TPW Commission

Commission Meeting, August 25, 2022


TPW Commission Meetings


August 25, 2022






CHAIRMAN APLIN: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to Texas Parks and Wildlife Thursday Commission Meeting, August 25, 2022.

Before I get started, I'm going to make a roll call of the Commissioners. Aplin present.







CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you. This meeting is called to order August 25, 2022, at 9:12 a.m.

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

MR. SMITH: I do. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Carter Smith. 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 Open Meetings Act. I'd like for that fact to be noted in the official record of the meeting.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Carter.

As a reminder, Commissioners, if you will speak -- mention your name, announce your name and speak slowly for the court reporter.

Before I proceed, I would like to announce that the Commission Agenda Item No. 12, Grant of a Utility Easement in Rusk County, Approximately .2 Acres, Martin Creek State Park has been withdrawn.

First order of business is I need approval of minutes from the Commission Meeting held May 26, 2022. If I can get a motion and a second.




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

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Opposed? Hearing none, thank you.

Next is the acknowledgment of the list of donations, which have been distributed. Need a motion and an approval by a Commissioner.



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

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Hearing none, thank you.

It's always easy to approve donations. Thank you very much and we have a lot of friends of this Agency that care and donate often and frequently and so I can't say enough about that.

Next is consideration of contracts, which have also been distributed. Is there a motion and approval?



CHAIRMAN APLIN: Got a motion and a second. All those in favor signify by saying aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

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

Next we're going to do special recognition, retirements, and service awards. Always enjoy this. It's a great opportunity to recognize.

So, Carter, I believe you have some presentations to make.

MR. SMITH: I do. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Carter Smith with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Like you, very honored to be able to honor our colleagues who do so much for our state and our home ground and the mission of this Agency.

You'll recall yesterday during the public hearing, we had a number of individuals who came to speak about water safety and the criticality of that work across the state. Work that's carried out by our game wardens, our state park police officers, really everybody in this Agency in terms of promoting that as a core part of our mission. So it's fitting that we're going to kick off this meeting honoring Ben Echelson.

Ben is a game warden. I say he's only been with us seven years. It's reflective of just how quickly he's advanced in his career and how much he's dedicated himself to his professional development. He was honored by the National Association of Boating Safety Law Administrators as the Officer of the Year because of his leadership and work in water safety specifically.

When he got of the Academy, he was down in Webb County. He worked Lake Casa Blanca and the Rio Grande and then he moved up to the Highland Lakes here in Austin at Lake Travis working BWI related cases and search and rescue related operations, Zebra mussel, invasive aquatic species, all kinds of aquatic related things. And I think what's -- one of the many things that's so impressive about Ben is how he committed himself to training that would help him in his advancement of his career and whether it was through boating accident investigations and advanced coursework in that or advanced interview and interrogation related techniques, learning to how use laser scanners to help with evidence related recovery, and so forth. Ben has just really poured himself into that and it's paid off with respect to his work on some very high profile, sensitive investigations on boating fatalities in and around the Austin area, helping to rescue numerous capsized boaters and swimmers that, you know, but for his action and that of others, you know, may not be with us today.

I love the fact that he also takes time to volunteer and whether it's with the, you know, Sunshine Kids which are kids with terminal illnesses and helps to give them a chance and experience in the outdoors while they're still enjoying this life on earth or volunteering for the Seeding Program which is taking time to help kids whose parents are incarcerated and helping to show them another path and opportunities in life and I think that's just a wonderful testament to his leadership.

He's a sergeant now with our Marine Theft Unit and Special Operations and we're really, really pleased that Ben was honored with the National Association of Boating Safety Law Administrator's of the Year. So let's give him a warm round of applause as we ask him to come up. Ben.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Well, I got to tell you selfishly I love it when we only have one retirement that we're talking about and so that's nice; but Lord knows that Mark Wynne has earned it, Rodney.

Mark's a State Park Police Officer Sergeant. He's been in law enforcement for 30 some odd years. Started with the Sheriff's Department over in Freestone County, I think, then before he came to work for us as a state park police officer there at Cedar Hill State Park, right there at on the edge of Joe Pool Lake and Mark has really distinguished himself in law enforcement.

He's our sergeant for that region. He's a field training officer. So any of new, young park police officers get mentored under his tutelage and an opportunity to learn from his experience. He's a TCOLE license instructor, teaches firearms and firearms related safety. When we've needed him on the border, he's gone there. When we've needed him on search and rescue related operations in West Texas, he's gone there. When we've had storm related events on the coast, he's gone there. And so Mark has really helped to pull the sled as a law enforcement officer for us, for the Agency and our State Parks team. We're really grateful for his long and distinguished career with us.

He's go two great kids he's going to have a chance to spend more time with. He's got a hobby of restoring old cars and so may be spending a little bit more time working on the engines of some of those vehicles, getting them running, and will always have his trademarked Dr. Pepper in his hand. So Mark's been with us 22 years. We thank him for his service. Mark, thank you.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: So now we're going to honor colleagues on their service and Dana Wright, one of our Wildlife biologists, has been with us for 30 years. And she spent her career up in the panhandle in Rolling Plains. She was technician, a wildlife biologist, an assistant area wildlife manager. She's our assistant district leader up there. And if there's been anything to do with, you know, Pronghorn or Prairie chickens or Mule deer or Burrowing owls or private landowners, Dana has been right in the middle of it. She's written wildlife management plans covering over a million acres of habitat up in the Rolling Plains. She was very instrumental in working on the -- a couple of projects that y'all were involved in, the experimental Pronghorn season up there and also the antler regulations for a number of those Rolling Plains counties to try to limit the harvest on those young bucks and have a better distribution of age classes across the population and so really done a terrific job.

She was recognized in front of this Commission for the National Wild Turkey Federation Joe Kurz Excellence in Wildlife Management Award for her work with wild turkeys and so just had a wonderful -- been a leadership in her career. And as John reminded me this morning, another wonderful thing about Dana is her daughter now works for us as a wildlife biologist and so we love the fact that it's keeping it in the family and so 30 years of service we honor Dana today. And so, Dana, please come forward. Thank you.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: We've got a number of graduates from our game warden class that have been with us for 25 years now and we're going to start with James Barge over in East Texas and James is a proud lumberjack. Spent his entire career over there in the pine curtain on one side of the Neches River or the other most of which has been in Angelina County and James has been involved with any issue under the sun over there, whether it's deer dogs or hog hunters that are trespassing, people shooting deer off of county roads, people poaching, poaching in the National Forest over there, responding to storm end weather events.

There's an amazing picture and video of James that went viral during the Deweyville floods. Y'all may remember that horrific flood event over there in the Newton County in which that whole little community was underwater for several weeks and candidly but for the, you know, 150 or so game wardens that were over there, nobody else could get over there to get people out of those floodwaters. And a gentleman that had lost his house and all his belongings in the flood, somebody snapped a picture of James kneeling with him and praying for him and it's just a wonderful testament of our first responders and how empathetic they are to the people that need it most and that's certainly emblematic of James.

He's also a deacon and a school board member and a great dad and husband and a wonderful colleague and we're awfully proud to recognize him today for 25 years of service, James Barge. James, please come forward.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Another good "feller" to borrow James parlance there is Greg Creacy. Greg is a biologist. He started with us 25 years in our Wildlife Division on the Old Sabine Bottom Wildlife Management Area in helping to open that up for public hunting and access. Was a district biologist working with private landowners in Walker and Montgomery County helping with reintroduction of turkeys on the Sam Houston National Forest and working on prairie restoration as part of the little blackland pockets over there.

And then in 2004, he moved over to our State Parks team to help with stewardship related projects in parks in the Hill Country and Central Texas. Greg is well known for being our point person after that catastrophic Bastrop fire. And so leading the restoration effort there, as you can imagine, very complicated with all of the erosion and endangered species and cultural resource related issues and the revegetation of that historic Lost Pine community. Greg has led that for many years and just done a masterful job. He's also done a terrific job helping to elevate the prescribed fire program inside our state parks and making that part and parcel of really the restoration and habitat work on so many of our parks across the state.

2019, he was promoted to head up our natural resources program inside state parks. So all of the research and science and stewardship and monitoring that happens on all of the roughly 90 parks across the state are under Greg's purview and he takes that stewardship ethic really, really, really seriously. Best thing he ever did though is marry his much better half Jamie who runs Bastrop and Boucher State Parks for us and so he's kept it in the family too and we're awfully proud of Greg for his 25 years of service to this Agency. Let's honor Greg. Greg.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague, Captain Shea Guinn, another 25-year game warden. Got out of the Academy, was sent up to east Lubbock in Crosby County. Says his first day of work was checking pheasant hunters in Floydada, the pumpkin capitol of the world. And all downhill from that, I think, Shea.

Had a great, great -- has had a great career with the Department. Worked as a game warden for many years in Throckmorton County in that big ranch country where candidly he and the sheriff were oftentimes the only law enforcement officers in the whole county. He moved over next door to Shackelford County there in Albany and worked there for a number of years. Highly respected by those ranchers in the Rolling Plains.

And then I guess, Chad, when you moved to the coast Shea took your position as captain in Uvalde and so Shea leads our district over there in Uvalde at the intersection of the Hill Country and South Texas and you've got all that deer stuff and dove stuff and border related things, the stuff on the Frio and the Nueces and just leads a wonderful team of game wardens over there and he's proud of them every day. His brother also happens to be a captain game warden with us, so you're noticing some recurring themes here about the Parks and Wildlife family, literally and figuratively.

We're awfully proud of Shea for his leadership and proud to recognize his 25 years of service, Shea Guinn. Captain, please come forward.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague, Esther Huerta, has also been with us for 25 years; but with our State Parks team and she works with our call center. So when people call in and they're wanting to make reservations to go to a park, you know, they're going to talk to Esther or really probably one of her colleagues about, you know, "Where do I go? Can I get a reservation at Garner? If I can't get a reservation at Garner, where else can I go?" And she's just got this wonderful customer service and attitude that she brings to her team.

She started on a part-time basis as a call agent and she was promoted to full time because of her work ethic and customer service expertise and attitude, she was promoted to team lead. When we put in place our new reservation system, she was part of the testing team that looked at making sure that it was going to work for our customers and I think the message is she's always trying to make it better for our customers, which I just love.

She's continued that to this day. She oversees all of our kind of QA/QC related things for the call center team for State Parks and she and her team are just so integral really to the operations and experience that our 10 million state park visitors first really encounter when they try to make their first reservation to go to a park and so it's a great opportunity to thank her today for her 25 years of service to this Agency, Esther Huerta. Esther, please come forward.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next honoree is right over my right shoulder, Johnny Longoria, so he's going to have a pretty short walk to come up here; so I better not tell too many stories. He'll grab me by my back, the cuff of my neck.

He was part of that game warden class that graduated 25 years ago. Started off in Jefferson County, no less there in the golden triangle working the Gulf and the marshes and the big thicket there around Beaumont. He was promoted to sergeant investigator with our Special Operations team, working on resource related investigations and environmental related crimes across the state. Was lieutenant for our Houston Law Enforcement District Office and then in 2014, Johnny was promoted to Captain with our Internal Affairs team.

And Johnny has just done a terrific job leading some very, you know, sensitive investigations, teaching ethics training throughout the Agency. Like Cody Jones that you heard about yesterday, he's a proud alum of the FBI National Academy, again a wonderful testament to his leadership and an important part also of our Critical Incident team which provides support and counseling to officers and others when they need it most and we're proud to honor Johnny Longoria with 25 years of service. Johnny, bravo. Thank you.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: One more from the class of 25 years ago, Sean Reneau, also a game warden over in East Texas and Nacogdoches County. Sean's had a couple of duty stations in his career in Gregg and Hopkins, has been over Llano before he settled in to Nacogdoches County and been an integral part of that whole pineywoods team and, you know, like James world, Sean' in the middle of it. And so, again, whether it was responding to Rita or Ike or Harvey or Deweyville, Sean was on the front lines representing the Agency and helping with our first response.

Very involved in a wide variety of cases involving conservation law enforcement related violations over the years. Some of you may recall back a couple of years ago, Sean was honored with the Midwestern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Game Warden of the Year Award for his contributions to the profession.

Like so many in this Agency, Sean has also really taken seriously the giving back, being a mentor to young kids and showing the professionalism of the men and women of this Department and being a mentor for college students and high school students and young life students and very grateful for him helping to set such a high bar and example. And I know he's excited and we're excited because his son Cole will be a game warden cadet in our upcoming Academy in October. So we're excited about that and for his family. Twenty-five years of service, Sean, bravo. Please come forward.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Shonta Smith is also with our Law Enforcement team. Not a game warden, but she is -- let me tell you -- every bit as critical, if not more so. She's had a terrific career with Law Enforcement. Started out in our Houston and South Houston office working on the front lines helping to deal with customers on license related things: Hunting, fishing, boat related stuff, providing administrative support for the captains and lieutenants.

Her expertise in purchasing and contracting and business and all of those administrative related functions quickly became apparent and she became a real go-to person not only within the district, but across the region and across the state. Shonta was selected to participate in our senior leadership development program a couple of years ago, again, just because of her administrative acumen and expertise and one of our many, many leaders across the Agency and she was promoted to be the lead purchaser for the Law Enforcement Division and has moved to Austin and so all the purchasing that Chad and his team -- which I can assure you is a lot -- is -- is -- falls under her purview and she's just a great, great asset to this team and we're proud to honor her for 25 years of service. Shonta, please come forward. Thank you.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Our next colleague Carl Green in State Parks has been with us for 20 years and Carl is at Government Canyon State Natural Area and we talked a little bit about that yesterday with respect to one of the landowner acquisitions that Ted was presenting and Carl started off there as our office manager and was involved in the opening up of the state park and natural area to the public and he's always been one of those incredibly friendly faces that visitors see when they come into the office at Government Canyon to check in and inquire about what to do and where to go and what to see and all of that.

He's been really valuable with our State Parks team and specifically our TexPark System as we've updated and modernized that over the years. Carl really led the effort to help with giving customers the option to be able to pick specific campsites with their reservations and so look across a park and a camping loop and campsites and toggle through those and decide I want that campsite or that campsite. Again, really helped to modernize that and improve that experience for us. Always thinking about ways to help improve our business in accounting and financial practices. Has served on multiple teams helping Rodney and his group just continue to improve our business practices and our customer service practices.

He's spent 20 proud years for us in State Parks at Government Canyon. His wife is an urban wildlife biologist in San Antonio and so wonderful to see him recognized again today for 20 proud years with this department. Carl, bravo.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Last one and I was thinking about this, thinking Esteban. I often say one of the most humbling of this job is being part of an Agency supporting a team and a group of professionals who hold jobs, most all of them for which I'm qualified to do none of them. And that's certainly true of Esteban who is in-equals one in terms of our one and only gondola mechanic inside the Agency. Rest assured you would never hire me for that.

Esteban is our lead ranger at Wyler Tramway out in the Franklin Mountains. So that ski gondola that you take up to the top of Ranger Peak, that is under his purview to make sure that it's operated safely and efficiently and as y'all know, we're doing a lot of work right now with the El Paso community to put that back into operation after its 50, 60, 70 some odd years of existence and we'll be excited about ultimately comes out of that.

Esteban started out as a seasonal employee for us. Worked up to a lead ranger. Got very interested in the mechanics of running a tramway and gondola learned from our mechanic. Quickly, you know, taught himself became a -- became an expert and has just been so invaluable to us as we've given people a world class experience going up that wonderful ride to the top of the peak and looking out across the expanse of the Sky Island there at Franklin Mountains and the lights of El Paso and Juarez and the surrounding area.

He's cool under pressure when we've had issues, like the time we had to evacuate a group of schoolkids from the top of Ranger Peak, you know, he was there to bring them down safely and he just represents us with great distinction and service and we're proud to honor him today for 20 years of service to this Agency. Esteban, please come forward. Thank you.

(Round of applause and photographs)

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. That concludes my remarks. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Carter. I thank everyone for coming for recognitions. It's always a fun part our job is to get to recognize and hear the stories. So thank y'all for coming. Thank you for the participation. Thank you for the years of selfless services. It's incredible.

Before we get started, at this time I'd like to inform the audience that everyone is certainly welcome to stay. However, if you wish to leave, if you are here for the recognition but you wish to leave, now would be a good time; but you're certainly to stay. I'll give everyone a few minutes to clear.

(Recess taken)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Everyone has cleared out and had a little -- little bit of a break.

We're going to get started with Action Item No. 1, which is the Financial Update, Fiscal Year 2023. Well, I'll let Reggie tell us.

MR. PEGUES: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Reggie Pegues, Chief Financial Officer of Parks and Wildlife. Today I'll do a presentation, a recap of the yesterday's presentation of the financial overview, which I'll conclude with several proposed motions for you to approve. Now I'll be covering FY '23 operating and capital budgets in your Exhibits A and B, budget investment policies in Exhibits C and D, and deposit options for 15 percent of boat revenues.

Starting with operating and capital budgets, we begin with our initial appropriation of 378 million in our Article 6 appropriation. We add in 63 million for fringe benefits, which are appropriated separately -- retirement, insurance, Social Security -- giving us a beginning budget of 442 million.

This next slide was per a recommendation of Commissioner Hildebrand last year just that we've incorporated in the process to identify potential budget adjustments that may occur during the fiscal year. These typically occur as a result of estimates in the original appropriation being updated to actual amounts and any additional funding that the Agency typically receives.

Foremost, we have several riders. Rider 23, it's kind of a broad rider which allows us to UB any unexpended balances from FY '22 into FY '23. As we finalize our numbers, we will update you on these adjustments.

Next, federal funds. Our federal funds are estimated and so as we get our final apportionments and any additional federal funding, these will show up as budget adjustments. Fringe benefits -- as I mentioned are for retirement, insurance -- these are driven by payroll activities. So vacancies, salary increases will drive this number which we will adjust accordingly. Other appropriations, as mentioned earlier, we have -- we're -- we benefit from several donations, third-party reimbursements, interagency transfers. We also have a rider that any additional sporting goods sales tax that's identified is appropriated to the Agency. As that information becomes available, we'll update accordingly for that.

Next, back to the operating budget. The 442 million, about half of that is general revenue funds of 216.9 million. Next, to our GRD dedicated funds. Fund 9, Game, Fish, and Water safety at 120 million. Account 64, State Parks, funded from state park fees, 29 million. Next, we have our federal funds, which again are estimates; but in our estimate, we have about 30 million of wildlife restoration and about 20 million of sports fish restoration. The other small apportionment of it consists of specialty license plates, interagency agency receipts, magazine revenues.

Next, is view of our budget by object of expense. Salaries and other personnel costs make up about 44 percent of our budget, followed by fringe benefits at 14.3, operating at 100 million, capital budget -- which I will go to in a later slide -- grants 27 million, primary through our local parks program.

Again, here's a view of our budget by division, these next two slides. You see the state parks makes up the largest in terms of budget and FTE. And again, the FTE number 3164.9, that's our appropriated cap that we -- we can't exceed, but we typically come in several FTEs below that position. We were about 200 positions below this cap as of the most recent quarterly report.

Next, special budget called department-wide. This is more of a clearinghouse for things that don't lend themselves to the other mainline budgets. Our estimated federal apportionment, again, as we receive our actual numbers, we will take this 18 million and distribute it out to the divisions. Payment to license agents, this is your Walmarts, your mom-and-pops, your Academys. Strategic reserve, 800,000 for special initiatives that may occur during the fiscal year. And passthrough plates that we hold on behalf of other entities for 27.1 million for our department-wide budget.

