TPW Commission

Commission Meeting, May 25, 2023


TPW Commission Meetings


May 25, 2023






CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay. Good morning, everyone. I’d like to welcome you to Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Meeting, Thursday Commission,

May 25th, 2023.

We’re going to start by roll call. Aplin present.







CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you. Thank you, Commissioners.

This meeting’s called to order May 25th, 2023, at 9:06 a.m.

Before proceeding with any business, I believe Dr. Yoskowitz has a statement he would like to make. David.

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

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, David.

As a reminder, I’d like everybody to please announce your name before you speak and speak slowly for the court reporter.

The first approval of min — the first is the approval of minutes from the Commission Meeting held March 23rd, 2023, which have been distributed. I’ll need a motion for approval and a second from a Commissioners.

COMMISSIONER BELL: Commissioner Bell makes a motion.



CHAIRMAN APLIN: Second, Scott. All those in favor signify by saying aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Anybody opposed? Hearing none, it passes.

Next is acknowledgment of the list of donations, which have been distributed. Same thing, I need a motion and a second.


COMMISSIONER FOSTER: Foster. Foster second.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Hildebrand first motion.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Foster and Hildebrand, thank you.

These are donations. These are easy to — never have much problem getting this approved. We have lots of friends with this Agency that do amazing things to help us support our mission and it’s never taken for granted, it’s never taken lightly, and we try to use those funds and those donations to the best use possible. So we want to thank everyone for what they do.

I have a motion and a second. All those in favor signify by saying aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Any opposed?

Hearing none, motion carries.

Next is consideration of contracts, which have also been distributed. I’ll need a motion and approval — or approval and a second.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Patton moves to approve.



CHAIRMAN APLIN: Bell second. All these in favor signify by saying aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Any opposed?

Hearing none, motion carries.

Now we’re at kind of a fun part. Part of it’s fun. It’s special recognitions. Retirement is nice, but we hate to see some of our wonderful people leave. And then our service awards presentation. David, I believe if you’ll make your presentation, we’ll get started.

DR. YOSKOWITZ: Thank you, Chairman.

Yeah, this is a — this is a great part of when we all get together five times a year to recognize all the hard work that staff has done for the State of Texas, for conservation, protecting of wildlife, and the opportunities to create more recreational opportunities for Texans and those that visit our great state.

So I’d like to kick off with a couple of award this morning. The first award is the 2022 Texas National Wild Turkey Federation Officer of the Year Award and that’s going to Daron Blackerby. Where’s — where’s Daron? Oh, there’s Daron. Thank you, Daron.

Daron graduated from the 52nd Game Warden Training Center Academy in 2007, and was assigned to Denton County at that point. He served there until 2017 and then moved just a little bit further north to Grayson County where he’s currently serving that county and community. He’s a Certified Master Peace Officer, a the firearms instructor, standardized field sobriety test instructor, and Law Enforcement Region 2 Public Information Officer.

Some of his notable responses in his 16 years with the Department include responding to the City of Dallas to assist the police department and local community during the 2016 shooting in Dallas that unfortunately claimed the lives of five police officers. He also was responding to and assisting with the recovery of a two-year-old who was lost in the woods on Denton Creek and then responded to a number of hurricanes, including Ike, Gustav, and Harvey.

Daron has also volunteered for a number of operations, Law Enforcement operations, Departmental operations. One being Operation Pescado that looked at enhancing focus on fishing compliance. Also Operation Firecracker, an operation with an enhanced focus on boating while intoxicated enforcement, and Operation SpongeBob, a multi — yes — a multistate operation over Lake Texoma with an enhanced focus on water safety compliance.

So because of all these things and all the work that Daron has done and his exceptional leadership qualities, Daron was selected for Texas Game Warden Leadership Academy Program in 2022 and was selected as peer coach to the Leadership Program by our Law Enforcement Division senior staff. It is because of these great achievements that we recognize Daron Blackerby as the 2022 Texas National Wild Turkey Federation Officer of the Year. Daron, come on up.

(Round of applause and photographs)

DR. YOSKOWITZ: Daron’s got to turn around and head back up for a 5th grade graduation.

Thank you for being here today, Daron.

Next up we have the James "Randy" Fugate Memorial Wildlife Division Professional of the Year Award and that is — that individual being recognized this year is Dana Wright. James "Randy" Fugate Memorial Wildlife Division Professional of the Year Award seeks to recognize a staff member who demonstrates the following: A positive attitude towards all aspect of his or her position, has an ability to provide high quality customer service, has the capacity to build trusting relationships, and who consistently exceeds expectations regarding his or her work within the Agency.

The Division initiated this award in 2021 and today I’m pleased to announce that Dana Wright, Assistant District 2 Leader, as that recipient of the 2023 award.

Dana began her career with the Department on May 1st, 1992, as a fish and wildlife technician with the Wildlife Division in Amarillo. She was later transferred to Childress, where she covered the western Rolling Plains in the Panhandle District. In 1996, Dana received the Department’s Employee Recognition Award for Community Outreach. And 1998, she received the award for Outstanding Team for work on the Bison herd relocation team.

In 2011, she was promoted to the Panhandle Assistant District Leader, where she worked numerous landowners and has written many wildlife management plans, educated thousands people on wildlife conservation, and helped with the restoration efforts of Rio Grande turkeys and Pronghorn antelope. In 2015, Dana was recognized nationally by the National Wild Turkey Federation and received the Joe Kurtz Excellence in Wildlife Management Award.

Like the namesake of this reward, Dana is one who has never met a stranger. Shawn Gray, Mule Deer and Pronghorn Program Leader, describes Dana as an absolute rock star in all aspects of being a TPWD biologist. And retired TPWD biologist Gene Miller says,

"Dana has established a very enviable reputation for working with private landowners and providing high-quality, professional customer service that is key to stewardship of native habitat for wildlife in our state."

Please join me in congratulating Dana Wright for this well-deserved award. (Round of applause and photographs)

DR. YOSKOWITZ: Next up, I would like to talk about and present retirement awards.

First, we’d like to recognize Sonya Banda. Sonya Banda began her career with the Department in June of 1992 as a seasonal clerk working in the magazine section. She later worked in the Executive Office and then became a Jack of all — or Jill of all trades, moving from cashiers to boating, licensing, fines and arrests and the mail room. She has assisted on many special projects encompassing budget accounts, payable, and the new revenue system — thank you for that help — that needed input and testing.

Sonya made her final move to the contract revenue, where she excelled and at the same time, earned her bachelor’s degree. Best wishes to Sonya and thank you for your service. Thirty-one years of service, Sonya Banda.

(Round of applause and photographs)

DR. YOSKOWITZ: I was sharing this with Dana earlier. You can’t get the Fugate Award and then retire, but she is going to do that. So you heard all the accolades just a moment ago, all the work that Dana has done for the Department and for the State and for conservation. And I would like to add a couple of things here. In addition to just — in addition to receiving the Joe Kurtz Excellence in Wildlife Award from the National Wild Turkey Federation, she has just received the Fugate Award for Wildlife Division Professional of the Year. Dana says she feels blessed to have worked for the Department for the past 31 years and enjoys the habitat and wildlife diversity of the Texas panhandle, as well as working with great people.

And I’m happy to have just learned that her daughter is here and carries on that tradition in working with Department and her mother is also here.

So, Dana, congratulations on 31 years. (Round of applause and photographs)

DR. YOSKOWITZ: Next we have Melissa Parker. Melissa began her career with the Department 30 years ago as a conservation biologist in East Texas.

While there she worked with endangered species and spearheaded the first statewide habitat conservation plan authorized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Red-cockaded woodpecker. She later transferred to the Austin headquarters where she served as staff liaison to the Off-Road Vehicle Task Force, which later led to legislation that restored large spans of navigable

streambeds through Senate Bill 155.

Melissa also played a vital role in establishing the Texas Paddling Trails Program and 80 Texas a paddling trails that have been implemented across the state, of which I have been able to take advantage of a few of those.

Some of her favorite projects involve working with stakeholders to develop solutions to conservation issues facing Texas rivers, such as the Frio and the San Marcos River. She has also enjoyed watching the growth and success of the Rivers Program.

Melissa says she doesn’t consider working 30 years for the Department as work, but as joy and pleasure to assist in conserving our State’s natural resources. As she retires, she plans to volunteer and continue to serve the community where she’s not traveling — when she’s not traveling with her family and friends. With 30 years, Melissa Parker.

