TPW Commission

Work Session, August 25, 2021


TPW Commission Meetings


August 25, 2021






CHAIRMAN APLIN: Good morning, everyone. Thank y'all for coming for the Wednesday Work Session, August 25th, Texas Parks and Wildlife.

Before we get started I'm going to do a roll call of Commissioners present. So we'll just go down the line. One Commissioner, Commissioner Abell, is not able to attend. He's ill at the moment, but I understand we have him by telephone. So I believe he can hear and I believe he can ask questions. So I'll start it off. Aplin present.






CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay. I actually spoke with Commissioner Bell. He's traveling, but he does believe that he will be here for the -- for the Public Hearing this afternoon. So he's making an effort to get here as soon as he can.

This meeting's called to order August 25th, 2021, at 9:12 a.m.

Before proceeding with any business, I believe Mr. Smith has a public statement to make.

MR. SMITH: I do. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, 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.

Mr. Chairman, I'd like for this fact to be noted in the official record of the meeting. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Carter.

Just a little organization here. We're going to hear Item No. 7, the Briefing of Chronic Wasting Disease Rules before Item No. 6, Chronic Wasting Disease Detection and Response Rules, Containment and Surveillance Zone Boundaries.

Also as a reminder, as you come up, please announce your name before you speak and speak slowly so the court reporter can catch it.

The first order of business for the Commission is the approval of minutes from the prior Work Session held May 26th, which have been distributed. Do I have a motion by a Commissioner?


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Motion by Scott. Second?


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Foster second.

All in favor say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Opposed? Hearing none, the motion carries.

Next, we have Work Session Item No. 1. It's the Update on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's Progress in Implementing the Texas Parks and Wildlife Land and Water Resource Conservation and Recreation Plan. Carter.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. Again, for the record, my name is Carter Smith with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. I appreciate the chance to share a few words this morning about various and sundry things going on with the Agency. Just as is customary, I'll start with a quick Internal Affairs update.

Really two kind of take-home things I want all of you to know. First is we'll have the annual report to y'all prior to the November Commission that summarizes all of the complaints and cases that our Internal Affairs team dealt with over the past year and so for the new Commissioners, you'll get a very good summary of, again, that team's work and so, again, expect that prior to the November Commission Meeting; but they've done a terrific job and, of course, we've got Mark Hammonds here in the front row who can certainly speak to that, but we look forward to getting you that report.

Secondly, probably the biggest update was the selection of Jarret Barker as our Assistant Commander of the Internal Affairs team. Jarret, of course, is no stranger to any of you, having recently served as our Assistant Commander of our Fisheries Enforcement. You know, he's been with us for almost 20 years as a game warden. He was with the Corps of Engineers for about eight years prior to that. He served in Central Texas, served down on the coast down in Brownsville and he's been a Sergeant, a Lieutenant Game Warden, and then Assistant Commander working on Fisheries related issues and working very closely with Robin and Craig's teams on a various fishing related concerns coming in front of the Commission.

So we're excited about Jarret's selection. Had a very competitive pool for that position, as you might imagine; but do want to welcome him to the Internal Affairs team and he's just fit right in. So kudos to him.

Next thing, just want to share little accolades about Shannon Grubbs. Shannon's a Wildlife biologist for us down in Victoria and she works every day with those farmers and ranchers down in Refugio and Goliad and Victoria and Calhoun Counties. And of course as y'all know, that's where the rubber hits the road for us as our biologists working for closely providing technical assistance to private landowners who are interested in wildlife related concerns on their farms and ranches. And I was thrilled to see that Shannon was selected by the Victoria County Soil and Water Conservation District, which of course is comprised of producers that are concerned about soil and water and wildlife and land and ranch land health and watershed health and so forth as their Conservationist of the Year. So kudos to Shannon for that selection and for being such a great representative for us locally there along the Gulf Coast and down in South Texas. Proud of her for that.

Speaking of recognition, our Coastal Fisheries team got a well-deserved bit of recognition for the best scientific paper coming out of the American Fisheries Society. You know, our fisheries biologists are well-known for the quality of their science and not only longitudinally in terms of all of the data that they collect out in the bays and estuaries and the Gulf, but also about various and sundry research related proposals that they pursue and ultimately many of those are published in peer review journals. And so Heaven, a group of colleagues from our Coastal Fisheries team who partnered with some researchers at Texas Southmost College down in Brownsville, a colleague at the Fish and Wildlife Service, and then somebody up in Oklahoma with the Fish and Wildlife COOP Unit for some work on snook and particularly looking at various taxonomic and demographic and genetic characteristics of snake -- of snake -- of snoop -- scoop -- what am I saying? What's the name of that fish? Yeah, yeah, clearly I'm not fishing enough. That's awfully clear -- of snook here in the northern part of their range down in South Texas.

It was a nice honor for them to get the best paper. So kudos and I think we had three colleagues, Dakus, that were part of that research effort, Joel Anderson and Damon Williford and Fernando Martinez-Andrade, that was were selected for that. So, again, kudos to -- kudos to them.

Back in June, we graduated the 64th Game Warden State Park Police Officer Academy class and we had 43 officers that graduated. About three-quarters of them are game wardens and the quarter were state park police officers and that was wonderful ceremony by all accounts. Commissioner Bell made it to Hamilton to help celebrate that day, which was such a proud and momentous day for our officers as they completed a very rigorous seven-month academy at the -- at the Game Warden Academy there in Hamilton. All of those officers are, of course, now out in their duty stations around the state, whether they're based in a county or at a park; but be assured they're getting excellent -- or they got excellent training and excited about them joining our team as officers and look forward to y'all having a chance meet those men and women out serving the state in the field.

Along those lines, this is a pretty special year for us for our State Park Police. It's the 50th anniversary of that Law Enforcement team for the Agency. We hired and commissioned our first dozen State Park police officers back in 1971 and, you know, their work then to help ensure public safety inside the parks and to protect these irreplaceable natural and cultural resources inside the state parks is every bit as important, if not more so now, than it was then. And so we've got an extraordinary team of 140 State Park police officers that serve all over the state helping to protect these very special places in 89 parks around the state. These officers are, you know, fully commissioned police officers, have all the authorities as our game wardens do to enforce the Penal Code and the Water Safety Code and the Parks and Wildlife Code. And, again, they're there to make sure the 8, 9, 10 million people that come to state parks to make memories are going to have a safe time there. They're also there to ensure that those irreplaceable resources that we have the privilege of stewarding and whether it's Enchanted Rock or, you know, pictographs at Seminole Canyon are going to be preserved and not damaged by people who seek to do harm to those resources and it's a wonderful group of men and women that serve the state and advance conservation in the park.

I want to congratulate Chief Wes Masur who leads that very talented team of officers. Again, keeping our parks safe where people can make memories. So proud of that 50th anniversary and that major milestone for our State Park Police and we have a number of our State Park police officers that are with us today and so, again, extraordinarily proud of their effort in this important milestone in their and long, long tenure with the Department. Look forward to the next 50 years of their service.

Next thing I want to talk about is the just a quick update on the oyster mariculture permit. Obviously, the Commission has spent a lot of time thinking about working on oyster conservation related issues in the bays and you will recall, obviously, that with the support of the Legislature last year, the Commission launched this new oyster mariculture related permit and that program has been led by Dr. Emma Clarkson, who will have a chance to give a presentation to y'all shortly on some oyster reef restoration related work that we've been supporting there in Galveston and Aransas Bays; but she's helped to really stand up this program and we've got our first two permittees that made it through this. One of whom, Brad Lomax, some of y'all may a recall from Corpus whose family has the Water Street Restaurant that was a big proponent of the creation of this program was the first authorized permittee, I guess, Emma, there at the end of July and he's got an 8-acre oyster farm that he's now standing up there in Copano Bay.

And then another a lady, Hannah Kaplan, received a permit to create a 10-acre oyster mariculture site there in East Galveston Bay. And we've got another 10 or 12 or so, I guess, in the pipeline, Emma, that are working through the process and at the risk of embarrassing, Emma, I'll say this. When Brad got his permit, he called to, you know, share his enthusiasm about it and he'd, you know, run through the gauntlet of having to work I think with four, maybe five other federal and state agencies to get permits and he said the -- you know, the absolute easiest one to work with was Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and I said, "Well, let me guess why?"

And he said, "Well, you can guess why. It was because of Emma Clarkson and her work."

And so, Emma, thank you for representing us so well on that -- on that front and doing such a terrific job to help stand up this new, new program that I know is important to the Coast and important to the Commissioners. So excited about to see where that -- where that goes.

Last but not least, the Commission has heard a lot and been talking a lot with Craig and John and Robin and Michelle and Clayton and others on our R3 related efforts. You know, the effort to recruit and retain and reactivate hunters and anglers and boaters across the state, part of a big national movement. As we think about, you know, who or what those audiences are that we want to recruit into hunting, one of those demographic bands that we're finding is very interested in that is that, you know, group that's sometimes called as the locavores. You know, young folks, typically live in urban areas, are very health conscious. They want to have a connection to where their food comes from and so they're very interested in hunting because of the connection to animals. They're interested in wildlife, their notion and understanding that, you know, hunting supports conservation and so they've been very interested in these kind of food-to-table related things.

And with a partnership with the Texas Wildlife Association who got a grant from the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies to do a pilot Wild-To-Table marketing campaign, they partnered with our Communications team and Marketing team to look at recruiting some food and travel bloggers to take their first hunt and then tell the world about it through all of their social media channels and whether that was TikTok or Facebook or whatever their preferred social media channel was, they have huge followers and so they wrote about it and blogged about it and shared it with, you know, thousands of other people and the goal obviously is to recruit new hunters.

And so, Michelle, I think we're tickled to death to see the results of this and you can see the data on the number of impressions and people who watched the videos and then also the folks that have signed up to be part of the, you know, kind of how I learn about hunting related websites and e-mails that we continue to ply them with as they -- as they learn about this opportunity. So excited, Michelle, about that partnership with TWA and look forward to more efforts on the R3 front. And so just wanted to king of keep you apprised of that.

Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, I think that's all the news that's fit to print from me. And if you've got any questions, I'll be happy to -- happy to take them. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Any questions by any of the Commissioners?

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Chairman.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Carter.

We'll move on to Work Session Item No. 2. It's the Financial Overview. It will be the Fiscal Year 2022 Budget, Operating and Capital Budget, Budget Policy, Investment Policy, Fiscal Year 2023 Biennium State Park List and Change Procedures, and 100 percent Boat Revenue in Fund 9. Reggie, you're up.

MR. PEGUES: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Reggie Pegues, Chief Financial Officer for the Parks and Wildlife Department. Today I will be covering several items, some of which will be action items for tomorrow.

First, I'll be discussing the operated -- operating and capital budget summaries. Those are Exhibits A and B in your binders. Also I'll be discussing our budget and investment policies. No changes, but these are items that are typically reviewed every year. Also the state parks list for performance measures and deposit options for 50 percent of boat revenues from Fund 9 to our Fund 64.

The first item I'd like to discuss is our operating budget for FY '22. I'm going to walk you through the process. The first step is looking at our General Appropriation Article 6, which is the base appropriation for Parks and Wildlife. For FY '22, we were appropriated $432.4 million. In addition to that, we have certain appropriating riders in Article 9. For FY '22, these are Article 9 Section 1740 for recreational facilities, 5 million of general revenue; law enforcement salary increase of also 5 million; and there's also an estimate for fringe benefits, retirement, insurance, benefit replacement of pay at 75.9 million. These gets us to our beginning budget total of $518.3 million.

Having said $518.3 million, per our conversations with Commissioner Hildebrand a few meetings ago, we realized that throughout the course of the fiscal year there are going to be some budget adjustments impacting that $518.3 million. So, again, per his recommendation, we've outlined some of those potential items so that when they occur, you're kind of aware of why these things are happening.

First thing, it's our House Bill 2, which is our supplemental appropriation. We were appropriated 22.7 million technically for FY '21. This was the 6.6 million for the helicopter, 14.8 million for some capital items, and 1.2 million for ongoing costs relating capital. We will formally bring those items into the FY '22 budget.