As mentioned, here's a breakdown of our capital. We have a total capital budget of 54.8 million, the largest component of which is construction, followed by transportation items, park minor repairs, land acquisition, and information technology, which is our payments to a data center and also our PC replacement process.

That concludes the budget portion. Now I'll go over some -- the budget and investment policy resolutions. Neither of these policies has changed in the last ten years, but we are required to renew -- to review these on an annual basis. The budget policy basically authorizes -- Commission authorizes Executive Director to basically run the budget and make any type of adjustments. Any type of adjustments over 250,000, we will bring for you to get prior approval. Donations, any donations exceeding $500, we'll kind of go through the Commission and basically the funds are authorized to use at any -- as permitted by statute or rule.

Next, is our investment policy. As a state agency, we're required to have an investment officer if we have funds that are invested outside of the Treasury. We don't have any funds that are outside of the Treasury, so this doesn't apply to us; but if we -- if were to ever make that change, the Executive Director would need to identify and appoint an investment officer to look over these funds.

This last item or deposit option is for 15 percent of boat revenues from Fund 9 into Fund 64. This is an option we only utilize if we feel there's going to be insufficient balances in Fund 64. We believe we have sufficient funding for the next biennium; but if such a transfer were to take place, it would be about $3 million for the year.

Staff recommends that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following proposed motions: The Executive Director is authorized to expend funds to operate the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in accordance with the proposed FY '23 operating and capital budget, including funds budgeted from the conservation and capital account, the budget policy, and the investment policy. The Commission approves retaining 100 percent of all boat registration, title, and sales tax revenue collected during the FY '23 in Fund 9.

That concludes my presentation. I'll be happy to take any questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Reggie, thank you.

Commissioners, any questions/discussion for Reggie?

We don't have anybody registered to speak. Nobody as of yet, Dee. So if there's no more comments from the Commission, then I'm going to need a motion. I'll read the motion and then I'll need a motion from a Commissioner and a second.

The Executive Director is authorized to expend funds to operate Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in accordance with proposed fiscal year 2023; operating and capital budget, Exhibit A and B; the budget policy, Exhibit C; and the investment policy, Exhibit D. Can I get a motion and a second?



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

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Any opposed? Excuse me.

Motion 2: The Commission approves retaining 100 percent of all boat registration, titling, and related fees collected during fiscal year 2023 in Fund 9. A motion and second.




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

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Motion carries.

Action Item No. 2, Proposed Fiscal Year 2023 Internal Audit, Ms. Brandy Meeks.

Thank you, Reggie.

MS. MEEKS: Good morning, Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Brandy Meeks. I'm the Internal Audit Director. This morning I'd like to present our proposed fiscal year '23 internal audit plan and then request the Commission's approval of this plan.

So Texas Government Code 2102 specifies that the governing board must approve the annual internal audit plan. And as we discussed yesterday, this is my proposed internal audit plan for next year. We will be completing the projects that are on this year, that's the carry-forward projects. We are also proposing two IT cybersecurity projects, a TAC 202 cybersecurity audit, as well as an audit of our patch management processes. We'd like to do 18 fiscal control audits. Ten on our law enforcement offices and eight on state parks. We'd also like an advisory project, the Sea Center and the TFFC point-of-sale inventory advisory. And then also we'd like to do that special project in researching the possibility of doing state park continuous monitoring.

And so the staff recommends that the Commission adopt the following motion: That the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission approves TPWD's 2023 internal audit plan as listed on the previous slide and in your Exhibit A.

And I'm available to take any questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Brandy.

Commissioners, any questions for Brandy?

Hearing none, then I would appreciate a motion and a second.




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

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Opposed? Hearing none, motion carries.

Thank you, Brandy.

MS. MEEKS: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Action Item No. 3, Commission Policies. Ms. Laura Carr, please make your presentation.

MS. CARR: Hello. Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Vice-Chairman, Commissioners. I'm Laura Carr. I'm an attorney with the Legal Division and my presentation this morning is on the revised Commission policies.

So as discussed yesterday, the Commission has 20 policies. So these policies delineate the Commission's policy making responsibilities from the Department's management responsibilities. They provide the Commission's intent or position on various subjects in order to allow for consistent decision-making and also provide guidance to the Department on its operation.

TPWD staff underwent a comprehensive review -- took a comprehensive review of these policies. They had not been reviewed or updated in many years and they have proposed numerous edits to these policies in order to ensure that the information is accurate, clear, updated, and meets all applicable legal standards.

As with yesterday, there are there a bunch of policies listed on the next few slides. I will not read them all individually, but you can see that they cover a variety of topics related to Commission meeting procedures; Executive Director authority in various situations; as Reggie mentioned, budget and investment policies. There is public office, travel, alternative dispute resolution, among other things.

So with regards to the changes, many of them are non-substantive grammatical formatting, minor word changes; but there are various proposed major changes to the policies, so I've highlighted most of those here in my slide. You'll see that there is proposed modifications to the open meetings and public comment procedures for Commission meetings during an emergency or declared disaster, so long as the Agency sill provides public notice of those changes, but it does not have to officially modify the policy. There are Commission policy development and approval processes, environmental policy, changes to address culture resources and sustainability.

There's also the proposed rescission of Commission Policy 11 due to the repeal of the underlying Parks and Wildlife Code that required that policy. There is also executive management approval requirements for out-of-state travel. Criteria -- additional criteria for consideration of new Department lands and facilities and features. Some proposed modifications to the alternative dispute resolution policy to clarify when certain procedures should be used and also allow for general someone other than the General Counsel to serve as the alternative dispute resolution coordinator if appropriate. And then finally to grant the Executive Director additional authority with regards to granting or renewing certain easements.

So as mentioned yesterday, any amendments to or rescissions of Commission policies must be done by resolution in an open meeting. Therefore, we are recommending that the Commission adopt the following motion: The Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts THE revised policies as listed in Exhibit A and rescinds Commission Policy CP 11. This Commission act -- Commission action is effective immediately and will remain in effect until repealed by the Commission voting in public session.

We've received no public comments on the web or this item either. That is -- concludes my presentation. I'm happy to take any questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Laura.

Commissioners, any questions for Laura?

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Sure. I've got just one.

So, Laura, do you think that all of these changes increase the administrative burden of staff at the Department or are they -- are they put in place to try to streamline?

MS. CARR: I would say that the changes are intended to clarify processes, to bring the policies in alignment with current operations that have been approved by the Commission to increase sufficiency overall. There are various references in the policies to things that are out of date. For instance, again, statute that's been repealed. So while I can comment generally, I think that, yes, the answer to your question is it is intended to create efficiency, reduce burden. It is not adding additional administrative burden.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Well, I look at one: Revising environmental policy provisions be inclusive of cultural resources and address sustainability.

MS. CARR: Yes.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Can you help me with -- what additional burden is that going to be placed on staff and how much is that going to cost us, do you think?

MS. CARR: Sure. So I can look at the changes. With regards to that policy, previously it had only addressed natural resources. That was the focus and so the intent was to at least reference the inclusion of cultural resources and its significance to the Agency and it's operations. So I would not characterize it as a burden.

With regards to the sustainability effort, a lot of that language was a little more outdated and so, therefore, it was brought into -- it was modernized with regards to updating the Commission's intent that the Department utilize sustainability efforts while appropriate. Specifically also mentions that there will be consideration of economic feasibility.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Okay. All right. Well, I just -- you know, we've got lots of regulations. We don't need more. We want to streamline and decrease the administrative burden on the staff so they can go get their jobs done.

MS. CARR: Yes.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: So hopefully -- hopefully these changes accomplish that.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Jeff.

Anybody else?

We have three speakers I believe that have registered to speak. They're all online, correct? Not -- not in person? So Hannah, Adam, or Lisa, if you can hear me, we're going to -- Hannah is going to go first, then Adam, then Lisa. I ask you that keep it to three minutes, please.

MR. MONTEMAYOR: Hannah and Adam are not -- did not log today. But we've got Lisa (inaudible).

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay, Lisa, you moved up to No. 1. Proceed whenever you're ready.

MS. LISA HALILI: Good morning, Commissioners. And I want to thank you for this opportunity to speak. I represent Prestige Oysters. My name is Lisa Halili and I -- I was talking on this because it was talking about what the Commission has duties, I guess, what you can and can't do. And under House Bill 51, one of the sections that I had requested to be put into there -- and this will save the Department money -- it's Section 76.304, vessel monitoring system.

I have been a voice and constantly, you know, talked about this and the reason why vessel monitoring systems will save the Department money, it's because if all oyster vessels have to have a vessel monitoring system -- all you are familiar with AVA systems where you can see all the planes in the sky and the Port of Houston can see all the ships all the way out, way past the Gulf. Well, the vessel monitoring system is the same thing. There actually is a company called Pylon Advanced LLC [sic]. Installation is $3,050 for vessels. If you pay upfront for a year, it's $1,265. Monthly it's 105.

And what this does, it tells the game warden where every single licensed vessel is at all times in the State of Texas. It lets the game wardens know when they leave the dock. It lets them know when they return to the dock. It will let the game wardens how many vessels are on a reef. There won't be an argument. There are areas that have a tendency to be closed. I'll give you an example. Like TX 25 and 26. A lot of the tickets that were issued that they say are closed-water tickets, are not actually where they're working in a restricted area by the Health Department. It's areas closed by Parks and Wildlife. And so if there are vessel monitoring systems onboard, then the game warden can clearly see that the vessel was either in 25 or in 26.

This would enhance less manpower of having to spend time arguing with fisherman. I mean, I -- it's also a safety device. I mean, I don't know any vessel owner that would not want to have one of these. It is -- there's NOAA, has a reimbursement program. Because it's my understanding, to be go -- to go out in the Gulf and get the snapper, you're required to have the vessel monitoring system onboard. So I'm looking for a compromise.

I would suggest that the proclamation under this section says the Commission by proclamation might establish a vessel monitoring system for the commercial oyster boats. Before the Commission issues a proclamation under Section A, the Department shall consult with the commercial oyster boat license holder concerning establishment of a vessel monitoring system.

So I would suggest by the license year of 2023, either they either look into installing the vessel monitoring system or look into the buyback program because I know that Robin said in the budget, there's enough money to try to buy back -- I forgot how many vessels it was. But we're all looking for a solution for this problem with the oyster system.

And the second -- the second thing that will save the Department money, you're talking about closing the three bays down. Instead of looking to close more bays down, look to the resource that Texas has for free. Texas has ample amount of oysters and oyster shells that lie in restricted water. Not prohibited. So when you restore a reef or an area, the team really doesn't have to buy this material. The material is there. It just needs to be moved from the restricted area to the public area and it should be done during the off season and that's another way that could save the Department money.

And the third way I've come up with how to save the Department money, a game warden, in order to issue us a ticket has to count how many market sized oysters are in a sack, how many undersized oysters is in sack, how many shell is in a sack, how many spats were killed that shouldn't have been killed because they --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Lisa, if I can interrupt you, please try to -- please --


CHAIRMAN APLIN: -- try to wrap up because --

MS. LISA HALILI: I know. I'm running out of time.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: -- you're substantially over.

MS. LISA HALILI: I am. I'm wrapping up. So that's just my last point to save the Department money is have the game wardens do the samples on the reef. And thank you for your time. I appreciate it.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you for your time. Thank you for calling in, Lisa.

MS. LISA HALILI: All right. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: No more call-ins?

MR. MONTEMAYOR: Not on that action item (inaudible).


MR. MONTEMAYOR: That's it on --


MR. MONTEMAYOR: -- that item.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Commissioners, comments, thoughts, questions?

It may be interesting if staff could report back to us at some time this concept of vessel monitoring that she brought up and I'd like to understand it better.

MR. SMITH: You bet. We can come back and do that. I didn't see Les Casterline, our Assistant Fisheries Commander; but it would be good to get Les involved in that conversation.

And, Robin, we have had conversations I know with the -- one of the working groups about this and Lisa is absolutely right. It was part and parcel of HB 51 that gave us permission to establish that and we can come back and report on that and our discussions and applicability on that front.

We can also come back and talk about the notion of being able to transplant oysters from some of those polluted areas back into other areas from a depuration perspective. We've worked with a number of license holders/leaseholders on that front for a number of years and I know we're looking at that again right now. So Lisa brings up a couple of very fair comments. Let us do that and come back to the Commission, Chairman.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Very good. Thank you, Carter.

If there's no more comments from Commissioners, then I'll accept a motion and a second.



CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay. I have a motion and a second for approval of Ms. Laura Carr's staff recommendation. All those in favor signify by saying aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

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

Action Item No. 4, Sunset Recommendations, Uniform Rules for Refusal to Issue or Renew Non-recreational Licenses and Permits, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. James Murphy, good morning.

MR. MURPHY: Good morning, Chairman, Commissioners. I'm James Murphy, General Counsel for the Department and I'm presenting today on implementation of recommendations from the Sunset Advisory Commission on the Department's non-recreational permits and licenses.

So during last year's legislative session, in addition to several statutory recommendations, the Sunset Commission recommended several management changes to standardize our permitting and licensing process for non-recreational activities that are regulated by the Department.

This is the Recommendation 2.1 from Sunset. This directs TPWD to provide an opportunity to access an informal review process for specific non-recreational license and permit types. Some of these are commercial or quasi-commercial permits, but not hunting and fishing licenses. This would apply to non-recreational licenses and permits that do not have a statutory review process that's already set out in the Parks and Wildlife Code. They're actually listed in the Sunset staff report. It's approximately 80 permits or so that they cover.

An example of a permit that has a statutory review process are our deer breeder permits. That is prescribed in Parks and Wildlife Code, so that would not be covered by this rule today.

So what do we look at when we're deciding whether it's an issue or renew a permit? Well, certainly criminal conduct is relevant. So we're looking at criminal conduct on possession of live animals. Commercial exploitation of public wildlife and fisheries resources. Certainly major violations of the Parks and Wildlife Code, a Class A or Class B misdemeanor or a felony. Falsification of government records would raise major concerns for us as well. That's a factor. Continuing with that, certainly a violation for animal cruelty seems germane to the permit or license that they're receiving. We have federal laws related to animal trafficking such as the Lacey Act or Airborne Hunting Act. And then there's a catchall at the end for statutory or regulatory provisions involving conduct or behavior that's related to the permit or license that is being sought.

There's some administrative considerations as well here, such as, you know: Did you follow the application process? Did you pay the application fee? Have you followed reporting and notification requirements? And then any debts that are owed to the Department as well, we would like to see those paid before issuing a permit or license.

So here's some basics on that. The decision to issue or renew is based on the factors that are listed in the rule. This is not an automatic application of the factors. It's not permanent for future applications. Certainly conduct -- you know, somebody's conduct can change over time. They can rehabilitate. And so the -- we do list in the rule all the permits and licenses that are covered. That's going to be 33 categories of permits and licenses that, again, total about 80 permits. The reason why the difference there, you know, we have resident and nonresident. There's several sub-permits or, you know, permits that are related. Some examples, you know, we have alligator permits, falconry permits. We have commercial fishing permits, educational display, scientific collection. And so this would cover a wide range of permits that currently don't have a uniform process.

So one of the factors here, so anything that we list in the rule, when you get to a review panel, this is going to be three-person review panel that would consider the decision to issue or renew. So we have that list of factors. We looked for rehabilitation efforts. We looked for the likelihood of repetitive conduct that would, you know, cause concern there. You know, certainly a threat to public safety is something that would be evaluated by that review panel, and we look at other mitigating factors as well.

So procedures on the review panel, somebody who has sought a permit or license who is facing a Department decision to refuse that, they can within ten business days of that denial request a review panel. We would conduct that within 30 days of the request. It would be three Department managers with expertise and the permit or license at issue and this would not include the employee who made the decision to refuse issuance or renewal. With one exception that I'll get to here in a moment, that review panel decision is final and then the applicant would have the opportunity to appeal that through the court process.

One change that you'll note from our permission to publish in May is the addition of a section on revocation and suspension -- oh, back to this. And so this is the one exception that I mentioned before. This provides an informal review process as well for revocation and suspension decisions, which are not used regularly here. Only for more egregious conduct. We would follow those same factors that we used for issuance or renewal decisions. The procedures are very much the same as well; but that one exception is that by statute, somebody who's facing revocation or suspension has the option of going to the State Office of Administrative Hearings to request a contested case hearing on that decision. And so in this instance, our Department decision before that so opportunity arises, that Department decision is just considered preliminary. It's an intent to revoke or suspend that would then go to a review panel, just like for the issuance and denial rules. That three-person review panel would make a decision, but that would not be final in the same respect. That applicant would have an opportunity then to go to the State Office of Administrative Hearings or SOAH to, you know, find relief from our decision.

We received no public comments either in the Texas Register or the website on this item, and so I move to the motion that we recommend you considered today. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts Title 31 Texas Administrative Code Sections 56.1 to 56.7 concerning Agency Decisions to refuse license or permit issuance or renewal and Agency decisions to suspend or revoke effective license or permit as noticed in Exhibit A and conforming change as is noted in Exhibits B through F, with changes as necessary to the proposed text as published in the July 22nd, 2022, issue of the Texas Register. And with that, that concludes my presentation. I'm happy to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, James.

Commissioners, questions?

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Patton. Would this include like a deer breeder permit?

MR. MURPHY: No, sir. Deer breeder permits are -- have their own subchapter in the Parks and Wildlife Code and the review panel procedures associated with deer breeder permits are set in statute, and so Sunset did not include that in the scope of their recommendation.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Are there any other permits not included? Or that would excluded, is another way or saying that.

MR. MURPHY: Deer breeder permits are the primary category of permits that have a prescribed statutory process. The Legislature, you know, really had more specifics in that. But we also brought this process -- in trying to make it uniform, we brought this process much in line with the approach taken on deer breeder permits. One of the things that we want is some uniformity across permits and so we do have some elements of what's in the statute related to deer breeder permits and review panels, those criminal history factors.

Another area we worked to try to be consistent with is the Occupations Code as much as possible. So its criminal history factors are very much modeled on the approach taken with, you know, licenses that people get through the Department of Licensing and or Regula -- Department of Licensing. So really deer breeder permits are the main exception. Of course, hunting and fishing licenses, this would not apply to those either.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: And will those kind of -- if adopted, will it more or less have a retroactive effect? I mean, nothing's grandfathered or -- because theoretically, it's going to be applied to permits perhaps that have already issued.

MR. MURPHY: It would be for permits that up for renewal or issuance. So it --


MR. MURPHY: -- would not apply to an existing permit that -- until it comes up for renewal.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Commissioner Patton.


COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: For deer breeder permits, is there a equivalent kind of a review panel that would review the violations by deer breeder? Let's say that they were -- you know, they were just weren't adhering to the required regulations relative to their permit. Do we have a review panel?

MR. MURPHY: There's a review panel approach that is prescribed in statute for deer breeder permits. It does consider criminal history and other factors related to whether or not we issue or renew.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: What about debt owed to the Department?

MR. MURPHY: You know, I'm not sure of the specifics on debt owed to the Department for deer breeder permits. I'd have to look that one up for you, Commissioner. But I do think debt owed to the Department is a factor. It's something that's pretty regularly included in Occupation and Licensing Codes and others. Certainly, we want to see applicants pay off any debts owed to the state before they receive authorizations from the state.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: And last question. Have we ever denied deer breeder permits based on previous history?

MR. MURPHY: Yes, I believe we have.

Is that correct?




MR. MURPHY: You're welcome.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: You mentioned this does not apply to license -- hunting/fishing license?

MR. MURPHY: That's correct, yeah.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: So there are no criteria? If debts are owed to the Agency, you can still a hunting license?