(Round of applause and photographs)

DR. YOSKOWITZ: Now we have some service awards that we’d like to pass on and recognize some individuals. First is Damon Reeves with Coastal Fisheries. Damon began his career at the Department as a park ranger on Matagorda Island in December of 1995, as park ranger and then assistant park superintendent. And during that time, he was completing his bachelor’s

degree in arts and history at the University of Houston.

He was also the assistant ferry captain. I do remember that ferry very well.

In 2005, Damon took his first park superintendent job at Falcon State Park and a couple years later attended the Laredo Police Academy, where he was later commissioned as a park police officer. In 2007, Damon was a park superintendent at Mustang Island State Park where he oversaw some very important work on dune restoration, which is critical for the ecological functioning of barrier islands.

In 2016, he left the Department and later returned in 2018 in a completely different field and role as fish and wildlife technician with the Coastal Fisheries Department in Port O’Connor. He became Captain of the Research Vessel San Antonio, was promoted to lead technician. He continues to travel when he’s not working, visiting all the great outdoors in this state and across the country. With 25 years of service, Damon Reeves.

(Round of applause and photographs)

DR. YOSKOWITZ: Next up, we have Trevor Tanner. Trevor began his career with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in 20 — in 2003 as a district wildlife biologist in Wildlife Region 3 District 5 and has remained in this position throughout his entire career. Trevor provides technical guidance to landowners working to manage and restore and maintain native habitats and wildlife populations on their land. He also conducts annual deer and dove population surveys, monitors deer harvest and CWD surveillance.

In 2021 he was involved in setting up CWD surveillance zone check stations and drop box locations across several counties. But really important, he also prevent — presents at many youth outreach events by teaching them about the native animals and their habitats here in Texas and the importance of protecting those animals.

His true passion is for the Department’s Public Dove Hunting Program and he has served as the District Coordinator for the program since he started. He works with local farmers and landowners to lease lands for public dove hunting programs. And he will be featured tonight in one of the videos of the Lone Star Land Stewards Program. So with 20 years of service, Trevor Tanner.

(Round of applause and photographs)

DR. YOSKOWITZ: Next up, we have Maureen Barcinski. Maureen began her career in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in March of 2003. Her first position was in Infrastructure Division Regional Architect for West Texas. During her 20 years of service, Maureen has worked with every division within the Agency. But her first major project involved the historic renovations of the Indian Lodge at Davis Mountains State Park. She later tackled and tackled and tackled the Department Headquarters reconfiguration project. This project included the relocating of 750 people into new offices. Great job there, Maureen. That was challenging, I’m sure.

In 2009, Maureen was promoted to Project Manager. She has had the pleasure of successfully managing several large projects to include the Daingerfield State Park overhaul, Mother Neff State Park redevelopment, and Bastrop State Park and more. Maureen says she came to TPWD for the healthcare and career benefits, but has stayed with the Department for the human benefits: Great friends and and colleagues and the personal satisfaction of making a positive impact on the Department facilities and Texans.

With 20 years of service, Maureen Barcinski.

(Round of applause and photographs)

DR. YOSKOWITZ: Chairman, that concludes my presentation.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, David. And I want to thank everyone for recognitions/retirements.

It’s always a fun part of this meeting to get to recognize our special people here, which is really the basis of this Agency is our people. So wonderful, wonderful experience. Thank you.

At this time, I want to inform everybody in the audience that you’re welcome to stay for the remainder of the meeting. However, this would be an opportune time if you would like if you just came to be there for your family or friends for their recognition, this would be a good opportunity. We’ll take a few minutes for those that want to leave to leave and those that want to stay, you’re more than welcome. Thank you.

(Recess taken)

DR. YOSKOWITZ: Okay. We’ll get started with the first order of business, which is Action Item No. 1, Digital Licensing/Tagging Requirements, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. Good morning, Chris.

MR. CERNY: Good morning. Good morning, Chairman and Commissioners, and thank you for your time today. For the record, my name is Chris Cerny and I am the Business Analyst for the Wildlife Division. Today I’m seeking adoption of proposed amendments to regulations that are intended to provide four additional fully digital license and tag options for next hunting season or license year.

As a point of reference for these proposed amendments, I will take a moment to provide an overview of the digital license and tagging options currently available to customers. All license holders currently have an option to furnish digital proof of license for any hunting and fishing activities that do not require a tag. This option has been available since 2019 and it means that customers engage in a majority of activities — fishing activities across the state and any hunting activities that do not require a tag — currently have a digital option to furnish that proof of license. So, you know, anybody pursuing ducks, doves, exotics, even deer hunters on MLD properties, for example, have a digital option at this time.

However, as noted, this option does not provide a digital tagging mechanism for customers who are harvesting deer, turkey, or oversized redfish under the authority of that hunting license.

Fully digital licenses, including digital tags, were authorized during the 2021 Legislative Session and became available for the first time with this license year. For this pilot year, fully digital super combo, senior super combo, and lifetime combo licenses were made available through online purchase only and we sold in excess of 80,000 of those so far this season. Digital tagging is completed using the My Texas Hunt Harvest mobile or web app.

Based on the popularity of the digital super combo license offerings in this pilot, based on feedback from customers and staff’s confidence in our license sales system and the My Texas Hunt Harvest app to support the program, staff are proposing to provide fully digital offerings for the four additional license and tag types shown here for next season. These include the youth hunting license, the exempt angler Red drum tag, the lifetime hunting tags, and the lifetime fishing tags.

These license and tag options are being proposed for several reasons. The youth hunting license is included because staff received feedback from a number of customers who had purchased a digital super combo for themselves, for themselves and their spouse and intended to purchase one for their child, only to find out that they had to get a paper license for that youth hunting license. So they were forced to live in both worlds, digital and paper. And we certainly want to provide those families with an option to go entirely digital if they would like to.

The exempt angler Red drum tag is being offered for the same reason. There are customers who otherwise do not need a fishing license, but still need that oversized Red drum tag. And so our goal is to provide them with the option to go digital for that tag

if they would like.

The lifetime tag options are being included to round out the digital offerings for all lifetime license types: Combo, hunting, and fishing.

The table shown on your screen presents last season’s sales data for each license type and projections of potential digital sales based on the approximately 14 percent overall digital sales metric that we observed this season. If these estimates hold for next license year, staff anticipate approximately 18,000 of these licenses may be sold in a digital format. Our implementation team is confident that we can support this anticipated volume and ensure a successful expansion of our digital offerings while we continue to work to upgrade our system to prepare for continued expansion of digital offerings in future license years.

We have received some public comment from four individuals, all in agreement with this proposal. And so in conclusion, staff recommends that the Commission adopts amendments to Texas Administrative Code Chapters 53, 57, and 65, with changes as necessary to the proposed text as published in the April 21, 2023, issue of the Texas Register.

Thank you for your time today. That concludes my presentation, and I’m happy to take any questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Chris.

Action Item No. 1, Digital License, Commissioners, any questions? Comments?

No one has signed up to speak. So hearing no comments from Commissioners and no one to speak, I would accept a motion for approval from a Commissioner and a second.




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

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Any opposed?

Hearing none, motion carries.

Thank you, Chris.

MR. CERNY: Thank y’all.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Let’s roll it out as fast as we can and every other, you know, license.

MR. CERNY: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Action Item No. 2, Public Hunting Program, Establishment of an Open Season on Public Hunting Land and Approval of Public Hunting Activities on State Parks, Mr. Kevin Mote. Good morning Kevin.

MR. MOTE: Good morning, Chairman,

Commissioners. For the record, my name is Kevin Mote. I’m the Private Lands and Public Hunting Program Director, and today I’ll be requesting your approval of two items related to the Public Hunting Program.

In order to provide hunting activities on the public hunting land, the Commission must provide for an open season. For this purpose, staff request your approval to establish an open season on public hunting lands that will run from September 1st, 2023, to August 31st, 2024.

The Commission is also asked to approve specific hunting activities on units of the state park system detailed in Exhibit A included in your briefing materials.

Staff recommends the following motions for your approval: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorizes an open season on public hunting lands to run from September 1st, 2023, to August 31st, 2024; and second, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorizes the public hunting activities described in Exhibit A to take place on units of the state park system.

And with that, I’ll be happy to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Kevin.

Commissioners, any questions, Action Item No. 2?

No one signed up to speak. So if no further comments or questions from Commissioners, I’ll accept a motion for approval.




CHAIRMAN APLIN: Hildebrand, Abell. All those in favor signify by saying aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Any opposed?

Hearing none, Action Item No. 2 carries.

Thank you.

Action Item No. 3, Chronic Waste Disease Detection, Response Rules, Amendments to Surveillance Zone Delineations, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes, Dr. Reed. Good morning, Hunter.

