TPW Commission

Work Session, August 24, 2022


TPW Commission Meetings


August 24, 20223






CHAIRMAN APLIN: Good morning, everyone. Thank you for coming. Welcome to Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Meeting Wednesday Work Session August 24, 2022.

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







CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you. We obviously clearly have more than a quorum. We're missing Commissioner Bell and Foster. Thank you, everyone.

This meeting is called to order August 24, 2022, at nine oh -- at 9:12 -- I apologize -- 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 the Open Meetings Act. I'd like for this fact to be noted in the official record of the meeting.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Carter.

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

Before I get started, I want to announce that Work Session Item No. 15, which is a Grant of Utility Easement, Rusk County, Approximately .2 Acres at Martin Creek State Park has been withdrawn from today's discussion.

First order of business, approval of minutes from the previous Work Session held May 25th, which have been distributed. I'll need a motion and a second from a Commissioner.




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

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Opposed? Hearing none, motion carries.

Work Session Item No. 1, Update of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Progress in Implementing the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Land and Water Conservation/Recreation Plan. That's a mouthful. Carter Smith.

MR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. Good morning. For the record, my name is Carter Smith with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. I appreciate the chance to share a few words this morning on a variety of topics that are germane to that plan and the direction for the Agency.

Just as is customary, you know, I'll start with Internal Affairs. Not -- really not a whole lot to report there, other than Mike and his team continue to perform all of the duties that they have of which there are many very admirably. As a reminder, as we approach the end of the fiscal year, Mike and his team will prepare an annual report which will summarize the extent of their activities, be they investigations or training or outreach or continuing education and so forth. We expect to have that to y'all probably the end of September, early October. So we'll make sure that you have that and that will be a good time to follow-up on that front with any questions.

We do have a couple of staff recognitions that I want to highlight and want to high -- or start with this one, with Tom Lang from our Inland Fisheries team who received the Meritorious Service Award from the American Fisheries Society. That's the professional society of acts and emissions and industry biologists, state and federal agency biologists, nonprofit biologists that work in fisheries biology, fisheries management, fisheries conservation and this is one of the highest honors that a biologist can receive across the country. So it's a great feather in Tom's cap. It's a great feather in Inland Fisheries team's cap. It reflects his, you know, over two decades of leadership and service not just in his home state in Kansas, but particularly in his adopted state of Texas and he's done a terrific job when he was a district biologist for us up in Wichita Falls.

He led an amazing public/private partnership to revitalize Lake Wichita, the namesake of that community, organizing philanthropic interests and business leaders to rally around revitalizing that lake which is the centerpiece of that -- of that town and obviously fisheries was just one part of that effort. He now, of course, heads up our Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center and there's no better ambassador, no more tireless advocate -- Chairman, as you know -- for that center to lead our modernization of that incredible place and Tom leads on so many fronts at the national level on fisheries habitat and so forth and just really, really proud of him and honored that he received this honor. It reflects really well on the Department. So kudos to Tom.

Speaking of leaders, another one that's no stranger to all of you is Cody Jones. Of course, our Assistant Commander of Boating and Water Safety. Cody's been leading on those fronts across the country. You'll recall he was the past President of the National Association of Boating State Law Administrators, received their highest national award in recognition and he recently completed the FBI National Academy, which again, is quite a feather in his cap and ours. Only a tiny fraction of senior law enforcement executives are invited to participate in that ten-week training academy. We've had a number game wardens that have gone through that; but it's, again, a very selective process to be admitted.

He recently completed that ten-week academy and just brought back a wealth of experience and training and network and education, which will serve him and our state and our department really well. So proud of Cody, Chad, for that and proud of the team for making sure that he was nominated and to no surprise, he was selected to participate. So kudos to him.

On a more somber note, this month is the two-year anniversary of the passing of three of our most beloved and dedicated colleagues -- Dewey, Brandon, and Bob -- who as all of you will recall, perished tragically in a helicopter accident out at the Black Gap Wildlife Management Area while serving -- surveying Bighorn sheep. And, you know, obviously their lives are lost; but their spirits most certainly are not and there's not a day gone by in which somebody in this Department is not thinking about them and who they were and what they stood for and what they gave to their home ground and this state and this department and the lands and wildlife which they held and loved very, very dear.

I want to thank John Silovsky and his team for putting together really an extraordinary memorial out at Black Gap to honor their legacies and memories. And Chairman Aplin was able to come out in June Chairman Morian as we joined our team out west, the families of these men, their closest friends, our neighbors as we remembered them with great fondness and obviously sadness as well. Dana Younger from our Exhibits team helped to design this memorial and it's so fitting there in the desert floor looking up at those sandstone mountains which those men lived and worked in. You can see the life-size replica, the 3-D replica of a Bighorn sheep skull and the bronze plaques and the little bio brief of those men and their visages and a little bit about who they were and what they stood for. It was a very, very poignant day as the Chairman can attest; but a very special one and I invite all of you when you're out in far West Texas to get over to see Black Gap for the special place it is, but also to take a moment of respite and repose to remember three of our finest who gave their lives doing what they loved and we're very honored to honor them and their memories and I'd be remiss if I didn't think the Parks and Wildlife Foundation, Texas Bighorn Society, the Risen Foundation, and Chairman Aplin and Chairman Morian who helped to make this memorial possible. It meant a lot to all of us and I know I can speak for John in saying thank you for that.

Looking -- looking forward, August 15th marks the time in which we launched the sales of our new hunting and fishing licenses for the 22-23 year. We do that in advance of the state's national holiday, the opening day of dove season, and so there's a lot of excitement around that. As you will recall, thanks to some legislation that we worked with Representative Krause on and with the support of the Commission, we're launching the new digital tag pilot program for those licensed buyers that hold super combos or senior super combos or lifetime licenses. And this gives those purchasers an option to purchase a digital tag and maintain digital proof of their licensure as opposed to the paper copy and the paper tag.

So, for example, if they're hunting in an area in which they're going to be or have the opportunity to harvest a deer and it's not a Managed Lands Deer Permit ranch or a turkey or harvest an oversize Redfish, instead of using the paper tag off the license, they can now use through the downloaded My Texas Hunt Harvest, sync that up to your license, digitally report their harvest, get a confirmation number, scribble that on a piece of duct tape, wrap that around the turkey or the deer -- you don't have to do that on a fish -- and you're done and it's terrific.

Interestingly what we have seen so far in the first, let's say, eight or nine days of the sale of licenses is about 18 percent of those that are eligible have opted for the digital tag option. So I think that's a terrific adoption rate in the first year. We've really gotten almost universal effusively positive feedback. We had one negative feedback come in last night from a gentleman who was at Academy who had the senior super combo and he doesn't like this. Of course, he doesn't have to buy it. And so -- but -- but others have just been ecstatic about it and we're excited to see it roll out. So I hope some of you will make use of it. It's a really exciting modernization of the license program and a lot of folks worked on this. Way too many for me to mention. All of you in the Department know who you are and I'm sorry I'm not calling you out by name, but it was a lot of people pulling the sled from a lot of different divisions and really proud of their work. Robin helped to help orchestrate and lead that charge of the team and, anyway, really proud of the effort. So excited about that development.

It's the time of year, believe it or not, in which, you know, all things State Legislature are starting to get more serious as we prepare for the upcoming session in January and now is the time of year in which kind of the first round of the budget volleys start and specifically with the submissions of Agency legislative appropriations requests and I'm going to give a very high level, not a granular by any means, overview of what our planned submission is and I'll talk a little bit about the protocols and expectations of the Legislative Budget Board, the base numbers that they give us in terms of state numbers that we use to try to build our base budgets and then what we also ask for to be funded within the base budget and if we can't do it there, as exceptional items. So things above and beyond the base.

Customarily when the Legislative Budget Board provides the base budget authority for what we are expected to have to spend in the upcoming biennium, you know, they'll typically start it somewhere around generally a little bit less, never above 100 percent of the level in the current biennium. So we're starting a little bit south of that and I'll explain that in just a minute, but that's typically where they start. Again, anything that we can't propose to fund within the base budget, but we want to ask for special funding for, those are called exceptional items and we have five of those that we are proposing.

The due date for this is at the end of the week. Although we've notified the LBB that we're going to probably ask them just to flex a little bit on that deadline because we only recently got our base numbers and we need a little bit more time to finish things up. So they've been notified of that. We do have a hearing, Reggie, coming up on the 30th of September, if I'm remembering that correctly. It's a Friday morning and that will be with the Legislative Budget Board staff and staff from the Speakers and Lieutenant Governor's Office and Chair of House Appropriation and Senate Finance. So obviously we'll keep you posted on that front.

This is what we're starting with in state funds: $766.6 million over the biennium. So that's a two-year total. That's inclusive of just state money. It doesn't include federal dollars, which come into the budget, donations, mitigation-related revenue, and other sources of revenue. Y'all know that there are dozens of those that fund this Agency, but these are the two biggest parts. You'll see it stratified in the general revenue and general revenue dedicated with roughly 60 percent coming from general revenue and 40 percent from general revenue dedicated. The GRD, think about that as the Fund 9 dollars. The hunting and fishing license, boat registration, boat titling, and license sales and then a variety of other upland game bird stamp, saltwater stamp, et cetera. That's what would comprise that amount.

The general revenue is a little misleading because it's not general revenue. It's the constitutionally dedicated sporting good sales tax. So this is really the revenue that the voters voted to dedicate and have appropriated to support state and local parks. So I think it's always important to remind everybody that the people that pay the bills of this Department are the people that use and enjoy the outdoors. They're hunters and anglers and park enthusiasts are the ones that help pay for all the important work that goes on inside the -- inside the Agency and that's what we see reflected -- reflected here.

One of the things that the Legislative Budget Board will customarily look at -- and their approach can sometimes vary, depending on the biennium -- is whether or not one--time nonrecurring special items in the current budget, that authority to spend that money for one-time nonrecurring items will carry over in the proposed base for the next biennium. And so there's several of those that, in this instance, the Legislative Budget Board made the decision to reduce that spending authority from the proposed budget for the next biennium. They reflect the first three bullets. You will recall that in the current biennium, we have six and a half million dollars of authority to purchase a second helicopter for our Law Enforcement Aviation team and we'll be talking more about those assets in just a minute; but that authority was removed from the budget. And then these dedicated grants, one for the State Railroad and one for the Center for Urban Ecology which is a grant that was give to the City of McAllen for their World Birding Center site down there, that authority was removed.

If there was one that I have to say certainly caught me off gourd and I was surprised by this decision, it was the removal of ten and a half million dollars of authority in capital transportation funding to fund essentially boats and trucks and trailers for our non-law enforcement field-related divisions. I think it goes without saying that, you know, trucks and boats are like, you know, cell phones and computers. We've got to have them. They're integral. They're essential to the work that our biologists and field team do, as well as program staff here. They're recurring. We've got to be able to plan on replacing those on some kind of a reasonable schedule, which we do because of the wear and tear and the frequency by which we utilize those vehicles. And to my knowledge, that's the first time, Reggie, that that authority has been extricated from the budget at this juncture. We inquired about that and were told that we could ask to reprioritize funding within the base budget to cover those needs or we could ask for it as an exceptional item. Just because it is so integral to what our teams do and need, we propose prioritizing that in the base budget because I don't want to send the message that this is something that's ancillary or superfluous to what the Department does. I mean, it is critical for our work. But I will say of all these, that one probably caught me the most by surprise.

So let's talk a little bit about what the -- kind of the proposed things that we would like to see and are proposing to see funding in the base and I'm going to talk about this again at a very high level. These are priorities that within our base level authority we are proposing to prioritize and fund. Of course, all of this is contingent on legislative approval. To back up just a second, after we submit our Legislative Appropriations Request, after we have a hearing, the Legislative Budget Board will formalize their recommendations for agencies. They typically release those end of January and that provides the starting point for discussions about budgets during the -- during the session and then obviously we end where we end, depending upon what the legislature approves.

But here are the priorities that we, within our authority, are wanting to cover. Again, cover the operating costs of our divisions, whether it's Inland or Coastal Fisheries or Wildlife or State Parks or Law Enforcement, you know, as close to 100 percent of their operating base right now. As I had mentioned before, we have proposed to prioritize authority so that we can buy boats and trucks and trailers for our non-LE related teams. Capital construction/major repair, you've heard us talk a lot about that deferred maintenance need, you know, particularly in state parks; but not just in state parks. And the reason in the base that it looks so skewed right now towards state parks is because, you know, the sporting good sales tax is constitutionally dedicated. It has to be appropriated. The legislature can decide where they want to appropriate it within certain buckets, but it has to be appropriated and so we're proposing that about $80 million go into deferred maintenance and capital construction needs. Our request for Fund 9 capital needs within the base would have been higher but for the need to address that transportation issue. So one of the exceptional items does cover capital construction and Fund 9 and I'll talk about that in just a minute.

