TPW Commission

Commission Meeting, November 2, 2023


TPW Commission Meetings


November 2, 2023






CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Okay. All right. Good morning, everyone. Before we begin, I will take roll. Chairman Hildebrand present.

Let's see. Commissioner Abell?




CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Commissioner Doggett?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Commissioner Foster?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Commissioner Patton?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Commissioner Rowling?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you. The meeting is called to order November the 2nd, 2023, at 9:08 a.m.

Before we -- proceeding with any business, I believe Dr. Yoskowitz has a statement to make.

DR. YOSKOWITZ: Thank you Chairman.

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

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great, thank you.

As a reminder, please turn on your microphones and announce your name before you speak and speak slowly for the court reporter.

Before we proceed, I would like to announce that Commission Agenda Item No. 8, Acquisition of Land, Coryell County, Approximately 95 Acres at Mother Neff State Park has been withdrawn.

First is the approval of minutes from the Commission Meeting held August 24th, 2023, which have already been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Patton moves to approve.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Is there a second?



(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Any -- any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries. Thank you.

Next is the acknowledgment of the list of donations, which has already been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?




CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All in favor please say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Any opposed? Hearing none, motion carries. Thank you-all for the donors as to the very generous gifts.

Next is the consideration of contracts, which have already been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?




(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Any opposed? Thank you. Hearing none, motion carries.

Now for the special recognitions, retirements, and service awards. Dr. Yoskowitz, please make the presentations.

DR. YOSKOWITZ: Thank you, Chairman, Commissioners. This is always a great part of the Commission Meetings when we're able to celebrate those that have gone above and beyond service to the State of Texas and to the Department. We have some great recognitions that we want to do today.

The first one that we want to start off with is very special to the Law Enforcement community, as well as to the impact that it's having around a particular district in the state, but beyond that district. And this is the National Association of Stating -- State Boat Law Administrators Texas Boating Officer of the Year who is Tyler Zaruba.

Game Warden Zaruba, who is father of six kids who are, I think, all in the room today, right? Yes, that's great. Two of which are adopted. Started with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in 2012 and he serves one of the busiest and most demanding districts in the state in Harris County. Warden Zaruba holds a bachelor's degree from Texas State University. He is a Texas Commission on Law Enforcement instructor, a standardized field sobriety instructor, and a drug recognition expert.

In 2019, Warden Zaruba was named the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators Operation Dry Water Officer of the Year for his outstanding work in curbing the impacts of boating while intoxicated on Lake Conroe. This year, the Harris County Direct Attorney's Office nominated the TPWD Law Enforcement Division Region 4 District 3 Team, which Warden Zaruba is part of, for the 2023 Mothers Against Drunk Driving Team Award, which they won.

Warden Zaruba also has great experience, making him an excellent instructor for his fellow wardens best practices in report writing, video evidence, search warrant composition and execution, fingerprinting, and navigating the complexities in the Harris County Jail, which I'm sure are many. He is constantly looking at best practices when it comes to keeping boater safety on the public waters of the state and has researched and organized additional funding avenues through the DA's Office and is part of a roundtable group that meets monthly to discuss enforcement adjustments.

During his career, Warden Zaruba has participated in the investigation of high profile boating accidents on Lake Conroe, as well as serval other accidents on Clear Lake and has responded to multiple events on the San Jacinto River, Lake Houston, and Buffalo Bayou to either lead that investigation or assist his first responding partners. He is a person who has never complained or turned down an opportunity to teach individuals or groups the importance of the TPWD mission in water safety and he brings an unrivaled positivity to his team.

And for these reasons, we are honored to present Game Warden Tyler Zaruba with the 2023 National Association of State Boating Law Administrators Texas Boating Officer of the Year Award. Congratulations.

(Round of applause and photographs)

DR. YOSKOWITZ: Next we'd like to recognize a few of our employees who are retiring after a long time of service with the Department and also having an impact on conservation in the State of Texas.

The first is Eddie Hood. Warden Hood began his career with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in the Octob -- in October of 1990, as the Texas Game Warden Training Academy here in Austin when it was here. After graduating from the Academy, Eddie was stationed in Clay County and then transferred to North Texas, for 33 years serving the Texans of this great state while protecting the fish, wildlife, land, and waters.

During his time stationed in Clay County, Eddie received three Director Citations for live-saving during a flood in April of 2009 and life-saving during a blizzard on December 24th, 2010. In 2014, Eddie received a 2014 Commendation Award from the United States Attorney General's Office Northern District for his outstanding work in the prosecution of a high profile case in the district. Also Eddie was named the Association of Midwest Fish and Game Law Enforcement Officer of the Year for the State of Texas.

On July 7th, 2016, Eddie provided and assisted in the support of the Dallas Police Department when five of their officers were killed in the line of duty. He retired on August 31st, 2023. With 33 years of service in Law Enforcement, Game Warden Eddie Hood.

(Round of applause and photographs)

DR. YOSKOWITZ: Next we have somebody close to my hometown and that is -- and Commissioner Rowling's hometown -- that's Jose Garcia, who began his career in Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in May 1995, when he was hired as a mechanic at the Marine Development Center Saltwater Fish Hatchery in Corpus Christi.

During his time there, he was responsible for keeping track of the equipment/maintenance program where he figured out the mystery of many nonfunctioning mechanical equipment. Thank you for that, Jose.

His favorite task while at the hatchery was to drive up and down the Texas coast, stocking our coastal waters with hatchery-raised fish. In 1997, he went on to work with the Upper Laguna Madre Coastal Fisheries Management Group, where again he was wanted for his mechanical abilities; but after gaining understanding of the programs at hand, he was given the duties of being the Lower Coast Region 2 Regional Harvest Program Coordinator for the four stations in the southern area.

Quite often he was compared favorably with coworkers who had 20 years on him. During his time with the Upper Laguna Madre crew, two new ecosystem leaders were hired. He was instrumental in helping guide/support the crew and office until the new leader learned the ropes. His favorite part of the job with the Upper Laguna Madre were the boat trips taken when going to collect area samples.

Thinking where on earth do you get to pay to go fishing, he thinks that of -- that he's dreaming. He retired after 26 years with the Upper Laguna Madre crew and a total of 28 years with the Agency at the end of July 2023 and he has been enjoying life as it comes. Retiring after 28 years of service to the state and to the Department, Coastal Fisheries, Jose Garcia.

(Round of applause and photographs)

DR. YOSKOWITZ: Next we have our service awards.

First we'd like to recognize Judit Green, who began her career with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in September 1988. She started at the Department's headquarters as temporary worker for the Big Game and Migratory Game Bird Programs. Judit then served as Wildlife Technician at the District 5 office in Tyler for five years, where she enjoyed conducting various wildlife surveys, specifically alligator, Houston toad, and Red-cockaded woodpecker surveys and assisted wit the reintroduction of Eastern wild turkeys.

After a two-year stint in Dallas, Judit transferred to the San Antonio Urban Wildlife Office. As an Urban Wildlife Biologist, she enjoys connecting people to wildlife through education, outreach, and technical guidance offering urban wildlife habitat management strategies that can be applied to various public and private properties benefiting wildlife, landscapes, water, and people.

Judit's experience led her to being a contributing author to the Agency's book "Texas Wildscapes: Gardening for Wildlife," and she has also led the Texas Master Natural -- Naturalist Program where she helped create it in 1996.

Judit's most interesting collaborative projects she is currently involved with are Bird City Texas and Camp Bullis Sentinel Landscaping. She loves the diversity of challenges and the possibility of change that urban wildlife biologist position can offer. With 35 years of service to wildlife and the State of Texas and the Department, Judit Green.

(Round of applause and photographs)

DR. YOSKOWITZ: Next we'd like to recognize Perry Trial. Perry began his career with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Coastal Fisheries Division in 1998 as a Marine Fisheries Biologist on the Lower Laguna Madre Ecosystem team. Perry received his master's of science with wildlife and fisheries management from Texas A&M University.

In November 2002, he transferred to the position of Fisheries Biologist on the Upper Laguna Madre Ecosystem team. In June 2007, Perry was promoted to the position of Ecosystem Leader of the Corpus Christi Bay Ecosystem team. And then since March 2015, Perry has served as the Regional Director over the Lower Coast Fisheries Management team. From August 2020 to January 2022, Perry also served in a dual role as Interim Regional Director of the Upper Coast Management teams.

During his time with the Department, Perry graduated from the Natural Leaders Program as part of Class 7 and from the National Conservation Leadership Institute as part of the Cohort 13. For his contributions in seagrass research and outreach, he received an Employee Recognition Award for teamwork in 2011 as part of the Coastal Fisheries Seagrass team. In 2022, he received the Employee Recognition Award for leadership. With 25 years of service, Coastal Fisheries, Perry Trial.

(Round of applause and photographs)

DR. YOSKOWITZ: Next we'd like to recognize Heidi Rao, who was hired in 1998 as the Department's Hunter Education Specialist responsible for training new instructors in Houston, as well as all over the southeast Texas. She has coordinated and taught a wide range of outdoor safety, hunter education, and wildlife workshops, including alligator and big game hunting activities for elementary schoolkids, training rodeo clowns during the Houston Rodeo -- I want to hear more about that -- hunter education courses at the Sam Houston Horse Racetrack, and flying offshore by helicopter to teach oil and gas employees on rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. I want to hear about that.

She has successfully partnered with many hunting, shooting, and conservation organizations across Texas, including the annual Take Me Outdoors Houston in 2009, which she started when the Texas Wildlife Expo ended. In 2010, she was appointed the Statewide Becoming An Outdoors-Woman Bow Coordinator for Texas. Under her direction, it has reached over 6,000 women who have added to their outdoor skills and ultimately becoming hunters, anglers, and archers.

She has received the International Hunter Education Association Professional of the Year. The -- also the Executive Director Award for that organization, the Houston Safari Club Educator of the Year, and she is also in the Texas Hunter Education Hall of Fame. She and her now retired game warden husband of 25 years, John, have four boys. The Raos are avid hunters and trappers. With 25 years of service for the Communications Division, Heidi Rao.

(Round of applause and photographs)

DR. YOSKOWITZ: Next we'd like to recognize Shelly Plante, who began her career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in 1996 as a wildlife intern. In 1998, she joined the Department as a full-time employee as the Great Texas Birding Classic Coordinator. Over the years, this event has grown to more than 1,100 participants on over 200 birding teams at each event during the spring throughout the state and has raised more than $1 million for conservation grants focused on avian habitat restoration, acquisition, and enhancement projects that support the Texas Wildlife Action Plan.

In 2004, Shelly became the Nature Tourism Manager in the Communications Division and over the past 15 years, has joined the -- has joined the cross-divisional Texas paddling trails team that now has 81 certified paddling trails throughout the state and more than 900 wildlife viewing sites throughout the state as well. At a national level, she was instrumental in the development of the Wildlife Viewing and Nature Tourism Working Group at the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, our national association.

Through these committees, Shelly helped coordinate and plan webinars, conferences, training academies, and workshops for nature tourism and wildlife viewing professionals. She has been raising awareness of the importance of engaging with these constituents to increase the Agency's relevancy. With 25 years of service, Communications Division, Shelly Plante.

(Round of applause and photographs)

DR. YOSKOWITZ: Chairman, that concludes my presentation.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Okay. Thank you very much, and thank you for the many years of dedicated service. I mean, you think about it, when -- when -- at our company when we having retirements for employees or service awards, you know, you look at that certificate and it's just a certificate; but it's 35 years of work and so I can't tell you much we appreciate the effort that you put into this Agency and the passion you have for it. So we just thank you so much and congratulations and good luck for the retirees on a new chapter in your life. So one more time.

(Round of applause)

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: So at this time, I'd like to inform the audience that everyone is welcome to stay for the remainder of the meeting. However, if anyone wishes to leave now, now would be an appropriate time to do so.

(Recess taken)

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Okay. Back to business.

Work Item No. 1, Election of the Vice-Chairman. Item 1 is a very important item. It is the election of the Vice-Chairman. As Chairman, I run the meetings and the Vice-Chairman is right there to serve when I cannot be there. The Vice-Chair has obligations and responsibilities that go with this title, so it is a big job.

If there's any discussion by the Commission, we certainly can discuss it. If not, at this moment I would entertain a motion by a Commissioner to elect the Vice-Chair. Is there any discussion by this Commission?

Is there a motion?

COMMISSIONER FOSTER: I would move that we -- that we nominate Oliver Bell as Vice-Chair.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Is there a second?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. All in favor please say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

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


(Round of applause)

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All right. Item No. 2, Personnel Matters, Executive Director Compensation. Ms. Patty David, please make your presentation.

MS. DAVID: Good morning, Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Patty David, Director of Human Resources here at Texas Parks and Wildlife and I'm presenting on the topic of Executive Director compensation.

In 2022, the Department conducted a search for a new Executive Director. Before we posted the position and began the job search, we recognized that the salary for the Executive Director position was not in line with the current job market and it would take legislative action to increase the salary. Through the Legislative Appropriations Request process, we requested and were approved for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Executive Director position to be reallocated from a Group 7 salary range to a Group 8 salary range in the General Appropriations Act schedule of exempt positions. This has allowed us to consider a pay increase for our Executive Director position.

I have the honor of presenting the following motion for your consideration. Staff recommends the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission approves the resolution in Exhibit A to increase the salary for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Executive Director from $215,412 per year to $236,953 per year effective December 1st, 2023. I'll take any questions you may have.



MS. DAVID: That's...


MS. DAVID: That concludes --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All right, great.

MS. DAVID: -- my presentation.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Okay. All right, thank you, Ms. David for your presentation.

If there's no other comments, is there a motion for approval?

VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: Commissioner Bell so moves.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Is there a second?



(Chorus of ayes)

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

Congratulations, Dr. Yoskowitz.

(Round of applause)

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Ms. David.

All right. Action Item No. 3, Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Plan, Recommended Approval for Proposed Changes. Mr. Tim Birdsong, please make your presentation.

MR. BIRDSONG: Good morning, Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, my name's Tim Birdsong, Direct of the Inland Fisheries Division. The Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Plan identifies objection strategies and measurable actions to guide and evaluate the work of the Department in fulfilling our mission. And over the last year, we've undertaken steps to revise the plan.

We've held multiple rounds of stakeholder input. We've held four informational webinars for the public. Other webinars specifically for our advisory committees and for the nonprofit community. We've taken all of that stakeholder input and worked through multiple rounds of edits. We presented an earlier draft to you-all at the August Commission Meeting, which kicked off another round of stakeholder input. That closed on September 30th. We've incorporated input from stakeholders into a revised plan that we bring forward for your consideration.

We had a total of 443 survey responses from stakeholders that contributed to the refinement of the plan. Stakeholders reported affiliations with over 160 different outdoor recreation and conservation organizations and we've now developed an updated plan that would cover the 2024 to 2033 timeframe that identifies 14 specific objectives. Embedded under those objectives are 103 different programmatic strategies and 77 measurable actions.

We feel that this complies with guidance that we received from the Sunset Commission and our Sunset bill that guided us towards incorporating more measurable actions into our plan to be able to quantify and evaluate progress of the department in fulfilling our mission.

So you've received a copy of this updated plan and the staff recommendation to the Commission is that you approve the 2024 Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Plan goals, objectives, strategies, and actions as listed in Exhibit A.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All right. Thank you, Mr. Birdsong.

Any discussion by the Commission on the plan?

We'll now hear from those who signed up to speak. I believe we have one speaker by teleconference, Alex Ortiz of the Sierra Club.

Mr. Ortiz, please limit your discuss to three minutes and I believe you're -- we're ready to go. Is that correct? Are you there, Mr. Ortiz?

MR. ALEX ORTIZ: Yes. Yes, sir, I am.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All right, proceed.

MR. ALEX ORTIZ: Good morning, Commissioners, Chairman Hildebrand, Dr. Yoskowitz, Mr. Birdsong. My name is Alex Ortiz and I'm the Water Resources Specialist for the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. I want to extend my sincere thanks to everyone at the Department. You know, this has a been fantastic process and there's been significant improvement to -- to the plan.

I going to keep it pretty brief. I only have one real comment to offer. I offered written comments as well. And that the -- I think that the Commission and the Department should consider taking a look at the impaired stream segments across the state. The TMDL Program and the 303(d) lists either parts of the Clean Water Act administered my TCEQ, but some of the impairments that in -- or that include waterbodies being reported as impaired are specific to aquatic life uses or recreational fishing uses.

There are more than a 500 stream segments across the State of Texas that have no management strategy selected for rehabilitation of these ecosystems and I just think it would be important for Texas Parks and Wildlife to take a look at which of these vulnerable stream segments might be the most ecologically sensitive or high priority, if you will, and to rehabilitate for the sake of the Department's mission itself.

Some of these impairments include things like mercury in edible tissue -- right -- that's mercury existing in fish that might be caught or a total dissolved oxygen impairment, which as the Department knows is the number one cause of fish kills in the State of Texas.

With that, I'll leave it there. If anyone has any questions, I'm happy to answer them. Otherwise, thank y'all so much for your time.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you for your comments.

Any questions?

Okay. Hearing none, is there a motion for approval?




(Chorus of ayes)

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

Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. Birdsong. Well done. Well done.

VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: How's your second day on the job?

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All right, thanks.

Action Item No. 4, Statewide Oyster Fishery Proclamation, Temporary Closure of Oyster Restoration Areas in Galveston Bay, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. Ms. Emma Clarkson, please make your presentation.

DR. CLARKSON: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, fellow Commissioners. For the record, my name is Dr. Emma Clarkson. I am the Resource Program -- Ecosystem Resources Program Director in the Coastal Fisheries Division. Today I'll be presenting a recommendation to adopt an amendment in the Texas Register to temporarily close two oyster restoration sites until November 2025.

TPWD Code Chapter 76 grants the TP -- the Parks and Wildlife Commission the authority to close an area that is being reseeded or restocked. We are recurrently restocking or restore -- restoring two reefs in Galveston Bay where we plant cultch material to restore degraded and lost substrates. That two-year closure gives oyster larvae the opportunity to recruit to the fresh cultch and grow to harvestable size and that time gives about the time for two cohorts of adult oysters to recruit.

So far, all of our restorations have been successful and the reefs that were closed for two years are still healthier than natural reference reefs up to nine years later. This is -- and you guys have seen this picture before. This -- here's a picture of the oyster growth on one of our recent restoration sites after about one year. You can see how many market size oysters recruit to the site. That two-year closure allows that structure to grow uninhibited by any disturbance.

So in August until now, two reefs in Galveston Bay were restored using this in cultch planting method. Funding for these restoration projects was generated from the CARES Act, the Federal COVID Relief Act. The temporary closure is requested only for the footprint of the restoration area and not the entire reef on which the restoration occurs and a total of 64.4 acres would be temporarily closed.

We had a lot of active engagement with industry partners on this project. We did three workshops to select the sites for these restoration sites. We had industry members come in the field with us, sample the sites, and help design them. And so we had a lot of engagement with industry partners for this project and we worked with those industry partners to identify the temporary closure boundaries to make sure we were not proposing a closure on any critical harvest areas for them.

This map shows the location and acreage of the proposed temporary closure areas in Galveston Bay. White is water. Light gray is oysters. Black is land. East Redfish Reef which is approximately 42 acres on with right and North Dollar Reef which is approximately 22 acres on the bottom left.

So the amendment that we proposed in August was to temporarily close two restoration areas in Galveston Bay and that was proposed in the -- it was published in the September 29th issue of the Texas Register. Again, this is updated since I put these slides together. We have 20 public comments received, 17 of which or 85 percent were in support, two were neutral, and one comment in opposition wasn't directly related to the proposal. It was just related to oyster management in general.

So the staff recommends that the Commission adopts the regulation changes as published in September 29th issue of the Texas Register for the temporary closure of these oyster restoration reefs. Thank you for your time, and I will take any questions you may have.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Ms. Clarkson.

Any questions by the Commissioners?

The only really question/comment -- wonderful work obviously and it's -- but, as you know, the problem is large and this is -- you're having a 30-acre impact on net basis it looks like. What's the cost of the restoration for the 30 acres?

DR. CLARKSON: It was around 3 million for the 30 acres. And we've -- I think we talked about this at the last meeting. The cost has tripled since, you know, when we started a lot of this work about ten years ago, it was $76 per cubic yard. That's turnkey cost. Now we're up over $200 per cubic yard turnkey cost. But we have started to try to identify ways to bring that cost down by a new bidding process, reaching out to new vendors, getting vendors on our bidding list so they have the opportunity to bid and we're exploring some of those options to reduce costs.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Any kind of outside the box ideas that could really cheapen this thing up? Like concrete, discarded concrete or, you know, old platforms, oil-and-gas platforms? I mean, I know reef -- Rigs to Reef has been a big issue. But anything outside the box that may be out there where we could do this really cheaply --


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: And restore thousands of acres, not tens of acres.

DR. CLARKSON: Yes, absolutely. And recycled concrete is a great point that you make. The Artificial Reefs Program is getting ready to reef the Queen Isabella Causeway in the lower coast. Of course, all of that goes offshore. The platforms are typically offshore for nursery and pelagic habitat.

Recycled concrete is a really good one and so we call those materials of opportunity and as long as they're clean and they don't have hydrocarbons on, you can. And so it just comes a matter of construction costs. The actual deployment is usually the cost -- it's not the material itself that's expensive. It's usually the barges and the deployment, but we actually get a lot of comments from the public. I have -- you know, the most interesting was unused porcelain toilets that were clean and so we have all of these opportunities to use materials of opportunity. The most recent one was granite countertops. So we have to go through and make sure that they don't have things like resins or pollutants or hydrocarbons in them; but, yes, there's an opportunity to use those --


DR. CLARKSON: -- materials.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: -- look, let's just investigate every creative opportunity out there to really reduce the cost of this because 30-acre, $3 million, that will take a lifetime --


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: -- to restore the reefs and so -- but anyway, job well-done. Thank you very much.

So with that, is there a motion for approval?

VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: Commissioner Bell so moved.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Is there a second?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All in favor please say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

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

Thank you --

DR. CLARKSON: Thank you.


Action Item No. 5, Chronic Wasting Disease Detection ands Response Rules Additional Provisions, Recommended Adoption of Proposed Changes. Mr. Alan Cain, please make your presentation.