MR. MURPHY: Hunting and fishing licenses have their own set of statutory provisions associated with those. I do believe -- and I'd have to check with permitting staff on that -- but I do think that having, for example, unpaid child support obligations to the state is something that may be relevant to hunting and fishing licenses; but I don't think beyond that a debt owed to the Department would prohibit you from receiving a hunting and fishing license. But there's a real legislative effort to ensure that child support payments are received and there are many across the state, across other agencies that would prevent you from receiving benefits from the state across many different forms.


Commissioners, any other questions for James?

No one is registered to speak on this. So I'll take a motion and a second for approval?

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Patton moves to approve.



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

(Chorus of ayes)

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

Thank you, James.

Action Item No. 5, Proposed Amendments to the Exotic Harmful or Potentially Harmful Fish, Shellfish, and Aquatic Plant Rule, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes, Ms. Monica McGarrity. Good morning, Monica.

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

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

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

Release of aquarium life for various reasons is a well documented pathway for introduction of exotic species in public waters, where they may become invasive and have harmful impacts on native ecosystems such as we've seen with Suckermouth, Armored catfish, and Lion fish now found in Texas waters.

The Department engages in public outreach to discourage such releases and provide information on alternatives to release. The Department is concerned that display of controlled exotic species and commercial and retail environments where animals or aquatic plants are sold to the public is problematic because it could result in public perception that the controlled exotic species on display, even though the specimens are not for sale, is a appropriate, desirable, or lawful for hobbyists to obtain, which could, in turn, drive market demand for exotic species and pose additional threats to native species and the ecosystem. Furthermore, enforcement of prohibition of sale of exotic species permitted for zoological display in such establishments would be difficult.

The goal of the proposed regulations is to aid in minimizing the risk posed by release of unwanted aquarium life. The proposed rule changes would act in concert to define a zoological facility as a zoo, aquarium, nature center, or other similar facility that's open to the public, operated for the purpose of furthering scientific understanding, encouraging management and conservation, or furthering awareness of understanding of biology and does not engage in commercial or retail activities involving the sale of animal or aquatic plants and stimulate -- stipulate issuance of permits only to such facilities.

The rule changes would ensure that such permits would be issued only to bona fide educational facilities, which the Department considers the most appropriate vehicle for such educational efforts, and not to commercial facilities.

Two public comments were received, agreeing with the proposed rule change. Staff recommend that the Commission adopt the proposed motion: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts amendments to 31 Texas Administrative Code Section 57.111 concerning definitions and 57.114 concerning controlled exotic species permits as listed in Exhibit A, with changes as necessary to the proposed text as published in the July 8th, 2022, issue of the Texas Register. Thank you and I'll be happy to take any questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Commissioners, questions?

No one has signed up to speak on this. So if no questions, I'll accept a motion and a second from a Commissioner.




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

(Chorus of ayes)

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

Thank you, Monica.

Are you still up? You are.

Action Item 6, Memorandum of Understanding with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Regarding the Regulation of Aquaculture, Recommended Adoption of the TCEQ MOU, Ms. Monica McGarrity. Welcome.

MS. MCGARRITY: Thank you, Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Monica McGarrity and I'm the Senior Scientist for Aquatic Invasive Species in the Inland Fisheries Division. I'll be presenting on proposed adoption by reference of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality regarding regulation of aquaculture.

Statutory authority for this MOU can be found in the Texas Agriculture Code, which requires TCEQ and TPWD and informally also the Texas Department of Agriculture, to enter into an aquaculture regulation MOU and adopt rules to carry out our duties as needed. Senate Bill 703 passed by the 87th Legislature eliminated TDA's aquaculture licensing program in accordance with Texas Sunset Advisory Commission recommendations.

Implementation of Senate Bill 703 has been a multi-stepped process, beginning with TPWD rule changes adopted in August 2021 to remove requirements for TDA aquaculture licenses for exotic species aquaculture and brood stock collection permits. TPWD, Inland and Coastal Fisheries and Legal staff then worked with TCEQ to revise the interagency aquaculture MOU, which was reviewed and approved at executive level by both agencies. These revisions to the MOU and TCEQ regulations were adopted by TCEQ in April 2022.

The proposal before you today is the final step of adopting the revised MOU by reference and the exotic aquatic species regulations. The revisions of the aquaculture MOU removed TDA and the associated interagency review of their now eliminated aquaculture licenses from the MOU. It also eliminated the application review committee in accordance with Sunset recommendations in SB 703. The application review committee was intended as a mechanism for resolution of any interagency disputes on permit or license application reviews, but has not been used in the history of this MOU.

The MOU revisions also clarified TPWD's role in TCEQ aquaculture wastewater discharge with regards to review of the general permit and application forms when revised and directly contacting applicants during the review process as additional information is needed.

The final MOU continues an interagency committee with annual coordination meetings and provides for TPWD review of aquaculture wastewater discharge permit applications and notice of intent, as well revisions of the aquaculture general permit and application forms. The rule change proposal presented to you today would amend the current regulations pertaining to this MOU and our exotic aquatic species regulations to adopt the newly revised version of this MOU and the TCEQ regulations by reference, replacing reference to the previous version.

One public comment on this proposal was received, agreeing with the proposed rule change. Staff recommends that the Commission adopt the proposed motion: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts amendments to 31 Texas Administrative Code Section 57.127 concerning adoption by reference of 30 Texas Administrative Code Section 7.103, memorandum of understanding between the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality regarding the regulation of aquaculture as listed in Exhibit E -- A, with changes as necessary to the proposed text as published in the July 22nd, 2022, issue of the Texas Register.

That concludes my presentation, and I'd be happy to take any questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Monica.

Commissioners, any discussion?

We have --


CHAIRMAN APLIN: We have -- Patton?


CHAIRMAN APLIN: I'm sorry. Go ahead.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: At the end of the day, who issues the permit? Us or TCEQ?

MS. MCGARRITY: TCEQ is the aquaculture wastewater discharge permit and through this interagency coordination committee, Texas Parks and Wildlife has the opportunity to review the additional information from the applicant and provide our comments on that prior to the issuance of the permit.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: All right. And so we have no jurisdiction on the enforcement or monitoring or determining if there are violations? There's no additional burden on the Department through this Memorandum of Understanding?

MS. MCGARRITY: No, sir. And this is continuation of an MOU that's been in place since 2001 and the procedures -- what actually changed with this is streamlining the process for us to seek information directly from the applicant. So that actually reduces the burden on us by not having to go through TCEQ as an intermediary, making that process quicker for us.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Wonderful. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Good question, Bobby.

Anybody else?

Hearing none, no one has signed up to call in. So I'll accept a motion and a second from a Commissioner?




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

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Any opposed? Hearing none, Action Item 6 passes.

Monica, thank you.

MS. MCGARRITY: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Action Item No. 7, Chronic Waste Disease Detection and Response Rules, Containment and Surveillance Zone Boundaries, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes, Mr. Mitch Lockwood. Good morning, Mitch.

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

This slide illustrates our existing CWD zones in the state. The containment zones are shaded in red, and these are the areas in which CWD is known to exist. And the surveillance zones are shaded in yellow, and these are the areas of relatively high risk for CWD. Now the requirements imposed on hunters are the same for both zones. Those being mandatory sampling of hunter-harvested deer and carcass movement restrictions, which of course just basically means that a carcass must be quartered before returning home from the deer lease and leaving those more risky carcass parts behind. And, of course, there are also restrictions on the movements of live deer from these zones, with most of the restrictions applying to containment zones.

Now as you know, CWD was detected in a permitted deer breeding facility in Kimble County back in February of 2020 and a surveillance zone was established in response to that detection. After two years of mandatory testing requirements and at the request of constituents out there, staff have proposed a slight expansion to this surveillance zone to incorporate the city of Junction. This would allow hunters to legally transport whole carcasses to deer processing facilities there in junction rather than having to quarter those carcasses first.

Also in response to the detection of CWD last year on the release site that is immediately adjacent to the CWD positive breeding facility, staff propose to establish a containment zone which would include all properties within two miles of the boundary of that property where CWD has been detected. This 2-mile buffer is consistent with the strategy that we've utilized for the past several years in Medina/Uvalde County area.

Next, we'll move to that Medina/Uvalde County area where we have been battling this disease since 2015. We've had a containment zone and a surveillance zone established there during those years and the surveillance zone was expanded to the west last year in response to the detection of CWD in two additional deer breeding facilities. Unfortunately, CWD was detected in new locations in the northern and southern end of the existing containment zone, necessitating another expansion of this zone as shown on the slide before you.

Next, we'll move to Duval County down in South Texas, where CWD was detected in another permitted deer breeding facility last summer. Now as I shared with you yesterday, we conducted significant outreach efforts to increase our surveillance in that immediate area last year with a voluntary approach to testing. We had -- we had some ranchers that stepped. In particular, three ranchers that stepped up in a big way and provided quite a few samples towards this effort. But unfortunately, that sampling alone provided little confidence that the disease hadn't leaked into the native free-ranging deer population.

Therefore, staff proposed to establish a surveillance zone in that area. That area including portions of Duval, Jim Wells, Live Oak, and McMullen Counties and this proposed zone, as published, would include all land between Highway 44 to the south, Highway 59 to the west, FM 624 to the north, and US Highway the 281 to the east and would include the cities of Alice in the southeast corner and Freer in the southwest corner, which again would allow hunters to legally transport whole carcasses to deer processing facilities and/or to potential check station locations.

Now we've had significant public comment on this proposal. Most of which has been in opposition and specifically opposition to this zone delineation here in this Duval County area. As of about 8:45 this morning, we had received 566 comments. 16/17 percent of those were in agreement with this proposal. 69 percent were in complete disagreement with this proposal, and another 14 percent disagreed specifically on some aspect of this proposal. We have also received letters of support from National Deer Association, Texas Wildlife Association, Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society, and a letter of the opposition from Texas Deer Association. We've also responded to some inquiries from some elected state officials.

You're also aware that we received a letter yesterday morning from Mr. Schatte, a landowner who owns property within the proposed zone, with a proposal for a voluntarily approach to meeting our surveillance goals and I'll elaborate on that here shortly.

Now as you can see with the sample of the supporting comments displayed on this -- on this slide, many do recognize the threat of CWD to our deer populations, to the local economies, and to hunting heritage. We also -- many of them also recognize the repercussions on inaction that is being realized in some states. This slide before you highlights a few of the recurring themes that we've heard from those opposed to the current proposal.

Now I might add just a couple of points of clarification in regard to the comment about this proposal being precipitated by a single CWD positive animal. As we discussed yesterday, there have been some additional positives in that facility. Three of which have been confirmed by the National Veterinarian Services Laboratory.

Also, as far as the comment about cost, there is apparently a simple misunderstanding about our process. To be clear, the Department does cover the test, all testing costs associated with a mandatory hunter-harvested testing that's associated with containment and surveillance zones.

Now there are a few comments that staff believe warrant some more discussion and one is the idea that once a CWD zone is established, it's there to stay. It's permanent. There is no end game, so to speak. And staff appreciate this comment. None of us like uncertainties. This Commission has been adaptive to our CWD management plan over the years and you have, indeed, eliminated some CWD zones.

You might recall, as discussed yesterday, we originally had three zones in every area of the state where we heightened risk for. We had containment zones. We had what, at the time, was called high-risk zones. Today we call them surveillance zones. And we had buffer zones. And this Commission took some action for some pretty significant changes to our management strategies over the years and one of those was the complete elimination of all buffer zones. This Commission also adopted amendments to the rules to see some reduction in the size of some of the remaining zones as well when data from our surveillance efforts justified doing so.

Furthermore, we are currently reassessing the testing requirements for a couple of the surveillance zones. We talked a little bit about that yesterday, where we're considering a voluntary approach to surveillance. Even some more innovative approaches in how we might be able to surveil for this disease. And we're able to do this, to have these discussions about some alternate approaches because of the strong cooperation and partnership that we've had from the landowners and the hunters in these areas and because of targeted surveillance efforts that give us a much better picture of the disease prevalence and distribution.

We do hope to bring to you these discussions after further consultation with our Chronic Wasting Disease Task Force and potentially remove forward with this recommendation prior to the 2023-24 hunting season. Staff also have plans to work with a well renowned CWD epidemiologist and the CWD Task Force to develop some models to establish some sampling goals to help us determine what this endgame might look like for each of these zones. In other words, kind of establish a target number of test results necessary to at least temporarily remove some of the mandatory sampling around the state because we do recognize that everybody involved in this -- like I said, no one likes uncertainties. We want to know what the future looks like, and we understand that.

Now recently it has become apparent to me that we did leave some folks in the Duval County area with the impression that simply collecting 433 tests with no positives would be sufficient to determine that CWD is not established in that native free-ranging deer population. We are going to need to clarify that information as we move forward and this modeling effort that I'm referring to will help us provide a scientifically defensible metric.

Now some contend that we should be able to meet our surveillance goals with a voluntary approach to sampling and testing. And as you know, as I discussed a little bit ago, we all did receive a letter yesterday from Mr. Schatte who owns property there in this proposed zone and he has proposed a voluntary approach to meeting these goals. And, in fact, he's been recruiting several other landowners in that same area -- in fact, over 40 landowners as of late yesterday -- covering quite a bit of acreage there and each of these landowners committing some number of samples under a voluntary approach to help meet our goals.

You can see on this slide before you with these reddish colored polygons, a representation of the landowners that are included in that letter that Mr. Schatte provided to all of us yesterday. These reddish polygons represent kind -- the location of where we have some commitment, some pledges, if you will, for what sounds like around 1200 samples that have been pledged so far that can come from this area voluntarily. The star on this same map reflects the -- or represents the location of the CWD positive deer breeding facility and those little red X's would be some areas where we're considering establishing some check stations if this were adopted or even with a voluntary approach.

Now this effort -- let me advance one slide. That's just going to be too small to see, but this slide represent -- it shows some numbers on these polygons that gives us an idea of the number of samples that each landowner's contributed; but I'll just share with you verbally that they total, as I understand it, to somewhere around 1200 samples. This effort, of course, is very much appreciated. In fact, it looks very similar to an effort that was spearheaded by the Medina County Judge back in 2015 when we tried a voluntary surveillance effort there. And as I shared with you yesterday and early in this presentation, we did put forth quite a bit of effort last year for a voluntary approach in this effort.

Now we heard from a number of individuals yesterday during the Annual Public Hearing who stated that they were not aware of this effort. We didn't reach out to every landowner in Duval and Jim Wells and Live Okay, and McMullen Counties; but we did reach out to every single landowner within a 7-mile the radius of this location where CWD has been detected. We sent letters out in English and in Spanish. We had public hearing -- publish meeting, if you will, and we shared with them what our concerns were, what our desires were to try and figure out, you know, what kind of so sampling effort could help us achieve, establish some confidence that the disease isn't there. And as I mentioned, we did have a few landowners step up and help. In fact, three in particular provided quite a few samples. As you see on this slide before you with those little red and yellow dots there, we had between three different landowners with contributing quite a few samples, a few other landowners submitting some samples as well, and then some the road kills, we totaled about 175 samples collected within this proposed zone. But again, as you can see, we were left with a lot of voids where we had no samples. Leaving us very little confidence that the disease would have been detected if it existed in that native free-ranging population.

We have tried this well coordinated voluntary approach in other areas of Texas as well, and we have had a lot of landowners step up and assist us with this; but in all cases, we were left with some large voids with no sampling, providing us little confidence that the disease wasn't there. Now again as we discussed yesterday, a mandatory approach to sampling won't guarantee samples from every property in this area; but it will fill in most, if not all of those gaps a gaps.

We have learned that this proposed approach is the most efficient and effective way to achieving our surveillance goals and we also know that -- nonetheless, we also know that we must give landowners and hunters an idea of the sampling goals that are needed to be achieved in order to relax this requirement in this event that this disease isn't detected through this surveillance effort, whether it be voluntary or mandatory.

Now we've also heard from quite a few individuals who fear the burdens associated with and as we discussed yesterday, we've been very sensitive to those concerns since we started this efforts back in 2012 and we've taken several measures to reduce those burdens significantly. For example, this Commission lengthened the period of time between harvest of an animal and presenting that deer to a check station from 24 hours to 48 hours. In fact, there was even another amendment that authorized staff to allow for even more time beyond that 48-hour window to bring a deer to a station when there was confidence that the integrity of the sample wouldn't be compromised.

Additionally, this Commission adopted an amendment -- excuse me. Furthermore, our wildlife veterinarians and our staff have conducted numerous training sessions to train landowners and their staff on how to collect the samples themselves, to remove this burden of having to drive to a check station. And we're committed to continuing with those training opportunities.

We also try to establish multiple check stations when possible and by doing so, make sampling collection even more convenient. Now at this time, we have plans to set up check stations and/or drop boxes, which is basically an unmanned check station, at three different locations in Duval and Jim Wells Counties and those locations being one at Leo's Country Store, which is very close to this CWD positive deer breeding. Another one would be at the headquarters for the well renowned Muy Grande Contest down there in Freer. And we're also having discussion about placing a drop box there in Alice, where samples could be collected and we're hoping that these various options would make this much less burdensome than what it could be.

And finally, there's also a concern from several that the proposed zone published in the Texas Register is too large. Now if adopted, this would be the eighth CWD zone established in Texas and as you can see on this the slide, there would be three zones smaller than this zone that we proposed for Duval County. Now as you know, we've discussed on multiple occasions, we strive to make zones of the appropriate size to protect the resource; but also while not complicating the rules and providing any disincentives to hunting.

Now yesterday I elaborated on various factors that we consider when delineates CWD zones. We believe it is very important that zone delineations be as simple as possible for hunters. As you can see again with this slide, this Val Verde County example on the slide before you, we like to use easily recognizable features for zone boundaries. Features such as roads, rivers, lakes, transmission lines, county lines. Another factor that we consider with zone delineation is the availability of deer processing facilities. We've learned through this process that hunters and landowners prefer zones to include at least one deer processing facility. Again, to enable them to transport whole carcasses to the processing facilities without having to quarter them first. Of course, this is the reason for the proposed surveillance zone expansion in Kimble County to include of the city of Junction.

So as you can see -- excuse me. As you can see, we have been quite adaptive with our CWD management efforts, learning from our experience as we understand the realities on how to manage this disease with so many variables at play. So after giving much consideration to all the comments that we've received, staff would like the Commission to consider an alternate zone delineation or an amendment to what was published in the Texas Register. This alternate surveillance zone would exclude about 100,000 acres in the southwest corner of the area currently proposed for the surveillance zone. This would mean that the southwest border of that surveillance zone would be County Road 101,which runs from Highway 59 a few miles north of Freer, down to Highway 44 at San Diego. But we would still like include -- we would recommend that Highways 59 and 44 still be included -- again, be a part of the surveillance zone -- again, to enable hunters to get those whole carcasses to Freer where we have processing facilities and to Alice where we're contemplating a drop box location.

This amendment would look something like this slide before you now. And as I turn off this background map, that gives you a better idea of this zone would look like by including Highway 59 and 44 all the way to Freer in this alternate zone proposal.

Now yesterday afternoon, staff investigated other potential features that could be considered for even a smaller alternate zone for consideration. And we came up with a second alternative, as you see on the slide before you, that exclude about 45,000 acres in the southeast corner of the proposed zone. Now in the proposal as published, would have -- going back to my comment a while ago about trying to keep this as simple as possible for hunters, our proposed zone would have four major roadways as boundaries in the distribution. The first alternative that I've presented to you on a previous slide would add a fifth road to that boundary. This option on the slide before you would have a boundary comprised of eight different roads: Some major roads, some county roads.

