TPW Commission

Work Session, May 25, 2022


TPW Commission Meetings


May 25, 2022






CHAIRMAN APLIN: Good morning, everybody. Welcome. I'm going to do a roll call. Before I do, I'll -- I know a few of the Commissioners -- Vice-Chairman Scott notified us this morning. He had some bad weather that came through last night and had some damage at his home. So he believes he'll be here, but it maybe a little bit delayed.

But welcome to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commissioner Meeting procedures Wednesday Work Session, May 25th, 2022. I'll do a roll call.

Aplin present.






CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay. So we have enough for a quorum. Welcome, Commissioners, and welcome everyone in the audience.

This meeting is called to order May 25th, 2022, at 9:05 a.m. Before proceeding with any business, I believe Mr. Carter Smith has a statement to make.

MR. SMITH: I do. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. Good morning. A public notice of this meeting containing all items on the proposed agenda has been filed in the Office of the Secretary of State as required by Chapter 551 Government Code referred to as the Open Meetings Act. I'd like for this fact to be noted in the official record of the meeting.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Carter.

Commissioners, as a reminder, please announce your name before you speak and please remember to speak slowly for our court reporter.

The first order of business is the approval of minutes from the previous Work Session held March 23rd, 2022, which have been distributed. If I could get a motion and a second from a Commissioner.

COMMISSIONER BELL: Commissioner Bell makes a motion.



CHAIRMAN APLIN: Foster second. All those in favor signify by saying aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Opposed? Hearing none, motion carries.

Work Session Item No. 1 is the Update on Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Progress on Implementing the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Land and Water Resource Conservation/Recreation Plan, Carter.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. Good morning. For the record, my name's Carter Smith with the Texas Parks and Wildlife. I appreciate the chance to share a few words this morning.

Just as a point of departure and as a matter of required law, a quick update on Internal Affairs. Mike and Jarret and that team continue to very ably handle their caseload, provide education and outreach support throughout the Agency and otherwise carry out their mission very effectively. No real substantive updates on that front for this meeting.

I would remind you, Mr. Chairman, as we approach the end of the year, that the team will have their annual end-of-the-year report for the Commission about their cases and the dispensation of that. And so probably look for that sometime in September. But if there are any questions at all about that unit, please don't hesitate to ask me or Mike or Jarret about them.

Let's see. Next slide. I can't remember if it was last meeting or the -- perhaps the one before, we had a chance to acknowledge Wildlife biologist Shannon Grubbs. She's out of Victoria County. Her job is largely to provide technical assistance and guidance to private landowners who are interested in managing for wildlife and wildlife habitat on their ranches. She had been recognized by the Victoria County Soil and Water Conservation Board, which is really largely producers -- farmers and ranchers. For her, exemplary assistance. They had named her the County Wildlife Conservationist of the Year. Well, they nominated her for the area award, which of course are multiple counties within that.

Really proud of the fact that Shannon received that recognition as the Area Wildlife Conservationist for, again, multiple counties in and around Goliad and Victoria and Calhoun and Lavaca and so forth. Just a wonderful indication of the value that those landowners put on the services and assistance that Wildlife biologists like Shannon provide.

They've also decided to nominated her for the Statewide Wildlife Conservationist of the Year. So we'll keep all appendages crossed that the Soil and Water Board makes a good decision there. But either way, Shannon is doing the Lord's work representing the Wildlife Division and the Department in that part of the state. And tonight, for those of you that will be at the Lone Star Land Steward Awards, we'll have a chance to celebrate one of the landowners that she works very closely with, the Grahmann family, who's one of our Ecoregional Award winners. So kudos to Shannon for that well-deserved recognition.

It's been a while since we've had any kind of formal update on the Recovering America's Wildlife Act and there's been a fair amount of movement in Congress as of late on this and so I wanted to update the Commission on where it stands. Just by way of reminder, the Recovering America's Wildlife Act, which often referred to as RAWA, the acronym, is probably the most transformational or significant piece of conservation funding legislation that Congress has considered vis-à-vis fish and wildlife related needs probably since the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts going back to the 1930s and 1940s.

You may recall that really the genesis for this Act came out of a national Blue Ribbon Panel that was chaired by Johnny Morris of Bass Pro Shops, Governor Dave Freudenthal out of Wyoming, and a collection of business and industry leaders from manufacturing, oil and gas, retail, the shooting sports, as well as other conservation leaders across the country and they're charge was really to look at this fish and wildlife crisis across the state. And by that I mean declining numbers of a variety of fish and wildlife, the preponderance of species being proposed to be put on the threatened and endangered list and was there anything that Congress and the country could do to help keep species from being put on the list and then how to provide a sustainable and predictable source of funding to help invest in those needs.

And I think most of y'all are aware that when it comes to fish and wildlife related funding, the lion's share of that is paid for by hunters and anglers and most state fish and wildlife agencies across the country, 90 percent or more of their funding comes from hunting and fishing license and related revenues. And those revenue streams, of course, are not particularly the fungible and understandably, hunters and anglers largely want those funds invested on game species, which have lots of needs of their own.

The Blue Ribbon Panel looked at the state wildlife action plans across the country and Congress requires each state, including Texas, to have a formal wildlife action plan that identifies species of greatest conservation need. And so these are plant and animal species that need additional research, recovery, restoration, habitat-related improvements for various reasons and suggested that we needed a funding stream to invest in helping to recover those species. So in Texas, those are things like the ocelot or Snowy plover or Monarch butterflies or colonial waterbirds or grassland birds or freshwater fish or things that we spend some talk -- things talking about with y'all are sometimes things like oysters or Pronghorn antelopes. So it really runs the gamut. We've got about 1,300 or so of those species of greatest conservation and need out of the roughly 12,000 or so identified across the -- across the country.

And so their recommendation to Congress was to pass some legislation that would create a funding stream that could be directed to the states as a matching grant to invest in research, monitoring, recovery, habitat restoration, land protection, work on private and public lands, suitable or relevant conservation law enforcement, again, to help protect these species before they got put on the threatened and endangered species list.

And out of that very robust national conversation came this piece of legislation known as the Recovering America's Wildlife Act. Roughly a third of Congress has signed on as a former co-sponsor, led in the Senate by Senator Blount out of Missouri and Heinrich out of New Mexico and I think there are 33 co-sponsors in the U.S. Senate and the House. There's roughly 180 co-sponsors equally split, Republicans and Democrats. And so we've seen very strong bipartisan support for this legislation.

The legislation has been passed out of both oversight committees in the House and Senate and there's now serious discussion about when to bring the bill to the floor on both the House and the Senate side and then there's some need for a little bit of reconciliation between the language in both bills. Texas, if this bill were to pass, would stand to get upwards of roughly $50 million a year that we could invest in habitat restoration and conservation for these species, which as we all know, just pick any one of them -- oysters, for instance -- really, really need it. So Texas has be equity in this.

There's a very concerted national effort led by the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation, National Wildlife Federation, many, many, many national groups and business groups and private landowner groups in Texas. There's a coalition called the Texas Alliance for America's Fish and Wildlife which is helping to lead the charge to encourage congressional -- the congressional delegation from Texas to help support it. But suffice to say, we see this as having huge potential and promise to invest and helping us carry out our mission with our partners across the country. And, again, whether that investing in critical research related needs, habitat restoration or protection on private lands, working with zoos on captive breeding programs for species like the Horned lizards, restoring mussels, protecting colonial waterbirds, Pronghorns, you name it, huge promise. So we -- we remain very optimistic about it.