MR. CAIN: Good morning, Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, I'm Alan Cain, Big Game Program Director in the Wildlife Division. This morning I'll be presenting proposed changes to CWD detection and response rules and deer breeder permit rules and requesting adoption of these items.

The proposed changes stem from concerns expressed by a variety of stakeholders and organizations in response to the current trajectory of CWD in Texas. Additionally, the Department received four separate formal petitions for rule-making this summer in the response to the continued CWD outbreaks, the unidentified sources of CWD for some of these positive facilities, and the lack of compliance from a number of trace release sites.

The chart on this slide illustrates cumulative trends in CWD detections in breeder facilities since the first detection in 2015 to the 12 new positives, including a suspect this is Monday, that occurred just in 2023. As you can see since 2020, we've seen a significant uptick in detections in captive facilities. The continued revisions and enhanced rules pertaining to CWD surveillance in breeder facilities adopted in 2021 has helped in the discovery of these recent detections. However, these proposed rule changes being presented today are necessary as we continue to work towards management actions to help curtail the spread of CWD to both captive and free-ranging populations.

I'll note that of the 28 breeding facilities where CWD has been detected, including this recent suspect positive in Cherokee County, 13 have been depopulated and of the remaining 15, one of the facilities is under a research option, three years in its herd plan with only one positive there; one of them is tied up in litigation; two have been generally unresponsive to the Department's and Animal Health Commission's request for a herd plan discussions; and then the 11 remaining are in the process of developing herd plans right now.

The proposed rules include a requirement for antemortem testing for any deer prior to movement between deer breeder facilities, as well as removing the three-year sunset provision regarding the antemortem testing prior to release. Antemortem testing prior to release has been an integral part of the general surveillance strategy and it's responsible for identification of six CWD positive facilities this year.

Next staff are proposing the six-month residency requirement for breeder deer prior to being eligible for a transfer to another breeder facility or release site.

The next proposed change is to establish a deadline for Category B trace facilities to antemortem test all test-eligible deer within 60 days of notification of Class B status. Just as a reminder, a Category B facility is a trace-out breeding facility that does not have 100 percent of the trace deer available to be removed for testing.

Additionally, to further reduce the risk of live animal movements from nursing facilities and the complexity of the epidemiological investigations, staff propose to eliminate provisions allowing deer breeders to transfer fawns to external nursing facilities for nursing purposes and this would require all fawns to remain in the herd of origin until at least six months of age, at which point they could receive antemortem test prior to movement. All existing nursing facilities would either have to redesignate as a breeding facility, become a contiguous pen in an existing breeding facility, or close in its entirety.

Additionally, to mitigate risks between breeder facilities and release sites, the following changes are proposed. One is to reproduce the statutory provisions governing the required permanent visible ID in breeder deer to facilitate the prompt removal of CWD exposed animals so that the disease status of epi-linked release sites can be determined. On that same vein as related to tagging, staff further propose to prohibit the release of breeder deer prior to April 1 of the year following birth to ensure that the animals can be released between -- cannot be -- that no animal is released between six and nine months of age that would otherwise not be required to retain identification.

Next staff are proposing to increase compliance among -- changes to increase compliance among epi-linked release sites. And as mentioned earlier, there's been a sustained noncompliance from epi-linked release sites with only 45 percent actually submitting all the required harvest and testing information. Proposed rules would include a requirement for trace-out release sites to remove every trace animal in -- within 60 days either by lawful hunting or as specifically authorized in writing by the Department. The prompt removal of CWD exposed animal is a requirement for epi-linked breeder facilities and would provide consistency between and exposed facility types. The proposal states that samples should be submitted within one day of mortality, but staff would recommend modifying that to seven days for a more reasonable time period to submit samples.

The proposed change would also allow for the suspension from MLD for landowners that refuse to comply with testing and reporting requirements for epi-linked release sites.

Next staff propose a change that would change the Trap, Transport, and Process Permit deadline to submit CWD samples to be within seven days of collection. Currently, TTP rules require those samples be submitted by May 1 of each permit year. Staff are proposing this change in this response to a CWD positive detected in Bexar County as a result of TTP, which we didn't -- the samples were submitted -- or not -- collected in January, but not submitted until May and so we weren't able to know about that until several months later and this would allow the Department to respond in a more timely manner to detections.

Lastly, staff are proposing a statewide carcass disposal rule. Staff recognize that proper carcass disposal is an important management strategy to minimize unintended spread of CWD, especially in areas where CWD is not known to exist. Staff also recognize that current carcass movement restrictions in CWD zones can be burdensome on hunters, especially with the Department's updated approach of shrinking these zones down to 2 miles around positive breeder facilities. Now with these smaller zones, it's not always -- we're not always able to establish a check station in the zone and there's not always processers available where hunters could take a whole deer there for processing.

Therefore, staff are proposing a statewide carcass disposal rule. The disposal rule would only apply if a hunter is taking deer from a property of harvest to another location. The proposed rule would require any of the unused parts in a -- be disposed of in the following manners. One, dispose of the unused parts in a permitted landfill. And for the vast majority of hunters this means that if you take the deer back to your house and you process it -- you've got the spine, the head -- you can throw it in a dumpster, you can throw it in a trashcan that goes to a trash service. Those are going to permitted landfills. You can also take a deer to a deer processer or a taxidermist or other places, as long as those places dispose of those parts in an appropriate location, the permitted landfill.

Next, a person could bury those -- dig a hole, bury those unused parts in a hole at least 3 feet deep and cover them with 3 feet of soil. And they could return unused parts to the property where harvest occurs if those other two options didn't work for you.

The disposal rules would also allow any person that harvests a deer in a Texas CWD zone to transport a whole carcass out of that zone as long as they dispose of those unused parts by one of those three options that I just mentioned; but before leaving the zone, they would need to obtain a TPWD check station receipt. And again, just to note, if these were adopted at this meeting, they wouldn't be effective until next hunting season. It wouldn't go in effect this season.

So there has been some confusion about what this could mean for hunters if it were adopted. So I thought I might run through some options of what hunters can do or would be able to do under this. And so to be clear, if a hunter harvests a deer on a property and they're not taking it from that property to another location, they could discard those unused parts on that property. Disposal rules don't apply. So kill a deer on my ranch, process it there, I can chunk the spine/head out in the pasture. I don't have to worry about it. However, if -- the proposed rules would apply if they're taking a carcass from the property of harvest to another location or another destination other than that site of harvest and in those scenarios, a hunter could debone the carcass at the site of harvest. To do that, they would need to maintain a cold storage record book and enter the required information and at that point, proof of sex and tagging requirements cease once that information is entered into the record book.

A hunter could take a whole deer or a quartered carcass or a head to a locker plant, deer processer, a taxidermist, they can take it home, they can donate it to somebody else as long as -- and if these rules are adopted, they would just need to dispose of those unused parts or the person, the final recipient would need to dispose of those unused parts in one of the three options we just talked about.

And again, if they are taking deer from a zone, whether it's a carcass or head, they just need to retain -- obtain a TPWD check station receipt before doing so.

As of yesterday afternoon, we've received 4,260 public comments in response to these proposals, with 31.8 percent of those respondents agreeing with the proposed changes, 65.1 percent disagreeing completely with the changes, and 3.1 percent disagree with specific parts of the proposed changes.

Department's also received a number of letters from various organizations and the Legislators that I will share and a general summary of the written comments received through the website.

To start with, the Department's received a letter from the Texas Deer Association with six specific points of concern with disagreement for this proposal. They are in opposition to the proposed visible ID requirement and the prohibition on release of deer prior to April 1 related to identification requirements for that part of the proposal. They note that this is a matter to be address at the Legislature and that the current statute is silent on visible ID in free-ranging deer, i.e. deer that are released. They also had concerns with the six-month residency requirement that could be problematic for breeders with multiple noncontiguous facilities or breeder pens on the same property and in which they need to move deer between those pens as part of their management program. Currently the Department does not allow these contiguous pens on a property under the same facility ID or breeder permit. If they're going to have noncontiguous pens, they've got to have different facilities.

They also noted that the stipulation to submit CWD samples from trace release sites in one day after collection of that sample was unreasonable. And again, staff are suggesting that we change that time period as a logical outgrowth to seven days. They also have concerns with the antemortem testing requirement for breeder-to-breeder testing, noting that antemortem samples -- or antemortem testing should provide more value than just surveillance and it should be used to -- such as using antemortem tests to clear a trace deer or trace facilities. Also suggesting that if antemortem testing is adopted, that Tier 1 testing requirements currently in rule should be removed from regulations and that CWD zones should be abolished.

Lastly, they recommend that 100 percent of all TTP deer be CWD tested, noting that the change is just the time period of submission doesn't really mitigation the CWD risk.

We received another letter from the Deer Breeders Cooperation yesterday afternoon and they had concerns regarding the visible ID requirement, stating that the visible ID on release sites is a private landowner right's issue. Suggesting that because deer released on release sites are free-ranging, that the ID requirement doesn't apply and TPWD doesn't have jurisdiction over requiring tagging of free-ranging deer.

Now while Deer Breeders Cooperation acknowledges the visible ID may help breeder deer -- or breeder release sites be freed up from an epi-linked investigation, they are concerned it might be at the expense of landowner rights. They also propose to -- or opposed to the six-month residency requirement, noting this proposed change could be problematic again for those deer breeders with multiple noncontiguous pens on a -- on the same property.

They had several other comments in their letter related to Tier 1 facilities that are caught up in epi investigation or herd plan requirements, which really aren't germane. Those two items aren't germane to this proposal.

We also received a letter from Senator Juan Hinojosa expressing concerns over the timeline to adopt these proposed rules, noting that there has not been enough time to review and provide detailed responses to public comment and any needed revisions to proposed rules. Senator Hinojosa requested the Commission delay consideration and adoption of the proposed rules until the January of 2024 Meeting coming up or only adopt a portion of the rules such as antemortem testing requirements for breeder-to-breeder movement.

We also received a single sign-on letter from Senators Bob Hall, Senator Charles Perry, Senator Mayes Middleton, Senator Angela Paxton, Senator Tan Parks[sic], and Senator Drew Springer also echoing similar comments to Senator Hinojosa, asking the Commission to delay consideration and adoption of the rules until the January Meeting and also expressed concerns with the Department's use of emergency rule-making and not allowing time for adequate public input and comments and the legislative -- the Legislature to have oversight with response to these processes. And lastly they noted in the letter that TPWD had failed to prepare a detailed economic impact statement for the proposed changes.

The Department also received numerous public comments obviously in opposition with the 4,200 I was just talking about. There was a lot of written comments on the website, so I just wanted to go over some of those reasons for disagreement or specific degree -- disagreement with specific portions of the rules.

So the written comments, the majority of the commenters felt the rules were overreaching or burdensome on deer breeders and release sites and would have negative impacts on small businesses, family ranches, and deer hunting. And there was a number of comments that came in with a standard response with six key points. This is the same points that I just talked about in the letter received by Texas Deer Association, so I'm not going to review all those; but they are listed there from the visible ID to the TTP testing requirements.

Other public comments that disagreed with the proposal or specifically disagree with the proposal include concerns with the carcass disposal rule being too burdensome on hunters, that it could discourage hunter participation, and it could be too expensive to dispose of carcasses. There were a fair number of written comments that disagreed specifically with the carcass disposal rules only, but they were fine with the rest of the comments in that 3.1 percent.

Other comments include request to shutdown live animal movements, that no new rules -- or that no new rules are needed since the -- because rules adopted in 2021 are working to detect CWD in breeder facilities. Some noted that CWD is not a concern, so the rules are not necessary. There was concerns from a few individuals that the antemortem testing requirement, they could potentially run out of tissue if they're continuing to have to test deer every time they move.

Other commenters suggested there be no transport of breeder deer until a more reliable antemortem test is available. Others were concerned that an open-ended statement pertaining to the proposed release site provision to remove trace deer within 60 days, there's a section in there about testing hunter-harvested deer, 100 percent of them, and a comment -- some language that the Department -- until the Department is satisfied CWD -- or confident it's not present. So they were a little concerned about that language. And lastly, that animal health or disease issue such as CWD should administered by the Texas Animal Health Commission.

The Department has also received a single sign-on letter of support for the proposed rules from most of the organizations listed on this slide, all the way up until Plateau Land and Water. I'll note that we did receive an individual letter from the Nature Conservancy yesterday that supported all proposed changes to this rule. We also received a letter from the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association supporting the proposal, but noting that the Commission should continue to welcome other solutions which garner broader consensus among stakeholders while providing meaningful protection of the state's White-tailed deer population. The Texas Sheep and Goat Raisers Association also provided a letter supporting TPWD's efforts to contain and eradicate CWD.

We also received a separate letter from the Texas Wildlife Association supporting the proposed rule, specifically noting the importance of visible ID requirement upon release. TWA also supports the statewide carcass disposal rule, but urges the Department to prioritize education of hunters before carcass disposal rules go in effect to minimize confusion and hesitation about the rules and continue to look for opportunities to simplify the regulations for hunters and reduce the amount of high-risk carcass parts that could be transported down the road.

The Department also received a letter yesterday from the Texas Farm Bureau noting their support for individual -- individuals/landowners to choose their own occupation and lawful use of private property, recognizing deer breeding as an agriculture occupation; but they stated that it needs to be regulated -- this activity needs to be regulated for the benefit of both captive and free-ranging deer, including support for visible and permanent ID requirements on all pen-raised deer. The Farm Bureau encourages the Department to work collaboratively with deer breeders, independent veterinarians, researchers -- and researchers to identify gaps in data and research needs and to work towards using available resources to improve our understanding of this disease and ensure that amenable and necessary regulations are adopted to best address concerns moving forward.

We also received quite a few comments in the -- on the web that agreed with the proposal and those include comments about the rules needing to protect the Texas deer population and also would help protect hunting heritage, the hunting economy, and reduce the spread of CWD, if not stop it. Many noted that visible ID was necessary to identify trace deer on release sites to aid in prompt removal for disease management purposes. Some noted support for the proposed rules, but asked that the Department look into ways to allow for deboning of carcasses at the ranch of harvest without having to use a cold storage record book and some suggested artificial movement be stopped and high-fencing not be allowed.

The White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee also provided feedback on the proposal with overall support for most all of the rules -- they -- proposed rules. There were some items with mixed support or other suggestions from members of the committee that included all deer captured under the TTP be required to be tested or some variation of that to like fif -- some percentage of the total number trapped. There was one suggestion to require the first 15 deer captured under a TTP to be sampled so we get those samples up front if previous samples have not been collected by other means.

The majority of the committee supported visible ID requirements; but there several that disagreed with the visible ID, stating it's a personal choice for release site owners. There was also mixed support for the six-month residency requirement, again related to the noncontiguous pens. The committee did indicate the days to submit samples on these trace releases sites should be extended to at least seven days.

And lastly, the Advisory Committee was supportive of the carcass disposal rules; but wanted to make sure staff worked towards, again, an option to allow hunters to debone carcasses at the site of harvest without having to have a cold storage record book.

With that, staff recommends the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt amendments with changes as necessary to the proposed text as published in the September 29th, 2023, issue of the Texas Register. I'll be --


MR. CAIN: -- happy to answer any questions.


Any questions from the Commissioners? You'll have time to kind of have final questions after all the public presentation.

Okay. Thanks --

MR. CAIN: Thank you.


Okay. All right, so we have 52 people signed up. If you do the rough math, that's 150 minutes, that's two and a half hours. So here is my request. We do this with military precision. Military precision and less is more. We're going to give each you three minutes; but if you can do it in minute, that's great. That would be fantastic. So let's just have some respect for your fellow presenters, the Commission. We're here to listen to you, but be brief and be specific and we appreciate your comments.

And so what we're going to do -- are they -- have you told them what they're going to do in terms of lining up, Dee?

MS. HALLIBURTON: I've got Allison lined up to stand over here, and she'll get them all lined up in the aisleway.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Okay. So what I'm going to do is call out the first ten people and we'll give you a number and if you will, line up and then come to the middle and when someone finishes their speaking, they can exit stage left, you come in straight away and then start your talk. So let's do this quickly. That's my -- that's my fervent desire here.

So, here we go. Roy Leslie -- well, we have four people to speak teleconference, and so I'll go ahead and take those first.

DR. YOSKOWITZ: Okay. Chairman, we have two that are not online: No. 1, Charles Greco is not online and No. 3, Brian Kanke is not online. So only --


DR. YOSKOWITZ: -- two at this time.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. And then the last thing I'm going to say: Look, please, I'm just trying to run this quickly and efficiently. At three minutes I'm going to cut you off and we've got to move on to the next person, so. Because if everyone takes four minutes, then we're here for four hours. So thank you very much for your compliance there.

First person, Michelle McBryde. Michelle, you're on.

MS. MICHELLE MCBRYDE: Hello, Commissioners. My name is Michelle McBryde with McBryde Private Consulting Service. Commissioners, I'm thankful to speak with you today.

Staff proposed amendments state they refine surveillance efforts. I disagree with the intent based on contradictions within, the timing on some and leniency to others (audio cuts out) carcass movement restrictions and check stub or a tag in the ear does not prevent, contain, or control Chronic Wasting Disease.

Carcass movement proposal actually increases risk of epidemiological spread by (inaudible) due to the Department's required transport of carcasses to designated locations, unknowing if said carcasses are carriers of Chronic Wasting Disease. The same applies to mandated return of unused carcass parts to bury on landowner's property by harvesters. Has consideration of contaminate with the prion of unknown origin to soil and water been reduced before imposing statewide disposal of carcasses?

I believe Chronic Wasting Disease is comparable rabies, a prion disease we accept, respect, and have no boundaries to. The efforts of surveillance to control and contain Chronic Wasting Disease since 2013 has been to no avail and counter-productively the cause of negative economic impacts. I believe continuation will lead to the escalation of controversy involving overcrowding of court dockets, leading to demands burdening all entities of law enforcement by serving court orders, refereeing land disputes, and protests by hunters.

I'm speaking to you from personal experiences for threats warranted defenses in La Salle, Val Verde, and Coke Counties to mention a few. I've offered this Department avenues eliminating the need of hindering surveillance since 2019 by in-person meetings, phone calls, e-mails, letters, certified letters, public comment not heard by the people of Texas, and today's public comment. State departments and agencies have access to billions in funding and are encouraged to collaborate with independent entities. There is a time for all things. The time is now before controversial escalation.


MS. MICHELLE MCBRYDE: Thank you for hearing me and I pray those who hold office --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you. Thank you, Ms. McBryde.

MS. MICHELLE MCBRYDE: -- and trust that those with the power to make decisions will seek the Lord's guidance first.


Two, Greg Simons. Mr. Simons.

(Teleconference Background Noise)


(Teleconference Background Noise)


Okay. I believe he is not on. So -- and you said Brian Kanke and Charles Greco are not -- not going to speak?

DR. YOSKOWITZ: That's correct.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Okay, great. Thanks. Okay --

(Teleconference Background Noise)

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: -- here we go. First -- first ten, if you guys would line up: Roy Leslie, one; Donnie Draeger, two; Monty Martin, three; Stan Ledbetter, four; Dr. James Kroll, five; Emily Benbow, six; John True, seven; Kevin Davis, eight; Jody Phillips, nine; and Tim Gloss[sic], ten. Thank you. All right.

MR. ROY LESLIE: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. My name is Roy Leslie. I'm a low-fence, no-lease landowner in far northwest Kendall County. I have no financial interest in today's outcome. I speak only for myself, my family, and the wild White-tailed deer of Texas.

I'm in favor of every one of the proposals and have been asking for many of these since August of 2015. All items from visible ID to the noncompliance consequences must be accepted. All 11 items. Every person in the room, every organization represented, and those listening remotely are asking you to choose sides. One side demands fewer Chronic Wasting controls, continuing a pattern of protecting, promoting, and subsidizing a flawed and failing business model, all at the expense of our native White-tailed deer. The other side asks you to follow your clearly stated mission statement to manage and conserve the natural and culture resources Texas.

The White-tail is the iconic natural and cultural resource of Texas. It's past time to choose sides. Fence straddling has failed. It's time to honor your mission statement. It's time to approve and codify all 11 rule enhancements. CWD has been ahead of us since 2012. I fear it holds more surprises. We cannot merely continue down the narrow path of heightened discovery. We must stop the spread. We know how. We stop spreading Chronic Wasting Disease. As in the June 20th, 2016, Commissioner's Meeting, I'll withhold my thanks until after the vote.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Mr. Leslie.

Mr. Draeger.

MR. DONNIE DRAEGER: Good morning, Chairman, Commissioners. I believe you have my handout with you if you'd like to read along. My name is Donnie Draeger. I serve as Private Lands Wildlife Biologist, as well as the Chair of the Big Game Committee for Texas Wildlife Association.

During recent discussions we've heard from breeders who claim that their industry holds the key to solving the CWD issue via genetic manipulation. I think they may be right. The Ox Ranch experiment and Dr. Seabury's research has promising results. That said, I believe the breeding industry as oversimplified the issue. Therefore, I have a series of questions for the breeding industry and I believe you should have them too.

No. 1, how do they -- how do they intend implement this across the entire industry? An industry which prides itself on individual genetic lineages. What is the plan for every breeder to acquire genetic immunity -- genetically immune CWD deer?

No. 2, has the industry required or at least suggested that all breeders get all their deer genetic code mapped?

No. 3, is the industry willing to prioritize genetic immunity over large antlers during the selection process?

No. 4, what will be the regulatory process for confirming a deer has the proper genetic code and who will pay for that confirmation?

No. 5, what realistic timeline do they have to achieve these goals? I've heard as short as within the next five years. Maybe that's possible, but don't we need to test the resistance beyond knowing the genetic code? Shouldn't those deer herds be challenged through a series of varying CWD exposures over many years and shouldn't that study be replicated over time and space as a protocol for all good science?

No. 6, yesterday I've heard -- we heard Mr. -- Dr. Bugai that he is now following Dr. Seabury's protocol and will remove -- will be removing all his deer that have a GG allele. My question is: Where are those highly CWD susceptible deer going? Will he be euthanizing them in the pen or will he and the entire industry plan to sell and ship the most CWD susceptible deer out of their pens and into the wilds of Texas?

To summarize, I believe the deer breeder industry is on the right path to creating a CWD resistant White-tailed deer; but more -- the more we analyze, that road is much longer than it first appears. In the meantime, protections provided by these proposed rules -- especially the visible tags -- will give us the time the breeder industry needs to accomplish their lofty goal. Thank you for your time.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Mr. Draeger.

