists from our company Zinpro met with Dr. Peter Larson from the Minnesota Center for Prion Research and Outreach. Dr. Peter Larson is a co-director at this University Research Outreach Center and this is what he -- this is what he does every day. He looks at prions and he's looking at copper.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Dr. Weyers, let's wrap it up, please.

DR. JEFF WEYERS: Yes. So at Zinpro, we are committed to finding answers through the relationship between copper and CWD. We're committed to collaborating with Texas Parks and Wildlife, nutritionists, property owners to define a copper strategy for stopping the onset of CWD. Thank you for your consideration.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you. I hope you're successful.

Lavonne and then David Aaron and then Ken.

How are you?



MS. LAVONNE BERDOLL: Hello, good afternoon. I'm Lavonne Berdoll from LB Whitetails regarding the CWD monitoring rules. Our family has been in the deer breeding industry for 24 years through our scientific deer breeder permit. While a lot has changed over the years, our plan remains the same: Raising quality White-tailed deer that are bred to survive in the wild.

Lance researched the deer industry by visiting the wildlife management area in Hunt, Texas, learning a lot from Dr. Fox and Mr. Armstrong and respects their knowledge and research efforts. He also visited deer facilities to see what works and what doesn't. It didn't take long to realize that northern deer die from EHD. So we purchased the best, purest, South Texas White-tailed deer we could find and started breeding for survivability from the beginning.

Our deer may get EHD, but they don't die from it. We seldom even need to treat symptoms. In regards to CWD, we participate in the Animal Health Commission's CWD Monitoring Program. With 17 years of participation, testing 100 percent of deaths without any positive cases, we plan to continue to breed as we do now and hopefully help figure out how to breed CWD resistant deer. It would be a great benefit to the native deer population and hopefully the option to do the same with Mule deer will be returned to this program as well.

We are members of the deer breeders organizations in Texas and appreciate their effort on behalf of our industry. We come today to speak for ourselves since we are a unique breeder. We have kept a closed herd and tested 100 percent of eligible deaths for 17 years, submitting the entire head to the lab so that all identify -- identifying information is presented. Our herd is inspected annually by the Texas Animal Health Commission themselves.

This approach doesn't work for everyone, and each breeder certainly has the right to establish their own management philosophy and practices. In the same way, not all facilities should be regulated at the same level. Our participation in this program should be acknowledged and respected as it is part of the solution. The Texas Animal Health Commission has been successful in protecting other Texas livestock herds from diseases for many years. Our voluntary participation in this program should exempt us from the live testing.

I respectfully ask that you consider modifications to the regulations recently enacted and reestablish the value of participating in your fellow state agency's program to monitor -- or CWD and protect White-tailed deer in Texas. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Lavonne. Have a good day.

David, you're up. Then Ken, then John Shepperd.

David, how are you?

MR. DAVID AARON: Just fine. I'm David Aaron, a Texas deer breeder. My question is why do deer breeders like myself that's CWD certified have to test their deer before we can sell them this year? I mean, we've been in the program for over ten years. We hadn't brought any deer into our herd for six years. We've done everything we can to try to keep our deer healthy. We test everything over a year old that dies in our pens for the last 13 years. We had no connections with the positive tested herds either in or out. It's very expensive to do these tests.

Our deer in the middle of the summer when it's hot, some of our deer have broken and damaged their horns which are now unsellable for this year. We would like the Parks Department to change the rules so they don't penalize the breeders that have clean, healthy herds and have been doing everything possible to keep our herd healthy.

Also I was going to comment. I understand this copper deal is very cheap to put in the feed. It's less than a dollar a ton is what I was told. So, man, that's something that sure should be considered. That's all I've got to say. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, David. Appreciate it.

Just as a reminder after you've spoke, if you can exit the room so we can make room for the next group of speakers. We're trying to keep the crowd down inside the room for more speakers.

Ken, then John Shepperd, then Romey Swanson. Ken Schloudt? Ken? Going once, going twice.

