TPW Commission

Work Session, May 24, 2023


TPW Commission Meetings


May 24, 2023






CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Good morning, everyone, and welcome to Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Meeting Wednesday Work Session May 24th, 2023.

Before we get started, we’ll do a roll call.  I know that Commissioner Scott is out.  Actually in Houston this morning receiving an award.  He will be here tomorrow for the actual meeting.  I understand Commissioner Galo is possibly late, and those are the only ones I can speak to.  But we’ll do roll call for those that are present.  We do have a quorum.

Aplin present.





CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Thank you.  This meeting is called to order May 24th, 2023, at 9:01 a.m.

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


DR. YOSKOWITZ:  Yes, Chairman.  Thank you.

A public notice of this meeting containing all items on the proposed agenda has been filed in the Office of the Secretary of State as required by Chapter 551 Government Code referred to as the Open Meetings Act.  I would like for this fact to be noted in the official record of this meeting.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Thank you, David.

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

The first order of business is the approval of minutes from the previous Work Session held March 22nd, 2023, which have been distributed.  I’ll need a motion and a second.

COMMISSIONER BELL:  Commissioner Bell makes a motion.



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

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Any opposed?  Hearing none, motion carries.

Work Session Item No. 1 is the update on Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Progress in Implementing the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Land and Water Resource Conservation and Recreation Plan, Dr. Yoskowitz.  Good morning, David.

DR. YOSKOWITZ:  Thank you, Chairman.

Good morning, Commissioners.  For the record, my name is David Yoskowitz, Executive Director of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.  I would like to provide you an update germane to the Land and Water related plan and functions inside the Agency.

But before I do that, I would like to take a few moments of silence for the victims of Uvalde, a year ago today, their families and those that responded to that incident.  Just a few moments.

(Moment of silence)

DR. YOSKOWITZ:  Thank you, Chairman.

As is customary, I will start off with an Internal Affairs update.  Recently Commander Jarret Barker attended a week-long Force Science course, which discussed human dynamics and the effects of time during the decision-making process when an officer is confronted with a decision to use force.  This information is paramount for investigators when conducting use-of-force investigations and providing court testimony.

Additionally to manage their investigations, the Office of Internal Affairs utilizes a case management system called IAPro Case.  Each year Internal Affairs conducts a mid-year review of their cases, which they’ve just completed and I’ve received and in addition, they audit the IAPro Case Management System, which has also been completed and that is for my review and I will report back to that — to the Commission on that in August.

IA staff has also been working with the Purchasing and Law Enforcement Division regarding ordering vehicles to be issued to IA investigators.  As we all know, it’s been difficult to find vehicles and purchase those vehicles; but we’re working hard to get those for our team.  They do a lot of work on the road and to be able to meet their job goals and mission, we need to have the vehicles for them.  So we’re moving forward with that.

And then also IA staff continue to work with state and local law enforcement partners to address concerns and complaints involving allegations, criminal misconduct, as well as serious policy violations.

Next I’d like to highlight a couple of leadership changes within the State Parks management team.  First off, Todd McClanahan has been named recently the State Parks Division Chief of Programs and in that role, Todd is going to be even busier than he was before.  So he’s going to have oversight of ten important programs within State Parks, including business management, cultural resources, facilities management, fiscal control, interpretive services, natural resources, purchasing, planning and geospatial, staff services, and technical resources.  This is an important role for the State Parks Division and as a result of those duties that he is going to be having, he will be interacting with the Commission from time to time on key initiatives.

With Todd moving up to into that position, that left a vacancy for Region 3 in the State Park system and filling that role will be Ms. Jamie Creacy.  Jamie is a recreation and park tourism science major from Texas A&M University with a lot of experience in recreational and park tourism.  She grew up in the mountains of Colorado and Alaska and spent much of her time in the outdoors.  So she’s a perfect fit for that. So congratulations to Todd and Jamie for moving up in those positions and taking on those responsibilities.

Oh, so more, more, more S’mores.  More activities for the centennial state parks activities that we’ve had throughout the year.  This was a sticky mess across the state.  It started out here in the Department on Friday, March 12th, out back.  We had many of the Department team engaged in s’more making.  We had a cake that was made that tasted like a s’more.  It’s amazing what you can do with s’mores these days.  So that kicked of on March 12th.  And then on March 13th across the state at most of our parks — although we had some parks that were rained out — we had over, we estimate, 5,000 s’mores that were made and themes included s’mores storytelling, a s’more photo contest, solar and s’mores, s’more cookoffs, and then lots of Handiwipes that were handed out directly after the making of those s’mores.

I want to highlight that what made this possible not only with the great work of all the different park staff, but Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation was able to help us get some support from Nature Valley, as well as 12 Solo Stoves — those are the firepits, you can see that in the lower left-hand corner there — that we used to make some of those s’mores.  So a great — a great experience.  Lots of sticky hands.  More excitement to come through the centennial year.

And speaking of state parks, we had an opportunity a couple of months ago in March to reopen Galveston Island State Park.  As many of you know, Hurricane Ike in 2008 created a lot of damage to Galveston and beyond and, of course, our state park was in the middle of that.  There were some immediate facility repairs and upgrades that were made after the storm, but it was never up to the standard and what we wanted for the state park.

So back in 2020, a contract was awarded to finally get us to the point where we wanted.  That work was completed last June in 2022.  And then this March, we had the opportunity to really celebrate that grand reopening.  The team did a great job.  Just — where’s Justin?  Justin was Master of Ceremonies.

Appreciate him putting that together.  I know he had a really personal interest in seeing the work through.  So thank you for that, Justin.

We had Terri Leo-Wilson, Representative Terri Leo-Wilson was there.  Angie Sunley from Texas — Angie Sunley who is the General Land Officer[sic] and Senior Director Texas Trustee.  Commission Foster joined us that day, along with Park Superintendent Steve Kimbley and myself. Some of the moneys that were used to put this park back together and improve it were from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill settlement funds.  We also had Senator Mayes Middleton get a senate proclamation for the grand reopening.  And I don’t know how you did this, Justin, but we had about 80 schoolchildren show up just as we were beginning the ceremony.  They all got on the lawn and were paying close attention — mostly — until the ceremony was over and then they headed to the beach.  So it was a great day.  We appreciate the Galveston Island State Park staff and the Region 4 personnel and Austin headquarter’s staff for making it a great day.

And continuing on with outreach and education and engagement, we had a group join – and they’ve done this for a handful of years — join or Wildlife Management team in District 1 out at the Black Gap Wildlife Management Area about six weeks ago.  And this idea of the off-the-grid camping trips was the idea of Leon and Leticia McNeil.  And I had the chance actually to meet with them at an event celebrating the Borderlands Research Institute in San Antonio a few weeks ago and their passion about this opportunity to take kids from inner city San Antonio out to the Black Gap Wildlife Management Area is a real passion for them.

They take a — take 10 to 16 year olds, 16 of them.  They leave Thursday night and they get to the Black Gap on — 3:00 a.m. Friday morning and they are hitting the ground running.  Friday afternoon, they’ll go on hikes through the canyons and up to the peaks.  They’ll go along the river for a "herp hunt" all day long and then crash really early that night.  And then next day on Saturday, they spend the day canoeing, as you can see here, a 13-mile canoe trip down the Rio Grande and along the way, they stop, they get out, they swim, they go on nature walks, they eat, and they continue to paddle.  And then that Saturday night, they get together and talk about their experiences around the campfire.  Then early Sunday morning, they hit the road and head back to San Antonio.  And I think, you know, anytime we have an opportunity to get kids disconnected from their phones, get them out in the outdoors, the evidence is very clear how the impact that has not only on kids, but on adults.  So look forward to having this program continue on for many more years to come and thank you for the team out there to make it worthwhile for those kids to come out.

Talking about wildlife and wildlife management and wildlife management areas and the challenges that we have not only in wildlife management areas, but also managing potentially competing species, a research project that’s been going on for actually quite a few years and will continue on is around the competitive nature potentially that exists between Mule deer and Aoudad.

Researchers from the Borderland Research Institute, Texas Tech University, Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department have partnered with local ranchers out in West Texas to look at these competing species for food and habitat, as well as disease transmission which I’ll talk about in a moment. So one of the — one of the questions that we really have:  Is how do Aoudad potentially outcompete other species in their home range?  And what we have found — at least initially — that evidence suggests that significant size of population of Aoudads can easily outcompete Mule deer and that’s a concern obviously to us as an Agency managing wildlife and Mule deer in particular.  Also significant impact on habitat and destruction of habitat.

But also as you get these large groups of Aoudad, they are a vector for carrying pneumonia and that pneumonia has been critical in impacting our Desert Bighorn sheep and significant die off.  So as we try to restore and enhance our Desert Bighorn sheep populations, we have to address the issues around pneumonia which is a serious challenge.  So this research continues.  It continues in the Quitman Mountains and the Chinati Mountain range.  GPS collars on 40 — 40 Aoudad, 40 Mule deer, 20 of those in each species category male and female and this continued research will happen over the next several years and I’ll be coming back to you often updating you on that — on that work.

Now going to mammals that fly, we have an interesting situation.  I’m not sure if many of you know about this.  It was new to me.  A bat colony in Huntsville that when we first observed it or it was first observed back in 1997.  The facility is an old cotton warehouse.  It belongs to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.  And there was some concern not only about the bats themselves and the viability of that bat population, but also about really the viability of the building.  And so the Department of Criminal Justice, A&M AgriLife, Wildlife — Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and local officials all got together and said let’s take a look at this and they set up two committees.  One to look at the structural integrity of the building and another committee be an outreach and education committee as they start to work through this process, which I thought was a great idea. That process is continuing on.  Although there is some suggestions from the structure committee about possible next steps and one of those is to reinforce and stabilize the warehouse roof and agree on a timeline in which there may be other actions that can take — can be taken.  So I think the direction that they’re leaning is let’s stabilize the facility and then let’s talk about next steps.

The outreach and education group will continue its effort on updating and educating local community and community beyond about what’s happening in the — in the particular cotton warehouse.

Something that is not on the agenda item, but it was very important that we update you on since it’s moving very quickly, is the Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Plan.  Texas A&M University, Department staff, as well as the subcommittee that is working on that — chaired by Commissioner Rowling, Commissioner Patton’s on that and Commissioner Abell on that.  Thank you for serving on that.  Texas A&M put out a survey to look at the impact that the Department is having and the perceived impact the Department is having with the general public.  We received that public input on Monday.  The committee, as well as Department staff, was updated and briefed on that input and then we will be working over the next couple of months to package that up and come back in August to brief the Commission on this topic with the plans to have final adoption of that Land and Water Resources plan in November.  So once again, we appreciate Commissioners that are serving on that subcommittee and you’ll be seeing that again.

And then, Chairman, just as a point of departure for a couple of minutes, I’d like to brief the Commission on some recent activity as it relates to Chronic Wasting Disease over the last couple of months.

There’s been a couple of items that are placed on the agenda today that you’ll be seeing later on around containment zones and surveillance zones, but there’s also been significantly increased activity with facilities that have been detected positive with regards to Chronic Wasting Disease.

The Commission, the Chairman, and others have received many letters from our stakeholders expressing that concern, but also sharing potential paths forward.  Department staff is also very concerned about this, as I am.  And as a result, recently we pulled together that CWD Task Force that met almost two weeks ago to begin to address some of these issues. There was some good discussion in that task force meeting, but there’s much more work that needs to be done.

Those ideas for consideration that the task force was looking at had come from those letters and from individual conversations, but it’s not enough.

We need to pull back that task force together and within just a few weeks now to come back to the Commission with some steps forward on solutions and actions and tactics about how we begin to address the increased risk that this disease poses for Texas White-tailed deer.  So I wanted to set that up and brief you on that as we roll into Agenda Items 9 and 10 in particular for today.

And with that, that concludes my Land and Water updates, Chairman.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Thank you, David.

We’ll move to Work Session Item No. 2, Legislative Update, Request for Permissions to Publish Proposed Rules Needed to Implement the Legislation Passed During the 88th Texas Legislature.  David, you’re up.

DR. YOSKOWITZ:  Thank you, Chairman, Commissioners.  I want to say before we delve into the details of this, I wanted to say I think that our team did an exceptional job helping me in my first Legislative session, helping to put forward the priorities of the Department downtown with the Legislature.  This is everything from Intergovernmental Affairs to the individual divisions to the Executive Office, Financial Resources, everybody pitched in and I really appreciate that work.  I appreciate them taking the time with me to bring me up to speed.  I keep checking with everybody to make sure that this has been a good session for us.  Everybody says it’s been — people are very happen with the results of this session. So I’m pleased to report that from the entire team.

So I’m going to step through a number of things here.  Not go item by item here, but I want to highlight some from each of the slides that I’ll be sharing with you.  So as you may remember, we have nine exceptional items that we asked for.  You see in that right-hand column there, Senate and House came back to Conference Committee.  They voted out or adopted in Conference Committee various items and you can see in that right-hand column the items that were germane to our exceptional items.

So the vehicles there, No. 1, that was actually moved to the supplemental.  So the supplemental — Allison, that should be coming out — where’s Allison?  Allison, that should be coming out any day now, right?

MS. WINNEY:  Yeah.

DR. YOSKOWITZ:  So we should be seeing that supplemental bill any day now.  Vehicles will be part of that and we’re expected to get the full amount as Conference Committee has moved that forward and adopted that.

No. 2 there I want to bring to your attention because this is critical for the modernization of our information technology and the services that we provide to our customers.  This is BRITS, or the boat registration and titling system, and that was fully adopted in both the House and the senate and so Conference fully adopted that amount and so we’re looking forward to — as soon as the funds are uploaded to our accounts — to getting to work on that.

Also down — down to Item No. 9, the targeted salary increases.  This is something that was critically important to the Department because we have a number of employee classifications that are either hard to recruit and/or hard to retain.  And so this directed moneys for those employee classifications, will be used in addition to the funds that I’ll talk about in a moment that we’re going to be receiving from the Legislature, authorization to spend on 5 percent increase across the board.

And I’m happy, as we move through, to take any questions if you wish to dig in on any particular items here.  Otherwise, I’ll keep moving.