The next items are items that are -- they're included within our base bill, but they're estimates at the time of our LAR presentation, which was over a year ago. So as we roll into the fiscal year, these items will be updated as we go from estimates to actuals. The first item is our construction UB. We have $26.6 million, again, based on our LAR submission. As we roll into the fiscal year, we will update those amounts to actuals. It should be pretty close to this number since we did estimate it around a year ago. The next item are our federal funds. Again, we have an estimate of 75.8 million for our federal funds -- or wildlife -- wildlife restoration, sport fish restoration funds. Again, those amounts are estimates. Once we receive our actual apportionments from the federal government, we will adjust those numbers usually upward. And in addition to our base federal funds, the same thing that's happening with our state recreation related revenues where we're seeing record sales in hunting/fishing licenses, the same thing is happening at the federal level and the impact to us is that our -- for example, our wildlife restoration, they're having a record year and that will probably impact our apportionment in a positive way as we move forward. We won't know the final numbers until we get our apportionment, but just one of those items that are out there.

And sticking with federal funds, in addition to our base funds, we have other funds that are typically unanticipated. For example, for FY '21 we received, you know, $20 million of COVID related funding in the original budget. Those are the type of adjustments that contribute to those changes.

Additionally, I mentioned our federal fringe number. The way fringe works is it's based on our actual payrolls and so we have an estimate throughout the course of the fiscal year. As we have vacancies in different areas, salary actions, this will impact the fringe number either up or down and we will adjust accordingly. Other items that are built in, we have third-party reimbursements, donations. You know, oyster mariculture was mentioned. We have the MLDP, Managed Land Deer Program, we have estimated fees for these programs in our original budget. With these being new programs, the actual amounts may be different in those estimates and so those are also items that we will adjust during the year and we will bring those forward for your approval and notification.

Moving back to our 518 million operating budget. This is your Exhibit A. This is a summary by method of finance. 45 percent of our budget, or 231.6 million, that's general revenue related funding. Of this amount, approximately 190 million of that is related -- is sporting goods sales tax, which is technically classified as general revenue. The next largest item is our Account 9, or our hunting bosun -- hunting/boating license revenues, at 28 percent. Next is our federal funds, 14 percent. Which about half of that is wildlife restoration. And then the next item, our Fund 64, our state park revenues. Other category includes things like appropriated receipts, magazine sales, you know, donations.

Moving on to our operating capital budget object of expense. The 518 million, 191 million is for salaries and operatings, roughly 37 percent of our total operating budget. The next line item is our capital budget at 21.5 percent and I will go into more detail in our capital budget in a later slide. Here we're showing our budget by -- as budgeted by the divisions. The budget number, percent of budget, FTEs, and FTE percentage of these next two slides. As you would expect, state parks makes up the largest in terms of dollar amounts and FTEs, 42 percent and 25.1 percent of the total.

This next item, it's -- we call it our Department-wide budget. It's a special -- it's a special holding budget for things that typically don't lend themselves to the other Divisions. I mentioned our estimated federal funds. We use this as a holding account, 18.79 million. Once we get our actual apportionments, we will adjust these numbers. Payments to license agents, these are our -- just our license vendors. Your Walmarts, Academies. We also make a payment to our license vendor and the county tax offices. Again, these amounts don't lend themselves to a particular Division. So we load those in our Department-wide.

Next we have our strategic reserve. These are -- these are funds that are basically kind of set aside at the beginning of the year for just any type of special initiatives or maybe cost overflows in other areas of the Agency. And the last item are our past-due -- pass-through plates. These are plates which we sell on behalf of others that we, you know, collect the funds and disburse those.

As mentioned, here's the breakdown of our capital budget. We have a total capital budget of 111.4 million. Of that amount, the largest amount is 80.6 -- 86.4 million for construction. And again of that amount, 26.6 million is estimated as a carry-forward from '21 into '22. Other items are park minor repairs for projects less than $100,000; information technology; data center services; transportation items such as vehicles, capital equipment, lawn mowers, trailers, et cetera; and cyber -- cybersecurity just to enhance our cybersecurity efforts.

That includes[sic] my presentation of the budget. Are there any questions?

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Sure. Question. Do we account or accrue for the State Pension Fund? I know at the University Texas System, it was always a line item on the budget. How do we account for the pension obligations?

MR. PEGUES: That's under the State -- well, that's not -- that's not a particular line item in our budget. It's kind of done at the Statewide level, but we do -- in our annual financial report, we do accrue a liability for our -- for our leave and sick leave balances that we report to the Comptroller.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Any other questions from any Commissioners?

Okay. Thank you, Reggie.

MR. PEGUES: I'll move on to the budget/investment policy resolutions. These items are -- again, these are items, no material -- no changes at all. But these are items that typically are reviewed each year.

First is our budget policy. It's Exhibit C in your binders. Basically the highlights, it auth -- the Commission authorizes the Executive Director to execute the Department's budget. Any donations over $500 need approval and just Commission fund dedication. Again, no material changes in almost a decade for this policy.

Next item, our investment policy. Under the Public Funds Investment Act, any funds not going to the Treasury are subject to this Act. Again, no changes. The main thing for TPWD is that our funds are all into the Treasury. So technically, this doesn't apply to us. But if we were to go this route, we would -- we'd appoint an investment officer in those instances.

Next item is Exhibit E. Another item that we just bring up for review. This is -- Commission is required to approve state parks list at the start of each biennium. Any adjustments during the biennium, we would pick up at the start of the next biennium.

And the last item that I'm going to cover, it's our deposit options for 15 percent of boat revenues. The origin of this is we were allowed -- we were required to transfer 15 percent of Fund 9 revenues into Fund 64. That was later modified making it an optional transfer. So we typically monitor our cash balances to see if this is -- to see if this is going to be needed for the current year. Given our recent just sales activity for both our Fund 9 revenues and our Fund 64 state park revenues having record years, at this time there's no need to make this transfer between funds.

And if there are no questions on that, tomorrow I will be making the following recommendation to the Commissioners. That's all I have. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Actually, one more question.

MR. PEGUES: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: How does the fiscal year '22 budget compare to the '21 budget?

MR. PEGUES: It's about -- it's about $73 million higher versus our -- and I'm going back to our beginning '21 budget. It's about $73 million higher. The main difference being we have the additional -- the capital budget UB of the 26 million that's feeding into that. Also, we got additional sporting goods sales tax for FY '22 that feeds that total. Other items I mentioned, the $5 million law enforcement increase contributes to that total and just an additional 5 million, they all contribute to that increase of, again, about a 70 -- 17 percent increase from FY '22 to '21 versus the original budget.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Reggie.

Any other questions?

Okay. If there's no further questions, I'll place this item on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Thank you, Reggie.

Work Session No. 3, Fiscal Year 2021 Internal Audit Update, Proposed Fiscal Year 2022 Internal Audit Plan. Brandy, how are you?

MS. MEEKS: Good morning. Good morning, Chairman, Commissioners. For the record -- let me find my little clicker. For the record, my name is Brandy Meeks. I'm the Internal Audit Director. This morning I'd like to update you on our current audit plan. I'd also like to discuss recent external audits and assessments, explain our fiscal year '22 annual risk assessment methodology and planning methodology, and present to you our proposed fiscal year '22 internal audit plan.

So this slide and the next slide shows the status of our fiscal year '21 internal audit plan, our current audit plan. As you can see, all of our performance in IT/cybersecurity audits are either complete or in the reporting phase with the exception of two audits: Our use-of-force audit and our audit of selected contracts. Those are finishing up fieldwork. So they are this close to being in the reporting phase.

As far as our state park fiscal control audits, I did do an update to this slide. So the one that you have is -- needs to be updated a little bit. We do have one state park fiscal control audit that's currently in the quality assurance phase, three that are in the reporting phase, and the rest are complete. So I do anticipate this year's plan being complete well before the end of the first quarter of this new fiscal year.

So I just want to recap fiscal year '21 just a little bit. It's a been a big year for the Internal Audit shop. At this time last year, we had 21 audits that rolled over into this fiscal year. So in addition to almost completing our fiscal year '21 internal audit plan, we also completed up those 21 projects that rolled into this fiscal year. We also underwent a peer review this year in which we got the best opinion possible, which was a pass. We also lost an auditor in November and we filled that position in May with an excellent candidate who is doing very, very well. We also selected, configured, implemented, and trained all of our staff on new audit software, TeamMate Plus, and we are on target to go live with that new audit software on 9/1.

We've also implemented three of the four Sunset recommendations and all of the peer review recommendations, which were three of them, are currently in review status. So I'm very proud of my team. Good year.

As far as external audits and assessments go, there was one audit -- the Deepwater Horizon Restoration Natural Resource Damage Funds Audit -- that completed since the last Commission Meeting. And then now I'd like to discuss our risk assessment methodology and our planning process. Texas Government Code 2102 requires that the audit plan be developed using a risk-based approach consisting of Executive Management's review of agency functions, activities, and processes. Agency risks should be ranked on their probability of occurrence and on the impacts to our financial, managerial, compliance, and information technology systems.

So our risk assessment methodology does meet Texas Government Code 2102. First, we -- we consider Division level risk factors such as recent internal and external audits, time since the last audit, recent turnover in the Division especially with management positions, the Division's budget, the Division's contract dollars, as well as any outstanding audit items that have yet to be remediated and all these factors combined give us a Division level risk score.

Next we identify Agency risks by interviewing Executive Management, all Division Directors, and other selected management. We also use our own audit knowledge and past audits in order to identify Agency risks, and the entire Audit team participates in the annual risk assessment process. So during our interviews with management, we not only discuss risks that they feel like they face within their Division, but any risks that they may face or feel like they face outside of their Division and with the environment in general.

We also identify any issues or concerns they may have with their IT systems and applications. So for all the risks identified during this process, we discuss and score the probability of occurrence and the impacts to our financial, managerial, compliance, reputation, and IT system -- IT systems. And we input this information into a risk matrix to ensure consistent evaluation among all identified risks.

So lastly, using the Division level risk scores and the impact scores of all identified risks, we're able to rank and identify what we consider to be or perceive to be our top risks within the Agency. So from the results of the annual risk assessment, we identify possible audit and advisory projects -- are y'all getting feedback? Okay. Maybe I'm just hearing it.

Possible audits and advisory projects to address these top ranked risks within the Agency and we also analyze the resources needed to perform these projects and presented the risk assessment and possible audit projects to Executive Management for discussion. Our proposed fiscal year '22 internal audit plan is the result of those discussions. We presented this plan to the audit committee for input, review, and comment and received positive feedback from Chairman Aplin and Commissioner Bell. And at this time, I'd like to present to you our fiscal year '22 proposed internal audit plan.

So as shown on the screen -- and it's kind of small, I apologize for that -- you'll see that we do need a few hours, starting up at the top, in order to complete this year's plan. We then would like to do an IT cybersecurity audit of our CAPPS human resources and CAPPS financial resources programs. That's actually owned by the Comptroller, but we do -- we would like to look at data security, data classification, as well as access controls over those systems.

Next we'd like to audit our grants. We get a lot of federal grants and other types of grants. We still want to do a grant audit this year. We'd also like to look at contracts this year, and we'd also like to look at ten state park -- do ten state park fiscal control audits, as well as ten law enforcement office audits, fiscal control audits. And then we do have a few advisory projects that we would like to accomplish this year. We'd like to look at our controlled property or our fixed assets. We'd like to look at the LCP pipeline easement receivable, perform an advisory on that. We'd like to look at overall in general with the Agency our time sheet approval process, as well as in infrastructure, we'd like to look at the change order process. And then for IT contracts, we'd like to make sure that most of our IT contracts have the required clauses by the DAR -- DI -- DIR, excuse me.

And then the remainder of our hours will be spent on our quarterly follow-ups, as well as our administrative projects and then we do allot some hours for special projects during the year too that may arise. Oh, and let me go back. And also at the very bottom of that slide, if funding should come available, we'd also like to outsource a cybersecurity audit and audit our active directory.

And so I'd like to present this slide to you because one of Sunset's recommendations was to ensure that our audit plan is diversified and that we don't spend too much effort in any one particular area or process within the Agency. So I like this view because it confirms that our audit plan is diversified. About a third of our time will be spent on fiscal control audits, 13 percent on grants and contracts, 19 percent on IT and cybersecurity audits, and about a third on advisory projects.

So I'd like to recommend that the Commission adopt the following motion: That the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission approve the fiscal year '22 internal audit plan as shown on the previous slide and as shown in your Exhibit A. And so we request that this item be placed on the agenda for tomorrow's public comment and action. And this concludes my presentation. Thank you so much and I'm available for any questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Brandy.