John Shepperd, then Romey, then Tim.

John, how are you?

MR. JOHN SHEPPERD: Good afternoon, Commissioners. My name is John Shepperd. I'm the Executive Director of the Texas Foundation for Conservation and I'm also honored to serve on the Board of the Devils River Conservancy and the Texas Conservation Alliance. Both those groups have also signed the group letter that was -- David Yeates referred to.

I'm here to talk about the Agency's response to the recent outbreak of Chronic Wasting Disease. And I want to share with you why it's important to everyone even if the outbreak is on somebody else's property hundreds of miles away and even if you're not a deer hunter. The native fish and wildlife are owned equally by all of us and held in trust by the government. This is called the Public Trust Doctrine and with this ownership comes responsibility and we all share the moral and ethical obligation to ensure that these resources will be enjoyed in perpetuity by future generations of Texans.

That's why this outbreak concerns all of us, not just the hunters in the field. This responsibility to future Texans means that sometimes we've got to make difficult decisions that may have short-term economic impact on a few individuals and candidly when it comes to the fish and wildlife resources and the public trust, these difficult decisions often fall to this Commission.

It's no secret that the latest outbreak of CWD exposed some deficiencies in our regulatory structure and I urge you all to consider the long-term health of this resource, this public trust resource, as you weigh different options over the coming months. Thank you all for your commitment to protecting the fish and wildlife resources of this state.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, John. Good to see you.

Romey? Romney Swanson?


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Romey, welcome.

Tim, you're up next.


MR. ROMEY SWANSON: Thank you. Good afternoon, Chairman Aplin, Commissioners, Director Smith. My name is Romey Swanson. I'm a certified wildlife biologist and the Director of Conservation for Audubon Texas, which represents about 80,000 plus members and supporters across the state. I'm also the current President of the Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society with 900 plus professional members, including wildlife biologists researchers, natural resource managers, and landowners.

Let me first express my appreciation to the TPWD and the Commissioners for adopting emergency rules in response to the flair up of CWD earlier this year. We recognize the challenges in asserting this authority, but find them necessary to protect as practically as possible the wild, free-range herds; the hunters that find joy in the hunt and sustenance with the harvest; and the rural communities and landowners that benefit from the economics of a healthy White-tailed deer herd.

Controversy often is injected into natural resource management issues and CWD management is no different. In the absence of special interest influences, CWD management would be straightforward. It would include conservate -- conservative restrictions in the movement of breeder deer. We would test those deer aggressively and we would retain the ability to confidently identify trace-out individuals, especially those deer that have been released into or escaped enclosures. And these practices would help assure the tenets of the North American model of wildlife conservation, specifically wildlife as a public trust resource.

The public's interest in wildlife is paramount. Markets and industry interest should be subordinate. Science is the proper tool in forming wildlife policy. Management and policy decisions must be based on sound science and the work of wildlife experts and the democracy of hunting whereby government shall allocate access to wildlife without regard to wealth, prestige, or landownership. Let me make this point salient. Any relaxing of rule-making to appease the breeder deer industry runs the risk of negatively impacting the public's access to an allocation of White-tailed deer.

Let me close by saying that we support 100 percent anti-mortem -- antemortem testing prior to breeder deer liberation and permanent, visible, external ID of breeder deer upon liberation.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Romey.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Appreciate it.

Tim Condict next, then Jody[sic] Logan, Jim Taylor, then Lance Clawson.

Tim, how are you?

MR. TIM CONDICT: My Chairman, members of the Commission, Mr. Director, I appreciate the opportunity to speak today. My name's Tim Condict and I'm a consultant for deer breeders in the State of Texas. In 2016, we failed to initiate a rule requiring sample submission on death of our deer. If we had, we would have eliminated two of the trace-out facilities and we would have possibly eliminated all the trace-out facilities.