Inflationary cost increases, everybody in this room is experiencing them in life and at work and within their businesses. Obviously we're not immune from that 9 percent CPI bump that we've seen through June or July over the last 12 months and so we propose, obviously, to increase the operating budgets for our teams to account for some of those pressures.

We've talked a lot with the Commission about our biggest Achilles heel from a staff recruitment, retention, moral perspective and that has to do with employee compensation. So we're proposing to build in a very significant increase in employee compensation. It's calculated on an 8 percent increase across the board. Although the divisions obviously will be given flexibility as to how they want to pinpoint expenditures of those to maximize their recruitment and retention related opportunities and challenges. But we're proposing to take a big bite there and obviously with the hopes too that the legislature may be looking at something holistically for state employees.

State park police, Schedule C, this is long overdue. You know, our state park police officers have the same duties, responsibilities, training, education requirements. They go -- same authorities. They go through the same academy as our game wardens. And we have worked steadily to increase the pay for our state park police officers, but save and except really state park police officers during their first four years of service, the salaries start to diverge and that's not right. Our state park police officers are there. Their duty stations, you know, are multiple parks; but they serve on the border. They help with the emergency response and disaster relief. They assist the local SOs, work side by side with our game wardens and state troopers and so we are proposing very formally that our state park police officers be moved up to the same strata, the Schedule C, with our game wardens, DPS troopers. So that's be big part of this.

Chronic Wasting Disease, that one doesn't need any explanation, save and except that we're proposing to invest some funding to leverage significant Pittman-Robertson funding to invest in more seasonal employees to help with sample collection across the state, to fund permanent positions at the Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Lab at A&M to help with the lab processing related needs that they have, to add regional health specialists and biologists out in the field, help fund some additional research and so forth. So those funds will be very, very well leveraged with federal dollars to help with the important risk mitigation and disease containment efforts that we have.

Land conservation is an important part of our base funding requests, particularly inside the state parks side of things. Although you'll see an exceptional item for Wildlife. I'll highlight one of these, Fairfield Lake State Park. That's an 1800-acre property that we have and have had since the 1970s. It's been under a no-cost lease thanks to Luminant and their predecessor interest before them as the Big Brown Mine was operating and Lake Fairfield was used as a, you know, cooling lake. And Vistra Energy, which now is a controlling entity of Luminant since they've shut down the Big Brown Mine recently -- well, they informed us a couple of years ago that they were going to be selling the property. We had made a proposal to try to buy the state park site. They opted to pull all of the property up for sale and we have been told recently that it is under contract to an entity, likely a developer, that is likely not going to have an interest in renewing the state park lease. So we are proposing funding that if minds can be changed, I would hate to see us lose a state park during the centennial celebration of the state parks. So we have that, along with other buffers and expansions that we need to be thinking about inside our state parks. So I wanted to call that to your attention.

Our boat registration and titling system, that's, as Jamie will tell you, is an antiquated software system that desperately needs modernization and updating and so we have a big chunk of funds that we're proposing to address that. Got to replace PCs. We need a new research vessel for the coast. And y'all heard a terrific presentation on the R3 Plan and we've added some staff that we need to secure permanent funding for as they help to lead those efforts. So those are a number -- there are a number of other things, but I wanted to hit some of the highlights just to give you a flavor of the things that we're looking strategically to have funded in the base besides kind of the core, day-to-day, everyday important work that our teams do.

Items that really we don't have the latitude or expenditure authority right now within the base to fund, we have prioritized these five exceptional item requests and I'll go through those. At the top of the list are our Fund 9 capital construction and repair needs. And it's worth stating that, you know, we have all these huge portfolio of assets inside our state parks. We also have this huge portfolio of assets that, you know, are encompassed by our eight fish hatcheries, our 51 wildlife management areas, our 26 law enforcement offices, our game warden training centers. We've got shooting ranges and dormitories and perimeter/interior fences and hunt check stations and headquarters and visitor centers and boat docks and pipes and pumps and roads and you know name it that are also old. And so we're proposing to invest through this exceptional item request $32 million in much needed repairs and prioritize things that Andrea has been working with our Fund 9 teams to identify.

Our second exceptional item request has to do with purchasing a fixed-wing aircraft for the Agency, as well as getting us on a regular schedule for the replacement of our patrol vessels. We currently have one functional helicopter. We have authority to purchase another one, which we are in the throes of doing. So that will give us two helicopters that we'll have. But you will recall earlier this year when thanks to the Herculean efforts of our pilot who experienced a mechanical flight failure over downtown Austin and was able to crash-land a plane in Lady Bird Lake right over I-35, we now have no planes. So we have no fixed-wing aircraft for all of our fish and wildlife law enforcement surveillance, the contract work that we do for TCEQ, all of the work that we do out in the Gulf patrolling the flower gardens and the commercial fishing fleets, boat -- or law enforcement border related functions and emergency response. So this exceptional item, we're asking for two fixed-wing aircraft. We've had two fixed-wing aircraft in the past. We now have none. Those are critical to our law enforcement and statewide Agency operations. So we're asking for two of those, and then as well as the authority to purchase 40 replacement boats a year. You know, roughly 30 percent of our boat fleet is in excess of 15 years old and about 10 percent is over 30 years old. And so these aren't pleasure craft, right? I mean, these are boats that are used every day on the water for some kind of water safety, boater safety, law enforcement, border security. So they get a lot of wear and tear and we've got to get them on a regular replacement schedule like we do -- like we do trucks.

The third item is oyster license buyback program and Robin will give a presentation tomorrow on the work that the Coastal Fisheries team has been doing with various stakeholders in and around that complex issue on our bays. I suspect we'll hear from some folks about oysters during the Public Hearing. If there's one thing that everybody seems to agree on, that a more robust oyster license buyback program is in order.

You'll recall that we have a limited entry, but more of those licenses have been activated. More of that pressure has been concentrated in certain areas and not unlike what we're able to do with the bay and bait shrimp licenses, being able to offer to purchase licenses from willing sellers is something that we say think help will relieve some of that pressure and conflict over time.

The next-to-last item will be a request for 10 million for a new wildlife management area along the mid-coast. This has been a major need that's been identified by the joint venture and our waterfowl and wetland biologists to provide more roosting and resting areas, foraging areas in that mid-coast. I think maybe a couple of counties inland from the coast itself in that rice prairie country where there's a lot of traditional waterfowl/wading bird wetland and also waterfowl hunting and a real strong interest by the waterfowl hunting and conservation and biological community to help expend some of those migratory game bird stamps for a new WMA and that's something that we'd like to see to help strategically expand our conservation and recreation goals.

And then last, but not least, we are proposing to appreciably expand funding for the Farm and Ranch Land Program. You'll recall that's the purchase of development rights program that we have to buy conservation easements from willing farmers and ranchers to protect critically important agricultural land; but also wildlife habitat, wetlands, aquifer recharge, water quality lands. And we currently only have $2 million over the biennium. Those funds are leveraged eight or nine to one. Huge, huge benefits and we're proposing to add another 8 million to that to make that $10 million over the biennium. And I expect the land conservation community, by the way, to be making a pretty expansive push during the session for more land conservation funding writ large across the -- across the state, just given all of the growth and development pressures and a desire to provide funding for things like this and state park funding and others to help protect some of those things that make Texas Texas. So I expect there will be plenty of conservation about that during the session.

Chairman and Commission, again, that is a really high level overview of the LAR. It wasn't intended to be granular or more detailed. I just -- I really wanted you to know kind of more strategically what we're proposing to address within that base budget and what those exceptional item requests are. Again, we expect to have this submitted here soon, have the hearing with LBB staff at the end of September, and then it will be up to the LBB to come out with the base budget to start the session and the more formal hearings on things.

And so with that, Chairman, I'll stop there and see if there's any questions for me or any of our team.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Carter.

Commissioners, any questions for Carter? Comments?

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: I've got one. So, Carter, the way it works is essentially your previous biennium, you've got a base level budget and so you're able to increase the overall budget by some inflationary costs?

MR. SMITH: Well, no. We're given -- we're given a base number, we're given a ceiling and within that ceiling, we're given the option to prioritize how we spend money. And so what we have proposed to do is reprioritize certain expenditures and, for example, one of the things that we want to do is increase the divisional operating budgets by 5 percent to help offset some of those inflationary pressures. It doesn't get us all the way there, but it's really within the context of a ceiling that the LBB has set and then we're shuffling things around to reprioritize to achieve that. We're not able to increase the budget, per se. With the exceptional items, we can ask for that to be increased; but obviously what the legislature chooses to accept with respect to our proposed prioritization in the base and any or all of the exceptional items will be up to them. Does that make sense?

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: It does. So you've got the exceptional items that are on top of --

MR. SMITH: That's right.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: -- that cap of the operating budget?

MR. SMITH: That's right. Yes.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: And the legislature will either approve or reject those special line items?

MR. SMITH: Yeah, that's -- no, you nailed it, Commissioner. That's right. And for each of these, you know, we have proposed or will propose a funding mechanism to account for those. So, for example, the first four bullets that we have would be funded out of available Fund 9 cash that is there, dedicated cash that can only be spent for certain approved purposes. We just have to have the appropriation authority to do it. And the last one would be a request for nonsporting good sales tax general revenue. So a little more detail than what you asked for, but just wanted to round that out.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Okay. And then last question. Fund 9 --

MR. SMITH: Sure.


MR. SMITH: Yeah.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: -- what Fund 9 capital construction is.

MR. SMITH: Yeah. Fund 9 capital construction. Fund 9, again, is that category of funding streams that are largely hunting and fishing related. So your hunting license, your fishing license, your upland game bird stamp, your migratory game bird stamp. Capital construction would essentially be cap X cost associated with repairing a headquarter's complex or a fence at a WMA. Those kind of things.


MR. SMITH: You bet.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Any other Commissioners, any questions for Carter?

Hearing none, thank you, Carter.

We'll move on to Work Session Item No. 2, Financial Update. Reggie, I think you're up. Good morning.

MR. PEGUES: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Reggie Pegues, Chief Financial Officer. I'll be going over several items today that will be action items for tomorrow, starting with our the FY '23 financial overview. I'll be covering our operating and capital budgets contained in your Exhibits A and B and our budget and investment policies in your Exhibits C and D and also deposit options for a transfer of 50 percent of boat revenues from Fund 9 into Fund 64.

I'll start with our operating and capital budgets. This first slide is a crosswalk from the General Appropriations Act to our initial budget. The first line item is our Article 6 appropriations for Parks and Wildlife. That's 378.6 million. Next we add in our fringe, which is our insurance, retirement, Social Security, as a separate estimate of 63.4 million. Gives us an initial beginning budget of 442 million.

And that initial number will be our beginning number; but throughout the course of the fiscal year, that number will be as adjusted as we update estimates contained in the original appropriation or amounts that we receive in addition to our base appropriation and we have several riders which give us this authority. Chief among them is we have a Rider 23, which allows us to carry forward any unexpended balances from FY '22 to -- into FY '23. So as we finalize expenditures, we will update you on those carryforwards.

Next we have what are our federal funds. Our initial federal funds are an estimate in our original appropriation; but as we get our final appropriation -- final apportionments from the federal government or we have unexpended balances, we will use this provision to bring those funds forward. Our fringe benefits, again, these are for retirement, insurance. Longevity, as those -- as we have payroll expenditures throughout the year, these numbers may go up or down, depending on any type of payroll actions, increases, vacancies.

And the next category we have are other appropriations. These are funds as Mr. Smith mentioned earlier, donations, interagency contracts, third-party reimbursements. One example is we have any additional sporting good sales tax that we collect, we can bring that into our budget. So those -- that would fall under these other appropriations. And as we make these changes, we will update the Commission accordingly.

Moving back to our operating budget, here's the breakout of the 442 million by method of finance. Starting with general revenue, that represents about half of our budget at $216.9 million and about 180 million of that is our sporting goods sales tax, which is a subset of our general revenue. Moving on to our general revenue dedicated accounts, we have Account 9 which is our game, fish, and our water safety at 128.8 million. Mr. Smith mentioned these are funded by our license and hunting fees, boat registrations. Next we have State Account 64, which is our state parks account funded primarily from state park fees at 29 million. The next category would be federal funds at 70.2 million. This consists of our various apportionments, chief of which are our wildlife restoration funds at about 30 million in this base budget and sport fish restoration at about 20 million and, again, these amounts will go up as we receive our final apportionments. The next category is other funds, interagency contracts, appropriated receipts, specialty plates, magazine receipts.