We also had funding — some other funding items that came through riders and were in the budget. A couple I want to point out to you.  Coastal Fisheries research vessel, that was adopted in Conference.  So this is one of our large research vessels that we have an aging fleet there.  We need to — we need to be able to continue to do our inshore and nearshore work and that has been approved at 600,000.  So we’re happy with that.

Down towards the bottom there, the unexpected delays — or unexpended balances because of supply chain delays, you’ve heard this in just about every Commission meeting, you know, the challenges of getting vehicles, of expending dollars, of being able to, you know, engage in contracts has been a real challenge.  So we’re — with this adoption in Conference Committee and moving forward — able to take those unexpended balances from this biennium and move them forward and be able to continue to use those in the biennium.

And then also you’ll see this again in legislation, but our State Park police officers – both in the House and Senate and so obviously adopted in Conference — moving them from Schedule B to Schedule C to be on the same schedule as our game wardens.  So very appreciative of that.

Some other items here that, you know, with regards to riders and other bill items.  One I want to point out right there, the contingency, you’ll see that SB 1648, SJR 74, that’s the Centennial Parks Fund.

So you’ve probably heard a lot about that just recently.

That’s the 1 billion dollar fund that now will go to the — to the Texas voters in November as a Constitutional amendment and they’ll be voting on that, but that is moving forward with some changes and those changes were to move it from 500 million to a billion dollars.

Also as happens in the session, we’ve had some asks to do some studies:  Report on the shrimp industry.  Something that just came up very recently, illegal game bird hunting.  And so just a few studies, but not too many that we’ll have to do over the next year and get back to the Governor’s desk and the Legislative Budget Board.

So some highlights from the supplemental bill that we think will be moving forward.  Once again, we’ll know within a couple of days here.  The schedule — end of the session is next Monday.  So there’s a lot of work to be done just in these next few days.  One is park acquisition.  So this was a one-time request for 100 million dollars and we believe that will be moving forward.  Also the salary increase for all state employees, including Texas Parks and Wildlife, and that’s 5 percent.  That will be effective July 1st.

That will be moving forward.  And then as I mentioned earlier, the vehicles, that appropriation of 23.8 million is moving to the supplemental, came out of our exceptional item and that will be moving forward as well.

There were a number of bills that we — were priorities for the Department and then we had sponsorship for in the House and the Senate.  You’ll see on the right-hand side there — so just a little stop light orientation.  Red means that bill is not moving forward, green means it’s on the Governor’s desk or the Governor has signed it.

The one I want to draw your attention to is the top one.  And this is what we — this is a bill that we’ve been trying for for the last couple of sessions and this is the travel reimbursement or grocery bill that we refer to.  And what this is, is it allows not only Department employees, but any state agency, that for that individual and their — essentially their duty station, that if they are going to travel the next day, can purchase groceries either the day before or that day to use on the road and it meets all the per diem requirements, but it keeps — it creates efficiency and, you know, sometimes we’re going into places where they’re not — may not be areas where that you can get groceries.  And this did not make it past the final — final goal line.  We’re hoping to do that next session.

I’ve asked the team.  We’re going to do a hotwash on the Legislative session and kind of dig in onto why some of these didn’t move forward and what we can do for next time.

Moving forward with some other bills that are of interest to the Department.  Second one on the line there, SB 811 sponsored by Senator Kolkhorst, this was a really critical opportunity for us to be able to share data and information across Animal Health Commission and Animal Health Commission be able to share that data information with us.  Currently, we’re precluded from doing that without written approval from landowners.

Now Animal Health Commission and the Texas Parks and Wildlife will be able to share data with all the caveats in place for data and information protection to address issues around disease management.

So as we talk about Chronic Wasting Disease or other diseases, we’ll be able to have that strong working relationship with the Animal Health Commission that we already have, but now enhanced.

And also the next bill I want to draw your attention to is the direct contract of awards.  We have — given our facilities and many locations are in remote areas, sometimes we have trouble getting bids for work to be done and this bill now allows us if we have no bids for work that have come in, that we can directly contract with individuals that we know can do that work. So it helps us move along our deferred maintenance that we have on a lot of our park facilities and wildlife management facilities that continues to exist if we don’t have individuals bidding on those contracts.

As before, I mentioned the Park Acquisition Fund.  That is — as I said, that is — that’s a great — a once in a generation — more – a once in a multiple generation opportunity for the Department to have 1 billion dollars to be able to spend on parkland acquisition and build out.  And as I said, there’s still work to be done.  We still need to get that approved by the voters in November.

I do want to draw your attention to fee waivers.  And we do get quite a number of bills that are filed each session around fee waivers, whether it’s waiving fees for hunting licenses, fishing licenses, park entrance fees, and those can have, you know, real impact fiscally on the Department.  We were able to, with our team working with many of these bill authors, able to hone in on one this session.  The one that’s proposed by Representative Leach and that particular bill will allow a fee waiver to state parks for active duty military, honorably discharged military, and gold star families and they’ll be working with our Parks Department to get that through the Passport Program.

And so just to bring your attention to that, you know, we do have these challenges every session and we do work with the bill proposers; but they can have real fiscal impact on the Department.

And so given the number of items that have been passed through the legislation, here’s a couple of examples.  We’re going to need to be doing a lot of rule-making over the next couple of months and a lot of these rules need to be adopted before September 1.  So as an example, Senator Kolkhorst and Representative Hunter were able to push through a bill relating to oyster certificates of location.  This is oyster leases, expanding that program not only for commercial purposes, but also for restoration purposes.

That requires rule-making.

You know, the one that I just mentioned with regards to a fee waiver, that requires rule-making.

So a number of these bills are going to require rule-making and what I am coming to you with today is in order to meet that deadline for rule-making, we’re asking for your permission to publish rules in the Texas

Register in advance of the August Commission Meeting so that you can consider them for adoption at that August

Commission Meeting.  Therefore, we are seeking permission to publish those rules in the Texas Register.

And with that, that completes my presentation.  Any questions, Chairman, Commissioners?

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Thank you, David.

Commissioners, questions for David at the almost end —

DR. YOSKOWITZ:  Almost end, yeah.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  — of a robust session.

DR. YOSKOWITZ:  Yeah.  But once again, I just do want to say a lot of great work by the team in supporting our effort this year.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  I’ve got a — not a question, but comment.  But before, does any Commissioners — Bobby, you got anything?



COMMISSIONER BELL:  I had one comment, Chairman.  I just wanted to say that that initiative around the parks funding and the adjustment from the half a billion to a billion dollars is just an exceptional effort and I know that there are several people that are involved in that and we would at least be remiss if we didn’t recognize our own Chairman Aplin for his role in that as well.  So I just wanted to say that for public consumption.

DR. YOSKOWITZ:  Thank you.  Thank you, Commissioner Bell.  Yes, thank you for saying that and absolutely.  I will say having worked with the Chairman over the last couple of months, he was — he was determined.  Absolutely.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Thank y’all for your comments.  I want to — if you’ll scroll back to the 24-25 funding other items, it was early on in your —


CHAIRMAN APLIN:  — presentation.  Right there.

DR. YOSKOWITZ:  Right there?

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  At bottom, I want to go straight to State Park Police Officer’s Schedule C.  I don’t know if I have this date right, but I was in a vehicle with one of our state park police 30 something years at — in the Agency.  And he was telling me the importance of this.  For whatever reason, none of us were around involved back in the Commission back in the day.  But 23 or 28 years ago — I don’t remember – it was passed, this concept for law enforcement officers.

And for some reason, our state park police got pulled out of that and they have been dinged for 23 or 28 years on this.  And so I just want to highlight how important that is to so many people that have been doing that job.

They have not complained.  And we’re not the first Commission that’s gone after and tried to fix this, but this session and with our Legislators and leadership, we’ve gotten that done and that’s huge.

DR. YOSKOWITZ:  Yeah.  Absolutely, Chairman.  I — you know, just a finer point on that is, you know, they pay into TCOLE, right?  So they’re required to do all the same things as, you know, our game wardens and around our state parks.  They – you know, they’re at the Academy.  I’m going to go see them getting commissioned this Friday and so it’s long overdue and well-deserved.  Absolutely.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  If you’ll scroll to bills of interest, other bills of interest.  I want to just speak a little bit about —

DR. YOSKOWITZ:  Tell me where —

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Right there. Park funding acquisition, the Centennial Bill, we call it that because it’s our centennial celebration.  But I want to shed a little light on that.  This — as Yogi Berra said, "It’s not over until it’s over," but it’s pretty close to being over and so we’re very excited about the potential of this.  But the way this is going to work is there will be an endowed fund set up with the state for the benefit of Texas Parks and Wildlife of a billion dollars.  And this billion dollars, we will be able to use the proceeds, the earnings, every biennium that come off of this billion-dollar endowment.  So it would be funded by the state.  It would be a billion dollars, with the corpus would remain safe.  It would be invested through one of the state institutions that does investments for us and we would have the opportunity.

And so as an example, if it earned 5 percent, then that would be 50 million dollars, 100 million dollars every biennium that this Agency would have the opportunity and, quite frankly, the requirement — in my opinion — to go and use that money wisely to acquire state park land, future state park land, and to develop more parks.

We rank 35th in the nation in parks, and Texas doesn’t rank 35th in anything.  And we have the opportunity now to fix this going forward.  Our biennium — what was our biennium this year?  Was it five for parks?


CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Seven.  So to put that in perspective, we had 7 million dollars appropriated this biennium for the entire state for parks and we’re going to have a billion-dollar endowed fund.

Commissioners and audience, please tell your Legislators, your State Reps, your leadership, your State Senators thank you.  This is transformation — it’s better than transformational.  It’s generational.

This is for children that aren’t even born yet.

We still have some more work to do because this is going to be on the November ballot to be decided by the voters, which quite frankly for me, I think, is the ultimate way to go about something, especially with a number with this many zeros.  So the public will get to vote on this in November and I suggest that everybody here can make an influence on communicating the message to our fellow voters in the state about how important this is and this sets the bar.

It give us the tools, the funds.  We can plan in advance.  We know what we have.  We can get out there and reverse this trend of losing state parks per capita and going down to 35th.  We can reverse this trend. So Commissioners and everybody in the Agency and the audience, please use this opportunity to thank some people and to help us get this constitutional amendment passed.  It’s a game changer.

DR. YOSKOWITZ:  Absolutely.  Well said, Chairman.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Thank you, David.

Anybody have questions or comments?

Okay.  We’ll go to Item No. 3.  Before we start, I want to recognize Commissioner Patton is here.

Work Session Item No. 3 is a Financial Overview.  Reggie, good morning.

MR. PEGUES:  Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Chair Board Members.  My name is Reggie Pegues, Chief Financial Officer for the Parks and Wildlife Department.

This morning I will be presenting the financial overview through the period ending April.  I’ll be covering the following topics:  Revenue summaries for our hunting, fishing license revenue; state park revenue and boat related revenues and also I will finish budget – a summary of budget adjustments through April.

Before I begin with the revenue summaries, I’ll apologize in advance.  I may sound repetitive.  We’ve got some of the same trends across — across all the revenue lines as we go through.

The first slide is license revenue.  For the month of April, we had 5.2 million of revenues.

This is 14 percent less than the same period last year. Bringing us a year-to-date total of 93.4 million and for the remainder of the fiscal year, we’re expecting somewhere around 5 million per month as we finish out the year.

This next slide is a five-year comparison of license revenue.  Again, starting with the 93.4 million that we have for license year ’23.  It’s slightly behind the pace of the record years of ’21 and ’22; but those prior years, it’s outpacing those years considerably.

This next slide is a two-year comparison of revenue by type.  Overall our revenues were down 3 percent.  Pretty much down all lines of revenue.

Next, moving on to state parks.  This is the monthly comparison of revenue for April.  Revenues were 5.6 million, about 6.5 percent less than the previous April, giving us a year-to-date total of 41.8 million as we enter the busy season for state parks and we expect this trend to also continue for the remainder of the fiscal year.

Next is a five-year comparison of parks revenue.  Revenues are strong at 41.8 million.  But like the license revenue, we’re slightly behind the record pace of ’21 and ’22; but historically strong compared to all other fiscal years.

This next slide is a two-year comparison by revenue type.  Again, revenues are slightly down about 4.5 percent compared to last year; but again historically strong.  A slight increase in activities in concessions.

Next, we move over to boat revenues.

Revenues through April are 12.7 million, with April coming in at 2.6 million, which is about 11 percent lower than the same period last year.

Next slide is a five-year comparison.

And once again, revenues are strong at 12.7 million.

Trailing FY ’21 does ’22, basically the post-COVID years; but still in excess of the prior fiscal years.

This next slide is a two-year comparison of both revenues.  Revenues are slightly down by 4.5 percent; but once again, consider we’re talking about historical years.

Next I’ll be presenting a summary of budget adjustments through April.  At the last Commission Meeting, I presented an adjusted budget of 775.9 million.  Since that period, we’ve had the following adjustments that I would like to go through.

Operational and noncapital UB — UB stands for unexpended balances — these are balances that we typically bring forward from a prior fiscal year.

5.4 million of unexpended balances.  About 2 million of this is operations within the Wildlife Division and then another million is additional funding received as part of Operation Lone Star.  The next category, federal and UB, 41.6 million.  Of that 41.6 million, about 32 million of that is related to our wildlife restoration and we get our annual apportionments sometime in February/March.  So this increase of 32 million was to bring us up to the apportionment number.  The remainder of that, about 14 million of that is related to unexpended funding in Local Parks Program that we carry forward.

The next category, appropriated receipts, these are just basically the donations that you pretty much approve that we bring into our budget.  The next category, capital construction UB, these are our capital items:  Vehicles, equipment, IT items, construction.  Of this 5.6 million, about 4 million of that is related specifically to construction.  The next category, employee fringe/unemployment, these are just payroll related activities that we — based on our expenditures — we adjust throughout the fiscal year.

That gives us total budget adjustments of 54.9 million, giving us an adjusted budget of April 30th of 830.8 million.

This concludes my presentation.  I’ll be happy to take any questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Thank you, Reggie.

Commissioners, any questions?

Okay.  Hearing none, we’ll move on to

Work Session Item No. 4, Internal Audit Update.  Paul

Gentry will present for Brandy.  Good morning, Paul.