DR. REED: Good morning. Good morning,

Chairman and Commissioners. For the record, my name’s Dr. J. Hunter Reed, Veterinarian for the Wildlife Division and I plan to recommend today proposed modifica — recommend adoption for proposed modifications to existing CWD zones, as well as the establishment of new CWD zones in response to positive detections in positive breeding facilities. As I’ve discussed before, we’re seeking permission to — sorry. If adopted, with this new approach that we have proposed that would adjust the size of these existing surveillance zones, this new approach would solely affect captive deer breeding facilities where we’ve seen a positive detection. To better outline this, I’m going to use Duval County surveillance zone shaded in yellow here as an example.

First we’d establish a quarantine administered by THC that would be established around the infected property. Then a surveillance zone will be established 2 miles from the perimeter of the infected premise as indicated by the yellow line. This yellow line is what is being recommended for adoption today. In practice though, all properties that are partially or wholly included within the surveillance zone shaded in gray, would be subject to mandatory testing and carcass movement restrictions.

This surveillance zone would remain in place until certain conditions are met for the zone to be removed. The first being the breeding facility — the infected breeding facility must be depopulated or the quarantine administered by THC must be lifted.

Second, a minimum of three hunting seasons must have passed since the date of depopulation and quarantine being lifted. Three, area sampling must be completed to satisfy a 95 percent detection probability goal. And four, area sampling will be distributed across the zone. As you may remember, the 95 percent detection probability and sample distribution metrics are determined by an agent-based model using Texas specific data. The model is created by Dr. Ani Belsare and provides a much more realistic perspective of how CWD spreads within different populations and environments.

To satisfy this sampling goal, we’ll use a variety of different methods. The main four will be the use of check stations, drop boxes, on ranch pick up, and road kill to collect the necessary amount of samples.

To demonstrate how this approach would work in practice, I’ve outlined two example scenarios. In this first scenario, CWD has been detected in a captive breeding facility and a surveillance zone, including all properties partially or wholly encompassed within 2 miles of the infected premises, has been created. From the first day of the surveillance zone, mandatory carcass movement restrictions and CWD testing will begin. Shortly after the surveillance zone is created, depopulation of the infected breeding facility in this example occurs. From the date of depopulation, the two-year clock begins and during this time, sampling is mandatory, but does not count towards the release of the zone.

After two years have passed, the number and distribution of samples would begin counting for surveillance zone release. And for this hypothetical scenario, there are a high degree of coop — there is a high degree of cooperation, which meant the sample and distribution goal outlined by the agent-based model was met in a handful of hunting seasons with no CWD detections in free-ranging animals. Consequently, the zone — the zone can be released.

The second example is very similar. CWD was again detected in a captive breeding facility. A surveillance zone with mandatory move — or mandatory carcass movement restrictions and sampling requirements was established. The breeding facility was depopulated expeditiously, and two years have passed since the date of depopulation. Unfortunately in this situation, a free-ranging detection of CWD occurred and consequently, the surveillance zone will remain. For clarity, I will briefly demonstrate what this approach will look like for currently existing CWD zones. As a reminder, the yellow shaded area outlines the current surveillance zone. The new surveillance zone is the yellow line of what is being recommend for adoption today and all properties that would be affected by the surveillance zone subject to carcass movement restrictions and mandatory testings are shaded in gray.

For Duval County, this is what this zone would like and result in 97 percent reduction in affected landowners.

Next is the current Limestone County surveillance zone and this is what we recommend for adoption today, reducing the number of affected properties by 76 percent.

This is the current Gillespie County surveillance zone and under this new strategy, the affected number of property owners would be reduced by 91 percent.

And then fourth is the Uvalde County extension of the south central — or south central CWD zone. In this situation, we have two affected breeding facilities relatively close to each other. One is depopulated, and one is under a research plan. Using this new approach, 69 percent of — we would reduce the amount of impacted landowners by 69 percent.

The next six zones I will discuss are in response to new CWD positive breeding facilities that have been recently detected. The first here Zavala County, the surveillance zone will encompass 22 properties.

In Washington County, this would encompass 555 properties primarily because of the fact that small landowners located in the city of Brenham would be included.

This breeding facility in Gonzales County, using this approach would encompass 104 properties.

This next surveillance zone in Hamilton County would encompass 75 properties.

And then lastly, this breeding facility in Frio County, using this approach would create a surveillance zone that would encompass 27 properties.

Additionally, we are recommending adoption of these three additional points included within the proposal. First would allow for the location of mandatory check stations outside a surveillance zone if it is necessary. Second would allow for the transportation of heads to check stations when check stations are outside of surveillance zones. And lastly, we would elimin — we would recommend the elimination of the sunset provision for the Duval County surveillance zone, since staff seek to utilize this new agent-based modeling approach I have outlined earlier.

Today, there was one additional comment that has not been include on this slide, but we received a total of 18 responses. 72 percent are in agreement, or completely agree; 6 percent disagree completely; and 22 disagree specifically. One point of disagreement was that there are no aerial photos of the containment zone and surveillance zone provided with this proposal. And a second point was that an individual — adjacent landowner of Sutton Count — Sutton County positive facility — contested CWD is not — is not contained and controlled, that there are potential economic implications from the disease, and that captive breeding has facilitated the spread of the disease, but they disagree with the Department’s approach on how we have handled the disease. Other comments were not germane to the item up for adoption.

We received two formal comments as well.

One comment supported the proposed amendments up for adoption. However, they did request that a sunset review be performed within three years of the creation or renewal of any surveillance zone. The other comment was not germane to the item up for adoption.

With that, staff recommend that the Commission adopt the proposed motion. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Dr. Reed. Commissioners, questions? Comments?

Hunter, I have I guess a question. When I look at your presentation, I don’t remember the numbers, but they range from 60 to 90 percent reduction of landowners that are affected, which is huge. So will you speak a little bit more when we’re having an expansion or in positives showing up and we’re kind of reducing. I mean, I think I understand it because you and I spent a lot of time talking about it. But I’d like for everyone to understand why we’re reducing the net, if you will, at this time.

DR. REED: Yeah.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: With your — with this policy and procedure that y’all are going to work with.

DR. REED: Yeah. I think one point is that our ability to contain the disease in a captive situation, if done in an expeditious manner, is much more effective. So by treating captive facilities in a different context compared to our free-ranging positives, I think is justifiable in that sense because using the tools of depopulation, as well as following up with — or sorry — cleaning and disinfection procedures, as well as having a quarantine in place for at least five years after depopulation, it can contain the disease in that context, which means that those that might be encompassed by a zone that’s 5 miles in radius might be a bit of overkill. But we want to at least make sure that we’re assessing the free-ranging population surrounding that facility in case that, A, there could be free-ranging CWD that we have yet to detect that infected the facility. That is very helpful information that we can immediately get by placing a surveillance zone. But also we want to make sure that surveillance zone is in place long enough so that we can also assess if it’s not in the free-range — if CWD is not in a free-ranging population at a high prevalence, that our containment strategies worked in containing it to just that property. And, therefore, we’re monitoring the free-ranging population and if there’s no disease that’s detected ultimately, then we can move forward.

Additional part of this is that we have seen a — there is the logistical part of it. We have seen a large expansion in the amount of surveillance zones in response to CWD positive breeding facilities.

So logistically, trying to make sure that we have the resources to respond to each of those appropriately. This is — this is an additional factor as to why this approach is being used.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: So the resource is logistical because we have these new ones popping, if you will. Plus you feel like this is a better method to more of a rifle than a shotgun approach. By that, I mean a pinpointed, smaller area.

DR. REED: Absolutely.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: You mentioned five years. So if you’re a breeding facility and you have a positive, that’s a five-year moratorium? But if you are in a containment zone or a surveillance zone, after it’s depopulated, those people are three years? They’re not five? So there’s a three-year term and a five-year term?

DR. REED: So to better clarify that, so the — in terms of the positive breeding facility, their herd plan states that they’ll have a — they’ll have a herd — or a quarantine in place five years from that last detection. That will — that will be there regardless of whether a zone is present or not. But as far as how this strategy unfolds, you could have a facility depopulated and essentially three years later, the surrounding zone may be removed with the assurance that we would have detected the disease at that — with that intensity of sampling and distribution of sampling.

However, the quarantine on the property of concern would be in place for at least five years. CHAIRMAN APLIN: But so the neighbors, they have a shorter window to get out of the problem. DR. REED: Potentially if the sampling —

CHAIRMAN APLIN: If it’s depopulated, their clock is three years. And —

DR. REED: At — oop, sorry.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: And nothing comes up. Go ahead. I should let you talk.