Obviously, we'd like to see as many of the Texas delegation support this legislation because the very tangible benefits this would provide for fish and wildlife conservation in Texas and wanted to let you know that this is moving and moving quickly and there's some urgency now in terms of making sure that we have the requisite support to get this passed.

And I guess last, but not least, Chairman and Commissioners, I would be very remiss if I didn't thank the literally thousands of partners that have thrown their support behind this. I mean, it is a huge, huge public/private partnership that's been pushing with Congress to try to get this across the goal line and lots of them here in Texas that have been pulling that sled.

Tonight we celebrate the 26th anniversary of the Lone Star Land Steward Awards. You know, as y'all know, this is one of our great flagship events, recognizing exemplary stewardship around the state. We haven't had a chance to do this in person since 2019, so we're excited about coming together tonight. I think we're expecting almost 400 people in attendance. I want to thank the Parks and Wildlife Foundation, the Sand County Foundation, and our Private Lands Advisory Committee who've been the partners in helping to put this on on an annual basis and we're really looking forward to it.

We'll have, I think, seven ecoregional award winners from around the state that we'll celebrate and then we'll have the statewide Leopold Award winner, which is Rosewood Ranches and the Bunker Sands Wetland Center up in Dallas, or just east of Dallas, which are doing terrific work on water conservation, water polishing, wetland conservation, waterfowl management, and so forth. But it will be lot of fun and I hope that all of y'all can join us tonight for that event. It will be a very celebratory occasion and folks have been looking forward to it for a long time.

Last, but not least, y'all may recall that every April, Whole Earth, that outdoor provision company that was started by Jack and Joe Jones, two brothers, grew up on a sheep and goat ranch over there in Val Verde County, came to -- came to University of Texas and graduated and started Whole Earth and created that company that's in Austin and Dallas and San Antonio and Houston. They've been huge supporters of the Department and state parks and every April, their stores across the state dedicate a portion of all of their proceeds to help invest in programs and projects in Texas state parks and they promote the state parks. Their staff, who all go out and us parks, get programs on it. They invite park rangers and superintendents to come in and talk to -- talk to their customers about state parks and opportunities to get outdoors and it's a wonderful aligned just fit with our important work at the state parks.

And they just wrapped up their month of April and state parks month and, again, had I think record fundraising to support the state parks and just want to give a public thank you and shout out to Whole Earth and that whole team just for their extraordinary support. They've just been wonderful, wonderful partners and I know I'm looking for Rodney, wherever he is -- there he is -- I know is very grateful for that partnership that we have with them.

Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, that's really it for me. So unless there's any other questions, I'm happy to sit down. Anything that y'all have for me?

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Carter. That's good stuff and I'm looking forward to tonight's award banquet. I think that will be exciting and I think we have some Commissioners coming.

Commissioner Foster has a question.

COMMISSIONER FOSTER: Yeah, I have a couple of questions about this Wildlife Act.

MR. SMITH: Uh-huh.

COMMISSIONER FOSTER: I'm always a little skeptical about federal legislation and --

MR. SMITH: Uh-huh.

COMMISSIONER FOSTER: -- so you said Texas will get approximately $50 million. Do you now how that arrived at?

MR. SMITH: Yeah, there's a great question. So it would be actually kind of nested under the existing Pittman-Robertson Account, which we've had since the 1930's. So it would be a subaccount. It would be dedicated funds. There's a formula which governs how much each state would receive and it has to do with the land area of the state, the number of species that are identified as species of greatest conservation need, the population, and a couple other metrics. But Texas is at or near the top of what it would receive.

COMMISSIONER FOSTER: Okay. And would we be accountable to anyone?

MR. SMITH: Of course. Yes, yes, we would be accountable, you know, as we are now for all of the federal funding that we get. These would be matching fund. So they would be matched on a three-to-one basis. So for ever quarter that we put in, there would be 75 cents of federal funds. There would be required reports and audits that we would have to -- have to do as part of the receipt of this funding.

And one of the things that Clayton is taking on, is looking at, you know, what level of additional administrative related support would we need to bring on be able to effectively implement. Because as you might imagine, a lot of these funds we would look to grant out to partner with, you know, private landowners, universities, nonprofit related organizations. And all of those would be governed by contracts that we would have when grant agreements we'd have with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and there'd be requirements that would have to be met. So we're going to definitely have bring on additional grant specialists and contractors to be able to effectively administer it. So there will be costs that will come with that that the federal funds would help cover; but would also, to some degree, need to be supplemented by some state funds.

COMMISSIONER FOSTER: So that begs one more question.

MR. SMITH: Uh-huh.

COMMISSIONER FOSTER: In your example, where do we get the quarter?

MR. SMITH: Where do we get the quarter?


MR. SMITH: So we can get that from a variety of places. Maybe it's license revenue. Maybe it's a nonprofit providing that support. Maybe it's a university. Maybe it's an in-kind related donation of volunteer time or labor. Maybe it's a bargain sale on the sale of a conservation easement. So it's a wide variety of cash and noncash related sources that would provide the -- provide the -- provide the match. And, again, we wouldn't be looking to Parks and Wildlife to provide all of that. You know, our partners that would be helping to participate and implement the funding, would also be providing match to the table.


MR. SMITH: Yeah. Good questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Anybody else?

Carter, to expand a little bit on Commissioner Foster's questions. You know, dare we dream that we get this pot of money for -- you mentioned habitat restoration. We've had a lot of conversations about the oysters in our bay systems. A couple questions. If you could kind of tell us what's happening with your thoughts on putting together these groups to study our current situation and then I believe you alluded that if this money did come available, some of it would be available for habitat restoration for our oysters, which just the timing couldn't be better if that -- if we dare dream about that.

Would you elaborate a little bit about what we're doing with oysters in the future?

MR. SMITH: Yeah. Well, let me tackle the second question first about, you know, could these funds be utilized for, you know, restoration or creation of oysters reefs. And, yes, they could. Oysters are -- and all the affiliated species associated with those reefs are, you know, part of our species of greatest conservation need and so just like investing in those reefs to benefit a multiplicity really of species, we'd be looking at doing similar things in upland environments with prairies and forests and grasslands and so forth. But this could provide some, you know, a real infusion of funds to help accelerate, jump start, leverage other funding sources that we have for oysters. So that would be great news on that -- on that front. Vis-à-vis the question about the stakeholder committees that the Commission, you know, talked about at the last meeting in the last discussion on oysters, Robin and his team have been soliciting and getting nominations for really two potential stakeholder committees that we are looking at put together very soon to help us think about how we can improve the situation with oysters around the coast.

The first one would be -- would be really focused on kind of the more sustainable management of oysters and the harvest oysters. What can we be doing, if anything, differently to avoid the kind of pressure, harvest intensity, concentration of boats that we're seeing across the coast, what can be done to not only reduce that, but what else can we be doing to provide, you know, opportunities, reasonable opportunities for the commercial oyster industry to be able to harvest oysters in a more sustainable fashion. So we'd be looking at a group that's going to be really focused more on the sustainable management of oysters.

A second group would be tasked at looking at creation and restoration of reefs and what can we do to accelerate the creation and restoration of reefs. How can we more effectively partner with private industry? And by that I mean not only the oystermen, but also the conservation community to help incentivize reef creation and restoration and suitable habitat.

So we're really envisioning kind of two different stakeholder groups that we would put together to come up with recommendations then that we could bring back to the Commission to help I think better guide our oyster management in the -- in the future. And so -- I keep looking the wrong way. Where's -- is Robin around today? Robin is not around.