Any questions?

COMMISSIONER FOSTER: I have just a quick question. When you say audit the active directory, what are you talking --



MS. MEEKS: So activity directory is basically the soft mare -- software that controls our domain controllers and so it would be more of a configuration type audit to look and make sure that the configuration is set up as securely as it needs to be for the types of information that we have within the -- and the user access that we have within the Agency.


MS. MEEKS: We just don't have the expertise in-house to --


MS. MEEKS: -- do that.

COMMISSIONER FOSTER: Well, and that's -- so that was my follow-up is on that same question, that and the IT cybersecurity, it says funding yet to be identified?

MS. MEEKS: Uh-huh. So I think --

COMMISSIONER FOSTER: How does that work?

MS. MEEKS: I think right now, we're not sure where those funds are going to come from. But, Clayton or Carter, do you want to speak to that?

MR. WOLF: For the record, Clayton Wolf, Chief Operating Officer. You may recall in Mr. Pegues presentation, there was a line item for strategic reserve and so these kind of unanticipated costs, we have -- we have a relatively small pot of money; but we have a meeting scheduled with Mr. Smith to talk about those requests throughout the Agency, prioritize those requests. So that's really the place we would first look to try to find those funds.

However, the other thing that oftentimes happens throughout the year as we have vacant positions throughout the Agency, so we would also create what we call a lapse salary funds and so depending on the timing, there could be money that is freed up from vacant positions that potentially could also go toward this initiate.

COMMISSIONER FOSTER: Okay. But so you're not looking -- I kind of misread that. I thought you were looking for some kind of outside funding from somewhere, but --

MR. WOLF: Not at this point --

COMMISSIONER FOSTER: -- you're looking internally.

MR. WOLF: We're looking internally. Yes, sir.


MS. MEEKS: Any other questions?

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Everyone good?

If there's no further questions, I'll place this item on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Thank you, Brandy.

MS. MEEKS: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Work Session Item No. 4, Statewide Oyster Fishery Proclamation, Temporary Closure of Oyster Restoration Areas in Galveston and Matagorda, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. Emma, you're up.

MS. CLARKSON: Good morning --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Good morning.

MS. CLARKSON: -- Mr. Chairman, fellow Commissioners. My name -- for the record, my name's Emma Clarkson. I'm the Team Lead for the Habitat Assessment Team in the Coastal Fisheries Division. Today I'll be presenting -- or tomorrow I'll be presenting a recommendation to adopt an amendment to temporarily close four oyster restoration sites for two years until November 2023.

So the Parks and Wildlife Code Chapter 76 prevents -- presents the Commission the authority to close an area that is being reseeded or restocked. Multiple oyster reefs across the coast are being planted with cultch material to restore degraded and lost substrates. So this two-year closure gives the oyster larvae that recruit to that substrate the opportunity to grow to a harvestable size and repopulate the reef. Successful oyster restoration projects are dependent on larval recruitment and growth within that first two years.

So this is just a picture of that structure that grows after the site's been closed and that two-year closure allows this structure to develop uninhibited by damage from dredging. So this summer, four reefs are being restored using cultch -- the cultch planting method, including three in Galveston Bay and one in Matagorda Bay. Funding for these restoration projects was generated from a mixture of sources, including the National Marine Fisheries Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief Grant and donations from the CCA Building Conservation Trust, and Shell. So over right around two and a half million dollars are being invested into the restoration of these reefs.

The temporary closure is requested only for the exact footprint of the restoration site and not the entire reef on which the restoration occurs. So a total of approximately 200 acres would be temporarily closed, including around 118 acres in Galveston Bay and 82 acres in Matagorda Bay.

So this just a map of the closure sites, with the proposed closure sites in Galveston Bay. The dark gray is land, the light gray is oysters, and you can see North Todd's Dump on the north side is just straight east of Eagle Point and then we have Dollar Reef and then in East Galveston Bay, we have Pepper Grove. And this is a map showing the site for the Matagorda Bay restoration site. So it's right at the mouth of Keller Bay and Matagorda Bay.

So the amendment proposed in May was to temporarily close three restorations in Galveston Bay and one restoration area in Matagorda Bay. This proposed amendment was published in the June 25th issue of the Texas Register. So 515 public comments were received during this comment period. 498 of which were in support of the proposed temporary closure and we had one letter of support from the CCA. Of the 16 in opposition, the one comment that disagreed completely was unrelated to the proposal and the six comments that disagreed specifically on parts of the proposal, indicated that we needed to implement more stringent conservation strategies such as closing all of Copano Bay to harvest and not reopening the temporarily closed restoration areas in Copano Bay that are scheduled to reopen this year. So kind of -- this is referring to a restoration that received a two-year temporary closure in 2019 that's scheduled to reopen this year.

We also received several comments that the closure period should be four years rather than two, and several comments that we need to implement more restrictive oyster conservation strategies across the coast. So at the meeting tomorrow, we will be recommending adoption of this proposal.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Any questions for Emma?

Seeing none, I'll place this item on Thursday's Commission Meeting agenda for public comment.

Thank you.

MS. CLARKSON: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Work Session Item No. 5, Environmental Review of Transportation Projects, Memorandum of Understanding with Texas Department of Transportation, Recommended Adoption of the TxDOT Memorandum of Understanding. Laura, you're up. Hi.

MS. ZEBEHAZY: Hi. Good morning, Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission. For the record, my name is Laura Zebehazy, Habitat Assessment Program Leader within the Wildlife Division. During this Commission Meeting, staff seek adoption of a proposed rule that adopts by reference the statutorily required memorandum of understanding, or MOU, between Texas Parks and Wildlife Division and Texas Department of Transportation regarding the environmental review of construction projects.

Under provisions of Transportation Code Section 201.607, TxDOT is required to adopt an MOU with each state agency that has responsibility for the protection of the natural environment and requires TxDOT and each of the agencies to adopt the memoranda and all revisions by rule. This section also requires an examination and revision of the MOU every five years.

The MOU stipulates responsibilities of each agency, the information to be shared during transportation project reviews, and the review and commenting and timeframe. As of today, the current MOU as been revised accordingly and adopted by TxDOT.

The proposed MOU is intended to implement the statutory obligations of both TxDOT and TPWD regarding review of transportation projects. Another intention of the proposed MOU will be to foster communication, collaboration, and cooperation between the two agencies. On March 25th, 2021, the Transportation Commission authorized the publication of the proposed repeal of the current MOU and adoption of the revised MOU in the Texas Register. On April 9th, 2021, the proposed MOU was published by TxDOT. No comments were received by the public except our letter of support. On June 30th, 2021, the Transportation Commission adopted the proposed MOU and the notice of adoption was published in the July 16th, 2021, issue of the Texas Register.

Based on TxDOT's adoption of the proposed MOU, staff was authorized to publish the proposed rule in the July 23rd, 2021, issue of the Texas Register for public review and comment. As of this morning, TPWD has received two responses in favor of the proposed rule and no comments in opposition. Tomorrow, staff will seek adoption of this recommendation.

At this time, I'm happy to answer any questions you may have.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Any questions, Commissioners?

Laura, thank you.

If there's no further questions, then I'll put this on the agenda for Thursday's Commission Meeting --

MS. ZEBEHAZY: Thank you, sir.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: -- for public comment and action.

Thank you.

MS. ZEBEHAZY: Have a good morning.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay. We'll move on to Work Session Item No. 7, which is the one that I spoke about earlier that we put before six. It's a briefing on Chronic Wasting Disease/CWD Rules. We have a couple people speaking to us. First is Dr. Andy Schwartz. I want to thank you for coming. Dr. Schwartz is with Animal Health Commission and so appreciate you being here, Andy. Thank you.

DR. SCHWARTZ: Thank you, Chairman Aplin. For the record, I'm Andy Schwartz, Executive Director and State -- Executive Director of the Animal Health Commission and State Veterinarian. And I'll just say, Chairman Aplin, I know my Chairman, Coleman Locke, really appreciated you reaching out to him and meeting with him and the effort to -- for our two agencies to work together on this Chronic Wasting Disease. So I extend that thanks from him to you, so.

Just this morning I would like to take this opportunity to talk to you about certainly about the Chronic Wasting Disease. Some about the disease, but also talk a little about our agency, the Animal Health Commission, our Herd Certification Program, some of the thing -- other things that we do to help support the Chronic Wasting Disease effort such as training sample collectors. Talk a little bit about our agency partnerships and our current rules and then some proposed rules that our Commissioners have out for comment currently.

So just a quick disease overview. I'm sure all of you are familiar with Chronic Wasting Disease and the fact that it's one of the -- one of the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies that the human and veterinary community have to deal with. So in the center of the bottom of that slide, you can see a depiction of a prion, a protein that's normally in an animal's body, particularly in neural -- central nervous system and the figure on the left represents what that three-dimensional piece of protein should look like. The one on the right depicts what it -- what happens with Chronic Wasting Disease. So there's -- and other TSEs -- and there's a mis-folding of that protein that causes -- leads to death of some brain cells and then, in fact, actually whole spongiform appearance of the brain on a slide. And so, hence, the name spongiform encephalopathy.

I've listed some other TSEs there. Scrapie is the one we've known about the longest and it only affects sheep and goats. It does not affect cervid species or humans. Kuru is one that does affect humans only. Chronic Wasting Disease cervids only. No human connection, no other livestock. The one exception to this species specific diseases are with Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, BSE, or Mad Cow Disease. That disease has been shown to lead to a human condition called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob's Disease. And so individuals who consumed beef products with that prion in it, some of them -- a very small percentage -- but some developed a disease because of that. But the other prion diseases, TSEs that we're seeing, are not -- are species specific and don't cross to humans or other species.

This map just depicts where the national North American situation with Chronic Wasting Disease and this is particularly a North American issue. It has crossed the ocean to some other countries; but it was first discovered in the U.S. in the 1960s, late 60s. So I'll move on.

This slide is trying to get at some of the complex picture that we deal with with Chronic Wasting Disease. If you would start at maybe the 130 position, if you picture that as a clock where it's pointing to the fawn and move to the right there. So known susceptible species, we certainly know that Mule deer/White-tailed deer are susceptible; but some of the species that we regulate as well are susceptible. That's elk, Sika, and moose and their hybrids. Red deer as well. So those species are susceptible and I -- and the fawn, there was -- it's not -- hasn't been clear if -- if there might be some resistance of fawns to this disease at certain points; but there's enough scientific evidence now coming forward that I believe that, you know, fawns are definitely susceptible and may even be infected in utero. So that changes our epidemiology picture a little bit and how we manage these affected herds.

But moving around the anthropogenic spread, that's spread by people. Certainly the movement of animals between deer farms and pastures contributes to that. The hunters moving harvested carcasses certainly can spread the prion. And an for example in New York, there was an outbreak around a taxidermist office where they had brought a carcass there and disposed of the products out back and started an outbreak there. We certainly know that can happen. The carcasses themselves contaminate the environment. So in the environment, the prions remain infectious for years. It's more and more evidence that it's -- that they can contaminate the water, the soil, the plants and being ingested or inhaled by susceptible species.

What -- the natural spread, certainly the movement of animals in their normal daily routine would spread the disease. It's somewhat unknown if the predators like coyotes or vultures, others, can spread the prion; but I think common sense says they probably can and do. The human and livestock risk, that -- if you finish out about 11:00 a.m. -- 11:00 p.m. or going up to the top of the clock there, those are not known to be susceptible: Humans, livestock, or any of our pet animals.

So a little bit about the Chronic Wasting Disease epidemiology. So what -- what do we deal with? Why are we seeing cases spread or how does this disease spread and what factors do we consider? And one of those is the degree of animal movement. You know, how much the animals are moved around, particularly by human interaction. The population density also has a factor, plays in a factor in the disease spread and that if you concentrate animals in a given area, then a disease that's transmissible or communicable just by common sense is going to spread to other animals in that population. And then we also have to factor in a cumulative environmental contamination issue. As I'd said earlier, the prions that cause this disease are -- remain infectious in an environment for long periods of time.