We even found out just not long before walking into this meeting this morning, that there could be even yet another amendment to this slide before you to cut off a little bit more of the southern tip, if you will, of what's on this alternate by using a -- not sure if it's an oil field pipeline or a transmission line, but what appears to be a pretty well defined line in there, could provide even potentially even more reduction to the size of the proposed zone.

And so just to give some additional options there to let you know, these are some easily recognizable features. There were some potential other alternatives that you might want to consider. It is me rec -- I mean, excuse me. It's my understanding that such an amendment would be considered a logical outgrowth from the proposal as published in the Texas Register and that this Commission could adopt either the proposal as published or with one of these two amendments or potentially another amendment to what was published in the Texas Register.

In summary as I wrap this up, Commission, from a sampling perspective, we have received a proposal from landowners in this Duval County area who have pledged about 1200 samples in a voluntarily effort. Then if we consider the zone as published and we think about how many samples might we collect with a mandatory approach, we're looking at just our MLDP cooperation within that proposed zone, we believe we could expect around 2900 samples. And then there would be, of course, many other samples from those who are not enrolled in the MLDP Program, that would give us a much better description of samples throughout that entire area.

If we look at the first alternate that I presented to you yesterday and again this morning, that would basically make County Road 101 the southwestern border of this zone and that be the only amendment to that what was published, we could expect about 1900 samples from our MLDP cooperators within that area and then again, there would be many other samples that would come from non-MLD cooperators within that area as well.

So that just kind of gives you a summary of what might be expected from a sampling perspective between these different options. And with that, Mr. Chairman, staff recommend that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts amendments to 31 Texas Administrative Code 65.81 and 65.82 concerning disease detection response as listed in Exhibit A, with changes as necessary to the proposed text as published in the July 8th, 2022, issue of the Texas Register. With that, I'll be glad to entertain any requests you might have.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Mitch. The MLDP samples that you gave us approximate to 2900 and then you said with reduced, that's with the first reduction it went to 19?

MR. LOCKWOOD: The first reduction.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: So we don't know the number for the second. But still, if it was mandatory, it would obviously be substantially more. But you're just communicating what the MLD approximate would participate?

MR. LOCKWOOD: That's correct. I'm not sure how much that would be reduced with the second alternative option.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Understood. So, Commissioners, we have quite a few people who want to speak and then I'm sure we'll have some conversations. If you want to have conversations, statements, discussions now, you can. Or we'll hear and then -- Patton.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Patton. Yeah, I had a question. Why -- why I understand the burden is the same. So maybe this is going to be how we operate going forward. But why is there no containment zone in this proposal or recommendation?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Good question. A couple years ago we made a decision to not establish a containment zone whenever the disease is detected only in a permitted deer breeding facility, but not outside that facility. And we allow -- in fact, since the beginning, since 2015, we have utilized hold orders or quarantine orders issued by Texas A&M Health Commission to serve that purpose of a containment zone and we don't establish that zone in our rules until it is detected outside of the pens like we're proposing for Kimble County in this proposal this morning. Now that we've found it on an adjacent release the site, we do now propose a containment zone.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: And so theoretically that would be the next step in the event this hunting season there was a positive in this surveillance zone outside of the deer breeding facility, then there would be a follow-up with a containment zone at that time?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Staff would likely recommend a containment zone in that case. That is not to imply or assume that the -- let me make sure I said that right. Staff would likely propose a containment zone in that event that disease is spreading outside of the breeding pens; but that's not to imply or assume that the delineation of the surveillance zone would increase. In fact, it's not to imply that the surveillance zone couldn't be reduced in size. We could find it outside the pens and still find out that it is a very, very focal disease and could still justify shrinking of the surveillance zone.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: And then do you have an opinion of how many tests you would be satisfied total number? And I guess that would -- making an assumption that they are evenly distributed throughout the surveillance zone. What would your target number be?

MR. LOCKWOOD: I don't really have that right now, Commissioner Patton. That's where we're committed to working with this epidemiologist that I mentioned that could help us with the scientifically defensible number. I heard -- I heard your comment that, you know, assuming equal distribution; but I think number is going to come with -- it's going to be more than just one flat number. It's also going to have the distribution factored in to the response.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: And how -- how specific -- when someone brings a deer in or if someone were to bring a sample in, I -- with the benefit of technology or as simple as phone, do we really try to get the actual GPS lat/long of a deer, you know, harvest/killing, or are we just taking the general ranch, you know, name on the -- on the drop box?

MR. LOCKWOOD: What we do is we ask for -- we have a map and so on a man check station -- first all we, no, we don't try to get X Y coordinates typically. What we ask is -- at a man check station, a hunter will come to us, bring us a sample, and we'll say "Will you point to us on this map where this animal was harvested." And again, it doesn't mean what blind were you sitting in; but get us to the ranch. And that's how we get the location information. And a drop box, it's unmanned; but there's very clear instructions on providing that same information and then we're able to follow-up -- if it's not clear to us, we're able to follow-up with a phone call to the hunter.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Okay, thank you.

COMMISSIONER ABELL: Commissioner Abell. I've got a couple of questions. Yesterday the idea came up I think from a couple of others about a sunset on this proposed regulation and future ones going forward. Do you have a recommendation for us scientifically on like whether a one-year sunset would be enough or should it be two years or is there a -- would there be a time -- a timeline that you would have in mind?

MR. LOCKWOOD: I think that's a good question, and I've given that a little bit of thought. Not knowing what the distribution of samples looks like, I would be hesitant to recommend a one-year sunset; but I would be -- I would think that a two-year period would give us a pretty good picture of what we're dealing with there and at least for the Commission to reconsider it at that time.

COMMISSIONER ABELL: Okay. And my second question goes to Bobby's point on where the deer was actually killed. On the new digital licenses and tagging going forward, is there -- is there a way in the app to capture that location data?

MR. LOCKWOOD: I'd like to ask Alan Cain if he would come up to the microphone and address that. Thank you.

MR. CAIN: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, I'm Alan Cain. So on the digital tag, they report it through My Texas Hunt Harvest and they -- we don't collect site specific data or lat/longs. It ties it to the deer management unit in the county, and then they've got to record the ranch name on there.

COMMISSIONER ABELL: I guess what I'm asking, could we? Could we look at that option? It ought to be fairly easy to --

MR. CAIN: We can look into it. I'm not sure that it's that the easy to get a specific location, but we can certainly look into it.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Any other questions, comments from Commissioners before we listen to speakers?

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Sure. So this notion of concentric circles, I understand the logic of following roads; but, you know, one of the things that I'd really like to do is to have the staff investigate how do we create some concentric circles around where ever the hot deer was and do this through very straightforward GPS. You know, you've got a phone. You punch -- you punch the button, you drop the pin, and that's where the deer was harvested.

It seems to me as though if we're really -- if we can track commercial fishing vessels, we can clearly track where a hunter harvests a deer. So I really want staff to look at that particular issue.

The second is, as I have said before, I am not for voluntary testing. I think the mandatory -- if you're going to do this, we need the viable data to collect and determine do we have a free-ranging problem or is this one event in a breeder's pen. So I am absolutely for the mandatory elements of it.

And then third is we don't know the data. We don't know if we need 1,500, 15,000 tests. I mean, and it seems as though that is work in progress.

So for me, Mr. Chairman, I'm willing to proceed forward; but I want a sunset this containment zone after one year.


COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: We can always come back and revisit the containment zone and all of the specifics around it at any point in time.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay. Before I -- we bring in speakers, let me ask you one to clarify, Jeff. Are you talking about the least intrusive, the second option that reduced the zone even more?

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Correct. Yes, absolutely.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: The one that's on the screen?

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: The one that's on the screen -- well, it's not -- right there. Yes.


Any other comments before we listen?

Okay. Mitch, don't go far.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: The first speaker is by phone, Jim Foulkrod from LJ Blessings Ranch.

MR. MONTEMAYOR: (Inaudible).

CHAIRMAN APLIN: He's not signed in. Okay. Second is Andrew Schatte, then followed by John True, then Kevin Davis.

Good morning. How are you?

MR. ANDREW SCHATTE: Fine, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: For speakers I would ask that you keep it to three minutes, please.

MR. ANDREW SCHATTE: Howdy and good morning, Chairman, Commissioners, Carter. Thanks for allowing me to come talk to you this morning about CWD. Great information. I haven't met Mitch yet personally, but I appreciate your information. He stole some of my thunder if you're look at it here.

This is just an updated copy of the letter I would have sent to the Chairman yesterday. It may have -- may not have been distributed. But what it is, it's really going to be my whole argument. I want to spend just a second though and kind of, one, most importantly thank you for your service. I sat here and listened to oysters, deer, and mountain lions yesterday. You have some hard decisions and I was going to tell you, before I heard all that, I appreciate your service. I realize your service isn't that easy. A room charged full of emotion passion and the people's livelihoods and what they've been doing for years and you've got a tough decisions and I thank you.

Secondly, if there's any misconception about the contentious nature, I mean, it's obviously a tough subject; but I will tell you in the last 30 days, I worked with Carter, Clayton, and John diligently to try to get answers, try to get information to help me prepare to come here and talk to you today. And so I'll thank these fellows for their cooperation and help. It was valuable.

What Mitch has presented really steals my argument. I can't -- well, let me first tell you my ranch so you know where I'm at. I live in Houston. I've got a 5,000-acre ranch northern Duval that will be right kind of dead center. In fact, even very close to "ground zero" as we call it. And so it doesn't matter what zone, I'm going to be in it in whatever we do. Voluntary or mandatory, I'm going to be in it and I accept that. But I'm here just to talk to you and represent that I'm here for other people. Having ranched for 25 years, got one of the greatest native deer herds I think in Texas. We're all proud of our deer and our ranches. So I'm really happy that I have the ability to do that. I come from a line of farmers and all that good stuff, but I'm proud to have my ranch and continue to have it. It's friends and family. No commercial. And so that's kind of how we operate.

Good to see some of these kids yesterday. I think one of them hunted at our ranch last year. One of your speakers hunted on the ranch through the Buck Skinners when he was 13 years old. So that's what my ranch is about and that's what we want to keep doing for years to come. I.

can't talk too you scientifically. I'm

not going to talk to you about real estate. I'm a commercial real estate agent, what it does to it. People are throwing out names like "Scarlet Letter" and things like that when you do these designations; but not my pitch.

Simply put, we're asking for voluntary so we don't get that designation. And what has occurred, there's men sitting out here, Fred and Ben, that in a period of one week produced this list for you. Not one person did they call did they refuse to commit to samples. So I guess what I'm proposing simply is a public/private partnership, which is what I do for a living. I'm in the public/private business. Work with state, county, cities to do public/private partnerships.

I see there's an angle here that could possible work with that enthusiasm and certainly we believe given more time working with the Department, we can take those 1200 samples. Not one person turned down of everybody we called. We can expand that list if given the opportunity. So thank you for your consideration and appreciate it.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Mr. Schatte. Thank you for making the effort and for all you've done for this issue.

John, you're up. Then Kevin, then Trent Nichols.

Hello, John.

MR. JOHN TRUE: Good morning. Chairman Aplin, members of the Commission, Mr. Smith, thank you for the opportunity. For the record again, I'm John True, President of the Texas Deer Association. As I said yesterday, Texas deer breeders continue to be the only entity with mandated testing for CWD. We have a population of about 65,000 animals in pens currently and in the last 12 months, we've tested about 45,000 of those between live and postmortem testing.

In contrast, there are 5.7 million deer outside of deer pens in the State of Texas. We annually harvest about 800,000 of those. In the last 12 months, we tested about 14,000 of them. I'd like -- I did a little research, looked into some other states, what they do. Missouri, for example, has a smaller herd. They have one and a half million White-tailed deer on the landscape. They annually harvest about 300,000 deer. Last year they tested 32,000 of them. They have kind of a cooperative agreement between -- that includes some mandatory and voluntary testing, but it's working. It's getting samples.

Instead of debating the dimensions of a specific surveillance zone, why don't we make the whole state a surveillance zone? If this is a serious disease and you're concerned about its impact on Texas Wildlife, then let's use tools like the MLD Program to make mandatory testing by all and let's truly find out where it exists.

I continue to ask for updates to all protocols moving forward. We have so many tools at our disposal. The idea of a sunset makes so much sense on a surveillance zone. The surveillance and containment zone language needs to be updated with current standards. At the very minimum, there is no need for a containment zone outside of a specific property where a positive is found. As far as surveillance zones are concerned, breeders currently test 100 percent of any deer that dies in our pens. We test 100 percent of any deer that's released from our pens. And if you're in surveillance zone, like I am, we test 100 percent of any deer that we harvest on that release site. All of that statistical confidence has to count for something. That's all I have. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: John, real quick. I have a -- John, real quick.

MR. JOHN TRUE: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Are you opposed to the mandatory or opposed to the voluntary?

MR. JOHN TRUE: I think everything should be manda -- if we -- if we --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: So you're opposed?

MR. JOHN TRUE: I think we search more for it. We know it exists. We need to find out where it exists on the landscape my point.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay. So this proposal is for mandatory, but you're -- because you're deal says your against it. Are you oppo --

MR. JOHN TRUE: Yes, sir.


MR. JOHN TRUE: I'm against specific surveillance zones and specifically containment zones in certain areas if we don't know where it exists on the landscape. We're just testing more a deer breeder finds it.


MR. JOHN TRUE: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Kevin, then Trent, then Ben.

Good morning, Kevin.

MR. KEVIN DAVIS: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Vice-Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Smith. Thank you for the opportunity to speak here again today. You know, I'm -- I -- I'm really enthused by the conversations that are going on right now. I'm impressed with the level of interest that the Commission has taken on this issue. The discussion has been significant, and I'm very appreciative of it.

We are committed to preventing the transmission of CWD. We test a lot of animals and as John said, 100 percent of a hundred of a hundred. And so we are committed to that. We are also committed to looking at it further on the landscape. He alluded to the Missouri model and just to elaborate on that for a second, their partnership of landowners included a couple of things. The first is mandatory testing within what their what they call management zone, which has a little bit better connotation than a containment of surveillance zone; but it's just nomenclature. But their management zones, they -- that first two days of hunting season, they require mandatory testing.

In their smaller area there than Texas, in those two days they received 18,000 samples from that one rule. And then moving forward the rest of the season, they partner with landowners, they partner with taxidermists, and they partner with commercial processing facilities and got another almost 10,000 samples through those partnerships.

So the concept of partnering with landowners is significant and you heard me say yesterday that, you know, that the landowner is an important part equation. That's different in some states. Not necessarily Missouri, but some states it's different. And so I think that that cooperation component has merit here in your decision today is all I'm saying. And so if we were to look it, knowing the commitments that you've already received, plus maybe tweaking a few things that we see from other states, I think we would more than meet our goals within that management unit and within other areas around the state. With that, I'll close.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Kevin.

Trent, then Ben, then Fred Williams.

Good morning, Trent tent.

MR. TRENT NICHOLS: Good morning, Chairman, Commissioners. Thank you for the opportunity to speak. My name is Trent Nichols. I'm an attorney from is Shiner, Texas. I'm here on behalf of the Casper family, which owns the Agarita Ranch which is about a little over 3,400 acre, not far from ground zero. We are within the 7-mile area where they asked for voluntary samples last year.

You heard earlier about three ranches that stepped up. I don't know. We've not been told that we were one of those. I believe that we were. We provided voluntary samples of almost every one of our deer that were harvested last year. We provided 46 out of the 176 samples that were provided, which is just over 26 percent. So to say that we're committed to fighting this issue, I think we've demonstrated that.

The issue that I want to talk about today is just the burden that's being placed on landowners, you know, by the proposed surveillance zone. I think there's some other folks here to talk about what some of those burdens are. But for us, in particular -- and let me -- let me back up by saying we are one of the ranches that supported Andy, his voluntary group that he got together. We committed to that. We are committed to that.

We are a high-fenced ranch. We are 3,400 acres. We do not breed deer. We don't bring deer in or out of our ranch. There's no live deer transported one way or other. With the 46 samples that we took last year, we took samples of about 15 percent of our entire deer population of our ranch. And so to put a burden like this on a ranch like ours is significant, and I really think unwarranted.

In your rule-making authority, you have authority to grant exemptions. You have authority to set up parameters where responsible landowners who do participate and who have demonstrated and shown that it's extremely unlikely that CWD exists in their deer population and that it's unlikely to get into their deer population, I'd ask that you take that into consideration.

The Casper Ranch has been know for over 40 years. We -- we're even willing, like I said, to continue to provide voluntary samples. The issue is the -- for instance, the check points that you have, we're 22 miles from the check point in Freer. Its the opposite direction of the way that the family members are going to head back home. That's a significant burden. We are happy to continue to take samples, to keep them in our cooler, to be able to submit those in within a one-week or a two-week period so that the time that folks are there hunting, they can always take those at the end of the hunt and provide those samples.

But I just ask you to study this issue and really consider even some specifics or certain landowner, you know, an exemption or something like that. Thank you for your time.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Trent, thank you.

Ben, then Fred, then Justin.

Good morn, Ben.

MR. BEN SCHMIDTKE: Good morning. How are y'all?


MR. BEN SCHMIDTKE: Once again, my name is Ben Schmidtke and I manage the Silverhorn Ranch in Duval County. I appreciate the discussion that has been taking place over this issue today. It truly is an important issue to many of us, and I appreciate y'all's genuine efforts. I also would like to quickly recognize TPWD Wildlife Biologist Dustin Windsor. Dustin has been very helpful for us landowners in Duval County throughout this process. He is an idea -- or I mean he is an ideal example of the way this Department should work with and help its constituents. Thank you, Dustin.

I want to voice today my support to the idea that TPWD should develop a clear strategy for dealing with CWD detection moving forward. It is an unfortunate reality that is not -- that is not going away and I do not believe it should be a reason for a rancher to lose their livelihood over. We as Texans are better than that.

In my conversations with numerous landowners over the years regarding CWD, there is one common concern. The concern is never about the effect of the disease and how it may impact their deer herds physically. It is instead a concern of the government's response to the detection. I hope that today results in that narrative beginning to shift.

In regards to Surveillance Zone No. 8, there are a few things I would like to point out that I think should be taken into consideration. The staff's representation was very misleading. There has been only three confirmed positive animals. The first in September of 2021 tested positive in both the lymph nodes and obex. The second deer, tested over a month later, only tested positive in the lymph nodes. Then seven months went by. All the while the deer were still being co-mingled in the pens. The third positive deer was then euthanized in April of this year and was once again only positive in the lymph nodes. The other seven tests that the staff mentioned are samples that were tested with an unapproved method that picks up on a very early exposure. These samples were taken from a pit of carcasses. Not individual deer. These seven tests are very misleading and do not hold any merit, in my opinion.

Facts like these highlight inconsistencies that we get so frustrated about. Then to see a surveillance zone of this magnitude come as a result of a minor and contained detection that was not properly managed is not right. What I also found misleading was the size comparison of zones. These zones all differ so greatly from the low deer-dense open spaces of Texas to the residential nonhunting acres of Hunt County.

The surveillance zone in conversation today is 100 percent privately owned, huntable acreage and that is extremely deer dense. It is without a doubt that the state's proposed area would result in the highest number of samples than any other surveillance zone in the state. Yet, it is the least-risk area. I hope common sense is used here today in this very important decision.

And so for the record, I am in support of the voluntary testing and there not being a surveillance zone in this area. Thank you, guys.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Ben.

Fred, Justin, then Jennifer.

Good morning, Fred. Welcome back.