MR. GENTRY:  Good morning.  Okay.  Yes,

good morning, Chairman and Commissioners.  For the record, my name is Paul Gentry and I’m the Internal Audit Lead.  Brandy is unable to be here this morning, so she asked me that I update you on the status of our FY 2020 — 2022 and FY 2023 internal audit plans, as well as to discuss recent external audits and assessments.

This first slide shows the status of our FY 2022 internal audit plan.  Progress since the last Commission Meeting has been made on the items marked in yellow.  We are now in the reporting phase for the IT contract clauses advisory and we have started the LCP easement receivable advisory.  To date, we have completed 22 of the 27 projects on the FY 2022 plan.

This and the next slide shows the status of our current audit plan.  The statuses in the yellow have changed since our last meeting.  We are currently in the planning phase for our two IT and cybersecurity projects, which are the TAC 202 cybersecurity audit and the audit of TPWD’s patch management processes.  We also completed our catch-up/follow-up project which included all follow-up audits due from quarter two of FY 2022 through quarter two of FY 2023.  We are also working on our quarter three and quarter four follow-up items.  In addition, we are working on the state park continuous monitoring project and we have spent a considerable amount of time performing audit work on one of our LEO audits on an issue we found during a regular fiscal control audit.  The additional analysis performed from that audit was handed off to Internal Affairs.  We will also be starting next month our fiscal 2024 risk assessment and annual audit plan.

And then lastly, I’m happy to report we were finally able to fill our auditor vacancy position in April.  So now we are fully staffed.

This slide shows the status of the fis — the 18 fiscal control audits on this year’s plan.  We have made some headway on our state park and legal audits since the last time we met.  One state park audit is in the reporting phase, and four are complete.  As far as LEOs are concerned, one is in the fieldwork phase, two are in the reporting phase, and four are complete.  In total, we have completed or completed through fieldwork 12 of our 18 fiscal control audits to date.

Okay.  And then this last slide shows our ongoing and completed external audits and assessments since we last updated you.  Still ongoing is the PPPS review.  We are preparing to RFQ to outsource the Deepwater Horizon Texas Trustees audit.  Completed since January are the FEMA, port security desk review, the Comptroller’s dual employment audit, and the CJIS, Criminal Justice Information System audit.

This concludes my presentation.  Thank you for listening, and I’m available for any questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Thank you, Paul.

Commissioners, any questions of Paul?

Thank you, sir.

MR. GENTRY:  Okay, thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Moving on to Work Session Item No. 5, Boating and Waterway Advisory Committee, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Rules in the Texas Register.  Good morning, Cody.

MR. JONES:  Good morning, Chairman, Commissioners, Director Yoskowitz.  For the record, my name is Cody Jones and I’m Assistant Commander in our Law Enforcement Division.  I’m also your Boating Law Administrator.  Today I’ll be presenting a request for permission to publish rules in the Texas Register creating a boating and Waterways Advisory Committee. Parks and Wildlife Code Section 11.0162 authorizes the Commission to appoint committees to advise the Commission on issues under its jurisdiction. Government Code Chapter 2110 requires that rules be adopted regarding each state agency’s advisory committee.

The Department recognizes the importance of collaborating with the impacted communities for meaningful and sustainable solutions.  In fact, under this authority, the Commission has established a number of advisory committees to provide the Department with informed opinions regarding various aspects and dimensions of the Department’s mission.  These committees provide — perform a valuable service for our Department and the people of Texas.

As the state agency responsible for recreational boating safety and activities occurring on our public waterways, staff have determined that the creation of a Boating and Waterways Advisory Committee representative of diverse constituency we know to be using our state’s unique waterways would provide meaningful insights to help us in determining and executing appropriate strategies to maximize public safety and public enjoyment with respect to our state’s waterways and recreational boating.

In order to remain consistent with other Department advisory committees in existence, staff recommends that boating — the Boating and Waterways Advisory Committee be slated to expire on July 1st, 2026.  The Commission will then have an opportunity to renew it at that time, along with the rest of the Department’s advisory committees.

At this time, staff is seeking permission to publish proposed rules for the creation of this Boating and Waterways Advisory Committee in the Texas Register.  And I thank you for your time and consideration.  I’m happy to answer any questions you may have.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Thank you, Cody.

Commissioners, any questions on Work Session No. 5?

Hearing none, I’ll authorize staff to publish the rules in the Texas Register.

Thank you, Cody.

Moving on, Work Session Item No. 6, Fish Pass Proclamation, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register, Les Casterline. Good morning, Les.

MR. CASTERLINE:  Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, good morning.  For the record, my name is Les Casterline.  I am the Assistant Commander of Fisheries Enforcement here at Texas Parks and Wildlife and I’ll be presenting a proposed rule change to the update of the current fish pass rules to clarify the delineation point between the restricted area located within Cedar Bayou Fish Pass and the remainder of the fish pass.

During the 75th Texas Legislature in 1997, the Legislature amended Parks and Wildlife Code 66.204 to specifically authorize the Commission to regulate the placement of obstructions, traps, and moorings in fish passes and the marking of restricted areas in a natural or artificial fish pass is that opened, reopened, dredged, excavated, constructed, or maintained by the Department as a fish pass between the Gulf of Mexico and an inland bay conse — and an inland bay.

Consequently, the Commission promulgated the current fish pass rule in 1998 after this – after this statute was passed.  The Department has determined that the current rule should be amended to make clear that fish pass and restricted area are not synonymous terms.  Therefore, the proposed amendment would add new Subsection B to make it clear that the restricted area within the fish pass where no vessels are allowed is distinct from the remainder of the fish pass where vessels may not be anchored or moored for a period exceeding two consecutive days. The current reg — the current rule states that within this area of Cedar Bayou between the Department sign erected where Mesquite Bay flows into Cedar Bayou and the Department sign erected near the point where the pass empties into the Gulf of Mexico is unlawful to place any type of trap or anchor or moor a vessel, barge, or structure for a period exceeding two consecutive days.

The proposed change would amend Section 57.901, which is the Cedar Bayou fish pass to state that within the distance inside Cedar Bayou within where Mesquite Bay flows into Cedar Bayou and a no-vessel marker or sign erected by the Department near the point where Cedar Bayou empties into the Gulf of Mexico, it is an offense to place any type of trap or anchor or moor a vessel, barge, structure for a period of — a period of time exceeding two consecutive days.  Section B, which would be added, would state that the distance inside Cedar Bayou from the mouth of the pass where it empties into the Gulf of Mexico, to a no-vessels marker or sign erected by the Department is designated as a restricted area subject to the provisions of the Parks and Wildlife Code Section 66.204(b).

Parks and Wildlife Code Section 66.204(b) states that no person may operate, possess, or moor a vessel or other floating device or may place any pylon, wire, rope, cable, net, trap, or other obstruction in a natural or artificial fish pass opened, reopened, dredged, excavated, constructed, or maintained by the Department as a fish pass between the Gulf of Mexico and an inland bay within a distance inside of the pass from the mouth of the pass where it empties into the Gulf of Mexico to a marker or sign erected by the Department indicating the restricted area.

What we have in front of you here is actually an aerial photo of the pass.  The actual proposed rule change would indicate two sections in red.

You would actually see the restricted area in red and then in yellow, that would be the portion that would actually still consist of the current rule where you’d be limited to no more than two consecutive days of mooring or anchoring.  In addition, you would not be able to use any type of traps within this area.

When this came up and we started looking into this subject — you know, appreciation to a lot of the staff members at headquarters and the research that they’ve done — we actually went back and not only looked at the proclamation that was passed in 1998, but actually the regulations that granted the actual

Commission rule-making authority for that and even tracked back to identify certain parts of the rule that the statute that extended back to the late 1930s.

What we’ve identified as what we’ve proposed today is actually consistent with the intent of the actual proposed rule in 19 — in 1998.  If you actually look at the preamble and into the introduction, it actually identifies the presence of the restricted area that’s seen in red and the intent was from that point towards Mesquite Bay, to actually have the additional rule-making authority to enact the rule as the Commission had done.

Unfortunately that language exists in the preamble and in the introduction, but it did not make it down into the actual rule text, which makes it into the Texas Administrative Code, which actually is what we can enforce as a Department.  So what we’re attempting to do today is to clarify that so that not only is it clear for the public; but if there’s an issue, it’s enforceable by Parks and Wildlife Law Enforcement at that time.

With that said, staff requests permission to publish the proposed changes in the Texas Register.

And I’m available for any questions you may have for me.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Thank you, Les.


COMMISSIONER BELL:  Commissioner Bell.  I have two questions.  One, is it — is it easy to mark that so that — so that people understand and the confusion is limited?  And the second question would be:

What impact does it have on actual fishing?

MR. CASTERLINE:  To your first question, Commissioner, if you actually follow the timeline once this occurred and you see the actions on the local level since this was enacted, the signs are present.  The public actually has taken the signs as they are actually enforceable.  So this is actually somewhat of probably a surprise to locals who actually, you know, had public support for this at the time.

So the signage actually that was proposed in 1997, replaced what was formally marking the restricted areas.  In the past, it would have been iron or cement monuments.  In 1997, the Legislature allowed us to go to signage, which currently there is a sign that when you’re entering from Mesquite Bay and you get to this restricted area, it simply says "No vessels beyond this point" and it’s very recognizable and it allows us to place that on the shoreline where it’s a little bit more protected.

The verbiage here actually allows for versus some original text back prior before the legislative change where it identified feet, which was probably hard to maintain because of the shift of the mouth.  By going to the sign, the way it’s written now, it’s easy to maintain, very easy and understandable for the public to do.  We also currently have the current rule as stated in the Outdoor Annual and available for folks to access that way.

In response to your second question as far as the resource, as far back as we’ve researched — of course, it’s identified as a fish pass rule, the regulations, we’re dealing with obstructions in fish passes.  So the benefit, what we’ve seen, is it identifies that that’s very vitally — vital to the local ecosystem.  It’s a — the inflow of that water and the egress of that water that moves and flows through there is very important for the production in those areas.

Simply when we added the second portion and were given rule-making authority to regulate outside of the restricted area, which had existed since 1939, that was to address some other placements outside of the restricted area that were — that had come up at the time and it also would alleviate any type of user conflict.  I hope that answers your questions.

COMMISSIONER BELL:  We’re getting there.


CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Commissioner Hildebrand.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND:  Hildebrand.  So tell me physically what is happening.  It’s a — this is a fish pass that it’s the point of ingress and egress to Mesquite Bay and you’ve got people that are anchoring for days on end and taking a gross oversupply of fish or crab nets or crab traps?  What is — tell me what you’re trying to achieve here?  What’s happening in this fish pass?

MR. CASTERLINE:  Okay.  In the fish pass, so as — historically, which it began with in the late 1930s, began with simply a restricted area, as I had mentioned to you earlier, that did not allow the passage of vessels and that would have made it all the through the Legislature actually addressing that by statute until 1997.  There were some ident — they identified through the Department and the Legislature some possible issues with mooring of vessels, as well as possible usage of traps or other obstructions that could exist within the remainder of the nonrestricted area between any fish pass and the inland bay.

Subsequently, the Department then enacted or proposed the rule change to address that, utilizing that rule-making authority.  At the time, from what I was understanding, there was some concern over barges or other types of structures that could be anchored within that — that area that was in question and that that could not only impact the resource, but could cause user conflict issues and limit access to other fishermen that might would frequent that area.  And just through research, that’s what we were able to gather.

As a whole, if you read back through the history, just the fish pass itself is very vital to the ecosystem in that area.  And to add on to that, I guess I could give you some more recent data from the last dredge project.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife did a — filed a report and kind of identified that these signs should be retained marking the restricted area because of the — because of the benefits to the habitat, the ecosystem, and some of the wildlife within the area, they named sea turtles specifically in there because of them being threatened and endangered dealing with ESA and that by opening that fish pass, you could — for traffic – you could increase traffic within the area, directly affecting the resource, the habitat within that area. And that’s — through the research, that’s what we’ve identified.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND:  Okay.  So just in conclusion.  So the issue is, is that people are parking barges in a fairly narrow pass and that’s impeding the migration of wildlife, whether it be turtles or fish or crabs or whatever it may — I’m just — is there a problem that we’re now trying to solve with this rule-making?

MR. CASTERLINE:  So to clarify that, sir, that was the question in 1998 because that was an issue that was being observed back in ’98.  The public perception is that the way we’ve actually drawn this up right here, the public perception as of now is, that this is what the actual rule is.  Because in the presentation of the proposed in 1998, this is actually what was described.  It simply did not make it clear into the text where it showed the restricted area. So historically from 1998 to present, this is, for the most part, how the public has treated it.  So since then, there has been no problem.  We are just wanting to maintain that there remain no problem as was identified that there could exist back in 1998.

This is really just clarifying to be consistent with how it’s actually been treated for the past 25 years.


Thank you very much.  Great answer.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Les, let me ask a question, Les.  In the yellow, can you park a vehicle, anchor a vehicle for less — for less than two days and fish/anchor in the yellow as designed with what you’re trying to accomplish?

MR. CASTERLINE:  Just to clarify, sir, I know you mentioned vehicle; but I figure you meant vessel.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  I’m sorry.  Vessel.

MR. CASTERLINE:  Vessel.  So within the yellow area —

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  It’d take a heck of a vehicle to get there.

MR. CASTERLINE:  Yes, sir.  Yeah, it’s —

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  I want one of those.

MR. CASTERLINE:  Yeah, yeah.  So just to clarify that, that would be and was the intent.  Within the yellow area, the only restrictions currently would be that you could not moor or anchor a vessel for more than two consecutive days.  So they could come in, access that area, moor or anchor for up to two consecutive days; but they also could not use traps within that area.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Got it.  So no crab traps in the yellow.

MR. CASTERLINE:  Yes, sir?

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  And you can go anchor your boat.  Spend the night on your boat if you want. You can fish, not to exceed two days.

MR. CASTERLINE:  Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  In the red, you cannot anchor your boat, correct?

MR. CASTERLINE:  Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Can — can you run a boat in the red?


CHAIRMAN APLIN:  So you get to the yellow, you stop, you anchor your boat.  If you want to fish the red, you can wade the red?


CHAIRMAN APLIN:  But you can’t run the boat through.  And so if you want to go into the Gulf, you need to go down to Pass Cavallo and — if you’re headed that way.