This slide is a view of our budget by object of expense. Expected salary and other personnel costs make up the majority at 44.3 percent, another 14.3 for fringe benefits, general operating at a 103 million, and then our capital budget at 54.8 million, which I'll go into greater detail in a later slide. And then finally we have grants at 27.9 million and these are primarily grants through our Local Parks Program.

Next is a summary -- these two next two slides are a summary by division for budget and FTEs, with state parks making up the largest in terms of both budget percentage at around 28 percent and FTEs at 42.9 percent. And I'll bring your attention to this 3164.9 number, which is our FTE cap. So we typically budget to our cap; but in reality due to vacancies that occur throughout the year, we typically come in under that number. Right now, we're looking at about coming in at 200 under our FTE cap for FY '22 through the third quarter.

This next is our department-wide budget. This is a -- kind of a special clearinghouse account. These are for things that really lend themselves to the other main line budgets. First line item is our estimated federal apportionment. As I mentioned, these amounts are an estimate and as we receive the final numbers, we will distribute this -- these amounts out to the main line divisions.

Next category are payments to the license agents. These are your mom-and-pops, your Academy's, your Walmarts. Next we have an item called our strategic reserve. These are for kind of special initiatives that may occur throughout the fiscal year. And the last item are our passthrough plates. These are plates that we administer on behalf of other entities.

As mentioned, here is a breakdown of our capital budget, 54.8 million. The biggest component is our construction at 30.2 million. Information technology at 6.7, which includes our data center payments and also our PCS refresher embedded within that number. Transportation items at 4.8 million, land acquisition at 3.9, and cybersecurity at 900,000.

Next I'll go into our budget and investment policy resolutions. Neither of these have changed over probably the past decade, but we're required to review them on an annual basis. First is our budget policy, which your Exhibit C goes into further detail; but basically, this authorizes -- Commission authorizes Executive Director to execute the Department's budget. Within there, there is a provision that any adjustments over $250,000 that aren't federal or bond related, require prior Commission approval. Donations, we're lucky. We receive -- we benefit from donations from various individuals. Anything over $500 has to go through the Commission. And this also says that, you know, these funds are authorized for any use permitted by statute or rule. Again, no changes on this policy in, you know, probably over that decade.

Next is our investment policy. As -- this is your Exhibit D, which goes into more detail. But as a state agency, we're required to have an investment officer if we have any funds that are currently outside of the State Treasury. As of -- as of today, all of our funds are within the State Treasury. So we have no need for an investment officer. If that were to change, then Executive Director would appoint an investment officer to oversee these funds. Again, no changes in over a decade.

Next item, deposit options for 15 percent of boat related fees. We have the option to transfer 15 percent of boat related revenues from Fund 9 into Fund 64. We have sufficient balances within Fund 64. So staff would not be recommending this transfer. If such a transfer were to take place, it would be about $3 million for the fiscal year.

And this is the action item that I will be presenting tomorrow for your approval. That concludes my presentation. I'll be happy to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Reggie.

Commissioners, any questions?

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

Reggie, thank you.

Work Session Item No. 3, Physical [sic] Year 2022 Internal Audit Update and Proposed Fiscal Year 2023 Internal Audit Plan. Brandy, hello. Good morning.

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 update you on the status of our current internal audit plan, as well -- as well as recent external audits and assessments and I'd also like to present to you the methodology that we use for our annual risk assessment process and present to you our proposed fiscal year '23 internal audit plan. And then at the very end, I would love to introduce you to my team.

So this slide shows the status of our performance IT and cybersecurity and advisory projects this year. Starting with the performance audits, we completed our audit of selected contracts; but we will be rolling our audit of selected grants to next fiscal year. As far as the IT and cybersecurity projects, the team is currently in the -- at the end of fieldwork for our HR/FR CAPPS cybersecurity audit. They should be starting reporting in the next couple of weeks. We will be rolling the contract clauses advisory to next year. And then as far as advisory projects, I have requested and received approval by the Chairman to remove that property advisory from our plan. The SAO is currently in-house performing a capital asset audit, which is essentially the same thing that we would be doing. So we can remove that one from the plan. And then the other three advisory projects -- the LCP Pipeline easement receivable advisory, the time sheet approval process leave accounting advisory, and the infrastructure change order process advisory -- will all be rolled to fiscal year '23 if y'all approve.

As far as our 20 state -- as far as 20 fiscal control audits, ten of those were for state parks. Those are all complete. We also had ten law enforcement office audits for this fiscal year. All but two are either in the reporting phase or are complete. And then as far as special projects and administrative duties, this last quarter we did complete No. 3 under special projects, the TDI peer review, and we also completed No. 3 under administrative duties, we performed our annual risk assessment and we have developed our proposed fiscal year '23 internal audit plan.

So to recap fiscal year '22, we successfully completed our first year using or new audit software Teammate Plus. We successfully on-boarded five new auditors and so we're now fully staffed. And we completed almost half of our audit projects, despite being understaffed throughout the year -- throughout most of the year.

As far as external audits and assessments, nothing has changed on this slide since the last time we met. We still have two civil rights reviews underway. One with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. One with the Department of Homeland Security. The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program Grant audit is still underway, as is the SAO's audit of capital assets.

As far as -- now I'd like to present to you or discuss next year's proposed audit plan. So Texas Government Code 2102 requires that the audit plan be developed using a risk-based approach consisting of Executive management's review of Agency functions, activities, and processes. Agency risks should be ranked on their probability of occurrence and the impact that those risks would have to our financial, managerial, compliance, and information technology processes and systems.

So our risk assessment methodology does meet the requirements of Texas Government Code 2102. So first we consider are division level risk factors such as recent internal and external audits; time since the last audit; recent turnover within the division, especially within management positions; the division's budget; and the division's contract dollars. These factors combined give us what I call a division level risk score.

Next we identified Agency risks by interviewing all division directors, as well as other selected managers. We also used our audit knowledge in past audits in order to identify Agency risks. And the entire team participated in this process. During our interviews with management, we not only discussed risks within each division, but any other threats or concern outside of their division as well. And so we also identified any issues or concerns they're experiencing with their IT systems and applications.

So for all the risks identified during this process, we discussed and scored the probability of occurrence in the financial, managerial, compliance, reputation, and IT system impacts to our Agency. We input this information into a risk matrix to ensure consistent evaluation among -- amongst all risks. And lastly, so using the division level risk score and the impact scores of all identified risks, we were able to rank and identify what we believe to be the top risks to the Agency.

So from the results of the annual risk assessment, we identified possible audit and advisory projects to address those top ranked risks and we also analyzed the resources needed to perform those projects. Then we sought the insight and advice from our ED, our COO, and the audit committee on which of the top ranked risks -- auditable risks, that is -- should be addressed in next year's plan, given our limited resources.

So today we're here presenting the proposed audit plan to the entire Commission for approval for an action item tomorrow. And this is our proposed plan. So that top line item is basically those rollover projects that I mentioned on Slide 2, plus hours needed to finish up those projects that we're finishing up right now. And then we would like to propose two IT cybersecurity projects. We'd like to do a TAC 202 cybersecurity audit. That's an audit of our IT security program. And we'd also like to do an audit of our patch management processes. We would also like to perform 18 fiscal control audits this next year. We'd like to perform eight over the state parks and ten for the LEO's. And then we'd also like to do an additional advisory project, the Sea Center and TFFC point-of-sale inventory advisory. We also have dedicated hours for our follow-up and for special projects and for administrative activities and one special project I would like to discuss with you that's highlighted on this screen, we would like to dedicate some hours to research and possibly implement some continuous monitoring over the state parks. So right now the way that we select the state parks that we go out and audit is basically we just do it on a cyclical basis. We try to get to every state park every four to five years and it doesn't matter what's going on at that state park. So what I would like to do is try to use data analytics, trend analysis in order to identify the parks that we should be spending our resources at and send them just to those specific state parks.

So the benefits over the current process would be the specific identification of the parks that might have control issues or transaction errors, a more timely correction of those control deficiencies and transaction errors, and then also this project at the end of the day, it may work out, it may not. We may discover that we don't have access to the data or can't get the data or we can't get the data in the right format or we don't have the tools to manipulate the data in order to look at it the way we need to; but at the end of the day, I think this project -- regardless of if it succeeds or fails -- will be a great learning opportunity for my team and for myself. And if it is successful and we are able to extract the data and use it the way I would like to, of course, that will carry over into other projects as well.

And so once again, I just want to put up our proposed internal audit plan for next year and I'd like to recommend that the Commission adopt the following motion: That the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission approves the fiscal year '23 internal audit plan as listed on the previous slide and in your Exhibit A. And we request that this item be placed on tomorrow's agenda for public comment and action.

And before I introduce my team, I would just like to open it up for any questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Brandy.

Commissioners, any questions for Brandy?

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

Now we would love to meet your members.

MS. MEEKS: Thank you. All right. So there's three members that couldn't be here today, but four of us are here today. So first, I want to start out though on the left side of the org chart and introduce you to Paul Gentry. He is our new Audit Lead. He is a certified public accountant, a certified internal auditor, a certified information system auditor, and he also holds his Comp TIA Security Plus designation. He has been performing internal audits for the last 15 years and more recently, he came from TCEQ working with the senior IT auditor for the past seven years at TCEQ.

I actually had the privilege to work with him when I was at TCEQ. So I'm very happy to work with him again. He will be leading our performance and our IT audits.

And so then next, I'd like to introduce you to Che Alaniz. So Che started working for TPWD in San -- in the San Antonio Law Enforcement Office in June of 2021 and he transferred to the Office of Internal Audio on June 1st of this year as our new IT auditor. He is an Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraq Free Veteran who has his bachelor's in criminology and and a master's in computer information systems and security.

He has certifications in Google data analytics. He also holds the Comp TIA Security Plus designation and he's working on becoming a certified information systems auditor. Some fun facts about Che. He's getting married in October, and he is an avid fisherman.

And next I'd like to introduce you to Ashlie Garcia. Ashlie returned to TPWD at the end of March as one of our new senior auditors. She most recently came from the SAO where she gained diverse experience auditing many different state agencies for the past three and -- for three and a half years before coming here. Before that however, she worked for TPWD for seven years in both the State Parks and the Wildlife Division. She holds a bachelor's and a master's in business administration and she is a certified fraud examiner and she is currently working on becoming a certified internal auditor.

And next I'd like to introduce you to Sherise Stewart. Sherise serves as a senior internal auditor and has worked for TPWD's audit shop for over six years. She earned her bachelor's and her master's in business administration from Texas A&M University Central Texas and is currently working to obtain her certified internal audit -- auditor designation. She was a huge help to me when I came on board in 2020 and she has played a pivotal role in helping me implement some of our new initiatives.

When we lost some of our key players last year, Sherise stepped up and volunteered to become one of our teammate champions over our new auditing software. And in addition to leading our state parks and our LEO audits, she has also made time to serve in other capacities for the Agency such as volunteering to serve on our Employee Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council from 2019 to 2021.

And then the other two positions that I have, they could not be here. But one is Kelly Devenney. She joined the audit team on June 1st of this year, and she's been with TPWD a little over eight years. She started her career with TPWD as an office manager at Goose Island State Park and prior to joining the team, she served as one of four state park fiscal control specialists.

Sorry, Rodney.

She has a bachelor of science in management and she's currently attending TPWD's Senior Leadership Development Program. She brings a wealth of knowledge to our audit team about state parks and about the park system and she's going to be instrumental in working with her to implement that state park continuous monitoring project.

And then lastly we have Ian Wilson. Ian came to us at the end of March from the Texas Department of Insurance where he worked for two years as a financial examiner. He holds a bachelor's degree with a concentration in finance and he's a part of our State Parks and LEO audit team.

So thank you so much for allowing me to introduce you to my team and for allowing me to present this morning.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Brandy.

MS. MEEKS: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Work Session Item No. 4, Commission Policies. Mrs. Laura Carr, please make your presentation. Good morning.

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

So the Parks and Wildlife Code requires the Commission to adopt various policies that clearly set out the Commission's policy making responsibilities as separate from the Department's management functions. There are currently 20 Commission policies. Some are required by various statutes, others are discretionary, and they all set out the Commission's intent or position on various subjects in order to provide a basis for consistent decision-making and provide clear guidance on to the Department on its operations.

So in looking at these Commission policies, we've determined that they have not be comprehensively reviewed or updated in a number of years. So TPWD staff undertook that process and they are proposing various substantive and non-substantive edits to the policies. This -- with the primary goals of ensuring that all the content is accurate, clear, up to date, and meets all applicable legal the standards.