MR. FRED WILLIAMS: Yeah. Good morning, Commissioners. Thank you again for the opportunity to speak with y'all. My name is Fred Williams, the veterinarian yesterday. The good news is that I am on script today. I'm also a ranch owner in the proposed zone. Before I get going, I would also like to take a moment to recognize Biologist Dustin Windsor for his commitment to being the outreach for Texas Parks and Wildlife. He's a superior example of a biologist who loves his job and is excellent at it.

I am a rule follower by nature. Texas Parks and Wildlife enacts a rule, I follow it. I have submitted 25 percent of my harvested deer for testing five out of the past seven years, including last year as part of the voluntary effort. As a veterinarian and having a wife that has a master's in epidemiology, we know the importance in testing for the containment of Chronic Wasting Disease. I also know that most significant epidemiological testing information for the containment of this particular case, will come from the source ranch pasture, the ranches that share a fence with that ranch, and the trace-out sites.

Sorry. I lost my place. I'm also an optimist. So I would like to share some good news from my Texas Parks and Wildlife Open Record's Request that are significant epidemiologically. In the last year from the source ranch pasture, 15 hunter-harvested deer tested not detected. 48 deer from the source pasture DMP pens were euthanized and tested and not-detected. 18 deer were hunter-harvested from a ranch sharing a fence with the source ranch and tested not-detected. From the trace-out sites, 102 deer were hunter-harvested and tested not-detected. 14 of those 102 were from a ranch sharing fence with the source ranch, making them doubly significant.

In addition, there were 75 deer hunter-harvested deer hunter-harvested from other release sites in Duval, McMullen, and Live Oak Counties, with 26 of those for sure within the voluntary sampling last year because it was my neighbor and they were not included in the voluntary count. That is up to 243 non-detected test results. In addition, we also had 175 non-detected results from the voluntary effort last year. The only positive tests are contained within the high-fenced pen within a high-fenced ranch that had 63 pasture deer to test non-detected last year.

I spoke to the significance of the anatomic location positive test, type of testing, and timing of the test that is supported for an early outbreak contained in the pen. I do believe in the landowner's proposal of voluntary sampling. That will result in a mutual cooperation between Texas Parks and Wildlife and landowners, which is the optimal goal.

But if you do vote in favor of the surveillance zone, I ask for you to put specific attainable testing goals in place that will allow for the termination -- a termination date of the zone in the near future. I know that most of y'all are landowners yourself and can appreciate the need of a light at the end of the tunnel for your fellow landowners. Thank you for your time and consideration.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Fred.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Justin. Then Jennifer is the last I have that is signed up. If there are any others, now would be the appropriate time.

Good morning, Justin.

MR JUSTIN DREIBELBIS: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name's Justin Dreibelbis. I'm the CEO for the Texas wildlife Association. First of all, thanks for a long, but productive day yesterday. There's obviously a lot of people, a lot of Texans that care about our natural resources, so thanks for giving us a place to share our opinions about tough issues and for listening and doing the best thing for the resource. So appreciate you.

This new Duval County surveillance zone, it's a tough issue. On one hand, you've got a major burden on landowners and hunters that haven't experienced that in the past and through -- and this burden would come at no fault of their own. On the other hand, you have a very concerning disease issue that from the information yesterday that was shared. I'm certainly glad that it was. You have a positive facility, depopulated by the facility without Parks and Wildlife knowing about it, and we've still got deer unaccounted for. So those are the important things to remember here and this is a -- this is a serious issue. So not acting is certainly not an option.

TWA submitted a letter earlier this week in support of some type of surveillance zone, some size, not prescribing what that size is; but talking about the severity of the issue. There needs -- there needs to be something. Also in that letter we asked for a couple of things. One, is that some details will be shared with the people about the severity the issue and that was addressed yesterday and I thank you for that.

Also, talking about the need for specific plans on testing requirements and what level we'd need to get to to eventually shrink or eliminate zones in the future and that was also discussed heavily. So thank you very much for addressing both of those.

There was a very good discussion about voluntary testing proposal and I applaud the group that's put that group of landowners together. You know, it's a landowner advocacy organization. TWA is always going to support a voluntary approach over something -- over a, you know, government regulation. So if that is -- if this, you know, group of landowners and staff feel that they could get to a level that is sufficient to build some confidence, that's -- that's a proposal that we could get on board with.

There does need to be some accountability built into that though to where if you get to -- if you don't get to certain levels by certain dates -- like, Chairman, what you mentioned yesterday -- that there's some trigger in place where the surveillance goes in because this is big deal. We need to do something and we need to do something quickly. If we can do that through a voluntary effort, that's great. If we can't, we need to do a surveillance zone. So thank you very much for the opportunity.


Jennifer, welcome. Good morning.

MS. JEN MOCK SCHAFFER: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Commissioners, Director Smith. It's a pleasure to see you again. My name is Jen Mock Schaffer. I'm a resident of Hays County. I'm a trained wildlife biologist, but I spent the last ten -- last 18 years of my career navigating the sometimes precarious intersection of fish and wildlife conservation policy and on the ground management by state fish and wildlife agencies across the country, which includes Texas Parks and Wildlife.

One of the those most difficult issues I've tried to navigate across that career has been Chronic Wasting Disease. So I appreciate the difficulties and the decisions that you are faced with today.

Regarding the discussion yesterday on Chronic Wasting Disease, several concerns were expressed about the equity of nonexisting and new CWD zones, voluntary versus mandatory sampling, and how long these zones should be present and when they should expire. These are very important topics to consider and I appreciate your deliberations and you listening to the public today and the implications for landowners and their livelihoods.

It's important to acknowledge that CWD has prolonged incubation period and is extremely persistent in the environment, which makes it a very challenging disease to control and manage and many states are faced with this across the county. I believe the number is now 30. This does not include provinces in Canada.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture CWD Herd Certification Program requires captive deer breeding facilities to monitor and test their herds for five years with no CWD positive detections in order to be designated a herd -- to designate the herd as low risk for CWD. However, some captive cervid facilities have upheld that five-year monitoring period with no positive detections; but then after that five-year monitoring detection[sic], they have CWD positive encounters within their herds after that monitoring period is over and they are designated as a low-risk herd.

Therefore, my concern is setting an arbitrary number for an expiring zone for CWD a zone may provide hunters and landowners with false sense of containment, accomplishment, and reduced threat associated with the disease. From my perspective, it would be arbitrary to set a year number as opposed to think about other criteria that we could establish to inform that. It would -- setting a set number of years, for instance, is not particularly supported necessarily by the science or the data gathered in that particular area. It may not be in the best interest to protect Texas wildlife for current and future generations because CWD prions continue to pose a threat to current and future deer long after the infected individual or individuals have been removed from the premises or the landscape.

It is in the interest of transparency and consistency, it makes sense for the Department to consider establishing a set of criteria by which current and future CWD zones are evaluated or reevaluated to provide a consistent approach to potentially adjusting the geographic size of a zone or the ongoing need for a zone. These decisions must be informed by science to put forth the best efforts necessary to protect Texas wild deer herds and the associated local and state economies, property values, and family traditions. Thank you for considering my comments today, and I look forward to working with you in the future.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Jennifer. Abso -- ask Jennifer?

Yeah, Jennifer, can you --

COMMISSIONER GALO: I was just going to ask you a question, please.


COMMISSIONER GALO: You mentioned other criteria by years to, you know, possibly limiting or shrinking the size of a surveillance zone. Do you have an example that you could share?

MS. JEN MOCK SCHAFFER: I do. It could be deer density, home range size, soil type, the connection between wildlife corridors and the affected detection area. Things of that nature. Any data that comes from that surveillance zone, like CWD prevalence within the herds or even the lack of data that comes from the sampling within that area, for instance, could result in either changing those geographic boundaries, reshaping them, shrinking them, growing them, depending on the data and information that is used to inform such criteria used to evaluate the existing or future zones.


MS. JEN MOCK SCHAFFER: You're welcome.


Thank you, Commissioner Galo.

I don't have anyone else signed up to talk about this specific Action Item No. 7. So seeing or hearing none, I'll open this back up to the Commission again for discussion.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: If we -- I'm not sure you guys -- maybe just give me an estimate. If we go with the reduced surveillance zone area and the testing is mandatory, what do you think roughly the number of samples that we'll be able to achieve in that -- I'm sure. How many acres is it?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Commissioner, let me back up to a slide here. The slide before you shows what I'm going to refer to as the Alternate Zone Proposal No. 1, Alternate Proposal No. 1, which our data indicates that from MLDP properties alone, we should expect about 1,900 samples from this area. If we go back to what was published in the Texas Register to include that southwest corner all the way to Freer as well, our MLD properties alone should provide about 2,900 samples. I don't have a good field report today of how many deer we expect to be harvested on all other properties within that zone. But listening to Mr. Schmidtke, it sounds like it would be pretty substantial based on his knowledge of the harvest in that immediate -- that local area.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: How much -- what's the acreage of that zone right there?

MR. LOCKWOOD: That zone, as proposed, should be somewhere around 245,000 acres. This is what I'm going to Alternate No. 1.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Uh-huh. So 250,000 acres, deer density. I mean you could probably do some pretty simple math, couldn't you, in terms of average deer density per acre, how many MLD permits that you have in that area?

MR. LOCKWOOD: I'm going to turn it back to Alan Cain. You're welcome -- Alan, if you have any -- any additional ideas here on how we might predict the harvest, you're welcome to come up.

MR. CAIN: So I think the -- in that proposal right there, if you add in the MLD properties, they represent 36 percent of that area and so we know the harvest there is 1,900, as Mitch pointed out, and then we can look at our deer management unit data, which I think is a deer 40 to acres, somewhere in there, and come up with a population estimate and then we can at some of our big game harvest data and come up with a harvest. And then local knowledge with some of our biologists there, like Dustin and Daniel, and determine the harvest. But even talking to Dustin the other day, in the entire area there -- if you included Freer -- they were expecting maybe another thousand samples or thousand deer harvested in the entire zone from people not associated with MLD properties.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: So we'll get -- I mean, just rough estimate -- three to 4,000 independent tests?

MR. CAIN: That's potential, if you include the entire zone, the original one that Mitch proposed. It will be less with this.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Right. And then the one in addition to that, which is smaller, I mean it's probably going to be relatively proportionate, isn't it? Do we know the size of the one unit that we talked about? If you clipped --



MR. LOCKWOOD: So that southeast corner that's clipped out represents about 45,000 acres.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Basically below 300?

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: When you said that's two -- the --

COMMISSIONER ABELL: I mean below 200.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: 200, right. About 190,000 acres. Okay. So what about a 20 percent -- so reduction. And so maybe 3,000 or 3,500 versus 4,000. I mean, just rough -- rough math. Okay. But you're going to get plenty of samples.

MR. LOCKWOOD: And I think more importantly is -- and I'm sorry for beating a dead horse here. But more importantly is were going to get a better distribution of samples through there to give us a much better idea that -- without any positives -- that the disease hasn't moved down into that area.


MR. LOCKWOOD: And one more comment I'll make is it would also give us a good represent -- representation of all age classes in both sexes of deer so that, again, give us a much better picture. Because this disease is not -- the prevalence of this disease is not equal throughout all age classes. The older age the deer are going to have higher prevalence of this decide based on what's learned throughout this country than your younger aged deer. Yes, some young deer test positive for this disease; but it's more prevalent the older the deer is and more prevalent in males. And so with that information, we would not have the risk of biased samples, if you will.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: The last thing I wanted to say is that, look, I am hopeful and I would ask that staff -- our next meeting is in January?


MR. SMITH: November.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay. I would ask that staff come back in November -- and I know you guys are working hard on this issue and it's complicated and I appreciate that. But we're trying to balance the interest of a lot of -- a lot of people here in the state. I would ask that you come back and put some more specificity to the creation of surveillance zones/containment zones because I think what we're going to do today is probably a stopgap measure. But if we do sunset this for a year, then what kind of data do we want to see? Do we want to see zero incidents of tests over 4,000 different samples? What is the quantification so that we can say let's take the surveillance off in permanent, on a permanent basis? And so I would just ask that you guys come back and put some good science to this and -- so we can come up with a clean, uniform set of rules that we can try to apply statewide.

I understand, you know, all areas are different and I really want to look at this concentric circle issue and how do we mark that on a GPS basis. Thanks.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Very clear on that. Thank you for that. Take another swing at the question about what would be appropriate sunset period.

Staff would feel much more comfortable making a commitment to you at this time on -- just as you recommended and advised, Commissioner -- to come back to you and provide you those metrics, you know, a better idea of what the future looks like, what kind of goal are we shooting for in each -- not just here, but every surveillance zone in the State of Texas and what it would take to see an elimination of those zones.

We'd feel more comfortable making that commitment right now than we would trying to predict what an appropriate sunset period would be. Because as two people testified yesterday and today, we did have this disease -- in two of the three confirmed cases, we did have this disease detected only in the lymphatic tissue, indicating that it was pretty early stage infection for those deer. Likewise, as we know through some of the other sampling we did, we know there were additional deer that were even -- even in earlier stages of infection. So it will be a while before you see some of these animals that have been exposed actually do text positive for the disease and so that's why we would be hesitant to really make a recommendation on a sunset period.

But we are committed -- I want to make very clear -- to come back to you with a very good idea of what these metrics look like, what sort of target -- what goals we have for each surveillance zone. We would be working on a contract with this epidemiologist that -- and looking at his schedule and when he's available and so I don't -- I can't guarantee at this time that his availability will allow for that report by November, but it's on top of our priority list.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Is this the epidemiologist that someone referred to I think in one of the public -- the veterinarian at A&M?

MR. LOCKWOOD: No, sir.


MR. LOCKWOOD: He's not an epidemiologist, but a very well renowned geneticist that is -- that we've been working with for several years on trying to find a way to breed this disease out of captivity.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Have we worked with the A&M -- the vet that was referred to at A&M on this, on CWD?

MR. LOCKWOOD: This geneticist we've worked very closely with for several years. Dr. Seabury. We have funded much of his work, and we are in communication with him on almost a daily basis.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Okay. My last comment. It's always easy to extend regulation. So I'm not -- I'm not worried about the timing of the sunset issue because we can always extend regulation. Right? But it's hard to take it off. So, thanks.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Yes, sir.

MR. SMITH: Commissioner, if I could just ask something. The metrics and the endgame here, we get that. That's loud and clear. Y'all have been unambiguous about that. We've heard that from every presenter in the room today and yesterday.

In order for us to do the job we need to do to come back with more quantitative metrics that reflects input from experts and others affect by this, are you open to more us coming back in January with that as opposed to November? I think November may be a heavy lift for us. Do you care?


MR. SMITH: Okay. Okay, thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Before any more conversation, I have one thing that I want to -- feel like we need to talk about, elaborate a little bit. There's been -- there's been this conversation that there were three confirmed positives, remains, different type tests, and then there's been this wonder or maybe even somewhat dismissal of the seven samples that were amplified that came in -- that came in positive. And it was also mentioned that, you know, this is serious.

I want to speak to everybody that seven amplified positive tests are serious to this agency, to this Commission, to all of us. I understand that they're not the certified remains, but they're real in my opinion. And if we remember how we got here, I believe those had to be exhumed to get those samples. So what we're dealing with here is very difficult. It's not cooperative with this Agency. It was immensely unpleasant to go do it and I can't say enough about the men and women that were involved in having to deal with that and it's best we could do to get those samples. And so I just want to comment loud and clear. To me, it's not three. It's three plus some number and the amplified gets my attention. So I just want to stand up for the staff on that one.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: I do too. I mean, look, they had to get a search warrant to exhume the carcasses. That's not cooperation. And so I just want to thank the staff for what they did. That was -- that was tough work. So we appreciate it very much if.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Commissioner Galo.

COMMISSIONER GALO: I wholeheartedly agree with your comments. But I would also like to point out that we have 12 unaccounted deer that we know of. Twelve if we take this person's word for it. And so that is what is very, very concerning to me also.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: So let's have some further discussion. Commissioner Hildebrand has kind of said what he could support. To recap, I believe it's the most modified, the one that's on the screen now, which is down to something less than 200,000 acres, mandatory testing. I believe the Commissioner wanted one-year sunset.

Everybody's heard loud and clear that we're going to go back and try to put together an endgame criteria with all the best science we can. I think there will be a lot of improvement that has came -- that has come from this two days' worth of discussions and meetings about surveillance zones. I feel like this is immensely productive.

I know that should Commissioner Hildebrand's recommendation be taken, I know that it won't be accepted by all; but it certainly is an improvement over what was published, at least for the landowners' perspective I would assume, and I think everyone would admit that it was given thorough discussion, so. But I want to make sure, any other Commissioners have any questions/comments before I ask for a motion and I think I've illustrated what Commissioner Hildebrand's motion is going to be.

Go ahead, Bobby.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Patton. Yeah, I -- I'm in favor of the one-year sunset, quite frankly, mainly because I view it personally or in my capacity as Commissioner that it is almost a two-year sample. I do want to give credit to the volun -- the people that did cooperate last year and we do know that there were no positive samples.

I also want to make a comment. I think Mr. True coming here a couple times talking about the deer breeders are the only ones taking samples and obviously there are other people other than deer breeders taking samples. Particularly in all of the other surveillance zones that are in Texas, encompassing many millions of acres. We take samples. So this just isn't just deer breeders only taking samples. There's a lot of people out there doing it and there probably need to be a lot more, but there's more than just that. That's all.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Bobby.

Commissioner Galo.


MR. LOCKWOOD: Thank you, Commissioner Galo.

Just for the record, this option on the slide before you, which I've referred to as Alternate No. 2 or maybe Option No. 3, staff would recommend that included in this zone, again, would include Highway 44 and US 281 down to Alice so that in the event we're able to establish a check station location or a drop box location there, that would allow hunters to legally transport carcasses to that location.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Mitch. I think you've been clear about that. I think that was included in Jeff's idea and I think it's important that we include Alice for those reasons.

Commissioner Galo.

COMMISSIONER GALO: I just want to say for the record I have a problem with the sunset, especially for one year if we have staff saying that they could at least live with a two-year sunset. And we've never offered that to anyone in the past. We have a lot of other -- I mean, we have several other surveillance zones and, I mean, I'm very hesitant based on time to agree to a sunset. But we're going to make a decision just based on time and not on science, which is really not what we usually do here. We usually base all our decisions on science, not just by a prescribed time, then I could only very hesitantly -- and I mean very hesitantly -- agree to it if it were two years because that's what staff is, I mean, I think not completely comfortable with, but willing to come to a compromise with the Commissioners. That's just my comment.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Discussion? If not we're going to get to you want one, Commissioner Galo wants two.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: I want one. We can always extend this. We're going to come back in January. That's plenty of time. As Commissioner Patton said, we've already had one year. We've had 170. We've had 170 tests. They were negative, which is fabulous. And so we've already really -- with all due respect, we've already had a year and so we're going to add yet another year and if we've got issues or problems, we extend it. It just -- I just want some clarity on that there is actually an exit plan to these surveillance zones. And we're going to base it on data and facts and science for sure and if the data shows that we've got lots of -- lots of -- lots of deer that have CWD in the area, then we will clearly extend it is my point, so.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: I guess we'll hear in January what staff, experts, what they think. We just haven't had time to give us --



MR. LOCKWOOD: Sample results, test results will not -- in fact, they're going to still be -- harvest will still be going on August through January and even February. We would not anticipate being able to illustrate to you the distribution or quantity of samples before the May Commission Meeting. I really don't think it would be available by the March Commission Meeting. The May would be ambitious, but I would be hopeful that that's doable to be able to report hunting season's findings to you by that meeting. Ambitious, but not impossible. It just depends on --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: You mean on the lab results of test quantities and locations? Is that what you mean?