Okay, so you're stuck with me. That's I think the sum and substance of that right now. You know, the group that would be looking at let's say reef restoration and creation, you know, would probably be looking at things like, you know, are there leases that we could provide to both the private sector and the conservation community under a different set of parameters to help incentivize them to create oyster reefs or to restore oyster reefs, which as all of you know is very expensive. You know, are there ways that we can better leverage resources that we have or that are potentially out there like Recovering America's Wildlife Act if that were to come to fruition or other source to, again, accelerate the restoration of reefs. So those are the kind of things that those groups would be tasked with looking at, Chairman, and then coming back with some recommendations to the Commission to consider.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Carter. And hopefully, let's get back as soon as we can. This is on a lot of people's minds and right now we're in a non-oyster season, but it's coming and let's so let's ask those groups to do their volunteer work and report back as soon as possible.

Anybody got any other questions/comments for Carter?

Thank you.

MR. SMITH: You bet. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Work Session Item No. 2, Financial Update. Reggie, you're up. Good morning.

MR. PEGUES: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Reggie Pegues, Chief Financial Officer at the Parks and Wildlife Department. Today I'll be presenting the financial overview through the month ending April of 2022. I'll be covering revenue summaries for hunting and fishing license, state parks revenue, and boat registration and will conclude with budget adjustments through April.

This first slide is license revenue through April. For the month of April, we had -- we had $6.1 million giving us a year to date total of 96.3 million. The April total is 2 percent higher than the prior record year numbers. This next slide is a five-year comparison of license revenue. We're tracking pretty close to last year's record numbers. A slight falloff due to a reduction in our resident license sales and I'll go into a little bit more detail on this next slide.

This next slide is a two-year comparison of revenue by license type. Currently, we're 1.3 percent lower then we were in '21. Again, that difference is primarily due to a reduction in our resident license sales. Nothing to be worried about. Just we're comparing it to last year's record, but there is an offset in nonresident license sales and this is due to we have more relaxed travel restrictions in FY '22 versus '21. Basically, more people are traveling, accounting for just the slight increase.

Next I'll move on to state park revenues. For April, the 6 million is the second highest amount we've had in the last few years, with the highest being last year's record numbers, giving us a year-to-date total of 43.8 million and this is typically following the regular pattern as we move into the spring months. Next year is also a five-year comparison of state parks revenue. You'll notice FY '21 and '22 are tracking closely, with '21 being a record year and '22 tracking very close to it; but both years are outpacing the prior -- the prior pre-COVID years.

Next is a two-year comparison of state parks revenue. The main -- it's 1.2 percent higher than the previous year. The main driver being in the activities concession, you'll see a 30.4 percent increase, 828,000. This is just simply due to the fact that there's more available this year again versus last year's -- the COVID restrictions.

Next I'm moving on to boat revenues. We have a year-to-date total of 13.2 million and you'll see the upswing as we slide into the busy spring season for March and April. This is a typical pattern for the Agency. Next is a five-year comparison and again with license and state parks, we're comparing this year to last year's record year. So the decline is -- it looks like a steep decline versus last year; but if you look at FY '18 through '20, we're well exceeding those numbers. Again, '21 being kind of a unique year.

And next here is a two-year comparison of revenue. Revenues are roughly down by 11 percent across title sales. Again, comparing to '21, this is not unexpected.

Next I'll be covering our budget adjustments through April. As of February, we had an ending budget of 736.1 million. Since that time, we've had the following budget adjustment through April. The first category, we had an increase of $54.7 million. 43 million of that is due to Senate Bill 8 of the third called session. There was some additional federal funding appropriated to the Agency. Basically, 43 million in grants. 3 million of that is for the Texas State Aquarium. The remainder of that is an increase. We finally got our final wildlife restoration apportionment and so this adjusts those numbers up by 11 million to get to those totals.

The next category, appropriated receipts, these are various donations -- artificial reefs, interagency contacts -- to the tune of about 700,000. The next category, capital construction, this again is impacted by our wildlife restoration funding. About 4 million of that is for our local park grants out of that funding. And the remaining category is 4.4 million fringe. This is our retirement, insurance, Social Security. These adjustments are based on our monthly payroll expenditures, so it goes up or down depending on our salary adjustments, vacancies, different type of actions. And this gives us an adjusted budget at the end of April of 800 and 2 million.

This concludes my presentation. I'd be happy to take any questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Questions/comments from the Commission? Sorry. Questions, Commissioners, anybody?

Thank you, Reggie.

Work Session Item No. 3 is Internal Audit. Good morning, Brandy. You're up.

MS. MEEKS: Good morning, Chairman and Commissioners. For the record, my name is Brandy Meeks. I'm the Internal Audit Director. This morning I'd like to update you on the status of our fiscal year '22 internal audit plan, as well as recent external audits and assessments.

So the changes since our last Commission Meeting on this slide have to do with No. 1 under the IT and cybersecurity projects. As you will recall, we had to put the CAPS HR FR project on hold when our internal -- our IT auditor left the Agency. That is now back in process and we are currently in the planning phase with that project. We have 20 fiscal control audits on our plan this year. We had ten for state parks and ten for law enforcement offices. We have now completed seven of our state park fiscal control audits, one is in fieldwork, and two are in the quality assurance phase. So those will all be completed fairly soon, I'm hopeful, and we have also started our law enforcement office audits. One is in the fieldwork phase, one is in the reporting phase, and one is complete.

For special projects and administrative duties, No. 5 under special projects, we have spent some time assisting management in their responses to the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Grant Project from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. And I'm happy to say No. 2 under administrative duties, we have now filled all of our internal audit vacancies. Our IT auditor and our staff auditor -- thank you, Commissioner Bell -- will be starting at the beginning of the June. So we'll be fully staffed. I'm very excited.

And I also want to point out No. 3 under administrative duties, we will be starting our annual risk assessment process in the next few weeks. So you'll be getting more information about that soon.

As far as external audits and assessments, we do have four external audits going on right now. Two from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Civil Rights Review, as well as the Sport Fish Restoration -- Wildlife Sport Fish Restoration Program Grant Audit. That is wrapping up, as mentioned on the previous slide, it's in the reporting phase. The SAO is also conducting an audit of our capital assets. That's in the fieldwork stage. And the Comptroller is working on a dual employment desk audit.

Completed since the last time we met is the contract monitoring assessment performed by the SAO, which we got favorable ratings. And that concludes my presentation. I'm happy to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Brandy.

Commissioners, any questions?

Thank you.

MS. MEEKS: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Work Session Item No. 4, Advisory Committee Rules, Recommendation Adoption of Proposed Changes. Laura, good morning.

MS. CARR: Good morning. Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Laura Carr. I'm a staff attorney for the Department and my presentation this morning is on proposed amendments to the advisory committee rules, which will allow most of our advisory committees to continue for another four years.

Oh, let's see. So to give you a brief overview of the advisory committee structure, the Parks and Wildlife Code the authorizes the Chairman to appoint advisory committees to advise the Department on various issues and then these advisory committees are subject to additional requirements in the Government Code, one of which will includes lifespan restrictions.

So certain advisory committees are required by statute and those continue until that statutory requirement is abolished. However, for the other advisory committees, there is a four-year restriction on their lifespan unless they are extended by rule.

So TPWD currently has 14 advisory committees, two of which are required by statute and have no expiration date; but the remaining 12 advisory committees are currently set to expire on July 1st, 2022. So, therefore, these proposed amendments would extend the lifespan of those committees until July 1st, 2026, and then also extend the terms of recently appointed members to those committees.

So this is a list of the advisory committees that would be subject to continuation for another four years. So they relate to state parks, Bighorn sheep, migratory game birds, Mule deer, private lands, upland game birds, wildlife diversity, White-tailed deer, coastal resources, freshwater fisheries, urban outreach, and accessibility.