So the next few slides contain a list of the current Commission policies. In the interest of time, I will not read each one individually. But as you can see, they address a wide variety of subjects. Everything from Commission Meetings and responsibilities to budget to the role of the Executive Director and their authority in various situations; criteria for naming Department land, features, and facilities; investments; and then alternative dispute resolution procedures, among many others.

So while most of the proposed changes I would say are non-substantive in terms of grammatical, formatting, minor wording tweaks, there are a number of proposed major changes to various policies and so I'm going to just give a general summary of these changes.

First, the proposed edits would allow the Commission to modify open meetings procedures and public comment procedures during disasters or emergencies with -- providing notice of -- public notice of these changes, but without having to formally modify the policy. So as you may remember, we adopted a temporary policy during COVID to address some of the procedural changes and this would allow us to do that without having to go through the formal adoption process.

Additionally, there is clarification on the development and approval process for Commission policies. There are proposed revisions to address environmental policy provisions to be inclusive of cultural resources, as opposed to just natural resources which is the primary focus of the current policy. And also to address the Department's current sustainability efforts.

Additionally, we are proposing to rescind Commission Policy 11, which relates to petty cash processing. The statute that was the basis for this policy in the Parks and Wildlife Code was repealed a number of years ago. So, therefore, there is no longer a legal basis for this policy and the petty cash information is already addressed in other Department policies and procedures.

The proposed edits would also add certain Executive Management approval requirements for certain out-of-state travel for Department employees. It would also add new criteria that the Commission can consider when naming new Department land, features, and facilities. It would clarify when the Department should use alternative dispute resolution procedures in certain scenarios and also allow for an appropriate employee other than the General Counsel to serve as the alternative dispute resolution coordinator. And then finally, it would grant the Executive Director additional authority with regard to the granting and renewing of certain easements.

Amendments to and rescissions of Commission policies must be done through resolution at an open meeting. So this is what we are proposing for action tomorrow. As of now, we have received no public comment on this item. And we request -- oop, there we go -- is that this item be placed on tomorrow's agenda for public comment and action. That concludes my presentation. I'm happy to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Laura.

Commissioners, any questions for Laura?

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

MS. CARR: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Work Session Item No. 5, Electric Bicycle Use on State Park Trails, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register. Good morning, Aaron.

MR. FRIAR: Good morning, Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Aaron Friar, Special Assistant to the State Park Director. I'm here today to request your permission to publish in the Texas Register the State Parks Division's proposal to allow electric bicycle use on state park trails.

Right now, electric bicycles are becoming more popular on trail systems. Not just in Texas, but nationally as well. Our colleagues at the federal level, as well as other state park systems throughout the United States and even the local level are seeing an increased demand in use in the electric bicycles on trail systems. And currently in state parks, the current rule under the Texas Administrative Code is electric bicycles are only -- they're defined as a motorized vehicle and so they're only allowed on roadways and paved systems, parking areas, and not necessarily on state park trails as of now. And so that's something that we have been evaluating and researching and we would like to propose a structured policy that would allow E-bikes on our trail systems.

In order to do that, first we'd like to define what an E-bike is and the definition we would like to use in the Transportation Code Section 664.001, that's going to allow us to define what is and what is not electric bicycle and it also helps define the classifications of the different classes of E-bikes that are available. And once we have them defined, we would like to be able to allow E-bikes on trails; but we would also like to be able to say which trails they are allowed or not allowed and to which classifications which would be allowed on certain trails.

So that's what we're proposing in the Texas Administrative Code; but today, we would like your -- to request your permission to publish that in the Texas Register in order to get public comment and further evaluate this different type of use. So with that, I'll take any questions you may have.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Commissioners, electronic bike questions? Commissioner Abell.

COMMISSIONER ABELL: Just so -- out of curiosity, what is considered to be an E-bike versus like an electric motorcycle?

MR. FRIAR: That's a great questions. So in Transportation Code when they define that, it's based mainly on the wattage and the -- the wattage of the battery that's used. And so they have that defined, as well as it still has to have pedals. It has to be -- still have to use pedals. It has the ability to use pedals.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: I -- Patton. I've got a question. Is there any discussion -- it may be outside of your purview -- but should we look at including WMAs or other Parks and Wildlife areas?

MR. FRIAR: That's a great question, Commissioner Patton. Well, so this proposal is strictly for the State Park operational rules. So I'm not prepared to speculate on WMA and the rules on how it may be used on the WMAs.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: I don't have Transportation Code, but I'd like to actually read that. Could you maybe provide me that?

MR. FRIAR: Sure.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Or make it available just so I don't have to look it up?

MR. FRIAR: Sure, yeah. And so, yeah, I can do that. I can tell you the different classifications now if you would like to know the different classes or we can provide that to you afterwards.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Yeah, I'd like -- I'd like to have it because I can see how that can get pretty muddy and -- but I guess Commissioner Abell's point about the electric motorcycle, they don't have pedals, right? So it -- that's just not even going to be considered. So it's going to be a pedaling bike that maybe you can flip on and never pedal again, but that's going to be okay, I guess.

MR. FRIAR: Well, and actually in our -- in our Texas Administrative Code, we specifically state that bicycles -- or motorcycles are a motorized vehicle and so they are still not going to be allowed on state park trail systems, yeah.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Okay, thank you.

MR. FRIAR: Uh-huh.

COMMISSIONER ABELL: I think you answered it with wattage. But my concern would be manufactured where they throw a set of pedals on something that didn't really need it just to call it a bike.

MR. FRIAR: That's true. And even in Transportation Code, they have to be stamped with -- that it's an electric bicycle with the classifications and that's based on the manufacturers. They have to be able to provide that. So we'll be able to distinguish.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Maybe just a more fundamental question is it's clearly going to increase the usage of these bikes on state trails. I'm not saying that's a negative thing. But are you concerned that now that -- you know, you effectively have a motorized vehicle. I understand it's not. But these bikes are very sophisticated, as you know, and they slap a set of pedals on them and they run just like an electric motorcycle. So anyway, have you looked at the amount of increased usage and the impact it may have on the parks?

MR. FRIAR: Yeah, that's a great question. We've actually surveyed other state park systems that have been doing this same type of policy making to see what their reactions are and what they've been dealing with and there is an increased use. There's going to be more folks out there and that's part of the benefits of E-bikes is to be able to expand opportunities for folks that may not have the ability or the -- they need some extra assistance to get on trails. You're right. There could be an increased use.

But in state parks, we're planning to take a conservative approach. We're really going to keep it minimized to the Class 1 E-bikes and slowly development this over time and monitor it. And we have systems in place where we can, you know, make sure we're checking health and safety and report on that and make our decisions based on as we slowly roll this out. So you're right. We're going to take a conservative approach and we'll be able to react based on that different type of use.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Based on some of the parks that you looked at, what was the percentage increase usage of bicycles now that E-bikes are more prevalent?

MR. FRIAR: Right. So we surveyed other state park systems and what they're going to do and planning for policy. We don't actually have the numbers on the number of increased use because it's still a pretty relevant new technology. There's not a whole lot of data just yet. A lot of other state park systems like us are slowly rolling this out and so data is actually coming in on the number of uses, but there is reports that are expecting E-bikes to quadruple in the next decade in terms of people purchasing and using E-bikes. So it's -- it's -- there is growth for sure.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Okay. All right, thanks.

MR. FRIAR: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: To be clear, what we're proposing or what you're proposing is to publish the proposed the changes in the Texas Register to get comments and circle back and discuss; is that correct?

MR. FRIAR: That is correct.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Because I think these Commissioners are bringing up really good points and I think we've all seen a real increase in the electric bikes and so I do think this deserves some real discussion and thought.

So what we're going to do is we're going to authorize this to be on the Texas Register, but we will see what the input we get out of that and then circle back and talk about it again.

MR. FRIAR: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay, very good.

MR. FRIAR: Thank you, Chairman.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Aaron, thank you.

MR. FRIAR: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Work Session Item No. 6, Aerial Wildlife Management -- speaking of technology -- Aerial Wildlife Management Permit Rules, Request Permission to Publish Proposed Changes in the Texas Register. Stormy, how are you?

MR. KING: I'm doing well. Good morning, Chairman and Commissioners. For the record, I'm Stormy King, Assistant Commander of Wildlife Enforcement for the Law Enforcement Division. I'm here today on behalf of staff to request permission to publish proposed changes to regulations related to aerial wildlife management permits.

In recent years, the expanded availability to the general public of unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly called drones or UAVs, has led to an increased occurrence of their use to conduct activities associated with aerial wildlife management permits issued by Texas Parks and Wildlife. Due partially to the recency -- excuse me -- of the explosion in drone use, federal and state laws particularly in regard to wildlife in many cases make no distinction between drones and manned aircraft.

Along with the popularity of drones, there has also been an increase in availability and affordability of thermal imagining equipment. These cameras are very effective in locating wildlife and other heat sources for various purposes. The combination of the drone with this thermal imagery can be very effective specifically in the management of feral hogs. However, current regulations prohibit permitted activity involving take from occurring at night.

Recognizing the utility of the platform and the absence of an associated resource or safety concern, staff propose changes to the regulation that would allow the use of drones to locate feral hogs to facilitate take by gunners on the ground to occur at night under the provisions of the aerial wildlife management permit. These amendments would also clarify that the drone operator must be in possession of the permit while conducting permitted activity.

And with that, staff requests permission to publish proposed changes to the Texas Register and I'm happy to answer any questions you may have.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Commissioners?

Vice-Chairman Scott has a question.

VICE-CHAIRMAN SCOTT: Yeah, Stormy, you sound like you're having as much fun with this dust and everything that I've had.

MR. KING: Every day until about noon for 30 years.

VICE-CHAIRMAN SCOTT: You made a comment about that a person operating this has to have a permit?

MR. KING: Yes, sir.

VICE-CHAIRMAN SCOTT: So who -- where do they get this permit? From you?

MR. KING: That's thrown in at the end basically, Vice-Chairman, as kind of a clarification. Currently under the current regulations, a person piloting an aircraft is required to have the copy of their aerial wildlife management permit in the aircraft. Obviously, you're not going to have the permit in a drone. So that was more of a clean-up than anything. We're going to put a provision in there that will just say the pilot has to have it in their possession instead of it being in the aircraft.

VICE-CHAIRMAN SCOTT: Okay, thank you.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: So I was not aware. In order to -- well, you can hunt hogs at night, right, without a permit, correct?

MR. KING: Not with an aircraft.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Not with an aircraft. Right, okay.

MR. KING: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: And so this new -- this is a new permitting process wherein if -- or has it existed before?

MR. KING: To use aircraft for that purpose currently requires -- based on our -- under our permit provisions to comply with federal requirements under the Federal Airborne Hunting Act. Basically what we're doing, this -- you know, these rules, much like a lot of things related to drones, were all written years ago before drones were a thing and so our current regulations, when they were written, we're talking about helicopters mostly. So under our state regs, it's illegal to conduct take activity under our aerial wildlife management permit between 30 minutes after sunset and 30 minutes before sunrise. We're strictly trying to allow this -- allow folks to be able to, you know, use these drones for a good purpose and it requires a rule change for it to technically be legal.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: But effectively, you're just spotting the pigs with the drones and then you're shooting them on the ground. You're not --

MR. KING: Correct.


MR. KING: Yes.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: And -- all right. The previous permit contemplated that you would be shooting hogs out of a helicopter at night as a -- right?

MR. KING: Correct.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: So, okay. But this is -- this is up for recommendation? This is not --

MR. KING: Permission to publish. Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Understood. Okay, thanks.

COMMISSIONER ABELL: Commissioner Abell. Stormy, remind me. Where are we today as far as like during daylight hours? Is it legal to use a drone to spot feral hogs with or where is the line between -- you know, I remember we talked about animal harassment --

MR. KING: To be in compliance --

COMMISSIONER ABELL: -- versus watching --

MR. KING: Yes, sir. To be in compliance with federal law, it is legal; but it requires that you be acting under a permit issued by a state --

COMMISSIONER ABELL: So you would still have to have a permit during the day --

MR. KING: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER ABELL: -- just to go up and look at them?

MR. KING: Yes, sir.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Any other Commissioners?

So, Stormy, once again, I understand you're suggesting that we authorize to publish the proposed changes in the Texas Register. So I'll authorize to do that and then we'll get back together after we get the comments from the Texas Register. Thank you, Stormy.

MR. KING: And I'm happy to follow-up if any of y'all have any questions. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: So, Carter, I want to make sure I get this straight. There are several item agendas that I believe it's reasonable to just go and move directly onto the Thursday Meeting without having extensive discussion. However, if there are any of them that any Commissioner would like to talk about, then we'll get in -- we'll get into details and talk about them today.