Monty Martin.

MR. MONTY MARTIN: Good morning, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners. My name is Monty Martin. Today I'm here representing my family's interest and our ownership of the Westwind Ranch. The Martins have owned the Westwind Ranch since 1991 and have two -- 20,000 plus acres under MLDP, located in Zavala County only miles away from the Zavala County breeding facility that tested positive in July. We've never had a breeder's permit and never imported breeder deer onto our ranch.

Using extensive game and brush management tools, plus our time, efforts, and financial resources, my family has become respected stewards of the land and all the wildlife resources entrusted to us. My father created this legacy which he has passed to four generations of our family. The Martins fully support and urge Texas Parks and Wildlife's implementation of all the proposed rule changes regarding CWD and the deer breeders.

However, we do not believe these rules go far enough. We believe these rule changes only slow down the trajectory of the worst-case scenario caused by the introduction of CWD by breeders' deer: One, an unsustainable or elimination of the native White-tailed deer population in parts of or all of the State of Texas and, two, the potential transmission of CWD from White-tailed deer to humans. When this occurs, what happens to the landowner's largest asset, the land?

We've had discussions with ranch real estate professionals and they believe that CWD will negatively affect land values. Per Texas A&M's Natural Resource Institute's economic impact of White-tailed deer -- which I've attached -- the study discovered White-tailed deer hunting made up 75 percent of the hunting opportunity for landowners and 95 percent of those landowners reported that they only have native ranging deer.

Using a one-to-one correlation, 95 percent of the Texas landowners would have our land values depreciate as much as 75 percent because of CWD introduced by the deer breeders. The loss of billions of dollars by landowners and land value and the devastation to the State's hunting economy caused by the introduction of CWD by breeder deer is an economic impact that damages well exceed any appreciative impacts by breeders.

Regarding the transmission of CWD from deer to humans, our own Center for Disease Control's website -- attached -- on the transmission's page indicates there's an ongoing study that will -- that infected meat from asymptomatic deer passed onto animals that contradict another study from 2018. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, for my time today.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Mr. Martin.

Mr. Stan Ledbetter.

MR. STAN LEDBETTER: Hey, good morning, Chairman, Commissioners. Thanks for today. I am a resident of Galveston County. Have a small place in Duval County. I'm not a breeder. I don't sell hunts. It was -- it's just a family place.

Start with -- I know you got the letter from the Senator. So I support their position on that, so we'll leave that alone. Statutorily in the support of these rules, staff is to talk about economic impact. Couple of things that I saw in the rule-making that wasn't taken into account were ranches like mine. I was getting ready to sell my ranch in March of this year. Got a call in April saying, hey, you've been epi-linked to a deer that four years ago was born on a ranch that my deer had been off of by the time that deer was born.

We talk about trying to get guys like us -- the release sites -- to comply. I got that one phone call from TPWD. Got a letter from the Animal Health commission saying, hey, we'll be in touch, and then got an e-mail from TPWD saying test everything. But that's it. I don't -- I have no herd plan. I haven't heard about that.

My point today is that we've got to allow folks like Mr. Cain to add some -- a bit of logic into what we're doing. Rules are great, I understand. But they don't apply to all of us. The rules as they exist today say that I'm locked up when my deer haven't been -- they were gone from the ranch where this deer was -- before it was born and there was a positive test -- I mean a negative test and then a positive. So I'm four years out from that. So as we move into my request for today, is please just let there be some common sense injected into how this all handled. Look at each site on a totality of the facts, make rational decisions that protect both these resources and the landowners and our individual rights.

Don't let COVID become Texas -- I mean, don't let CWD become Texas' COVID. You know, we're better than that. We trust the science, but we have to also understand that there is still so much not known about CWD as evidenced in the rule-making support that you-all receive. We still don't know everything that goes into this. Let common sense be a part of our solution for ranches like mine. Thanks for your service to Texas, your time today, and the consideration of my comments.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Mr. Ledbetter.

Mr. -- or Dr. James Kroll.

DR. JAMES C. KROLL: Good morning.


DR. JAMES C. KROLL: I'm Dr. James C. Kroll. I'm an emeritus and regents professor at Stephen F. Austin State University. Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin in 2011-2012 appointed me the Deer Trustee of Wisconsin. So I have a lot of experience with these things. In 2002, I participated in the development of the Texas CWD Management Plan and I was very proud of our state because it represented a common sense approach and we would be one of the few states not running off the cliff like a bunch of lummoxes. Since then, CWD did show up and it appears we have totally abandoned the plan.

CWD is a rare disease in Texas, as evidenced by the Department's testing data representing some 179,707 postmortem tests of free-ranging, breeder, and released deer. The impair -- apparent infection rates are less than 1 percent. If we assume that testing positive for "cion" prion proteins ultimately leads to death, these numbers pale in comparison to automobile accidents and Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease.

Further I pointed out in 2002 that CWD is only a significant issue if you can answer yes to the two following questions: Will it devastate deer herds, and can humans get it?

The answer to both was and still is today no.

In regard to the former, at his August 24th

presentation at the Trophy Hunter San Antonio, I asked Dr. Reed if there were peer-reviewed published papers documenting that CWD reduced the density or recruitment in White-tailed deer. He responded yes. I asked him if he could send those citations, and he said he would. I also asked if White -- any White-tailed deer have died from CWD in Texas that could be documented. Again, he answered yes and agreed to send the evidence. After 50 days of reminding him, I received information that not only did not produce the evidence, but actually substantiated my claim that there were none. He also did not send evidence of White-tailed deer mortalities attributed directly to CWD.

My point is the true scientific evidence does

not support the measures being considered. Wisconsin lost 12 percent of its hunters because of false information about CWD. The billboard -- the billboard and mail out warning that CWD is a threat to Texas deer is inexcusable and it's cost us. The Department's actions are costly to hunters, land values, and the livelihood of deer breeders. Appreciate your giving my comments some consideration.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you, Dr. Kroll.

And I believe aren't those billboards down now?



CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: I believe they are. They're supposed to be. If they're not, they need to be down.

All right, thank you.

Emily Benbow.

MS. EMILY BENBOW: Yes. Good morning. Thank you for allowing me to speak. I'm -- my speech is much different, and I tore up my speech. I'm going to speak from the heart. My husband and I have a ranch in Victoria County. We're the seventh generation landowners. We have a passion for wildlife and for the youth of our state. We are a deer breeder and also have a high fence for hunting. We are one of the 62 ranches that is non-movement qualified.

I have so many questions with that, it's -- it's not -- I guess I just need to explain how it's affecting us. You know, financially with the burden -- it's a burden with -- with -- our plan is to either kill a hundred percent of the deer, wait -- I don't know the specifics of the timeline of testing a hundred percent of the pen to get out of this.

You know, it's a scary time for us. I did read about the billboards. That was something that sort of was an interest to me because it says that you've spent the money for the billboards for CWD awareness and that you were spending money for education. Well, you know, I hope that education doesn't kill the desire for our youth hunters that -- that -- we're trying to get kids to come and learn the passion of hunting and wildlife and getting them out of -- off their cell phones and make some memories. And I have a ton of memories with our hunting ranch, but don't have time for that.

And I -- the issue of the ear tags being left on whenever we sell to our stocker bucks, you know, we originally had ear tags whenever we started our hunting business. The hunters did not like tags on their ears. If that deer is shot and there's no ear tag, they're still going to have a hole in the ear. They still have an implant. They still have an ID. Can't that be considered as some of the identification?

And I know I skipped over some stuff because I'm a little bit nervous. But, you know, we're in a bind and I just hope that we can work with you. We work well with our Victoria County biologist and game wardens, which we love. I would like to see that relationship improve on the state level.


MS. EMILY BENBOW: So, thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you very much, Ms. Benbow.

MS. EMILY BENBOW: Thank you.


MR. JOHN TRUE: Good morning, Chairman Hildebrand, Commissioners. For the record, John True. I'm a deer breeder from Dallas, Texas. Before I start, just to answer Donnie Draeger's comment, I serve on the board of the North American Deer Registry. To date, we've had 27,000 fawns sent in for DNA analysis. 84 percent of those have been requested and paid for GEBV Seabury analysis. This is something our industry is taking extremely serious.

For the record, I'm against all of the proposals as they're written. Most of them need to be tweaked at a minimum. Most of them create more and more mousetraps for deer breeders. I'm sure you look at deer breeders as a bunch of complainers and folks who have problems constantly with rules and regulations. I'd just like to explain one scenario to give you an idea of our perception of the situation.

There was a positive, as everyone knows, in Bexar County this year using the TTP permit. The TTP Permit is a good permit. It's a terminal permit used by places like Hollywood Park or Lakeway that have an abundance of deer trying to remove them. Those deer are euthanized and donated to food plants.

To qualify for that, you just have to test 15 animals for CWD and you can move hundreds of deer if you have 15 tests. That area of Hollywood Park was also used under a Triple T Permit when that was still in use twice in the last five years, as recent as 2021 when it was suspended, right before it was suspended. A total of 30 animals left Hollywood Park and were put on a trailer, moved 70 miles an hour down the highway, released on two low-fence ranches -- one in Bandera, one in Crockett County -- all of those deer had ear tags in their ears.

At the White-tailed Deer Advisory Committee, I brought this up and was shocked to know that there has been no effort to go find those deer. Those deer potentially have CWD and have subjected two new counties to CWD potentially. There's been no effort to find those deer. There's been no hold order placed on those ranches. There's been no discussion of a herd plan that would involve hunter-harvest testing on those ranches. There's been no emergency order that would halt the TTT[sic] Program until further rules could be placed. There's been no follow-up with food banks. There's been no follow-up with the processers that handled all the meat of potentially CWD infected animals. It's like it doesn't even matter.

Conversely if a deer breeder or a breeder release site had received deer from Hollywood Park, there would immediately be a hold order on our facility. Those animals would be deemed high risk. We would be given so many days to kill and locate all of those animals. And if we didn't, we would receive a ten-day letter telling us that Parks and Wildlife was coming in to kill the animals.

If they only found 29 of the 30, a herd plan would be set up. We would be considered a Category B trace release site and we would be required 280 plus samples.


MR. JOHN TRUE: Those --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Okay. Mr. True, you know the rules. Three minutes. It's --

MR. JOHN TRUE: I'm wrapping up. I promise.


MR. JOHN TRUE: Those --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All right, I'll let you wrap up; but this is the last one.

MR. JOHN TRUE: Yes, sir.


MR. JOHN TRUE: Those deer are all ear tagged. That's our case study for traceability and finding the viability of ear tags. We desperately need your leadership on this --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great, thank you.

MR. JOHN TRUE: -- issue. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All right, thanks so much.

Mr. Davis.

MR. KEVIN DAVIS: Good morning, Chairman, Commissioners. My name's -- for the record, my name's Kevin Davis. I'm representing myself and the Texas Deer Association. You know, I happen to be an honorably retired Texas game warden that was still working in 2020. So I was actually at the table whenever the current ID requirements were tweaked at the Texas Capitol in the 86th Legislature.

I was -- my rank was Chief of Staff of the Law Enforcement Division and although Clayton Williams[sic] led the legislative point of contact for that Legislature, I conversed with him routinely, weekly -- if not daily -- and conversed with leadership of the Texas Deer Association and the DBC at the same time to, you know, make sure that they understood the needs of the bill itself.

So the discussion on the bill was several layers. The Department needed more unique numbers. They were about out of unique numbers. So they needed a way to add unique numbers to the tagging requirements that were already in place. So they needed a bill that would allow preprinted tags with up to five letters on it instead of four. And so that was a big portion of the bill.

The consternation was whether or not that was required in the pasture. That was consternation of the bill. The bill went through several iterations that session and several iterations sessions before that and what did not survive was pasture identification. So I just want to be clear that -- I guess I'd ask the Commission if the Department is simply reproducing a statutory requirement that already exists, what was the need for an emergency rule or any rule governing it if it's already required?

And secondly, the last line in the current proposal -- the last paragraph in the current proposal states that a breeder deer is no longer a breeder deer once it's released. So the identification statute is identify -- the name of the statute is identification of breeder deer. It says nothing about free-ranging deer.

With that, I'll yield my time, sir.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you, Mr. Davis.

All right. Next is Jody Phillips. Hello, Ms. Phillips.

MS. JODY PHILLIPS: Hello. I'm Jody Phillips. I'm currently the President of the Texas Deer Association. I own and operate P Bar Whitetails in Cherokee County. I want to take this opportunity today to speak toward the producer's skepticism narrative created by those who do not have a clear understanding of what deer breeders are today and what the rule's like from the -- look like from the producer's side.

From within the industry, I can speak from strength toward the amount of testing and surveillance. With that, I mean genetic resistance testing that Seabury represented yesterday. To answer some questions, 82 percent of samples sent for parentage now are genetically tested for codons and GEBVs. I myself killed 61 animals, all GGs, in order to increase the durability of my herd. I have since antemortem tested my entire herd. Every animal I have has been tested for genetic durability. I have tested my whole herd and I am still tied up under tier language as non-movement.

So the antemortem tests, the sheer number of those tests -- not only as my farm, but as an industry as a whole -- I feel is a lot of surveillance. As Seabury said yesterday, we're kind of your only laboratory. I mean, being able to test every animal has a lot of merit, in my opinion. So a hundred percent of deaths has a lot of merit. That means that nothing ever dies without us giving you a CWD test. So we know that they're not dying from CWD very often.

It's abundantly obvious that the disease is caught and the risks are mitigated under the current rules. Those rules are working. Currently the way the rules are set up, the merit of the antemortem test holds no weight once the animal leaves a breeding facility. So if I release a deer, I'm still liable for that deer five years later in that release site and it was tested negative before I sent it there. Why do I need to test it if there's no merit to that test? That's a lot of money spent throughout our industry for a test that they say, oh, well, you know, that test doesn't count basically.

That's what it feels like from the producer's side. It's hard to see that from outside of the industry. So I just want to let everybody know that I don't think those rules were made -- we didn't know what they looked like and I don't think the Commission did either when they were made and now we're seeing it and we're seeing the spiderweb that's tied us up.

Mostly the rules proposed today do not fix CWD at all. So as a deer breeder, I stand before you asking for help because of the strain passed down through dinosaur regulation created before the industry had the tools to solve CWD. So I feel like your consideration in the tools and in the testing and in all the surveillance matters. So --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you --

MS. JODY PHILLIPS: -- thank you for your time.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: -- very much for you comments. Appreciate it. Thanks, Ms. Phillips.

Mr. Tim Gloss and --


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Glass, okay. And if you'll hold just a moment. Let me do -- so Riley Price, 11; Verona Butler, 12; Chris Methner, 13; Shaelynn Malatek, 14; Megan Dubois, 15; Tammy[sic] Herring, 16; John DeFillips[sic], 17; Alice Oehmig, 18; Billy Oehmig, 19; Bernadine Dittmar, 20. If you guys would line up, that's great.

Okay. Yes, sir, Mr. Glass.

MR. TIM GLASS: Good morning. Thank you for your time. All I can do is come before you today and kind of explain my situation. I wrote out a bunch of stuff; but in the end, it didn't make since. So here's the -- I've been a deer breeder for a little less than four years. In four years, I've been open for business for 25 months. I've been closed 20 months all because of the designation from this Agency as a tier facility. And then talk to this organization and they tell me some of the responsibility to get released lies upon Texas Animal Health Commission for them to discover the epidemiological links and whether or not I should be tied to it or not.

And then I talk to Texas Animal Health Commission and they don't even ident -- they don't even recognize Tier 1 facilities. It's something that was created by this organization. USDA doesn't recognize Tier 1 facilities. It only exists here in Parks and Wildlife.

And in that process, on three separate occasions I've been lock downed under that determination from the same trace facility. Every one of those instances are at the four-year-nine-month, four-year-seven-month, four-year-six-month timeframe from their exposure to a CWD linked facility. I'm barely within the window. And since that time, that facility has done a 100 percent herd test. Proven to this organization in 2022 that they -- there was no risk of CWD. But then here we are again in 2023 and once again on two more instances, this organization comes to me and says, well, if I want to be open for business, just test a hundred percent of your herd again.

So -- and now with these new rule changes, since I have two facilities, I have to test my bucks to move them to my noncertified facility to grow them out and when I get ready to -- and then they've got to stay this residency rule until that test is no good anymore so that I can test them again to release them onto my property. So an animal that I raise and I take care of, I've got to test on three different occasions to make you guys happy on a determination that -- from 2019 you guys have already said that we did not have the risk of CWD, then test them again to move -- three different times, test them again to move them to my noncertified facility, and then test them again to release them or sell them. When is the testing enough?

If I just knew that, I would at least feel like, you know, there's an answer to this. But I just want someone on this Commission in this organization to tell me when have I tested enough to make people happy that I don't have CWD. Thank you for your time.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Mr. Glass. Understand your frustration.

Ms. Price.

MS. RILEY ANN PRICE: Good morning and thank you for the opportunity to be here. My name is Riley Ann Price and I drove across Texas today to not come tell you my opinion, but to tell you the truth. The truth is, is that deer breeders -- and certainly not the Texas deer breeders -- deer breeders did not create CWD. When deer were created, CWD was created. That's the long and the short of it.

No one wants CWD. Producers don't want it. You guys don't want it as Texas Parks and Wildlife, and the uninformed public certainly does not want it. The truth is these rules and regulations that you are setting forward will not simply take it away.

One thing is for certain and two things are for sure. The producers that came here today from all over the state, they did not come here because they are the problem. They came here today because they are undeniably the solution. The second thing is, is that it was clearly stated yesterday in this very room during the workshop that the Texas deer breeder is the only laboratory that we are currently operating. The only laboratory. Why would we set forth regulations that would continue to demise our laboratory?

These unrealistic regulations would only create red tape and unnecessary hardships. It would be foolish to create this additional strain for those that are standing on the front lines of this situation and are trying to be the solution. They're trying to protect our natural resource.

Truthfully speaking, deer breeders' livelihoods depend upon the health of those animals and those animals' livelihoods depend upon those deer breeders and the producers are here today fighting for their animals. Give them the freedom and the ability to produce their product. They're just a producer looking to produce their product. Truthfully the science and the evidence is in place to not only breed towards disease resistance, but to breed towards durability. Allow them to effectively use the science. These rules won't allow that.

The truth is if the funds that we have wasted on these rules and regulations were put towards the breeders, actual relief for the breeders and applying the science that the breeders have gathered, there is no telling what we could accomplish. Each one of you are standing on the forefront of an opportunity to come together to unite with the producers that you have in the great State of Texas and to solve this problem.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Ms. Price. Appreciate it.

No. 12, Verona Butler.

MS. VERONA BUTLER: Hello. My name is Verona Butler. I'm from Center, Texas. In case you didn't know, Center is not actually in the center of Texas. It is on the far east side right on the Louisiana line, right in the a heart of Shelby County. It's all pine trees and chickens in that neck of woods; but then, of course, there's HighRoller Whitetails. It's been my home for the past eight years now.

To make this brief, I stand opposed of all the rules proposed. I stand in opposition of all the rules proposed. My main concern for HighRoller, we have four facilities. We have two on the same property. We have a county road that's about 30 yards away from our gate, from our main facility. We take bucks across the road to grow out at. Right now we've just been issued a herd plan that requires us to test twice rectally. Now you're telling me that we're going to have to test deer to manage between our farms.

Now all four facilities are within a mile of each other, and that's just how we manage it. We like to give our pens rest and it's just -- it's good practice honestly. If you keep animals on one piece of land, it's not great. There's only also so much tissue you can take. So if I'm having to test twice at our facility and then we're going to have to test again to move to one of our facilities, you're lucky to get three good samples with enough follicles on it. What else is there left to test after that when we're just trying to properly manage our facilities and our herd.

I encourage you to take a deeper look into this before making a final decision. There's several farms in the state that have multiple facilities. This -- this will be a big problem. I also disagree with the fact that breeder deer are being required to be released with identification. In my opinion this is an infringement on private property rights. It should be their choice, plan and simple.

I'm a very proud Texan, and I know that Texas is supposed to be the state where businesses can grow and thrive. That honestly hasn't been the case for the deer industry. In fact, it feels like our business is being quite suppressed. We as Texans can do better. We should be the leaders of the industry in the entire country, not the ones known now with the worst regulations in the country. We, the breeders, have done the research and we have the truths about our industry and I hope that you can hear our pleas today. Thank you for this opportunity to speak, and I greatly appreciate your time.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you very much, Ms. Butler.

Could I please remind each of the speakers: After they speak, could you exit the room just to leave room for new presenters that want to come into the room. I'd really appreciate that. Thank you very much.

Okay. Chris Methner.

MR. CHRIS METHNER: Yes, sir. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. Thank you-all for the opportunity to voice our opinions today. My name is Chris Methner. I am a graduate of Texas A&M University and I have been a wildlife and freshwater fisheries biologist for the past 18 years. I hope and pray that you-all can truly see the value of White-tail from breeding facilities. That they have the ability to improve genetic makeup of herds across the state, improve property values, increase the total acreage dedicated to wildlife management, increase rural Texas economic productivity, and most importantly have the ability to provide the state with animals that have a genomic makeup of resistance to CWD and resistance to many other diseases.

I hope and I pray that you-all have an understanding that that very genetic influence is the only true solution to CWD other than natural selection and is one of the strongest examples of conservation.

Lastly, I hope and pray you-all can see there are numerous avenues this disease spreads that goes unmonitored or monitored at very low levels and that adding numerous additional regulations to breeders which monitor for CWD at exponentially higher rates than any other group in the state will not stop the spread of CWD and is counterproductive in creating a long-term solution in my humble opinion. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thanks, Mr. Methner.

Ms. Malatek.

MS. SHAELYNN MALATEK: Good morning. My name is Shaelynn Malatek and I'm the farm manager at P Bar Whitetails. Some of my favorite memories growing up are of the times I spent hunting with my dad. Those moments in the stand is where my love and respect for White-tailed deer started. It continues to grow throughout my time at Texas A&M where I began to understand more of the complexities behind the breeding and antler growth in White-tailed deer. So you could imagine my excitement when I was offered a position at a White-tailed deer farm.

I know many breeders talk about how different the industry is from 5, 10, 15 years ago. But even in my short three years, it has changed drastically in terms of testing and new rules. There are many factors and rules currently plaguing the deer industry that need to be addressed, but the one I'd like to talk about is the antemortem test.