And then as I referenced earlier, these are the two advisory committees that are required by statute and currently do not have an expiration date. So they are not affected by these proposed amendments.

We received five comments on the proposed regulations, one of which was in favor, four of which were in opposition. For the comments that were opposed to the changes, one commenter stated that the White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee should be abolished. One commenter stated that the advisory committees do not represent the best interest of the public. One stated that committees do not protect private landowners. And then another appeared to be under the impression that advisory committees set or have authority over Department policy and that commenter would prefer that all advisory committees be replaced with new members.

So our recommendation is that we -- you adopt the regulation -- excuse me, the amendments to the regulations to extend the advisory committees for another four years and make other conforming changes. There we go. So that concludes my presentation, and I'm happy to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Laura.

Comments/questions by Commissioners?

COMMISSIONER FOSTER: I just have one quick one.

What is -- what does the Wildlife Diversity Advisory Board do?

MS. CARR: That is a good question and I will defer to our Wildlife Director John Silovsky, if he could answer.

MR. SILOVSKY: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, John Silovsky, Wildlife Division Director. So the Diversity Advisory Committee essentially covers all things nongame, you know, endangered species, species in need of greatest conservation. So all the stuff that we don't, you know, chase with a firearm, so.

COMMISSIONER FOSTER: Okay. So not the traditional diversity --

MR. SILOVSKY: No. Yeah, it's a wild -- it's a wildlife diversity. Nongame could be another name that you would --


MR. SILOVSKY: -- label that with.

COMMISSIONER FOSTER: I was just curious.



COMMISSIONER BELL: I have one. This is Commissioner Bell. I have one question for you. So by -- by this rule, this passage or the recommendation, then the 12 -- the 12 advisory committees that this refers to are basically up re-upped or extended through 2026, correct?

MS. CARR: Yes. They would be extended to July 1st, 2026. They're currently going to expire, if not extended, on July 1st, 2022.

COMMISSIONER BELL: Okay, thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Any other Commissioners questions?

No question, but a comment. Not withstanding the four comments that we got to the opposition, these advisory committees spend -- hundreds of people spend thousands of hours working and reporting ultimately to this Commission through this Agency and I think they provide an invaluable resource to us. So I fully support continuing these advisory committees for another four years. So I just want to -- I want to thank them and I know all the Commissioners feel the same for the time that they put into the committee, whether it be private lands, whether it be White-tail, whether it be Bighorn sheep. Regardless, they're all of great value to us.

Thank you, Laura.

MS. CARR: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: If there's no further questions, I'm going to place this item on Thursday's Commission agenda for public comment and action.

Work Session Item No. 5, Sunset Recommendations, Uniform Rules for Refusal to Issue or Renew Non-Recreational License/Permits, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register. Good morning, Kerry.

MS. SPEARS: Good morning. Good morning, Chairman and Commissioners. I am Kerry Spears, a Staff Attorney in the Legal Division here at the Department and I am presenting a request for permission to publish rules. The Sunset Advisory Committee adopted recommendations to improve TPWD's consistency and fairness when it comes to individuals and small business owners licensed or permitted by TPWD.

The recommendations include a directive to provide an opportunity for an informal review for non-recreational licenses and permits that do not have a statutory review process for the denial or renewal or issuance of those permits or licenses.

The proposed rules would implement the directive and recommendations, the licenses and permits affected, or those specifically identified by the Sunset Advisory Committee. The rules would create a formal process and guidelines to be used by staff in making the determination as to whether to issue or renew certain non-recreational licenses and permits. The decision to issue or renew would be based on the factors listed in the rules and some of those factors include criminal conduct, which the slide here shows the types of criminal conduct that would be considered, along with noncompliance with applicable administrative provisions of the license or the permit, as well as any debt that may be owed to the Department.

In addition, the decision is not automatic or permanent and future applications for those licenses or permits would not be directly affected by the decision. The rules will also provide an appeal process of a decision to deny or refuse issuance or renewal of a license or permit and those requirements would be set out by rule and include a deadline for the individual to request that hearing, a deadline for the Agency to set the hearing, the makeup of the hearing panel, as well as the criteria that would be used by the panel for that decision making.

Staff request permission to publish the proposed rules and conforming amendments in the Texas Register. And I am available for questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Commissioners, any questions for Ms. Spears?

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

MS. SPEARS: Okay, thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Work Session Item No. 6, Proposed Amendments to the Exotic Harmful or Potentially Harmful Fish, Shellfish, and Aquatic Plant Rules, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register, Ms. Monica McGarrity. Good morning, Monica. How are you?

MS. MCGARRITY: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name's Monica McGarrity and I'm the Senior Scientist for Aquatic Invasive Species in the Inland Fisheries Division. Today I'll be presenting on proposed amendments to the exotic harmful or potentially harmful fish, shellfish, and aquatic plants rules.

Aquatic invasive species harm ecosystems, recreation, the economy, and even human health and quality of life. Parks and Wildlife statutes establish prohibitions against activities involving exotic fish, shellfish, and aquatic plants and give the Commission the authority to regulate their legal possession and use. TPWD regulations for fish, shellfish, and aquatic plants, as is the case in most states, take the form of a prohibited species list and the primary focus of the list is prevention. Only a few of the listed species are allowed for use and the goal of the regulation is ultimately to prevent introduction or escape and subsequent impacts.

Under the current regulations, controlled exotic species permits may be issued for zoological display and there are currently 11 such permitted facilities, all of which are public zoos and aquariums. Public education in such facilities can play an important role in preventing introductions and spread of invasive exotic species by increasing awareness of invasive species and the problems they cause and in general, education on natural diversity is an important part of encouraging public interest in conservation.

Release of aquarium life for various reasons is a well-documented pathway for introductions of exotic species into public waters where they may become invasive and have harmful impacts on native ecosystems such as we've seen with the Suckermouth Armored catfish and the Lionfish that are now in Texas waters. The Department engages in public outreach to discourage such releases and provide information on alternatives to release. The Department's concern that the display of controlled exotic species in commercial and retail environments where animals and/or aquatic plants are sold to the public is problematic because it could result in public perception that the controlled exotic species on display in such environments, even if those specimens are not for sale, are appropriate, desirable, or lawful for hobbyists to obtain, which could, in turn, drive market demand for exotic species and pose additional threats to native species and ecosystems. Furthermore, enforcement of prohibition of sale of exotic species permitted for zoological display in such establishments would be difficult. And the goal of the proposed regulations is to aid in minimizing the risks posed by release of unwanted aquarium life.

Prior to January 2021, all permitted zoological facilities were required to be accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. This requirement was removed when these regulations were revised to allow nature centers or other educational facilities the opportunity to also educate the public on invasive species. However, we've determined there's a need to clarify the intent of these regulations that such permits would only be issued to bona fide educational facilities, which the Department considers the most appropriate vehicle for such educational efforts and not to commercial facilities.

The proposed rule changes would act in concert to define a zoological facility as a zoo, aquarium, nature center, or other similar facility that's open to the public, operated for the purpose of furthering scientific understanding, encouraging management and conservation, or furthering awareness and understanding of biology and does not engage in commercial or retail activities involving the sale of aquatic plants or animals and would stipulate issuance of permits only to such facilities.

Staff are requesting permission to publish the proposed changes in the Texas Register for public comment. That concludes my presentation, and I'd be happy to take any questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Commissioners, any questions for Monica?

COMMISSIONER BELL: Commissioner Bell, I have one. Just in regard to -- how -- what's our history or frequency of actually having issues with the release of species?