MR. CASTERLINE:  Yes, sir.  You need to go —


MR. CASTERLINE:  Yes, sir.  Another access point to the Gulf and you’d have to not only reach that area, but return the way through a proper access point.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Yes.  You can’t go — you can’t access the Gulf by boat.


CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Which is — okay.  I understand.

MR. CASTERLINE:  Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  But you can go anchor and the people that want to go there and fish could wade, but they can’t run their boat in the Gulf.



COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.:  Patton.  How many — how many fish passes are there?  Is there a finite number or does it move here and there because of water movement?

MR. CASTERLINE:  So, sir, during some of the discussions that we had when we were covering this subject, currently right now the only one that we identify that would be addressed through these rules is Cedar Bayou fish pass.  There may have been some passes in years past; but currently, the only one that we have rules that it directly affects is Cedar Bayou.  A lot of that is because there has been extensive effort to maintain that area and keep it open so that the flow of the water was maintained to support that ecosystem in that area.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.:  Okay.  Is — is — so if it’s only one, is something like that indicated on, you know, a navigation chart, a printed chart, or say a Garmin type device?  Have we ever tried to integrate?

MR. CASTERLINE:  I’m not aware, sir.  But we could research and see if that would exist and get that back to you, that information.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.:  Well, it certainly would be another way of notice.  But it’s only the one, right?  So — and you’ve got signs, visible signs out there?

MR. CASTERLINE:  Yes, sir.  There’s a — as a —

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.:  Is there any other notice other than the signs?

MR. CASTERLINE:  We publish it in the Outdoor Annual.  So it’s available like any other regulation that’s published in the Outdoor Annual for the public to view.  The signage is currently there because as normal as procedure with the dredge project, we had one just finish up that was — that was initiated by Aransas County and as a requirement of their permit with the Corps, they were required to replace the signs.

So there are signs that are there.  They’re present. This actually is consistent with the signs that they’ve replaced.  So if adopted, this would be consistent with what is present.  There’s a sign that says "No vessels beyond this point" if you’re entering from Mesquite Bay and traveling to the — towards the Gulf of Mexico when you reach the restricted area as we’ve proposed within the rule.  This would be consistent with the proposal, the intent, and what is present to support this as far as signage today.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Thank you, Les. Anybody — any other Commissioners?

COMMISSIONER ABELL:  Commissioner Abell. Just out of curiosity, are you aware of any problems with people passing through the red on a regular basis?

MR. CASTERLINE:  That — so until recently no.  But when the question actually came up over the past year, it was kind of during the process of the dredge project and that’s when we actually we had identified that there was a gap in enforceability because the restricted area itself is not in the actual rule text.  Although it was in the preamble.  So that made that portion unenforceable.  Although it’s intended and within the requirements of the permit, the County was required to put the signs, there was — you’re unable to enforce that because it’s not in the rule text that’s in the Texas Administrative Code.

COMMISSIONER ABELL:  Okay.  Where I was headed with that was would there be — would there be any reason to put cameras where the signs are as well to monitor, you know, whether that rule was being violated?

MR. CASTERLINE:  I wouldn’t say that there’s a negative — there would be a negative issue to that.  I think it’d probably come down to the equipment connectivity.  It’s fairly remote where it’s located there right there at the cut between Matagorda and San Jose Island, right on the Gulf coast.  So it’d probably come up to the devices and your connectivity in that area.


MR. CASTERLINE:  Thank you, sir.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Anybody else, Work Session Item No. 6?

Okay.  Hearing none, I’ll authorize staff to publish to the rules in the Texas Register.  Thank you, Les.

MR. CASTERLINE:  Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Work Session Item No. 7, Digital Licensing and Tagging Requirements, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes.  Chris, good morning.

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. Tomorrow I’ll be seeking adoption of proposed amendments to regulations that are intended to provide four additional fully digital license and tag options for the next license year.

As a point of reference for these proposed amendments, I will take just a moment to provide a brief 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 means that customers engaged in the majority of fishing activities across the state and any hunters who pursue things like ducks, doves, exotics, even deer on MLD properties already have the option to use a digital form of license.  However, as noted, this option does not provide a digital tagging mechanism for customers harvesting deer, turkey, and oversized Red drum directly 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, this hunting season.  So for this pilot year, fully digital super combo, senior super combo, and lifetime combo licenses were made available through online purchase only and that digital tagging is accomplished using the My Texas Hunt Harvest mobile app. So based on the popularity of the digital super combo license offerings during this pilot year, based on feedback from customers, and staff’s confidence in both the license sales system and the My Texas Hunt Harvest app to support this program, staff are proposing to provide fully digital offerings for the four additional license and tag types shown here for next season.  And so these are 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 several customers who had purchased digital combo for themselves, their spouse, and then when they went to buy their hunting license for their kids, they realized they still had to get a paper license.  So they were stuck in both worlds.  They had to carry a paper license even though they wanted to go digital.  So we want to provide those families with the option to go entirely digital if that’s what they’d like to do.

The exempt angler Red drum tag is included for the same reason.  There are fishermen out there who otherwise don’t need a license and so we want to provide them with an option to have a digital tag for that bonus Red drum — or for that oversized Red drum.

The lifetime tag options are being included to round out the digital offerings for all the lifetime licenses that we offer.

And so the table that you’re looking at presents last season’s sales data for the 21-22 license year for these four license types and then it provides a projection of potential digital sales based on the approximately 14 percent digital conversion rate that we saw for the digital super combo license types this year.

So if the estimates hold for that approximately 14 percent conversion rate, we anticipate about 18,000 or so of these licenses to be sold in the next license year.  Our implementation team is confident that we can support this volume and ensure a successful expansion of our digital tag offerings, while continuing to work to upgrade our system to prepare for additional expansion of digital offerings in future seasons.

We have received a small amount of public comments so far from four individuals, all in agreement.

And so with that, staff requests that this item be placed on Thursday’s agenda for public comment and action.  And that concludes my presentation, and I’m happy to take any questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Thank you, Chris.


COMMISSIONER BELL:  I have two questions.

MR. CERNY:  Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER BELL:  Is there a thought process about when all licenses — a time period when all licenses might become digital?

MR. CERNY:  Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER BELL:  I was just recently at a presentation where they said, you know, ten years from now we may not have cell phones and computers.  We might have a little Star Trek chip that will – that will — that will do all that and you’ll be able to project your — if you needed to project something, you can project it onto your hand and you can read your messages and or you can project it onto a wall.  And then second —

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  I’m not ready for that.

COMMISSIONER BELL:  By the way, my wife say none of us my age will be able to know how to use that.  I said we’ve been using that since 1965.  We watched Star Trek.

MR. CERNY:  Yeah, right.

COMMISSIONER BELL:  Right?  Or we understand the use.  The second, just because a lot of this — a lot of hunting and fishing is remote, have we had any connectivity problems for people that needed to show their license?  Because sometimes even on my little place, we just have problems getting internet.  You know, rural broadband will be great; but it’s not here yet.

MR. CERNY:  Yes, sir.  So to question one regarding the continued expansion, we are working that way as fast as possible.  I do want to just note that we are in the pilot year and so we have been trying to make sure that the implementation was smooth, that it worked.

We did identify a few issues that we want to improve on and so we’re still continuing to adapt the process to make sure that it is meeting the need for digital tag executions, supporting our law enforcement in the field, and of course our customers.

So as far as timeline goes, we want to continue rolling out tags as fast as possible, digital tag options.  I anticipate that we’re several seasons from having everything available.  There’s still approximately 30 other license types that offer some form of tag that remains paper only; but we’re pushing that way in as few seasons as possible.

To your second question regarding connectivity, the app — the mobile app specifically is designed to support lack of data connection and so it’s worked very well.  We had one of the minor issues that we addressed was in scenarios where hunters were in spotty service where they were bouncing in and out of service, the app was actually creating some duplicate reports.  We’ve addressed that.  We’ve proven that through this spring turkey season with well over 2,000 harvest reports and no duplicates identified.  So we think we’ve taken care of that problem.  So we’re very confident in our app’s ability to work in both offline and online mode and spotty service in-between.


MR. CERNY:  Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND:  Hildebrand. What are the 30 — just give me an idea of the 30 licenses or elements that are not on the digital tags.

MR. CERNY:  Those include a number of combo options that are not super combo.  So combo hunting, combo fishing that offer license — or I’m sorry, tags for deer, turkey, and Red drum.  And then a number of both just hunting licenses and fishing licenses that offer either deer and turkey tags or Red drum tags.  They’re all recreational fishing or hunting licenses.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND:  So in no form is this criticism.  Job well-done in terms of getting to where we’re at on the digitization of licenses.  But why is it — it would seem like a fairly straightforward next step to get everything from a digital standpoint and just to — so there’s lack of confusion in terms of digital/paper.  And so can you talk to me about that? What are the steps needed to get the 30 additional licenses digitized?

MR. CERNY:  It’s trying to make sure that the volume of reports that are coming in, that we’re able to support.  I mean, right now as you saw, we’ve sold — or I didn’t actually mention this in this — this — I mentioned this during the last briefing in

March.  We’ve sold about 80,000 of these licenses, these digital licenses.  That represents about 14 percent of all of the just super combo licenses that are sold, but we sell nearly a million hunting and fishing licenses a year.  And so before we increase to say 150, 200,000 licenses, we really want to make sure that we have the price — process ironed out.

One of the other things we’re investigating, that app that we use is called My Texas Hunt Harvest.  It supports a lot more than just hunt harvest.  It was originally designed for Eastern turkey harvest reporting and that’s what its initial use was.

Well, now it covers a lot more.  It covers Red drum tagging.  It covers Alligator gar harvest reporting.  So it’s a lot more than just hunt harvest.  One of the things we need to work on is re-branding that app.  And again, before we put this out in front of everybody, we want to make sure that it is as stable as possible.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND:  Great.  And I assume that we’re getting some help from the private sector in terms of how we may have a more efficient, clean, clear interface?

MR. CERNY:  We are building this entirely in-house.  We are working with our Communications Division on user interface, a UI review.  And there is a good chance that we will conduct some sort of focus group with external customers.  We’ve done that once before for the app, and so we likely will try to work on a project along those lines again.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND:  Good.  Because clearly the private sector could solve this problem and many other different elements.  So, look, I would just say with Godspeed let’s move forward in terms of getting everything digitized because the simpler that we can make it for hunters and fishermen, the more license revenue that we’re going to have and the more people that are going to enjoy the outdoors of Texas and so let’s make it simple so people can hunt and fish.


MR. CERNY:  Understood and agreed.  Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Commissioners?

So same question Commissioner Bell and Hildebrand asked and so I would add to that.  You know, as soon as we can roll this out well, let’s roll this out.  I mean, I think this is the direction and you’ve given some really good reasons that — I never thought about the parents buy a license, but the child can’t and so they’re in — they’re in two worlds.  And so to the extent we can do that as soon as possible, I think that would be positive.

MR. CERNY:  Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Thank you, Chris.

MR. CERNY:  Thank y’all.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  If no further comments, I’ll place this on Thursday’s Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

We’re going to go to Work Session Item No. 8, Public Hunting Program, Establishment of an Open Seating on Public — Season on Public Hunting Lands and Approval of Public Hunting Activities on State Parks.

Good morning, Kevin.

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

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

In order to provide hunting activities on public hunting land, Commission must provide for an open season.  Tomorrow I will ask for your approval to establish an open season on public hunting lands that will run from September 1st, 2023, to August 31st, 2024.

The Commission will also be asked to approve specific hunting activities on the proposed units of the state park system, which are included in your briefing materials.  Staff propose hunts on 50 units of the state park lands for the 2023-24 season.

There are a total of 1,335 proposed hunt positions, of which 357 are youth positions.  This proposal will also provide for 41 hunt groups, which can be comprised of from one to four hunters.

Tomorrow I’ll be back to present these two motions for your consideration and approval, and that concludes my presentation.  I’ll be happy to try and answer any questions you might have.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Thank you, Kevin.

Commissioners, any questions for Kevin?

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

Commissioners, before we roll into Work Session Item No. 9, which will be potentially a little bit lengthy, we’ll give everybody a five-minute break and then we’ll circle back here in five minutes to begin Work Session Item No. 9.

(Recess taken)

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Welcome back.  Our five minutes grew a little bit, but thank you for your patience.

We’re going to resume the Wednesday 20 — Texas Parks and Wildlife Workshop Session with Work Session Item No. 9, Chronic Waste Disease/CWD Detection and Response Rules, Amendments to Surveillance Zone Delineations, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes.

We have Dr. Hunter Reed here.  Welcome, Hunter.

DR. REED:  Thank you.  Good morning, Chairman and Commissioners.  For the record, my name is Dr. J. Hunter Reed, Veterinarian for the Wildlife Division.  And I plan to update you today on proposed modifications to existing CWD zones, as well as the establishment of new CWD zones and response to positive detections in breeding facilities.

As I discussed last Commission Meeting, we are seeking permission to modify our strategy as it relates to zone development and sampling approach at the direction of the Commission.  If adopted, CWD detection solely in captive deer will see significant changes in terms of zone establishment.  As an example, I will use the current Duval County zone shown shaded in yellow.

First, a quarantine administered by Texas Animal Health Commission, or THC, will 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.  The yellow line is what staff are proposing for adoption on Thursday.

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 breeding facility must but depopulated or the quarantine lifted or the quarantine administered by Texas Animal Health Commission must be lifted.  A minimum of three hunting seasons must have passed since the date of depopulation or lifting the quarantine.  Area sampling must have satisfied a 95 percent detection probability and samples must be well-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.  This model was created by Dr. Ani Belsare of Auburn University and provides a much more realistic perspective of how CWD spreads with different populations and environments, as well as what sort of sampling effort would be needed to detect the disease.

These sampling goals could be reached by several methods.  Some of these include more traditional ones like check stations and drop boxes; but also we’d be looking to satisfy those sampling goals using on ranch pick up, as well as road kills.

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 deer 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 ask CWD testing will begin.  Shortly after the surveillance zone is created, depopulation of the infected deer breeding facility occurs.  From the date of depopulation, the two-year clock begins.  During this time, sampling is mandatory; but it does not count towards the release of the zone.  After two years have passed, the number and distribution of samples would begin counting for the surveillance zone release.  For this example scenario, there’s a high degree of cooperation, which meant the sample distribution goal outlined by the agent-based model was met in a handful of hunting seasons with no CWD detections in free-ranging deer.  Consequently, the zone could then been released.