Correct? Is that correct, James?


Okay. We're going to start with Work Session Item No. 7. It's the Sunset Recommendations, Uniform Rules for Refusal to Issue or Renew Non-Recreational Licenses and Permits, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. If there are -- if no Commissioner has any questions or wants to discuss currently, I will put it on the Thursday Commission Meeting for public comment and action. That's good with everyone.

We'll move on to Action Item No. 8, Proposed Amendments to the Exotic Harmful or Potential Harmful Fish, Shellfish, Aquatic Plant Rule, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. Does any Commissioner have any questions or comments? If not, I will place this on the Thursday Commission Meeting for public comment and action.

Action Item No. 9, Memorandum of Understanding with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Regarding the Regulation of Aquaculture, Recommended Adoption of TCEQ MOU. Does any Commissioner have any question? If not, I'll place this on Thursday's Commission Meeting for public comment and action.

Hearing none, we will not skip over work Session Item No. 10, which is Chronic Waste Disease/CWD Detection and Response Rules -- this will need a little more discussion -- Containment and Surveillance Zone Boundaries. Let me repeat that in its full because I interjected in the middle and I don't want to confuse anybody.

Work Session Item No. 10 is 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. I'm the Big Game Program Director in the Wildlife Division. Tomorrow, staff will seek adoption of proposed amendments to our disease detection and response rules which would establish one new containment zone, one new surveillance zone, and would expand one existing containment zone and one existing surveillance zone.

To refresh your memories, the slide before you illustrates our existing containment zones in this state -- or existing CWD zones, both containment and surveillance. The containment zones are shaded in red and these are the areas where CWD is known to exist. And our surveillance zones are shaded in yellow and these are areas that are considered to be relatively high risk for CWD.

Now requirements imposed on hunters are the same for both of these zones. Those being mandatory sampling of hunter-harvested deer and carcass movement restrictions, which basically mean that a carcass must be quartered before hunters return home from the deer lease and leave 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 those restrictions applying to containment zones.

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

Also in response to the detection of CWD on the release site that is adjacent to that CWD positive deer breeding facility this past hunting season, staff propose to establish a containment zone which would include properties within two miles of the boundary of the property where CWD was detected. Now this 2-mile buffer is consistent with the strategy that is being utilized in Medina -- the Medina and Uvalde County area for the past few years.

Next we'll move to that Medina/Uvalde County area where we've been battling this disease since 2015. We've had a containment zone and surveillance zone established there for the past few years, with a surveillance zone being 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 will move down to Duval County in South Texas where CWD was detected in another permitted deer breeding facility last summer. You might recall that this detection was the result of antemortem testing requirements for deer breeding facilities. After that detection, we conducted significant outreach efforts to sig -- to increase our surveillance in that immediate area last season with a voluntary surveillance effort.

We did have a number of landowners who stepped up to assist us with this -- with this effort. Unfortunately though, there were large voids that were left where there was no surveillance, providing us very little confidence that this disease would have been detected if present. Therefore, staff proposed a surveillance zone in this area to include all land between Highway 44 to the south, Highway 59 to the west, FM 624 to the north, and U.S. Highway 281 to the east, and to include the cities of Alice in the southeast corner and Freer in the southwest corner, which again would allow hunters to legally transport whole carcasses to deer processing facilities.

Now we have had a significant amount of public comment on this proposal. Most of which is in opposition, specifically opposing to this particular zone delineation in Duval County. As of about 9:40 this morning, we have received 544 comments. 16 percent of those comments were in complete agreement with this proposal. 69 percent were in complete disagreement with this proposal and another 15 percent that disagreed specifically on some component of this proposal. We have also received letters from some different organizations. Letters of support from National Deer Association, Texas Wildlife Association, Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society. We did receive a letter of opposition from Texas Deer Association early on. And just this morning, we received another letter from a Mr. Schatte proposing an alternate approach, which I'll touch on here shortly.

We have also -- I should note, we have also had -- we have responded to some inquiries from some of our State elected officials' offices as well. Now as you can see, this is what a sample of support -- of supporting comments that are displayed on this slide. There are many who recognize the threat of CWD to deer populations, the threat to local the economies and to our hunting heritage. They also recognize the repercussions of inaction that are being realized in some other states.

Now this slide before you highlights a few of the recurring themes that we've heard from some of those opposed to our current proposal. I might add just a couple of points of clarification. In regard to the comment about this proposal being precipitated by one CWD positive test result, there have been additional CWD detections in that facility, three of which have been confirmed by the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames.

Also, as far as the comment about cost, there's apparently a simple misunderstanding of our process. To be clear, TPWD does cover the testing cost associated with mandatory testing of hunter-harvested deer that's associated with these containment zones and surveillance zones. There are a few other comments that we believe warrant some more discussion. 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 and would like to respond to this comment.

This Commission has been very adaptive to our CWD management plan over the years. You might recall that originally, we had three CWD zones in ever -- in every area of the state where we had a heightened risk for CWD. Those being a containment zone, a high risk zone, and a buffer zone. And significant changes that this Commission made to this approach a few years ago, included renaming the high risk zones to surveillance zones and this was to address this negative connotation with a term "high risk zone" that we heard from a number of constituents. Another one of those changes was to eliminate all buffer zones that we had established in the state. Additionally, the size of some of these zones have been reduced as a -- when some of the -- when the data from our surveillance efforts justified doing so.

Furthermore, I'd like to share with you that we are currently reassessing our testing requirements for a couple of the surveillance zones and we're able to do this because of very strong partnership and cooperation of the landowners and the hunters and because of targeted surveillance efforts that give us a much better picture of the disease prevalence and distribution and we hope to bring you into these discussions after further consultation with the CWD Task Force and potentially move forward with that 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 models to establish some sampling goals to help us establish target -- target number of test results necessary to at least, again, to reassess these testing requirements and potentially to at least temporarily remove some of the mandatory sampling associated with these zones around the state, because we do recognize that everyone involved in this deserves to know what the future looks like. They need to know what is expected down the road with regard to CWD testing and just containment strategies in general.

Now I was reminded just this morning -- in fact, even while sitting in here in this meeting -- that the sampling goal that we provided last year in Duval County associated with a voluntary sampling effort that I'll touch on here in just a minute. We provided a goal of 433 samples to the landowners in that area. We up with a goal of what we thought was easily achievable considering the harvest in this area. But unfortunately it seems that we left an impression that that number would provide sufficient confidence that this disease would be detected, when in the reality, the sampling goal is more complicated than that. But you do have our commitment to work with this epidemiologist and CWD Task Force to develop these sampling goals so we all kind of know for each zone what the future looks like and how we can move back to more of a voluntary approach.

Now some contend that we should be able to meet our sampling goals with a voluntary sampling approach, as I touched on just a little bit ago. In fact, I referenced a letter that we received this morning Mr. Schatte, who's been reaching out to landowners in this very area of Duval County, getting commitment for samples under a very well coordinated voluntary approach and we very much appreciate this effort that he and others are making. And as I shared with you earlier, we also put a lot of effort into a voluntary approach in this very area last year by contacting every single landowner who owned at least 25 acres within a 7-mile radius of that facility by conducting public meetings -- a public meeting and making very clear what these sampling goals were to help us achieve this confidence. And I think I mentioned earlier, some really stepped up to the challenge. They stepped up and they helped us. We had some really good cooperation there. But unfortunately, you know, we were still left with a lot of pretty large voids in that area, providing us very, very low confidence that the disease would have been detected if it was there.

So, you know, we've learned that this proposed approach is the most efficient and effective way of achieving these surveillance goals; but again, we do know that we've got to landowners and hunters a better idea of sampling goals that are needed to be achieved in order to relax this requirement.

We've also heard from a number of folks who fear -- who fear the burdens that are associated with testing and I know this Commission realizes that we've all been very sensitive to that concern since we began with this approach back in 2012 and we've taken several measures to reduce those burdens significantly. For example, this Commission has lengthened the period of time required to -- between harvesting an animal and having that animal presented to the check station for testing, with that length of time being increased from 24 hours to 48 hours. In fact, this Commission made an amendment to actually give staff even more latitude to authorize time beyond that 40 -- 48-hour window when it's determined that doing so wouldn't compromise sample integrity.

Additionally, this Commission adopted -- excuse me. Furthermore, our wildlife veterinarians and staff have conducted numerous training sessions to train landowners and their staff on how to collect samples themselves to remove that burden of driving to the check station. You know, it's probably good in some respects for other people in Texas that we started with this in the Trans-Pecos region, where this is undoubtedly the most burdensome area to apply this kind of technique where as some of you know, it takes a good hour, sometimes well over an hour just to get off the ranch and onto the pavement. And so we've been able to learn and adapt out there from learning what is so burdensome, how can we remove some of these burdens and make this as easy as possible. And out there in particular is where we've had landowners and their staff take advantage of these training opportunities so they can just collect the samples and at their convenience either bring those to our check station or our staff will meet up with them at some point and collect them. Our staff are committed to continuing with those training opportunities as necessary.

We also establish multiple check stations when possible to make sample collection as convenient as possible. At this time, we have plans to set up check stations and/or drop boxes at Leo's Country Store, which is very close to this CWD positive deer breeding facility, as well as a check station in Freer at the headquarters of well renowned Muy Grande Contest and we also have plans to set up a drop box in Alice as well and we're hopeful that these various options for sample collection will make this much less burdensome than what it could be.

And finally, there's also a concern from several that the proposed zone delineation is too large. Now if adopted, this would be the eighth area in Texas where a CWD zone has been established. And as proposed, there would be three zones that are smaller, considerably smaller, than what we have proposed for Duval County. We do strive to make these zones of appropriate size to protect the resource, while not complicating the rules and providing disincentives to hunting. We believe that it is very important that the zone delineation be as simple as possible for hunters. As you can see with this Val Verde County example, we like to use easily recognizable features as zone boundaries, such as roads, rivers, lakes, transmission lines, and even county lines. Another factor though that we've learned over the years that should be considered with zone delineation is the location of deer processing facilities and the inclusion, I should say, of deer processing facilities when available within the zone. Hence the proposal for that slight expansion in Kimble County to include the City of Junction. We've learned over the years that the hunters and landowners prefer this. They prefer the zone to include at least one processing facility to enable them to transport whole carcasses to the processer so they don't have to first quarter them.

So as you can see, we have been quite adaptive with our CWD management efforts over the years, learning from our experiences as we understand the realities of how to manage this disease with so many variables at play. So clearly we've received a lot of comment here. A lot of opposing comment to this proposal and after giving much consideration to all of these comments that are received, staff would like the Commission to consider an alternate zone delineation or an amendment to what was published in the Texas Register. That alternates surveillance zone would exclude about 100,000 acres in the southwest corner of the area currently proposed for a surveillance zone. This would mean that the southwest border of the zone would be County Road 101, which runs from Highway 59, a few miles north/northeast of Freer, down to Highway 44 at San Diego. But we do still recommend to include Highway 59 and 44 in that zone to enable hunters to take whole carcasses to deer processing facilities in Freer. So let me rephrase that. Staff, with this amendment, would still recognize to include not only Highways 44 and 59, but also the City of Freer as was published in the Texas Register, so that we can get those carcasses to Freer and creating as little burden for the hunters as possible.

So this amendment would look something like this on the slide before you now. And as I turn off this background map with this next slide, you can see how Highways 44 and 59 would be included all the way to Freer. Now it's my understanding, Commissioners, that such an amendment would be considered a logical outgrowth from the proposal that was published in the Texas Register and that you could adopt either the proposal as published or with an amendment to include this alternate surveillance zone.

So with that, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, staff would appreciate any feedback or questions that you might have at this time. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Mitch.

Before I ask any other Commissioners, are we going to discuss the proposal that we received just today from some ranchers down there? Is that part of the discussion now?

MR. LOCKWOOD: I believe so, Mr. Chairman. To refresh your memory, if I wasn't thorough with this, I intended to share with you that we received a proposal this morning from Mr. Schatte who has been reaching out to landowners in that very area for a voluntary approach to try and achieve samples and a good distribution of samples to provide us insurance that if it's out there, we would find it. Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: But your reduced -- your recommendation for a reduced approximately 100,000 acres, like we see on this slide, we can obviously put that on the Commission agenda tomorrow for public comment and action. But it's -- I'm still a little confused. When do we -- this -- this concept is so new. I just read the letter on the way to the Commission Meeting and so I don't know if y'all even have had a read it. And so when are we going to discuss that?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Mr. Chairman, first all for the record, I'd like to make sure I'm clear that the proposed -- that the alternate proposal would not be 100,000 acres only, but it would remove about a 100,000 acres.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Agreed. Agreed.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Okay. And I think, James, I think that the letter that we received this morning proposing a voluntary approach, that basically is suggesting not adopting the proposal as published and having a status quo, but trying to still have even a more concerted effort from a volunteer standpoint to achieve these samples.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: No, that's their desire. I'm just trying to understand when this Commission has the opportunity to hear that and discuss it.