We corrected that error, just not in time. We now have people calling it an outbreak or an epidemic. It's neither. There continues to be comments about comments that trailers with our deer are the most likely way CWD is spread. We take exception to those comments. Do you know the last four source facilities were closed herds to deer coming in? Are you aware that every scavenger of a CWD positive carcass spreads CWD through their feces? The eyeballs have the highest concentration of infectivity in a positive deer, followed by the rectum, and those are the first things eaten by scavengers.

Four hours after consuming a positive material, avian scavengers start excreting it in their feces. How far can a crow or buzzard fly four hours and continue to do so over the next couple of days?

Several thousand positive carcasses were introduced into the Texas environment prior to the restrictions put in place in 2016. There was just a deer in the State of Missouri that was collared and moved 186 miles, a three-year-old buck in 14 days. The hunters in Texas relocate 850,000 carcasses across the state every year without knowing the status of that carcass. Texas Parks and Wildlife states that antemortem tests are not equivalent to postmortem testing. They are asking us to test at a five-to-one make-up rate. They report testing 13,000 deer a year and are, in fact, antemortem tests on dead deer. The deer were healthy prior to being shot or ran over. At a testing rate of one-to-five, they are taking an equivalent of 2,600 tests.

Texas has at least 500,000 natural mortalities every year; but they aren't being tested. If the Commission adopts these rules, why is there a need for mortality percentage rate? All deaths and the tests onto release site will accommodate far that. Trace-out times need adjustment for the information we have now. If a release site is required to test, why will we make them retest the animals that were just tested?

We are the only solution to CWD and we need to be able to help resolve this issue. It's time for the hunters across the nation and in the State of Texas to step up and do their part as well. Thank you for taking the time -- allowing me the time.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Tim. Thank you for coming.

Judy, you're up. Then Jim.

MS. HALLIBURTON: Chairman, I think they passed.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Judy Logan pass. Jim Taylor? Jim Taylor.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Passed too? Lance Clawson. Then after Lance, Jason Sekula. And then, Mark, you're up after that.

Lance, how are you?

MR. LANCE CLAWSON: Good. Thank you for hearing me out. I'm very concerned that we're not even running the right test because as far as I know, we're not running a Western Blot test, which is the only way if you call Ames, Iowa, and talk to them, each one of you -- each one of you on this Board should call Ames, Iowa, and visit with them about what is the only test that will accurately determine whether an animal as has CWD. Okay? We've got -- we could very well be testing for Scrapie.

That's why in all of our tests and our paperwork it says "detected," the word detected. It'd be like me walking into a smoking room and start coughing and I'm detected for COVID. So, of course, I'm detected for COVID; but we have got to make sure that we're using the right science.

I've heard the word "science" and I've heard the word "unknown" all day today. That's pretty scary when we're talking about people's lives. I mean, this is the United States of America. We're innocent until proven guilty and a lot of these deer breeders are being shut down and we're not even running the right test. We're running a test that says you might have CWD.

That's terrible guys. That's terrible. I want to know exactly what's going on. I don't want to spread any disease. I want to be someone that's in support of our property rights, which is what I am. I'm into exotics. I don't want it moving on to my Fallow deer or my Axis deer. Fallow deer can't even catch CWD and there were words that our Department was out wanting to test those and I just want to make sure that we're doing the right thing and we're coming from the right -- our heart's in the right place and that we're doing everything we can when we're telling these folks that, you know, "You're in trouble, you've got CWD," when they may not very well have it. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Lance, thank you.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Jason. Mark, then you're up next, then Macy.

MR. JASON SEKULA: Good afternoon. My name is Jason Sekula. I'm a wildlife manager for Shiner Ranch. I'm here to speak to you today in support of the Triple T permit. It's come to our attention that it's -- the Triple T permit will be recommended by the White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee and the CWD Task Force to be suspended for the year.

In 2015 when this first all came about, the Triple T permit was drug into this battle. At that time, all the rules were strengthened as far as CWD monitoring on the Triple T permit. There was RFID tags added to the additional -- added to the existing tattoos. Trap sites were registered with the Texas Animal Health Commission to correlate with those RFID tags. There was restrictions put on the trap -- on the trap sites, on the release sites for trapping deer out of breeder facility at release sites. There was many safeguards put into place and those safeguards have been working.