To start off, the testing itself is not the problem, but the lack of validity that is placed on it. The antemortem testing is working to reduce the movement and spread of CWD and is a valid test. I'd like to take a moment to explain what taking this test entails for a deer breeder and the deer being tested. In order to correctly obtain an antemortem rectal, for example, you need all the proper tools, a licensed veterinarian, correct sanitation methods and labor, plus the cost of all of that. Although it can be done in a chute, majority of deer must be sedated. This may seem like a harmless task, but the stress it places on these animals in addition to pulling test can be substantial.

As things are now, many deer will be required to have multiple tests taken in the course of their lifetime or even within a year. Now imagine being required to do all of that and then being told the test doesn't really count for much. That's the current reality for deer breeders. One of the biggest problems with this is the lack of merit it holds in any trace or tier situation. If the animal has a negative antemortem test before moving to another facility or release site, it should not still be tied to the previous farm.

The last thing I'd like to add is that we are actively working to mitigate risk and want to solve CWD as much, if not more, than you do. At our particular farm, we have many management practices in place in addition to testing in order to reduce that risk. This includes, but is not limited to, the proper sanitation of our breeding facility, dumping and cleaning water troughs daily to limit contamination from varmints and other small animals, and getting our hay from places that do not have any known CWD on the landscape. Most importantly, we are breeding towards a more CWD resistant herd.

I'd just like to ask that you place as much credibility on the antemortem test that you are making us put on it by requiring us to take them.



CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Ms. Malatek.

Next, Megan Dubois.

MS. MEGAN DUBOIS: My name is Megan Dubois and my husband Ben and I work for P Bar Whitetails in Bullard, Texas. We moved to Texas in 2020 to both pursue careers in the White-tail breeding industry. Ben had previously interned at a high-fence ranch in Missouri where we -- he cultivated his passion for White-tail deer and I was happy to follow his dream.

We have had the pleasure of getting to learn so much and meet so many great people in and around this industry in our short time here. Through him and being a part of the White-tail breeding industry in Texas, I have learned so much about conservation, management, and gained appreciation for big game animals. I have grown to love White-tail deer so much. It's the highlight of my day every day getting to take grapes to my favorite does on the farm.

These emergency rules only hurt our industry and the livelihoods of thousands of Texans. The rules before were working. CWD was found and eliminated from landscapes. Since 2021, deer breeders have tested more deer than there are currently in pens. As with any industry, there are outliers; but as a whole, the deer industry wants to do what's right in regards to CWD surveillance.

Testing 100 percent of all deaths and every deer that gets released is ample surveillance, add on top deer being moved breeder to breeder being tested. I also would like to reiterate every deer that is released from a breeder pen has a negative antemortem test and is being put out in a high-fence release site. No breeder deer are being put in the wild and do not come in contact with wild deer.

One thing is abundantly clear. There are certain agents at Texas Parks and Wildlife trying to kill our industry and Texans' livelihoods. This is not the Texas I imagined when we moved here in 2020. Laws and rules need to be made through proper channels. Emergency rules that affect the entire industry don't need to be made hastily by a government agency. Checks and balances protect everyone and need to be applied here.

Deer breeders are the solution to CWD. The work Dr. Seabury has done to help farms create genetically resistant deer to CWD will be what helps Texans eradicate CWD. If deer breeders are regulated out of business, CWD will still exist in Texas. Look at Arkansas. They have no high fences or deer farms, yet they still battle CWD. Since 2016, they have had 1,485 positives in White-tail deer. If it weren't for Texas White-tail industry, my husband and I would not be proud Texans. We hope this industry can flourish again and keep us here. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Ms. Dubois.

Mr. Tommy Herring.

MR. TOMMY HERRING: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, my name is Tommy Herring. I'm owner of H2H Whitetails in Bedias. I would like to thank you for the time you are giving me today to speak to y'all. As you know, Texas breeders test more deer for CWD than any other group around. With the research of experts like Dr. Seabury, deer breeders are working diligently to bring resistant genetics into play for our deer industry. Resistant genetics will be the best way to bring this disease under control.

While there are proven cases of CWD, it has not been a factor of decreasing the population of the deer in Texas in the past years. With the help of experts and their research, deer breeders, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, we can all come together and reach our goal of ending CWD. By raising deer that are genetically resistant to CWD, it will help all deer, especially our native deer. Thank you again for your time.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thanks, Mr. Herring.



John -- Mr. John DeFillipo.



MR. JOHN DEFILLIPO: Yes. Good morning, Commissioners and Chairman. I'm John DeFillipo, Executive Director of the Texas Conservation Alliance and since 1971, our Alliance and 50 Alliance members have advocated for wildlife protections throughout the state.

Our organization is the Texas affiliate of the National Wildlife Federation and we represent a wide variety of individuals that enjoy the outdoors. Not just hunters, but birds, hikers, canoers, and of course state park users. Our organization fully supports and thanks TPWD's aggressive response to Chronic Wasting Disease in Texas. I am here today to voice our support for the proposed amendments and to the current rules governing CWD.

CWD is a serious issue for conservation-minded Texans and everyone that cares about wildlife protections. This is a Texas conservation issue for all healthy wildlife habitats and wildlife species of our state. We also recognize that the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation has been shown to work and we need to protect it. This model supports the basic tenets that wildlife is a public trust, an American birthright, and that wildlife species need to be managed in a way that their populations can be sustained forever.

Texans also need and deserve to know if their wildlife were raised in a pen. Therefore, it is essential to have permanent visible and external identification of captive-raised deer, as outlined in the current statute. Texas Conservation Alliance encourages the Commission to adopt all the proposed amendments and the rules governing CWD detection, response, management, and deer breeder permits. Thank you again for the opportunity to speak with you today and we greatly appreciate what you've done with CWD so far and your ongoing stewardship for the wildlife of Texas.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Mr. DeFillipo.



MS. ALICE OEHMIG: Good morning, Mr. Chairman -- I think we lost our Vice-Chairman -- and the the Commissioners. I'm Alice Oehmig and I'm co-owner of Blue Creek Whitetails that's here in Falfurrias in Brooks County. Listening to the men and women who arrived today and their concern of how the Commission voted in August and the speed of the decision that was cast and the votes cast, it was a concern to me as well.

Mr. Commissioner -- well, actually, Mr. Bell's gone, but he had applauded -- I want to applaud him for asking some questions yesterday to the experts. And I thought what is the largest threat or need to protect our Texas deer? I agree with that. I -- that's the largest question. What is the need and what can we do and be responsible, you know to protect the native resource?

And I said, you know -- now, Mr. Chairman, Parks and Wildlife, the rules that were needed to stay in place that require the antemortem testing, we agree 100 percent because before -- to transport deer is so important. If this is all we have, let's use the tool before us to mitigate concerns to other places and other ranches. We owe that to our neighbors, we owe that to our community, and we owe it to ourselves as breeders, I mean, because this is our state. So I do believe that does need to stay in place because that's the best we have right now and so we should -- we should use that.

And I also agree with delaying the other rules until January and this is literally because the way the rules are written has this Commission acting like an executioner that's swinging an axe that's going to be the instrument that destroys Texans' livelihoods and I'm here today asking each of you to please delay the balance of these rules yesterday presented by -- that were covered by Alan Cain. And only until an unbiased, full economic study can be presented and reviewed for all the counties that will be financially affected.

This is so important. These are rural communities that most of these breeding facilities are in and we are -- we are part of that community. From the churches to the grocery stores to everything, it matters. Along with some information from experts that will prevent -- present you, science-based facts in full without any bias. This is important. I mean, I listened to the experts. It was very, very suggestive language.

So this request, it maybe seem unnecessary; but you've been fed data by these experts and when the facts -- if you just pause and dig -- I mean, very slightly, just a little deeper -- that was presented yesterday by Parks and Wildlife, you'll see how poorly written and suggestive this information was. Because I've done -- I've done the research. I looked up their peer-reviewed papers. I've read them back to forward to find out where they got their information.

Said, you know -- and when I -- after I read them, I said maybe this management plan that they were presenting should have been in the library and it should have been in the historical fiction rather than legitimate. So, I mean, it was -- it was -- it was really hard to listen to that. And if you choose to proceed to vote today and vote all the rules that were first proposed, also while choosing to make no efforts to find out how your fellow Texans will be affected, it'll be clear for everyone your lack of compassion and your lack of concern and it -- you'll be making decisions ill-informed.


MS. ALICE OEHMIG: And that should give everyone here great pause.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you very much, Ms. Oehmig.

MS. ALICE OEHMIG: All right. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Mr. Billy Oehmig. And let -- before -- Mr. Oehmig, before you start, let me get the next ten cued up.

So Bernadine Dittmar is 20; Arthur Uhl, 21; Don Steinbach, 22; Chris Schuchart, 23; Jenny Sanders, 24; Lance Odom, 25; Justin Dreibelbis -- sorry -- 26; Mary Pearl Meuth, 27; Jory Rector, 28; Kirby Vanover, 29; and Micky McCrea, 30.

All right. Thanks, Mr. Oehmig. Go ahead.

MR. BILLY OEHMIG: Thank you, sir. Good morning, all. As I sat in the room yesterday, I was very pleasantly surprised to see the professionalism and all the questions that y'all asked. I was very pleased to see that.

If you really need to approve the breeder-to-breeder proposal, you know, I would support that; but that's about as far as I can go. But when I -- when you do adopt rules, all that I ask of you is that you do it and you clearly define the rules that you're proposing to pass and do it in a nondiscriminatory fashion. Do it for all of the cervid species and all locations and knowing the affects to all the stakeholders. Nondiscriminatory. Please for God sake do that much for us.

The rules and more importantly the enforcement behind the rules that you now have in place are not based on science. Unfortunately it was not. The science is completely incomplete that you're relying your decisions upon and as you heard yesterday and as I've seen in the presentations by your staff, they're completely skewed to one side of the spectrum. There is no equal justice in the presentations that you saw. They get to cherry-pick the language and the people that provide you with information.

I would challenge you -- as my wife did -- go read the Chronic Wasting Disease handbook for the management plan. Challenge the, quote, experts that were here yesterday. I promise you my wife can debunk every one of them and you should too because you cannot make rules until you know the answers to all of it and unfortunately there is no objectivity to all of this. There is no rationality to all of this.

When CWD is found -- and, yes, it is a disease. None of us want it. We don't want any disease in our pens. We don't want EHD that kills thousand times more deer than CWD. We don't want pneumonia. We don't want anthrax. We don't want any disease. It is financially punitive to us to have any disease. We don't discuss those, but they are hugely more important to the deer health of our herds than CWD is; but yet we're not addressing those.


MR. BILLY OEHMIG: But we're here to talk about the things that do affect us and those are the things behind your rules, the herd plans that you were not --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Yes, sir. I understand fully.

MR. BILLY OEHMIG: -- writing down.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: I understand fully. Mr. Oehmig, I apologize, but your three minutes is up. Thank you for your comments. Appreciate it and duly --

MR. BILLY OEHMIG: I would --


MR. BILLY OEHMIG: I would appreciate it at some point an ability to say everything that needs to be said.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: I understand. Thank you very much.

All right, next Bernadine -- Ms. Dittmar.

MS. BERNADINE DITTMAR: Hello. I'm Bernadine Dittmar. I'm the widow of Dr. Bob Dittmar. Thank you, Chairman Hildebrand, the Commissioners, Dr. Yoskowitz. It's an honor to be here today.

I'm here with Dr. Bob's brother Jerry Dittmar representing our low-fence ranch Dittmar Dittmar Hushky, established in 1857, the memory and legacy of Dr. Bob Dittmar, but most importantly the native deer of Texas. I am a subsistence hunter. Hunting has been our family's way of life since the very beginning. Our hunters have been with us for decades.

This is bigger than politics. CWD must not be based -- must be based on science, not politics. This is bigger than economics. This is about protecting the native deer of Texas, period. These rules are DR. Bob Dittmar. He worked so hard with experts across the United States and other countries and to infer that this is not scientific, it is just simply not true.

Any delay in passing these aggressive rules will only further the spread of CWD which Texas Parks and Wildlife has worked so hard to isolate. That's the worry with the delay. It will spread the disease.

You're in a very powerful position to help contain this deadly disease. The most humbling words in the English language, the most troubling words of the English language are regretfully would have, should have, you could have.

I'm asking for you to pass the rules for the love of the native deer, life as my family knows it, and for my grandchildren's grandchildren. Where is your heart? My heart will always be with the native deer of Texas. And thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Ms. Dittmar.

Mr. Arthur Uhl.

MR. ARTHUR UHL: Thank you, Chairman Hildebrand, members of the Commission, and Dr. Yoskowitz. My name's Arthur Uhl. I'm appearing today as President of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, Texas oldest and largest livestock organization representing more than 26,000 ranchers, landowners, and other members of the cattle industry across the state.

TSCRA strongly supports the proposed amendments for the regulation of Chronic Wasting Disease. White-tailed deer are the property of the State of Texas and as native wildlife of the state, it is necessary and appropriate for the Commission to issue regulations as needed for the protection of the resource. State agencies also have the clear regulatory responsibility and authority to issue emergency rules when circumstances dictate and exercise of that duty and authority. The dire situation caused by the outbreak of this highly contagious, incurable disease without question warrants the immediate adoption of these rules.

CWD is a devastating disease that is highly contagious, difficult to detect, and incurable. During the last year, documented cases of CWD have exponentially expanded both in number and geographic area and it is estimated that unless aggressive and immediate steps are taken to curtail the spread of this awful disease, the state's White-tailed deer population may be reduced by 50 percent or more. This Commission and the Department simply cannot allow that to happen.

Cattlemen certainly take disease outbreak seriously. We've seen the disaster caused by an outbreak of BSE, the bovine equivalent of CWD. And certainly if there were disease outbreak of this speed and magnitude affecting cattle, the Texas Animal Health Commission would take swift and decisive action. Cattlemen also understand the importance and necessity of permanent animal identification. Traceability through positive and permanent identification is a top priority of cattlemen and cattlewomen and cattle associations throughout the country, as well as the USDA.

White-tailed deer are not only one of the state's most iconic resources, they play a vital role in the livelihood of many, many ranching and agricultural families, as well as the economies of rural communities across the state. Recreational, economic, and cultural losses which will occur if the spread of CWD is not effectively stopped or slowed is huge; but avoidable if action is taken.

TSCRA understands that other stakeholders may have different perspectives on this issue and on some or all of the proposed regulations. But make no mistake, the number of citizens of our state who will be harmed by the decimation of our deer herd on account of CWD greatly outnumber those persons who believe they may benefit from the void of comprehensive and effective regulation. For this reason, we believe that the immediate adoption of these regulations are the best solution for our state and its native wildlife. We strongly encourage this Commission to uphold its duty to protect our state's wildlife resources by adopting these proposed amendments.


MR. ARTHUR UHL: Thank you for your time and consideration.


And once again, I just request when the red light comes on, could you guys just stop your speech or -- if the yellow light's coming on, that means you've got 30 -- 15 seconds? So you should be wrapping up when it's yellow. But I just want to be -- tolerate everyone.

But so, anyway, you're go, Mr. Steinbach.

MR. DON STEINBACH: Good morning, Chair Hildebrand, Executive Director Yoskowitz. For the record, my name is Don Steinbach, Executive Director of the Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society, a society for professionals, have about 900 members.

Texas has a rich history of innovative deer management by many landowners and managers of Texas ranches. Several of these managers are icons in this state. One of these managers, Al Brothers, former employee of the Department and manager of the HB Zachry Ranches, he and Murphy Ray author two versions of a book: "Producing Quality Whitetails."

The book set in motion some of the deer management concepts that I would guess several of our -- your fellow Commissioners are utilizing on their ranches today. Al asked me to pen a chapter in the second revision of that book entitled "Ethics and New Developments." I did not consider myself to be prophetic; but in 1998, I could already see changing deer management strategies from an ecological approach to a physiological. As these changes were evolving, conservation groups and landowners were putting into practice some of these new approaches and the Texas Legislature passed new laws to permit those new practice and the state agency was required to accommodate those policy changes.

The United States has been blessed with an abundance of native wildlife resources. Lack of understanding and policies on the utilization of those native natural resources allowed the exploitation of elk, Mule deer, buffalo, White-tailed deer. The implementation of new informed policies -- like the North American Model of Conservation -- have guided us to recover these species from exploitation. There are several examples of recovery efforts from misguided policies that I know you-all are all aware of that rectified these misguided policies by efforts of conservation groups, agencies, and the Legislature.

Texas is at a crossroads with our policies of White-tailed deer management and the affect of those policies that have allowed for the exploitation of our native White-tailed deer. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has the opportunity to pass and implement these rules today and rectify some of the past policies that did not anticipate some of the unintended consequences of the exploitation of Texas White-tailed deer and return management to conservation efforts, not exploitation. Thank you for listening to those comments.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you very much, Mr. Steinbach.

Chris Schuchart. Mr. Schuchart.

MR. CHRIS SCHUCHART: Good morning. For the record, my the name is Chris Schuchart. I have a bachelor of science degree in animal science and MBA, both from A&M, and I have a law degree from St. Mary's; but most recently, I'm the retired judge of Medina County.

July of 2015, Carter Smith called me. I was seven months on the job and Carter called me and said, "Judge, you have CWD in your county."

To which my response was, "What is CWD?"

Over the next years, I came to know as much about it as I could. Medina County became ground zero, as you saw yesterday, for CWD. We had a very large population of deer breeders at the time. Most of them are out of business or still struggling trying to stay alive, but most of them are gone. It's affected our land values in Medina County. We still have a large zone in Medina County, and it affected our livelihood.

Back then the goal was to stop the spread of the disease and try to figure out how to terminate it. Yesterday I saw there are now 28 zones in Texas, which tells me we have somehow failed on that goal in 2015 and still no answers as to how long a zone will last and how long will it affect my county and all those other 28 zones that have been created.

Yesterday we had some great speakers talking about moving in the right direction, good management plans, genetic testing, better testing methods. I appreciate all that. I also heard speakers that are still talking about studies in Wyoming, Colorado, Wisconsin, and I'm wondering why are we using those studies when we have hundreds, if not thousands, of the best animal labs here in Texas that we should be studying and our studies should come from Texas, not those states.

I also heard a lot of mights and mays and stuff like that, which as lawyer just kicks me in the rear because behind that statement of a might or a may is probably a sentence that's not going to be supported by facts and we should have plenty of facts to study.

So I'm here today to ask you for an additional amendment. I am not a deer breeder. I just own a ranch that has a high fence that my family hunts on. I'm here to ask you for somehow come up with an ending of these zones. When will they ever end? And secondly, to amend the rules to define the CWD zone to be the confines of the fence line of the infected ranch if it has a high fence and omit the 2-mile radius or at worst maybe the adjacent ranches to it. Because I think the 2-mile radius is random, that it's not supported by science. It used to be five. Now it's two. So what is right?

My ranch in Frio County is 1.83 miles from another ranch and it's going to take a deer to jump out of that high-fence, run across 1.83 miles, jump into my high-fence to possibly infect my deer and we all know that's statistically impossible.

Lastly I want to thank Alan Cain for putting up with all of us. He's done a great job. And I want you to consider this amendment and I also want to thank you. From someone who's served, I want to thank you for your service and all that y'all do. Thank you.


Ms. Jenny Sanders.

MS. JENNY SANDERS: Good morning. Mr. Chairman Hildebrand, Commissioners, Dr. Yoskowitz, appreciate y'all entertaining this testimony. My name is Jenny Sanders, from Apple Springs. I'm a natural resource professional, a small-acreage landowner, and a hunter. I want to thank the Commission and staff for the inclusive and transparent process that has resulted in the development of these rules. I know -- I know some are new to this game and may not realize this, but these conversations are not new.

The pro-wildlife, hunting, livestock, and science community have been expressing concern to you, your predecessors, and Legislative oversight committees for years about the risks associated with captive deer breeding. And as it relates to CWD, the warnings have become reality.

Captive deer breeders have a biosecurity problem. They are leaking a toxic disease across Texas and putting our $4.3 billion hunting and rural economy at risk. Look, I get it. These folks are facing a situation where the business they have built has become unsafe to operate under the current model. It's not an easy pill to swallow, but accountability and mitigation of disease risk is not too much for the people of Texas to ask.

This should not be a difficult decision. Permanent identification is clearly required by statute. Permit ID is the hallmark of disease management and control in any animal industry. The deer already have tags in the pen. There is no justification or reason to remove the tags upon release. In fact, the irony of the argument being post by the breeders and their apologist is that they are asking you to delay a defensible regulatory process in order to honor some backroom deal that was never incorporated into the statute.

The reality is that the deer breeder business model is built on deception of their end user. How could anyone credibly oppose the prudent disease management tool -- this prudent disease management tool unless they know their customer base will suffer if they are aware of the true origin of the deer they hunt and harvest?

While I understand the frustrations of these political pressures, you have a job to do and that job is by its nature to be based in science and concern for the resource. And to that end, I will close with a quote from the Commission Policy No. 3 that's published on the Department website. That policy states that the Commission shall be responsible for preserving and conserving the resources of the state while preventing depletion and waste of those resources. This will necessitate giving biological data precedence over economic and political considerations.

We are begging you to hold firm on this rule. It's time. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thanks, Ms. Sanders.

Mr. Lance Odom.

MR. LANCE ODOM: Ladies and gentlemen of the Commission, thank you for your time. Our ranch is like many other private landowners. We manage it, spend enormous amounts of time, effort, and money to improve the herd, the land, and the habitat for all wildlife for our children and for our children's children.

We are not in the deer breeding business. We are not in the hunting business. We simply have this ranch for our own enjoyment. We love our property and want nothing but the best for it. We ask that you consider the following before making any decisions. We strongly disagree with current actions and proposed amendments concerning CWD. The science doesn't justify nor direct this response from Texas Parks and Wildlife.

There must be logical and fair discussion to find amicable solutions before great harm is done to Texas deer herd and to Texans. We are not against testing. We are absolutely for finding this disease and stopping it. We just need a logical approach and the ability to do so. We have propose several options for increased testing solutions, but have been denied. The health and well-being of the deer are certainly in all our best interest.

This is and will continue to cause great economic damage to Texas and to Texans. There will be severe economic impact to many small businesses and rural communities throughout the state, specifically damaging the value of our property if this continues. Texas is the leader in deer management, which is why we have to work together to find logical solutions. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you, Mr. Odom.