MR. LOCKWOOD: And the test results.


MR. LOCKWOOD: The test results. We will have -- good point, Chairman. We will have the locations and quantities in time to report even by the March Commission Meeting. Staff would be able to do that. We just wouldn't have test results.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: So we -- okay. It's August now. Deer season basically kind of November, but you're logic would be a year from now or year from the opening of the season and Commissioner Galo's told us how she feels about it, but I've got to find either a compromise or I'm going to have one Commissioner that's probably going to vote against it.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: I mean, I'm certainly willing to compromise. You're not going -- so deer season ends February 28th, right? So you'll -- you'll have all of your samples taken and you'll have them tested and then analyzed, you think, by the May meeting?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Under normal years, we would have all those test results by the May meeting. This past year we would not have, as we all know the backlog that the lab experienced. They are caught up today. They're caught up and they've put measures in place to prevent that from happening again and we hope obviously that that's successful and so I am hopeful that we would be able to report to you by May. But that's --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Even if not, we can deal with it in August, right?


CHAIRMAN APLIN: I mean, I think -- paraphrasing here, I think I've heard what you say, Jeff, about you'd like a day -- it's easier to add regulation than take off. I understand what Commissioner Galo is saying is that it's just kind of a time picked out of air. But at this point, I need a motion for something.

COMMISSIONER GALO: But, you know, we've never had a sunset. So that in itself is a really big thing, in my opinion. I mean, that's a huge thing because nobody has ever had that.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: I will make the point there has been no identification of free-range deer that have the disease. That's different than the other surveillance zones. So I think there is a distinction between Surveillance Zone 8 -- which by the way, we should really think about different names for these things because, you know, if your ranch is in the middle of this thing, it's -- anyway, maintenance zone or something like that. But no free-range deer has seen the disease and that's very different than Kimble and Bandera and that area. So I just make that point.

And we are -- this is an evolutionary process. We're trying to get better. Okay? And so that's my only request, Commissioner, is that -- and I am fully well willing to extend this if, in fact, we have issues in the area. I mean, obviously that's what -- that's what we should do.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Are we also willing -- or are you willing -- what about if in January they come back and the experts have got involved and hear what their feelings are on if we go the year, what their feelings are, even without positives? There's more to it than just that. There's a lot of dynamics in this. So if the experts, epidemiologists, if everyone comes back and says it really should be two, would we be amenable to modifying the sunset from one to two based on their recommendation?

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Sure. I mean with new data -- new data, new information --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: John, what do you have?

MR. JOHN SILOVSKY: Good morning, Mr. Chairman -- or almost afternoon. John Silovsky, Wildlife Division Director. Just to provide some information or reminder of information that Mitch shared with you earlier today, using the Kimble County example and trying to understand how sunset could potentially impact or not impact how we manage these zones, that reminder that in Kimble County, you know, we had a positive breeding facility. We had mandatory testing for two years. And then just this past season, we found a positive on the release site. So it took two years for us to find it outside of the breeding facility.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, John.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Hunt County would be an example of a zone in Northeast Texas where the disease has only been found in the breeding pens and we have a surveillance zone established there.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: So you bring up and a good point, John. And so, you know, a year obviously is just a time on the calendar; but if it -- if y'all come back, if staff comes back in January and recommends that the sunset should be modified, Commissioner Hildebrand, you're certainly open to that?


CHAIRMAN APLIN: All right. Is that -- I think where we're headed, if we do this, is a great improvement over what we had. It's not maybe what every Commissioner wants, but...

COMMISSIONER GALO: Can I? I completely understand that and I'm not trying to be difficult here, but we just heard from John that it took two years to find a positive outside of the breeding pen and in all my years here, I haven't -- and I'm not going to start, and I'm not trying -- to be difficult to go against what staff recommends. Because they're the ones that look at this every single day. And I understand. It's -- as a landowner, I mean, I shared with y'all yesterday when I thought there was a CWD on my ranch -- we're not breeders, we don't bring in deer -- I reported it. It was tested. It was not CWD. Thank God. But that's how serious this is to me. I'm not -- you know, I'm not trying to throw a roadblock here, but I'm going to take staff's recommendation and, you know, I'm going to vote accordingly. That's just me.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: You're never difficult.

COMMISSIONER GALO: Well, today I am, I guess.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: No, you're not. You're wonderful and you're passionate about this.

So I need a motion. If -- are you going for one or two?

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: So you came up with the recommendation. What -- what's -- what's your two years based on? We've already had a year. I've already said come back with more definitive data, science in January. I've given you more time. Why can you not agree to a one-year sunset?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Well, Commissioner, perhaps you'd prefer to hear from our epidemiologist who's got more expertise in this and he may have a different viewpoint. He's here in the room if you'd be interested.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: By all means.


MR. LOCKWOOD: I'll ask Dr. Reed if he'll come up to the microphone.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Welcome to the hot seat.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: And just let me say, life isn't perfect. I understand science. All right? So, you know, we have to live with some ambiguity in life. So with that, fire away.

DR. J. HUNTER REED: Hi. I am Dr. J. Hunter Reed, Wildlife Veterinarian in Wildlife Division. So as far as it relates to sunset of one year, one -- the year preceding would have been great to have counted towards the surveillance, but really it's not the intensity and distribution of sampling that we would like to get, that we would be able to get from a mandatory approach of which you had recommended.

Also to Commissioner Galo's point, this disease when established in a very focal setting, takes time to disseminate. So in order to be able to have those detections on a free-range or kind of a lower density setting compared to a breeding pen, we need at least an extended period of time of sampling at a high intensity to be able to get that fine-tuned scale detection capability. So -- and then also factoring in that this disease has many other transmission methods outside of just deer-to-deer contact.

So we're talking about runoff. We're talking about through plants. We're talking about through scavengers. There's other hypothesized routes and that's not just to throw ambiguity at a situation, but all I am saying is that this is a very unconventional disease. It's not cattle fever ticks of which I have worked with. It's not brucellosis. It's not piroplasmosis. It's not tuberculosis. This is a very different disease, prion disease, that is separate from viruses and bacteria, that acts in a very unconventional the manner.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Patton. I've got a question. I guess the topic here is sunset and the point is we've never had a sunset, which I think makes the point that we need a sunset and should have had them in the past and I'll use the -- and disclosure. I, of course, have a ranch right in the middle of the surveillance zone in Far West Texas. And it's been over ten years with a bunch of testing with no positives. Do you think, at a minimum, that that is adequate?


COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: For sunset example.

DR. J. HUNTER REED: So as it relates to the surveillance zone in that setting, we are having plans to come to the table to actually put a voluntary approach within the surveillance zone where we haven't had detection. We want to be able to institute some sort of environmental sampling, which is much easier than actually doing the postmortem sampling.

Obviously, we like the fine-tuned scale that we get with individual hunter-harvested animals. But we're thinking of other approaches that we can institute in a surveillance zone of which where we don't detections, we can get sufficient sampling effort; but also contract -- possibly even contract those zones. But as far as it relates to the actual sunset of a particular zone, I hesitate to make that recommendation now without consulting with other staff who have these on-the-ground experience and the relationships with landowners. Right now, just due to the fact that there's so many unknowns about this disease right now, that having that -- that number thrown out here right now, I don't -- I hesitate to make it.

But at the very minimum, if there is some sort of sunset on mandatory sampling, I still think we need to parse out the issue of carcass movement restriction. We know the disease exists in a particular spot and whether or not we have mandatory sampling in that zone is one thing, but the risk is still there as far as it relates to CWD existing there. So carcass movement restriction I think is a separate discussion that also needs to be had.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: And we're talking about carcass restriction movements in this particular Duval County, correct?


CHAIRMAN APLIN: So kind of where we are -- let me see if I can bring this full circle. We have one Commissioner that really wants one year. One that really wants two. The others haven't weighed in too heavily yet. I -- commissioner Patton agrees that we need a sunset. I think we all are warm to this sunset concept.

You would tell us your recommendation and then I'm going to see if I can get a motion. Yours is?

DR. J. HUNTER REED: I would go with Commissioner Galo's suggestion of having a longer two-year sunset period and then reassessing once we come up with guidelines here in January. And this --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: If you come in January and you can reduce that, you would recommend -- you will let us know?

DR. J. HUNTER REED: On either side. Either --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Either side, reduce or extend.

Okay, Jeff?

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Look, I'm fine with that; but I want to be very clear. In January, you will come back with specific recommendations on when a surveillance zone or a containment zone will be taken off.

DR. J. HUNTER REED: Yes, we will show up in January with those criteria.




CHAIRMAN APLIN: Crystal. Hunter, thank you.

MR. LOCKWOOD: And also being very clear that those recommendations as far as time period or numbers will be very different for West Texas versus say the Duval County area where you have very different -- big differences in deer density, hunter harvest, et cetera.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Yes. Everyone here understands that it's dependent on the situation. We all the get that.

So, Commissioner Galo, I believe that I could possibly take a motion about accepting what's on the screen, including movement restrictions, mandatory, two-year sunset and we acknowledge that when staff comes back in January, that we may address that sunset. But I think Commissioner Hildebrand is willing to give in to your suggestion. I don't know if that's the right term. He's willing to cooperate for your suggestion.

COMMISSIONER GALO: Please, don't (inaudible).

CHAIRMAN APLIN: No, I understand. But, I mean, you bring -- y'all both bring up great points.

Okay. Will you make a motion for me?


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay. Can I get a second.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Abell second.

Anymore discussion from Commissioners?

All those in favor signify by saying aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Any opposed? Hearing none.

I want to make a comment for the Duval County landowners. This is some of the most vibrant discussion that we've had in a long, long time about this. Thank you, Mr. Schatte, for the efforts. Thank you, you know, Jim and the other people that have come in and been involved, brought this to our attention. I think we had a great discussion. I know it's not what you want, but I hope you realize that it's a serious a disease and we're making every effort to minimize the burden while still maintaining and trying to protect your property, the resource, and everybody's property with CWD. So thank you very much.

We're going to take a minute break and let everybody kind of clear out, catch their breath, and then we'll be right back for Item No. 7 -- Item No. 8, after a few minute break. Thank you.

(Recess taken)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay, that cleaned out the room. We're going to get started back on Action Item No. 8. Commissioner Hildebrand had to leave, and it had to leave with Action Item No. 7. He just a prior commitment and time's run away from us.

So we're going to start with Action Item No. 8. I seen Shaun's already up and -- to speed things along. This is the Statewide Hunting Proclamation Correction of Error, Squirrel Season, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. Good morning -- good afternoon, Shaun.

MR. OLDENBURGER: Good afternoon, fellow -- Chairman and fellow Commissioners. For the record, my name's Shaun Oldenburger. I'm the Small Game Program Director in the Wildlife Division. Staff are recommending adoption of a proposed change to the statewide hunting proclamation. As you stated, this is a correction of error.

We did do an expansion of squirrel hunting across the state in May of 2021. Unfortunately there was an error in transmitting information to the Texas Register. Traditional opening day, this year it's October 1st for East Texas, counties was omitted and so staff are recommending correcting the error to be consistent with the intended hunting regulations.

No citations were issued as a result of omission. And looking at the public comment, as of this morning we did have seven commenters. All were in full agreement. So with regards to this, staff are recommending that the Commission adopt the proposed motion: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts amendments 31 Texas Administrative Code Section 53.15 concerning license permit and boat and motor fees, 65.221 concerning depredation permits, and the repeal of 65.91 -- oop, I've got a different slide in here. I apologize for that. Shoot.

MS. CLARK: (Inaudible).

MR. OLDENBURGER: No, I know. It's my error.

James here. Do you have the appropriate recommendation that I could possible read?

Sorry about this Commissioners. My apologies.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: No problem, Shaun.

MR. MURPHY: Is this the right one? Right?

CHAIRMAN APLIN: You've got to get it right for the squirrels.

MR. OLDENBURGER: Yep, we've got the right one here. Sorry about that.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts an amendment to 31 TAC Section 65.46 concerning open seasons and bag limits as listed in Exhibit A, with changes as necessary to the proposed text as published in the July 8th, 2022, issue of the Texas Register. And that's what I get for playing with the One Drive lately.


We have a recommendation from staff. There's no one signed up to speak. Do I have any comments from Commissioners? If not, I would take a motion and a second.



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

(Chorus of ayes)

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

Thank you, Shaun.

Action Item No. 9, Cormorant Control Permit Repeal Rules, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. Welcome.

MR. OLDENBURGER: Good morning, Chairman and fellow Commissioners. For the record, Shaun Oldenburger, the Small Game Program Leader. Today we're in front of you for recommended adoptions to the cormorant control permits.

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service issued the Public Resource Depredation Order in 2003, which allowed the Department to issue private landowners depredation permits on their private ponds. This was approved by the Commission in August of 2020 -- '24[sic]. Allowed TPD to have subcommittees. Unfortunately there was litigation due to NEPA and the judgment occurred in May of 2016, which actually vacated the Public Resource Depredation Order and the other associated depredation orders along with this on Double-Crested cormorants. And so, therefore, the Department really has no authority to issue any of these permits at the given time.

And so currently, staff are recommending to repeal Section 65.901 to remain consistent with federal regulations and staff continue to engage the United States Fish and Wildlife Service on the importance of private landowner rights in Texas, aquaculture issues, and private property damage due to cormorants in Texas. Craig Bonds and myself sit on a number of committees and concurrently do this to the Central Flyaway Council and various committees at AFWA.

With regards to public comment, as of this morning we did have nine public comments. So that was eight to one and 89 percent agreement with the proposed change by staff.

And, therefore, staff recommend that the Commission adopt the following proposed motion: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts the amendments to 31 Texas Administrative Code 53.15 concerning license permit and boat motor fees, Section 65.221 concerning depredation permits, and the repeal of 65.91 concerning cormorant control permits as listed in Exhibits A through C, with changes as necessary to the proposed text as published in the July 8th, 2022, issue of the Texas Register.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Shaun. It's a sad day for cormorant control. But it left us in 2016, didn't it?

MR. OLDENBURGER: Yeah, it --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: We're just updating, but we lost this opportunity in --

MR. OLDENBURGER: Yeah, it's a clean-up we lost that capability in 2016.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay. Commissioners, any questions/comments? Nobody wants to speak on this. If not, accept a motion and a second.



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

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Anybody opposed? Hearing none, 9 passes.

Action Item No. 10, Implementation of Legislation during the 87th Texas Legislative Session, House Bill 1728, Relating to Partnerships between Texas Parks and Wildlife and Nonprofit Entities to Promote Hunting and Fishing by Certain Veterans, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. Hello, Shaun.

MR. OLDENBURGER: Hello again. For the record, my name is Shaun Oldenburger. I'm the Small Game Program Director in the Wildlife Division. Today we're seeking -- staff are seeking recommended adoptions to implement HB 1728, which is a partnership to promote hunting and fishing by veterans with nonprofit partners and Department.

So the Department may select one or more nonprofit partners and as related to language within HB 1728 by Smithee. Selection must be approved by the Commission. Hunt or fish, it basically gives these veterans the opportunity to hunt or fish without a license if accompanied by a licensed representative from with the official nonprofit partner that is selected.

The Commission have the authority to, one, establish criteria for selection of nonprofit partner and guidelines for the partner to engage in the activity for veterans.

After discussion internally, staff recommend the following the fooling guidelines: A three-year partnership for resident veterans; private lands and/or public waters for these opportunities to occur; all TPWD regulations apply, including but not to limited to means, methods, daily bag limits, et cetera. And currently staff would solicit the partner to apply online through an RFP process.

For staff recommendations for the criteria for the partner and the fair equitable selection process for the veterans, public notice of the opportunity -- for example, on social media -- that includes TPWD's website and no cost to the participants and participants' names, addresses, and proof of veteran status must submitted to the Department. Now officially the partner must give the name and addresses of the representatives, harvest logs, annual report, and does not exempt them from other requirements. For instance, if they were going duck hunting, it wouldn't exempt you from the federal duck stamp.

And to date, as of this morning we had three the comments. All this favor of this recommendation by staff. And, therefore, staff are recommending that the Commission adopt the proposed motion: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopts the amendment to 31 Texas Administrative Code 51.168 concerning promotion by nonprofit partners of hunting and fishing by military veterans as listed in Exhibit A, with changes as necessary to the proposed text as published in the July 8th, 2022, issue of the Texas Register.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you. Shaun.

We have a recommendation, Action Item No. 10. No one signed up to speak. Commissioners, any comments? If not, I'd accept a motion and a second.




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

(Chorus of ayes)

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

Thank you, Shaun.

Action Item No. 11, Acceptance of Donation of Land, Bexar County, Approximately 6 Acres at Government Canyon State Natural Area. Jason, good morn -- good afternoon.

MR. ESTRELLA: Thank you. And good morning, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Jason Estrella with Land Conservation Program and our first real estate item is the acceptance of an approximately 6-acre land donation at Government Canyon State Natural Area located in Bexar County, northwest San Antonio.

The natural area is approximately 12,000 acres. It's a karst preserve for (inaudible) and supply of freshwater with the Edwards Aquifer and it also protects thousands of acres in the aquifer's recharge -- recharge zone. It's a really more popular state natural area, with approximately 75,000 visitors annually.

Department staff seeks to accept the donation of two tracts comprising approximately 6 acres adjacent to the state natural area. Acquisition of these subject tracts would allow greater protection over the recharge zone and extend the buffer of conserved land between the SNA and the expanding development of the surrounding area.

The subject tracts are located in the north/northeast portion of the park. The property map shows the two subject tracts in yellow, with a little green belt drainage bisecting the two. We have received two public comments, both in support. No additional details.

Staff recommends that the Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorizes the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to accept the donation of approximately 6 acres of land for addition to the Government Canyon State Natural Area in Bexar County. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Jason.

Commissioners, any questions/comments? No one is signed up to speak. Hearing none, I will take a motion and a second for Action Item No. 11.




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

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Any opposed? Hearing none, 11 carries.

Action Item No. 12, Grant of Utility Easement, Rusk County, Approximately .2 Acres at Martin Creek State Park. This item has been withdrawn.

Hello, Ted. Action Item No. 13, Request for Drainage Easement, Aransas, County, Approximately .2 Acres Goose Island State Park, Mr. Ted Hollingsworth.

MR. HOLLINGSWORTH: Chairman, Commissioners, good afternoon. My name is Ted Hollingsworth, for the record. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. This is essentially a housekeeping item at Goose Island State Park.

Goose Island State Park is on the lower coastal bend of Texas. It includes a roughly 150-acre island called Goose Island and about another 500 acres of -- on the mainland. Intensely populated park, even though it's only 643 acres. We see about 200,000 visitors a year. It's just a very popular destination for bird watchers, both resident shore-wading birds and Neotropical migrants during the migratory bird season. And it's a great destination for fishing. There's a terrific fishing pier out there and boat launch. Just a really popular destination. There's RV camping spots, tent camping spots. And again, for a relatively small park, extremely popular park.

Immediately north of the park is the community of Lamar, which kind of straddles Lamar Peninsula. Lamar Peninsula has drained through what is now the park for centuries and as the community of Lamar has grown and more and more houses have been developed, the Drainage District, the County Drainage District has worked very closely with park staff to maintain the natural drainage across what is Main Street now and through the park and into the bay.

As -- again, as the number of houses increases, the frequency of runoff events increases and the county desires to work with the staff even more closely to make sure that that storm water can drain through the park and minimize flooding in the community of Lamar. And, again, we've always had an extremely cooperative relationship with the District.