There's been thousands of samples taken in correlation with the Triple T permit and not a single positive is tied back to anything that regards to Triple T permit. The Triple T permit is a hugely valuable permit. It's a huge tool in our toolbox for managing deer in Texas. It helps the trap site owners relieve their overpopulated herds, but it also helps to repopulate areas such as these areas decimated by anthrax.

Those landowners in those areas and the trap site landowners did not have much representation on these committees. Those anthrax areas that had their deer herds decimated, their only resort -- if the Triple T permit is suspended -- is to buy breeder deer to restock their ranches. Some of them lost 80, 90 percent of the deer on their ranches. You know, so those -- the Triple T permit is something that's been used for 20 years safely and I think we can continue to use it safely if we continue these measures. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Jason, thank you.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you for -- no. Thank you very much for coming.

MR. JASON SEKULA: Yes, sir. Thank y'all.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you for maintaining your time. I appreciate it.

Welcome, Mark. How are you?

MR. MARK HEROD: Good, sir.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Good to see you.

MR. MARK HEROD: Howdy, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. Mr. Chairman, I can't talk quite as fast as our football coach, but I'll try to hustle through this.


MR. MARK HEROD: My name is Mark Herod, from New Braunfels, Texas. We're a long-time TxDOT contractor with ACME Bridge and Road in New Braunfels. Our Herod family was richly blessed to have a nice ranch in South Texas for 25 years, Frio/Zavala County. We all know big deer, maybe bigger snakes; but we've enjoyed that country and right along with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, playbook fences, pond management, MLD permits 25, 30 years ago when it was brand new. So we got it figured out. Raised some great bucks, 150s, 160s, occasionally 170s.

We did it old school. We did it protein feed from our friends at Lyssy Eckel, barrel feeders, and bullets. That was old school back then. Unfortunately, that chapter has closed and we're no longer there. Presently and thanks to a good friend, we had the opportunity to buy a little ranch over in northwest Llano County, the deer capitol -- hunting capitol of the world. And we've had a very positive experience through the programs that Texas Parks and Wildlife have put in place at our new ranch.

With the help of our local agent, Texas Parks and Wildlife agent, as well as our Hill Country consultant, we have created food plots in large existing tanks, built new tanks, cleaned our brush, and most especially we've made a beautiful place for all domestic and migratory animals. All of that to say we brought in our Triple T deer and we brought in a few selected does, bred does and some nice South Texas bucks. We could have spent our money elsewhere, but we wanted to do this coming from the ranching heritage down in South Texas.

In closing, I would implore the Department to keep our Triple T and breeder deer permits in place for our family and hundreds others that would be much like ours. And just a little humor. Mom always said you can't have your cake and eat it too, but I might have to argue with dear sweet Mom because we've got a beautiful little South Texas ranch -- or Hill Country ranch and we've got some nice South Texas deer on it now. So I implore you to keep those in place for us and others and thank you for your time and your service.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Mark.

MR. MARK HEROD: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Good to see you.

Macy Ledbetter, then Kaela maybe, and then Rob Beckham.

Macy, how are you?

MR. MACY LEDBETTER: I'm doing well. Thank you, sir. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners and Director Smith. My name is Macy Ledbetter and I'm a private wildlife biologist that works in every ecoregion in the state. I currently work with roughly 300 landowners covering 1.5 million acres and I am the largest individual deer related permit user of this Department.

The Triple T permit is the single most important deer permit this Department issues. Yet it has zero representation on any of the current task force/advisory board meetings -- committees in place. Zero. No representation. My testimony is in support of the Triple T permit to continue with recommended modifications. I have provided each of you with a detailed list of those recommendations and I respectfully ask that you to consider those modifications to move forward and keep the permit viable.