MR. JUSTIN DREIBELBIS: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, I'm Justin Dreibelbis. I'm the CEO for the Texas Wildlife Association. Our membership continues to be very concerned about Chronic Wasting Disease and the way that it's spread around the state through movement of deer and in captive facilities. We -- it was referenced quickly yesterday, but the 12th facility this year popped up positive this week and I think that's important to remind everybody.

You've got a really good rule package in front of you that has a tremendous amount of national and state support and we feel like it moves the needle in the management of this disease. While components of that package like permanent visible ID and breeder-to-breeder testing are absolute no-brainers from a disease management perspective, there are some things in there that took a little more conversation around the TWA leadership table. One of those was carcass disposal rules. And while there is certainly some level of risk on confusing or scaring hunters, we feel like the benefit outweighs the risk and so we are supportive of those carcass disposal rules because we feel like everybody's got a part to play here.

With that support, Alan did mention that we've got just a couple of suggestions. We feel like we ought to really clearly communicate and educate hunters before those rules are put into place, specifically on we need to communicate to hunters that they can still transport a whole carcass to a processer. We need to clearly define what a TCEQ permitted landfill is and acceptable ways to get carcass parts to that landfill. And then we also need to just continue to look for weighs that we can simplify our regs and also cut down on the amount of material that's moving down the road. A couple of examples that have been touched on is boning out meat on the site of harvest and then also not requiring heads for proof of sex. It's not a good look and it's something that's just adding to the risk.

In closing, I just want to say that there was some very concerning data that was presented yesterday from some of the positive facilities; but there was also some very encouraging things that were talked about the research. And I would say that the constant there was we've got to do our best to stop the spread or at least slow it down significantly if we have a chance of benefiting from that research and we feel like these rules move us closer to that. So thanks for the time.


Ms. Meuth.

MS. MARY PEARL MEUTH: Good morning, Chairman Hildebrand, Commissioners, Dr. Yoskowitz. For the record, my name is Mary Pearl Meuth and I am here as President Elect of Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society to voice my support for the full rule package presented today.

Texas Chapter applauds the Department's numerous efforts over the past ten years to slow, contain, and regulate CWD with the shared goal to ultimately eliminate the spread of the disease in Texas. We recognize your staff and leadership's efforts to diligently manage this disease while using an adaptive rule-making and science-based resource decision framework, tempered only where necessary with human expectations.

Over the past month, the Commission has received leathers -- letters from over a dozen organizations representing hundreds of thousands of concerned wildlife biologists, landowners, conservationists, and constituents who are professionals in ecological systems, disease management, land and habitat management, and ecologic -- land and habitat management and live and work alongside these issues on a daily basis. Each of these letters represents a voice that urges caution concerning CWD and supports all of the measures today.

As a species held within public trust, it is the responsibility of the Commission to ensure proper safeguards of our iconic wildlife species, one that you've heard numerous times generates over $4.3 billion in local and statewide economic impacts. Each of the proposed amendments represents common sense and science-based improvements to Texas' CWD rules that will assist with managing CWD, the disease, more effectively.

Texas Chapter thanks you, your staff, and leadership for their steadfast focus on the stewardship, management, and conservation of the natural and cultural resources of Texas. We applaud you, Commissioners, for taking the responsibility to juggle these issues and as you said yesterday, Chairman, the right policies will be embedded in sound, scientific principle to safeguard the well-being for all of our deer population.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you Ms. Meuth.



MR. JORY RECTOR: Good morning, Commissioners. My name's Jory Rector. I'm a Texas landowner. Have great concern regarding past and more specifically these proposed rules and regulations. With help from friends, I've compiled some numerical data directly from the Texas Parks and Wildlife through public information requests and the Department's own website. Do all you guys have a copy of this?

Okay. I'd like to direct your attention to some of the data from 2021 and 2022, which is highlighted in red. As you can see in 2021, breeder deer represented 1.6 percent of the total Texas deer population. 28 percent of those deer were tested, accounted for 63 percent of total testing, with a 0.2 percent positive rate. In 2022, breeder deer represented 1.5 percent of the total Texas deer population. 45 percent were tested, accounted for 69 percent of total testing, and experienced a 0.38 percent positive rating.

As you study the data from previous years, you can clearly see the consistencies in the extremely low positive percentages. And although incomplete, 2023 data is trending in a very similar manner. Up to and including 2022, breeder deer experienced a little over 161,000 tests, while free-range deer experienced 121,000 total tests. So 40,000 more tests have been administered on less than 1 percent of the total population.

Up to and including 2022, the overall positive rate is sitting at 0.15 percent. In no way does this data support these proposed constricting rules and regulations that will undoubtedly further increase expenses and further decrease revenue for what once was a thriving sector of the Texas hunting industry. 1.7 billion annually as I understand it.

The state unquestionably shows that breeder deer have been grossly over-vetted with the current rules and regulations and strongly indicates that additional rules and regulations only succeed in further harming the deer breeding industry and hunting in general. The state is unbiased. Certainly doesn't care about feelings or opinions, discredits the fear-based speculations and those who spew it, and tells the whole truth about Chronic Wasting Disease in Texas. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Mr. Rector.

All right. Ms. -- or Kirby Vanover.

MR. KIRBY VANOVER: Thank you. I think highly of the Texas Parks and Wildlife. It's been an important organization and I think it's -- has a good purpose if we follow the correct guidelines and continue to follow those. I'm against the overall regulating of CWD -- that's overregulating of CWD. I think we need to be very careful of the image that we are projecting to the public and what we think we're projecting may be not what the public actually sees. So we need to be very careful with the advertising that we put out and if we're not careful, the economic impact could be very severe.

I've had the opportunity to travel to several other states and hunt. New York being the most recent. And people come to Texas to hunt. We have superior animals and if you spend any time hunting in New York, what they've done with their overregulation in that world is pretty sad. So I really stress that we get it right. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you, Mr. Vanover.

All right, Mr. Micky McCrea. But before you start, let me do this real quick.

We've got Kenny McCrea, 31; John Cappadona, 32; Trent Barley, 33; Marie Camino, 34; Shelby[sic] Sosa, 35; Grant Evridge, 36; Steven Wieser, 37; Rodney Parrish, 38; Jonathan Letz, 39; and Marty Berry, No. 40.

All right, there we go.

MR. MICKY MCCREA: All right.


MR. MICKY MCCREA: Thank you for -- thank you for allowing me to come and speak, for all these people come to speak. Appreciate your serving our state. I'm a landowner in Texas. I am a small business owner. I work in -- I've got a degree in architecture. We do design and build. So I work in a highly regulated industry. We have to deal with regulations and safety and all types of procedures, but they're all based and founded on data that has been collected for years. And I'm just going to ask -- I'll be short and sweet.

You've already been presented a lot of discussion, and I know you have been presented data. I ask that you look at those things. In my industry, we have to go outside of our organizations to get truth to compare to what we've been fed. I'm going to ask you to do the same. Please do that before you look at these regulations. I'm against these regulations. I think CWD has to be looked at in a different way based on truth and data that's been presented. Thank you for your time.


MR. MICKY MCCREA: God bless you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All right, you bet.

Kenny McCrea.

MR. KENNY MCCREA: Thank you, gentlemen. Appreciate y'all's time. I'm Kenny McCrea. I'm a rancher in West Texas. Thirty-five years as an outfitter and a wildlife manager. 95 percent of my business is low-fence, fair-chase White-tails. It has been my entire life. I am working with some guys that are high-fence operations, as well as dealing with some of the breeders and learning more and more about their plight.

But their plight's not what -- is on -- is not what I'm concerned about because it's not their plight that's the problem. You know, if we look at -- we keep talking about all the science. Let's just look at the testing. If the testing that's been done on our -- on these guys that are high-fence breeders and it's less than one-half of 1 percent positive rate and the testing on my low-fence deer is one-half of 1 percent positive rate, then I beg to differ with this argument that the breeders are causing the spread. If my low-fence deer are testing at the same rate as their high-fence deer, we're going to find the problem. We're going to find what we're testing for.

We're testing thousands and thousands of these captive deer because they're easy for us to test. We're going to find positives. We're not testing the same percentage of our low-fence deer. My argument is the problem is out there. We all understand Chronic Wasting Disease is out there and it's going to affect deer in pens, out of pens, moved deer. It's going -- it's there. We're not going to change the fact that it's there.

So what I want us to know is what is it going to -- what is it going to do? When only one-half of 1 percent are testing positive, then obviously we're going to find it higher percentages where we test. But what is that going to do to us?

The economic impact is affecting hunts. Okay, so I'm an outfitter. I have hunters that come from almost every state in the United States. After 35 years of doing this, I've made lot of friends, a lot of acquaintances, brought a lot of business into the State of Texas, and I enjoy it a great deal; but it is affecting even my low-fence business. People are getting -- they're getting misinformation. They're thinking -- I've had questions like, "I'm afraid to come and -- you know, can I -- if I come and hunt, can I eat the meat?"

I'm like, yes, it's not -- we're going overboard here. We're scaring people. I want the proper information out there. I'm not protecting anybody's business. I'm not -- I am worried about their businesses, but I'm worried about the White-tailed deer and I think what we're telling people is very confusing.

The other thing to keep in mind is this disease has been around a long time. But what's happened to our population over the last ten years? It has continued to grow. We're not decimating our herd. I'm a member of the Texas Sheep and Goat Raisers Association, Texas Cattle Raisers Association, as well as Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. I saw a list on there that said they supported these things. I'm a member of all those things and I want you to know that not one time was I contacted by any of these associations I'm a member of and ask me what my opinion was on these rules. So there again, it's mixed signals and confusion.

I am against those proposed rules. I am 100 percent for White-tailed deer in the State of Texas and keeping them healthy. Thank you for your time. Appreciate it.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you very much.

Mr. Cappadora.



MR. JOHN CAPPADONA: Close enough. Close enough. I did make this pretty simple. Four words I guess is stop killing healthy deer. Stop killing honest businesses. We don't need more rules. You know, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Every time CWD is found, our knee-jerk response is more rules, more laws, more killing. It's ineffective. It's barbaric. It's never been shown to contain, stop, or even slightly mitigate CWD. It only kills healthy deer who are building up immunity to the disease and healthy, honest businesses.

Facts don't care about feelings and hyperbole. Too much of -- too much of the way CWD is dealt with is based on what might happen. It's never happened. That's a fact. There hasn't been an economic impact study as required to show what these new rules would do. It would be detrimental to me.

Facts are facts. CWD doesn't decimate deer numbers anywhere, and it's not a harm to humans. Good science is available, and it's on our side. We, as deer breeders, can actually do something about CWD if allowed to. I believe this Commission's heart is in the right place, and I ask that you work with us. It's in all of our best interest to stop CWD. We can and are working towards that without new rules and on our dime. Again, it's simple. Stop killing healthy deer, and stop killing honest businesses. Thank you.


Mr. Barley.

MR. TRENT BARLEY: How y'all doing? Thank you for having us all here today. I'm a scientific deer breeder in Brady, Texas, McCulloch County. It's a very small town. I'm firmly against all the rules. I don't have to compound on it. You guys have heard it. I'm going to tell you how I kind of help my local communality.

It's kind of a poor community. There's not a lot of true job opportunities there. I had my first high school paid intern last year. I'm a small operation, so one is good. But as I grow -- because I can't sell my deer until I full test my herd in 2024, October of 2024. You know, I have to keep paying for my feed; but I can -- every year now since I had my first high school intern, I've got about ten phone calls from other 4-H members and high school students that want a summer job. They want to come learn about the White-tailed deer and, you know, it's very beneficial. I can involve my local 4-H. They definitely want to come help.

My second part is: How do I help my customers? Most of the time, these guys are taking raw land and help them develop it, turn it into a White-tail hunting paradise. And then most cases, after we've helped in development, improve genetics, they go and hire a local ranch manager to come look after it because they still, you know, work in San Antonio or Austin or Dallas or something. So I mean, you know, this is an integral component of getting employment, you know, in small places throughout the state. I don't know. Thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you very much.

MR. TRENT BARLEY: Y'all have a great day.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All right, Ms. Camino.

MS. MARIE CAMINO: Hello. Good morning, Chairman Hildebrand and Commissioners. My name is Marie Camino. I'm the Government Relations Manager for the Texas Chapter of the Nature Conservancy. I'm here today to echo our written comments in sharing our absolute support for Item 5 on today's agenda.

TNC's mission is to conserve the lands and waters that all life depends on. For the last six decades, TNC's Texas Chapter has worked to conserve nearly a million acres of land and over 200 miles of rivers and streams in our great state. Across our 37 nature preserves and more than 160 conservation easements, we provide habitat for nearly 900 species of animals, including native Texas deer.

Deer in Texas are not only for hunting. They play a crucial role in our state's diverse ecosystems. Deer contribute to the vast biodiversity that Texas has to offer and that biodiversity is declining at an unprecedented rate. As stewards of our state's wildlife, we have to do all that is in our power to protect this keystone species. That is why TNC is supportive of the adoption of the proposed rules outlined here today.

Retained identification, antemortem testing prior to transfer, and the other strengthened provisions are essential in tracking and slowing the spread of this devastating disease. We want to commend the Commission for taking the necessary steps to protect our wild spaces, places, and all of the life that depends on them. Thank you for your opportunity to provide comments today.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you very much.

Mr. Sosa.

MR. SHILOH SOSA: Hello. Hi. My name is Shiloh Sosa. I'm a Texan, graduate of Texas A&M Kingsville, and I'm a low-fence landowner and a high-fence landowner and I come to you today in opposition to these rules. I think that -- I think we've been overregulated so hard that we need to take a better look at these rules and there's a couple of tweaking that could be and there's some that just -- should just be rejected.

I -- I'm just like all of y'all here. I mean, this is a wildlife agency. But I think that what keeps these lights on and y'all sitting here is the wild -- is the White-tailed deer and I think that we're being overregulated and I am a proud Texan, but I'm not a proud Texas deer breeder. We're overregulated and I think we've got a lot of knives thrown at us. We're not bad people.

I live and work on a 30,000-acre plus ranch. We've been breeding deer for 20 years. It's not a commercial operation. We do it because we love the deer and we love to improve our genetics. I just -- I just want to tell y'all that we oppose all the overregulation and -- I do -- and we'd just like to see it -- see it better thought through.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thanks, Mr. Sosa.

Mr. Evridge.

MR. GRANT EVRIDGE: Good morning, Commission. Grant Evridge. Brady, Texas. Evridge Whitetails, Facility ID 13354-B. This past Sunday after church, I had a potluck supper or a potluck lunch. A good friend of mine was sitting at my table. He's a Texas A&M graduate, a petroleum engineer, 75 years old, traveled all over the world, hunted all over the world, and he asked me with a straight face, "Will it kill me to eat a White-tailed deer?" A 75-year-old college-educated A&M graduate, "Will it kill me to eat a deer?"

Your billboards, your e-mails that y'all are sending out, it's working because you're scaring the hell out of people.

As far as my situation, I'm a deer breeder. Been breeding deer for 20 years. In 2021 and 2022, I bought 11 deer from a facility. On March the 10th, I get a call from Claudia Solis saying, "Mr. Evridge, one of those deer or that breeder has CWD."

Okay, I know my deer. I know my herd. I had three deer left from this facility that I purchased these 11 deer. I immediately went and killed those three deer. Killed them. That was Friday. So Monday I took all the heads to A&M. Negative. The remaining -- out of those 11 deer, six of them were postmortem tested and five were released in the pasture. I have followed every one of y'all's rules. I'm still shut down. Why?

That was Oct -- that was March the 10th. Okay, October the 16th, I get an e-mail from Texas Animal Health submitting me a herd plan and it says thank you and have a wonderful day. Boy, that made me feel really warm inside. This herd plan, it took seven months and six days. A government agency. Why does it -- this is a dangerous disease. Why does it take seven months and six days to get me a herd plan? If I had a business or if I was running a business and I had to get a proposal to whoever and it took me seven months, I would be out of business. And that's the problem. I no longer run my business. Y'all do. I'm shut down and I am going broke. Thank you for your time.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Understand. Thank you, Mr. Evridge.

Mr. Wieser.

MR. STEVEN WIESER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Committee. My name's Steve Wieser. I'm a scientific deer breeder for 15 plus years, in the CWD program for 13 of those years, a certified facility, and I received -- I'm currently not-movement qualified based on a tier deer that came through my facility. And when I received notice of this, it took several months, but when I was finally notified, I just got a letter from the Parks and Wildlife that gave me seven days to kill -- euthanize the animals.

Well, when I called the Parks and Wildlife, the -- the -- Dr. Reed was out of the country. Claudia Solis was on maternity leave. There was no one to answer my questions to say is there a live testing option for these animals. I was forced to fill a lawsuit to get a restraining order to not kill the animals.

Currently I want to negotiate and put an end to it and have some live testing options. But to me, the live testing that we're doing now, the test doesn't hold any creditability for us. I've got ranches that bought deer from me, one whom testified that was trying to sell his property down the road, he's not going to be able to sell his ranch because of two deer that came through the facility that he can't live test them, he can't do anything, but he's not going to be able to sell his property.

So I think that the rules under the current -- I'm against any further rules obviously. But we need to get things done, come to a conclusion, and respect the tests and get people opened up. A live test should free you from any trace-out. It should be -- you should be done and no going back and having a consequence for something when you followed all the rules. So that's it. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Understand. Thank you very much.

Mr. Parrish.

MR. RODNEY PARRISH: Thank you, sir. You heard Grant Evridge's story, one before me -- before. I'm the person that tested positive. I still have not signed a herd plan because your herd plan is so ridiculous. They want me to cut down one deer to 20 acres and then kill 256. I might -- that's mathematically impossible to do.

I don't have a problem with going -- I've done everything y'all have asked. I got a herd plan. I didn't agree to it. I called Mr. Silovsky and later on he wanted to have a meeting with me. Have his attorney get with my attorney. Yes, we're agreed. Well, a month or so later, they don't want to. They're too busy and this was to discuss my herd plan. We're still not meeting. They won't meet with me. They sent a revised herd plan that is just as crazy as the first one.

I'm willing to get through. I said that over my dead body y'all would -- they would kill my deer. I'm 70 years old. This has taken ten years off my life. I am not healthy anymore because of this. I want this ended one way or the other. Either y'all get your stuff done, I want to meet with Silovsky like he asked, across the table from me, we go down the herd plan and agree on it. Not everybody's is the same. I want to get done with it. I want to go on with my life. And this is killing me, people.

I didn't drop the ball. Your people dropped the ball on settling my deal. Now if we're going to kill my deer, that's fine. But don't take me seven, eight months. I've done settled the indemnity. Y'all's people dropped the ball. I want to meet with Silovsky like he asked. I want to sit across the table with his attorney, my attorney, and we discuss my herd plan. Thank you very much. I appreciate you, sir.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Yes, sir. Thank you very much.

Mr. Letz. Mr. Letz.

MR. JONATHAN LETZ: Good morning, Chairman Hildebrand, Commissioners, Dr. Yoskowitz. For the record, my name is Jonathan Letz and I am President of the Texas Wildlife Association. I'm a landowner, rancher, and hunter and live in Kerr County.

This spring, summer, and autumn, an unprecedented number of CWD positives were detected in deer breeding facilities around the state and in isolated wild populations. This Commission took emergency action to attempt to stop or at least slow the spread of this dangerous disease. A disease that threatens the wild White-tail deer population in Texas. While some may question the use of emergency rules, based on the quantity of new positives and the times of the year when deer are moved and released from breeding facilities, I believe the use of the emergency action was justified and needed.

TWA supports adoption of all proposed amendments to the rules governing Chronic Wasting Disease. The majority of these amendments have been agreed to by the CWD Task Force, which has a strong representation from deer breeders and all other stakeholders. Keeping permanent ID on released deer seems to be controversial. However, to me, this is just common sense. How can you control the spread of a disease if you can't identify which deer have been released into the wild population? How can I as a low-fence property owner protect my ranch from potentially infected released deers?

I want to be clear. TWA is not against deer breeders. We are against the spreading of this disease. The movement of deer from breeding facilities has been shown to greatly increase the risk of spreading CWD. The proposed amendments will help this industry control the spread.

CWD is a real threat to our rural communities, our private working lands, and the future of hunting in Texas. We appreciate the seriousness with which this Department and Commission are approaching this process and making decisions based on the best available data to protect this important natural resource. It is critical for the Department to continue to take all necessary steps of slowing the spread of CWD.

I'd like to also remind everyone that, yes, deer breeders are businesses. Somewhere around 700 businesses. However, every farm and ranch in the state are also businesses and there are hundreds of thousands of these businesses that need to be protected. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you, Mr. Letz.

Okay, Mr. Berry. But before you start, let me cue up the next ten.

Fred Trudeau, 41; John Shepperd, 42; Shawn Schafer, 43; Matt Wagner, 44; Lance Clawson, 45; Lavonne Berdoll, 46; Ken Waldrup, 47; John[sic] Chancy, 48; Sarah Heimeyer, 49; and Bobby Schmidt, 50.

Mr. Berry.

MR. MARTY BERRY: Thank you, Chairman, Commission. I appreciate this opportunity to speak. I am Marty Berry. I'm from Corpus Christi, Texas. I've been in the deer business for over 30 years. I first want to kind of put one thing to the side that I think is interesting to me. First of all, thank whoever is in charge of taking down the billboards. There were some in my town. They're detrimental to hunting regardless. People tell me. I believe it myself. I don't need somebody else to tell me.

But you're talking about these positives across the State of Texas, and the positives are not positive CWD. There's been many studies that show CWD is caused by a folded prion. You've heard that. These positives are only the folded prion. They're not CWD. You've never had a spongiform encephalopathy in White-tailed deer in Texas. Don't know why, but you haven't. It's -- if you can find that in a swimming pool like the man talked about yesterday, animals do ingest folded prions. There's no question. They tried studies to prove that every animal that had -- USDA did, Dr. Greelee -- Greenlee -- tried to induce them and get the deer to get them and all die. It never worked out for them. They always die of something else first.