MS. MCGARRITY: Releases are a really common pathway for introduction of species. You know, if you look in the San Marcos and Comal Rivers, we have these Suckermouth Armored catfish, which are also called plecos or algae eaters in aquarium trade. You may have seen in the news hundreds of these being removed from just one area of the San Marcos River where they can cause impacts on the native wildlife and also erosion of the banks and destabilization of the banks. They're found in the Houston area.

We frequently encounter a variety of other aquarium species in the Houston area and bayous. We've had Lionfish that escaped potentially or were introduced from aquarium releases in Florida, the fastest finfish invasion in history spread all throughout the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, all the way down to the northern coast of South America and caused problems for reef fishes. I could go on. You know, there are other Crayfish in other states that have been introduced. It is really one of the most important pathways for invasive species introductions.

COMMISSIONER BELL: And is there any -- and how much litigation is involved in that? I mean, in terms of catching people that actually do it, I mean is this just one of those things that kind of becomes a -- it happens, but we don't -- we're not able to catch people who do it?

MS. MCGARRITY: It's one of those things that we really need to focus on regulatory actions, such as this, to prevent it because short of actually catching someone in the act of releasing the fish from an aquarium, it's nearly impossible to prove the source of those species once they're found in the wild.

COMMISSIONER BELL: And then this change also has no fiscal note, right?


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you. And also the educational part of it, I just -- you know, people decide they're tired of messing with their aquarium and they release them and have no idea of the potential impact that it makes.

Thank you, Monica.

If there's no further questions, I'll authorize staff to have publish the proposed changes in the Texas Register for the required public comment. Thank you.

Work Session Item No. 7, Public Hunting Program, Establishment of an Open Season on Public Hunting Lands and Approval of Public Hunting Activities in State Parks. Kevin, good morning.

MR. MOTE: Good morning, Chairman Aplin, Commissioners, Mr. Smith. For the record, my name is Kevin Mote and I'm the Private Lands and Public Hunting Program Director in the Wildlife Division. Each year we come to you in May requesting your consideration and approval of a couple of items related to the public hunting program.

First, I will ask for your approval to establish an open season on public hunting lands for the upcoming season. And second, I will ask for your approval of specific public hunting activities on the proposed units of the state park system for the upcoming season.

In order to provide hunting activities on public hunting land, the Commission must provide for an open season. Tomorrow, I will ask for your approval to establish an open season on public hunting lands that will run from September 1st, 2022, to August 31st, 2023. The Commission will also be asked to approve specific hunting activities on the proposed units of the state park system, which are included in your briefing materials. Staff propose hunts on 49 units of the state park lands for the 2022-23 season. There are a total of 1,406 proposed hunt positions -- golly. I'm very sorry.

There are a total of 1,406 proposed hunt positions, of which 437 are youth positions. This proposal will provide for eight -- for 54 hunt groups which can be compromised from one to four hunters.

So tomorrow I'll be back to present these two motions for your consideration and approval. And I'm available for questions if you have any.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Commissioners, questions for Kevin?

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

Thank you.

Work Session Item No. 8, Comprehensive Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) Management Rules, Triple T Provisions, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes, Mr. Alan Cain. Good morning, Alan.

MR. CAIN: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name's Alan Cain. I'm the White-tailed Deer Program leader in the Wildlife Division. This morning I'll be presenting proposed changes to the Trap, Transport -- Transport and Transplant Permit.

As the Commission recall, I presented this presentation in January and March and at the direction of the Commission, staff are coming back with a revised proposal with some suggested changes from the March meeting that the Commission provided.

So as reminder to the Commission and those folks in the audience or listening online, the Triple T Permit issuance was very active in 2015; but it's since declined since that date as a result of discovery of CWD in the South/Central Texas area. After taking a look at the number of properties that are trapping deer, as well as releasing deer, the Commission may recall that most trap sites are high-fenced and they have trapped deer only once in the last six years. In fact, there's only 12 percent of the trap sites that have trapped deer four or more times out of the last six years.

Additionally, most of the release sites are high-fenced and they've only released deer once in the last six years. Most of the low-fence release sites are occurring in the western Edwards Plateau where we have periodic anthrax outbreaks and landowners are using the Triple T Permit as a tool to restore those deer populations to those areas where they've had significant mortality events.

So with considerable input from this Commission, as well as our advisory committees, staff are seeking adoption of the proposed changes, noting that the provisions in that gray font that are currently in rule would still remain in effect. And so proposed changes would include prohibiting Triple T from the following sites: So any property within 5 miles of an epi-linked deer breeder facility until movement qualified status is returned or a property within 10-mile radius of a deer breeder release site that's subject to a hold order or quarantine until that property has been released from that hold order or quarantine or any site that the Department deems as an unacceptable risk based on the epidemiological assessment of that property. And this last provision gives the Department flexibility to make individual assessments of those properties that may pose a risk for spreading CWD, but that don't meet these previously mentioned categories.

Acknowledging that some trap sites within these buffer areas will be low risk for having CWD present, staff are proposing a mechanism to potentially authorize these properties as a Triple T trap site based on a Department disease risk assessment of that site so we can insure that adequate CWD surveillance measures are in place to detect disease should it be present in that population on that property. Landowners or permittees would need to agree in writing to the testing standards or CWD management actions prior to approval as a Triple T trap site.

So with regards to Triple T CWD testing requirements, staff are proposing several items and the first being to define a testing year being from April 1 of one year to March 31 of the following year and this is necessary to define when samples are collected and what time period they apply. Now all trap sites will be required to submit 60 not-detected postmortem tests and these samples may be collected in the current permit year or -- for which the permit's sought -- or over multiple years. But if samples are collected over a multiyear period, then the trap site would need a minimum of 15 not-detected postmortem tests each year. And then for prospective trap sites that receive breeder deer at any time, CWD testing requirements to achieve that 60 not-detected tests shall not begin any sooner than five years from the last release of a breeder deer on that property.

So again, based on input and direction from this Commission at the March meeting, staff are proposing to require antemortem testing on any deer being moved to a release site. These antemortem samples would be required to be submitted to the lab within seven days of collection and also deer would be able to be moved to the release site prior to receiving test results since there's no really practical way to detain these free-ranging deer until we receive those results back from the lab. And so for any antemortem test that provides results of insufficient follicles, staff are also proposing for that trap site -- or to require that trap site to provide a not-detected postmortem test at the trap site to make up for that insufficient follicle test result and the postmortem test must be collected and results provided prior to the issuance of a Triple T Permit or a new Triple T Permit for the upcoming year.

Staff are also proposing to allow deer to be temporarily detained in an enclosure at the release site pending test results and then once those results are in, then the deer would be need to be immediately released from that enclosure.

So once a trap site has achieved that initial CWD testing requirements of 60 samples, they would need to -- if they want to continue to trap, they need to collect 15 postmortem not-detected tests each year to retain that status. If a trap site falls short of that number on any given year, to regain that trap site status again, they must start over by providing 60 postmortem not-detected results to obtain that initial status. Staff are also proposing that a clearly visible Department ear tag be required. Essentially a bangle tag like you'd see on cattle, sheep, or goats. Again, the visible ID would aid in locating specific deer on release sites should some reason be needed to find that deer in the future and in current practices, most Triple T trap sites and release sites are already putting these bangle tags on the deer so they can ID them at the release sites so they're not inadvertently harvested on that release site.

The proposal would also require CWD testing for any trap site, including when Triple T occurs between adjacent pastures on the property under the same ownership. And staff know that in most cases, these are independent populations because most of these trap sites are high-fenced and so they're, you know, essentially two different populations. However, in the event when the trap site is unable to meet the 60 not-detected tests, then the Department may approve that trap site, provided the permittee and the traps owner agree in writing to testing standards or other CWD management strategies prior to approval as a Triple T trap site.