The second example is very similar.  CWD was again detected in a captive deer breeding facility.

A surveillance zone with mandatory carcass movement restrictions and sampling requirements — or mandatory testing requirements was established.  The deer 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.  Consequently, the surveillance zone will remain in place.

For clarity, I will briefly demonstrate what this approach will look like for a currently existing surveillance zone.  As a reminder, the yellow shaded area outlines the current surveillance zone.  For the new surveillance zone, what is being proposed today is the yellow line and all properties that would be affected by the surveillance zone subject to carcass movement restrictions and mandatory testing are shaded in gray.

For Duval County, using this new approach, the number of landowners affected by the zone will be reduced by 97 percent.  It should be noted that the current surveillance zone has a sunset date for

December of this year for Duval County.

Next is Limestone County.  Using this approach, the numbers of the landowners affected by the Limestone County surveillance zone will be reduced by 76 percent.

Third, Gillespie County.  The number of landowners affected by Gillespie County surveillance zone using this approach will be reduced by 91 percent.

Fourth is Uvalde County extension of the south central zone.  In this situation, we have two affected deer breeding facilities relatively close together.  One facility has been depopulated, while the other one is under a research plan.  The number of affected landowners using our approach for this portion of the zone will be reduced by 69 percent.

The next six zones I will discuss are in response to new CWD positive breeding facilities that we have recently detected in the last couple of months.

The first proposed surveillance zone is in Zavala County.  The breeding facility in Zavala County was detected after deer were antemortem rectal tested for release and this resulted in three positives.  It should also be noted that the — that an additional animal has been found to be CWD positive through postmortem testing.  This animal was actually antemortem tested and previously tested not-detected around three months prior before testing ultimately CWD positive through postmortem testing.  This zone in Zavala County encompasses 22 properties.

The breeding facility in Washington County was detected after deer were antemortem rectal tested for release.  This resulted in a single positive. This zone in Washington County encompasses 555 properties.  This large number of properties is due to the breeding facility’s close proximity to smaller properties located in the city of Brenham.

This breeding facility in Gonzales County was detected after deer were antemortem test — antemortem rectal tested to meet the requirements of a herd plan.  Initially this one antemortem — initially, there was one antemortem test positive, as well as two additional postmortem positives within that herd.  An additional CWD positive animal has been found in this facility through postmortem testing.  This animal, similar to the one found in Zavala County, was found to be not-detected via antemortem testing only one and a half months prior to subsequently testing positive through postmortem testing.  This zone in Gonzales County encompasses 104 properties.

This breeding facility in Hamilton County was detected after deer were antemortem tested for release.  This resulted in one antemortem positive sample.  This zone in Hamilton County encompasses 75 properties.

In this — in this final example here, is the Frio — is in Frio County and was detected after a deer was postmortem tested and found to be positive.

This zone in Frio County encompasses 27 properties.

In addition to these proposed surveillance zones for CWD positive breeding facilities, staff are also seeking to adopt three additional items.

First would allow for the location of mandatory check stations outside of surveillance zones, if necessary. Second would allow for the transportation of heads to check stations when check stations are outside of surveillance zones.  And third would eliminate the sunset provision for Duval County surveillance zone since staff seek to utilize the agent-based modeling approach I have outlined earlier in this presentation.

In terms of public comment, we’ve received 17 responses.  76 percent of responses agreed with the proposal, 6 percent disagreed completely with the proposal, and 18 percent disagreed specifically with a proposal.  One individual disagreed with – since aerial photos of the — or the containment zone and surveillance zone were not provided in the proposal, to identify the affected areas.  Other comments were not germane to the item up for adoption.

Additionally, we received formal comment.

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.

Unfortunately and similar — unfortunately, but similar to the last Commission Meeting, two new detections have recently been discovered after the creation of this agenda item.  The first detection occurred in a facility in Sutton County after a 45-month-old buck White-tailed deer was found to be CWD positive after antemortem rectal testing prior to release.  Consequently, we propose to establish a surveillance zone consistent with the approach outlined for other surveillance zones in this presentation.  This zone would include 28 property owners.

Second detection occurred in Bexar County after a free-ranging White-tailed deer was found positive following postmortem testing.  Consequently, we propose to establish a surveillance zone using easily discernible boundaries, in addition to a containment zone.  As this is an urban deer population with relatively small home ranges, the size of both zones is reduced compared to more rural, free-ranging populations.

For clarity, while these two proposed zones for Sutton and Bexar Counties are not up for adoption tomorrow, we are seeking permission to publish them as soon as possible so these changes can be considered for adoption in August prior to the next hunting season.  And, of course, these slides will not be in this Thursday presentation.

With that, staff recommend placing this

on Thursday’s agenda.  Now I’ll answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Dr. Hunter, thank you for that buzz kill.

Questions, Commissioners?  Comments?

COMMISSIONER ABELL:  Commissioner Abell.

I just — I had two.  Remind me again how you define the distribution, the definition of well-distributed.

DR. REED:  Yeah.  That was a comment that came up from Commissioner Patton last time.


DR. REED:  And what we’ve really tried to solidify is that right now, we need to secure the funding to be able to come up with a scientifically defensible distribution.  So what we’re trying to do is set up a MOU with the Safari Club Foundation, as well as pursue CWD research funds through USCA cooperative agreements.  That would give us more than enough resources to really dedicate time to provide a justifiable and scientifically-backed distribution model, rather than one that’s a bit more arbitrary.

COMMISSIONER ABELL:  All right.  And my second question — and I think I know the answer – but in your second example after the free-range detection, does that just reset the clock to having to be another three hunting seasons before you start with the testing again?

DR. REED:  Yeah.


DR. REED:  So, no, great question.  So the intent there is not to restart the clock.  The intent there is once free — once CWD is in a free-ranging population, it becomes extremely difficult to manage that and the risk is probably a pervasive and persistent one at that point.  But we have — we have come to — I believe in the March Commission Meeting, we had come up with ideas to see if we can come up with a periodic sampling approach that while that zone might be in place and carcass movement restrictions would be in place, that maybe there might be a route of which we could still get the distribution and intensity of sampling to give us really good information on the ground epidemiologically.  But we could isolate those sampling years once — one every three years, just to reduce the burden on hunters and folks located within those zones.


CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Hunter, the two scenarios you gave, we have a positive, want to create a surveillance zone, and that starts the clock.  What do we — what does this Commission and this Agency have to do to actually have a date that a zone starts?  Do we have to publish and have meetings like we do, or is there a process to get that clock started sooner for all the obvious reasons?

DR. REED:  Great question.  So as far as our approach, in order to start that clock, a deer breeding facility would have to be depopulated or a quarantine lifted.  Really the only example of a quarantine being lifted without a depopulation may be through a research alternative.  But as far as the gold standard in how to manage this disease, it would primarily be through depopulation of infected

facilities.  Two years from that point, we could then start counting samples.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  We get notified that a — there’s a positive deer.  How long does it take to put a zone around that?  Now we can work — we can work a herd plan and they can start depopulating immediately, but how long does it take to put a zone around that area?

DR. REED:  So just since our detections in March, we have proposed — we proposed those in the March Commission Meet — or sorry, actually put them up for comment here.  They could be adopted tomorrow.  So it might take an order at least a couple of months.  But there are zones to be proposed this Commission Meeting, then they would have to be — that might take as long as August.  So it might take several months at least for some of those zones once we have — we detect the positive to really be put in place.

MR. WOLF:  Chairman, if I may, and that’s been really the process we’ve used when we have – when we have detected these outside of deer seasons.  But just as a reminder, you know, the Executive Director and the Commission have the authority to implement emergency rules and we did that, for example, in Del Rio and Val Verde County when we had a detection during a hunting season.  We stood up a zone and check stations in late

December, something like that.  So a lot of this depends upon when we learn and if we have the spring and summer months to bring something to you and just go through the regular rule-making process.

But if we’re, you know, early in the hunting season and we learn something and we don’t want carcasses to leave that zone, then that’s where we seriously contemplate, you know, exercising that emergency option so that — and we can put that in place immediately, obviously, with Dr. Yoskowitz communicating with you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Thank you, Clayton.  Is there any hybrid, any option between the normal process that can extend months and months and emergency order?

And maybe not now, but just contemplate.  So when we know we have a problem, you know, is there a way to act faster?  And I know we have that tool, the emergency order and maybe that is the way.

MR. WOLF:  That really is the way and James will tap me on the back if I get off track here; but, you know, our — the rules that we adopt have to go through the 30-day public — or be posted for 30 days and go through the normal posting period.  So that’s — that’s not expedited and obviously depends upon when this Commission gets together.

The other option is obviously the, you know, the emergency rule and pathway and that could be implemented really, you know, at your discretion.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Okay, good.  Good.

Thank you for that.  I mean, it can be different in the fact that while we’re going through the process, this is a disease that can be spreading; but we do at least have that emergency order tool.

Looks like a sizable reduction, which — in the acreage and the area and the landowners with your proposal.  I’m assuming that’s why it got such heavy support?

DR. REED:  Yeah.  Some of the – there were some comments in agreement that liked the fact that this is more science based.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  How many new proposed — I mean, I’m — as I’m scrolling through, I’m just like — how many new proposed surveillance zones are on this slide?

DR. REED:  So in addition to the – so the ones that are new, six.


DR. REED:  Yeah, since March.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Commissioners, any questions?

COMMISSIONER BELL:  Yeah, Commissioner

Bell.  The one thing —

DR. REED:  Oh, sorry.


DR. REED:  Not to cut you off.  I misspoke.  So including Bexar County, that would be a seventh surveillance zone that would also include a containment zone.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  But Bexar County is not —

DR. REED:  The —

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Is it part of this meeting?

DR. REED:  So for what’s up for adoption, that would be five.  Then —

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Bexar is coming?

DR. REED:  Sutton and Bexar would be coming.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Just you’re timing didn’t work out.

DR. REED:  Yeah, yeah.


COMMISSIONER BELL:  A couple things to throw out.  One, based on the Chairman’s question, just on the rules and the timing, maybe — and counsel could speak — well, can think about this.  Maybe there’s an option just to offer to a person to voluntarily jump in to start the clock, right?  I mean, we can — we can — we can have our emergency rule piece.  We can have our later regular process piece which takes more time.  But perhaps if a facility owner volunteered, maybe that could start the clock so it accelerates the process for them.

But my first question is if we’re — I’m having a little bit of confusion over this point of if we find something on a facility versus we find something free-ranging.  So I want to understand if we find something free-ranging, now we’re going to go impact arguably — this is one perspective — we’re going to go impact a facility that didn’t have anything do with that because it’s in the vicinity of the free-ranging area?

DR. REED:  Yeah, yeah, no.  And I think it speaks to the risks and epidemiology of the disease in those two different circumstances.  As far as it relates to when it’s in a captive facility, we can administer a herd plan on a discrete property.  We can depopulate that herd, hopefully expeditiously.  And that can impede the overall production of prions and level of contamination in that environment.  We can establish a quarantine and as well as require separation of susceptible species that are not — perhaps not exposed to the disease and those that were on that property.  So on a captive facility, the ability to at least contain the disease is known and we have a much better capacity to do that.

But once we start to go over to the free-ranging side of things, that contamination is spread over a much larger area.  In terms of high fencing, that is certainly not something that is a guarantee.  We’ve seen in several instances where fence breaks have occurred.  We’ve had animals escape from release sites to free-ranging populations.  So the overall confidence that that disease is contained when it’s on a release site or in low-fenced populations is just that much less.

So for those facilities that are located within — within the 5 miles of those areas where we’ve had detections in free-ranging populations, we have great concern that they could be exposed to disease and ultimately — not intentionally — transmit that or become infected themselves.

COMMISSIONER BELL:  And I guess — well, my overall question because — and again, it’s just I’ll say — and perhaps I’m not eloquent enough or well-spoken enough on or well-versed enough overall to make the question sound cogent.  But if I find something free-ranging, my concern is, on one hand, why am I impacting a facility?  Not — by the way, not my agenda in terms of who we support.  It’s just kind of a question.  Because there’s a certain amount of this that sometimes I wonder if it’s just naturally occurring or are we going to try to manage everything?

I mean, it’s like a — it’s like a pond turning over when there’s — when the oxygen’s depleted and the fish just kind of die out.  You know, that just — that just kind of happens.  We don’t really manage that.  So I’m just trying to — I follow your explanation for the facility.  Makes sense.  I still have a little concern about impacting people’s livelihood; but I understand why we’re doing that, so to speak, for the greater good.  But I think we need to have a — very much have a concern around that and think that through.  But this — this — the free-ranging piece again is — and thank you for the smaller impact on the zone for folks, so that it looks like we are trying to hone in on what’s going on.  But that free-ranging population piece and impact is having — it’s just causing me — my wheels are spinning over that.

DR. REED:  Yeah, no.  And I guess the best way that I can answer that is regardless of if it’s spontaneous in the population or not, it is a known risk and it is a disease that invariable kills deer, whatever that inciting cause might be.  And if there’s a – if there’s a captive facility that is exposed to that case in free-ranging and the permeability exists and they are at inherently greater risk of contracting that disease, I’m not only worried about that facility, while it may reduce movement and affect them greatly economically, the potential of that facility becoming infected themselves and as we’ve seen since 2021 having hundreds of traces disseminated across several facilities that then themselves would have to be depopulated and face those economic impacts, in addition to the release sites that also receive those infected deer, the potential there for spreading that disease is so great that we really just — it’s a difficult situation to handle.

But as far as reducing that risk of spreading that disease even more and facilitating that spread, that’s — that’s the point of this approach.

COMMISSIONER BELL:  Okay, thank you.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.:  Patton.  I’ve got a question that may not be directly related, but it kind of popped in my mind when you were talking about when you have a positive detection within a contained facility.  And I’ve certainly had a lot of — my ranch is near the border — fence cutting, you know, from illegal traffic.  Does that happen ever with deer breeders?  Do we have reports?  Is there a requirement to report a fence cut?  And if there is — or do you get it and inventory, I guess?  But are you hearing any – I don’t even know how many facilities are near the border where they might, you know, get that type of trouble; but it certainly happens a lot.