I'm against the whole rule package across the board. I do find some things in the carcass restrictions that are very good, but I want to talk to you about something else. Y'all are very concerned about CWD spreading. The State of Texas has fawn rehabilitators. They're all over the state. They move deer without testing any and release them only to low lands without records. We need to stop this. This is not good. It's not good for us. It's not good for me as a landowner in a number of counties and I also have low fence. I don't want -- I don't want that. I want it to stop. It needs to stop. Y'all have the ability to ask them to test and need tests.

The other thing is DMP bucks. The rule today says when a breeder transfers a buck to a DMP pen, he can't get it back. I want my deer back. That's a trap for me. I rent you a buck or send you a buck and you buy it and guess what happens? Somebody else sold you a deer and you get wrapped up, they knock me out too and I can't even go get the deer. I'd rather bring my deer back and have a test on it or kill it so I know it got tested so I'm out of the loop. Can't do it. It's a bad part of y'all's plan y'all have today. That really does need to change. We need to change so we can control the tests on those deer. More tests is great. I want to test my deer. I'm willing to take the risk that the deer could get CWD and not get it back.

I appreciate everything y'all do. I thank you for your time and your volunteer and look forward to seeing y'all again.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Mr. Berry.

MR. MARTY BERRY: Thank you.


MR. FRED TRUDEAU: First of all, I'd like to thank each and every one of you, Chairman, for you taking the time to do this. I'm probably going to talk about a little -- a little bit different because I'm going to talk about it from starting from inception when -- No. 1, I will comment on somebody. You got deer breeders. We've got all the lab rats. You know, we've got them for you that you can really dive in and study and I think all of you have seen the percentages when you take the amount of tests that they've done in the wild. There's a bigger CWD in the wild than there is in pens, but yet somehow we're the whipping people that get whipped. But the deer that Parks and Wildlife has tested in the wild have a higher percentage than the ones in our pens.

But I want to talk about what's happened is when A&M first came out and did that study that the deer breeders brought over a billion dollars in additional income to the State of Texas, they employed a lot of people, they got the buzz talking and everything else and all of a sudden we've got the best college in the United States of America for getting our people from -- and I'm a Longhorn's fan saying that about A&M, guys -- and you've got the best people right down the corner, but we go out to Wisconsin and all over. We're hiring game wardens from all over the dang -- this is Texas, man. And maybe I'm just so old that I'm stubborn and egotistical. We don't need to go hire people from Wisconsin to come work with us on our deer. My God. That's like the surgeon going and asking the nurse to do the surgery. And, I mean, it's just kind of crazy.

But on my point, before it gets to yellow and I get run off by Mr. Hildebrand and rightfully so I might add -- let's talk about it from a family. Let's talk about how many families and ranches have invested and their kids and everybody else and then all of a sudden we get a CWD that no deer has ever died from and they lost their homes, their homesteads, filed bankruptcy over this -- I know y'all hate this word -- over this political disease. What about all those people? They didn't do anything to deserve that.

I mean, I'm lucky. I haven't had any. But that doesn't mean I'll being lucky two weeks from now. They don't deserve that. I mean, that's just bad. I went and retired from my job -- I've got 15 seconds when the yellow comes on, right? Okay, I'll make sure I do it in ten.

I retired from my job to bring my son with me on the ranch, to work on the ranch because he's grown up in the deer business. He loves it. I did everything I could. I moved down here. I get my facility and I do everything and with all due respect, I know intentions have to be good somewhere, but we just got off track. And I think it has been more of an embarrassment to the State of Texas than anything at all that it's accomplished because we're just not getting -- whoever -- again, the billboards -- it's yellow.


MR. FRED TRUDEAU: I was surprised today. There is some -- still some billboards up in Texas, which I didn't know. I found that out.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: And I see you're from Beeville, Texas. I used to live in Beeville.

MR. FRED TRUDEAU: Oh, did you really?

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: 301 East Fannin Street, right down from Hutchinson.

MR. FRED TRUDEAU: I know where Fannin Street is. I live in one those --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: There you go. All right.

MR. FRED TRUDEAU: -- pretty houses over there.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: I would have given you extra time for that.

MR. FRED TRUDEAU: I probably would have screwed it up, sir.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Okay, thank you very much.

Mr. Shepperd.

MR. JOHN SHEPPERD: Yeah. Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, my name is John Shepperd. I'm the Executive Director of the Texas Foundation for Conservation and I'm here in full support of the proposed rules package. Now there are a number of provisions in this rules package, but far and away the most important issue to the deer breeding industry is the enforcement of existing law that requires external visible ID upon release. Their form letters make a variety of other objections; but make no mistake, this is the one they're really concerned about. And why is that?

They don't want to leave visible ID in place because they think that they can sell shooter bucks for more money if the deer does not have ear tags. There's allegedly demand for pen-raised bucks than wild deer and you can't pretend it's a wild deer when it's got an ear tag. So a handful of individuals are willing to risk the health of the wild Texas deer herd so they can make a little bit more money in the short term and they are asking -- actually they're demanding and they're threatening this Commission to be complicit in their deception.

Yesterday you heard a lot about Dr. Seabury's genetic research and he may be on to something, but the deer breeding industry didn't pay for that research. This Agency paid for it. On the other hand, the deer breeding industry pays tens of thousands of dollars every month to lobbyists at the Texas Capitol to undermine the science-based regulations adopted by this Agency, but they won't financially support Dr. Seabury's research. They're happy to let Texas hunters and anglers subsidize their industry.

My final thought: Who knows more about wildlife diseases? The people who work in this building, or the people -- the politicians downtown? This rules package is not government overreach. This is a state agency protecting a public trust resource. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you, Mr. Shepperd.

Mr. Schafer.

MR. SHAWN SCHAFER: Thank you, Chairman and Commissioners. I'm Shawn Schafer, Executive Director of North American Deer Farmers Association. After listening to yesterday's information session, I have three areas I'd like to comment on.

First there was a statement about the unknown number of CWD positive deer remaining in the breeding herds. This statement's a little misleading because it paints an image in our heads of numerous diseased deer in the breeder herds widespread throughout the state. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying there won't be any more positive deer in the breeder herds in the State of Texas; but I also don't think it's a fair or professional statement to insinuate CWD is a disease that can be hidden within the program.

It is very well accepted in both the wildlife and agriculture sectors that CWD is a highly contagious, always fatal disease. CWD is not seasonal and it cannot be driven underground or farmed through, but it can be managed. More on that later.

If you study the epi on most of the cases of CWD in breeder herds, you will find that most of the index cases they have ruled the source of the infection cannot be explained. I'd like to discuss that a little bit. What that truly means is the index herd did not purchase or move the disease in from another breeder. More than likely the disease came in in one or more of the many ways CWD can be spread: Scavengers, feed, mud. And those cases in which they can be traced back to a previous herd, it's very easy to track using the current animal identification and the TWIMS system.

This leads me to my second comment. Yesterday we heard a lot of -- about the numbers and percentages dealing with the prevalence of CWD in the wild and what level do we, you know, do we actually cross into that tipping point of no return. I think this even led to a question about the total number of positives for each species within -- and their location within the state.

CWD is not evenly distributed throughout Texas or anywhere else for that matter. There are very many -- there are many environmental factors that come into play, such as the clay soils that we heard Dr. Schuler refer to, which can limit or amplify infectivity. So I'd caution you against a false sense of security by trying to factor the prevalence divided by the entire deer population. Prevalence should be broken down to hunting deer -- to hunting deer units of deer management units.

My point of this is not to debate the method of counting deer in Texas, but to draw attention to the fact that right now as we are here having the discussion, there are hundreds -- if not even thousands -- of positive deer walking around the landscape of Texas. I'm not saying clinical. I'm saying positive in some stage of incubation.

CWD is not seasonal like EHD or tied to weather conditions like anthrax or bird migration like avian influenza. CWD is there 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Most positive deer will never reach that clinical stage. Hunters, coyotes, Fords, and Chevy's are far too efficient.

We also heard about the RT-QuIC testing. I think the big thing that -- to use there, we have -- we have excellent testing and excellent programs right now. Where that RT-QuIC would really shine is when you have that positive herd like we've heard several of these herds talk about where they're stuck in these herd plans or they haven't signed a herd plan yet, why don't we roll in there and use the RT-QuIC right away at that point. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Perfect. Thank you, Mr. Schafer.

Mr. Wagner.

MR. MATT WAGNER: I'm getting old. Greetings, Chairman Hildebrand and Commission members. I am Matt Wagner. I'm past President of the Texas Chapter Wildlife Society, certified wildlife biologist. I teach wildlife law and policy at Texas State University and consult on private ranches in Central Texas.

Texas Parks and Wildlife is the most landowner friendly, state wildlife agency in the country. This Agency works with over 7,000 landowners, managing over 25 million acres. Your reputation and creditability with landowners is second to none. Now it's important to recall where we've been in managing CWD in this state.

In 2002, this Agency began prohibiting the interstate shipment of White-tailed deer into Texas. That same year, the CWD Task Force was formed to involve all stakeholders in this issue. Since 2004, Texas Parks and Wildlife has collected over 127,000 tissue samples from wild deer to detect the disease at a low prevalence. The Breeder User Group was formed to engage deer breeders in policy making. In 2012, the same year that CWD was first discovered in wild deer, the CWD management plan was created. The Department has hosted three CWD symposiums to educate and exchange information, plus the session yesterday.

Texas Parks and Wildlife created the Texas Wildlife Information Management Service. It's a database that took over two years to build and now requires an average of six full-time employees to operate and maintain. Beginning in 2016, Texas was the first state to utilize antemortem testing in order to accommodate the movement of breeder deer.

Lastly, the Agency spends over 2 million annually to manage CWD. More than any other state. All of this energy, effort, and cost has gone into managing this disease while accommodating the deer breeding business. Everything that can be done is being done to abate the spread of the disease and yet the spread continues. Why?

The obvious reason is because the movement of breeder deer continues. In short, I'm in support of these proposed rules. Thank you for --


MR. MATT WAGNER: -- the opportunity.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Mr. Wagner.

All right, Mr. Clawson.

MR. LANCE CLAWSON: Hi. My name's Lance Clawson. I'm a property owner in six different counties in this great state. I'm a true Texan, born out in West Texas near Pecos. Mr. Hildebrand, you've come a long ways from University of Texas Board of Regents and I was the Longhorn radio guy for 20 years there.

Anyway, I have been confused about all of this somewhat. I'm not a deer breeder anymore. I'm a landowner, and it's about the kids for me. I just -- I get very mixed with the signals that are being sent to our kids. All I do is donate hunts for our kids today and it's hard to even get a kid to want to skin a deer in the first place, for him to be afraid of a disease that I believe is a political disease.

I'm also a member of the Cattlemen's Associ -- a ton of these organization that say they represent me, they do not represent me. They do not represent my neighbors that I've spoken with. They do not represent a single person that I know as a landowner. So I'm against these regulations because I'm a Texan first. I'm against more regulations. But what we're doing -- the deer breeders -- I mean, that looks like the solution. They're the ones doing the testing. It's not about that. It's the scare of this scrapie disease.

When I was young man in West Texas, our sheep got scrapie. You know what we did? We took them to market and sold them for meat. That's what we did. I'm 55 years old, so I can go back that far. But what we're doing with our kids and the education and the scare tactics that's there -- I'm glad the billboards are down. We've got to -- this political stuff with our kids has got to stop until we know what's going on. We don't even know all the facts of this -- of scrapie. I mean, we should. It was discontinued with the sheep for farmers by breeding. And what are we doing now?

I mean, it's the same thing. History's repeating itself. It's just with something that was introduced by man purposefully to see if deer could get it. So I hope that we use some common sense and we don't scare our kids into not hunting. It's hard for me to donate a youth hunt and get people to actually want to do it with their kids today and get them off video games. I mean, it's crazy.

So I hope that we take this seriously, but at the same time we don't -- we don't go into harming deer breeders, which I think are the solution to this thing, whatever this thing is. I mean, if we can eat, we can shoot it -- it hasn't killed a deer on my ranch, I mean, at all that I know of. So I thank you --


MR. LANCE CLAWSON: -- for your time and that's all I've got to say. Appreciate it.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Mr. Clawson. And this a much better job than the Board of Regents, so.

Ms. Berdoll.

MS. LAVONNE BERDOLL: Yes. Hello. I'm Lavonne Berdoll from LB Whitetails in Bastrop County. I'm here today to support the deer breeder industry, which we have been a part of since 1997. As part of this industry and agriculture in Texas, we support not only our family, but many small businesses in our area and around the state. All of which are economically impacted by the proposed provisions, which is why I disagree completely with these new rule changes. There's not enough time allowed to go over each rule; but in general, these rules are just excessive regulation that accomplish very little except to further burden the deer breeders.

The genetic testing being used now is very beneficial for all in helping handle CWD concerns, which means deer breeders are a part of the solution. I truly believe that a good working relationship between all agencies and the deer breeders will serve in the best approach as we navigate the CWD concern.

I'm glad to hear that those billboard signs have been taken down or will be down soon, as they have created unnecessary concern in the general public. And please know that I am not only concerned for breeder deer, but for native deer as well. We enjoy the native deer in our area and would never want to harm them. I don't think this is an either/or issue.

I know y'all have a difficult task sorting through all the information that's presented, but please take a common sense approach to handling these issues and seek guidance from our Creator along the way. A recent post from a fellow deer breeder offers a helpful verse from Proverbs 3 Verse 6: In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Thank you for your time.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Ms. Berdoll.

Mr. Waldrup.

MR. KEN WALDRUP: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. My name is Ken Waldrup. I've been a licensed veterinarian in Texas since 1985. I have a master's degree in -- I have a master's of science degree and a PhD, both of which were earned researching wildlife diseases. At one time I was the supervisor of the CWD program for the Texas Animal Health Commission. I currently work for another state agency and please be aware I am not representing that agency today. I am representing myself. I have worked with TPWD biologists and law enforcement officers since 1985. I'm well-known to your staff in the Trans-Pecos. I've been collecting samples in El Paso, Hudspeth, and Culberson Counties since 2007. I've done over 125 deer necropsies in that time and have shared detailed notes about those necropsies with your staff.

Here's a few copies of those notes and some of my correspondence with TPWD through 2019. I didn't bring the rest of it. I am boots on the ground. It is my intent today to share with you some basic epidemiology. In epidemiological terms, prevalence is defined as the number of positive tests divided by the total number of tests conducted and is usually represented as a percentage. This is basic epidemiology 101.

Okay. Regarding free-ranging White-tailed deer in Texas, a recent open records request to your staff indicated the total of 107,180 free-ranging White-tailed deer had been tested since 2012. From the positive CWD case-tracking document on the TPWD website, a total of 25 free-ranging White-tailed deer have been recorded as CWD test positive in that same timeframe. Therefore, the prevalence of CWD test positives in free-ranging White-tailed deer in Texas is 0.02 percent. 0.02 percent. Okay. That can also be expressed as two animals out of 10,000 in 11 years.

Okay. CWD in free-ranging White-tailed deer is not an emergency. It is not a crisis. Okay. This is a minuscule prevalence. Okay. No disease with that small of prevalence can possibly be a poss -- a populating limiting disease. To that end in 2012, the estimated population of free-ranging White-tailed deer in Texas -- this is your statistics -- was 3.6 million. In 2022, the estimated population of free-ranging White-tailed deer in Texas was 5 million. The population has increased by 30 percent in ten years. Where are the dead bodies?

The 25 positive free-ranging White-tailed deer were found in five counties. Five out of 254. And you want us to believe this is a statewide problem. It's not. You've been told that CWD is a highly infectious disease. Obviously it is not highly infectious in free-ranging White-tailed deer.

By comparison of mortalities, an anthrax outbreak -- I'm sorry, sir.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you very much.

MR. KEN WALDRUP: Thank you.


Mr. Chancey.

MR. JASON CHANCEY: Good afternoon. Rules put in place in 2021 through emergency action required any deer breeder within a breed -- or any deer within a breeding facility to have an antemortem test registered before it was allowed to be liberated. Deer breeders threw a fit. We didn't like it. But in retrospect, it was actually a pretty good rule.

However, the implementation of the rule through emergency action has been extremely detrimental. By hastily demanding scientific breeders have their deer live tested before the deadlines previously set by the Department, we jumped the gun by not providing veterinary staff the time to be properly trained on sanitation between animals and facilities so as to not spread the prions.

With a rash of unknown causes of the CWD cases we have seen this year, it is becoming more and more obvious this lack of training has contributed to the spike in positive rates. The cost of these tests created a huge economic burden on the scientific breeders, whether the Department wants to acknowledge that or not. In the first year alone at my facility, we had a 10 percent death loss for all animals that went through that biopsy process, not to mention the cost of the vet to show up and perform those biopsies, as well as the payment for the test to the TVMDL.

We as scientific breeders took it on the chin without a second look from the Department. We were also assured at that time the removal of ear tags would solely be up to the breeders and release sites upon liberation. The reason for that is because some release sites are hunting operations and their hunters are turned off by seeing ear tags. It's obvious. Now here we are at present talking about ear tags and being forced to go back out into the field trying to find trace or tier animals that don't have ear tags.

The other problem with that is, is those animals left these facilities with antemortem tests showing they were free to go, showing they were not-detected to have CWD prions. If a deer was liberated under the rules of compliance at that time, the Commission should pass a rule that says the animal's gone, let's move on.

We did what we were supposed to do. Every single breeder did what they were supposed to do. If they didn't, they're out of business. Many deer, the herd plans are calling for ranchers to go find now left the facility they were on with a non-detect antemortem test, but all these rules and regs come at a price. Properties are locked down until TPWD staff are satisfied enough animal's have been killed, but the process is never transparent to know what number it is before the process even starts. It's all very arbitrary.

Chairman Hildebrand, Commissioners, I want to thank you for taking on the responsibilities you have. There's new leadership over TPWD and it seems to me this would be the perfect time to make changes that would alter the direction that the Department has taken in dealing with scientific breeders and CWD. We are asking for your help to keep our family business afloat and in return, we want to partner with you not only to conquer CWD, but to conquer any other disease that might threaten our beautiful White-tailed species. Thank you for your time and thank you for your service to the people and the wildlife of Texas.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Mr. Chancey.

Ms. Heimeyer.

MS. SARAH HEIMEYER: Good afternoon. My name is Sarah Heimeyer, manager of Kaiser Creek Whitetails and Exotics. I'm opposed to the proposed disease detection and response rules to be considered for adoption.

Since 2012, only 1.77 percent of the 79,538 postmortem breeding facilities deer that have been tested have come back as positive. Through this time, breeders have worked tirelessly to make the deer in our facilities less susceptible to Chronic Wasting Disease through genetically selecting deer that have the codons to become less susceptible to this disease. Something that is not -- not in a scientific setting would not be able to be done.

The efforts Texas Parks and Wildlife has instituted in order to protect native deer and captive deer from Chronic Wasting Disease has yet to accomplish the goal of slowing down the spread of CWD in the State of Texas. The economic loss throughout Texas for deer breeders, game ranches, and landowners has been particularly significant.

May I ask: What protocol is there towards CWD White-tail positive deer found in San Antonio or Mule deer in El Paso?

With these deer walking 2 to 3 miles per day, I couldn't help but imagine if there was a positive deer out in the wild, how easily it would be to spread CWD throughout what they touch and any contact with other deer that they might have had throughout the day. Through the numerous biologists, chairmans, and vets I have asked, I have yet to receive any information about the protocol to free-range deer; but urge you to please consider either revealing these plans or working with other organizations that have went through something similar to make plans instead of taking the easy route of blaming the deer breeders.

With Texas Parks and Wildlife's core values being to inform and educate the public about conservation efforts, regarding information like CWD I have seen instead confusion and concern from the public not knowing anything about CWD, like the billboards that have been confirmed to still be up four and a half miles from my breeding operation today and we do have evidence of it if you ask.

I ask that Parks and Wildlife thinks of the future of not only the deer breeding program, but also White-tail hunting for the youth of Texas -- like myself -- to enjoy and not be fear-stricken from the confusing and direct information given out from an organization like yourself. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thanks, Ms. Heimeyer. And if you tell the staff where the location of that billboard is, we will get that taken care of. Thank you.

Mr. Schmidt -- well, actually before Mr. Schmidt, let me -- we're coming down to the end. So well done on everyone's part.

51, Tim Condict; 52, Sarah Biedenharn; Brent Halford, 53; Wendy Schmidt, 54; Mike James, No. 55.

Mr. Schmidt.

MR. BOBBY SCHMIDT: Good afternoon. Thank you, Parks and Wildlife Commission, for listening to all this today and I know you've probably heard anything and everything there is to say about it, so I've just got a couple of things here. I'm a little bit confused on things.

One thing I haven't heard today at all is talking about the United States Department of Agriculture. I've got some information on my desk. I've got a 19-year-old granddaughter at A&M who can find anything and she found this information and it says the USDA says -- and it's very simple -- that they have decided that CWD in deer and scrapies in sheep is one in the same thing. It says it point-blank right there. Why hasn't the Animal Health Commission -- Texas Animal Health Commission and the Parks and Wildlife gotten together and looked into this and tried to figure this out? That's what -- I haven't heard anybody mention that today at all. That's why I brought it up.

But sometime ago, with Animal Health Commission and the Parks and Wildlife, my son's place was shut down in South Texas because like you heard today of a tier deer. This tier deer was on a place some four years ago on. It was gone to another place, waking around on the place. They saw it every day. Never got a notice from anybody. Animal Health Commission, no problem, opened up. Got online, look, it's shut down by Animal -- by Texas Parks and Wildlife. Made no sense.

With some help up here, thank goodness we got it -- and got a plan and got open. First it was going to test 200 and something deer, then it got down to 60 something deer, and then we could go get the one deer. Thank goodness those people where that deer was still walking around and they were told it wasn't a problem over there walking around; but four years ago it was a tier deer, it was a problem. Makes no sense.

But anyway, we talked to people and they were very nice about. We got the deer tested, negative, and open. So we got past that no problem.

The new rules, some of them -- I mean, the carcass move -- the carcass deal, I know where I live out in the country, I know what people are going to do. They're not going to bury anything. They're going to throw them on the side of the damn road like they do now anyway. That's about what they do out there anyway.

So, you know, the ear tag rule was changed sometime ago with a state law was passed and I don't know why we're getting into that again. That deer has got a microchip in it. It's been liberated. It's got a -- it's been tested for CWD and it's got a tattoo in his ear, but now we want an ear tag in it. Yeah. Someone made a comment earlier about deer breeders want people to shoot the deer. They're going to shoot the deer anyway. If it's got a tag in its ear, it don't -- I mean, a lot of people that way.