And lastly, staff are proposing that any mortalities that occur during the trapping or transporting process, those deer be disposed of at a trap site or at a Type 1 landfill to limit the potential spread for CWD to other areas through carcasses and also any mortality that occurs during that trap or transport process would also require to be tested as well.

So today, I just looked this morning, it was up to 162 total responses. It's still about the same percent, 3 percent agree and 97 percent disagree with the entire proposal or specific parts of it. The Department's received letters of opposition from the Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society and the Texas Wildlife Association. Again, both these organizations indicated their support for the program; but felt it was premature to reinstate Triple T until we had a rapid CWD test result in place that would provide results before movement of those deer to the release site and ultimately released.

The Texas Deer Association also provided a letter generally in opposition, but supported the Triple T. They were pleased with staff and the Commission's response providing parity and CWD testing requirements between deer breeder and Triple T in the form of antemortem tests as we've talked about. However, they note in light of the current backlog of antemortem testing at the TVMDL, the vet lab at College Station, TDA believes that antemortem testing requirements for Triple T will place additional strain on the lab and the backlog of antemortem testing that we're currently experiencing. So the Deer Association suggests that antemortem testing be removed from any herd or pasture not linked to a CWD positive facility to alleviate these backlog issues.

Additionally, the Deer Association believes that the RFID button tag that's currently required is sufficient to provide visible ID for the deer and that a bangle tag is redundant with that requirement that's currently in place. We also see -- received a letter from the Deer Breeders Corporation, again appreciative of the Commission, the staff including antemortem testing for that parity between breeders and Triple T; but they were in opposition of, again, the ear tag requirement, stating that it was redundant to the current RFID button tag that should be visible.

So there was a number of reasons for disagreement that we received online or had phone calls or e-mails from folks and there was -- the majority of individuals state it was premature to reinstate the Triple T Program until we know more about CWD or primarily until we have CWD testing technology that can provide a rapid result prior to moving those deer or releasing those deer. There was some concern for releasing deer into low-fence property, noting that those deer would be difficult to retrieve if it was necessary to do so. And then we had another group of commenters -- it's about a third, the ones that actually provided a comment -- that thought that proposed rules were too burdensome. That they would essentially kill the permit because no one would want to meet these stringent testing requirements and one individual indicated that because that potential for very few folks using this, because the requirements, that it would create a financial loss for these Triple T capture companies. We had several stated that the increased testing requirements for both postmortem and antemortem testing was too difficult or too much and we also had one individual that we received a phone call from that he had concerns about the welfare of the deer during the antemortem testing process at the trap site, thinking that it might be too stressful on the animals or they would have some capture related -- capture that the -- related deaths as a result of the antemortem testing.

And that concludes my presentation. I'll be happy to answer any questions at this time.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Alan.

Commissioners, let's have -- let's have some discussion. When I look at these facts, we have 97 percent of the comments approximately are opposed. The majority of them are just opposed in general, it's premature allowing the release. And then -- and then the pro-Triple T are opposed to the restrictions that we're suggesting to get this done. So we're kind of -- we're in a place where we're not finding much consensus from anybody on this Triple T.

We made the commitment to bring this back to look at it. I believe it's a great tool. But we're certainly not getting much support from the stakeholders on this thing. So I'd like to kind of hear some of y'all's thoughts on Triple T and the concept of taking staff's recommendation in view of the overwhelming concern by our constituents or not. So anybody have any thoughts?

Commissioner Hildebrand.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Thank you. Commissioner Hildebrand. So lots -- lots of regulation here and I understand the need for the regulation, but -- but you are effectively going to negate anyone from using Triple T. You're going to have to have a PhD in, you know, wildlife biology and law practices to not become awry of regulation. I mean, so to try to dumb this down, any site that you Triple T off of is to have to have a minimum of 60 postmortem tests that are negative from the previous five years?

MR. CAIN: (Nods head affirmatively).

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: So can you kill 60 deer in one year and then submit those numbers and that gets you approval?

MR. CAIN: Yeah. So it would actually be in the last four years because you have to -- you can collect 60 samples in the current permit year if you need to -- you know, if that's the first year you're getting started, you could do that. Or if you're going to collect over multiple years, you would need a minimum of 15 samples per year to meet that 60. So you're talking at least four years to meet that requirement. And I'll just make a point again on that second slide, on the table there, there's only a handful of people that Triple T regularly, that are the trap sites out there that are going to be close to meeting that 60 right now. And then if most people are only Triple T'ing once over the last six years, they're probably I suspect not going to -- not going to go to that trouble to meet the 60 test requirements to move a handful of deer. So there will just be a few of these places I suspect that --


MR. CAIN: -- are consistent --

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: -- I don't quite understand all of the biology behind this as to why you need 60 deer, why you need to test 15 per year, why every deer then has got to be antemortem tested when you move it from point A to point B, that you can't move deer from contiguous properties from one to the other without all of these testing requirements. There may be tremendous value in -- in the prevention of CWD the through all of those regulations; but I will tell you, you are effectively going to render Triple T invalid because no one is going to go through this. I mean, you're going to have to be in a position to where you're moving 500, a thou -- you know, 600 deer. I mean, there's only a handful of ranches that have that number of deer.

And so I'm not sure, Mr. Chairman, what the solution is here; but these regulations seem incredibly cumbersome to me and I just don't believe that the Triple T Program is going to be used when you have to apply all of these very specifics.


Other Commissioners?

COMMISSIONER ROWLING: Commissioner Rowling. I don't disagree with you, Jeff. The combination of the massive opposition that we clearly received and feedback, the lack of the number of the number of permits that are using this anyway, there are such few people who are using it, the backlog at the vet lab that we're currently experiencing, and the hope of a rapid test at some point which would make this program effective -- which who knows when that would be -- but hopefully that's available before too long. I don't know. It just seems that maybe it should be tabled for a period of time.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Blake.

James, you had -- Commissioner Abell?

COMMISSIONER ABELL: Commissioner Rowling said everything I was going to say, probably better than I was going to say it. So I second.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Anybody else?

COMMISSIONER BELL: I in with -- I agree with the last -- Commissioner Bell. I agree with the last two comments. My concern was with the amount of time it takes to have testing done because it doesn't -- it doesn't seem to make this viable. You know, I had a rule that sometimes I did with people that I would work with. I very seldom tell people no; but sometimes if I wanted to do something, I gave them the short process. Other times, if I wanted -- if I didn't want them to do something, I gave them the long process and it was an endurance test and if they actually would go through all through those steps, then I felt like, well, they deserved to be able to do that. But, you know, we're not trying to doing to do that by design, I don't think. We're trying to do something that provides for the greater public good and safety. So it seems like we're in kind of a tough spot here and we might need to just slow our roll a bit.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Commissioner Hildebrand?

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Just one last comment. Don't take my comments as negative towards the Commission at all. I applaud -- I applaud the efforts of what staff has done and you're trying to find a conclusion and a solution to a complex problem and so you've done your best work here. Understand it. I just believe it is too cumbersome for the standard landowner and as to the previous Commissioners' comments, I would be for tabling it and really not bringing Triple T back if we're going to have to apply these cumbersome regulations and maybe readdress this in another year or so.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Jeff. And you brought up something, the cumbersome along with the views and the views are all over the place. So we have ranchers, from individuals. We have from the Wildlife Association. We have from the Wildlife Society. And then the things that I never thought would be an issue because we're contemplating a great tool of moving deer, transporting deer; but also being able to go identify them, but we have absolute disagreement from the Deer Breeder Corporation and the Deer Breeder Association on the floppy yellow tag and one of them comments that we think this is a great tool, but let's don't do now. But then the other ones only comments is just the tag, which I would have thought would have been universally agreed that it would be a great thing for this and so we can't even find consensus on that.