So going over to the domestic cycle, the farm-raised cervids and -- what are we seeing there? We don't -- we don't -- other than a movement of known -- of deer from known positive facilities or subsequently discovered positive facilities, we're left to speculate somewhat; but we suspect that a contaminated feed product -- hay, in particular -- could introduce CWD to a herd. We've not been able to document this; but having grown up on a farm and ranch and baled hay, I know that animals get into that hay. You know, animal carcasses get into that hay. And if it -- if it happened to be an animal with CWD that got into the hay, it could easily be transmitted, you know, across state lines to a new herd.

Veterinary practices, we know that, you know, with artificial insemination and laparoscopy and other things, at least the potential for spread of these prions through that practice and that includes the reproductive practices of insemination. So we don't have the smoking gun, but we know that this likely or could well happen. And the sylvatic cycle, the wild cycle, this is just -- you know, the question comes up: How would you get Chronic Wasting Disease coming from the wild to the captive population or vice versa? And that's, we believe, through escaped animals, through fence line contact, to potentially from runoff from contaminated properties and the scavenger spread that I mentioned earlier.

So those are all things that we have to consider with the epidemiology and it guides what we're doing, the Animal Health Commission is doing, and what Parks and Wildlife -- what your specialists are doing as well.

This is just a quick overview of the current cases that we have. There are six facilities, White-tailed deer breeder facilities that have been found positive this year and I'll talk a little bit more about those. Just at a quick glance, the Facilities 1 and 2 are under common ownership and on -- really on the same property. They're separate facilities, but on the same property. The deer symbols that you see inside the circles are positive deer that have been found within that facility. The arrows depict the movement of deer from that -- those -- between those facilities. So you can see that Facility 1 and 2, there were quite a few deer that transferred to Facility 2 and then from Facility 2 out to Facility 4. One deer that has subsequently been found positive in that Facility 4. Other in Facilities 5 and 6 have been positive. Facility 3 is a standalone currently. It's not connected epidemiologically that we've determined to those known -- the other known -- these other five infected herds or previous herds, year -- previous years' herds.

So I wanted to expand a little bit about on the risk based containment strategy. So if you look at the bottom -- and I'll pause here and say I'm asked as Executive Director of the agency: What is our plan? Where are we going to Chronic Wasting Disease? What difference are we trying to make?

And my answer to that is that we have to focus on containment at this point to prevent the spread, you know, contain the infection, and deal with it as best we can where it's located because -- because of an inability to decontaminate the environment or because of a lack of vaccine or a lack of treatment or anything like that that we can do to help, you know, to help boost immunity and prevent the disease spread. So we've got to focus on limiting contamination of the environment and finding the infection where it is and by testing the host.

So certainly with the environmental factors of captive cervids, we want to test exposed animals as quickly as possible and remove them. We do disinfection to the extent possible of those positive facilities. Although it's very difficult to deactivate this prion in the environment. On the animal piece, breeding facilities we test -- certainly test all the mortalities and I think it's -- you're making the right move, I'll just voice an opinion as an agency had and as an individual, that I think the -- I show support for testing, antemortem testing deer that are going to be released, you know, prior to release. I think that's a move in the right direction to contain or to identify potential infected herds and to prevent the spread of disease. So I think it closes a hole in surveillance in our Herd Certification Program and in the White-tailed -- just White-tailed deer breeder operations in general. So we're supporters of that.

We get asked often: Where are we in this investigation process? And there's a lot of numbers here. I won't spend a lot of time. Just it sort of gives you an idea of the scope of what our two agencies are undertaking. There are hundreds and hundreds of facilities that are affected by these -- by movements in and out of these six affected herds and we're quickly closing the gap on these herds, working together with Mitch and crew on a daily basis to put together the epi information, write the herd plans, and get these facilities addressed.

So with that, I'll move on to the -- our Animal Health commission CWD Herd Certification Program. This is a voluntary program that deer breeders can enroll in and the idea is that it is designed to provide some assurance or higher level of assurance of absence of Chronic Wasting Disease and it also qualifies breeders or animal owners to ship their animals interstate once they reach the certification level.

So this is a five -- five-year process. As soon as a herd enrolls, it's considered to be in the first year of the program and then they progress through five years, five full years of testing mortalities and only importing -- introducing animals from the same or higher status herds until they reach certified status and that's after five years of participation. We currently have 140 herds at that level and the applications pending, you see the 18. Those are enrolled herds that are just -- we're reviewing their status at this point and looking to either advance them, reduce them, or keep them at the same level depending on their compliance with the program rules.

So a little bit about the testing itself. You can't get a veterinarian in front of the podium without showing some tissues and something that might gross people out, but this is what the brain stem looks like. The picture on the left is the obex portion that is tested for the prions that are part of Chronic Wasting Disease, so. And the tissue on the right is the medial retropharyngeal lymph node. That tissue, that lymph node, is the best tissue to test in White-tailed deer. I mean, it’s -- it's -- that's where we find the disease, evidence of disease earliest, and it's the most reliable test and you'll see us require that tissue, you know, along with the obex; but require that lymph node to be sampled for that reason.

The tissues that we accept for antemortem, our live testing, include a tonsil biopsy, the rectal biopsy or it's called RAMALT, rectal associated lymph node tissue and then that retropharyngeal lymph node that I mentioned earlier. Of these tissues, I would just -- it's not -- to me, not a big issue; but I just point out that USDA doesn't recognize -- currently recognize -- the tonsil biopsy as an official test in the Herd Certification Program; but we're out there, our agencies are out on the forefront. We're using the latest technology and science that we believe is sound and can detect positive animals earlier and so we've implemented these in some of our trace plans and herd plans to try to get a bigger handle or quicker grasp of the disease in a herd and detect it if it's there.

So USDA is considering, you know, adding a tonsil biopsy to their official test. I mean, they're reviewing -- there's a -- there's a paper that should come out soon to talk about the sensitivity of this test; but I will just say we got -- we were ahead of the game on antemortem testing at all several years ago, we incorporated that. You know, Carter and I agreed that we were going to put that into our program and that's before USDA recognized it even. And so we gave our -- the deer breeders and the cervid-owning population of Texas more options for dealing with this disease and through antemortem testing. And so we're still out there on that cutting edge with the tonsil biopsy, and I'm comfortable being in that position.

Just the postmortem Chronic Wasting Disease testing, the samples all go to the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Lab in College Station. They can be collected -- they're run on either immunohistochemistry or ELISA test and then a veterinarian or a trained individual can collect these postmortem samples. I've just tagged in some information that we use in our certification process of the -- of postmortem collectors and this is just some material we share with them. I won't bore you by going into details here between the two tests, but just know there's some difference in the two. The ELISA is considered a faster test, a screening test for -- they can handle a lot more tissues quickly and if it's positive on an ELISA, then it goes to IHC, or immunohistochemistry. There are some cases where we require the IHC. If they are actually a trace-out deer, we want the most definitive test up front, so.

You're familiar -- certainly familiar with your own regulations. We just share this information when we're training individuals so that they know what your -- the Parks and Wildlife requirements are, as well what tissues are considered official and who can collect them.

So for movement qualification status, I just had that a USDA accredited veterinarian, Animal Health Commission authorized person, or certified CWD veterinarian or collector can perform the testing, the -- I'm sorry. The antemortem testing can only be done by a veterinarian or these other individuals and those are the tissues you see there that are -- that may be tested. As I mentioned earlier, the type of test is determined by the situation. If it's a trace deer, it gets one sort of test. If it's just general surveillance for movement qualification, it's another screening test. So just know that we've customized that based on the situation.

To date, we've trained almost 2,200 individuals to collect postmortem samples; but currently -- I mean, we have a requirement that they renew that certification every three years and we currently have 917 individuals who are authorized to collect postmortem tissues and this might be ranch manager, the ranch owner themselves, or, you know, a technician they have or that something that can get trained to collect these tissues and send them in.

Again, the antemortem sample collectors, it has to be a veterinarian and we rely on the veterinary schools to teach them the techniques of, you know, the surgery and all that's required to collect these tissues; but we have a one-hour certification that they're required to attend so that we can talk about the samples that need to be selected and how to process them and submit them. So we have 184 veterinarians who are currently authorized to do antemortem testing and they've been put to good use this summer in testing all these deer before released due to your emergency rules.

Just building a little bit on the partnership between the two agencies. We've worked together on the joint CWD Task Force and co-chaired that and that Task Force has been very active this year. I think we've had, what, five meetings already, four or five meetings already this year and likely we'll have another to deal with the current outbreak. We work closely with Mitch and all the staff on -- and we use the TWIM -- the shared TWIMS database extensively for our epi work and doing these investigations, but we work closely on a day-to-day basis with your staff. We develop herd plans for affected facilities, trace facilities, and release sites and we're working through that process now. We're about to have the release site plans out for individuals to sign up with and so they can begin moving deer, releasing deer to those sites.

And we also established Chronic Wasting Disease containment and surveillance zones that -- wherever possible -- that match between the two agencies. The Animal Health Commission and Parks and Wildlife zones are the same and we confer and consult on that as we're developing those and we think that keeps down confusion, you know, within the landowner and the hunting population alike and other agencies to have those zones coordinate or mesh with each other. And they're built on -- they're built on the, you know, the home ranges of the animals anyway; so we're both building them on science and it makes sense for them to look the same.

So currently, you know, containment/surveillance zones are around a geographic area where CWD has been found and surveillance is necessary. Currently we have five containment zones and seven surveillance zones in Texas. This is a map showing them. Some of these are proposed in our current -- our Commissioners have proposed these zones and I'll leave it up to Mitch to talk about this in detail because I believe you have it up as an action item as well. So just know that our zones are closely very similar to your zones that you're proposing.

I don't want to go into too much detail, but the exotic CWD susceptible species for movement within the state, we require that they have official identification; that the person moving these elk, Sika, or Red deer fill out a form, a record showing where the animal was -- originated, where it ended up, and then if it's in a -- if the animal is coming from a high-fenced facility, they have to have -- submit an estimated annual inventory by April of each year. If that movement is interstate, we certainly require the official ID, certificate of vet inspection, compliance with brucellosis and TB rules; but we also look at they have to come from a captive herd, a farmed cervid herd that is certified in the Herd Certification Program that matches the national standards at least. We also look at each request before these animals come in, to make sure that there haven't been recent occurrences of Chronic Wasting Disease in free-ranging animals around the facility or in captive facilities that it might be connected to. So we look at each one of these requests before we allow entry in the state.

And I know you banned White-tailed deer and Mule deer years ago and we've been asked about that ourselves; but our current approach under our Commissioners' direction is to evaluate and allow the interstate movement under these conditions.

What's the owner requirement for our surveillance? Again, these CWD susceptible exotic species owners are not required to register with us. They don't have to have a permit to own these animals. They're considered livestock, but they are required to test eligible mortalities until three animals are tested each year and then report those results to us. They are required to keep mortality records, movement records, and estimated inventory forms.

So I believe this is my last section. This is the -- the amend -- the Commission rules, the rules that were proposed and they're out for public comment now. The comment period closes September 5th and our Commissioners will meet on September 21st to either adopt or modify these proposals. I pulled out the ones that are specific to Chronic Wasting Disease and they deal with the Herd Certification Program primarily. These changes would bring our program back into compliance with the federal standards, USDA's program standards for Herd Certification Programs. So they will clarify that co-mingling means an animal of any age co-mingling. Before it was not clear that animals less than 12 months could not co-mingled. So this clarifies that.

We're implementing -- or would implement a 5 percent minimum mortality rate. I know that's been discussed at our CWD Task Force and some other and we've had a request that the two agencies stay together on what's considered a minimum mortality rate. But to date, we've not had that requirement in our Herd Certification Program and I think we've needed it. We're increasing the requirement for the fence from 7 feet to 8 feet high. That's what -- that matches the federal standard and so we'll apply that to new facilities that are established after this rule goes into effect, if it passes. The other existing facilities will be grandfathered in.

We are shortening the reporting time for reporting escaped deer down to 72 hours from these facilities. We're shortening the sample timeframe down to seven days. It was actually seven days before, but it wasn't clear in our rule that timeframe. So samples after collection are required to be -- would be required to be submitted within seven days. We're also clarifying the inspection process and then our Commissioners are proposing the containment and surveillance zones as I've talked about earlier.

So all of these rules are up in the State Register and accessed through our website and comment period is, again, open until September 5th. So that concludes my remarks this morning and I really appreciate the chance to address this group and the opportunity to work with Carter and staff and all on this common problem. So, thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Any questions for Andy?



COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Patton. Bobby Patton. With -- I guess I want to begin with: Are you aware of any CWD currently or in recent history with cattle in Texas?

DR. SCHWARTZ: No, sir. The closest disease in cattle would be the BSE, or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, and it's been -- we've only had the one case, and it's been probably ten years since we had that.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: And has there ever been a comparable type disease that's been transmitted to horses?

DR. SCHWARTZ: No, sir. I'm not aware of any transmissible spongiform encephalopathy of horses, no.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: All right. Now, I just kind of wanted to know that. And is there a reason why -- why some animals like a White-tailed are maybe susceptible and some of these others aren't? And then I also wanted to ask also about Pronghorn. I didn't -- I didn't seem them on the clock --


COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: -- continuum either.

DR. SCHWARTZ: Right. So they're -- they're -- so we consider a species susceptible if it's -- if there's been, you know, an infection proven or a positive proven at a USDA recognized laboratory. So the Pronghorns are actually a -- you know, they evolved separately from the cervids and even -- excuse me -- the cervids and the bovids. So they're really their own family genus and species separately, so they've not been shown to be susceptible. Other people ask about some of the deer species like Fallow and Axis deer and all and those are not known to be susceptible. I mean, there's I think a need for further research in that; but we've not -- not found them to be positive and so we haven't included them in our restrictions.

But as to why some species are susceptible, well, I think there's a lot to be learned about the Chronic Wasting Disease. What -- we've tried to steer research dollars toward gaining information on genetic -- on the genetic makeup of deer and perhaps being able to identify the genes that code for resistance. So there's enough work out there now showing that in a particular location and in a deer's genome, if they've got a certain amino acid makeup, they're either slower to develop disease than other -- others of the SS that the codon 96 would be, you know, versus a GS or GG, so that we know there's -- there's likely a genetic factor in the progression of the disease and so that research is going on to try to get more information on how the disease progresses and if there might -- we might be able to put a tool in the toolbox for a deer breeder to select for resistance and get out of this disease program.

A parallel is the Scrapie Program in sheep. We discovered that there was a genetic type that was resistant to the disease and so sheep owners were able to select for rams that bred -- that had -- that carried that homozygous gene for resistance and we essentially successfully eradicated Scrapie from the sheep population in the -- in the U.S., partially as a result of the genetics. So that's -- even when I said right now our strategy is just containment and prevent spread, what could change that picture is if we get some tools like this genetic tools that we know work, you know, and could be applied to prevent future infections.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Is that all, Bobby?

Anybody else have any questions for Dr. Schwartz?

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: I have a couple. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Just going back to your slide, F1 through F6 Facilities. So you say F3 is genetically -- there's no correlation with the F3 deer that have the outbreak with the other F1, you know, through F6. And any postulation as to where it came from in the F3 facility?

DR. SCHWARTZ: That's -- we've put some thought into that and we'll continue to try to gather information; but, you know, there's not a genetic separation. It's an epidemiologic separation. So there were no animal movements between those five facilities and that -- and the one that -- you know, the Facility 3 that's a standout. We haven't found any movement of an animal there that could have -- a deer that could have spread the infection. So there's a chance that movement happened years ago or those other factors that I listed on there, you know, being introduced through feed, through reproductive practices, or, you know, veterinary care. You know, people or animal movement that, you know, is not recorded, those are all possibilities; but we don't know how that Facility 3 got infected, no.

We looked back at the epidemiology and to try to determine, you know, how long that herd was infected, you know, because it was in our Herd Certification Program and we know that it was positive at least as far back as two thousand -- 2019 because a deer left there and caused infection in other places. So we just are trying to work that backwards, and that deer herd still remains. We'll gain some information -- more information through postmortem testing, you know, when it's removed, so.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Okay. Just kind of walk -- I've got about three or four slides, quick questions for you. Extremely resistant to disinfection. So infected pens, is it a real challenge to eradicate the disease out of the soil?

DR. SCHWARTZ: Uh-huh. It's proven to be something in, you know, the closest parallel it's like with the Scrapie prion is that it's been shown that, you know, soil can be contaminated for over ten years, you know, and not have positive animals there and then introduce sheep and they get Scrapie. We need some similar studies with Chronic Wasting Disease, but there's enough evidence to show that this prion also survives for years or it remains infectious and I do the air quotes on survival because it's really not -- it's not a bacteria or a virus or a plasmid or something like that that's actually alive. It's just a piece of protein, you know, that has a mis-folded nature.

So that -- that -- until that protein is completely denatured, that particle remains infectious. So what we've got do is come in with a strong solution of bleach, you know, and try to clean it; but that bleach doesn't work well in organic matter. So the pens have to be scraped and that material buried, you know, and it's -- that's the best we can do right now, but we don't have any kind of a chemical or a treatment that we could spray to deactivate those prions.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: So is there a protocol for these infected pens as to how you remediate the soil? I mean is the current policy you dig it up and you bury it and like --

DR. SCHWARTZ: There certainly is.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: -- an oil spill or whatever it may be?

DR. SCHWARTZ: That's right, yes. We require that they do those decontaminated procedures, you know, before -- if they're getting federal indemnity, before that indemnity happens. But it's written into the Herd Plans exactly what they need to do, so. And it does include that scraping at least an inch of soil off the top of the pens if they can and, you know, just -- you know, just like if they're wood panels, take those and burn them or bury them. You know, any organic material, hay and feed, could be composted; but then buried as well. So it's difficult to deal with, but those are the procedures that we do to try to mitigate it and then that facility can't have CWD susceptible species in it for at least five years.

We know that that's not a hard line that the agent is no longer infectious after five years. We just don't know; but we have to draw that line somewhere to be reasonable, so.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: So pretty rigorous. Next slide, antemortem testing, tonsil, rectal. And then how do you do a -- is -- well, antemortem testing, is the lymph node testing the most definitive?

DR. SCHWARTZ: It is, but that one -- that technique is very difficult. So it's a fairly intricate surgery to go in and to get the retropharyngeal lymph nodes because they're deep -- you know, I'm pointing behind my jaw back up near --


DR. SCHWARTZ: -- the spinal column is where they are actually and they -- and it's the -- that's the lymph node that when a deer or another animal ingests something, that's -- the antigens that they ingest actually are processed through the tonsils, through those draining lymph nodes in there. So that's why that we think that the prions show up first there; but it's a very difficult surgery and I didn't think it could be done, but group of veterinarians have proven that it can be. But to go in and do a herd of, you know, a hundred to hundreds of deer would be very difficult.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: So, I mean, effectively that's going to be cost prohibitive?


COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: So you're dependent upon tonsil and rectal. And so how definitive are those tests on a relative basis? I mean, will -- are those 100 percent efficacy? Are they 80? Are they 50?

DR. SCHWARTZ: Uh-huh. I don't have those exact numbers for you; but I, you know, could get them. But our -- the gold standard that we have to compare to is a -- is the postmortem test on the retropharyngeal lymph node. So if you say that's the gold standard, that's 100 percent, I'm going to say that depending on the time after exposure, the sensitivity of say a tonsil biopsy increases and a rectal biopsy increases over time and so we built into the Herd Plans that if they want -- if they got trace deer that are no longer test -- available for testing, then they need to test the remainder of the herd with a tonsil biopsy at least two years after exposure and a rectal biopsy at least three years after exposure to get free of that trace.

So we take into account the length of time since exposure there, but -- and that -- and I'm not giving you an exact sensitivity number because the time matters after testing and the genotype of the deer matters. So -- and -- so if it's one of those, an SS at codon 96, you know, it might not develop disease for six or seven year after exposure. So it's actually got the Chronic Wasting Disease, but it's just not -- we can't find it in that timeframe. Where a GG deer might in a -- within a year and a half, we believe they're going to start showing up in these tissues after exposure, so.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: So it's pretty ambiguous? And that's strong, but it's not definitive.


COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: The tonsil, rectal --





DR. SCHWARTZ: And it's antemortem test --

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: That's all we have, right?

DR. SCHWARTZ: That's right. And it's antemortem. I mean, that's the value of it. You know, the deer is still out there. No doubt -- there's no doubt that the most definitive test is the postmortem test and that's why it was a hard decision for our agencies to make, but to not allow those exposed deer that had gone out to other facilities, to not allow them to remain alive because of the lack of -- you know, relative lack of confidence in an antemortem test versus a postmortem test. So it's -- we had long discussions about that, but that's where the agencies have come down on.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Okay. And then lastly, who -- I mean, I understand your rules are out for public comment; so they're not in law. But which agency trumps in terms of the management and authorization of all of it? Is it Parks and Wildlife or is it Texas Animal Health Commission? Help me under -- if you know the answer.

DR. SCHWARTZ: Well, I'll take a stab at it. The -- just in general, Parks and Wildlife is charged with safeguarding the health of the State's native wildlife, you know, and that's the White-tailed deer and Mule deer. The Animal Health Commission is charged with protecting the health of the exotic livestock, that are CWD susceptible. So that's the elk, Sika, Red deer, moose, and their hybrids. So you might ask why if this disease is in White-tailed deer, why is the Animal Health Commission even at the table?

Well, our legislative authority directs us to address a disease that affects a livestock species and so because it's in the White-tailed deer that affects the livestock species, we're at the table. So -- and so then your question of: Who trumps?

So, you know, we try to do our best to work together and have a cohesive approach. I mean, our -- we use our epidemiologists, our veterinarians to help advise the Parks and Wildlife department and they help advise us on the population, the movement and management practices and also we arrive at these Herd Plans and all together. So we haven't had a showdown to see whose authority wins; but it's an agreed upon approach and, you know, Carter or someone else may want to expand on that more, but that's my take on it.

MR. SMITH: Yeah, that's a great question. That comes up fairly frequently. I mean, I'd say they're very complimentary, Commissioner. That dichotomy that Andy laid out is pretty straightforward in terms of our oversight of native cervids and native wildlife. The Herd Certification Program that the Animal Health Commission administers is also germane to breeders that are interested in interstate movement of deer and that becomes a USDA, a federal issue, and so, hence, the Animal Health Commission has an important role to play there. And so -- and obviously the rules that we bring forward to the Commission look to accommodate herds that are enrolled within that certification program and so our rules still, you know, govern there.

But, again, I would think of the agencies as complimentary, drawing upon the respective strengths and skill sets with Animal Health Commission obviously providing that veterinary science and expertise that compliments the management, biology, conservation, enforcement, stewardship, et cetera, that the Department -- that the Department has.

So was that clear or help? And we can get into more granularity if you have a question about specific rules and how it applies.


MR. SMITH: Got it.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Last question. Are the current regs for fence height 7 feet and they're moving to eight? So --

DR. SCHWARTZ: That's in the Herd Certification Program. That's the national standards. Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: And so would most the facilities today all be 7 feet? I don't know, but is that the standard height of a fence?

MR. SMITH: Mitch, do you want to answer that?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Commissioner, for the record, my name's Mitch Lockwood. I'm the Big Game Program Director. I'd say the standard height is 8 feet. The rule in place has been in place for many years and so without requiring people to go back and rebuild fences in case there's a 7-foot height -- I should say that. The current rule is a 7-foot height requirement. It's been in place for a long time and so we've maintained that, realizing that there are very few, if any, fence heights that are really below 8 feet.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: So the law is seven, but practically most people are at eight.



MR. SMITH: Andy, I don't know if it's worth mentioning a response to Commissioner Hildebrand's questions about the efficacy of the antemortem testing and while it's probably still too premature to talk about in too much detail, there is some interesting research being conducted at Texas Tech on looking at a new biomarker to be able to assess whether or not prions are present in an animal. It's not a method for detecting whether or not the disease is there or not, but it is a predictive tool, if further proven, that would allow us with a blood test or a sample of muscle tissue to ascertain whether or not the prions are present in an animal and there's a fairly quick turnaround on that test. And so that's something that the agencies are going to start working with University -- with researchers out of the Health Science Center there on helping to refine that and so maybe that will help in this antemortem related sampling effort too.

DR. SCHWARTZ: Good point, Carter. Thank you. Yes.