But I've got people that's come to me already that hunt with us, friends, they said their wives, they tell them "Do not bring deer meat to my house." That's how damaging these signs and all this is out here. That's what happening to us right now.

So, you know, I don't know what's -- what -- I don't have the answer. Alan Cain's done a heck of a job working with us and Mr. Reed has too. We've been trying to work everything out. But these new amendments, I'm just asking y'all to please do not pass these like they are. Let's work on them, do something. Some of them might have some validity to them, but not the way it was right now, all of this, please. Thank you very much.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thanks, Mr. Schmidt.

Mr. Condict.

MR. TIM CONDICT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the Commission, Dr. Yoskowitz, for having us here today to be able to speak. Thank God for Dr. Chris Seabury is from Texas and is one of the few CWD researchers in the nation that reaches factual-based conclusions and reports the truth about these facts regardless of the result. Thank God he researches for solutions and instead of grant harvesting for taxpayer dollars to gather useless information.

I encourage this Commission to allow more time to be set aside to utilize Dr. Seabury in a more hands on role. Thank God we have deer breeders to breed genetic durability into our breeder deer and can help supplement the low-fence to help bring a solution to both sides. The Commission should encourage people to be deer breeders. You're going to need us.

The CWD rules package before you today does nothing to stop or slow CWD. It does however suppress our rural property values, taking money from the rural school systems. It suppresses small businesses in the rural communities that need it the most, costing thousands of jobs and it suppresses the American dream.

Texas has a rich hunting tradition that is being lost. Scare tactics used by many of the groups listed as supporters of these rules would continue to erode our ability to get new hunters in the field. The biggest threat to deer hunting is not CWD. It is hunter recruitment and hunter retention. Wildlife agencies across the country are failing miserably at this with their action.

A Wyoming Legislator just yesterday proposed issuing an unlimited number of elk permits to ranchers in an effort to reduce overpopulation of elk in eastern Wyoming. Eastern Wyoming is the epicenter of CWD. The same people testifying today against deer breeders was testifying against deer breeders prior to CWD being discovered in Wisconsin in 2002.

The CWD Task Force and White-tailed Advisory Committees are skewed heavily with anti-breeders and we have no chance of a bipartisan conclusion. The only committee with equal representation is the Breeder User Group who hasn't met in three years. The Texas Southwest Cattle Raisers Association wants to stop deer movement. I sat on the Federal ID Committee where we fought for 20 years along side their association to keep from having to put RFID tags in cattle. They support every rule against deer breeding, include RFID and now visible ID. Apparently the Sheep and Goat Raisers Association wants to stop deer movement. I guess they don't want their scrapie back. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you, Mr. Condict.

Ms. Biederhorn -- Biedenharn.

MS. SARAH BIEDENHARN: Chairman Hildebrand, Commissioners, Dr. Yoskowitz, good afternoon and thank you for your continued commitment to difficult but importance issues impacting Texas. I am Sarah Biedenharn and past President of Texas Wildlife Association, a landowner, and a hunter.

I am deeply concerned by the continued detection of CWD positive animals around the state. Despite efforts by many, this disease continues to spread and puts the future of hunting in Texas at risk. As we've heard several times today, rural economies in Texas depend on hunting-related businesses. We must do all we can to slow the spread of the disease.

I am supportive of all the propose rules, particularly the requirement to not remove ear tags. The ability to find a potentially exposed animal in the pasture is critical when it comes to disease management. I also believe that just as it is my neighbor's right to breed deer with proper permitting, it is my right to choose not to have breeder deer on my property. The fact is no high fence is perfect. As a landowner choosing not to participate in the breeding industry, I believe it's my right to know if an animal from a breeding facility is on my ranch.

Unfortunately many things about this disease are beyond our control; but we do control the unnatural movement of live animals, which we know poses the highest risk of spreading CWD. If we continue to allow this, we must do all we can to ensure we properly manage and track potentially diseased animals in order to quickly remove them from the landscape and minimize further exposure. Thank you for your continued commitment to this important issue.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thanks, Ms. Bieder -- Biedenharn.

Mr. Halford.

MR. BRENT HALFORD: Public service is often stressful and thankless and no easy wins. Thank you for serving on this board. I'm here to oppose all the proposed regulations. My name is Brent Halford. I'm a rancher. I'm a hunter. I'm a capitalist. This is a conflict for me. I very several high-fenced pastures and I'm adding more. However, there are no native deer on my place. I simply fenced them out because exotics are more profitable because of regulation.

The State of Wyoming has the opposite of high fences. They design roads, bridges, and fences to promote migration of deer on the longest animal migration route in the world. However, last week they added a new unit to their CWD contaminated list. It must not be the breeders or their fences or something ear tags would solve.

A startling oversight is the lack of a proposal for hunter check stations for all free-range deer. There's not a scientific or clear picture until there are. Currently TPWD is trying to add CWD susceptible species. Are you testing cattle like you are with Axis yet? How about airborne carriers like birds?

We've endured scrapies, avian flu, swine flu, mad cow, COVID, some I've forgotten, now CWD. Were constantly worrying about some bogeyman. Why is the solution always at the expense of private freedoms and more tax money?

Let's be honest. These regulations simply target deer breeders. Blaming deer breeders for sick deer is no different than blaming hospitals for sick people. These breeders are well-funded. Many have more money in their fence than most people have in their homes. They're also dedicated to the success of their investment and White-tailed deer. Texas ranchers are better at growing healthy animals than anyone in the world. Compare the antlers inside and outside a high fence, that's irrefutable proof.

I urge you to use the resource of deer breeders cooperatively to protect our deer from CWD and any future threats. The other path is dimming our hunting heritage by scaring hunters off and increasing the cost of hunting to the point we push future hunters out of it.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you, Mr. Halford.

Ms. Schmidt.

MS. WENDY SCHMIDT: Good afternoon. I'd like to say that Chronic Wasting Disease is a prion disease in cervids, also known as scrapie in sheep. Texas Parks and Wildlife is on verbal record admitting that CWD is the same as scrapie and USDA reports it as the same. Therefore, we have a simple solution. We have a solution that will not waste the lives of tens and thousands of deer across Texas and will not kill a billion-dollar Texas industry. We can eradicate Chronic Wasting Disease the same way farmers eradicated scrapies years ago: Selective breeding and proper nutrition.

If these proposed rule pass, you're killing the very animal that you're claiming to protect in search of a disease. Doesn't that defeat your stated purpose of preserving our White-tailed deer?

You're killing more deer in the name of CWD than CWD has ever killed and will ever kill. If we have to slaughter thousands of deer to find a single CWD positive, then CWD is not a population threatening disease to Texas deer. You spend millions of dollars advertising this disease to try and scare the public by claiming that it will kill the deer in Texas and even spread to humans. You're creating false hysteria around CWD just to get public support. You're lying to them. You're scaring them into blindly following your rules because you know that if they knew the truth about CWD, you'd have no public support.

You don't understand that this is not only the deer breeders who will suffer from this. If the people believe that venison will make you sick, no one will be able to sell hunts. A single deer has been diagnosed with CWD as a cause of death. A single White-tailed deer out of a population of over 5 million CWD will not come anywhere close to killing off White-tailed deer species. But even if it did, that doesn't change the fact that it is not physically possible for CWD to infect the human brain. The biological differences in human and cervid brains are what make it impossible. So why advertise this? Why are you scaring innocent individuals who know nothing about cervids?

To test deer for CWD, you kill them. I'm not going to have enough time to do the whole thing, so I'm going to skip my example of not killing cancer patients to test them.

The depopulation of our White-tailed deer is not the answer. Depopulation is the only answer for a small group of individuals who stand to benefit from the destruction of deer breeders because they're their biggest competitor to their low-fence facilities.

Your doctors -- I'm sorry. Your doors have been closed to working with us. I want you to look us in the eyes. I want you to hear our stories. I want you to shake our hands and let's work together to implement the solution. We have the time to do this the right way. I ask that you take the time, look at the facts, and consider the negative impact and -- that these effects will have on the great State of Texas and I ask that we can all work together to do this and I pray that you make the right decisions. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Thank you Ms. Schmidt.

All right. Last speaker is Mike James. Is he present? No, I don't --

DR. YOSKOWITZ: Mike James is not present, Chairman. But we do have Greg Simons who was signed up to be on the phone. He is back on.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All right. Mr. Simons, it's your show.

MR. GREG SIMONS: Okay. Can you hear me now?


MR. GREG SIMONS: Okay, thank you. Chairman Hildebrand, other members of the Wildlife Commission, Dr. Yoskowitz, thank you for your service and thank you for this opportunity to provide this public commentary. My name's Greg Simons. I'm a private wildlife biologist. I'm also one of the petitioners that filed a CWD related petition with you-all this summer and I'm very grateful that many of the requests that were on that petition have found their way onto this agenda today.

For additional context, I think it would be good if we wrap up this by shining the light a bit more on the diverse group of organizations that have officially shown their support for this rules package. I know you have some mainstream Texas agricultural groups like TSCRA, Texas Sheep Goat Raisers Association, Texas Farm Bureau that filed a letter expressing their interest for you to enforce the tagging statutes that are already in place.

We have some groups that are a bit on the green side: The Nature Conservancy, Texas Land Conservancy, Native Prairies Association of Texas. And you have some huge national sportsmen's groups like Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, National Deer Association, the Mule Deer Foundation, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. You have the oldest conservation group in this country through the Boone and Crockett Club. And you have the world's largest professional peer organization of the wildlife profession with the Wildlife Society and you have many others. I only know of two special interest groups who have opposed this rules package and they're both deer breeding groups.

Among other things, I think there are two important take-home messages here. One is this is -- this is much larger than a deer breeding issue. It's a wildlife issue that has implications that could potentially cripple our country's most important conservation funding mechanism. And then secondly, when it comes to broad stakeholder groups that are relevant to this discussion, the vast majority of these stakeholder groups clearly show their support for these rules.

As appointed Commissioners who are responsible for making sure that we have adaptive and progressive rules in place and ensure the future health of our wildlife resources, I would like to respectfully ask that you-all vote to adopt these rules that have been recommended to you by your professional staff at the Parks and Wildlife Department. Thank you once again for your time.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you, Mr. Simons.

All right. With that, any comments from the Commissioners or staff?

VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: This is Commissioner Bell. Obviously, we -- first, we appreciate everyone who came today and made comments. Information very valuable. Also I think we had an opportunity for a different kind of learning experience yesterday when we had a lot of the scientific data presented from very different points of view and from diff -- and from people who would actually in some cases recommend different outcomes each other. So that peer group, so to speak, was not aligned necessarily on outcome. So it gives you -- it gives you something to think about.

And I believe that, in part, that information may want to cause us to take a look at how we look at the proposal we have on the table and whether or not we should make some adjustments in that proposal we have on the table because I'm not certain that that proposal that's on the table for the emergency rules as-is serves us as well as possible. And I would just like to get any thought process anyone else has on the Commission in that regard.



COMMISSIONER FOSTER: Commissioner Foster. I --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: -- ahead, Chairman -- or Commissioner Foster.

COMMISSIONER FOSTER: -- have a couple of comments or questions that come to mind as a result of a lot of these comments. One is I'd like to get some feedback from the staff about the 2-mile radius and how effective you think that is and whether or not it is punitive to some people and, you know, is it -- is that the right radius? You know, why is not one? Why is not three? So that's my first question.

MR. CAIN: Okay. So good question, Commissioner Foster. So to give a little perspective, before we went to these --

DR. YOSKOWITZ: Alan, can you identify yourself?

MR. CAIN: Oh, I'm sorry. For the record, Alan Cain, Big Game Program Director.

So good question, Commissioner Foster. So just to give a little context, before we had these 2-mile zones, we used to make zones surveillance zone and we'd snap them to identifiable features. So road, rivers, things that hunters could identify in the Outdoor Annual and stuff.

Last -- last year we had a positive in Duval County, as you recall, and so there was quite a bit of concern among some landowners in there that this zone was pretty large because we had to encompass a large area. There's just not a lot of roads in that portion of Duval County. And so through that process and with some guidance from the Commission, we ended up shrinking those zones to about -- down to about a 2-mile area just around that captive breeding facility where the CWD was detected. And so in those situations where we only found CWD in that facility, we were just looking right in that core area around there where it was most important that we get samples from right around that facility to ensure -- and this is at a release site. There wasn't a positive on there, but in those pens there was. So we just wanted to make sure that we could focus our sampling effort right there within that 2-mile area around that positive facility. And so that's why we did that.

The 2 miles just, you know, biologically average home range of a White-tailed deer is about a square mile. They might, you know, can range further than that during rut -- bucks can -- up to -- you know, some of the distances are up to 9 miles or so. But in general we try to keep it compact. And in that particular situation, again, the positive was only in that breeding facility; so that's why we did that.

I will say this. We've got -- whatever -- 28 potential zones in the state. It's not sustainable for the Department. We hired 53 seasonal staff or are in the process. We're still trying to get those hired just to manage those zones. That's a significant impact on our staff. We've got to find a way forward to manage zones and when they go in and how big they are and zone rules such as whether it's carcass disposal that's, hence, the statewide aspect of the carcass disposal rules; mandatory testing, when it comes and goes.

Something that Chairman Hildebrand brought up was sunsetting or some way to know there's an end goal. Because that's what I hear from landowners. It's like once I get in this zone, I'm stuck forever and they don't like that. So I think we have some thoughts and ideas, but we need to flesh those out and -- over this fall and then -- sometime November/December and whether we come back with some different changes in January to the Commission on zones itself or sometime later, but it's something that's top of mind and we need to address it.

COMMISSIONER FOSTER: Okay, thank you. So another question I've got is whether -- in listening to some of these speakers talk about how excessive the testing is in certain circumstances, what are your thoughts on that? I mean, are we over testing? Are we --

MR. CAIN: I guess in the context of --

COMMISSIONER FOSTER: -- not testing enough?

MR. CAIN: I mean, there's a lot of different testing requirements that -- I guess I'm trying to put in context, so -- oh, there you go, Hunter. Yeah, I'll let our vet...

DR. REED: So the question is about testing whether --

MR. RIECHERS: Tell them who you are.

DR. REED: Oh, sorry. I'm Dr. Hunter Reed, Wildlife Veterinarian for Texas Parks and Wildlife. So the -- could you restate the question? It is more concerned about the -- concerned about over testing --

COMMISSIONER FOSTER: There were just speakers that just talked about that some of these -- a single deer will get tested two, three, four times. They felt like that was excessive. I'd just like your thoughts on that.

DR. REED: Yeah. So let's take a snapshot of where we were even just five years ago where really we weren't even requiring a hundred percent postmortem testing. So at that time, it was around 80 percent. That is a very small subset of that population to begin with. We now converted over to 100 percent postmortem testing, but we recognized that postmortem testing alone was not sufficient in being able to find the disease quickly and efficiently. We know just from the examples that I presented yesterday, that just because of the fact of those delays in detection, we know the disease disseminated to other facilities throughout the state and we know that other were expose and ultimately were found to be positive because of that delay in detection.

So that's all to say is that we implemented antemortem testing, which in some cases added an additional 30 to 40 percent surveillance within a herd and that's just to say that, granted, if breeder-to-breeder testing is implemented, maybe animals will have additional testing. But what I can tell you is that of those animals that go to release sites that would otherwise not have a test at all, it is capturing those and now we have some gauge as to what is actually happening in these herds.

So as we move forward and as we get a better picture of what the disease situation looks like in Texas, maybe we can reconsider some of the rules that we have in place now, that we're in a very different landscape as before. But as where we are right now, where the disease is popping up the more we test despite proportional -- or despite increases in testing for both free-ranging deer and captive deer and we see the -- we see even more detections in captive deer, we still need to have that cautionary principle that Dr. Schuler talked about yesterday and make sure that we're doing what is right, especially if we're going to be transferring deer from captive facilities to release sites where ultimately they'll expose free-ranging animals.

COMMISSIONER FOSTER: Okay, thank you. I have --

VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: Commissioner Bell --


VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: Go ahead, go ahead.

COMMISSIONER FOSTER: Hopefully they'll be pretty quick. One is about the billboards and mailers. I guess this isn't even a question. I just would like to ask the Commission to be sensitive about the messages they communicate and make sure that they're vetted at the highest levels of the Agency before we -- before we go live with these types of messages.

MR. CAIN: Certainly. So that was not our intent when those went out to scare people and they were vetted up through leadership, but we want people just to be aware and educated. But to your point, that's the last thing I want. I need deer hunters out there to hunt deer, kill deer, keep the populations in check. So we definitely need to keep that --

COMMISSIONER FOSTER: Right. And I acknowledge that that wasn't the intent. But let's just be careful --

MR. CAIN: Right.

COMMISSIONER FOSTER: -- about that. And my final question -- and I think it's just a yes-or-no question. Statistically is CWD more prevalent in a high-fenced or breeding facility than it is in free-range? Just yes or no.

DR. REED: In Texas? Yes.


DR. REED: Yes.

COMMISSIONER FOSTER: All right, thank you.

VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: A follow-up on question. By how much? Because that's too -- that's almost too easy an answer because if the difference is .02 versus .03, that's insignificant. Right? So I --

DR. REED: Well --

VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: -- want to -- I just want to understand the difference in the number so that if we say yes and stop there, yes is meaningful if it's .02 on the outside and 27 percent on the inside. That's a meaningful difference.

DR. REED: Yes.

VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: Right? So is that what it is?

DR. REED: So what I'm -- so what I'm saying is that we're talking -- three-quarters of our tests that are positive here in Texas come from breeding facilities and we've tested around 127,000 deer here in Texas and we've found around a hundred animals. And granted, a lot of that testing is even coming from areas where it's greatest risk. Where we know the disease is supposed to exist. And that could be similar for situations here in captive side of things.

We test -- we are still collecting tests out of positive breeding facilities and even in a facility up in Hunt County, we know that we are continuing to have detections in that herd, despite not being able to depopulate it.

VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: But part of that -- is not part of that an aberration, so to speak? Because it's easier to test at a deer breeding facility than it is to capture deer outside. So because you have, so to speak, a captive audience, you have -- you have some -- you have more opportunity to create a testing environment there. Because I was listening to the comments made by folks about the potential to look at this as a laboratory environment and to create some new opportunities around testing and maybe protocols that would lead to other solutions because there are a lot of creative ideas out there besides just, so to speak, stopping everything dead in its tracks. By the way, I'm not saying stopping everything is wrong. I'm saying there's a lot of different opinions out there about that.

DR. REED: So I would challenge that statement and say that, sure, it is easier to test within a captive environment. But I also say that within the zones, those folks are subject to those mandatory testing requirements as well that harvest animals within those zones and whether that occurs up in the panhandle, whether that occurs in Trans-Pecos, Duval County, Gonzales County, wherever, those folks are subject to those same testing requirements. And the fact of the matter is, is we're not finding it at the same degree in those free-ranging areas surrounding those positive facilities as we are in those positive facilities that initiated the zone in the first place.

VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: But what was difference again?

COMMISSIONER DOGGETT: But I think I've heard the numbers over and over again. So it's -- in the wild, it's less than two one-hundredths of 1 percent and in the breeders, it's less than 1 percent. I think that's the question you're asking: What's the magnitude?

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: I will say that I don't know the accuracy of the data, but the one that Jory Rector provided: .15 free-range, .38 breeder deer. That was '22. '21: .08 versus .22. So it looks like about two to three times. I mean, if -- once again, if these are accurate. But those are --

COMMISSIONER DOGGETT: But all less than 20 percent.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: I don't -- Doctor, any comment on those?

DR. REED: I guess what -- my point here is that this is a regulatory disease. We want that to be low. I am glad that we are not at prevalences of 30 to 50 percent that have seen in other parts of this country. The point of this management is to be able to keep it that way. And while it can be very difficult to manage it in the areas that we have it currently, it does not mean that we need to facilitate the spread of disease -- spread of this disease to other areas where in itself it will be difficult to manage there as well.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: An any other questions/comments?

COMMISSIONER ABELL: Commissioner Abell. Just a question on the RT-QuIC test because one of the biggest limitations on the current antemortem testing is the -- like the two- to three-year gestation period to get it to where it would even register on an antemortem test. I mean, that's where a lot of our recommendations came from with like the two-year hold order and things like that.

So if it -- if the RT-QuIC does get approved by the USDA or if it's what we choose to adopt as a testing standard, wouldn't that be kind of a game changer as far as our timelines on everything?

DR. REED: Absolutely. If we can get a validated test that is accepted by USDA, I think we could see significant changes in how our testing protocols unfold. Just tomorrow, I'll be having talks with at least two different people talking about RT-QuIC. One of those looking to pursue USDA validation.

So it's to say it's something that we're actively engaged in conversations with, and it's something that we're eagerly awaiting to see because it could have implications here in Texas.

VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: Commissioner Bell. One additional question. What if the notion, in part, was instead of waiting on FDA approval, we volunteer to be a pilot program for the FDA and bring it -- if -- if -- I mean, if we think the merits and sensitivities of the test as generally described work, what if we did something like that so we can get in front of it and be the national leader in how we might approach this?

DR. REED: Yeah, and I'm fully in support of that. I would say that we currently are a leader. We have done RT-QuIC -- we have been in collaboration and currently administer grants with Dr. Rodrigo Morales and have tested thousands of samples here in Texas, RT-QuIC as well as with Western Blot. We are also working on trying to come up with more effective ways to test for prions in the environment because there's additional -- additional issues with trying to reasonably detect and reliably detect prions in that sort of setting. So I would say that we're already there and we certainly could even step farther to the front.

COMMISSIONER ABELL: I would encourage us to do so. I'd say yesterday was the first time since my time on the Commission where I sort of saw a light at the end of the tunnel. I think, you know, if you could use the RT-QuIC testing to do the sentinel testing at feeders inside breeding enclosures and sort of be a real-time monitor on whether that -- whether there's CWD in that enclosure and then if there -- if it's discovered, be able to do a whole herd test and remove those animals, I think we can get away from all of the depopulation issues.

DR. REED: We'll definitely have to create a strategy. That's -- especially with new technology, we can see what the strengths and weaknesses are of it; but I think it's a promising tool that we'll be able use moving forward.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Any other comments?

COMMISSIONER ABELL: All that's -- all that's not to say that we should do nothing today and wait on all that to happen. Just to be clear.