DR. REED: Yes, at a minimum. A minimum of three.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: At a minimum. Assuming the other criteria.

DR. REED: Yes.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: But we have made an effort to let the neighbors out of the proverbial box, if you will, sooner.

DR. REED: Yes.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Because — okay. One other thing I want to be sure I’m clear of. The time, the clock, what we’re talking about here, this three-year period from depopulation, that doesn’t start until — how does that relate to the containment zone or surveillance zone? Does it have nothing to do with containment or surveillance, or is it only the depopulation?

DR. REED: The only — we would only be establishing a containment zone in response to a free-ranging detection. So it would not be related to free-ranging positives. This would only be pertinent to captive breeding facilities with positive detections where we would established only a surveillance zone. So in order for that clock to start, we would need depopulation of that facility or the quarantine to be lifted through — if there is a — through an epidemiological assessment and alternative herd plan.

In most cases, depopulation of this facility would occur. That clock could start three hunting seasons later. If all the samples were collected in that ultimate hunting season, the zone could be removed. That would be a best case scenario. CHAIRMAN APLIN: And the depopulation is contingent upon the landowner or the breeder working with us to get started with a herd plan and the depopulation. In the event that they don’t, then we can’t start the clock.

DR. REED: Yes.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: You know, we talked yesterday a little bit about kind of how long it takes from the time, you know, that we have a problem and we want to recognize a zone and we go through the process.

Just the way we’re set up, it takes a long time, correct?

DR. REED: Yes.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: And so our other tool for speeding up — because we are dealing with a disease — is emergency orders, which we have had to use in the past. But that’s really — because we kind of — we’re baked in that long, it’s either that long process or emergency order. That’s our two options, right?

DR. REED: I’m not the lawyer; but to my knowledge, yes.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Right, yeah. Okay.

Those are my questions, Commissioners.

Any questions? Comments? Anybody?


So a quarantine facility is out of commission for five years?

DR. REED: Yes.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: And that’s based on data that the disease will lay latent in the soil for plus five years?

DR. REED: It’s based off the guidance from the USDA program standards. So we collaborate with Texas Animal Health Commission and that is — those are the guidelines that they follow in responding to that disease. So we mimic that approach.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay. We’re going to move on. And so, Commissioners, if you have other questions come up, you certainly have — we have some people that have asked to speak about this, and so I believe they’re all in person. I don’t believe we have

anyone calling in.

First is Roy Leslie. I should say our friend Roy Leslie. Good morning, Roy.

MR. ROY LESLIE: I hope I still am.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: You absolutely are.

MR. ROY LESLIE: Especially after today.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: You absolutely are. You love this state and our resource. Good morning.

MR. ROY LESLIE: Thank you, I appreciate it. I appreciate all of y’all, believe it or not.

Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, my name’s Roy Leslie. I’m a low-fenced, no leased landowner in far northwest Kendall County. I speak only for myself.

Well, there may be a few others. I’m in favor of the proposal.

As a Lone Star and Wildlife Society land steward, I’ve campaigned visible ID and neighbor’s right to know and the elimination of cervid relocation in Texas since the first Medina County case in 2015. My open records request have uncovered a frightening trove of data recording the escapes, the mismanagement from and the misplacement of breeder deer from breeder operations. I can sound like a broken record, I know.

But I’ll ask again you to consider — for you to consider your mission statement. Nowhere does it say to protect the animal industry. Nowhere does it say to increase the marketability of Texas livestock. Nowhere does it say to promote animal health and productivity.

Those are worthy and lofty goals. They are the first three bullet points of the Animal Health Commission’s mission statement. Your mission statement at Parks and Wildlife is beautifully clear and concise: To manage and conserve the natural and cultural resources of the State of Texas.

I realize it’s painfully difficult to know your decisions can existentially affect the dimensioning deer breeder business. But business protection is not why you’re here. You’re here to manage and conserve the natural resources of Texas. You’re here to protect our native White-tailed deer population.

Please maintain and enforce the visible ID requirements. Please rigorously administer SB 811, the imminent neighbor’s right to know bill. And please forbid the transfer from the Hunt and Kaufman facilities. Thank you for the opportunity to restate my concerns.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Roy.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Jonathan Letz. Good morning.

MR. JONATHAN LETZ: Good morning. Good morning, Commissioner Aplin and the Commission. For the record, my name is Jonathan Letz and Vice President of the Texas Wildlife Association. I would like to begin by thanking you for your decision yesterday to pull the proposal that would have allowed movement of live deer out of CWD containment zones. That was the right decision.

TWA is supportive of today’s rule package, which will shrink surveillance zones while increasing the focus and intensity of sampling around positive facilities. Anytime you can add confidence and greatly reduce the burden to landowners, we believe it is good policy.

While today’s rule package is a good step in — or a good step in the right direction, there is lot that needs to be done and we truly — we believe that if you’re really serious about stopping the spread of CWD, it is outlined in a letter we sent back in April. That April letter was in response to several new positive breeding facilities popping up around the state. And as I should note, that since that letter, additional positives have been confirmed.

I provided each of you a copy of that letter today. In that letter, we offered you our support for Texas Parks and Wildlife instituting the temporary stoppage of live animal movement while Agency staff and managers try to gain an understanding of the current disease situation.

If the Agency doesn’t feel we have reached the threshold for stoppage of movement, we also offer a following list of suggestions that should be strongly considered.

No. 1, permanent ID that is clearly identifiable from a distance should remain on every released deer.

Two, gather additional surveillance from release sites focusing heavily on those that are trace-outs from positive facilities.

Three, 100 percent antemortem testing for breeder-to-breeder movement, preferably using tonsil antemortem tests. There are others listed in the letter, so there’s no reason for me to go over those right now.

As was discussed yesterday, there’s a significant time lag in implementing new rules. But the high volume of deer movement that usually takes place in the late summer, emergency action should be considered by the Department. CWD is a real threat to our rural economies, our private working lands, and the future of hunting in Texas. We appreciate the seriousness with which you are approaching this process and hope you will continue talking meaningful steps and taking meaningful steps towards slowing the spread of CWD. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Jon.

Jenny Sanders. Good morning.

MS. JENNY SANDERS: Good morning. Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, Dr. Yoskowitz. My name is Jenny Sanders and I’m in favor of Action Item No. 3, amendments to the surveillance zone delineations. I come to you today from behind the pine curtain in tiny Apple Springs, Texas. As a natural resource professional, a small acreage landowner, a hunter, and the mom of two boys who are depending on me and you — more you — to ensure that they have access to the same hunting opportunities and healthy wildlife resources that we all grew up with and have enjoyed and have been a part of our heritage.

I hope you saw the results of the recent economic survey conducted by the Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute. They are estimating 4.3 billion dollars in direct expenditures related to White-tailed hunting in Texas annually. This, in addition to the cultural and social benefits that Roy mentioned, are what my boys are counting on. That and snacks in the deer blind and selfie opportunities for Snapchat.

That’s what’s at stake here if we don’t get the response to CWD right. That’s 4.3 billion dollars and that’s just the direct expenditures. That doesn’t count the total economic impact, which obviously would be much greater.

Look, thank you for all you’ve done in the past as a Commission, as a Department, and your action yesterday to avoid the possibility of movement of breeder deer from containment zones. Obviously, we’re headed in a good direction with regulation. And, obviously, thank you for supporting the surveillance zone today; but please don’t stop there. We know — we heard yesterday that the current antemortem testing rules are not preventing — fully preventing — the movement of CWD.

Dr. Reed mentioned that at least 25 have tested positive after a previous not-detected antemortem text. Seventy-one if you go beyond that eight-month window. How many have slipped through that we don’t know about? How many other release sites and counties have been exposed that we don’t know about?

Please consider a stoppage of movement of breeder deer. In fact, stop — consider stopping movement of all CWD susceptible that you have obviously authority over species, live and dead. Please consider emergency action until we have greater assurance that can be provided to Texas landowners and hunters that CWD is not going to be on our fence line next. At the very least, please consider a policy to enforce the current statute requiring permanent visible ID of breeder deer upon release so that landowners have a fighting chance of finding, testing, and removing exposed animals.

In recent weeks — and you’ve heard about it today — landowners, environmentalists, researchers, hunters have all reached out to you with similar concerns and asked for the same protections. Please listen. I — our concern is for the future of deer, future of deer hunting, and for all the other ripple effects that would result from a declining deer population. Rest assured that the vast majority of Texans will be behind you in taking aggressive action. Thank you for your leadership and dedication on this matter.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you. One questions.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: I don’t believe I know where Apple Springs is.