So thank y'all. I wanted to have this conversation. I feel like we're trying to put a square peg in a round hole. And I want to go on record. I think Triple T is one of the greatest tools of deer management there is, but in this day and time of CWD and all the issues, it looks like it's maybe too big a hill to climb.

So if there's no further questions, I am not going to put this on Thursday's agenda and save all the people that wanted to come, the 150 some-odd people that may want to come speak to this. So hopefully they get the message we won't put it on the agenda.

Is that okay, James?

Carter, is that fine?

MR. SMITH: Yes, it is, Chairman. Yep, we'll make those accommodations. Thanks. We'll try to get the word out that it's not going to be on the agenda tomorrow and I suspect that will get out pretty quickly.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: And I want to echo Commissioner Hildebrand. Alan, you and your group did amazing work trying to get where you thought we wanted to find, which was a compromise for this tool. So thank y'all for that. This has absolutely nothing to do with that. It's just overwhelming opposition. I say we look at this another day and hopefully we have better tools to reinstate this Triple T Program in the future. So thank you, Alan.

MR. CAIN: Thank you. I appreciate that. And it's a complicated issue, so I appreciate the Commission considering everything.


We're going to move on to Work Session Item No. 9. We're still on Chronic Waste Disease (CWD) Detection and Response Rules, Containment and Surveillance Zone Boundaries, Request Permission to Publish Propose Changes in the Texas Register, Mitch Lockwood. Good morning, Mitch.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Mitch Lockwood. I'm the Big Game Program Director. This morning staff seek permission to publish proposed amendments to our disease detection and response rules, which would establish one new containment zone, one new surveillance zone, and would expand one existing containment zone and one existing surveillance zone.

To refresh your memories, this slide illustrates our existing CWD zones in the State of Texas. The containment zones, which are shaded in red, are the areas where CWD is known to exist. And the surveillance zones, which are shaded in yellow, are areas where staff believe are at relatively high risk for CWD.

The requirements imposed on hunters are the same for both the containment and the surveillance zones and those include mandatory sampling of hunter-harvested deer and carcass movement restrictions, which basically means that a carcass must be quartered before the hunter returns home from the deer lease and, of course, leaving those more risky carcass parts behind at the site of harvest.

We established check stations where harvests must bring their harvested deer and we collect samples for CWD testing. This, of course, is how most of the CWD positives in free-ranging deer populations have been detected in this state. There are also restrictions on the movements of live deer from the these zones with most restrictions applying to the containment zones.

You might recall that CWD was detected in a permitted deer breeding facility in Kimble County in February of 2020. A surveillance zone was established in response to that detection and after two years of mandatory testing requirements, we are proposing a slight expansion to that surveillance zone to incorporate the City of Junction, which would allow hunters to legally transport whole carcasses to deer processing facilities rather than having to quarter those animals first.

Also in response to the unfortunate detection of CWD on the release site that is immediately adjacent to that CWD positive deer breeding facility and that detection being this last season in two different harvested animals, staff propose to establish a containment zone, which would include properties within 2 miles of the boundary of the property where CWD was detected. This 2-mile buffer strategy is consistent with the strategy that has been used in Medina and Uvalde Counties for the past few two years.

Next we'll move the Duval County in South Texas where CWD was detected in another permitted deer breeding facility last summer. You might recall that this detection was a result of antemortem testing after the emergency rules were adopted to increase antemortem testing requirements for many deer breeding facilities. After that detection, we conducted outreach efforts to significantly increase surveillance in that immediate area last season; but those efforts did not produce the surveillance that we were hoping for and, therefore, staff propose to establish a surveillance zone in that area to include all land between Highway 44 to the south, Highway 16 to the west, FM 624 to the north, and U.S. Highway 281 to the east, and to include the cities of Alice in the southeast corner and Freer in the southwest corner, which again would allow hunters to legally transport whole carcasses to deer processing facilities.

Finally, we'll move to Medina and Uvalde Counties where we've been battling CWD for the past seven years. We've had a containment zone and a surveillance zone established there for the past few years and the surveillance zone was expanded to the west last year in response to the detection of CWD in two additional deer breeding facilities. Unfortunately, CWD was detected in new locations in the northern and southern ends of this containment zone, necessitating another expansion of this zone as shown as on shown on this slide before you.

Commissioners, that concludes my presentation. I'll be glad to entertain any questions that you might have.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Commissioners, questions for Mitch?

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Hildebrand. So tell me again. Give me the definition between containment and surveillance zones.

MR. LOCKWOOD: So containment zone in an area in which the disease has been detected. A surveillance zone is an area in which the disease has not yet been detected, but staff believe is still at relatively high risk for CWD. An area where we believe that additional surveillance is necessary in order to provide enough confidence that CWD is not, indeed, within that zone.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: And so specifically, if a deer is harvested in a surveillance zone, then it's got to be tested?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Yes, that's what we propose.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: And if a deer is harvested in a containment zone, what happens there?

MR. LOCKWOOD: So again the rules for hunters are the same whether you're in a containment zone or surveillance zone. They both -- in both zones you have mandatory testing requirements and you have carcass movement restrictions. The difference really between the zones has to do with the movement of live animals. More restrictions being applied to containment zones than surveillance zones.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Containment zones you cannot move any live animals in and out of a containment zone, correct?

MR. LOCKWOOD: That is correct. Deer breeders can move deer within a containment zone, but not out of a containment zone.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Intra, okay. Got -- okay, okay. In -- in a surveillance zone, you can move live deer in and out, but it's a different standard for testing?

MR. CAIN: Deer breeders can move deer in and out, but if -- in the past with the Triple T Program, deer could not be Triple T'ed out of a surveillance zone.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Okay, thank goodness that's off the table. Thank you. Thank you very much.

COMMISSIONER BELL: Commissioner Bell. I just have one question. I guess it's on the graphic representation. There are a couple -- like on this Medina/Uvalde slide, there are a couple of spots where essentially the containment zone boundary and the surveillance zone boundary are apparently the same. It would seem like the surveillance zone boundary would extend beyond the containment zone boundary. So I only look at that from the graphically representation. And is there -- does that seem to have any point to rational there?

MR. LOCKWOOD: I think that's a good observation, Commissioner Bell. I suspect that this will be one of the topics that we discuss at our next CWD Task Force meeting, looking at the delineation for that surveillance zone as a whole there in the Medina and Uvalde County area. I suspect there may be some discussion about some potential expansion of that to provide some more buffer, if you will, around that containment zone.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Commissioners, any other questions for Mitch or comments?

If none, I'll authorize staff to publish proposed changes in the Texas Register for the required public commenting period.

Thank you, Mitch.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Work Session Item No. 10, Statewide Hunting Proclamation Correction of an Error, Squirrel Season, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register. John Silovsky, good morning.

MR. SILOVSKY: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. Again, John Silovsky, Wildlife Division Director. Standing in for Mr. Oldenburger today. Today staff will be requesting permission to publish proposed changes to the Texas Register regarding the opening date of squirrel season in East Texas.

You may recall that previously we mod -- oop, sorry about that -- we modified existing squirrel regulations to include an opportunity to hunt squirrels on a statewide basis. During that effort, there was a transcription error that omitted the traditional date for squirrel season in East Texas. The opening dates were accurate online. They were accurate in the Outdoor Annual and listed as intended there and so this is just a clean-up item to get the documentation back in place to make it very clear that when the squirrel season opens in East Texas. During this timeframe when this error existed, there have been no citations issued for any violations of hunting out of season.