Dr. Schwartz, I have a question that I -- I didn't catch it totally. You had a really big difference in the time that you believe it takes to get a test positive and I get two different species. I didn't catch that. Commissioner Hildebrand asked question. You made a comment. But can you elaborate? One was a couple years and one was like five or six years and I didn't get --

DR. SCHWARTZ: Okay. That's based on -- thank you, yeah, for clarifying that question. So that's based on what we're learning about the genotype of the animal, the genetic makeup of that animal. So Dr. Seabury at Texas A&M has done some -- he's sequenced the whole genome of the deer and then is focusing in. We provided samples from herds that have been, you know, known positive, known negative animals so that he can analyze and he's finding, you know, genetic sequences that cause a -- affects how long it takes for the deer to develop disease. And so a GS, you know, a genotype at -- I believe it's at codon 96. I have to look at -- yeah, codon 96. A GG is the most susceptible or the quickest to develop disease and that's where I said 18 months. So that's where -- and then a GS, you know, a heterozygous at that loci, you know, might take two years or three years to develop. And if it's, you know, an SS, if it's the resistant -- more, more slow to develop -- I keep saying resistance, but slower to develop the disease, then that's why I said it may take us to that five years or even longer.

So we've got to factor that in in how we do the testing and I think that's what USDA is looking at in their testing as we'll, is to try to factor in the genotype of the deer. So that's just within the White-tailed deer. You know, in our -- and I think his work -- and Mitch can talk to this better, but the population of deer in Texas, I mean, has a higher level of that SS category. You know, the slower to develop disease than the general White-tailed deer population in North America, but -- which is good for us, I believe; but it also may allow the disease to be out there and just not be detected because those animals are slow to develop the disease and the lesions that we can find.

That's within the White-tailed deer. Now, elk are different. We know that the rectal mucosal tests in elk is not reliable. So we can't do that antemortem test in an elk that we would do in a White-tailed deer. So there are some species differences there as well, as well as genetic differences in the progression of the disease. So did that make sense?

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Yeah, I guess. But you say this SS genotype is somewhat prevalent in Texas. So it's a bit concerning to me because, you know, we kind of have a five-year look back, I guess if you will, if there's something detected and so -- and there's been conversation about maybe shortening that, but I'm hearing you say that there's a gene type that doesn't show itself in five years?

DR. SCHWARTZ: It would push -- push that five years and could even go longer, yes, so.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Here in Texas, White-tailed?

DR. SCHWARTZ: Right, yes. Well, yes, but we need -- we need more science on that. We need some more results, but there -- it may be multifactorial. It may be other genes at other locations on that deer's genome that help govern that. It may not be just one site, you know, that codon 96 that determines that length, so.

And I guess I could take two different approaches to that. One is if we've got slow-develop disease, then maybe, you know, we need to extend those time periods longer; but if we -- it may also be an advantage that if it's so slow to develop, the deer dies of natural -- other natural causes before it has to a chance to develop the disease, then maybe that helps eliminate the disease. So I don't know where that -- you know, I can see it from two different sides. I just need the science and that work is, you know, in the process. We're steering funds toward that, you know, that we -- not -- we're not a research agency, but we can help facilitate some research projects at times and so we're trying to urge that work to continue so we know more about it. And I'm not being vague. I just don't have the answers. We don't know. Yeah, so --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: No. Thank you. And we know you're not being vague and one of the problems here is we're kind of trying to figure this out --


CHAIRMAN APLIN: -- as we go and so it's -- it's complicated. And so, no, nobody thinks you're being vague. Please report back to your Commission that we really appreciate the cooperation in how the two agencies work together. Thank you for coming.

Any other questions from any Commissioners?

Thank you, Andy.

DR. SCHWARTZ: Thank you so much. I appreciate this opportunity.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: I think next we have Mitch Lockwood. Hello, Mitch.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Mitch Lockwood. I'm the Big Game Program Director in the Wildlife Division and I want to just give a special thanks to Dr. Schwartz for joining us this morning and as he stated, we're really blessed to have this relationship. We've had a great partnership with his agency and specifically with Dr. Schwartz for many years and we're fortunate for that for many reasons, as are the producers in this state.

During this presentation, I intend to brief you on our response to this complicated situation that Dr. Schwartz just described. And I'm trying to advance the slides.

MS. CLARK: It's not working for me either. Hang on.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Okay. It looks like we're having a little bit of technical difficulty here.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Y'all just bear with us a minute. I'd like for everybody to be able to see the slides.

MS. CLARK: Try it now.

MR. LOCKWOOD: I have a blank screen, Andra.

While that's pulling up, I'll go ahead and continue. So, again, I plan to brief you this morning on our response to this very complicated situation. Immediately upon notification from the lab of each initial CWD detection in a new facility, we ran a five-year trace report, which identified every facility that had transferred deer to or received deer from at least one of these positive facilities.

And Dr. Schwartz just shared with you a summary of the results of those queries that identified 297 trace facilities in the state. We changed the status of all of those potential CWD source or recipient facilities to not-movement qualified. We then contacted all affected permit holders and advised that all exposed deer, with few exceptions, should be removed and postmortem tested for CWD, as Dr. Schwartz just shared.

They were also advised that in the event that some of the exposed deer were no longer available for testing, that the Department would work with Texas Animal Health Commission to develop herd plans for their premises. Several of these affected deer breeders did promptly remove the CWD exposed deer for testing and as we all know, that resulted in new CWD positive facilities being identified. But there were some affected deer breeders who chose not to expeditiously remove the CWD exposed deer from their facilities, which as you can imagine, created a lot of concern since deer breeders who they sold deer to which are now referred to as Tier 1 facilities, they were still able to move deer out of their facilities, potentially exposing more deer breeding facilities and release sites.

We already knew about 264 facilities in 95 counties that had received more than 2,350 trace-out deer from these positive facilities in the past five years. Including 138 breeding facilities and 103 release sites, as well as some DMP sites and some nursing facilities, et cetera. We also knew about 214 Tier 1 facilities that possessed more than 26,000 deer that, again, could be transferred out of the facilities to other locations in the state.

Well, concerns such as this, along with new information indicating high disease prevalence and long exposure periods in the Uvalde and Hunt Counties facilities, and the knowledge of yet a third CWD positive trace-out facility, it was quite apparent that we did not have control of this disease that poses a tremendous risk to the deer breeding industry, as well as other industries that depend on this resource and, of course, the resource itself.

Therefore, the Department issued an emergency order on June 22nd to address the greatest known risks at that time. The highest known risk for spreading CWD to new areas in Texas is through live deer movement. We were most concerned about the continued unmitigated risk resulting from, one, the CWD exposed deer that still remained in some of those trace-out facilities; two, the movement of deer from those 214 Tier 1 facilities; and, three, the release of any breeder deer without having an antemortem test prior to the release. And so to achieve this, the emergency order required the removal of all -- with very few exceptions -- the removal of all CWD exposed deer that were ever received from a trace-out breeding facility within seven days.

Now, this is possible for those facilities that still have 100 percent of those trace-out deer in the facility and that's -- those are facilities that are classified as Category A trace-out breeding facilities and complying with this requirement would allow these facilities to regain movement qualified status. These facilities are also required to test 100 percent of the mortalities for deer that are at least nine months of age.

Now, in the event that not all trace deer that entered that facility are still available for testing, then the rules require removal of all of the -- those trace deer that are still in the facility and to do so within seven days, but the emergency rules also require antemortem testing of all other deer in that facility that are at least nine months of age and the testing timeframe and the interval at which they test does vary depending on the date of last known exposure. Now, these facilities that don't have all of the trace deer still available for testing are classified as Category B trace-out breeding facilities. Now, complying with these requirements would allow these facilities to regain movement qualified status and these facilities are also required to test 100 percent of the mortalities that occur in their facility for deer that are at least nine months of age.

Now, as I've stated earlier, there was of course significant concern with the movement of deer out of these 214 Tier 1 breeding facilities. And so the emergency order addressed that concern by designating these facilities as not movement qualified and these facilities are also required to test all mortalities that occur for deer that are at least nine months of age. Now, a Tier 1 facility may regain movement qualified status if either their associated trace-out breeding facility regains movement qualified status or they obtain not-detected postmortem test results for every deer that they received from the trace-out breeding facility or they obtain not-detected antemortem test results for all deer that are at least nine months of age.

Now, these rules that I've gone through so far address the greatest risks that were identified for CWD trace-out and Tier 1 breeding facilities; but significant risks still remain for other facilities in the state. We learned through this experience that our comprehensive rules that were adopted in 2016 and then amended in the fall of 2020, were inadequate for this early detection of this disease and for containment of this disease. Remember, as Dr. Schwartz just shared with us, the two index facilities in Hunt and Uvalde Counties had not introduced any deer into their facilities for more than five years and they'd been participating in Texas Animal Health Commission's Heard Certification Program for several years and we were concerned that there could be other facilities in this state with no obvious connection to any of these positive facilities that unknowingly have CWD and could spread this disease to free-ranging deer populations.

And so with that concern, the emergency rules required a not-detected test result for any deer to be eligible for transfer to a release site and the test samples must be collected within six months prior to release. This is a critical component of these rules, considering that about a third of all the breeder deer -- of all breeder inventories are released on an annual basis. That's a substantial portion of these breeder inventories that previously had never been tested prior to the re -- or at any time for that matter. And this -- this undoubtedly contributed to the reasons why this disease went undetected so long in some of these facilities.

In fact, just last Wednesday, we received a call from the Diagnostic Lab advising us of a new presumptive CWD positive case in a new facility. In fact, just several minutes ago, we just received confirmation of this positive text result from the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames. Now, this -- this finding likely would not have occurred without this requirement.

Now, leading up to and even following the filing of this emergency order, we've had several meetings with various stakeholder groups, including our CWD Task Force, our White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee, our Private Lands Advisory Committee. Of course, we've had many conversations with elected officials and their staff and we've received a lot of valuable input. And after taking all that valuable feedback into consideration, we filed in another -- excuse me. We filed another emergency order on July the 19th, and these revised rules basically provide the Agency more latitude to clear trace and Tier 1 facilities. Specifically these revised rules, they change the definition of exposed deer, they change the definition of Tier 1 facility, and also last known exposure, and these changes basically reduce the period of time during which Tier 1 facilities must remain not-movement qualified while awaiting antemortem testing opportunities and to remove an unintended -- an unintended consequence of the previous rule that made it more difficult for Tier 1 facilities to be cleared. The revised rules allow for the Agency to work with Texas Animal Health Commission to prepare customized testing plans for some facilities following an epidemiological assessment. And also as a result of some confusion regarding whether fawns need to be antemortem tested prior to release, the revised rules clarified that only deer that are at least nine months of age need to have a not-detected antemortem test result prior to release. And finally, the revisions allow for trace and Tier 1 facilities to transfer fawns to nursing facilities, provided those nursing facilities have not and will not receive deer from any other deer breeding facility in the state in that same year.

And on September the 15th, we will have a Special Commission Meeting that's dedicated to covering the topic of Chronic Wasting Disease, which staff will also seek permission to publish amendments to the existing comprehensive CWD rules which will serve to replace the existing emergency order. The emergency rules have an expiration date of October the 20th; but the Agency may file a 60-day extension, resulting in an expiration date of December 19th.

On November 4th, I believe, this Commission will consider taking action on the proposed amendments to the existing comprehensive CWD rules which, if adopted, could be in effect prior to the expiration of the emergency order. Now, as you all well know, we have received a lot of input on the emergency order over the past several weeks and I've listed a few of the common themes on this slide.

First, some claim that we wouldn't even be here today with this problem had the rule amendments that this Commission adopted last November been in place the previous year. In other words, some of us suggested that that -- that would have fixed this whole situation. It would have prevented us from even having this conversation. And I'm referring to the amendment that requires deer breeders to submit samples to the lab within 14 days of collection. Had that rule been in place earlier, it is quite possible that CWD would have been detected in only four breeding facilities this spring and summer, rather than six; but we would still be dealing with this very complicated epidemiological investigation for those four facilities.

Even though that November rule amendment was a critical one, there was still significant amount of risk that was not addressed. We've also heard that antemortem testing should suffice for trace deer, rather than requiring them to be removed for postmortem testing and there was some conversation between y'all and Dr. Schwartz about the reliability of the some of these antemortem tests and the risk associated with using it for individual deer.

You know, this antemortem testing has been a great tool for us. It's something we brought in in 2016. We're proud to be out there on the cutting edge, if you will. It's been a really good tool, but it does have it's limitations as was discussed in the previous presentation and too much is at risk with a false negative antemortem test result.