MS. JENNY SANDERS: Apple Springs is just southwest of Lufkin.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay, thank you. Thank you for making the trip.

MS. JENNY SANDERS: 1A school that plays six-man football. You should come watch.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Oh, that’s fun. Six-man, that’s fun to watch. Thank you.

MS. JENNY SANDERS: Thank y’all.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Mary Meuth. Hi, Mary.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Good morning.

MS. MARY PEARL MEUTH: Good morning. Good morning, Chairman Aplin, Vice-Chairman Scott, Commissioners, Dr. Yoskowitz. For the record, my name is Mary Pearl Meuth. I am here today as President-elect of Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society. I share testimony on behalf of our President Dr. Blake Grisham, as well as a letter sent by our leadership on March 30th.

Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society represents over 900 wildlife professionals and wildlife students and we are devoted to ensuring that wildlife resource decisions are made after consideration of relevant scientific information and consultation with wildlife professionals. I speak to you and the Commission today to express our deep concern over the growing threat of Chronic Wasting Disease, as demonstrated by the recent outbreak in captive breeding facilities. Since 2002, Texas Parks and Wildlife has worked tirelessly to first prevent CWD from occurring in the state and now to slow the spread of the disease and commend leadership and staff for their continued steadfast determination to manage this invasive threat. Despite these efforts, CWD has continued its progression and now we face a dire future that requires bold steps to further prevent spread. We strongly believe that in the face of an adaptive challenge like CWD, we need tangible, achievable solutions underwritten by the scientific method and vetted by our regulatory experts. Unfortunately, science, CWD, and human expectations do not always operate on the same relative plane.

As mentioned yesterday numerous times, this prion disease has a lengthy incubation period, complicating the detection process and paired with an uncertain tool, like antemortem testing as Chairman Aplin summarized yesterday, tracking and managing this disease is an extreme challenge. Texas Chapter commends the use of the Belsare analytic model, setting a standard for surveillance zones and reducing the impact to adjoining landowners, while still staff the confidence in obtaining valid sampling data. Furthermore, Dr. Yoskowitz opened the floor yesterday on CWD with the statement: It’s not enough.

We agree. More robust strategies are to mitigate this 4.3 billion dollar threat as Jenny Sanders mentioned. Texas Chapter supports this Commission in taking whatever action is necessary to secure our cervid population, including — but not limited to — a temporary halt on live deer transport, especially in areas or zones where known positives occur. Until we have a full understanding of the disease’s extent and prevalence in captive facilities, such a decision, albeit a challenge, would bolster our fight against CWD. It’s a proactive step, but echoes our shared commitment to protecting that which we own collectively as mandated by the North American model; but are only borrowing from our children. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Mary.

Matt Wagner. Good morning, Matt.

MR. MATT WAGNER: Greetings, Chairman Aplin and Commission members. I am Matt Wagner, past President of the Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society, certified wildlife biologist. I retired from TPWD nearly seven years ago and now teach wildlife law and policy at Texas State University and I also consult on private ranches in Central Texas. I support the modification of the CWD surveillance zones as presented today. I also want to thank you for your action that you took yesterday to prevent the movement of breeder deer from CWD containment zones.

Why would the Department even consider such a move in the face of a rapidly progressing disease?

In just the last three months, there have been CWD occurrences in breeding facilities in six new counties. Despite the best efforts for testing, CWD has proved to be impossible to contain and threatens a 4 billion dollar hunting economy. In a recent article published by the Wildlife Society, Texas spends the most of any other state in trying to manage this disease, over 2 million dollars annually.

Where do these dollars come from? Hunters. How do the 700,000 deer hunters benefit from deer breeding?

When a public resource is propagated and transported for private gain, how are the costs and benefits measured? Who bears the risk and reaps the rewards? How much risk is the Department willing to gamble with our deer herds, deer hunters, landowners, and our hunting economy? For this reason, I urge you to take further action to prevent the movement of breeder deer, including an emergency order as needed. In closing, I think it’s important to lift our heads from the technical weed patch that we find ourselves in and we need to ask: What are we doing? Where are we going? And how did we get here? How much time and resources have been spent on this singular issue, while other natural resource challenges need our attention? And there are many as you know. So in closing, I want to thank you for letting me comment today.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Matt.

John Shepperd. Good morning, John.

MR. JOHN SHEPPERD: Good morning. Good morning, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners and Dr. Yoskowitz. My name is John Shepperd. I’m the Executive Director of the Texas Foundation for Conservation, and we are here in support of the adoption of this agenda item. This Agency can and must do more to stop the spread of CWD.

In February of this year, I was in the Texas Capitol visiting with a representative of the deer breeding industry, talking about the live animal testing protocols and he told me, "We’re not spreading CWD around the state. We’re just not."

Well, that was in February. By the third week of March, three new positives were confirmed in the deer breeding facilities, with more to follow over the next few weeks. It’s simply an undeniable fact. Every time a pen-raised deer is loaded into a truck and driven across the county or across the state, it presents a risk and that’s a risk that the deer breeding industry has continually asked the rest of us to bear.

And thanks to the recent Texas A&M economic study, we know what’s at risk. Landowners and deer hunters spend three point — 4.3 billion dollars a year every year in Texas and a lot of that money goes to the rural communities, helping landowners preserve family lands. That’s what we’re putting at risk. An economic lifeline to rural Texas that also happens to bring family and friends together in the outdoors. There are many things this Commission can do to help stop the CWD — the spread of CWD and in the interest of time, I’ll refer you back to the April 17th letter that I submitted to Chairman Aplin. One action that was not included in the letter, but was discussed at length yesterday and then again today and that’s the utilization of the emergency order. This is the exact reason the emergency order authority presides with the Executive Director. It’s a limited duration action that can be fully or quickly implemented until the Commission has the opportunity to meet and discuss an item in full.

Let’s put the emergency order to use when and where it’s appropriate because every day counts when we’re trying to stop the spread of disease both inside and outside of the breeding pens. Native wildlife is a public trust resource and we should be doing everything that we can to make sure that these resources are available for future Texans to enjoy.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, John.

Kevin Davis. Good morning, Kevin.

MR. KEVIN DAVIS: Hey, good morning. For the record, my name’s Kevin Davis. I represent the Texas Deer Association, and we are also in support of the proposal. You remember my formal comment submitted suggested that a measure to make the proposal even better and more effective would be to put a sunset provision on it.

Now it’s not my intention to request a sunset provision for every rule that’s created about deer breeders. It’s my intention to point out that this particular rule package speaks to how the rule is going to be applied. If there’s an endgame to it, how that looks. But it does it outside of the rule itself. It does it in a policy that has yet to be developed. And so in an effort to keep it at the top of the equation for consideration and offer landowners some level of certainty that they may have a way out of a zone, which we believe from the creation of the Duval County zone and the Gillespie County zones, that we have that — that — that will from landowners and sportsmen out there that they may not always be involved in a zone.

And remember, these folks are largely not associated with anything other than proximity to the location of a positive deer. So we do believe that the sunset provision would serve to enhance the effectiveness of the rule.

Now that being said, my colleagues today have swayed from this particular proposal and talked about other items and I’d appreciate the same consideration for just a couple of minutes.

You know, I arrived in this position kind of — kind of unmeaningly. Meaning, I got up here to the Parks and Wildlife and I’m real proud of my career at Parks and Wildlife. I’m real proud of the service that I was able to get to provide to the State of Texas and some of the leadership roles I got to take. But my first assignment from Mr. Smith when I arrived here at the headquarters and the decision-making role was to improve relation with deer breeders and I worked really hard at doing that and I — and we — we, as a Law Enforcement Division, worked hard with deer breeders to affect policy and change that would make the relationship easier and better and we did that. And then all of a sudden, CWD pops up into the equation and throws stress into the environment.

We can’t deny that and I don’t have any prepared comment, so forgive me if I bounce around just a little bit. But what we — what we — what we do know is that science improves daily and it is improving at a rate that is exponential to any that we’ve had in the past and we have more tools that at our disposal than we’ve ever had. And in Texas, there are a lot of release sites that rely on breeder deer. Most of those release sites are less than 500 acres in size.

Deer breeders are working through science, just like the sheep and goat farmers did with scrapie, to find a way to genetically map resistance into their herds and they’re doing that at an exponential level and it can be seen at the facility in Uvalde County right now, which is a positive facility and it has a herd plan that calls for aggressive testing and aggressive modeling and aggressive culling. But that herd plan also allows for an endgame at that facility and allows movement of deer out of that facility onto a release site that is not adjacent this coming fall.