In working together on a site plan, we find that there are three drainage points shown by those red -- those red rectangles on this map. But what we'd like to do is manage that water, not just make sure it leaves the community of Lamar; but as it flows through the park, it keeps ponds and marshes hydrated which are extremely important to those birds and to the other wildlife in the park. What we did find is that -- is that we only have a drainage agreement in place for one of those drainage swales and just in the interest of formalizing that relationship and making sure it's appropriately papered, staff recommends that we go ahead and enter into an agreement into a drainage easement with the Aransas County Drainage District so that we -- again, so that they have the right for that water to flow naturally into the park and so that we have an agreement with in place that we'll work cooperatively not just to get that water out of the community of Lamar, but to manage that water in the park for the best use of the natural resources of the park and to the advantage of park visitors and so forth.

And, therefore, the staff recommends that you adopt the Commis -- the resolution there you have attached as Exhibit A. I'd be happy to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Ted.

Questions/comments for Ted?

No one has signed up to speak. If no questions, I'll request a motion and a second.



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

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Anybody opposed? Hearing none.

Thank you, Ted.

Briefing on Item No. 14, Status of Mountain Lion Regulations. Hello, Jonah Evans. Please make your presentation.

MR. EVANS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission. For the record, my name is Jonah Evans. I'm the Nongame and Rare Species Program Leader within the Wildlife Division. My position oversees research and conservation efforts for 1,295 species of greatest conservation need in the state. And prior to this position, I handled the mountain lion duties for the Agency for about ten years.

Today I'll be providing an update on mountain lions in Texas. My presentation will cover previous policy debates, past research, current policy efforts -- I'm sorry, current monitoring efforts and status, elements of a recent petition, and formation of a stakeholder working group.

Mountain lions go by many names, including puma, cougar, and panther. This sometimes creates confusion, but they are all the same species Puma Concolor. Mountain lions are the fourth largest wildcat species in the world, behind African lions, tigers, jaguars, and are the largest native cat that occurs in Texas. Adult mountain lions usually weigh between 65 and 140 pounds in the state and they are generally tan in color and despite the folklore, there has never been a documented black mountain lion.

Their range can -- or their home ranges can be up to 500 square file. That's 320,000 acres in Texas. And they're quite elusive and often fairly solitary and their diet consist primarily of deer, elk, javelina; but can also include smaller animals such as porcupines, raccoons, skunks, coyotes, et cetera. Mountain lions are considered a highly adaptable generalist and occur in a wide variety of habitats across North, Central, and South America. They have the largest distribution of any native land mammal in the Americas, shown here in red, and in the U.S. are primarily found in mountainous regions in the west.

They were mostly eliminated from the eastern half of their historic range in North America by early settlers, shown in yellow, and while absent from large parts of their historic range, they continue to inhabit many regions and their global conservation status is considered secure. In Texas, their population rank has been calculated as vulnerable to imperiled; but more data are needed to be sure.

Mountain lions in Texas are classified as a nongame species. Now while a hunting license is required for the take of nongame species, there is no closed season, bag limits, or possession limits, and they may be hunted at any time by any lawful means or methods on private property. There are also no trap check or harvest reporting requirements.

While classification of the species as nongame is assigned -- as -- I'm sorry -- as game or nongame is assigned by the Texas Legislature, Parks and Wildlife Code establishes that the Commission may establish regulations for nongame wildlife that they consider necessary to manage the species.

Mountain lions in Texas are unique -- I'm sorry. Mountain Lion regulations in Texas are unique in the U.S. So the 16 states with mountain lion breeding populations, 13 classify them as a game species, two as fully protected, and one -- Texas -- as nongame. In the states that allow hunting, there is typically limited harvest seasons, bag limits of one to two lions per year, regional harvest limits, protection for kittens and females with kittens, and restrictions on the use of foothold traps. It's worth noting though that Texas has less public land than most, but not all of these other states.

Texas' approach to mountain lions has drawn attention several times in the past. In 1971, two bills were introduced to the State Legislature -- one to designate mountain lions as a game animal, and the other to provide full protection -- neither of which passed. In 1991, public concern was raised due to the killing of three mountain lions in East Texas after their absence this part of the state since the turn of the century. This led the Sierra Club to file a petition asking for greater protection for the species. Their request was ultimately denied; but the Department, at the time -- I'm sorry, as the Department at the time believed that the trend of voluntary sighting reports from the public indicated the species was expanding in numbers and in range. However, the Department did agree to continue to track voluntarily submitted reports and to initiate two research projects: One in South Texas, and one in the Trans-Pecos.

There's limited research on mountain lions in Texas, as studies on elusive animals with large territories that range across multiple private lands can be difficult and costly. Also competing priorities for more imperiled species limits the amount of available research funding. There are the two proj -- the two projects that were funded by the Department after the 1991 petition concluded in the 1990s. The South Texas project resulted in a 1997 dissertation through Texas A&M of Kingsville. The study took place on private ranches and the Nueces River watershed and measured a variety of variables such as home ranges, habitat use, diet, and some adult disbursal. During the three-year study, seven of the 18 lions collared were taken by people, mostly hunters, and some concerns were raised that the high mortality and low productivity of females may limit the population in South Texas.

The Trans-Pecos project was considered by Department bio -- I'm sorry, was conducted by Department biologists on Big Bend Ranch State Park and the report was published in 1999. This project was similar to the South Texas project. Lions were collared and home ranges and causes of mortality were measured. Genetic work during this study suggested that the West and South Texas mountain lion populations were distinct and all 16 of the lions collared during the four-and-a-half-year study were taken by people during or shortly after the project ended: 15 by trapping and one by firearms.

The other projects -- I'm sorry. These two projects are the only recent survival studies on mountain lions directly funded by the Department. However, there are a few additional studies worth mentioning. In 2002, a master's project at Texas A&M University of Kingsville examined public attitudes regarding mountain lions in Texas. They targeted both urban residents in city centers and rural residents in counties where mountain lions occur.

They found that 84 percent agreed that mountain lions are an essential part of nature. 74 percent said effort should be made to ensure their survival in Texas and 35 percent thought there should be no hunting allowed. 49 percent wanted hunting only with a season, and 16 preferred the year-round open season currently in place.

In 2011, a PhD project -- again, at Texas A&M of Kingsville -- concluded -- which compares historic and modern mountain lion genetic samples. They found that historic samples revealed a 10 to 20 percent decline in genetic diversity for South Texas and the authors state that the effective size of the Southern Texas population declined greater than 50 percent, whereas the size of the Western Texas population remained large and stable over time. Their findings suggest that the South Texas population is relatively isolated, with little inflow of lions from other areas, and as a result is lacking genetic diversity.

I will add that the term "effective population size" is a fairly complex population genetics’ term that can broadly be interpreted as the estimated number of individuals that participates in producing the next generation.

In 2012, a study from the Borderlands Research Institute entitled "Characteristics of Two Mountain Lion Populations in Texas," examined mountain lion densities in South and West Texas. South Texas averaged 1.1 mountain lions per 100,000 acres and West Texas averaged 1.7 per 100,000 acres. These densities were considerably lower than those reported from neighboring New Mexico, which ranged between three and 8.5 mountain lions per 100,000 acres.

Lastly, in 2016, the Borderlands Research Institute conducted a -- I'm sorry, published a report on research they conducted in the Davis Mountains. They collared 21 mountain lions from 2011 to 2014. An analysis of over 200 kill sites found that diets consisted primarily of elk, deer, feral hogs, and javelina and also they estimated that just 54 percent of the population survives each year. They report this is among the lowest measure in the United States.

So today the Department continues to record mountain lion observations reported to the Agency from the public. It's important to note that most reports submitted to the Agency that include a photo, turn out to be other species misidentified as mountain lions and for this reason, we now maintain record of observations we are able to confirm with physical evidence such as photos, road kills, or the voluntary harvest reports.

These reports are displayed here for the last ten years at the county level. The primary breeding populations are in South and West Texas. Note that mountain lions occasionally -- especially young mountain lions -- occasionally travel very large distances, which likely explains many of the counties with a single observation. This data provides useful information on the distribution of mountain lions in the state; but even though they are confirmed reports, they are not suitable for tracking population trends. This is because many factors influence how many reports are received, such as an increasing number in -- of people in the state, COVID lockdowns, Agency outreach efforts, and mountain lion news events.

So past studies were necessarily restricted in geographic scope due to private land access and high costs associated with mountain lion research, limiting our ability somewhat to make statewide inferences. In the absence of reliable statewide date -- statewide data, we are relegated to making informed, though somewhat coarse guesses, about the current status of mountain lions in the state.

The Trans-Pecos population appears to be persisting, with harvest rates varying by landowner. While research in Big Bend Ranch State Park and the Davis Mountains reports heavy harvest and low annual rates of survival. The continued persistence of these populations suggests they are supported by immigration from neighboring source populations, such as Big Bend National Park, Mexico, and New Mexico.

Note that due to their large territories, studies have indicated that it is unlikely that practices of an individual landowner, even by West Texas standards, are sufficient to establish source populations. Studies in the Trans-Pecos reported that trapping was a primary means of take and mortality.

Genetic data indicates that there is some reason to be concerned about the South Texas population. Low genetic diversity suggest a declining population with little immigration from other areas. Hunting was the primary method mountain lions were harvest in the South Texas study and breeding populations in other parts of their historic range in the state are probably small and fairly uncommon.

So on June 13th, Texans for Mountain Lions, a group that describes themselves as a coalition of landowners, hunters, biologists, and organizations dedicated to the conservation of mount -- of the Texan[sic] mountain lion, submitted a petition to the Department. The petitioners expressed concerns about the lack of population data, status of the South Texas population, and ethics around some trapping and hunting practices. The petition specifically calls for four regulatory changes.

The first is a request to establish mandatory harvest reporting. They point out this is required in other states that allow mountain lion harvest and is used as a source of population data. The request of 36-hour trap check requirement, the group expressed concern that trapping mountain lions without a regular trap check interval could result in unnecessary suffering and impacts to nontarget species such as black bears. They asked for a regional limit of mountain lion take in South Texas to five per year until the Department establishes -- determines the population size. The petitioners raised concerns that the South Texas population may not be able to sustain current harvest levels. Finally, they request that the Agency prohibited -- or prohibit canned hunting of mountain lions. Canned hunting of lions is current legal in Texas and while it is unclear if this practice continues with any regularity, the group requests that it be prohibited.

The petition also includes two non-regulatory requests. First, they ask that the Department conduct a statewide population study and that the Agency form a stakeholder advisory group to collaborate with TPWD to write a mountain lion management plan for Texas.

Beyond the petition, members of Texans for Mountain Lion have undertaken several other public outreach efforts. The Texas Nature documentary "Deep in the Heart" contained a segment on mountain lion policies in the state. The film concludes with a call for viewers to visit a website where a petition can be signed and so far the Agency has received over 1,600 form e-mails in support of this petition.

Two members of this group for mountain lion researchers submitted an article for publication in the Wildlife Society Bulletin entitled "It's Time to Manage Mountain Lions in Texas." In this article, they review all five Texas studies that measured adult sur -- female survival rates -- pictured in the graphic here on the right -- and compare these rates to those of increasing and decreasing populations of previously measured studies in western states. And they conclude that the rates in Texas are in the range where populations tend to decrease.

The group also initiated a public opinion survey through a professor at Texas A&M University. The survey had had 1,069 respondents, indicated on this map. Similar to the last public opinion survey in 2002, the survey found general support for more mountain lion than regulation than currently exists. Rather than surveying the general public, the survey targeted specific stakeholder groups, including rural residents, agricultural producers, and hunters, with 31 percent reporting to be landowners.

While the survey was a statewide effort to understand the opinions of these stakeholder groups, there were few responses from areas of low population densities, such as the Trans-Pecos and border regions where mountain lions most commonly occur. The author does note that assessing the perspectives of residents in these counties where mountain lions are -- sightings are most frequent will be challenging.

So understanding the limitations of the survey, a few relevant results include that 70 percent agree that efforts should be made to ensure the survival of mountain lions in Texas. 71 percent felt harvest of mountain lions should be reported to public officials. 60 percent said there should be a statewide management plan that monitors the abundance and distribution of mountain lions across the state. And when asked if mountain lions are trapped, how frequently should traps be checked, 76 percent said daily or every 36 hours and 1.1 percent said there should be no trap check interval.

Agency staff have reviewed the petition and recommend a denial of the specific regulatory actions to allow time for adequate stakeholder engagement and input. There were concerns that the mandated deadlines accompany a petition would be too restrictive considering the complexity of mountain lion policy and the need to fully engage most impacted stakeholders. Staff recommends formation of a stakeholder working group to provide feedback to the Commission and we recommend including affected landowners, land managers, academics, subject matter specialists, and representatives of key stakeholder groups.

Oh, I was right.

So thank you for your attention during the presentation. At this time, staff are seeking direction and guidance from the Commission and I'll also be happy to take any questions that you may have.


This item is just a briefing. It's for discussion to give staff some direction. If I understand what the process is, you read through what was requested. Staff recommended denial because to give us time to go research this, bring together stakeholder working groups, and give us a little more time to do a better job. So I don't think the denial is, no, we're not going to do anything. It's to give us some time to figure it out, correct?

MR. SMITH: Yeah, I think that's a fair characterization, Chairman. I think we also felt like that there were other representative stakeholders that needed to be at the table and part these discussions. You know --


MR. SMITH: -- yesterday was a pretty good encapsulation of that in terms of the variety of opinions and perspectives about it. You know, obviously inclusive of the group that submitted the petition. But others need to be brought to the table as well for this.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: So I think what we're looking for with the direction is that, you know, yes, we should form -- we should do a better job of reaching out and familiarizing ourselves, bringing together some stakeholders, do a good job of making sure it's well representative and then get back together on this discussion after we've done that. So staff just needs a direction.

So any comments from Commissioners on giving staff direction on stakeholder working group to provide feedback to the Commission? Y'all all good with that? Okay?

All right. Then as I say, this isn't a vote item. So we would like to direct staff to do just that: Formation of stakeholder working group, provide feedback to come back to us at the appropriate time, as soon as possible.

MR. SMITH: Okay. That's what I wanted to ask, if there was time constraint you wanted to put on it. I hear you as soon as possible. So you want us to try to come up with a reasonable timeframe by which we could come back --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Yeah. I mean, I think the timeframe's important. I think --


CHAIRMAN APLIN: -- this important to a lot of people.

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: We have a lot of things going on; but, yes, as soon as --

MR. SMITH: Okay.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: -- as soon as we can do a good job, let's get back together and discuss this further.

MR. SMITH: Fair enough. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: I guess I do have a question. Maybe just asking you personally. Do you think the direction -- or do you think there should be a distinction made between a South Texas mountain lions and West Texas mountain lion or do you think your studies are just going to treat all mountain lions the same?

MR. EVANS: Commissioner, I would agree that the South Texas and West Texas populations are fairly different. I think the needs of landowners in those areas are also quite different. And so if a management policy of some type was developed in the future, I would recommend that those populations be treated -- treated differently.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: And then -- then I'll ask: Roughly, where do you draw the line between the South Texas population and West Texas population?

MR. EVANS: Personally?

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: I'm not going to hold you to it.

MR. EVANS: Right. And I don't know that there's an official line that's been drawn. Personally I have -- for lack of having an official line, I've drawn it Val Verde County as including Val Verde County as West Texas and everything east of Val Verde County and south of Val Verde County as being part of the South Texas population.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: I personally agree with that, by the way. Not that anyone cares. That's all I have.


Any other Commissioners? Any other comments?

If not, let's please proceed and let's get back as soon as we can.

MR. SMITH: Okay, great. Thank you, Chairmen.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Carter.

MR. EVANS: Thank you, Commissioners.


Briefing on Item No. 15, Oyster Management Strategies Update, Mr. Robin Riechers. Robin, how are you?

MR. RIECHERS: Good afternoon, Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Robin Riechers, for the record. And as we indicated, we basically are going to brief you on the two working groups, the restoration and regulation working group, which I believe Carter also shared with you we were developing at our May meeting. Whoops, I'm sorry.

So in addition to creating the working groups, we also developed a charge and basically the umbrella charge is develop recommendations for supporting, promoting, and providing healthy and sustainable oyster resources and a viable fishery in Texas. So not only the resource, but also the fishery itself is encompassed in that.

We had two meetings to date of each of the two working groups. You heard some from some of our testimony yesterday about the products of those meetings. But how I would characterize those products so far is really we've had a constructive and productive dialogue in both of those groups and look forward to continuing with that.

I'm going to show you here on the screen the members of the regulation working group. We really tried to represent the groups you heard from in March. Certainly we've got some certificate of location holders, which you heard from yesterday and today. And as I designate these people as certificate of location holders, some of those are also oyster dealers, just like members of recreational fishing interests and they belong to several organizations; but that's who represented themselves when they talked to us in March.

So we tried to get some folks from the Galveston area. We also tried to get folks from that Port Lavaca pocket area there that we heard so many people from in March. You see the recreational fishing interest there. And then we also got some of our other nongovernmental organization groups and Harte Research Institute to participate as well.

So the charge for the regulation's working group, again, we had the overall charge; but we really dig down into that, a lot of what we heard. We basically heard this notion of looking at additional closed areas for seed reef purposes and ecological protections and so certainly that's one of the kind of core charges of the group. The other one is alternative strategies to increase fishing opportunity. Are there ways as we look through time, long run and short run, to increase those fishing opportunities? And certainly transplants was mentioned this morning and Carter indicating we would be coming back to you on that issue and that maybe an increase in a fishing opportunity. And then lastly, there are ways to think about changes that would lead to more fishing days in the current seasons, but while maintaining the current biological and ecological protections.

And certainly as we've all talked about oysters over the many recent years and certainly we heard a lot of this at our March meeting as well, there were even some more drilled down concepts that we can just run over here and those include, again, as I said, expanding use of ecological metrics. That's one of the things, tying that to the reopening of some of the closed areas that we've closed in the past or during those in-season closures that we have. Considering those management approaches to lengthen the season, which I also just discussed. Considering less destructive harvesting methods because we certainly know other states -- we have a range of dredges that are used here in the state, all within the construct of what legally is allowed; but there are differences and we can look at that as well. Other states use some other things. I will say we really -- the group has not really spent much time on that at this point in time. We certainly plan to address more.

Obviously, we heard that we really do have -- and do have some agreement on -- reducing the overall fishing effort because we really have -- we are in an overcapitalized industry where we have too many vessels chasing too few oysters at this point in time. Obviously, all of that could lead to reduced user conflicts. We had talked also about redistributed that fishing pressure, which we know does -- obviously, we have a very, very mobile fleet that can move from Galveston to Aransas Pass/Aransas Bay very quickly and that's certainly been part of the issues that we've been dealing with as we've had to close some of these areas.

And then lastly, consider expanding the certificate of location or the lease/private lease concept, which is only in Galveston Bay, and is there ways to consider doing that to incentivize people to get into that and maybe remove some of the fishing pressure off the public reef areas.

Next, I'll turn to the members of the restoration workgroup and much like the other group, we wanted some of those industry members, both small and large, represented. So also had Tracy Woody from Galveston and Jose Herrera from Port Lavaca there, had that recreational fishing interest that had supported restoration in the past and then we really have some members of the restoration community that was really working informally with us before because these are -- these are practitioners of restoration that I have listed below. Mostly -- certainly Texas Nature Conservancy, the Wildlife Federation at the national policy level, Palacios Marine Agriculture Research is kind of new on the scene, but they want to think about ways to increase and enhance restoration. Galveston Bay Foundation has a history of restoration. And Texas Sea Grant we included here because we really believe they can help us when we thinks about getting more people involved and getting local communities involved in our restoration efforts.