DR. REED:  Yeah, no.  That’s a great question.  In South Texas certainly.  We have — we have one positive facility that has reported at least a recent break in.  Not their breeding facility, but their release site.  But as far as deer being — escaping out of pen, those have to be reported and an attempt has to made in terms of trying to retrieve those animals in a timely fashion.  Stormy might be able to speak a little bit more specifically as to what the — our rules require.

But we have also had situations in another positive facility where there was a history of a fence going — or one of their breeding fences going down, not intent — not through intentional action, but through flooding, severe flooding.  So we know that this is an inherent risk with not only high-fence release sites, but also with deer breeding facilities as well.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND:  Question.  Kind of taking a step back for a moment.  Just this is very rudimentary.  But if you have deer breeding facility that’s contained within, say, a 10,000-acre ranch that’s high fenced in its entirety.  Once again, now the rules do not allow you to — you’ve got to — you’ve got to go through the same process of testing to put those deer out on the 10,000 acres that you would if you transported them 50 miles away?

DR. REED:  That’s correct.


Okay.  Okay, two, why the three hunting season?  I mean, I understand, you know, the timeline; but it seems as though that’s a bit of an arbitrary number.

DR. REED:  So part of that is actually derived from our own experience.  For at least – I think for at least a couple release sites within the Medina County zone that was detected within that time period, with then the positive facility going out to the release site.  Additionally, we’ve had Kimble County.

In Kimble County it took around two years for a positive detection in a deer breeding facility to be detected on an adjacent release site, that was also owned by them.

And then additionally in Hunt County, more recently in this past year, we actually — it’s taken around two years since the detection in that positive facility to be detected on also that adjacent release site.

So while — it is also bore out of the incubation of — the incubation period of that disease, which is around 24 months.  So assuming that animals were transferred out there to a release site directly from the positive breeding facility, that would be one of the earliest timeframes of which we might have the off chance of finding clinically affected animals.  So there’s multiple reasons for that time period, but it’s not essentially just picked out of a hat.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND:  Okay.  A couple other comments.  One, I do think that we should work very hard to expedite the timeline to get it started and not wait for a particular Commission Meeting.  And so to the extent that we can use an emergency order, once we find it, let’s get to it and, you know, be an Agency that’s got some nimble and a sense of urgency to it versus the lethargic process.

MR. WOLF:  Yeah.  So, Chairman and Commissioners, to that point, the rules that you will be asked to adopt tomorrow, really are the — they define the geographic extent of the zone.  What Dr. Reed is presenting to you is the protocol that we would use for releasing a zone and so y’all correct me if I’m wrong, but my understanding is when that population – when that population is depopulated, we can start the clock without any Commission action.  We would.  And so we would do — the staff would do that.  The staff also would, using these models and these grants to support these models on distribution and sample — the sample size, that would also be tracked by staff and would not take any Commission action to — to — there wouldn’t be a necessary Commission action that would slow things down.  So if we get it depopulated quickly, the clock starts that day and we don’t need Commission action of any kind to start that clock.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND:  Great.  I would certainly urge that most definitely.  Couple of other questions.  How many free-ranging deer have tested positive in the State of Texas?

DR. REED:  I know that number exists.  I don’t know it off the top of my head.

MR. CAIN:  It’s about hundred.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND:  About a hundred.  And how many in captive facilities?

MR. CAIN:  I don’t know.  It’s going to be three — 380, 390.  I don’t remember exactly.  We’ve got about 502 positives statewide for captive and free-ranging.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND:  So between captive and free-range, 500, plus or minus.  So let’s call it 400 and 100.  So do you want to — sure.  Take the podium.

MR. CAIN:  For the record, Alan Cain, White-tailed Deer Program Leader.  So we have 502 positives to date.  A hundred of those are free-range and the balance are captive or captive-release site positives.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND:  Got it.  Okay, great.  Let’s see.  A couple of other things.  Does it make sense — you know, I was one of the proponents of the sunset on Duval County.  I understand the rule-making process now and the logic of now you’ve got a timeline.  So by its nature, it sunsets.

But would there be a reason to just put a sunset provision on all of these surveillance zones just to refresh two or three years from now?

DR. REED:  So I guess I can see a benefit of a reassessment, but I also — similar to what we reason that the removal of the sunset provision that we’re proposing for Duval County, is to really not obscure the approach and give people a sense of – not to say false hope — but to keep moving goalpost or to have some gray zone as to, "Wait, you said sunset provision three years.  But actually it depends on the sampling goal?"

I would hate for that confusion to be out there.  So that’s why I have some hesitancy to recommend a separate sunset provision in addition to the approach that we’re trying to use.


Last question.  You’re probably going to be really uncomfortable with answering this question.  But what affect do you think this is going to have on deer breeders in terms of what do you think the response is going to be?  I mean, sitting up here I would think, well, the first thing they’re going to do is no one’s going to want to test deer anymore because if you depopulate — if you have the chance to depopulate my facility, that’s a risk not worth taking; but then clearly that’s going to restrict my ability to transport deer.  And I’m just — I’m trying to understand what — because what’s going to happen is people are going to start testing less, I suspect.  Now, but feel free to interject here.  So what do you think’s going to happen?

DR. REED:  So, I mean, to start off more of a broader scope, whether I came to the Commission with this approach or not, y’all recognize the importance of this disease and the impact that it has.

So in either situation, I think we would be establishing a zone and that would be — so those restrictions would be there in both situations.

But I would — I would — I see a lot of herds recently really moving forward in a positive direction and being very timely and willing to ask for indemnity in depopulation of their herds.  Those funds are provided by USDA.  But there has been, it seems to be, a little bit more urgency in moving the goalpost in the right direction with this new approach.  But as far as this new approach, it does — it reduces the impact that each of those individual positive facility has.  It makes it a little bit more manageable for us and it allows us to focus our surveillance so that it is that much more representative of the risks that is in that facility.

So while I don’t — I — I don’t think that it’s going to really reduce sampling, per se.  But I do think that it even provides a little bit more incentive for facilities to really approach and seriously consider the gold standard approach of how we manage that disease and that’s through depopulation.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND:  Okay.  Well, I’m just trying to think what are the implications of surrounding landowners and diminution of value of their property and, you know, a lot of things obviously to consider here.

And one — one more question for clarification.  If you’ve got a deer breeding facility and a deer dies in that facility, now let’s say you’ve decided that you’re not going to transport deer any further.  You’re going to just sit on hold because you don’t want to test and so that — that facility continues to just increase in numbers, obviously, because you can’t ever let the deer out.  But if a deer dies, are you required to do the postmortem testing?

DR. REED:  Yes.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND:  So if a deer dies for natural causes, for any reason, you are required by law to test that deer for CWD?

DR. REED:  Yep, in a deer breeding facility.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND:  In a deer breeding facility.  Okay, got it.  So — so that’s one way that we will be able to observe whether the disease is present or not, even if there’s not movement out of the facility, correct?

DR. REED:  Yes.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND:  All right, got it.  Okay, thank you very much.  Appreciate it.

DR. REED:  Yep.

COMMISSIONER BELL:  Provided the person — providing the person who has a deer that died — Commissioner Bell.  Providing the person that has a deer that died notifies you.  The — I was having a conversation with someone earlier today and just I always like to look at figures and whatnot and so this — hopefully this will be my last question.  But you know that phrase "Figures lie and Liars figure."

DR. REED:  Uh-huh.

COMMISSIONER BELL:  Okay.  So in a common sense way — because we want to go out to the public and make sure — if we’re explaining this, we want to be able to explain this to everyone in a way that’s simplest and makes the most sense.  So on one hand, when I hear 500 total positives and I’ll just go to — I used to live — I used to live out by Horseshoe Bay in Llano County and I remember they had a sign up in Llano County "The Deer Capital of the World."  More deer than people, right?  And I think, at the time, there were 23,000 people in Llano County.  So I’m going to assume that they thought there were more than 23,000 deer.  Five — and I’ll just go to that.  500 out of 23,000, is that statistically significant?

And then going beyond that, if you look at the whole deer population in Texas, I know we’re trying to get ahead of something; but is this like .000, you know, 1 percent of all this going on and are we overreacting or is this .0001 percent of what’s going and we are really smart and making sure we’re staying out in from of it?  Because those are kind of the two sides of the argument, right?  So what’s your reaction to that?

DR. REED:  And I think it’s the latter there.  We’re lucky to be in a situation where we’re — we don’t have the prevalence of the disease free-ranging, nor to — in free-ranging populations ranging — well, if you’re Tennessee or Wisconsin or Colorado or Wyoming —


DR. REED:  — who have very – those areas have very high prevalence of the disease and a whole suite of other impacts that we — that right now are theoretical for us; but very, very real for them.

So while the argument could be made that CWD is at – if you take the denominator of 5 million deer in Texas and you put all our positives on top, it doesn’t look like that much.  But when you talk to the people out in El Paso and I’ve talked to people in Del Rio where I go out to these individual deer breeding facilities and you actually see affected deer, where it exists, it is evident.  You have people dying — or you have deer dying in people’s yards.  You have — or you have deer drooling on video cameras.  You have — the disease is evident where exists.

And while I wish — now I don’t wish that everyone could see the impacts of the disease.  When they do see it, it’s evident and we’re trying to avoid that for all of Texas.  So where we do have it in discreet areas of Texas, we need to manage it.  That’s my personal perspective, but I think it’s one that you guys share as well.

COMMISSIONER BELL:  And see, that – I think that’s helpful because if we can have a solid explanation around that, I think — I think most of the people in Texas have a lot of common sense and if we have an explanation for them that I’ll say passes the common sense test, we’ll have more people engaged in support of whatever steps we ultimately decide to take, than to be disagreeable, right?  So we just have to make sure that we have — the simpler it is to explain, so to speak, the better off we are.

DR. REED:  Yeah.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Any other Commissioners?

MR. WOLF:  Chairman, one thing that Dr. Reed mentioned here, you know, as the Commission contemplates the public comment on a sunset for this and taking into account Dr. Reed’s — the wisdom of that sunset being mis — you know, misunderstood as, you know, the end of the pathway, just you know the alternative or the intermediate approach could be if this Commission wanted to direct the team to come back at some established time period for a briefing to reassess all of these.  You know, I think that – that could — that’s another way that we could accomplish or commit to not just putting this on the shelf and forgetting about it, but also not sending the wrong signals to people.

And so that is another way is, you know, if the Commission wants to direct the team, you know, after a certain time period to just come back and report on how we’re doing, how many people got out of the — you know, got out of the mousetrap, you know, where are things going slowly, that is — that is an alternative.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Jeff, how does that hit you?

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND:  Look, I think that’s fantastic in many ways.  I mean, this is just a plan that we’re setting out and we need to readdress the plan every year or — I mean, truly we ought to look at this on a year-by-year basis and we’ll have the data to do it to understand what’s going on in each of these surveillance zones, do — is there any modification that’s required at that time?  But I think that would be a great intermediate step and compromise because I understand the problems with the sunset on these and you’re putting some fairly strict formulaic processes around them now, which are clear which I like; but not just to put them on the shelf and leave them there for the next ten years and people say, "Well, why is that surveillance zone still out in West Texas?"  So I would very much appreciate that.  Kind of an annual – an annual process.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Let me ask a question along those lines.  Anybody off the top of your head know how many positive we have found through antemortem testing?

DR. REED:  Yeah.  So the exact number — I — we have — I have — 69 or I think it might be up to 71 with recent data.

MR. CAIN: Seventy-one.

DR. REED: Seventy-one?  Seventy-one.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: So along those lines, one thing, Jeff, that we have to remember is it was not long ago when we enacted antemortem testing and we were testing thousands of deer.  And the mantra I heard every time is we’ve tested thousands of deer and there’s not one single positive.  You know, see what y’all have done?

And it takes time because this disease is progressing, it takes incubation, it takes time to catch on, and we’ve gone from zero to 71 in a pretty fast time. So we have to remember when we do set a "let’s reengage and discuss this on some timeframe" and we get together in a year and we say there’s no positives, we have to remember that that is not a total comfort level because this thing is slow to show itself.

And also I’d like for you to speak to me. We’ve had some antemortem live deer testing that tested not-detected, but then turned then positive.  Can you speak to that a little bit for me?

DR. REED:  Yeah.  That — I’m going to mention that number in my next presentation, but —

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Well, we can —

DR. REED:  — that’s fine.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  — wait until that if you want.  I mean, I just — it’s not an exact — it’s not exact.  But this is something we put in — how long ago?  Two years ago?

DR. REED:  Uh, yeah.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  For the movement?  To be able to move deer, you had to do a live test and so it came at great effort and great expense; but it is proving to catch some deer that would not have been caught prior to that.

So any other Commissioners have any questions?

We have a recommendation to put this on the agenda for public comment and action, correct?

DR. REED:  Yep.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  That’s your recommendation?

DR. REED:  Yep.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  And then we saw the – I think it had support for the public, for the community.

Oh, I know.  I had one last question.  I don’t think there’s an answer, but I’m going to ask it.

The way to get out of the mousetrap is you — the clock starts after the infected area, confined infected area has been depopulated, correct?

DR. REED:  Yes.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  When we run into an experience like we have had before where the breeder or the landowner refuses to depopulate, then the people in that area, they’re just stuck until this person cooperates with the herd plan.  Is that the way this is?

DR. REED:  Or we move through the legal process and —

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Which we know how that goes.  We’ve —

DR. REED:  Yeah.  And —

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  We’re still in that, right?

DR. REED:  Yeah.  And if the Department moves forward with deer disposition protocol, that would be an alternative to getting compliance through a herd plan.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Repeat that.  What?

DR. REED:  So if a herd plan can’t be signed, the Department has the authority through the deer disposition protocol to essentially give a ten-day notice to that landowner and if no other legal barriers are presented, the Department could move forward with depopulation and after depopulation, that clock would start.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  But currently, we don’t have a solution.  If we run into a situation that either a landowner won’t cooperate or they get some kind of restraining order that we cannot depopulate, then the clock can’t start.  And I don’t know how to solve that problem because you have the facility, it’s positive, it’s growing.  So I don’t think there’s — I don’t know of an answer to it, but I wanted to make everybody — remind everybody that that is, in fact, the case. Commissioners, any other comments?