We've also heard that unconnected herds should not be required to antemortem text prior to release. Now, some consider facilities that have not received deer directly from either a CWD positive facility or a trace-out facility or a Tier 1 facility, to be unconnected; but there really aren't many truly unconnected facilities out there. The first epidemiological investigation what was conducted in 2015 revealed that 75 percent of the industry was connected to that index facility by no more than 3 degrees of separation on the trace-in side and by no more than 2 degrees of separation on the trace-out side. Undoubtedly, extending that investigation just one more tier would have touched almost the entire industry.

Earlier I shared with you some new information about a new CWD positive case that was identified as a result of antemortem testing. This is one example of what is thought by some to be a facility that is unconnected to any of these other CWD positive facilities and it is likely that this would not have been discovered without this requirement. Now, some have argued that there never was a disease situation and even if so, the Agency didn't treat it as an emergency. They argue that we should have acted sooner if it was an emergency and as a result of not acting sooner, they had less time to conduct the required antemortem sampling during this bottleneck period during these hot summer months when does are lactating and bucks are in soft antler.

Staff recognize that summer is not an ideal time for antemortem testing. We were concerned about this in March, but clearly we wanted to avoid emergency action. But as this epidemiological investigation unfolded, we recognized that this problem was much bigger than we previously understood. We hit a tipping point in June, realizing that there was an imminent threat to the resource with multiple industries depending on that resource.

The emergency rules actually provide a means to continue allowing the movement of deer around this state, while better addressing the risk to the resource. Interestingly, the data collected over the past six years indicate that August is a month when a lot of antemortem samples are collected and the data also suggests that antemortem sampling in August has not disproportionately affected survival. There are more mortalities in August, but that's true whether for tested deer as well as untested deer at similar proportions.

There are more, more -- excuse me. Nonetheless, we do agree -- staff do agree that sampling earlier in the year would be preferred when given the choice. Understandably there is also some concern that the diagnostic lab would not be able to handle this demand during this bottleneck period. I mean, we were expecting several thousand samples to be received at the lab within just a few weeks. I can't tell you how proud I am of our partners over there at Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory and the Texas A&M University System for that matter. I mean, they have stepped above and beyond to meet this demand.

Specifically as of yesterday, they've already processed more than 8,400 or 86 percent of the 9,800 antemortem samples that have come in in the last few weeks, on top of all the postmortem samples that they continue to receive on a regular basis, which is more this year than it's every been undoubtedly because of a big EHD outbreak that's taken place.

The lab's also been able to maintain a 21- to 24-day turnaround period, which is really incredible. There have been a couple of situations in which that period extended to 28 to 29 days and that's for samples that came in in batches of, say, 500 in a day; but they're back to that 21-, 22-day turnaround period right now and, again, just really incredible. To do this, they invested significantly in more equipment and they also were able to take advantage of the expertise and skill sets in other areas of the University and use some of the skill sets in this lab to help during this critical period and then our Agency actually contributed personnel resources as well in the laboratory to help them with this demand.

Now, finally, there's a belief that CWD has been here forever and we're just not looking hard enough to find it. There's a thought of some that we're finding it in breeder pens because they test a much higher proportion of their mortalities as compared to what we test out of hunter-harvested deer and they do. As I've stated in the past, there are two main reasons for testing. One is for general surveillance, which is what we do throughout the state in an attempt to detect this disease where it exists and to detect it early; but the other objective is to provide the Department confidence that we're not permitting the transmission of this disease from one facility to another, and that objective requires significantly more surveillance.

So to summarize this discussion really, I mean, surveillance is prioritized at a rate proportional to the risk. Now from 2002 to 2016, our surveillance involved sampling about 2,000 deer a year: Hunter-harvested deer and road kills. And then in 2015, a strategy to -- we developed a strategy to surveil at a finer scale which resulted in a significant increase in our sampling intensity that produced about a little more than 10,000 samples a year. And then a few years later, we made some more adjustments allowing us to collect about 13,000 samples a year. And in the past six years, we've collected almost 67,000 samples throughout this state.

This sampling intensity finds the disease where it exists, particularly where it has existed for at least a few years. We've developed a lot of confidence that if CWD exists undetected in other areas of this state, it would be from a recent introduction. Now, it is quite apparent that the disease did walk across the New Mexico border in native wildlife out there in the Trans-Pecos region and also up in the Northwest Panhandle; but evidence strongly suggests that this disease was introduced by man in all other areas where it exists.

According to last year's figures, approximately 20 percent of these samples came from road kills and about 80 percent are from hunter-harvested deer. And as for the latter, approximately 25 percent of those came from MLDP properties located in 160 counties throughout the state and another 25 percent came from the CWD zones where sampling is mandatory.

Now moving forward, we're going to discuss how we can become more strategic with our sampling. We're going to see how we might be able to focus on areas where there appear to be gaps in sampling. Of course, we realize that some of these areas where there are gaps, are also areas that don't support deer populations. Nonetheless, we are going to look at some of these gaps on a -- on all of these on a case-by-case basis and see where we can shift some focus and get some more surveillance there as well.

We may receive public comment on this topic this afternoon during the Annual Public Hearing. Some of the comments may be in reference to the emergency rules that I just covered and some of the comments may be in anticipation of the proposed amendments to the comprehensive CWD rules that we've been working on diligently with the CWD Task Force, again with input of our advisory committees.

We've received extensive feedback from these stakeholders, particularly the Chronic Wasting Disease Task Force. They volunteered an extraordinary amount of their time to assist us through this process. We're grateful for their dedication and commitment to the resource, as well as to the many different stakeholders and industries. Last week, to conclude our fifth recent meeting of the CWD Task Force, we shared the rule amendments that we intend to share with you and seek permission to publish on September the 15th. So those -- those amendments that we're considering are most likely circulating out there and I would expect to -- for us to hear some comment on those this afternoon as well.

Now, earlier I expressed our appreciation for TVMDL's commitment to help deer breeders and the Agency throughout this very challenging time. Their accomplishments have been incredible. But also very impressive, are much -- and very much appreciated is the commitment of many private veterinarians around the state who've spent many nights in deer breeding facilities over the past couple of months collecting samples necessary to allow their clients to liberate deer in the next few weeks.

Finally, I'd be remiss if I did not acknowledge the many, many different deer breeders who stepped up without delay to conduct the required surveillance in time to release deer by September 21st. Their commitment had provided many Texans with the confidence that CWD is not being transmitted to release sites this fall.

Mr. Chairman, that concludes my presentation. I'll be glad to ans -- address any questions you might have.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Mitch.

Commissioners, any questions for Mitch?

No? I have a question or two. I think I heard you right, and so this is very new news to me. The one suspected new positive, you just confirmed by the second laboratory?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Was that deer an antemortem live test that was gone through the procedure under the new emergency rule to be shipped to a release site?

MR. LOCKWOOD: I pause because I want to be clear with this. This facility was antemortem testing for two reasons. This facility did not test a sufficient number of the mortalities this year. In fact, I'm not sure any were tested. I don't recall offhand. But they needed 15 antemortem test results to get movement qualified again and then he had told me he was planning to release about 20 bucks this fall and so, to me, that adds up to 35. But 59 samples were submitted and so that's why I stated in my presentation that it is likely we would not have detected this without that requirement to test prior to release, but I can't be certain that that deer was on the list to be released.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Can you elaborate? You said he didn't -- this person didn't test the required amount of the mortalities?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Correct. And so he was doing that three-for-one antemortem substitution to get movement qualified again.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay. We have a nine-month-old or older criteria currently under the emergency rule. I heard Dr. Schwartz bring up that he's not sure that this can't happen or a fawn can't carry this disease. Can you elaborate on that any? We have this nine-month, but this is the first time I heard possibly fawns. And then a follow-up is do people -- do breeders ever release less than nine-month-old animals out into release sites?

MR. LOCKWOOD: So all very -- all very good questions, Chairman. Don't let me forget them all. The -- we have detected CWD in a five-month-old deer in this state. Arkansas has detected quite a few fawns. We've detected it in some more fawns as well, but quite a few fawns I know in Arkansas. Others have detected it fawns. In fact, there's some research we're working with University Texas Health System. We've -- actually, they have detected prions even in fetuses.

But the issue here is that the technique to do that, to detect it in these -- well, in fetuses especially, they're not using the standard test of immunohistochemistry that Dr. Schwartz talked about. They're using an amplification technique because the prion load -- for lack of a better way of putting this, it's not great enough to be able to detect it with that gold standard test. They need to be able to amplify the prions to find it. And so that's not the diagnostic tool that we use on a regular basis. That's in a research setting.

And so, Mr. Chairman, the purpose and the intent of the emergency rule was to antemortem test -- for the antemortem testing requirements that apply, to basically apply to every deer, breeder deer, that is involved in this situation except for the ones that were just born at the time that that emergency rule was filed. We knew that the likelihood of IHC detecting it in a three-day-old animal or a two-week-old animal or even a three-month-old animal, even if it's positive, that the likelihood the IHC says it's positive is extremely low. And so we didn't see the value in testing a deer that's literally a few days old, but we wanted every other deer that was involved in this to be tested.

And so if you think about it, in June there weren't any four-month-old, five-month-old, six-month-old deer. What we had was basically last year's fawns, and so nine months would capture all of those.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: So it's a timing issue for the emergency order?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: But we know that a less than nine-month-old deer can carry the disease.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay. That's all my questions. Anybody else?

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: So kind of back to the identification of the deer today, I guess. So was that a Tier 1 facility?

MR. LOCKWOOD: The newest finding?

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Yes, the newest finding.

MR. LOCKWOOD: No, sir. That is a facility that some would consider to be, quote, unconnected to any of these positive facilities. There's no obvious connection.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Okay. And so you're -- historically, the operator of this facility was not adequately testing on a postmortem basis, correct?

MR. LOCKWOOD: That is correct.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: So was he just disregarding the rules or -- this is, you know, my frustration with all of this is there's got to be some level of enforcement. And so maybe just explain that situation. And then what happens to his herd now that he has a positive test?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Well, you know, there's -- as you well know, there's situations; but there's a lot of deer breeders who are absentee landowners and they don't all have staff that work at the facility on a daily basis and so a deer can die and go undetected for several days to the point where a sample, suitable sample, can't be collected anymore. And so I suspect that that's going to be the situation here is that there just wasn't somebody to observe, you know, the pens soon after these mortalities occurred. I'm speculating to some degree.

This facility is not movement qualified. There's, as Dr. Schwartz shared with you, a lot of concern about any movement of animals out of -- out of that facility and for, you know, potentially ever again. We've learned through some different herd plans that we've tried over the last six years that allowing the disease to -- or allowing reservoirs of the disease, allowing any animals to remain in a facility, even none that are known to be positive at that time, has failed us over the last few years. We have watched the disease spread through these facilities in ways that we can't determine. Even when we're depopulating entire pens where a positive is found, but not depopulating the other pens where no positives are found, we've still seen the disease continue to spread throughout the facilities and even onto a release site. And so there is -- the agencies have got -- have discussed this in great detail over the last few months and there's, as you can imagine, a lot of hesitancy trying that again in the future.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Mitch, you said that this fellow or lady -- I don't know them and I don't need to know a name -- but that they antemortem -- they had to test 15 live deer to get back in movement qualified? Was that the number I heard?

MR. LOCKWOOD: That's what I said, and I believe that's an accurate statement.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: So under the current situation, he's a three-to-one, correct?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: So if he had to 15 three-to-one, does that equate to that he had five deer that died that he did not test?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Yes. Or it may be -- he had -- he had to test 80 percent of those mortalities and so I'm trying to remember now in my mind whether there was five mortalities and he needed four of those and if it was four, then he actually just would have needed 12 antemortem tests at that, but --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: So that's okay. It's close enough. But the concept is, as you said, things can happen and I understand; but for this particular instance, there had to be four or five mortalities that didn't get tested. So now his solution to get out of the box is to live test 15, but they had to lose four or five and time got away from them or whatever and they didn't test. What we really want is the test of the dead deer, correct?

MR. LOCKWOOD: That is correct. And for the record, I was just advised that there were five missed mortalities and so, if I'm not mistaken, that means that four should have been tested, which would have required 12 antemortem tests. I just want to correct that for the record. But you are correct, sir.


Anybody else?

Mitch, are you through?


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Is this six, Item No. 6?