MR. SMITH: You know, I think Chairman you can discuss it now, ask any questions of staff that you may have it about it. I suspect we may have landowners from the Duval County area that will be here at the Public Hearing to talk about this issue and I'm sure we will have them there tomorrow when the issue is in front of all of you for a vote.

I think it's open-ended as to when you want to talk about it and you don't just have to talk it today or tomorrow. You can do both. But it might be a great opportunity now just for the Commission to ask questions of Mitch and the team about that proposal that's come in, the recommendation, and any thoughts or reflections on it that you may have or our team may have.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay. So let's have a little discussion among the Commission about that. I've had a little opportunity. The Vice-Chairman and I have had a little opportunity to visit, maybe more than some of you because I was aware that this request was coming in, but I hadn't seen it. There's been -- there is a request from multiple landowners, ranchers in the vicinity of this proposed zone that have asked for an alternative solution, which would be not mandatory but voluntary testing. They've done some homework. They've reached out to a bunch of ranches and got some commitments, if you will -- I don't know how we can enforce them -- but commitments extensively. The letter said up to a thousand samples.

Last year we felt like we set a goal for 433.

Mitch, anything I say wrong, make a note so you can correct it.

Last year we had a goal of 433. We got substantially less. Anybody know the number? About 25 percent?

MR. LOCKWOOD: About 175.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: We had a goal of 433 volunteer. We got 175. Some of these landowners have stepped up and realized that it doesn't work, the volunteer didn't work so good last year and trying to make a real effort. And I applaud any time that landowners want to work with this Commission. That's -- that's where we really try to get anytime we can. So I've visited with some of them. They're here. They'll be available for the public comment this afternoon and also for tomorrow. So I want to thank them for their efforts.

That's kind of how we got here. So staff is recommending that this is a mandatory zone. They've reduced it. There are some landowners that are requesting to stay voluntarily, voluntary zone or testing. They believe they have commitments according to the letter of, as I say, as many as a thousand samples.

I have a question for you. If it's mandatory, this Agency pays the bill --


CHAIRMAN APLIN: To do the testing?


CHAIRMAN APLIN: If it's voluntary, who picks up the tab?

MR. LOCKWOOD: This Agency.


MR. LOCKWOOD: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay so either way it's a net no-change for the landowner?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Correct.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: In the cost of doing the test. Okay.

I was taking notes as you were talking. Last year apparently this Agency, our people contacted every landowner over -- I think you said 25, 20 or 25 acres, and asked for voluntary cooperation; but we didn't meet our goal last year. So I think everyone -- does all the Commissioners have the letter? So but I know you didn't get it until recently, so until like this morning.

Questions? Any comments from any Commissioners? And then obviously we're going to hear about it today at the public hearing, but that's not a real opportunity for us to discuss it. So we either discuss it now or we discuss it tomorrow, correct, Carter?

MR. SMITH: That's correct. Uh-huh. Yep.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay. so I've left it that way. I think I'd like full Commission discussion because this is a complicated and sensitive issue, if you will. So any questions, comments, thoughts?

VICE-CHAIRMAN SCOTT: I'll start, I guess. Dick Scott. I am a firm believer that we always have more success if we have the help of the landowner on any issue basically. I mean, we can't police a state. We don't have near enough people and the game wardens depend on the landowners and all the people out there to give us information. So that being the case, if we're going discuss this now -- Carter, are we going -- or maybe this is a question for James.

Are we going to -- if we approve the this now and you put it on the agenda for Action tomorrow, do we have to not vote on that -- if we choose to listen to the comments today, which I know we will, and we look at all the facts and what is being requested and what is different than what I think was the case last year. I think there was a lot more information and I think the landowners understand that we're serious about getting the samples. I don't want to get boxed into a corner that it's an all-or-nothing kind of deal. Do you understand what I'm saying, James?

MR. MURPHY: I do, Vice-Chairman.

James Murphy for the record, General Counsel. One option if you want to further vet this voluntary proposal is you can always decide to postpone adoption to a future Commission Meeting in. So we could accept public comment tomorrow on the item and simply not choose to act on it tomorrow. We have six months from the date of publication in Texas Register to adopt so we have plenty of time to reconsider this in November. This could give you the opportunity to take a look and see if there are any gaps in coverage from the voluntary proposal since it is so new. You know, we've not had a chance to map those ranches to really look at the spatial extent of what the testing would be under that proposal.

So one idea there, if you would like to further vet this proposal, would be to simply postpone adoption until November. You could handle that one of two ways. You could do that here today. You could also take the benefit of the public comment that we have scheduled for tomorrow if you would like to do that to help inform. So you do have some time still where this adoption is available to you before it expires by operation of law.

MR. SMITH: Vice-Chairman, if I could and, James, if agree with that legally. I'm not sure that would be prudent. You know, we need to kind of have a clear pathway, I believe, clarity for these landowners, clarity for our risk mitigation efforts. If we're in kind of a purgatory until November and then a delayed adoption, you know, we miss essentially the first part of MLDP season, et cetera. I mean, deer season really opens the first of October. That's an opportunity for us to get samples either through mandatory or voluntary. So I personally would not advise it, although I understand legally that's an option for the Commission. So just I wanted to offer that up.

VICE-CHAIRMAN SCOTT: Well, and I understand and I basically agree with you, Carter. So what other option do we have not postponing it like that, but I understand there was some proposal put out trying to give the voluntary deal another chance.

MR. MURPHY: Sure, Vice-Chairman. And Mitch ultimately probably has more information on this. Another approach that, of course, you can consider is to impose the zones this adoption or the modified zone that's been proposed to you here today. You could move forward on those and certainly in future a rule-making, you can always consider a change to that zone if it appears that there's an alternative voluntary approach that may work. That probably needs some time to go through advisory committees and task force to make sure that there's a process there that everybody agrees is going to work and I think Mitch could probably speak to that better thank I.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Thank you, James.

One comment we did receive, I believe it -- hope I don't misstate here -- Representative Guerro's office this this morning and it's not the first time we've heard this comment is to furth -- to consider a zone even -- even -- shrink it even more than this alternative proposal to consider perhaps just adjacent properties, those really close proximity to this positive facility. There's a lot of logic to that, you know, that thought, if you will.

As I shared with you Val Verde County example, we think it's important for hunters to know "Am I in a zone or not," you know, based on "Am I north road or the road or south of road." As you remember in our Kimble County proposal for containment zone that red circular proposed area, hunters don't know if they're in that or not. But, again, they don't have to because the requirements for the hunter are the same. It only applies -- the only difference in rules for those in a containment zone apply to those who are moving live deer and we notify them of what restriction there maybe.

So I think -- I think this idea of shrinking even more has merit. It's that this Commission might want to consider. It would -- it would just -- one of the challenges associated with it will be helping hunters know are they in the zone or not.

And in closing, Mr. Vice-Chairman, I think you hit -- you said it extremely well. We couldn't agree more that we cannot win this battle without support of the landowners. We -- if gates are locked, we're not going to win this battle against CWD. We've got to have their cooperation and we definitely want an approach that's going to ensure that. We have had, as I shared with, you some efforts. I didn't speak to all the efforts, but in the Trans-Pecos some voluntarily approaches as well. We've had mixed results there; but, again, we very much appreciate the thought that's going into this by this -- by several landowners as you said, Mr. Chairman, trying to step up and find a way to help us meet this goal through another way.

MR. SMITH: Chairman, I think while you're -- Chairman, while you're reflecting on that, just maybe to put a fine point on what I think Vice-Chairman's question was. If you preserve your decision-making until tomorrow, you can consider the full range of options that are in front of you. That would included the zone as originally proposed. It would include the zone as contracted as proposed right now. It would could something that was even smaller, as Mitch suggested. Or it could include trying to go forward with another year of voluntary sampling if you think that that could be accomplished with, I think, the clear understanding that there would be triggers that would change that such as the detection of a free-range positive or a lack of really any samples that were collected. So if -- you're full range of options are available to you up through tomorrow and your decision-making. I just want to be clear about that.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Will you elaborate? You said lack of sample, voluntary samples taken. What do you mean by that?

MR. SMITH: Well, I mean, you know as Mitch said, Mr. Schatte has put forth -- and I just counted them, Mitch. I guess there were -- looked like there were 39 landowners that had made some kind of a commitment to provide samples within some relative proximity to the area where we found. As Mitch said, we want to put forth an either to kind of define how many samples will we need, irrespective of whether this is mandatory or voluntary that would give us some appropriate probability related estimate, depending on the prevalence that we're trying to find it at. And so with a target of samples the question would be, again, Schatte a voluntary perspective as this progresses, if that were your choice, you know, did they meet it? Did they get close? Would be the metric there.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Do you mean at some point during the season if it's not progressing, that possibly a mandatory kicks? Is that what you're saying?

MR. SMITH: I hadn't -- I hadn't thought about that. That would be I think a good question for our team to ask about the pros and cons of that.

MR. LOCKWOOD: I think we do have precedent of that. We attempted a voluntary effort in Medina County area. It was kind of like this is turning appearing to turn into. We had a very, very coordinated grassroots efforts. Some of you may remember the County Judge was kind of the main coordinator of that and they were committed to get -- and they did. They got us several hundred samples. We had a goal there of 1796 samples and, I mean, we missed it by a pretty large margin; but the still came with a lot of samples.

What happened was, we ended up after we received -- I don't know -- well over a thousand samples, maybe closer to 1500, we found a positive and with that, an emergency order was enacted and we did put zones in place, mandatory testing rather in place for the remainder of that season, which was just a few weeks left. It was late January when that happen. So basically the MLDP season, it caught the end of it.

So that is an option that could be considered. It's not something that staff is necessarily recommending at this time. If we went voluntary, what we would need to do is we would need to find a way, if it was voluntary, we'd have to find a way to try to fill in these voids, if you will, these gaps.

Again, this is a wonderful effort proposal. We very much appreciate it. But more importantly than number of samples is the direction of samples out there. It's very, very important. And to have some gaps out there really isn't achieving the goal. So I'm afraid that we may have been misleading last year with a target number of 433. I think I said a minute ago we had well over a thousand samples before we got the first positive, which was found in the Medina County area.

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Patton. Even if you have the containment -- surveillance zone or whatever we're calling it, there's still no guarantee you're going to get ratable distribution. You're going to get some people that just aren't going to cooperate or they're not going to shoot a deer. Which if I was going to offer a comment having a ranch in the zone, I think -- I think that is what happens is people who might not otherwise shoot a deer choose not to. So your -- only do you lose your distribution, but you also lose your number of overall samples.

Now this is a high number game here but I think, you know, the landowner cooperation and us working with the landowner, this would be a good opportunity for this Commission to any advantage of it here and I think it would -- the end game here is we're just trying to get samples, whether it's voluntary or it's pursuant to having a surveillance zone. If we get the samples, the samples don't know which way it happened. It's just a sample. So I think we -- I'd love to see us try to work out, you know, a voluntarily agreement with landowners and get everybody on board and see if that doesn't work well.

MR. LOCKWOOD: There's some really, really great points there. We did -- to your point, when it comes to trace-out release sites that receive deer from a CWD positive facility and those routine testing requirements, we did see some sites that decided not to hunt for a three-year period. Or a better example, actually not with trace-out release sites; but back in the day when we had testing requirements for some other release sites that weren't necessarily a trace-out, for a three-year period they chose to hold off. Some people chose to hold off on hunting for that period and wait it out.

I will tell you in the case of the zones in the Trans-Pecos and Medina County area and elsewhere, we haven't seen this requirement change any hunting patterns yet; but to your point, there area ranches that don't hunt, that currently don't hunt, and they're not going to hunt moving forward. And we will continue to have some voids there. That's a good point.

COMMISSIONER ROWLING: Rowling. Mitch were the first two zones established at the Trans-Pecos and the Panhandle?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Trans-Pecos was in 20120. Panhandle in 2016, I believe.

COMMISSIONER ROWLING: And have those been all through over the years.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Yeah. Yes, sir. The Trans-Pecos zones have. But in both cases, we eliminated the buffer zones and then in the Trans-Pecos we saw a pretty sizable reduction in both the contain -- the size of the containment and surveillance zones.