Questions?  Okay.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.:  Well, I have one just —


COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.:  — since we talked — Patton — since we were talking about West Texas.  So none of this recommendation to close a zone would be applicable to West Texas and at this point, there’s still no plan for closing that zone?

DR. REED:  No.  And part of the funds that we’re trying to get through the cooperative agreement, as well as with that MOU, would be to be able to answer those questions so that we can move towards a periodic sampling approach, but not remove the zone in its entirety in West Texas or the Trans-Pecos and the panhandle.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.:  Okay, thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Any other Commissioners?

COMMISSIONER ROWLING:  I mean, along those lines, while maybe we don’t want a sunset for all the reasons you guys explained, but I think we’ve – to Commissioner Bell’s point, we’ve got to make this clear.

And the 95 percent detection probability, I mean, what exactly does that mean for the people who want to understand where that’s going?  And then the distributed sampling, we’ve got to have clarity on what these things mean so if there’s not a sunset in place, at least there’s rules to the game to get out of the mousetrap and people can understand what those rules are and right now it’s pretty unclear.

DR. REED:  And I think that might be an opportunity in our CWD management plan where we can attach some of the scientific papers that are in support of this approach, as well as incorporate some of the Texas specific information that we’re funneling into that model to come up with that 95 percent detection probability, just to make it that much more transparent.

DR. YOSKOWITZ:  Commissioner Rowling, what I hear you saying also is just the language that we’re using, right, to help make it clearer?


DR. YOSKOWITZ:  95 percent detection probability, you know, your neighbor next door may not understand what that is.  So using plain language that’s understandable.

COMMISSIONER ROWLING:  Yeah.  How does the model work, right?

DR. YOSKOWITZ:  Yeah, okay.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Anybody else?

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

Dr. Reed, Work Session Item No. 10, Chronic Waste Disease Detection and Response Rules, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register, Dr. Hunter Reed.

DR. REED:  Good morning again, Chairman and Commissioners.  For the record, my name is Dr. J. Hunter Reed, Veterinarian for the Wildlife Division and I plan to update you today on proposed modifications to existing CWD detection and response rules.

To begin, I have outlined the main items encompassed by this proposal.  The first would establish a containment zone for portions of Hunt and Kaufman Counties for all properties partially or wholly within 5 miles of CWD positive release sites.  The second item would establish new rules for CWD positive breeding facilities.  And lastly, the third item would allow for the live movement of deer for movement qualified deer breeding facilities outside of a containment zone.

First, in light of CWD detections in free-ranging deer from this past hunting season, we are proposing a containment zone — shown in red – that extends 5 miles from the boundary of each positive property.  The surveillance zone currently in place is shaded in yellow.  It should be noted that one of the CWD positive detections occurred in the — on the adjacent release site of the CWD positive facility in Hunt County.  Furthermore, two additional free-ranging detections occurred on a trace-out release site from the same CWD positive facility in — the facility’s located in Hunt County, but this affected release site is in Kaufman County.

This approach of establishing a containment zone within 5 miles of free-ranging detection of CWD is consistent with our current approach in Medina County, where the primary species of concern is White-tailed deer.

Secondly, staff propose to establish rules for CWD positive breeding facilities, which are not specifically addressed under our current rules.  The three items include:  Requiring CWD positive facilities to euthanize all animals confirmed to be CWD positive via antemortem testing within seven days of confirmation of their positive result so that they can be ultimately postmortem tested; additionally, we would require positive facilities to inspect their facility daily for mortalities and immediately report those mortalities if they are found; and then lastly is to require positive facilities to submit postmortem samples for CWD testing within one business day.

Part of these rule changes is to make the requirements consistent with epidemiologically linked facilities.  Additionally, the timely removal of antemortem positive animals is not — it not only reduces prion propagation and contamination, but it also gives important epidemiological information related to that facility.

The last item proposed would allow for live animal movement from a movement qualified deer breeding facility to other movement qualified breeding facilities and release sites outside of a containment zone.  Currently, no live movement of CWD susceptible species is allowed out of containment zones.  However, it should be noted that this final item has received substantial informal comment from stakeholders outside the Agency.  Consequently, staff are seeking the Commission’s guidance as it relates to this part of the proposal.  But first, I would like to provide some context regarding this final point.

This item allowing for live deer movement outside of containment zones was first brought forth to the CWD Task Force in October of 2022.  At that time and subsequently at another meeting of the CWD Task Force in

December of 2022, this item was discussed and there was no dissent among the members for allowing this kind of movement, so long as the facility was movement qualified and each animal being moved had an antemortem not-detected test within the last eight months.

However, there has been pertinent recent developments that have eroded our confidence in considering this type of movement.  First, we have detected six new positive facilities across Texas, with five of those being detected through antemortem testing.

Even more worrisome have been data recently assembled by the Department that demonstrates there have been at least 25 circumstances where animals have received an antemortem not-detected test within the last eight months.  This is the same period of antemortem testing that’s valid in order to be able to release those animals to release sites.

These 25 animals that were identified as not-detected through antemortem testing, were subsequently found within those eight months to be postmortem positive.  Furthermore, new free-ranging detections of CWD in Hunt County, as well as rapidly growing number of CWD positive animals in the Hunt

County positive facility, make any movement out of containment zones all that more concerning.

As stated earlier, staff have also received substantial stakeholder input in opposition to the movement of live deer from containment zones.  Some of this input has come directly from the C — from CWD

Task Force members.  Unfortunately, staff failed to adequately address this item with the CWD Task Force at the most recent CWD Task Force meeting to get a more relevant consensus on this topic and I do apologize for that.

Regardless, in light of these developments and growing concern from outside stakeholders, staff are concerned about live deer movement from an area CWD is known to exist and seek the

Commission’s guidance in addressing this proposed agenda item.

In summary, staff seek permission to publish proposed rules that would establish a containment zone for portions of Hunt and Kaufman

Counties for all properties partially or wholly within 5 miles of positive release sites.  Additionally, we seek to establish new rules for CWD positive breeding facilities, requiring them to euthanize and postmortem test animals confirmed to be CWD positive through antemortem testing within seven days, inspect their facility daily, and immediately report all mortalities and lastly, submit postmortem samples for CWD testing within one business day.

For the last part of this proposal addressing live animal movement out of containment zones, we seek the Commission’s guidance on how to proceed.

Thank you for your attention, and that concludes my presentation.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  So Item 10 is obviously different than Item 9.  It is specific — or is it — it’s not just specific to this area?  It’s also specific to some rules that you want to change as far as – or add about how soon you have to test, how soon you have to inspect, that kind of thing, which is everywhere, not just this area?

DR. REED:  Yes.  So as far as related to movement out of containment zones, that would be – that would be a possibility for other containment zones with this current language.  For positive breeding facilities, that would be for all positive breeding facilities within Texas, not just constricted to —

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  So the seven days, the daily inspection, the one day if you — postmortem — that would be across the state?

DR. REED:  Yes.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  The movement – allowing an animal to be moved from a movement qualified breeding facility to a movement qualified facility and release sites outside of a containment zone, that’s new?

DR. REED:  That is new.  Currently, there is no movement of susceptible species out of containment zones.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  And that would not just be for this area, it would be for out of any containment zone?

DR. REED:  Yep.


COMMISSIONER BELL:  Is that consistent — Commissioner Bell.  I’m sorry.  Is that consistent with what we just talked about in Item 9?

DR. REED:  No, it’s not consistent.


DR. REED:  That risk remains.  And in light of this recent information, data compiled by the

Department, and recent positive facilities, I think this whole conversation is in a much different light than it was when it was first initially proposed.

COMMISSIONER BELL:  Okay.  Because my first reaction was just when I saw the difference in the mileage radius — because I think in the last proposal, we were talking about 2 miles.

DR. REED:  Yep.

COMMISSIONER BELL:  Now we’re talking about five.

DR. REED:  Yep.

COMMISSIONER BELL:  And so I’m trying to — I’m trying to relate — and just the — not that the timeline isn’t important, but I will tell you, you know, even if I’m, you know, under the restriction and been identified, sometimes we just get busy.  Is a day enough time?  You know, I mean stuff happens, right?

And so if a person isn’t in compliance, so to speak, on that, what’s the consequence?  Because, you know, we have to make the — I’ll say make the timeline reasonable enough to allow for stuff that just happens during the course of a day or of life.  But I would like it to appear like we have one set of rules, if at all possible.  Because I’m not sure if it doesn’t seem like we might have two.

DR. REED:  So I guess a little bit of background on this is that where the — the reason that positive facilities were not initially addressed was because we felt in 2021 that really a lot of these requirements could be bore out in a herd plan.

Obviously since then, we’ve had situations arise where we have had no compliance with a herd plan.  So they haven’t been subject to any requirements.  Well, they’ve been subject to requirements that are essentially to remain movement qualified; but as far as relating to the positive facility itself and trying to at least track that disease within that facility between the time they’re detected and when a herd plan is established, it’s a gray zone where we really haven’t had the enforceability and ability to try and persuade them, short of their cooperation, to comply with those requirements.

So what this — what these rules are trying to do is essentially agree to a base set of requirements for those facilities so that we have can have a minimum amount of information flowing in until we can establish a herd plan that more clearly outlines the rest of those requirements that we need for the release of — ultimately the release of a hold order and depopulation of that facility, if that is the agreed upon plan.

Additionally, we are just trying to — we’re trying to make it more explicit because there is a lot of ambiguity as to what is really involved in the meantime.  Because people look to our rules and they don’t really have the guidance on how to proceed once they become a positive facility and how does that – how do the requirements change.  So it’s also trying to become a little bit more transparent in that until they receive a herd plan.


MR. WOLF:  Commissioner, I might – maybe I can add a little bit on the clarity here, just to make sure going from surveillance zones to containment zones.

You know, there are really two models here.  In the previous Item No. 9 that Dr. Reed was presenting were scenarios where the only detections were in captive deer breeding facilities.  Much better control of the situation at least at that point.  A 2-mile zone is what we’re proposing.  This Item No. 10 on containment zones is the second model and that’s unfortunately where we discover a deer outside of a facility.  Risk is higher.

Inability to control is higher.  And so there are two different standards.  One of them where the positive animal is still within a facility and that’s the only positives we have and then it’s when we unfortunately discover one outside of a captive deer breeding facility, then the bigger — the containment zone goes in and there’s a bigger surveillance zone.

COMMISSIONER BELL:  So is that a free-ranging deer then that we’re talking about?

MR. WOLF:  That’s correct.  So for the purpose — well, for these purposes and frankly all purposes, whenever a deer leaves a captive deer breeding facility and is no longer held under a permit by a licensed permittee, it’s a free-range deer, irrespective of whether it’s — you know, wherever it is out there on the landscape.  So it’s treated the same, even if it is contained by a release site high fence.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  This radius is bigger because it’s not just positive within the breeding facility.  It’s outside of the breeding facility, which heightens the risk and so they’ve drawn a bigger radius around it.

COMMISSIONER BELL:  And maybe that’s the — maybe that’s where I just had a lack of clarity because maybe it is, you know, based on finding this in a facility, this set of rules.  Based on find – and maybe it’s there and I just, again, misread it.  Based on finding something outside a facility, it’s this set of rules.

DR. REED:  Yeah.  It was the second example of those two graphs that I showed you guys.  The first one where they depopulate and the zone goes away.

This one’s where we haven’t depopulated; but we’ve gone forward and sampled, found a free-ranging positive, and that gets us onto a different trajectory of where we’re going to have long-term management and surveillance in that zone.  But that is going to be a — that — as of right now, there’s no intent on removing that containment zone from that area because of the fact that it’s a free-ranging deer and it’s just that much more difficult to manage CWD in a free-ranging context compared to captive facilities.

COMMISSIONER ROWLING: Commissioner Rowling. Dr. Reed, just for clarity.  In the Hunt County issue, we are talking about the facility that’s been referenced numerous times that has refused to depopulate, correct?

DR. REED:  Yes.

COMMISSIONER ROWLING: And then the three free-range detections that — on the release sites, are that — is that the same person’s release site?

DR. REED:  So the one that is adjacent to the facility, yes.  The other release site was actually previously owned by that facility owner, but it’s changed hands since then; but has received at least, I think, five shipments of deer from that CWD positive facility onto that release site.

COMMISSIONER ROWLING:  I’m not trying to discount the seriousness of it.  I was just — and are those release sites — just for curiosity — are they high fenced or all release sites high fenced?

DR. REED:  Yes, all release sites have to be high fenced.

COMMISSIONER ROWLING:  And proximity-wise, are they all touching these place — these different properties?

DR. REED: The one adjacent release site basically surrounds the positive facility. The other one is not, but is a few miles away.

COMMISSIONER ROWLING: So are we – is the 5-mile radius around the breeder facility or each different —

DR. REED: Both — oop, sorry. Both release sites. So it’s not just —

COMMISSIONER ROWLING: There’s two separate 5-mile radiuses being drawn?

DR. REED:  Yes.

COMMISSIONER ROWLING:  Okay. And how many other breeders are going to be affected by this that are within this 5-mile radius?

DR. REED:  One.


COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Hildebrand. So these new rules that we’re talking about are all originating from the fact that some deer were antemortem tested and up to eight months later, they were found to be postmortem positive, correct?

DR. REED: Yes.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: How many deer was that?

DR. REED: Twenty-five.


And of the postmortem tested deer, those were the specific deer?  They had ear tags and identification, so these weren’t other free-ranging deer in the same region that were positive.  These were the deer?

DR. REED:  So some of these are from CWD positive facilities.  So some of these deer, the fact that they got postmortem test — tested, there’s no postmortem testing requirements on release sites.  A lot of these deer received an antemortem test within their facility and ultimately were detected positive following that period of time.  But the main crux of that concern is that we already knew that antemortem detect – or antemortem testing was not perfect, but this really quantifies to us that at least of the deer that we have seen since at least 2021, that we have at least 25 instances where deer are slipping through the cracks.

They get — they get cleared on an antemortem not-detected test and have the potential to move to other release sites where they could subsequently be postmortem positive.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND:  And the longest deer that was tested postmortem was eight months from date of antemortem testing?