The Triple T permit involves wild deer, the people's deer. The people's deer benefit all parties involved from the trap site to the release site to unbudgeted permit fees for the Department, not to mention supporting small town rural economics the recreational real estate market and directly encourages additional hunting license sales.

It's critical that you realize that the Triple T CWD testing has been ongoing since 2003 and to date, not one single positive CWD has occurred. Not one. If you stop this permit, the Department will lose the incredible source for wild deer testing and be left with only hunter harvest and road kill for surveillance and you can certainly anticipate a decline in volunteer hunter harvest sampling once hunters begin to realize the ramifications of finding a positive on their own land.

Let's use science. Let's use data to make the proper decision and let's leave everything else behind. The information provided to you today is the best information currently available on CWD and it indicates that CWD can be defeated using supplemental feed, new live testing techniques, and common sense proactive approach. The people of Texas and the people's deer of Texas are counting on you to make the right decision. I encourage any questions, and thank you for your service.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Macy.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Appreciate you coming in.

Kaela, then Rob Beckham, and Tim Glass.

Kaela, how are you?

MS. KAELA HASSIG: Good. Good afternoon. I appreciate you giving me the opportunity to speak today. My name is Kaela Hassig and I am currently a senior in high school and I am the President of the Woodville FFA Chapter. I have lived on a small farm in East Texas my entire life. I have enjoyed raising animals for as long as I can remember.

My family owns and operates a small deer breeding facility in Tyler County. Since the onset, we have voluntarily participated in the Animal Health Program. We have tested 100 percent of our mortalities that were 12 months or older. We have never had an escaped deer. 100 percent of our deer have always been accounted for.

The emergency rules adopted by Texas Park and Wildlife this past June have been detrimental to our family business. In late July, we live tested 20 deer at a cost of over $3,200. Within two weeks, we subsequently had two of these deer due to complications from the live testing. Deer that we had told for $6,500 each. This loss is not sustainable in our business. I ask you to please take into consideration those small family farms that these rules negatively impact. I personal love our deer, and I'm very proud of my family's conservation efforts. Please help us. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Kaela.

Rob, how are you?

MR. ROB BECKHAM: Thank you, Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Rob Beckham and I am Vice President of North American Deer Registry and I'm speaking as a private citizen. I started in 2006. Tested my first deer in 2007. I've had 161 eligible deaths in that time. I've tested 136 non-detected.

This year I tested 25 this summer and we lost four of those, like Kaela, to stress and heat conditions. It's not a good time to test deer in 105-degree temperature, but we had to. One of those deer was Maxine. I bought her in 2007. She's 14 years old. She's earned her retirement. I want to release her and let her live out her days on the ranch, but I had to test her and that's frustrating.

My prayer is you guys see light. This is governing agency and with your help, you gave us $100,000 to a grant to study the White-tailed genome. We mapped it out. We've identified markers that make -- that are proact -- or resistant to CWD. Within two to three years, we will have the pen-raised deer herd CWD resistant. They got rid of Scrapies in sheep. We're going to get rid of CWD in deer and if it ever becomes real big problem in the wild herd, the only solution is CWD resistant deer. I hope you see the -- I was listening, the -- just the idea of, well, we got to have tags in those deer so we know who they are. Those tags, if they ever come about, are going to represent that USDA prime stamp on a carcass that that deer is CWD tested and not-detected. You can't do that with wild deer. But if it becomes a problem, we are the solution, not the problem. Thank you very much for your time.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Rob.

Tim Glass, then Boyd Nutt, then Rex Webb.

Tim, how are you? Welcome.

MR. TIM GLASS: Good. Thank you. Thank you, Commission, for having us here today. My name is Tim Glass. I'm an active Texas deer breeder. I've been involved in the outdoor industry for 40 years, either as a hunter, a manufacturer of hunting products, outdoor television, and now as a deer breeder.