COMMISSIONER ROWLING: Okay do you have -- I mean, I guess the comments there's no end game, you know, it concerns me too and I guess what metrics are we looking for to say we're going to eliminate these things. Not just decrease in size, but are there things you and the team are looking for to say "We're in the clear here and let's get rid of these?"

MR. LOCKWOOD: That's a real good question, and I appreciate that. Let me take just a minute to tell you where that No. 433 came from. So we've been utilizing models that most people in our position around the country have been using and they're models that were established for more conventional diseases. Life stock diseases like tuberculosis and in a contained setting, if you will, and determining how many samples it would take to detect the disease at some prevalence. But as you all know, this is not a conventional disease and we've been trying to use this conventional model to manage this unconventional disease and it just doesn't work because we're not dealing with a single contiguous population. We're dealing with lots of high-fenced ranches. They're all independent populations with they're own sampling goals.

So I think the simplest answer to your question -- while I don't have a number at this time and I think it will require us to work with this CWD epidemiologist who I referenced a little while ago -- I think this model is going to have to factor in distribution samples. So there may be a total target of samples, a total number; but then I would predict it would also have a distribution component, such as -- and just to give an example here -- so as so many samples for or every square mile or whatever the unit area is, but to try and ensure some good distribution of samples throughout that area.

COMMISSIONER ROWLING: Has there ever been a zone established that has gone away?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Just the buffer zones are the only ones that have gone away to date. As I shared with you, what we're talking about right now is for at least a couple of our zones in this state, discussing the elimination of the mandatory testing requirements and some surveillance zones based on the data that we currently have; but we haven't gotten to that point for this season.

COMMISSIONER ROWLING: Okay. Do we find in these zones, do we have a positive every year in every zone?

MR. LOCKWOOD: No, no. Surveillance zones, there's never been a positive detected in a surveillance zone, which are the yellow polygons. If we a positive, it becomes a containment zone.

COMMISSIONER ROWLING: Yeah, no. I thought that was the answer. If we have numerous years, there's none detected, it just seems there should be metric around eliminating the zones.

MR. LOCKWOOD: And so let's be clear about this. One of the zones, like what we have in West Texas like the Trans-Pecos. That is exactly where we've having these discussions right now about, hey, next year what can we gain Schatte a voluntary effort and we've had tremendous cooperation and we want to keep that cooperation. Let's see if we can go to a voluntary effort. We've already had public meetings out there and gotten a lot of really good feedback Schatte the landowners.

To your point, a lot of data that shows I'm pretty sure it hadn't crept in there from the Guadalupe or Sacramento Mountains. Whereas as Medina County on the other hand, as I shared with you in this proposal this morning, you saw those red polygons continue to grow. Each year they've grown a little bit because in the yellow surveillance zones we have had a new positive come in there and there so that then causes the expansion of the containment zone. So there's some zones where we're having a lot of confidence over the years, like the Trans-Pecos. Del Rio, that's only been a couple years and we already have a tremendous amount of confidence that that is a very, very isolated, very focal disease situation there that we can consider a voluntary approach in that surveillance zone. But then there's others like in the Medina community where we don't have that same level of confidence yet.

COMMISSIONER ABELL: Commissioner Abell. My concern on going to the voluntary program this year is that it's a lack of enforcement ability. And I think, you know, being so close to the beginning of MLD season this year, I -- that would sort of give me some heartburn. I would like to see though some, you know, focus group set up, landowners, you know, targeting the 2023 season as -- and it's not just really more of specific area. What would a volunteer-based plan look anywhere statewide for future containment zones and things like that. And how -- you know, how could we work together with the Department.

And to Commissioner Rowling's point as well, I'd like to see something in this there that clearly defines what measurables we're looking for to terminate a containment zone so that landowners can sort of see an end of the road.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Absolutely.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Mitch, to be clear, the yellow zones, surveillance zone, have we discovered CWD positive in the yellow surveillance zones in the past.

MR. LOCKWOOD: In the Medina County area we have. That is -- that is the only area in Texas where we've had a positive in what was previously surveillance, except we now do have a proposal in Kimble County where that very ranch adjacent -- same ranch with the CWD positive breeding facility has now found on their release site. But other than that, those would be the only two instances. Yes, those are the only two instances.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay. So the yellow zone is little bigger buffer than the red containment and the in Medina and now likely Kimble, we have found positives in the yellow zone. Not often, but we found it.

One of the things that's really good about the conversation and everyone has kind of talked about it, is how do we figure out a way to have a goal to get out of the trap, if you will, for counties, for ranches, for landowners, so I think a lot of -- you know, I think a lot of good will come out of that.

Bobby, you said something I didn't contemplate because a mandatory implies that every deer that's harvested we get a sample and voluntary does not. So in my mind, a mandatory would get more samples than a voluntary and we all remember why we're having this conversation is because Chronic Wasting Disease and us trying to control it. So that's the underlying reason. So I lean toward that.

Bobby you brought something out that hadn't occurred to me is that maybe that delta is not as big, depending on how many ranches actually don't everyone hunt because of the mandatory reporting requirement and I don't know how we put our finger on that, but that's an interesting thought.

Clearly we need to hear what comes out of the public hearing, public discussion today so we get more data. There are landowners here that have submitted this that I think would like the opportunity to talk at today's Public Hear -- Public Meeting. Agreed, Carter.

MR. SMITH: I think so. I'm hypothesizing that some will be here. I suspect for sure that we'll have some tomorrow. And so you know for sure tomorrow you'll have an opportunity to --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: And tomorrow is actually the discussion?

MR. SMITH: Yes, and discussion. And again, I think in fairness to everybody, our team, our planning for this, clarity for the landowners and hunters, we need a clear path forward. We need a -- need a -- we need a decision on this tomorrow.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Well, yes, I appreciate the clarity and James' point, but also appreciate your recommendation that we need to decide something. Our season will be upon us and everybody needs clarity whether we've got a we take an approach of enact a mandatory, but come up with a great plan in 2023 as Commissioner Abell maybe possibly talked about our going with the volunteer program now which has been mentioned over on this side of dais, but a lot of good conversation, a lot of good thoughts.

John, looks like he has a question or a comment.

MR. SILOVSKY: Commission, for the record, John Silovsky, Wildlife Division Director. I didn't want to interrupt the questions from the Commission, but I do want to contribute just a little bit to the conversation. Just kind of FYI, also like has said several times, I want to applaud Mr. Schatte for his efforts to get some volunteerism to try and help us get some samples. But much like the Commission, you know, we received that information, staff did this morning. So we haven't had a chance to evaluate that either. We would like to take the opportunity to put that on a map, see what that does to the approximately because, again, as we mentioned Mitch and others, you know, numbers are important to us in the sampling effort. Distribution is equally as important. So getting that spread out over geographic area gives us greater confidence that if CWD is there at the level that we would like to find it, we will find it because we have ample distribution.

But a couple other comments I wanted to make sure that collectively we are considering as we hear potentially in discussion this afternoon and/or tomorrow as this is back on the agenda again is that, you know, we need to consider in my mind, you know, what the long game is. You know, the likelihood that we'll have another surveillance zone someday is quite possible. And so as we ponder the opportunity to have voluntary testing in a -- an area two years in a row. Last year we didn't have a zone, but we have a proposal for a zone this year. And so in having two years of voluntary sampling in a zone, I want to make sure we think about at that and look at the long game, you know, what the big picture is. We have existing zones as you're all aware. And so if we were to implement voluntary -- provide an opportunity for sampling two years in a row, what does that to do our landowners those partners, those collaborators we have in the Trans-Pecos, the Val Verde zones, et cetera. Are they going to want, hey, what about us, you know? As Mitch alluded to, we -- staff, our wildlife health team, we've been very closely evaluating sampling effort, containment of the disease in this zones and we have pretty high confidence that we're -- we're -- if we're not at a really good level in Val Verde as an example and Trans-Pecos where we've had a zone for ten years now or more, that our confidence is increasing with our surveillance and we are considering, as Mitch alluded to, coming to you as soon as next year with a proposal to maybe this surveillance zone should be voluntary on those landowners to providing samples. And so I think we need to consider that as we have this all conversation as we listen to comments from some of these producers.

And I also want to emphasize too the importance of whether we go voluntary or mandatory, especially in Duval as a new zone or any other new zones we consider is that we need a zone because beyond the live movement of deer, the next greatest concern we have is carcass movement restrictions. So when we have our surveillance zones, we have carcass movement restrictions and that's very important to containment of this disease where we believe it exists. So I wanted to make sure that we consider those topics as well, so.


CHAIRMAN APLIN: Those are good points, John. And the movement wouldn't -- the movement restrictions would not be -- if we went through a voluntary, that would remove movement restrictions.

MR. SILOVSKY: Well, what I'm asking you as we consider this voluntary proposal or this voluntarily idea from Mr. Schatte, that in my mind -- and I'll let -- you know, you can talk to the wildlife health team -- the ability to have a zone so that we have carcass movement restrictions is very important, you know, to the containment of this disease.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Yes. And voluntary you lose that movement restriction.

MR. SILOVSKY: No. I -- I'll let James correct me or somebody else if I'm wrong. We could have a zone and we could have voluntary sampling effort within a zone.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Okay, understood.

MR. LOCKWOOD: We may need with James' counsel, we just may need to make sure that the rule language is clear with regard to voluntary sampling; but still having carcass movement restrictions in place. But our legal team can make sure that that's worded just right.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: John, you said a little time to map. Can y'all do that by tomorrow?

Okay, good.

So I believe Commissioner Galo has a question.

COMMISSIONER GALO: I just had, I guess, a comment on fairness and I guess John kind of touched on it or did touch on it. Are we treating this area different than we've treated all the other areas and is that fair and is that right? Are we following our own guidelines, our own procedures, our own policy? Are we making an exception here for whatever reason it is?

We've had opposition through every containment and surveillance zone from the very beginning. It's not -- this is not fun. This is -- it's hard. We've heard from, you know, our constituents that, you know, it hurts their bank accounts, their family life, their, you know, enjoyment of their private property and things like that. But at the end of the day, we've got a very serious disease that we have done, I think, a very exceptional job of, you know, keeping it contained as much as possible. But, you know, it's a little frightening that we continue to see these positives pop up in completely different areas.

So I'm just saying, I mean, we need to be fair because we need to follow what we've established as the best practice for the moment. With all our years of experience that we've had since I've been on here, it started before I've been on this Commission, and you-all and staff and they don't make these decisions, you know, haphazardly or flippantly. A lot of time and effort and, you know, studying data goes into these recommendations that they give us. So that's just my concern. Because, yes, what if someone gets a positive somewhere else, are we going to make these same exceptions? Is this going to hurt our overall goal to contain this disease?

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Commissioner.

COMMISSIONER ABELL: Commissioner Abell. I'm just going to echo that. That was on my list too is are we setting precedent for a future containment zone that if, you know, landowners around there yell loud enough, we'll back off and let them go voluntary. And also for the ones that are in current containment zones, the they would come immediately to us and say, "Well, why can't we be treated the same way?"

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you, Commissioner.

Commissioner Hildebrand.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: So a couple of questions. Whether it's voluntary or mandatory, we'll get to that. But let's go back. Can I -- I've not heard what is the severity of the incidences that have occurred within this surveillance zone. Enlighten us on why we are here today. Because I've not really heard the numbers on the CWD positives, so talk to me a little bit about that.

MR. LOCKWOOD: So we had a -- thank you Commissioner Hildebrand. This individual, this deer breeder submitted some antemortem test samples last summer prior to -- in preparation of getting movement qualified and ultimately releasing some deer there onto the property and one of samples was positive for CWD. That was our index case. This individual then we later learned removed all the deer in that positive pen almost a couple months later and that resulted in a second positive test result. Then we learned in -- I believe, it was April of this year, that the individual had removed and reportedly euthanized every deer in that facility to be approximately 174 deer and we learned about this at least two weeks after it occurred.

And from that, staff did go and exhume carcasses at the facility and -- and -- and we eventually received 174 samples from this individual that were to have come from the deer in that facility. Of those samples submitted, there was an additional positive. Okay, all three of those positives were confirmed by the National Veterinary Services Diagnostic Laboratory.

As y'all know, we do a lot of research out here. We're trying to learn new diagnostic techniques to find the disease faster, so on and so forth. And we have had some additional CWD detections in that facility and even new pens. These are not tests that can be confirmed by a gold standard test. I want to be clear about that. This is using an amplification technique that is not a test that's, I guess you could say, validated at this time from USDA; but we are learning that we had some early -- some additional deer in the early stages of infection of the disease. In fact, seven that we know of based on the samples we received from these exhumed carcasses.