DR. REED:  So we have — we have detections that are longer than that.  I just constrained it just — the total number was 71 that essentially had an antemortem not-detected test and it followed up by a postmortem positive, but I just wanted to shrink it down —


DR. REED:  Seventy-one in total.  But as far as worrying about the window of concern for the eight-month period of where tests are ante – or antemortem not-detected tests are valid for movement, I just focused on the 25.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND:  Oh, that’s right.  Right.  Because you’ve got to do another test.

Got it, okay.  So help me.  Antemortem testing will be postmortem tested in seven days.  Seven days from when?

Seven days of death?  Seven days...

DR. REED:  From confirmation of the antemortem test result.  So what happens is that they’ll take that sample.  They’ll send it to Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory.  That, they will perform IHC testing on it.  If they get a suspect, they then forward that to the National Veterinary Services

Laboratory and then at that lab, if they’re able to confirm that result, they’ll send that test record back to us.  From that date when we receive that confirmation, we’re saying seven — within seven days, they have to be — or that deer has to be removed for postmortem testing.


All right.  Well, there’s a lot that went on there.  Let me make it —

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  But let me add to that.

We get a — it goes to A&M and we believe it’s positive, but it’s not confirmed.  So we send it to Iowa?

DR. REED:  The USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratory.  Yeah, Iowa.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  So we send it to Iowa. But we know, hey, we have something that popped positive here; but it’s not confirmed, so we send it to them.

But the breeder, we all know, uh-oh.  And so then we go wait for the process for them to test it and then when they test it and confirm it, now this is saying seven days from that double confirmation we need to do a postmortem test on the deer.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND:  Okay.  All right.  So day one, deer dies.  I have to submit a — well, I have to submit a postmortem test to A&M when?

Within one business day?  It says required positive facilities submit postmortem samples within one business day.

DR. REED:  Yeah.


This is day one, dies today.  Tell me what I do.

DR. REED:  So you’re supposed to be inspecting your pens daily.


DR. REED:  You find the animal dead in a pen.


DR. REED:  They’re supposed to be all — you have to test 100 percent of mortalities anyways.

Whether —


DR. REED:  — you’re positive or not positive.  You get that sample and as soon as you have that sample and you’re identified as a positive facility —

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND:  So within one day, I’ve got to collect that sample.

DR. REED:  Business day.  So —


DR. REED:  Yeah.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND:  Weekend’s fine, okay.

DR. REED:  Yeah.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND:  So I’ve got to get a veterinarian to come out —

DR. REED:  Not necessarily.


DR. REED:  A lot of folks are — they’re CWD sample collectors.  We give those trainings with Texas Animal Health Commission so they can take their own samples if —

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND:  Right.  So the bigger deer breeders are going to be able to do it themselves?

DR. REED:  Yes.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND:  Okay.  So you collect it within one business day, correct?

DR. REED:  Yes.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND:  You submit that to where?

DR. REED:  Texas Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND:  Okay.  And then it goes through a whole circuitous process of maybe positive.  Then it goes to another lab.  But the moment it comes back positive, the breeder’s got seven days to depopulate the deer.

DR. REED:  The individual animal that was —

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND:  That individual animal, okay.

DR. REED:  Yes, yes.


DR. REED:  I’m sorry about that.


DR. REED:  And to — I’m not trying to muddy the waters here, but this is specifically in reference to antemortem test — so, sorry.  The one day is in reference to postmortem testing.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  So he’s already postmortem.  There’s no —


DR. REED:  Yeah.


DR. REED:  He’s postmortem, so —

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND:  I can’t antemortem that.

DR. REED:  — so that goes through the route, but —


DR. REED:  Yes, I think we’re all on the same page.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND:  We are on the same page, okay.  And then so then the last part, live animal movement from movement qualified facilities to — so currently, that is allowed?

DR. REED:  No.  Live animal movement is not allowed out of a containment zone.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND:  And so what is the point for consideration?

DR. REED:  So there was a sentiment from one task force member last year discussing, "Hey, from our increased amount of testing, do we not have greater confidence in breeding facility surveillance?  Would we feel comfortable with moving deer out of a containment zone as long as they had an antemortem — a valid antemortem not-detected test?"

At the time with that current assessment of the risk, there was no dissent from the task force on that.  But as I outlined, since then in the last couple of months, we have a dramatic change in that picture, as well as our confidence in antemortem testing and we already know that we have dozens of animals that have really slipped through the cracks in terms of being able to be detected through antemortem testing.  So the risk of moving an animal out of a containment zone using antemortem testing from an area that the disease is known to exist, it’s a risk that we see as too great to consider.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND:  Seems fairly logical to me, but — and that is your opinion that under no circumstance should we allow movement out of a containment zone?

DR. REED:  The live animal movement out of a containment zone —

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND:  Live animal movement out of a containment zone.

DR. REED:  Yes.  No.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND:  Thank you.  All right.

MR. WOLF:  Chairman, just to Commissioner Bell’s question, you were asking about, I think, you know, how pragmatic or practical some of these steps are:  The one-day turnaround, seven days, et cetera.

It’s probably worth noting that really this template already exists in our CWD regulations for some other facilities.  Those are trace-out facilities.  So in 2021, we had deer from positive facilities going to a lot of other facilities and this template here was adopted by the Commission to deal with CWD positives that were detected in these trace-outs.  And as Dr. Reed indicated, we thought at the time our herd plans would really cover the deer breeding facilities; but we found that to problematic.

So we do already have a track record, if you will, working with other facilities under these rules.  And, in fact, I think one of our facilities, our recent facility was a trace-out, required to do these things, you know, quickly and result in our detection of that — you know, have another positive in the facility.

So it’s not a — it’s not a new template.  It has applied to trace-out facilities.  Now I can’t speak to whether, you know, how difficult it is to get that turnaround; but it is — it is not a new idea within the regulations.


CHAIRMAN APLIN:  How many — Hunter, how many positive deer are in this problem area that we have in — in Hunt, right?  It’s in Hunt?  Or in Hunt and Kaufman?

DR. REED:  Yeah.  As of right now, we have 90 confirmed positives and just this morning we got three additional suspects.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  In one facility.

DR. REED:  Yes.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Commissioners, any other questions?

I’m going to try to recap this because it’s complicated, to see if I understand it.  And I’ve had some conversations with people and members of the industry about the antemortem not-detected that ultimately become positive.  But did you say that number is 71 if you get outside of the eight months?

DR. REED:  Yeah.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  And 25 if you stayed within the eight months.

DR. REED:  Yeah.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  And kind of regardless of where they contracted the disease, what you’re seeing is live testing, which is generally done rectally, right?  Live testing is not foolproof to the extent of, I believe, 71 have slipped by, 25 less than eight months or less.

DR. REED:  Yes.  The antemortem testing is an imperfect tool.  It’s an assumed risk that if you move animals —

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  And you told us that in the past.

DR. REED:  Yes.  It’s much better as a whole herd surveillance tool.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  You told us it was imperfect, but it’s catching a lot.  So I’m —

DR. REED:  Yeah.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  — glad we have it.  So kind of bring this full circle for the Commission.  Dr. Reed, help with this if I get it wrong.  We are seeking permission to publish rules in the Texas Register to establish control zones for Hunt and Kaufman County.

We’ve talked about why the radius is bigger because there’s some free-ranging deer in this.  They’re not all captive.  There’s three of them.  To establish new rules for CW breeding facilities, which would be all CW breeding facilities.  That goes back to the seven days.

That goes back to inspect your facilities daily and the one day from — from — you’ve got to let us know when you get a postmortem positive.  So that would be for all breeders throughout the state.  And then thirdly, you’re seeking Commission guidance on allowing of movement qualified deer breeding facility to move deer from a containment zone — if their facility is in a containment zone, to move deer from a containment zone to other areas outside of the containment zone.

DR. REED:  Yes.  Just to clarify for — you are correct on the containment zone.  I do want to make sure that those new rules are just for CWD positive breeding facilities.  Not all breeding facilities.  But, yes, on that third item we’re really seeking your guys’ guidance on how to move forward with including or not including that next item.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  So the first ones kind of seem pretty straightforward.  The last one is you want guidance and I think you said you don’t recommend it or support it — matter of fact, the opposite of that — of allowing breeder facility, movement qualified breeder facilities to transport deer out of a containment zone.

DR. REED:  I do not recommend that practice.


So, Commissioners, I don’t know if there’s questions or comments.  But we either have to put the whole enchilada out for public comment or if there’s parts that you want to proceed with and parts that you want to hold back. I mean, I heard what you said, Commissioner Hildebrand, about that doesn’t make sense.

And so if the — if part of it does, then we — we need to get moving on this because we’ve got to get out and get the public notified and do it in the Texas Register because we have 90 to 93 positives right now and three of them are outside the fence.  So I certainly don’t want to kick this can down the road until the next Commission Meeting.  Matter of fact, we should talk about, you know, if there’s any way to move faster.

But does anybody want to talk about if they’re comfortable with all three, part of the three, what?


COMMISSIONER BELL:  Commissioner Bell. I mean, I think I would be comfortable with moving forward on the publication because it doesn’t prohibit us from making edits and revisions to the rules.  What it does, it gets the current proposal out for comment and we don’t — we are not necessarily tied into it or locked into it being that way.  That’s the purpose of having comment, right, so that we — so at least we have the idea promulgated and we’re moving down the path because if we don’t do it now, then we have — if we don’t move, then we do lose the time.  If we do move, we incorporate that time and give us a little chance to think about it more and make any advisable changes or edits we think are appropriate.  That’s the way I kind of view it.

COMMISSIONER ABELL:  Commissioner Abell. Just, in my opinion, I think we ought to publish the first two and pull the third.


Look, I would say given the ambiguity of antemortem testing, I just don’t know how we allow for the transport of deer outside of these containment zones.

We just — we don’t know, even if we test them.  I mean, you’ve got 71 deer that you tested antemortem that postmortem were positive?

DR. REED:  Yes.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND:  Over what period of time?

DR. REED:  So that’s from 2018.  Since 2018.


DR. REED:  Around that timeframe.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND:  It just seems like it just proliferates it more and more and more until we get a better handle.  Somebody obviously needs to solve the problem of better antemortem testing.  That would be — you know, that would be the solution to all of this or more positive testing, so.  But that’s my perspective on it.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Paul, you got anything you want to say?

COMMISSIONER FOSTER:  No.  I would agree with that.  I think that until we — until we get to a point where we can rely, totally rely on antemortem testing, then I don’t think that’s a tool that we can use to allow deer to move out of a positive facility, so.

DR. REED:  Just to clarify my previous statement.  It was between 2015 and 2023.  Not 2018 and 2023.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Well, yes, but we have only recently been robustly antemortem testing.

DR. REED:  True.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  That’s a long time, but on the calendar it’s really been way less more compressed time.

Blake?  Bobby?

I mean, you know, the question here is do you go — do you go to public register and have all this discussion if it is envisioned by the Commission that it’s too risky — what Foster just said, Hildebrand just said, Abell just said — you know, to go movement qualified, you know?

So, Bobby?

Blake, got any thoughts?

COMMISSIONER ROWLING:  Just like all these topics we’re bringing — I mean, right now, containment zone clearly the highest risk.  We’ve found it in free-range.  There is no end in sight, correct?

And so then for the deer breeder that are not positive, but they’re in that containment zone, they’re locked down and is that a — is that forever as well?  I mean, I just maybe hate to put people in that position.  But agree this is a high-risk area and, you know, I fully understand we’ve had a lot of antemortem tests that have come back — you know, deer have been positive later and that’s a major issue.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Okay.  Well, then if we’re going to modify this — James, as you suggested — then I would need a motion to modify — to accept it as or to modify it.  And if we’re going to modify it, then I will need a motion and a second from Commissioners.

COMMISSIONER ABELL:  Commissioner Abell, I’ll make a motion to publish the first two as proposed and to pull the third.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  I have a motion from —


CHAIRMAN APLIN:  — Commissioner Abell to publish in the Texas Register the first two and remove the third.  I need a second.

COMMISSIONER FOSTER:  I’ll second, Foster.

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Foster second.  Anymore discussion?

All those in favor signify by saying aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Anybody opposed?

Hearing none.

Did I — did we spell that out enough for you, James?


CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Okay, thank you.

Work Session Item No. 11 through 16 – is that where we are, David, 11 through 16 — will be heard in Executive Session.  At this time I’d like to announce that pursuant to the requirements of Chapter 551 Government Code referred to as the Open Meeting Act, an Executive Session will be held at this time for the purpose of deliberation of real estate matters under Section 551.072 of the Open Meeting Act and seeking legal advice under Section 551.071 of the Open Meeting Act, including advice regarding pending and contemplated litigation.

We will now recess for Executive Session at 12:07 p.m. and we will be back as soon as possible. Thank you.

(Recess taken for Executive Session)

CHAIRMAN APLIN:  Okay, everyone.  We’re going to reconvene the Work Session, May 24th, 2023, at 3:13 p.m.

I’ll call role call.  Aplin present.





COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.:  Patton present.


CHAIRMAN APLIN:  We’re now returning from Executive Session where we discussed Work Session Items No. 11 through 15 and Litigation No. 16.

If there’s no further questions from the Commission, I’ll authorize staff to — permission public notice and input process on number — Item Nos. 11 and 12.

On Item No. 13, there’s no further action to be taken at this time.

I’ll also place Item No. 14 on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

We’ll place Item No. 15 on Thursday’s Commissioner Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Regarding Action No. 16, Litigation, there’s no further action required at this time.

If there’s no further comments/questions from Commissioners, then, David, this Commission has completed its Work Session business.  I declare us adjourned at 3:14 p.m.

DR. YOSKOWITZ:  Thank you.

(Work Session Adjourns)




I, Paige S. Watts, Certified Shorthand Reporter in and for the State of Texas, do hereby certify that the above-mentioned matter occurred as hereinbefore set out.

I FURTHER CERTIFY THAT the proceedings of such were reported by me or under my supervision, later reduced to typewritten form under my supervision and control and that the foregoing pages are a full, true, and correct transcription of the original notes.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and seal this Turn in date ______ day of _________________, ________.


Paige S. Watts, CSR

CSR No.: 8311

Expiration: January 31, 2025