Within the last year, this industry was shaken by the discovery of Chronic Wasting Disease once again. Animals have been slaughtered, emergency actions implemented, and families livelihoods have been destroyed. The State of Texas has been reminded once again that CWD exists within our state and the responsibility of identifying and controlling this disease has been laid at the gateway into every deer breeder's pens. We've also discovered that CWD has been identified outside of the breeding industry and also exists in wild deer within our state.

Currently every deer breeder is feeling the strain mandated of emergency actions by performing costly live testing in order to stay in business, as well as jeopardizing the health of our fawns/our adult animals with these risky sedating animals to perform required testing. And I know that every breeder I talk to intends to meet these guidelines. However, I'm troubled at the level of incredulity found at Parks and Wildlife that CWD doesn't exist outside these breeding pens.

We know that it's been identified outside our facility fences. Within our state, we've seen no emergency mandates, no urgency to act -- to enact any kind of mandated -- mandatory testing in proximity to these findings. To better understand and better control this disease, there must be equitable testing on both sides of the facility fences. When do we begin acknowledging that possibility exists that infected animals outside the breeding industry may be the source that is infected inside our pens.

I've listened to passionate comments today from landowners who stand against the breeding industry and support these emergency rules, but not one of them has volunteered to enter the program at Texas Animal Health Commission like virtually all Texas deer breeders have. I thank you for your time.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Tim.

Boyd, then Rex, then Evelyn.

Welcome, Boyd. How are you?

MR. BOYD NUTT: Thank y'all. Thank all the good people. To me this comes down between good and evil. This is what I'm seeing because I'm a rancher. I'm a Texan. I'm a Christian. I'm a private -- I'm a low-fence landowner. And ever since I've been with the deer breeding industry, it's just like the evil on the other side of it is just promoting and doing everything they can to blame the deer breeders.

We're being regulated. We're being watched. We're testing. I tested 100 percent of my herd, when I first started, the age eligible and it's just more and more and more every year and the evil people are wanting to slide in there, get their dual foot in the door, keep pushing, keep pushing, keep pushing. When is it going to stop?

Yes, let's watch it. Let's man -- let's manage it. But enough is enough when you're coming down on an industry that there are many industries that it's involved -- you know, soil, hay, feed, all of this stuff. That's not your responsibility. Your responsibility are the animals. Yes, we want to protect our wildlife, and y'all want to protect our wildlife; but there's some underlying circumstances that some people are doing that's wrong and evil. So anybody here that's good, please stand up for me and my family.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Boyd.

MR. BOYD NUTT: You're welcome.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Rex, Evelyn, Steve Lewis.

Welcome, Rex.

MR. REX WEBB: Thank you. Y'all have a lot of patience being able to sit in a chair for this long. I couldn't do it, but thank you for listening to the public. Most everything I was going to say has already been said, so I'm not going to bore you. But I -- yesterday, I was in Iceland and I was thinking about that little continent. It's a pretty young continent and out of habit or instinct, I was looking at all the beautiful mountainous vistas looking for wildlife. There is none out there. Evidently the only habitant of Iceland was the Arctic fox. It must have floated across on an iceberg and they have introduced some Reindeer there, I guess. I didn't see any. But it got me thinking we need to do everything to keep Texas from becoming an Iceland.

We all love to see God's creatures out in the wild and I think it's our responsibility to shut down any kind of transportation of deer that might spread CWD. It's just common sense. I almost -- I did laugh a bit at one of the comments from a pro-deer breeder about introducing them to deer-proof fences. My -- my ranch has really good high-fences. Let me tell, folks, there's no such thing as a deer-proof fence -- hey, Paul.

And -- but floods, ice storms, breaking Oak limbs into the fence. There's no such thing. One of the funniest things is that deer interact between a deer fence and I'm forever having to patch where they fought and opened up a hole. There is no such thing as a deer-proof fence. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Rex.

Evelyn and Steve Lewis.

Evelyn, how are you?

MS. EVELYN MERZ: Very well. How are y'all today?

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Good to see you.