So with that, any questions on what we're trying to accomplish here?

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Commissioners, any questions for John about the correction? This is merely a correction. Any questions for John?

Hearing none, I'll authorize staff to publish proposed changes in the Texas Register for the required public commenting period.

John, thank you.

We're going to Work Session Item 13 through 23? Obviously not.

MR. SMITH: I think this is No. 11 and Craig is going to stand in for Shaun. This has to do with the old Cormorant rules.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: I made need a little help. I don't have any 11 paperwork.

MR. SMITH: You don't have any 11 paperwork? Okay.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Good morning. You're on -- you're on the hot seat.

MR. BONDS: Good morning, Mr. --


MR. BONDS: Good morning, Mr. Chairman and fellow Commissioners. For the record, I'm Craig Bonds, Director of the Inland Fisheries Division and I'm kind of pinch hitting for Shaun Oldenburger who couldn't be here today. This particular issue crosscuts the Wildlife and Fisheries discipline, so I've been operating fairly close to this issue for the past several years, so it's kind of natural to get a tap on the shoulder to stand in this morning.

So what staff would -- are here to accomplish today is to request permission from the Commission to publish changes in the Texas Register relevant Cormorant control permits.

Little background. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a public resource depredation order back in 2003 and that was in place up until 2016 and subsequent to that, the -- this Commission approved in August of 2004 our ability to receive a permit from the Service and then transfer that authority to subpermittees in order to take Cormorants that are depredating and that -- those subpermittees largely consisted of private landowners in Texas that maybe experiencing or did experience depredation by Cormorants on intensively managed depredation by Cormorants on intensively managed private recreational fisheries. The idea there is those -- these birds are highly mobile, migratory. They feed on both public resources and privately managed resources.

Due to litigation that was brought by a bird conservation group back in 2016, that depredation order was vacated in federal court and so as a consequence, TPWD lost our authority to issue those permits to subpermittees across the state. So currently, we have no legal authority to have or issue Cormorant control permits.

Staff recommend repealing Section 65.901 of the Administrative Code to remain consistent with federal relations. And I just want to remind the Commission that both Wildlife staff and Fisheries staff, including myself, are staying engaged on this issue to try to inform the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service so that they have a situational awareness and we can help inform them on the status of conflicts across the country; but in our case specific to Texas. And those bird and fish related conflicts are both localized and at large spatial scales, they can be very acute in nature from a temporal standpoint or they can be very chronic over long periods of time. So helping the Service understand the status of those conflicts, they are undergoing a five-year iterative adaptive management rule-making process. So they issued some new rules back in February of 2021 that enabled states to acquire permits to take lethally take Cormorants that are depredating on publicly accessible and publicly managed fisheries, but that doesn't extend to privately managed recreational fisheries.

So in a five-year iterative process, you know, there is a chance that that rule-making authority may be extended to private landowners in the future; but we will continue to engage with the Service in the interim.

So with that, that concludes my presentation. I'd be happy to take any questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Craig.

Any questions from Commissioners?

To be clear, we've lost this ability through the federal courts. So we're just removing it from the books. It serves no purpose. We can't do anything with the old authorization anyway, so we're just cleaning up our work -- words.

MR. BONDS: That's correct.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Craig.

If there's no further questions, I'll authorize staff to publish proposed changes in the Texas Register for the required public commenting period.

Work Session Item No. 12, Implementation of Legislation During the 87th Texas Legislative Session, House Bill 1728, Relating to Partnership Between Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Nonprofit Entities to Promote Hunting and Fishing by Certain Veterans, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register. Welcome again, John.

MR. SILOVSKY: Good morning again, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is John Silovsky, Wildlife Division Director. Today staff will be requesting permission to publish changes in the Texas Register that will provide for the implementation of House Bill 1728.

This bill provides an additional opportunity to promote hunting and fishing by veterans. Through this legislation, the Department may select one or more nonprofit partners to provide these opportunities. Similar to Department collaboration with other nonprofit partners, this process is regulated by the Commission.

I'll figure this out sooner or later.

Staff's recommendation would include a three-year partnership. The hunting will occur on private lands. The fishing could occur on both private and public waters. With the exception of license and tagging requirements, all other regulations would apply and staff would also recommend that the solicitation of the nonprofit profit partners be through an RF3 process -- RFP process that occurs online.

I don't get along with this thing very good.

The recommendations for the nonprofit partner criteria would include the items that you see here on the slide. Participant information, proof of veteran status, et cetera, would be provided to the Department to document these efforts and I want to emphasize that through this process and this opportunity to essentially to hunt without a license, it would not exempt participants from other requirements such as a federal duck stamp.

With that, I'd be glad to try and address any questions as it relates to this opportunity for veterans.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Commissioners, any question for John?

COMMISSIONER BELL: Commissioner Bell. I have one. Just for -- sorry about that. I'm Commissioner Bell. The -- for clarity, it is veterans? It's not any active duty or -- because sometimes when we say "veteran," we also include active duty. So I'm just asking that question for clarity.

MR. SILOVSKY: I believe it would active duty. I mean, currently there's provisions already for active duty. You know they receive free or reduced licenses. So this is just a supplement to that effort, you know; but I do believe it does it include active duty, but I'll clarify that if I'm incorrect.

COMMISSIONER BELL: And then along with that if -- because if it --

MR. SILOVSKY: No? Mr. Wolf says no.

MR. WOLF: For the record, Clayton Wolf, Chief Operating Officer. And I think James, our General Counsel, agrees; but as we're looking at this, you know, we're having to work directly from the legislation that authorizes this and it speaks specifically to veterans. Makes no mention of active duty.

COMMISSIONER BELL: Yeah, and the reason why I was asking, especially because of residency, because you can be active and not live here or be a resident, so you could -- if you were visiting, you could do -- so I just wanted to make sure on the rule. So it's someone who's completed their service?



MR. SILOVSKY: And as I mentioned, I think we have opportunities to cover those people either way.

COMMISSIONER BELL: There are -- there are opportunities for active duty military to do that. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Good -- good question, Oliver.

Anybody -- Commissioners, any others?

If not, I'll authorize staff to publish propose changes in the Texas Register for the required public comment period.

We are now at Work Session 13, correct?

Work Session Item No. 13 through 23 will be heard in Executive Session.

At this time I'd like to announce that pursuant to the requirements of Chapter 551 Government Code referred to as the Open Meeting Act, an Executive Session will be held at this time for the purpose of deliberation of real estate matters under Section 551.072 of the Open Meeting Act and seeking legal advice under Section 551.071 of the Open Meeting Act, including advice regarding pending and contemplating litigation -- contemplated.

We will now recess for Executive Section at 10:36 a.m. We'll be back as fast as we can. Thank you.

(Recess taken for Executive Session)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: All right, everybody. We're going to reconvene the Work Session on May 25th, 2022, at 12:26 p.m.

Before I begin, I'm going to take roll call. Aplin present.







CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay. Thank y'all for waiting. We will now return from Executive Session where we discussed the Work Session Real Estate Items 13 through 22 and Litigation Item 23.

If there's no further questions, I will place Items No. 13 through 22 on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Regarding Item No. 23, there's no further action needed at this time.

Commissioners, any -- anybody have any needs, if not, Mr. Smith this Commission has completed its Work Session business. I declare us adjourned at 12:28 p.m.

MR. SMITH: Great. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

(Work Session 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


TPW Commission Meetings