So you heard testimony yesterday that said we just simply can’t recommend moving animals out of a containment zone. But that’s exactly what’s slated to happen with a fascinating study that we hope is successful. That every landowner and hunter ought to hope is successful where we actually clean CWD up out of a herd and we no longer have to rely on CWD always being present within a population. It’s a really good move in the right direction.

And so I just ask everybody to consider the fact that if we are — if we continue to be successful at the resistance model, aren’t we going to be successful on those small 500-acre pastures in influencing CWD in a positive way? And if we were to eliminate breeding or artificial movement of deer, would we be eliminating the spread of CWD or improving natural CWD improvement in herds over time? Would we be doing that?

With that, I’ll take any questions. I appreciate your time.

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

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Hold on. Real quick. Tell me about the study that you’re — that’s being conducted that is genetically trying to minimize CWD.

MR. KEVIN DAVIS: So when a CWD positive herd is detected positive, there’s, you know, obviously a process that’s worked through with Animal Health Commission and Parks and Wildlife that enacts a herd plan for a response mechanism and you’ve heard staff talk today that generally the gold standard has been depopulation. But we have a facility in Uvalde County right now that is — that is working towards a different model and they are funding that model. They are utilizing scientific data, mainly Dr. Chris Seabury’s literature and studies that show a way around — that actually show a way to enhance resistance within a herd and — and so they’ve applied that model. They have — they have done — I don’t know how many animals they’ve culled; but if they were below a certain threshold, they removed those animals.

They — they are testing several rounds of live testing. I’m not sure exactly how many. I don’t have the herd plan in front of me right now. But the herd plan offers an endgame that is different than depopulation and actually keeps that facility in business and shows and actually values the fact that science has helped clean up this herd and remove CWD from it.

And so, you know, the — that is a tremendous move in a positive direction for everybody if it’s successful. And so — but, you know, yesterday we took action — and I’m not questioning y’all’s action.

You received input and y’all have a difficult job, but you took action on not hearing a proposal that was — that had no opposition until recently. And that proposal was going to allow a person in a containment zone to continue to move. Now that doesn’t mean that that person would have been able to move without serious regulatory oversight and testing —

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: I understand. I’m just — I’m asking about the model and the data. Not —

MR. KEVIN DAVIS: Yeah, yeah. No, I get it. And so my point is that model provides that positive facility with an endgame and a way out.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Great. Can you send me that information?

MR. KEVIN DAVIS: I know the Department can. They —

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: That would be great. All right, thank you.

DR. YOSKOWITZ: Commissioner Hildebrand, Dr. Reed has been involved with that. So if you — we can — if you have questions, we can —

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Hunter, will you — will you speak to this a little bit about what we’re doing there with this genetic and that we have parallel? I mean, we have a problem obviously, a growing problem; but we also, you know, have a hope through genetics. So will you explain to the entire Commission, including Commissioner Hildebrand —

DR. REED: Absolutely.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: — kind of what we’re doing there?

DR. REED: Absolutely. I think the whole picture here might help. So in 2021, index positive facilities in Uvalde County. There are two facilities there. That facility sent out hundreds of deer to release sites and other breeding facilities. Part of our effort to target trace animals revealed that some facilities — three, but four as of most recently — like — or acquired positive animals. In this case, this facility that we’re talking about right now in Uvalde County with this research plan, they received a positive animal from that index facility.

We know it was positive because we were able to test and remove that animal within that breeding facility and identify within that facility through their herd records exactly which pens that animal went through and which animals were exposed to those pens and that positive animal.

As we worked through this research plan, we instituted a variety — a plethora of really — it was really stringent requirements as to how we were going to manage the disease in that facility and we have gotten a great amount of cooperation from that facility owner. Part of that was removing animals that were — first of all, removing the positive animal. Then removing all of the animals that were exposed to that positive animal and then quarantining each of those positive — or those pens that had exposure from that positive animal.

We also did a whole herd screening test.

An antemortem — each animal in that facility — mind you, this was probably around 900 to a thousand animals at the time, had to have an antemortem rectal and tonsil test within that facility and then annually they are also required to get a rectal test or if they’re being — if they’re going to be released that year — and that release was only allowed after three years once we started instituting this antemortem testing protocol.

So — sorry. First round, general screening, antemortem tonsil for every thou — every animal in that herd, which was around a thousand animals. Then each year after that, they have to have a rectal test or a tonsil test within 30 days of release.

On top of that, we also instituted genetic breeding strategy or breeding approach. Each animal out of the thousands — or a thousand animals in that herd had to have a genetic susceptibility profile performed and I think that was through the North American Deer Registry. Animals that didn’t meet the cutoff point outlined by that subject matter expert that we are working with, had culled and that resulted in I think around 400 animals being removed out of that herd.

So the moral of the story here is that we’re working with the Texas Animal Health Commission on this individual property. That property is not within a containment zone, but they are subject to herd plan which has a whole array of other measures in place to try and reduce the possibility of that disease being within an individual animal and then ultimately after three years, once that animal is allowed to go to a release site to be harvested, that that animal is then postmortem tested within that hunting season of a release. So there is a whole array of strategies in place, including visible identification that we are trying to use to mitigate the risk of this individual circumstance; but that hasn’t — that would not be possible without that facility owner agreeing to this whole array of options bore out in a herd plan.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: That’s a mouthful. Thank you.


I want to make a comment. I mean — I mean, this is a substantial effort that is being made to gather data and to research, you know, live, if you will and to understand opportunities for genetic improvement.

And so there’s a — there’s a lot going on there. And so this is a unique situation, if you will, that we’re working with Animal — Texas Health Animal Commission, the Agency, the landowner to try to gather data and so that’s what this is and what you’re referring to.

And you mentioned something I want to understand about through all of these kind of criteria that the scientists have put in place, when a deer meets — reaches — meets all those criteria, they’re released into a release site. They’re available for hunting. After harvest, they’re tested postmortem. I think you just said it, but I want to understand. How do you know — how are y’all finding that deer? Is that deer — are they maintaining the visible tag?

DR. REED: So I have to double-check the herd plan. We are — what we’re using, we’re using an R — an 840 tag, essentially an RFID tag; but we’re also using a Micro-Trak’s tag. I have to verify here if we’re going use — there’s also CWD susceptible exotic species. But the intent is to be able to have identification on those animals. Then when we remove them, we’re able to at least scan the ID and it’s in a small enough release site, enclosed by — it’s actually a release site within a surrounding release site. So it has at least a couple forms of fencing. So those — when — those animals have a reduced likelihood of escaping the high-fenced area.

But also with an additional tag that’s actually using cell — cellular data. So for that individual animal, we get a notification, A, if there’s a mortality signal. So if that animal doesn’t leave a particular position within — I think it’s like six or eight hours, we get a mortality signal so we can go try and recover and sample that animal. But also we get a notification if they leave a geo-fenced area; so that if it escapes, it is at least available for — we can try and track down that animal so that it can be tested and removed.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: You may not know the answer, but what I’m trying to the find out is when you started explaining this initially, you knew exactly where the deer, which pen they had been in, where they had traveled, who they have been associated with —

DR. REED: Yeah.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: — and y’all were really able to track that. When they’re released — and I understand that there’s a — inside the ear and that there’s a communication device and there’s a tattoo, all of that stuff. But what I would like to know is, I call them the big — I don’t know what the name is, but I call it the big floppy, you know, yellow tag, Yellow No. 7 out there that you can see and everybody can see what it is. And I don’t know if we’re doing that, but it appears to me — because this is a high-risk facility that — and we’ve heard about that today already about this comment about the tagging system and leaving the tags in these deer. So if you will, if you’ll get back through David and let the Commissioners know as part of this program, are we leaving those tags in? I think that’s important that we do.

DR. REED: Yeah, I can — I can take another —

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Because when we know we have a problem or something unforeseen comes up and we say, "Where is that deer?" "Well, I don’t know." You know, you can’t identify them. When we have them in a 2-acre pen, it’s very identifiable. When they’re in a hundred-acre or 500-acre or whatever, it’s a whole different ball of wax.

DR. REED: Yeah.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Commissioners, any other questions for Dr. Reed?

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: The last question is — and so genetically, tell me, are there — how do you identify deer that are resistant to CWD from a genetic standpoint and what are you doing there to modify the DNA to potentially make this a more resistant —

DR. REED: Yeah.


DR. REED: Yeah. So to be clear, there has not been a genotype that has been identified as been identified as — quote, unquote — CWD resistant. But what we — what has been shown in research is at least that some genotype — genotypic profiles might be less susceptible. That could be associated with a — that could mean that the disease just takes that much longer to develop in that individual animal. It might mean that that animal is just not as likely to become infected because it requires a higher dose of that disease.