MS. EVELYN MERZ: Okay. Good afternoon, Commissioners. I appreciate the opportunity to address you. I'm speaking on behalf of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club on two topics this afternoon. First is not on CWD, that will be the second. The first is on the status of coastal prairie management at the San Jacinto Battleground outside of Houston.

We're all aware that this is an important cultural and historical site and that it was transferred from TPWD to the Texas Historical Commission. At that time, the Lone Star Chapter strongly objected to the transfer on -- as a number of people in this room are well aware. The basis of our objection was that the Historical Commission was uninterested and unqualified to manage the abundant valuable natural resources at San Jacinto. Namely the restored coastal prairie and the marshes, which had been done by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Unfortunately, this concern has proved to be correct. The coastal prairie right now is being very badly managed. There are invasive species that are thriving in what used to be restored prairie. The tallow is as tall as I am or taller and they are not controlling the invasive species properly. Current management is mowing a swath along the road and by the parking areas and mowing the Saint Augustine grass around the monument. This doesn't do any good for the coastal prairie. The Chapter is asking Parks and Wildlife to seek a role in managing the natural resources of San Jacinto because the Historical Commission is not and the resource is being diminished.

Secondly, the Lone Star Chapter supports Parks and Wildlife's response to the continuing outbreaks of CWD. The most important responsibility of TPWD is protecting the health of the wild herd from the spread. The Chapter has supported past activities of Parks and Wildlife and we also understand this is a dynamic situation and we understand the new confinement and surveillance zones are being proposed to handle the areas where there is possible and probably outbreaks and we do support that.

And in closing, I'm putting on another hat. I wanted to thank the Wildlife Division especially of Parks and Wildlife of putting on a truly wonderful prescribed burn management school in the Gus Engeling Wildlife Management Area about a week ago. I learned so much from that and so did everybody else. It was wonderfully organized. The logistics were great, and I thank you all for doing that.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Evelyn, thank you.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: It's always nice to see you.

Steve Lewis, Nash Murray, Burk Kuykendall, I believe.

Steve Lewis, how are you?

MR. STEVE LEWIS: Good afternoon, Chairman. I'm Steve Lewis. I'm from San Antonio. My wife and I have ranches in five counties in Texas. I've been a volunteer for TWA for 35 years and I was a past President and I'm the current President of the Foundation. I drove up here today to show my support for the Texas Parks and Wildlife staff and the Commissioners as you manage CWD. The buck stops with you.

Texas landowners are looking to you to manage this difficult situation. My family and I and TWA support the Commission as it makes rules and regulations to safeguard the health of our deer herds in Texas. I predict tough decisions lie ahead for Texas Parks and Wildlife. Follow the science and do the best you can to prevent the spread.

I've been coming here 35 years and I remember the Cedar wars and it was a lot more contentious then than it is now and it all sort of boils down, in my opinion, to the trust the landowners have when they see a gray truck, a Parks and Wildlife truck come on their land. Y'all have worked many, many years and your people, your staff, your former Commissioners are bolted together in a way that have earned that deep seeded trust and that trust is why the people are going to allow you all to do this.

You're going to make some mistakes. You'll make some good decisions and some bad decisions, but it lies with you all and it's a tough deal. But we're for you. We support you. And when I see a Parks and Wildlife Wildlife Division truck come in my gate, I get a good feeling. Have a great day. God bless Texas.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Steve. And you're right. God bless Texas. Thank you very much.

Nash Murray, Burk, and then Michael Banks.

Hello, Nash.

MR. NASH MURRAY: Hello. How are you?

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Good. How are you?

MR. NASH MURRAY: Good afternoon, Chairman and Commissioners, Texas Parks and Wildlife staff. I am -- my name is Nash Murray. I'm a Texas deer breeder. I would like to just take this time to address the uninformed that there is CWD in our native herds. We've already seen that with the numbers provided to us by Texas Parks and Wildlife, it's actually more prevalent when you take the amount of deer tested versus the positives that have come back, it's more prevalent in our native herds.