So the disease is more widespread throughout the facility than what we first understood. The release site has done very, very limited testing and so we have very, very little confidence that the disease isn't on that release site time or that it would have been detected if it has been and then we've already talked some this morning about the surveillance and the surrounding areas.

We appreciate very much the efforts that we got from people last year and this other effort coming forward, but we're still lacking a lot of confidence at this point that we would have found it. We still have a lot of question about the -- we've had a hard time at this point being able to verify and reconcile that deer breeder inventory and account for all 174 animals that were in the facility. So there's still some questions regarding that. So a lot of unknowns at this time.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: So you've got ten positives, correct?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Three of which the USDA would say are confirmed positives.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Three. But you said seven in an amplified test that indicated --

MR. LOCKWOOD: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: So let's go with ten. Out of a facility of 174, correct?


COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: There has been no positives on any other adjoining landowners, correct?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Well, true.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Well, I'm just -- yes or no?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Yes, correct.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: So that's correct. Okay. So do we know of the -- were any of the 174 deer released, shipped, sold, moved off the facility?

MR. LOCKWOOD: I do not know the answer to that.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Don't know. Okay, all right. Do we have a policy --

MR. SILOVSKY: Excuse me, Commissioners, Commissioner Hildebrand. Again John Silovsky, Wildlife Division Director. So the -- the permittee does -- has admitted to us that he's missing 12 or 13 deer. He doesn't know what happened to them. You know, he didn't report them as mortalities and so they're unknown. They're part of that what we've been unable to reconcile with this total herd inventory. And when I had a conversation with him previously, he says, "I'm not sure what happened to those 13 deer." He's been unable to reconcile that with our permittee staff. So there are some unknown deer on the landscape. Whether they're on his release site or not, we don't know.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Okay. So moving back to the events that led to where we're at today. So ten positives, 174 deer, 12 or 13 gone, don't know where they are. Do we have a policy which states when we identify one, five, however many number of CWD positives, then we create a surveillance zone?

Because, I mean, a little bit to Commissioner Galo's comment, it feels like there's no uniformity of process here. So help me understand specifically. We have a positive. So what is the policy in creating as surveillance zone and how big is it and how long does it stay?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Thank you. In 2017, the CWD Task Force recommended to this Department if at any time that we find a single positive in a permitted deer breeder facility, that we establish both containment zones and surveillance zones around that site. Since then, we have evolved that a little bit to not -- as you know -- to not delineate containment zones until the disease has been found outside of the permitted deer breeding facility. That's been a little bit more recent evolution, if you will; but we have still established the surveillance zones until last year.

As I recall, we even had a surveillance zone established when we started with a voluntary effort in Medina County in 2015 or '16. But here last year in Duval County, we did -- we did kind of make an exception to that and this was really a first that a zone was not established, any zone at all. At that time, staff believed that we were going to have a lot more information a lot more expeditiously about this permitted deer breeding facility and surrounding release site to provide us a whole lot better picture of the disease prevalence and even distribution within that immediate area. And as you know, we have not obtained that information that we were hoping to get.

But that was kind of the rational at the time from deviating a little bit from this recommendation that we received in 2017 from our CWD Task Force. But I'm going to say the policy has been to establish a surveillance zone with a single positive.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: What size of surveillance zone around the one-positive event?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Well, as you see with the maps I've shared, there's a lot of variability in the sizes of these zones. We take many different factors into consideration: The deer biology, the species that we're dealing with. Mule deer move farther than White-tailed do. Elk move even farther, right? Wide, open country of the Trans-Pecos and panhandle have a lot larger movements than what we have in Medina County where a deer's got to be a heck of an Olympic hurdler to get very far in that county, right?

So we take those into consideration. We look at how small can we make this given the roads, the rivers, the lakes, the county boundaries, the transmission lines, the other easily recognizable features, how small can we make this to be as little burdensome as possible. As you can see with Duval County, this alternate proposal that I presented to you this morning is clearly smaller than what was published in the Texas Register. Quite frankly, if Freer, Texas, was located in -- up north of 59 from where it is to where -- I'm referring to the slide that is before you right now -- to where it would be in that -- I'm going to say that western corner of this proposed polygon here, we would have stopped with this proposal at that time. Because we just -- our goal was to incorporate Freer and ideally Alice too; but Freer for sure, with processing facilities there to help hunters get the samples there as easy as possible.

So this zone you could say, well, this isn't the smallest you could have made. Well, no, but it was the smallest to have a contiguous zone we thought was easily identified by hunters to include the city of Freer. So a lot of variables that go -- Commissioner, I'm sorry that I don't have, you know, we're going to use an X mile radius every time we find a positive. As a general rule after the fact, we've learned that a 7-mile radius typically does encompass a lot of these zones. It wasn't by design, but it happens to be the case.

MR. SILOVSKY: If I could share with you again. Just emphasize, you know, how unique each one of these positive facilities or positive deer are and the uniqueness of the creation of all these zones and we do that. Mitch described, you know, why we picked the spots we did there in Uvalde County.

But to go back to why/how our policy is on creating zones, I want to remind the Commission and ourselves as well is that we did have two trace deer on two separate facilities in Matagorda County and Mason County recently that came from one of our positive facilities. I believe it was in Uvalde County. But nonetheless, we knew we had trace deer on those facilities and so we tested those deer. Those deer were positive for CWD. We depopulated both of those facilities, found no more CWD within those facilities, and thus we did not create any zones. So we had positives there in Mason County, Matagorda County in breeding facilities, not on release sites, and we did not create any zones.

MR. LOCKWOOD: That's a great point. And to clarify that, we also had evidence that there -- that that disease had not been released out of the facility through the movement of deer. Those deer were contained to those breeding facilities and we knew that for sure. Whereas here, we don't know that the disease hasn't been released from the breeding pen.


MR. LOCKWOOD: Correct.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Okay. A couple other questions. You talk about -- I didn't realize. Landowners, you can train landowners to take the samples themselves and then take them to the testing centers. Is that a -- is that a fairly complex process, or is it pretty straight forward?

MR. LOCKWOOD: It's pretty easy.



COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: So instead of the movement of full carcasses, I mean certainly if we want to make it less burdensome on landowners, we teach them how to take the samples themselves. And I assume -- let met ask a question. If you take the sample and take it to a testing center, you would then still be required to quarter the deer for movement because you obviously would not have the results of the test. So I'm at my ranch. I take the sample myself. I take it to a testing center. Thirty days later, I find out the results. I'm clearly going to have to quarter the deer up to transport, correct?

MR. LOCKWOOD: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Okay. All right. The last thing I would just say is I think the level of frustration that you see on maybe some of the Commissioners and the landowners is just the lack of clarity on what's the policy and I think people are dissatisfied that once these surveillance zones get created, they never get taken off. I mean, it's like a law. You never take laws off the books. You just keep putting them on and on and on.

And so for me, we've got to come up with some standardization of the process. I'm not particularly for voluntary testing. I don't think it works. I mean, you tried it last year. You got 25 percent of the samples that they said they'd give you. Either you put the mandatory testing on and you make the policy clear and concise and then when you'll take the surveillance zone off. And for me, I think you ought to do one of your sunsets on all of this and look at -- look at what we collected the previous year. If you don't have any positive samples, you take the surveillance zone off.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Thank you, Commissioner. For the record, I would like to just clarify. I think I did a very poor job in responding to one of your questions earlier. With regard to our policy, we do have some pretty clear direction on how to respond to this, not just through what we've received in guidance from our CWD Task Force; but our CWD management plan. I think it's pretty clear on, you know, the need to establish zones in scenarios like this. While it's not going to be clear on what the size of the zone needs to be in all cases.

So I do in and staff do fully recognize that anytime that we deviate from that, it adds confusion and it looks like that there's not a policy. So very much appreciate your feedback on that.

COMMISSIONER HILDEBRAND: Last thing is you're using effectively roads as your boundaries. I mean, why don't you use some form of a GPS based surveillance zone where you say, okay, I'm going to take a 4-mile radius or a 6-mile radius and, yeah, it's going to be more complicated, but land -- everybody's got a cell phone these days and you've got GPS coordinates. So I just -- clarity is really going to be important in this process.

MR. LOCKWOOD: The number one reason -- and I assume it wasn't a rhetorical question. So the number one reason for that is to try and keep this as simple as we possibly can for hunters so they know at all times am I in a zone/am I not. We are -- we do have the My Texas Hunt app that has some pretty cool mapping features that we can get to a point where hunters know am I in a zone/am I not in a zone. If everybody is using it, you know, we can get to there. But right now the goal of the -- the number one thing that turns people off of hunting is complication of rules and not knowing am I following the rules or not. And we do whatever we can to not take any step backwards when it comes to our R3 efforts. And so that's -- right or wrong, that's really the main reason why we're trying to use very, very easily distinguished identifiable features.

COMMISSIONER ABELL: Commissioner Abell. I'm just going to add one other thing onto Commissioner Hildebrand. I think -- obviously, I guess it does exist in the CWD management plan. But maybe we need to take another look at the plan and just take sure that it's something that's clearly articulated that landowners can get ahold of and really understand, you know, what happens if it's found here. I mean, there's got to be a way to define whether it's regionally or species specific or both, you know, what happens in Brewster County versus what happens to Smith County and what that's going to look like. Is it 15 miles or is it 5 miles?

And also, like we've all said, how do you get out of it? And I think, you know, one-year sunset, two-year sunset, something like that would be great. But, you know, even if that manual ends up being 800 pages, I think it needs to be something that people can put their hands on and go look and find out, you know, what their situation is and --

MR. LOCKWOOD: That's great input.

COMMISSIONER ABELL: -- get that information.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: A lot of good discussion. One of the issues that complicates this even further is the breeding facility that produced the three to ten positives hasn't been utmost in cooperative. So we have a lot of unknowns, and one of the scary things about this disease is the unknown. And so thanks for the example about the Matagorda and the other county, that was well-received. But lot of good conversation.

I'm going to put this on the Thursday Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

I think you guys may consider coming back. Did I hear you may consider coming back with a modified?

MR. LOCKWOOD: We have one alternative proposal right now for you to consider. We also will put together a map using -- with the assistance of Mr. Schatte as provided and --

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Yeah. We can have all the discussions tomorrow.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Yes. We have an idea of what the proposed -- the proposal coming from our cooperating landowners in that area, what that surveillance might look like geographically.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Very good. Lot of information. We'll have a little time to think about it. We'll get more information with the mapping. We'll hear what's on -- comes up with the public comment if anybody want's to speak about it. We'll have this discussion again tomorrow.

Everybody good with that, Commissioners?

Okay. Thank you, Mitch.

MR. LOCKWOOD: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN APLIN: Work Session Item No. 11 is back like we had done before, I believe that we can move this straight onto the Thursday Meeting unless a Commissioner, in particular, would like to talk about it. It's the Statewide Hunting Proclamation Correction of Error, Squirrel Seasons, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. If no Commissioner has any question, I'm going to place this on Thursday's Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

No squirrel questions?

Action Item No. 12, Cormorant Control Permit Repeal Rules, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes, if no Commissioner has a question, I'll place that on Thursday's Commission Meeting agenda for public comment.

Item No. 13, 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, if no Commissioner has a, question, I'll place that on Thursday's Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Work Session No. 14 through 18 will be heard in Executive Session.

At this time I'd like to announce that pursuant to the requirements of Chapter 551 Government Code, referral[sic] to the Open Meeting Act, an Executive Session will be held at this time for the purpose of deliberation of real estate matters under Section 551.072 of the Open Meeting Act, seek legal advice under Section 071 of the Open Meeting Act, including advice regarding pending or contemplating litigation, deliberating evaluation of personnel under Section 551.074 of the Texas Open Meeting Act.

We will now recess for Executive Session. It is 11:44 a.m. We will return as soon as possible. Thank you.

(Recess taken for Executive Session)

CHAIRMAN APLIN: We will now reconvene our Work Session on August 24th at 2:08 p.m.

Before we begin, I need to take roll call. Aplin present.







CHAIRMAN APLIN: Thank you. We're now returning from Executive Session where we discussed the Work Session real estate items No. 14 through 16, Litigation Item No. 17, and Briefing Item on No. 18.

If there's no further questions, I'll place Items 14 through 16 on Thursday's Commission Meeting agenda for public comment and action.

Regarding Item 17 and 18, no further action is needed at this time.

Mr. Smith, this Commission has completed its Work Session business. I declare us adjourned at 2:09 p.m.

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

(Work Session Adjourns)



I, Paige S. Watts, Certified Shorthand

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

I FURTHER CERTIFY THAT the proceedings of such

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

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my

hand and seal this Turn in date ______ day of _________________, ________.


Paige S. Watts, CSR

CSR No.: 8311

Expiration: January 31, 2023