We’re still trying to really suss out what that really means. But the — but the overall takeaway is that certain genetic profiles tend to be more associated with a not-detected test. So we’re trying to select for those types of animals. And if there is a delay in that progression of disease, perhaps there is also a delay in shedding of that disease. So if we’re able to select for those animals that are less likely to become infected with the disease to begin with, but also if we’re considering release, those animals harvested within the period or the window that we have within that hunting season and after they receive a not-detected antemortem test, it’s just that much more of an insurance policy that that animal is not going to contaminate the area of which they’re released to and then we’ll follow-up with a postmortem test to be certain.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Just in final, I mean, it would seem as though it’d be — that would be a great research project to cooperate with one of — Caesar Kleberg or Borderlands or — to really try to — and I’m sure there’s probably a lot of work going on here in this regard — but to try to breed — breed the disease out. And do you know of any of the other wildlife groups, associations, individuals that are conducting kind of a true, intensive research on trying to breed for the genotype that seems to be most resistant?

DR. REED: Of the ones that you’ve mentioned, not like a concerted activity. A lot of those — a lot of the research — or the research groups that you’ve listed are more focused on the free-ranging aspect and trying to really affect that sort of genetic selection on a population size of 5 million is just very difficult. And I think this genetic approach probably has much more applicability in terms of pen-raised animals.

But that’s not to say that we would be disinterested in trying to pursue that further. I think that offers an opportunity; but it does require a lot of input, a lot of cooperation with those individual facilities, and it’s not the easiest strategy for every deer breeder in Texas or within the nation to implement overnight and it takes years to work in the right direction.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Commissioners?

We heard from a speaker today — I’m sorry, I don’t remember which one — but that we’ve had just in three months, we’ve had six new counties that have been brought into this problem, to this disease.

That’s — that’s going the wrong way fast.

We heard mention — and I don’t know if it’s been available to all the Commissioners. I’ve read it; but if it hasn’t, David, I’d like to make sure all the Commissioners get the economic report that came out that was mentioned today that talks about the economic value and input that comes, the four plus billion dollars that’s spent, you know, in our state annually. So if not, I’d like to make sure all the Commissioners

have that.

DR. YOSKOWITZ: Yeah, we’ll send that out, Chairman.


Okay. Hunter, thank you.

Commissioners, any more comments?

James? None.

Hearing — hearing no comments, I would accept a motion for approval of action Item No. 3, Chronic Waste Disease Detection and Response Rules.

COMMISSIONER ABELL: Commissioner Abell so moved.



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

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Anybody opposed?

Hearing none, motion carries.

Thank you everyone that came to speak today. Thank you for this — helping engage in this very difficult issue.

Action Item No. 4, Texas Statewide Recreational Trail Grants Funding, Recommended Approval of Trail Construction, Renovation, Acquisition Projects.

Trey Cooksey, good morning.

MR. COOKSEY: Good morning, Mr. Commissioner and Commissioners and Mr. Chairman.

For the record, My name is Trey Cooksey. I manage the Recreational Trails Program for Texas Parks and Wildlife. Primarily these funds are federal funds from a rebate of off-highway vehicle fuel tax. In addition to those — and Texas receives about 4 million dollars in federal funds each year. In addition to those funds, there’s been a million dollars in sporting goods sales tax added annually to the program, as well as an additional million dollars this year added to the program.

This year we had 38 project proposals, requesting a little over 10 million dollars. The State Trail Advisory Committee reviewed each of the project proposals and here’s some of the items that they took into account. We also wish to fund the State Park Trail Improvement Program at $700,000 and here’s a list of state parks that we plan to do work on — or in this year.

Finally, the recommendation is for funding for 15 construction projects, one educational project recommended in Exhibit A in the amount of $5,144,214 and the State Park Trail Improvements in the amount of $700,000 is approved.

I’d be happy to answer any questions that you might have.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: You know, these trail improvements are just a really good thing. It’s a vital way for people to get out and be able to hike and walk and experience our, you know, parks from the — you know, from the interior. It’s just incredible.

No one is signed up to speak. I need a motion for approval from a Commissioner.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Foster. I need a second.

COMMISSIONER BELL: Second from Bell.

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

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Any opposed?

Hearing none, motion carries.

Thank you, Trey.

MR. COOKSEY: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Action Item No. 5, Grant of a Utility Easement, Bastrop County, Approximately 1 Acre, Bastrop County State Park.

MR. ESTRELLA: Thank you. Good morning. This is a grant of a utility easement at Bastrop State Park, approximately 1 acre. It’s located in Central Texas, approximately 30 miles east of Austin.

The state park is located about 30 miles southeast of Austin in Bastrop County. It’s the site of the famous Lost Pines, isolated region of Loblolly pines, and hardwoods. The State acquired the land for the park from the City of Bastrop and opened in 1937.

Since then, the park has grown to well over 6,600 acres.

The park was designed and constructed in part by the Civilian Conservation Corps and they’re a National Historic Landmark status in 1997.

Aqua Water Supply Corporation has requested an easement to connect to an existing 12-inch water line in the park to a water tank outside of the park. This project will benefit Aqua’s customers and may also benefit the park by providing an increase in supply in pressure, especially in the use of fighting fires.

So in this map in blue, is the existing water line and to the southeast in yellow is the requested water line where they want to connect to their water supply off site.

As of this morning, we have now received 90 comments in support, 18 in opposition, for 108 total responses.

Staff recommends that the Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts the resolution attached as Exhibit A. I’m happy to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Jason.

Anyone have questions for Jason, Action Item No. 5, Bastrop County Easement?

No one signed up to talk. I would ask for a motion and second.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Patton moves to approve.



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

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Any opposed?

Hearing none, motion carries.

Action Item No. 6 is Acquisition of Land, Freestone County, Approximately 5,000 Acres at Fairfield State Park. At this time, I’d like to announce that pursuit to the requirements of Section 551 Government Code referred to as the Open Meeting Act, an Executive Session will be held at this time for the purpose of deliberation of real estate matters under Section 551.072 of the Open Meeting Act, seeking legal advice under Section 551.071 of the Open Meeting Act, including advice regarding pending or contemplated litigation.

We will now recess for Executive Session at 10:39 p.m. And we will return when we finish. Thank you.

(Recess taken for Executive Session)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Everyone, thank you for waiting. We are now returning from Executive Session where we discussed Action Item No. 6, Acquisition of Land, Freestone County, Approximately 5,000 Acres at Fairfield Lake State Park. Mr. Jason Estrella, good afternoon — good afternoon, Jason.

MR. ESTRELLA: Good afternoon, sir.

So this is the acquisition of land in Freestone County, approximately 5,000 acres — for the record, my name is Jason Estrella with the Land Conservation Program — approximately 5,000 acres at Fairfield Lake State Park. Located in Freestone County, just south of Richland Creek WMA and to the northeast of the City of Fairfield.

The state park is a leased park which opened in 1976 and consists of a little over 1,800 acres. The current coal-powered plant operator, Vistra, shut down the plan in 2018 and is under contract to sell the entire 5,000-acre property, to include the park, to Todd Interests. TPWD sought to purchase the park site, but Vistra would not consider a sale of just the parkland.

Todd Interests does not intend to use the property as a state park. So to save the park, TPWD approached Todd Interests to propose an assignment of the existing contract to TPWD in exchange for a finder’s fee. TPWD would then acquire the entire 5,000-acre property, which includes the lake, to add to the existing state park.

In this map, we have the existing state park in white shade with a red outline and the 5,000-acre proposed acquisition is in the yellow outline.

For public comment as of today, we have now received about 488 responses in support of the acquisition. About 71 opposing the acquisition. So 558 total comments.

So staff recommends that the Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorizes the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to acquire approximately 5,000 acres of land in Freestone County, including and as an addition to Fairfield Lake State Park.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Jason, for your recommend — for the staff’s recommendation.

I think before we start discussing amongst, Commissioners, I do have someone that is wanting to call in, Sandra Emmons. And then we have one speaker in person that would like to discuss.

Are y’all able to — is Sandra able to hear us.

MR. MONTEMAYOR: She should be online.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Sandra, can you hear us? Do you think maybe we let Mr. Metzger speak because he’s here in person and —


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Are you there, Sandra?

MS. SANDRA EMMONS: Yes, I’m here.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Hi. Good afternoon, um —

MS. SANDRA EMMONS: It’s (inaudible).