With that being said, native herds are allowed to be spread out more. So, therefore, with our deer in the pens and the amount that we've tested, the fact that it's more prevalent in the wild than it is in the deer pens just goes to show that captive deer are already showing the signs of being more CWD resistant than our native herd.

I've heard people, numerous people today, even the gentleman sitting beside me in this room stated that he wants to stop the spread of CWD and eliminate the transportation of any deer that can spread CWD. Well, a dead deer can spread CWD. So native deer that are harvested in low-fence areas being transported can spread CWD. I don't believe that the people in this room want to see the hunting industry collapse and that deer not be able to be transported or meat be harvested. I don't think that it is wise for us to the put those regulations in places as far as testing goes on harvested deer, but it is necessary in the fact that it's already showing that it's more prevalent in the native herd than it is in the captive deer. Thank you guys for your time. I hope that you take into consideration that deer breeders are a vital importance to this economic growth of this industry. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Nash. Thanks for coming. Appreciate it.

Burk Kuykendall, if I'm pronouncing that right.

MS. HALLIBURTON: He's passed.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Burk, one, two, pass.

Michael Banks.

MR. MICHAEL BANKS: Thank you, Chairman, Commissioners, and Carter. My name is Michael Banks and I'm from Jacksonville, Texas. I asked to be last. I'm one of the luckiest sportsmen in the state. A few years ago I caught a ShareLunker bass. She weighed 13 pounds 6 ounces. I caught her at Purtis Creek State Park. So I know that the ShareLunker Program is a great program that you have.

And then over the years, I've been lucky enough to have been drawn seven times for your draw hunts and two of these were at Pedernales Falls State Park Annex. So I got to cross the river and stay in the cabin that you have over there across the river and they were great hunts. Year before last, I harvested the largest buck that I've ever harvested in my hunting career. It was a five and a half month -- five and a half year old nine point buck and I took it on a hundred acre lease in Houston County. That's over in East Texas.

I've been lucky enough the last three years to use my Red drum tag on my fishing license and I even got to use a bonus tag last year and that cost me $3. That was quite a deal. I tell you these things to let you know that I've had some great experiences in the outdoors. I represent the Friends of Neches River and in 2006, we supported the U.S. Fish and Wildlife in the creation of the Neches River National Wildlife Refuge and that's in Cherokee and Anderson Counties over in East Texas and we're having our first hunt on the refuge this year and the draw applications are being administered by Texas Parks and Wildlife. So we appreciate that, and thank you for doing that.

The Neches River is truly an East Texas river. We have the Sabine River to our east and we have the Trinity River to our west, but the Neches River starts in Van Zandt County and it flows 450 miles smack dab through the middle of East Texas and it empties into the Gulf of Mexico at Sabine Pass. So it's truly an East Texas river.

And your studies tell us that the Neches River is one of the cleanest rivers in the state. So we thank you and I thank you for what you've done in the past and I encourage you to keep doing what you do. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Michael. Appreciate you coming. You may want to go buy a lottery ticket it sounds like. I've fished all my life and never caught a 13, not even close.

We called before, but I'm just going to double-check. Is there a Ken Schloudt? He wasn't here earlier. And a Irvin Welch?

Dee, do you have any other?

MS. HALLIBURTON: No, sir. I don't.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: So is there anyone in the audience that didn't get an opportunity to speak before the Commission or that would like to?

Okay, I don't see anybody. I want to -- and I speak for all my fellow Commissioners. I want to thank everybody that made the effort to come here to drive a long ways to come talk to us about the issues that are near and dear to you. Several people have said -- and it's true -- everybody in this room loves the outdoors. They love our wildlife, our parks, everything and I can assure you every one of these Commissioners do. So although it did take a while, it's an honor for us to listen to y'all's ideas and thoughts and questions and we all take this very seriously. So thank you for coming.

Since no one else wants to speak, I want to let everybody know that the Commission has completed its business and I declare us adjourned at -- what does that say, 5:30 -- 5:30 p.m. Thank y'all for coming.

(Annual Public Hearing Adjourns)



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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