MR. LOCKWOOD: I'm just wrapping up Item No. 7.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay. Thank you for your presentation. I think we've determined no more questions; is that correct?

Okay, Mitch, you're up for Work Session No. 6.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Again, for the record, my name is Mitch Lockwood. I'm the Big Game Program Director in the Wildlife Division. Tomorrow, I intend to seek adoption of proposed amendments to our disease detection and response rules, which would establish one new containment zone, two new surveillance zones, and one modified surveillance zone.

To refresh your memories, this slide illustrates our existing CWD zones. The containment zones are the areas in which CWD is known to exist and they are shaded in red. The surveillance zones are areas of relatively high risk and they are shaded in yellow. The requirements imposed on hunters are the same for both zones and those are mandatory sampling of hunter-harvested deer and carcass movement restrictions, which basically means that a carcass must be quartered before returning home from the deer lease, with those more risky carcass parts left behind.

There -- and so we established check stations within these zones where hunters must bring their harvested deer and we collect samples for CWD testing and this is how most of the CWD positives that have been found in this state in free-ranging populations has been detected and those numbers I shared with you in my previous presentation on that -- on that CWD surveillance slide.

There are also restrictions on the movement of live deer from these zones, with most of those restrictions applying to -- with more restrictions applying to the containment zones. Now you might recall that CWD was detected in an eight-and-a-half-year-old Mule deer buck on the east side of Lubbock last February. That was a free-ranging deer exhibiting clinical symptoms indicating that it likely had the disease for a couple of years or so. And as Dr. Schwartz stated, that again is a highly dependent variable on the genetic makeup of this animal.

We reviewed our surveillance data for that area for the past six years and we learned that we've been averaging 346 samples per year within a hundred-mile radius of where that positive deer was collected. According to the USDA epidemiological model that's commonly used for detection probability estimates, these numbers each year provide 95 percent confidence that the disease prevalence is less than 1 percent. But that's for the entire area that's encompassed by that 100-mile radius and as you might remember, this is a focal disease. Meaning that the prevalence could be 0 percent in a large area within that 100-mile radius; but relatively high prevalence in that local area where the disease -- that localized area where it exists. So not knowing the prevalence or the geographic extent of this disease in that area, we propose to establish a containment zone and a surveillance zone.

The proposed containment zone began with a 5-mile radius and then we selected easily recognized features within or around that general area such as state highways and county roads for a relatively simple zone delineation. We took the same approach with the proposed surveillance zone, and let me stop for a second. Up to this point, I was referring to the containment zone. I may have said surveillance. But we took this same approach for the surveillance zone, except we started with 15-mile radius and the proposed containment zone is about 75 square miles and the proposed surveillance zone is just over 700 square miles.

Next, we'll move to you Uvalde County where CWD has been detected in three different breeding facilities located on two premises. Those locations are -- I'll say the average distance from those locations to our existing zones is about 25 miles. And those existing zones, of course, are north of Highway 90 between Saginaw and Hondo. In over the past six years, more than 12,000 samples collected within a 50-mile radius of the Uvalde County index facility were tested for CWD. And as you can tell by that dense cluster of blue dots there on the east side this map, the majority of those samples were harvested within our existing zones, providing strong evidence that the disease is not established in that native population there.

However, additional surveillance to the west would give us a better idea if the case -- if that's the case over there as well. Because, again, you've heard me say many times this is a focal disease or a cluster disease and so we're going to increase that effort to the west and to do that, we proposed to extend that zone to -- the surveillance zone -- to capture the acreage surrounding those two premises where CWD was detected last spring.

Next we'll move to Northeast Texas where CWD was detected last spring in a deer breeding facility on the border of Hunt and Kaufman Counties. Several deer had been released from that breeding facility over the past few years and, obviously, that gives us a lot of concern that the disease may be in that population as well. And so to provide us confidence that the disease is has not gotten established in free-ranging populations in that general area, we have proposed a surveillance zone in that area as well.

For all of these proposed zones, we would have carcass movement restrictions, mandatory testing of hunter-harvested deer, and then some movement restrictions on live deer as well. During our Work Session last May, you might recall that staff requested permission to publish a proposed surveillance zone in Matagorda County surrounding a facility where CWD had just recently been detected; but the ensuing epidemiological investigation provided us confidence that the disease was just recently introduced into that facility and had not become established on the premise. Therefore, we removed that zone from our proposal prior to it being published in the Texas Register.

To date, we've received 13 public comments. This slide indicates 12. We had another comment come in over night. And of the 13 comments, nine are in support, four are in opposition to this proposal. One of the four in opposition stated that he fully supports the creation of containment zones and surveillance zones, but he was opposed to the language in the preamble that stated that we didn't propose a containment zone in Hunt or Uvalde Counties because those facilities have been issued a quarantine and the breeding facilities by law are required to be designed and built to prevent the free movement of deer. He stated that the law referenced, doesn't seem to be effective. I assume he's referring to previously reported data on missing and escaped deer from these facilities.

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

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Mitch, actually I do and it sounds like maybe the fellow that wrote in the opposition. Can you elaborate why in the Uvalde area we chose not to do containment zone like we have in some of the others?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Yes. What we have in Uvalde is in the area where we're proposing the zone expansion, which I'll display on this slide here, both of those CWD positive facilities -- let me rephrase that and say neither of those CWD positive facilities have an adjoining or adjacent release site. And so typically where we establish some of these zones is when there is a release site there and we think there's potential for contamination there, as I just stated why we didn't propose a zone ultimately in Matagorda County.

Now more specifically though, as we've handled in the past, many times we will put a surveillance zone around some of these sites if we think that the disease could be outside of the pens; but we -- there have been a few cases where we didn't establish a containment zone and the reason for that is those facilities are -- they've been issued a quarantine order by Texas Animal Health Commission and they're operating under herd plans or will be operating under herd plans that essentially serve the function of what a containment zone would. It would be redundant, I might say, as we think the hold order and the -- or the quarantine rather and the herd plans meet the same objectives.


COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Patton. I've got a question. The -- it seems like this is almost a -- I mean, I get it to try and follow roads and whatnot. But this proposed surveillance zone seems to have quite a gap, particularly between the two, and just because -- and, again, going back to the containment zone theory or the absence of one here, just because there isn't a release site, certified release site, I think we've heard evidence of deer, you know, escaping or getting through fences or whatever. I mean, it certainly seems like it might lend itself to a discussion of having a containment zone. But I'm also kind of interested in why we don't have a surveillance zone, you know, that's more contiguous to the one to the east I guess.

MR. LOCKWOOD: So good question. And I think, Commissioner Patton, how you -- how you led off with your question there, you began to address some of the reason for it, I think, and that's trying to find features that are easily recognizable to hunters. And, you know, you look -- this slide is a good example actually. If you look at the containment zone there, an existing containment zone in Medina Count -- mostly in Medina County, you'll see that that clearly does not follow roads or creeks or -- and so those are just basically geographic points that are based on some distances from known positive facilities.

And the reason that it's not as important to have those clearly delineated features for a containment zone is because that doesn't affect hunters. The zone -- the rules are the same for hunters whether it's a containment zone or a surveillance zone. So we need to make sure from a hunter's perspective it's very, very clear. It's easy. They know I'm in a zone or I'm not in a zone at any time.

For the -- for the containment zone, we notify the people, the deer breeders and other affected parties. If they're in a containment zone, we notify them that they are. And so that's why that delineation isn't -- it's not as important for a containment to follow those boundaries. I'm getting a little bit off topic.

So back to your point, that's one reason is if we were to follow -- in this case -- Highway 83 north of the northernmost point of the proposed surveillance zone and follow it north, we probably would need to go to the county line and then we basically would encompass, as you indicated, quite a bit more acreage. At that point, what we're dealing with is we're dealing with some resource issues, some personnel resource issues for one on being able to be accommodating to these hunters to be able to make this as painless as possible, if you will. In other words, to make ourselves available to them and not require them to have to travel two, three hours to find us and so we need to make it as convenient as possible. And if we find out that we do need to extend this zone by finding some positives in this area, we're going to have to deal with that challenge that I'm sharing with you right now. But we're remaining optimistic and we may -- we may find ourselves wrong about this, but we're remaining optimistic that we're not going to -- that we hope to -- obviously, hope to not find positives in this proposed zone. You know, the only positives we've found in the existing proposed zone in the free-range setting, if you will, have been -- so far there's indications that they're not of native stock, for lack of a better phrase. That genetically speaking, they're more related to the breeding stock in that area and so we think there's pretty good evidence it's not established out there yet.

But again, Commissioner, if we find out that now through this approach we're finding it there to the west and it seems to be established, then obviously we are going to need to consider an extension to that zone and we're going to have to figure out how to deal with it from a resource standpoint.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Any questions?

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Just is there -- is there a way -- I mean, obviously some -- a series of radiating radiuses off the midpoint would be the appropriate way to do it in terms of surveillance containment. Can't you just geomap that somehow? And, I mean, every hunter's got a phone and so he knows whether he's in a containment zone or he doesn't. I mean, I -- you know, I'm not for more and more and more regulation; but just maybe a simple answer to getting to a better -- to Commissioner Patton's question, I mean, it seems irregular and you're following creek lines or highways or whatever, bang, you know, my phone, I mean, on X. I mean, there's -- there's a lot of different hunting apps, am I in a containment zone or am I not?

MR. LOCKWOOD: So that's something that we have given a lot of thought to. We need to give more thought to. One thing that we do keep front and center is trying not to have unintended consequences here and turn people away from hunting. We do want to keep this as simple as possible. We do need to give what you're suggesting more thought. We acknowledge that.

Let me say this though. One reason why we're focusing on this area, Commissioner Patton and Hildebrand, is there's a thought out there by some that this disease -- as I shared in my previous presentation -- it's been here forever, at least decades. Some people believe it's been here for decades. It's a jump from Scrapie. I believe there was a lot of -- some believe there was a lot of Scrapie in this area and this is where it came from. And so what we're attempting to do here is if this is a result of geographic spread, we're attempting to hone in on that specific -- that very local right there, to focus our efforts and get as many samples from right there and determine if it is, indeed, established there.

It is quite possible it could be between the two zones where we see that gap; but, again, since this is a very focal disease, we think we need to focus our attention right there where we know it's been found in captivity and see if that immediate area produces positives outside the fence and that's probably how I should have responded initially.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: I understand. Look, you've got a tough job. We all understand that; but simple, less regulation, more effectiveness, that's what I think we're all looking for.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: We don't want to curtail people from hunting. We want more hunters.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Right. Agreed.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Any other questions?

Mitch, I think as a comment, as this evolves and if it does become, in your mind, a resource issue, I know you guys -- Carter, I know y'all would come to us. But this is -- this is on everybody's mind. It's very important, and we don't want to un -- we don't want to under-resource this effort. So I know you'll be the first one to call me if that's the case, Carter.

MR. SMITH: You bet.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Mitch.

Any other questions?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Mitch.

If we have no other questions, then we'll put this on the agenda for Thursday Commission Meeting public comment and action.

Are we at 8 through 11, Carter?

Okay. We're at Work Session Item 8 through 11 and it will be heard in Executive Session. So at this time, I'd like to announce pursuant to the requirements of Chapter 551 Government Code referred to as the Open Meetings Act, an Executive Session will be held at this time for the purpose of deliberation of real estate matters under Section 551.072 of the Open Meetings Act and/or seeking legal advice under Section 551.071 of the Open Meetings Act, including advice regarding pending or contemplated litigation.

We will now recess for Executive Session at 11:41. Thank y'all. We'll be back.

(Recess taken for Executive Session)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay. We're going reconvene for the Work Session, August 25th, 2021, at six minutes after 2:00. I apologize for being a little tardy. We're going to take a roll call. Aplin here.







CHAIRMAN APLIN: Do we know if Commissioner Abell is still online?

MS. CLARK: (Inaudible).

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay. Commissioner Abell is trying to get back on and Commissioner Bell I understand is on his way. We're now returning from Executive Session where we discussed our Work Session Real Estate Items Nos. 8 through 10 and Litigation No. 11. I will place Items No. 8 through 10 on the Thursday Commission agenda for public comment and action.

Regarding item No. 11, no further action is needed at this time.

Mr. Smith, the Commission has completed its Work Session business. I declare us adjourned at 2:08.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

(Work Session Adjourns at 2:08 p.m.)



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