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Good afternoon. You have the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission. We can hear you loud and clear. So let us know what you have on your mind about Action Item No. 6, Fairfield State Park.

MS. SANDRA EMMONS: Okay, thank you.

Good afternoon Texas Parks and Wildlife Commissioners.

I wish I could be there in person, but appreciate the opportunity to speak by phone today. I am an annual state park pass holder and a Casita camper owner, too.

My name is Sandy Emmons, and I’ve been working hard since late February to save the park. I’ve brought new information to light about the historical significance of the area and testified multiple times in front of the House and the Senate. I’ve also appeared in a series of segments on Spectrum One or Spectrum News One with investigative Brett Shipp regarding the slave and Freedmen cemeteries adjacent and even inside the park boundaries.

My husband, Andy Don Emmons, is from a fifth generation ranching family with 800 acres near Fairfield Lake State Park and he and his sister Julie were born and raised in Fairfield and besides the cattle ranch, they also own the Armadillo Emporium, a large retail store on the downtown square that has already been severely impacted by the loss of overnight campers and lake visitors to Fairfield.

I worked as the curator for the Freestone County Historical Museum, where over 50 percent of our museum foot traffic was from Fairfield Lake State Park. Visitors from all over the U.S.A. and Canada would spend time at the park and then come into town to shop, eat, and enjoy the area.

Before I speak about the importance of the park for its obvious reasons — like recreation, beauty, quality of life, and conservation — I’d like to talk about the economic impact on Fairfield and Freestone County and the historical significance of the area where the park is located and why it’s important to keep it open to the public.

First, as stated before, the economic impact on our town has been immediate and significant.

Our retail business fell off by over 75 percent during the spring break and Easter holiday weekends. Our regular traffic from the park has trickled to almost nothing. It will be hard to sustain at such a decline.

The other stores around us — like the pharmacy, the restaurants, the gas stations, the grocery stores, and other — have all felt the impact. In fact, we have never see an economic impact study done for Fairfield to see the value of Fairfield Lake State Park and its significance to the local economy.

We do know that our town has no other tourism draw that brings over 80,000 visitors a year to our area. The business from the fishing tournaments held at Fairfield Lake State Park alone are a big economic driver. Then there is the historical significance. I was privileged to work with state archaeologists in 2008 and 2009 when I was at the museum. They were studying over 30 significant sites and the park that included Paleo, Native American, and woodland signs. Later this area became significant because of the southern settlers, slavery in Texas, plantation life, post-Civil War, buried gold, legendary ranches, prosperous Freedmen settlement, and the largest and most famous bootlegging operation in Texas. Because of this work, I remember the forgotten Freedmen cemetery within the park and brought it to light in March so that it could protected from upcoming possible development. Texas Parks and Wildlife has a huge and enormous opportunity if the park is saved and can bring all these stories to life with a significant interpretive trail and educational program. Of course the park should be preserved for generations to enjoy sleeping under the stars and fishing and ShareLunker bass, kayaking, hy-yaking — or hiking, horseback riding, swimming, and observing wildlife like Bald eagles nesting, Texas otters playing, and the beavers building.

Why the powers that be didn’t get out in front of this to make sure this park stayed in its — in the system is beyond me, but you must work hard now to save it at all costs, including eminent domain if necessary. This is one of the most perfect textbook cases for eminent domain if an agreement with the current seller and buyer cannot be reached. The right thing to do today is to save Fairfield Lake State Park from a developer who wants to take this all away from generations of Texans and out-of-state visitors, gated off for a select few and then sell our water to a metroplex.

Vistra and the State and Texas Parks and Wildlife will lose over 80 million of improvements into the park itself in a centennial year where Texas and the Governor have promised to retain more land and parks.

It makes absolutely no sense to lose this well-located, well-established park that won Park of the Year in 2022.

The citizens of Texas are watching and are tired of big corporations, big energy, big developers, and other special interests to the detriment of our well-being and health of our state. I want to do my part in standing up for what’s right. I want all of you to do your part and stand up for what’s right, too. Thank you so much today for allowing me to state this.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Ms. Emmons.

Thank you for your passionate comments, and thank you for waiting and taking the time to call in. We appreciate it very much. Thank you.

In person we have Luke Metzger. Luke, good afternoon.

MR. LUKE METZGER: Good afternoon, Chairman and Members. My name is Luke Metzger. I’m the Executive Director of Environment Texas. We’re a nonprofit advocate for clean air and water and parks and wildlife and we’re in support of this measure. The — Texas needs more state parks, not fewer. It would be a shame if we lost this park. I got the chance to visit it for the first time with my family a few months ago and it was — it’s a wonderful park and I’ve also had a chance to work with people like Ms. Emmons and many people from Freestone County who are fired up about this and desperate for the State to find a solution to the keep this park open. It’s so important to the community.

We also have thousands of members around the state and people are also, you know, very concerned.

You know, I think the potential loss of this park has really helped remind us how important our state parks are to Texas. And so I want to thank you, Chairman, for all your work to fight to save this park. You’ve just bent over backwards trying to find a way to keep it open. So really appreciate that and hope we can get it done. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Luke. Thank you for taking the effort to come up.

That’s the only two that I had scheduled, assuming there’s no one else in the audience and we don’t have anyone else here.

There’s a staff recommendation that Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission will authorize the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to acquire approximately 5,000 acres of land in Freestone County, including an addition to Fairfield State Park.

There’s been a lot of water under the bridge, a lot of conversations, a lot of time, a lot of effort, a lot of people that really, really want to save our state park. So I’m going to try to put that into as few as words as possible. But it’s very clear from the public comments, I think we heard today, I believe it was 85 or 87 percent of the comments that we got are, you know, keep our state park, which I’m not surprised.

And then the comments from Ms. Emmons, it’s just very clear that there’s a strong desire for us to preserve Fairfield State Park.

We now have sufficient funds to purchase the park, thanks to our elected leaders, that we did not have earlier. We made a robust offer to the real estate developer to assume the sale contract so that Texas Parks and Wildlife can acquire the property from Vistra and expand the park with additional acreage. We need more parkland in Texas, not less. And this is a critical moment for Texas during our centennial celebration year. I’m committed and these Commissioners are committed to keeping the park and we’re determined to protect it for the present and future generations to that end.

I want to visit and hear from the Commissioners about scheduling a Special Commission Meeting soon, rather than further, to further discuss our legal options to protect the park, should our recommendation of authorizing Executive Director to have an attempt to purchase the park. I’m kind of thinking June, the week of June 5th through the 9th. It will require a Special Meeting, Special Meeting of the Commission.

We would give notice, correct, James?

MR. MURPHY: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: And then because it’s a Special Meeting, I will attend in person and then any or the Commissioners that can in person; but we can also make it available for Commissioners to call in, I guess, Zoom or whatever; is that correct, James?

MR. MURPHY: Correct.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay. So that’s kind of — we know what the public thinks and we’ve talked about it a lot. But so I — I’d like to — I’m going to ask for a motion for the approval for the Executive Director to take all necessary steps. But first I want to see if there’s any comments any Commissioners have about this in general and about scheduling a Special Meeting.

COMMISSIONER FOSTER: This is Foster. I’ll move.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: I have a motion from Foster.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Hildebrand second.

Any conversations?

Hearing none, we have a motion and a second. All those in favor signify by saying aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Any opposed?

None. Motion carries. Thank you.

Before we wrap up, there is — I need to clarify Action Item No. 2. There were — there were two motions. We need approval for motion second. The first Action Item Number, Public Hunting Establishment of an Open Season, there was a motion from Hildebrand, a second from Abell. But then Motion 2 is Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorizes the public hunting activities described in Exhibit A to take place on units of the state park system and I neglected to ask for a motion and a second for that.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Scott motion.


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

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Any opposed?

Hearing none, thank you.

We have on item — the next item, Briefing Item No. 7, we are going to — I’m going to ask to not hear Item No. 7. Withdraw that for this meeting, and we will have that briefing at the next meeting.

David, James, is there anything left? Any stone left unturned?

DR. YOSKOWITZ: No stone left unturned.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: No stone left unturned.

Okay. Hearing that, then I will call the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Meeting adjourned at 12:27 p.m. Thank you.

(Commission Meeting Adjourns)

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


Arch "Beaver" Aplin, III, Chairman


Dick Scott, Vice-Chairman


James E. Abell, Member


Oliver J. Bell, Member


Paul Foster, Member


Anna B. Galo, Member


Jeffery D. Hildebrand, Member


Robert L. "Bobby" Patton, Jr., Member


Travis B. Rowling, Member




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 ________________, ________.

TPW Commission Meetings