So in this case, really it was ways and approaches to increase the effectiveness of oyster restoration and we believe those discussions should include and are including what are our priority restoration areas, how do we identify those, and certainly both our own team here at Parks and Wildlife and the Harte Research Institute team has created some tools that will help us determine really habitat areas that are degraded and that we need to focus restoration on.

There's also issues regarding permits and permitting. We both have to get permitted through the General Land Office and the U.S. Corps of Engineers and so are there ways to streamline those permitting issues through time and certainly some of our partners can help with that.

As we've talked so many times, obviously restoration is an expensive aspect of oyster management and, you know, we have to look to additional outside funding sources to allow us to do that and so what are those potential funding sources, where can we find them, how can we maybe partner and leverage together to do that. And then lastly, but not certainly least, what are the best restoration methods, how to involve the local community in that planning and restoration as well. And then certainly in the same kind of vein as the comments about certificate of location before, are there ways to bring that certificate of location concept here, again, with the notion of reducing fishing on the overall public reef fishing.

So first I'll report to you some common areas of agreement and I think you even heard this in some of the testimony yesterday. There certainly is support for the license buyback program. While we haven't had the same level of participation in the oyster program, we've seen that support in the past or level of participation in the past and allow us to reduce effort over time in those either shrimp, crabs, and finfish and we still believe there's opportunity here in the oyster fishery as well and, of course, Carter mentioned the 3 million dollar exceptional item request yesterday being added so that we can maybe basically jump start this and get it moving a little bit quicker.

There's also support for a strategic approach to oyster registration. And when I say strategic here, it truly is what we just talked about before: Identifying where those key areas are, which one should we focus on first, which ones -- and with differences in types of restoration, which types of restoration do we apply to which areas? And so we certainly look forward to continuing to work with this group and the local communities in doing that and we believe we can do that.

One of the things we also recognized around the table and certainly I think industry maybe recognized as well, is that our funding sources have dictated what we've had to do in the past and certainly that is still the case. Some of our funding sources do not want those reefs to be harvested in the near term and so, therefore, we typically look to those to put them in either non-harvestable areas or to create some sort of reef where they would not be harvested due to the material we use and certainly, you know, we'll continue to work with those groups that are funding us on getting as much of that into harvestable areas; but there's going to be some of those literally that we just need to focus in other areas. They still provide the ecological benefits. So we get all those benefits, they just won't be harvested.

There's also recognition that some of the discussion we've heard from our certificate of location holders or our lease holders, they do basically a maintenance restoration, as I will call it, where they basically try to -- they'll come back in really on an annual/biannual basis and put some amount of shell down. They're not trying to restore the reef completely back like some of the really degraded reefs that we may tackle and go move toward with; but they're trying to get enough shell up there on top to get that spat set and we believe there is place for us to have a conversation with industry on that and to really try to work towards that more collaborative relationship, especially with some of the House Bill 51 money that they're putting forward for this. So we think there's an opportunity there as well.

Lastly, certainly there's support for continued exploration of this certificate of location usage. Though I will say some of our members in the restoration community, after really understanding more the dynamics and the statutory language around certificate of locations, may be less enamored with that than they once were; but we keep it here. It is a point of agreement that we should continue to still explore that.

So next I'll go to an issue where we may not have as agreement as we had on some of those areas, but certainly on the first point here in the closure of areas. There is a recognition and there certainly was a recognition that restoration areas may require different temporary closure periods, depending on both the funding source and the project goals. And, of course, we've been approaching you with temporary closures for two years when we're doing our restoration in harvestable areas to get two spat sets and often two years do that, assuming we have good spat set. But if we reach an occurrence where we don't get a good spat set, we may come back to you and ask for a third and certainly we've done that with a TNC reef before you sometime back and, frankly, we're going -- in another slide will tell you that -- we're going to come back and be asking for that on another project soon.

The unfortunate aspect and certainly some of the driver of these workgroups getting together was the March Committee Meeting where we had the discussion and the proposal to close Carlos, Mesquite, and Ayres Bay and we certainly did not reach any new alternatives there or reach a consensus on whether to close or not. I certainly believe the camps basically stayed respectively where they were at that March meeting.

What I can say that we did get some agreement on was that if we do close, there would be some desire for monitoring of that closure in that particular area. From some of the individuals though, we did hear that we didn't want an arbitrary sunset date. That without ecological metrics, it would just be an arbitrary date and that we should use that maybe to develop some of those the ecological metrics that we could look at in the future. And then certainly the other camp basically suggested that we have no more closures at all. And, of course, you heard it yesterday as well. Some individuals are now suggesting that if you close it to oyster oystering, you close it to all other activities: Recreational fishing, any sort of boating in the areas. Basically make it a complete sanctuary in some ways.

So on that notion of Mesquite, Carlos, and Ayres, I did want to just take a moment to update you on some things that basically, because we finished the season, we could now update you on. And so you've seen this graph before. The reason why we've pulled just Mesquite Bay is it's the -- it's the area where it solely includes Mesquite Bay in that department of State Health Service area and so when they say they're reporting from that area, we know without a doubt that's where those landings should have come from. And so when I last showed -- showed you this, we had data through the end of November. There were about 120 vessels that had worked the area at that point in time and reported landings; but by the end of the season, we had 145 vessels working that area. And I might add, of course, that area closed -- that Mesquite Bay area closed on December 21. So in that short period of time, from November to December 21, 145 vessels worked that area and reported some level of landings.

This is also a graph you've seen before. Originally, I think we showed it to you in January depicting the shift from the Galveston Bay area that you see there. If you look at the scale 2000 -- 2002 to 2008 or so, obviously hurricanes, freshwater inflow events, et cetera, which I've shared with you before, we basically went from an almost 90 percent production out of Galveston Bay of our oyster production to now it's in the range of 30 percent, along with the other bay systems.

But more importantly, I had you focus last meeting or in March on the San Antonio Bay/Aransas Bay and you saw the peak there in landings from both Aransas Bay and San Antonio Bay. You saw those going up there towards the end of the scale in '18 through '20 and '21 is what they're showing you and now I'm going to show you what occurred in 2022.

So in 2022, unfortunately San Antonio Bay continued to decline further. Aransas Bay also started a decline from that peak production and while it still made up a considerable amount of the overall landings when you think about it in terms of percentage, both of those reef systems are now showing some declining landings.

Okay. This is also a graphic that I've shown you before. Basically the new part of this -- and I'll direct you to it. This basically is explaining that three bay system, a little over 1,200 acres that were -- or close to 1,200 acres that were included in that proposal for closure, representing 2.8 percent of the coast-wide oyster habitat. And, of course, when I shared that with you in March -- January and March -- indicated that was 9.6 percent of the coast-wide landings based on the three-year average from 2019 to 2021. There you see in 2022, that -- those areas now accounted -- or in 2022 they accounted for 30.4 percent of the total coast-wide landings. I will remind everyone that Ayres and Carlos, because of the way we have to break those Department of State Health Service's areas out, we basically have to proportion landings by the overall reef acreage in those Department of State Health Service area and so those are estimates that we place into those two bay systems here. But, again, even before it was 9.6 and now last year it was 30.4, it certainly speaks to the level passion that you heard from all sides on that issue in March.

So our next steps, obviously as you see here, we certainly haven't come forward with recommendations at this time, neither short term nor long term; but we do -- because of the productive conversations, we want to continue working with those groups. Certainly as we begin and really continue working on the restoration group, really that's a longer term set of issues; but we will start to work on that strategy to how to characterize those most important places because, frankly, very soon we have to start the permitting process for the reefs that we may want to start restoring in 2024. So we've got to begin that work with those communities and those fishers in those communities, as well as those restoration practitioners that we listed there and others if they want to come to the table.

We're also going to begin from a Parks and Wildlife perspective our sampling to determine which areas will remain open and/or be closed as the season begins in November. And so our staff will be out doing that very, very soon. As I mentioned before, we will probably be approaching you again about those restoration sites. We do have a restoration site that we've already put culch material in. We're looking to basically close it for that two-year period to get those two spat sets, and then it would reopen. And I've also been told that the Nature Conservancy, because one of their sites hasn't performed as well as they would like it to given some of the heavy rainfall events and so forth, they would also like us to approach you about extending that two-year closure by one year as well.

And then lastly as Carter had mentioned, we opened a buyback round basically last week. We've got a deadline due of all those applications back to us by September 30th and so we will be entertaining those applications and we'll look to determine if we get any applicants that we can purchase and we'll seek those. Certainly we're looking to try to get the word out on that as well and with some of our workgroup members, we hope to maybe reach some folks that, for whatever reason -- we're sending mail to everyone; but, for whatever reason, may not have been wanting to participate and maybe they will look at that a little more closely now.

And so lastly I just -- because restoration is such an ongoing activity and it's really been part of what we do here in the last really seven or eight years extensively, I wanted just to bring that to. Josephine's Reef there is 25 acres in the San Antonio Bay system and that's the one that we will probably be approaching you about regarding a closure for two years.

Also the CARES Act money, we received money through Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, through the federal government with CARES Act. Basically it was to go to people who could prove a loss during the first COVID year. It was up to about a 30 percent loss over that year they had to prove. Anyhow, long story short, we had money left over. With that money, we're trying to transfer that over and into oyster restoration. We're working with NOAA now to do that. We believe we have their approval to transfer it, but we're looking at sites that might end up being in Galveston, Matagorda, or Aransas Bay systems. Just recently, we also announced that the Natural Resource Damage Assessment Deepwater Horizon second draft -- or second restoration plan was approved by the trustees and with that, there will be 50 acres of non-harvestable reef in the Galveston Bay system. That notion of sanctuary reefs trying to feed those other reefs is how the Natural Resource Damage Assessment team is looking at that and that restoration should begin in 2024.

And then lastly, our team working with some of the team members that you saw earlier, both from HRI and Nature Conservancy, are also looking -- there's a grant program out right now with NOAA and we're working with those partners on a grant application. And the way that program is designed, it's really to think about this network of small, non-harvestable reefs and so we're certainly leveraging our partnership to see if we can't obtain that be grant or grants in that perspective and also get some oyster restoration out of that.

With that, I would certainly be happy to answer any questions. I know y'all have heard a lot about oysters already in the last two days, but I'd be happy to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Robin. I've got a few questions. It looks like -- Commissioner Patton, why don't you go ahead.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Okay, Patton I've got kind of two questions. One, was there any discussion -- if there was, maybe I missed it -- on the tracking the vessels? And then my second question is also going to follow-up on the public comment yesterday from the -- I guess the aquaculture oyster farmer that wanted, you know, maybe to split out -- you know, that -- what was -- what was the -- her difficulties -- they wanted to be able to take the oysters and harvest or something back on land as opposed --


COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: -- to the navigable boat issue because of the confined space.

MR. RIECHERS: Yeah. First, let me address the vessel monitoring system issue because it came up this morning as well. Certainly we haven't dismissed that issue. That issue did come up in our discussions. And, again, I'm giving you the 10,000 foot level today. I wasn't trying to get completely granular on all those discussions. But, you know, that is a tool that we can use and certainly it was authorized by House Bill 51. You heard some of the estimates of cost there today. That's the cost to the vessel. There's also a cost of IT related issues that would have to come into Law Enforcement here to make that a tool where they could use that as a track -- a tracking device basically as a tool that allows you to see where those vessels are and for closed area monitoring, it is a great tool. There's no doubt.

There may be some challenges to it inside of bay systems. A lot of those when they've been used in other places, they're used out in more open water. I'm not saying they haven't been used in closer water, but a lot of the instances I know have been more open water in the Gulf and you have longer periods of time in that transit. But certainly that's a tool that we will continue to look into and as Carter suggested, we'll bring back more options with that.

The second thing you mentioned was, of course, the mariculture individual in Galveston 234 Ms. Kaplan we have been in contact with Ms. Kaplan and have had several discussions with her. Basically this issue more comes down to a Department of State Health Service's issue and the time and temperature matrix that you have to handle oysters under. So that as those oysters come out the water when they're harvested -- and we refer to harvest when they come out of the water -- she then wants to take them her dock and sort and then she wants to take the market ones out of that and call that harvest. That certainly is not how the current rules are written. We certainly want to visit more with her about that, along with the Department of State Health Services and Law Enforcement. We think there's going to be issues with the time/temperature matrix there in that what is required after that is that they have to be placed back in the water for a two-week period so that they can depurate to ensure they're cleansed so that basically no one is harmed from a health perspective. And so -- but we are trying to work with Ms. Kaplan and have those conversations.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Bobby. That's a good point. You know, the people that are makings the investment and actually doing the oyster, you know, farming, if you will. Look into it. I mean, we need to protect the safety. But if we can make it a more operable business for them, it makes all the sense in the world if it can work.

I've got a question or two. First of all, will you elaborate a little bit what was mentioned many times yesterday, will you talk to the Commission about the red light/green light concept?

MR. RIECHERS: Yep. Yes, Chairman Aplin, I certainly will. So the red light/green light concept, of course, came into being in around -- I mean, I think it was authorized in 2013; but we really started using it in 2014-15 season. And before that, we had had many years where we would go by and at the end of the season, whether it was a law enforcement individual, whether it was someone in the oyster community, whether it was a recreational stakeholder interest, would say they're fishing our reefs to a point where, you know, we're just not going to having anything left. They're degrading our reefs.

And so that was put in place with a notion that what we would do is have the ability to make those in-season closures and the way we now -- the metric we now use is when market oyster are on the reef and they're 67 percent reduced from a 2014 mean average that we chose at the time, when they reach that point, we go in and we close those reefs. And that sampling is done by my teams going out, creating a random sample of where people are fishing, and then trying to basically take those samples, bring them back, process them, and then we go through the process of closing or not closing, depending on what those samples say. So that's how it got started. And then there's a threshold of opening as well and basically the threshold is the same 67 percent above the mean, so that you basically will get to a higher level before you open so that you don't end up just opening and closing all the way through time.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Do we feel like the red light/green light is still a good tool for us?

MR. RIECHERS: It certainly provides a floor of -- basically a floor that protects the oyster resources both from a habitat perspective and as well maintaining a certain amount of oysters for the next year and so we think it's a good tool still. We're certainly looking at it and we will continue to look at it and we'll continue to have dialogue on is there ways we can improve that tool. And some of the ways people have talked about improving the tool is to keep the tool, have enforcement do the counts. Some of the other ways that we've heard is to use the trip ticket system to be the monitor of that instead of us sampling.

There's issues with both of those, both from a law enforcement perspective and their ability to do that both from a time and cost perspective; but I'm not saying that that's not a possibility. There's also some possibility of thinking about it from a landing system, but the current landing system would not provide that information in a timely enough manner. So I think --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: It sees to me we need to maintain the ability when they get overfished. I knew this at one time. I don't remember. But one of those reefs -- Ayres, Mesquite, Carlos -- you know, 30 days or something from opening we had to close it.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: And so we have to be able to react fast. I just wanted to kind of explain the process. It came up. But as you work through that, we obviously, you know, we have to maintain the ability to get in there quick and protect the resource before it gets too far gone.

MR. RIECHERS: Yep. Well, and your point was, yes, certainly Mesquite closed December 21st. So only, you know, 50 days in the season and that three bay area, all of it was closed by January 19th, so.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: I have another question I wanted to make sure I understood because the graph was sobering if I understood it right. Ayres, Mesquite, Carlos, I heard you say 1,200; but it looks more like the 2,200 acres? 21 something?

MR. RIECHERS: Yeah. If I misspoke, I'm sorry. Yes, it --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Carlos, Ayres, Mesquite, 2.8 percent of the coast-wide oyster habitat and you came to us in March and told us that the three-year average, it was 9.6 percent of the coastal landings and now you're telling us it jumped from 9.6 to 30.4?

MR. RIECHERS: In 2022, it was 30.4 percent of the total landings. Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: And we closed?

MR. RIECHERS: And we closed.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: You know, that's un -- that's not sustainable. To go -- that's just -- to go from 9 to 30 percent, only being 2.8 percent of the entire reef system habitat that we have and we were closed. Okay. I was hoping I misread that.

The next steps on restoration, you have some plans on Galveston Bay. Another hard graph to look at is the graph that shows where harvest came in the good old days what Galveston Bay produced. Do we have any hope of getting back to the glory days of Galveston and the production it did?

MR. RIECHERS: Well, we have hope. But as you've heard me state many times, we lost 8,000 acres overnight and so -- so -- and we've done most of our restoration there. Emma, correct me if I'm wrong, about 1,200? 1,200 --


MR. RIECHERS: -- acres roughly is what we've done in restoration to this point this time. So we have -- we have a long way to go and certainly possibly some of the discussion we're having with the industry and some of our other partners, there may be ways to speed that up. Certainly we're going to be looking to do that if we can. But, you know, the industry changed pretty rapidly overnight.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: The 1,200 acres you restore, are they being fished?

MR. RIECHERS: Most of that would be fishable acres because certainly most of that is what we got from the hurricane or Harvey dis -- Hurricane Ike disaster relief and that had to be dedicated to fishable reefs.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: But its production 2022 is very minimal?

MR. RIECHERS: Yeah. Certainly -- and as we all know, the 2022 season was so greatly impacted by the freshwater events that we had in March. And so, you know, certainly I hope that Mr. Valentino who was before you yesterday is already saying that 2023 is going to be banner year. He's not saying it for this year, but he's saying 2023 and I hope he's the absolutely correct.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: So the task force are working and that seems like all we can do at this point. We'll wait on to hear from them; but very hopeful that we can get some compromise, get some good direction. It appears that the hunger for oysters and the resources are -- the trends are going against us.

MR. RIECHERS: Certainly. Certainly, Chairman. We've described that situation across the Gulf before and certainly we're the -- we're really the game left in town in the Gulf right now, along with Louisiana. I don't want to dismiss Louisiana. But they have some issues with some of their diversion projects that are long term and probably not going to get better anytime soon.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: All right. Any other comments/questions from Commissioners?

COMMISSIONER ABELL: Commissioner Abell. I just had a quick one. The gentleman that spoke yesterday about recreational oystering, I'd like to sort of hear a little more about that. I mean, personally -- unless there's a reason not to -- I'd be fine with supporting some sort of recreational oystering within 300 feet of the shore, so long as it's, you know, wading, kayaking, poling, you know, something that's not damaging to the reef system.

MR. RIECHERS: Certainly. Let us take a look at that. He had brought that issue -- he had called us and talked to us about that issue and we knew he was going to be here yesterday. And no doubt about it, when that all occurred in 2017, recreationalists were included and I think we may have gotten some testimony. We can certainly take another look at that.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, James.

Anybody else? Anything questions? Any comments? Anything from staff? Peak now or forever hold it.

Okay. Mr. Smith, this Commission has completed its business. I declare us adjourned at 1:30 p.m.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Good job, everybody. Thank you.

(Commission Meeting Adjourns)

In official recognition of the adoption of

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


Arch "Beaver" Aplin, III, Chairman


Dick Scott, Vice-Chairman


James E. Abell, Member


Oliver J. Bell, Member


Paul Foster, Member


Anna B. Galo, Member


Jeffery D. Hildebrand, Member


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


Travis B. Rowling, Member



I, Paige S. Watts, Certified Shorthand

Reporter in and for the State of Texas, do hereby certify that the above-mentioned matter occurred as hereinbefore set out.

I FURTHER CERTIFY THAT the proceedings of such

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

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my

hand and seal this Turn in date _____ day of ________________, ________.


Paige S. Watts, CSR

CSR No.: 8311

Expiration: January 31, 2023