Anything else?

All right. You can sit down.

I've got just a couple of, you know, somewhat maybe rambling comments just after hearing -- thank you, Mr. Cain. After hearing all of the testimony today, a couple of things strike me. One is I think as an agency, we do need to be more responsive, more nimble, and use more common sense in how we regulate CWD. I think we need better interaction with the Texas Animal Health Commission. Can we be the tip of the spear and -- because for, you know, these landowners to have to go to two agencies. One is bad enough and so two, it just absolutely, you know, complicates their lives multifold. Once again, we're trying to make it easy to hunt and fish and enjoy the game in the State of Texas.

I think the RT-QuIC test has real opportunity for us. I really ask the staff to take a look at it and see how can we integrate it in. And to Vice Chairman Bell's comment, we don't really care about -- I mean, yes, we care about the USDA. But we're the State of Texas. This is our agency. And so let's be more nimble and entrepreneurial. I understand there would be some issues on false negatives with it, false positives. You know, we could work through that. But a test that we can determine if the disease exists within two to three months with minimal -- with minimal concentration levels of prions is an absolute game changer for us. So I would really ask us to look into how we might integrate that into our thinking process.

I think we need a way for people to be able to be sunsetted out of all of these zones. I mean, at some point you've got to get out of jail for doing your penance and so I would ask that we look at that.

I think the trace-out facility rules are problematic. I mean, a lot -- a lot of the folks today were -- you know, are very frustrated with how that's affected their herd, you know, when they received deer four or five years prior to. There's been no attempt to go find those deer and so on and so forth. And, look, I understand it's complicated, but I just -- we need a more entrepreneurial approach.

Now on the other side of the equation -- look, regulation, it's a necessary element of all industries. I'm in the energy business. It is the most regulated industry in the world today. Being in that industry, we find a way to make it work and so noncompliance is not appropriate and will not be accepted. We're trying to strike a healthy balance between commercial interest and the greater good and really that's where this argument comes down in my mind.

At Parks and Wildlife, we desire to have a more collaborative relationship; but it's a two-way street. You have to do the right thing and comply with the law and if you do, we're going to use as light of a touch from a regulatory standpoint as we can to work with you; but if you don't, you're going to have real problems. So as an agency, we want to be the model of being entrepreneurial and nimble and working with people and using common sense and looking at each event a little differently and using some interpretation skills on the part of the wildlife biologists and game wardens and so -- and I think we do that, but we just need more of that to establish a collaborative relationship between all the constituents in the State of Texas.

And then finally, look, the science is evolving. I think we heard a lot of really good things yesterday. We heard some bad things as well. But we are going to look at all avenues as a Department to incorporate all the new scientific data that we can, i.e. RT-QuIC.

So no other -- no other comments?

Yes, sir.

VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: Just one other comment. Commissioner Bell. There was -- we've had this statement made before, and I know someone made it yesterday. It's kind of -- you know, we've all lived through COVID and now we know how to live with it. Right? And someone else -- someone made a comment yesterday. I think it was a veterinarian in one of the briefings, but said this is -- this is here. This is here to stay, so to speak. We have to learn how to live with it.

So, I mean, we just have to learn how to live with it. So if we're going to learn how to live with it, we need to come up with livable rules that are going to make -- and maybe come up with a couple of check points along the way that says if we hit certain metrics, then maybe -- you know, at certain metrics, the rules need to be more severe and at certain metrics the rules can be more lenient. And it probably deserves a lot more study and we made a -- we've had information come in from the scientific community before; but I think for the Commission, I think several people felt like we made some big strides yesterday by hearing those different viewpoints. I think that's fair to say.

And so how can we take advantage of that and maybe begin to continue to move this in the right direction and give everybody a little bit of air to breathe, regardless are where they are on the issue so that we do -- the first thing here is do no harm to Texas. Right? So we want to come up with a good solution to Texas; but we also want to protect all the different stakeholders involved, as the Chairman said. And I'll leave it there.




COMMISSIONER DOGGETT: Thank you. This is Doggett. And I want to tell you, I feel like I'm taking a water drink out of a fire hose here. This is my first Commission Meeting and absorbed a lot of the information yesterday and today. And I just want to tell you that it's just sort of black and white and I think some of the Commissioners agree that we need to take a real close look at the zoning rules that we have and on the testing rule -- I mean, all know we need to test. But the frequency and application of the tests, I think we need to have a robust discussion about that. And as Jeff said -- Commissioner Hildebrand -- be entrepreneurial about that.

I mean, we need to be partners with the breeders and find a great solution for this and the -- you know, the words I heard, you know, about scrapie, you know, I remember that and if a genetic solution is a valid and great solution for this, well, we're -- we would be all on board to make that happen in partnership. And so really excited about that.

I think -- I think this is the beginning of sort of a new day on this and really look forward to collaborating with our constituents, the landowners and breeders and the different groups and make something really positive happen about all this. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Okay. If there's no other comments, I've got a bit of a lengthy motion here; but bear with me.

Chronic Wasting Disease is of the utmost importance and requires our full attention. We dedicated several hours yesterday to listen to technical experts discussing CWD and it became evident to me that there was still much debate and uncertainty surrounding the science and best management practices in this area.

It is clear to all of us that we cannot ignore the impact of CWD and must take deliberate and thoughtful action to address it. However, such action must be considered in light of the impact that regulation would have on all stakeholders. I'd like to express my gratitude to the individuals and organizations who spoke today and submitted written comments. I'd also like to thank the Legislators who took the time to share their views on this matter. As an appointed Commission, I strongly believe that we should carefully consider the input and guidance we receive from the Legislature.

Furthermore, I want to extend my appreciation to the Wildlife staff who have actively engaged in this issue and have provided invaluable insights to help us make well-informed decisions.

However, based on the comments we have received and the discussions we had yesterday, it is evident that we cannot proceed with the proposed rule as it currently stands. Therefore, I propose that we table the following provisions for further considerations: One, reproduce the statutory provisions governing the required permanent identification tags on breeder deer; two, provide for the transport of deer carcasses from CWD management zones to a final destination or taxidermist, provided a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department TPW issued check station receipt has been obtained; three, impose statewide carcass disposal measures; four, impose a residency requirement on breeder deer as a condition of transfer to another breeding facility or to a release site; five, prohibit the release of breeder deer prior to April 1 of the year following birth.

With the regard to the remainder of the rule, I am comfortable moving forward on and implementing these actions: One, require antemortem live animal testing of test eligible deer prior to transfer from a breeding facility to another breeding facility; two, eliminate provisions allowing deer breeders to transfer fawns to external facilities for nursing purposes; three, impose a seven-day deadline for submission of CWD test samples for Trap, Transport, and Process Permits; four, remove the three-year sunset of provisions governing the antemortem testing of breeder deer prior to release; five, change the deadline for Category B trace breeder facilities to submit required whole herd antemortem CW samples from 45 days to 60 days; six, strengthen provisions governing the obligations of release site owners in the event a release site becomes epidemiologically linked to a CWD positive deer breeding facility and, however, it should noted we are going from one day to seven days on testing; and finally, provide for the suspension of Managed Lands Deer Programs/MLDP privileges for landowners who fail to comply with harvest testing and recordkeeping requirements at release sites epidemiologically linked to a CWD positive deer facility.

And I will say we are tabling the first provisions that I listed and we will come back to those with more scientific evidence, with more discussion around it with staff. So those are not off the table, but we are going to take as thoughtful a look as possible in regards to these provisions, taking all shareholders/stakeholders into effect.

So with that, if there's no more discussion, I move would move a motion to the effect I just listed. Is there a motion for approval?

VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: This is Commissioner Bell. So moved.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Is there a second?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All in favor say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Any opposed? Hearing none, the motion carries.

Thank you for everyone's testimony and thoughts today on this, the staff's hard work, and we look forward to a successful resolution of CWD over the years to come. So thank you very much.

All right. Action Item 6, Acquisition of Land, Brown County, Approximately 869 Acres at Lake Brownwood State Park, Mr. Trey Vick.

MR. VICK: Yes, sir. Good afternoon, Commissioners. For the record, my name's Trey Vick. I'm with the Land Conservation Program. I'm here today to present an acquisition of land in Brown County of approximately 869 acres.

Lake Brownwood State Bark is in Brown County. It's ten miles north of Brownwood. Lake Brownwood State Park consists of approximately 500 acres in North Central Texas, just north of the City of Brownwood. The park was acquired in Brown Count -- from the Brown County Water Improvement District in 1934.

Lake Brownwood State Park offers recreational opportunities such as fishing, boating, camping, hiking. There's several group halls built by the CCC in the 30s and 40s and are available as meeting venues for the general public.

Staff proposes to acquire approximately an 869-acre tract from a willing seller to improve access to the state park and allow future expansion of the park's recreational opportunities. Here are a few photos of the subject tract. It's along the shore of Lake Brownwood. As you see on this map, the subject tract is outlined in yellow where -- and it's adjacent to Lake Brownwood State Park outlined in red.

As of this morning about an hour ago, we've received 46 total comments, all which were in favor.

And if there are no further questions, staff recommends that the Commission adopt the following motion: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorizes the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to acquire approximately 869 acres of land in Brown County for addition to Lake Brownwood State Park. I'd be happy to answer any questions.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Great. Thank you, Mr. Vick.

Any comments/questions, Commissioners?

Is there a motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER PATTON, JR.: Patton moves to approve.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Is there a second?



(Chorus of ayes)

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

Thank you.

MR. VICK: Yes, sir.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Mr. Vick, you're up again. Action Item 7, Acquisition of Land, Houston County, Approximately 12 Acres at Mission Tejas State Park.

MR. VICK: Thank you. Again for the record, my name's Trey Vick. I'm with the Land Acquisition -- Land Conservation Program. I'm presenting today an acquisition of land in Houston County of approximately 12 acres at Mission Tejas State Park.

Mission Tejas State Park's located Houston County, approximately 25 miles southeast of Palestine. Mission Tejas State Park consists of approximately 660 acres northeast of Crockett in Houston County. The park was developed by the CCC in the 1930s and was managed by the Texas Forest Service. The property remained in the Texas Forest Survey -- Service until 1957 when it was transferred to Parks and Wildlife. Today the park offers camping, geocaching, nature viewing, and hiking for the public.

Staff proposes the acquisition of approximately 12 acres from a willing seller to expand Mission Tejas State Park, increase public access, and allow future expansion of recreational opportunities. You can see here in this map Mission Tejas State Park is outlined in red. The 12-acre tract is outlined in yellow.

As of this morning, we've receive 42 comments in total, which all were in favor.

And if there are no other questions, staff recommends that the Commission adopt the following motion: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorizes the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to acquire approximately 12 acres of land in Houston County for addition to Mission Tejas State Park. I'd be glad to answer any questions.


Motion for approval?







(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Any opposed? Thank you. Hearing none, motion carries.

MR. VICK: Great. Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Action Item 8 has been withdrawn.

Action Item 9 is the Acquisition of Land, Matagorda County, Approximately 1,300 Acres Adjacent to the Mad Island Wildlife Management Area, Mr. Stan David.

MR. DAVID: Good morning, Chairman, Commissioners. For the record, I'm Stan David with the Land Conservation Program.

The presentation is about a potential acquisition of land, Matagorda County. It's approximately 1,300 acres. It's adjacent to the Mad Island WMA. The red star down there mid-coast is Matagorda County. It's just 20 miles south of Bay City. The Mad Island WMA was established in 1987, the acquisition of 7,200 acres at that time. It was marshland and flat coastal prairie. It's part of the Central Coast Wetlands Ecosystem Project. The project's mission is to provide for sound biological conservation of all wildlife resources within the central coast of Texas for the publics common benefit.

TPWD staff proposes acquisition of approximately 1,300 acres from a willing seller. Subject tracts would add valuable land to expand TPWD's research and management activities for wildlife species with the emphasis on waterfowl, as well as adding additional recreational opportunities for the public. A portion of the acquired land will be managed within the Wildlife Division as part of the WMA, while the remainder will be managed by the Coastal Fisheries Division. It will be freely accessible to the public. No additional staff or infrastructure will be needed to manage these tracts.

Here's some pictures of the proposed acquisition. The Mad Island WMA is in red. You can see the two potential acquisition tracts. The one north of the canal would be attached to the WMA. Tract south would become part of the Coastal Fisheries management area.

As of this morning, there was 49 comments. They're all in favor. All in support. No opposition.

The staff recommends the following motion: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission authorizes the Executive Director to take all necessary steps to acquire approximately 1,300 acres of land in Matagorda County, a portion of which will be for addition to the Mad Island Wildlife Manage Area and the remainder of which will be managed by the Coastal Fishery Division for public recreation. I'd be glad to answer any questions if there are any.


Hearing none, is there a motion for approval?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Second? Is there a second?


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Okay. All in favor, please say aye.

(Chorus of ayes)

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Any opposed? Hearing none, the motion carries.

Thank you, Mr. David.

MR. DAVID: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Item No. 10, Renewable Energy and Wildlife, Ms. Laura -- Zebahasy? Zebahazy?

MS. ZEBEHAZY: It's Zebehazy.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Zebehazy. Golly, I almost got it. Zebehazy.

MS. ZEBEHAZY: This has been a lifelong journey how --

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All right, please make --

MS. ZEBEHAZY: -- people say my name.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Please make your presentation.

MS. ZEBEHAZY: Oh, goodness. Okay. Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission. For the record, my name is Laura Zebehazy, Ecological Environmental Planning Program Director within the Wildlife Division.

At the request of the Commission, this briefing will present details on renewable energy development in Texas, with an emphasis on wind, TPW's role in reviewing renewable energy projects and wildlife and habitat impacts.

Land-based commercial wind energy development has been occurring in Texas since the late 1990s. Wind energy contributes approximately 25 percent to the Texas energy portfolio and it is second only to natural gas production. The May 2023 U.S. Wind Turbine database pictured here, shows the locations and turbine capacity of approximately 200 Texas wind facilities, with over 18,000 turbines. Initially, wind energy development was concentrated in the panhandle, West Texas, and South Texas.

Due to technological advancements in turbine design and construction, facilities are expanding into other areas of the state once thought to be less lucrative. Renewable energy facility placement is typically influenced by room on the transmission grid and willing landowners. Currently over 40,000 megawatts of installed capacity are in place and another nearly 4,500 megawatts are under construction.

In March 2021, the Biden administration announced a goal to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind in the United States by 2030. The first two U.S. commercial scale offshore wind energy projects in federal waters, South Fork Wind and Vineyard Wind, have started turbine construction and will soon provide 932 megawatts of power to New York, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.

In the summer of 2021, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, or BOEM, began to assess interest in offshore wind development in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Soon after, TPWD became a member of the Gulf of Mexico Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force and actively provided input to BOEM during task force and Agency meetings and through public comment opportunities.

In February 2023, after stakeholder engagement and initial data analysis, BOEM announced a proposed sale notice for three Gulf of Mexico offshore wind lease areas. One wind lease area is located off the coast of Lake Charles, Louisiana, and two others are located off the coast of Galveston, Texas. The two Galveston lease areas comprise approximately 200,000 acres in total.

On August 29th, 2023, the Biden administration held the first ever offshore wind energy auction for the Gulf of Mexico 8 Region, which resulted in Lake Charles lease area receiving a high bid of $5.6 million from RWE Offshore U.S. Gulf, LLC. No bids were received for either of the Galveston leased areas -- lease areas.

BOEM announced on October 27th, 2023, four additional wind energy areas in the Gulf of Mexico, Option J, K, L, and N as depicted on this map. Option I is part of the original wind energy area -- areas to -- identified and finalized on October 31st, 2022. BOEM added these additional wind energy areas to provide more leasing flexibility, to advance the Biden administration's goal to achieve 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030, to be responsive to Louisiana's renewable energy goals, increase the potential for competition in future offshore wind energy solicitations, and to develop a predictable leasing pipeline.

TPWD will continue to actively participate in any stakeholder engagement opportunities and provide input on our natural resources concerns to BOEM. Those concerns include the lack of data available to adequately assess how offshore wind development may impact birds, bats, marine mammals, and fisheries occurring in the Gulf of Mexico.

I am emphasizing wind energy development during this briefing; however, I want to spend a moment describing the state of utility-scale solar energy development in Texas. Utility-scale solar energy facilities are typically defined as ground-mounted solar projects with energy capacity of 1 megawatt or above. Depending on solar panel technology and individual project design, it takes approximately five to ten acres of solar panels to generate 1 megawatt of energy.

Currently there are approximately 200 solar energy facilities operating in Texas. This map provided by the Solar Energy Industries Association shows the generalized location and capacity of operating, in development, or in construction solar energy facilities. Solar energy development has increased significantly over the last five years, and it is predicted to soon outpace wind energy development in our state.

In 2019, solar energy capacity was approximately 2,400 megawatts. By 2022, solar energy capacity has increased to 18,801 megawatts, which means up to 188,000 acres of land has been developed for solar energy sites, usually in the rural areas of our state. Solar energy provides over 5 percent of Texas' electricity. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, more than 4 gigawatts of solar capacity is expected to be installed over the next five years in Texas.

From this point forward, I will return to focusing on land-based wind energy development. Of the 18,552 turbines located in Texas, 33 percent occur within 20 miles of a state park or a wildlife management area, while 13 percent of turbines occur within ten miles of TPWD properties. Wind energy facilities can have viewshed impacts on our recreational areas, including impacting visitors' experiences at scenic overlooks and camping sites, as well as causing light pollution from Federal Aviation Administration required lighting.

Wind energy development can also directly or indirectly impact wildlife management and conservation efforts on our properties by influencing wildlife behavior or occupancy. Thoughtful and informed siting by wind energy developers can alleviate those potential impacts to our properties.

Parks and Wildlife Code Section 12.0011 directs TPWD to provide recommendations on or information about protecting fish and wildlife resources to entities that approve, permit, license, or construct development projects or make decisions affecting those natural resources. Environmental review biologists in the Wildlife Division's Ecological Environmental Planning Program engage with some, but not all, renewable energy project proponents or developers and provide recommendations and beneficial management practices that when implemented, will avoid or minimize impacts to natural resources or can influence siting decisions.

The key point here is that engagement with our Department and implementation of our input by developers is voluntary. Also it is important to note that wind energy developers typically discourage written input from TPWD since that input can influence project investments.

Staff also actively participate in national discussions related to renewable energy and natural resources impacts to the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Energy and Wildlife Policy Committee and the associated working groups. TPWD's participation in these discussions ensures that our perspective, experience, and unique challenges assist in identifying opportunities to protect and conserve our public trust resource.

In 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published land-based wind energy guidelines, which provided a structured scientific process for addressing wildlife conservation concerns at all stages of land-based wind energy development. These guidelines also established lines of communication among wind energy developers and federal, state, and local conservation agencies and tribes. Often U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will invite TPWD to meetings with wind energy project proponents so we can provide state-based input on potential natural resources impacts.

During the construction and operation of wind energy facilities, permanent impacts to habitat can be less significant than other development types. Typically, most habitat loss is associated with individual turbine pads and facility roads, which equates to less than an acre to ten acres per megawatt of installed capacity. With that being said, habitat impacts can be more significant in areas with rare or imperiled plant communities, habitat types, and species like Tallgrass prairie, playa lakes, and Lesser Prairie chickens. Also there can be aerial habitat loss associated with each turbine's rotor swept area and that loss is not usually quantified. The vertical infrastructure of turbines can also displace sensitive species or cause certain species to completely avoid areas with wind energy facilities.

The greatest impact to wildlife occurs through direct morality of bats and birds encountering moving turbine blades. There is evidence that bats are actively attracted to wind turbines and ongoing research seeks to understand why this attraction occurs and how we can prevent or reduce mortality due to bat-turbine interactions. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of bats are killed each year by wind turbines. However, fatality estimates are influenced by many variables, including study location, study period, search area around individual turbines, searcher efficiency, and scavenger removal of bat carcasses. Most bat fatalities occur during fall migration, when not only are bats migrating, but they're also mating. Mating influences migration pathways, which unlike bird migration do not follow straight lines from Point A to Point B and can increase interactions with wind energy facilities.

Texas tree roosting bat species like Red bats, Yellow bats, Silver-haired bat, and Hoary bat are greatly impacted by wind energy development due to an attraction to turbine mass. Because of these direct mortality impacts, there is momentum to federally list the Hoary bat in the U.S. and internationally.

Cave dwelling bats are not as heavily impacted by wind energy facilities; but because their populations have declined 90 percent or more due to White-nose Syndrome, additional mortality from wind power is a concern for species population viability.

Overall, despite years of data collection and analysis, there are still many unknowns about the cumulative and long-term impacts of wind energy development on bat populations.

Birds also experience direct mortality from wind turbine blades. Some fatality estimates report three to six birds are killed per megawatt per year in the U.S. The same variables that influence bat fatality estimates also impact bird fatality estimates. Overall, the collision risk of different species is poorly understood and long-lived species like raptors may be more vulnerable due to fewer offspring being raised each year compared to other bird taxa.

Radar studies indicate that 90 percent of avian nocturnal migrants fly above the height of the current rotor swept zones of turbines. However, turbines are projected to get taller as the technology improves. It is assumed that taller turbines may cause greater bird fatalities. Research has shown that sensitive species like Whooping cranes and Lesser Prairie chicken either avoid or are displaced by wind energy facilities, which can have implications on migration stopover areas critical for rest and foraging and breeding success.

Texas has some of the most important stopover and wintering sites for birds in North America. The map on this slide is from the American Bird Conservancy wind risk assessment map. The red area represents areas that are critically important to birds. High importance areas are shown in orange and the blue dots represent turbine data from the U.S. Wind Turbine database. As you can see, many existing wind energy facilities occur in areas that could increase direct impacts on birds.

What isn't depicted on this map is the transmission infrastructure needed for these facilities to deliver energy to their customers. That infrastructure can also expand impacts to birds through collisions with transmission lines, artificial light at facilities, and habitat loss and fragmentation. It is critical that energy developers address and minimize the cumulative and long-term impacts of their facility siting decisions going forward.

In conclusion, the Ecological Environmental Planning Program will continue to encourage renewable energy developers to undertake thoughtful and collaborative siting decisions, to coordinate early and often with TPWD, and to share site assessment and monitoring data so we can assess the cumulative impacts of this development type on rare and sensitive wildlife and associated habitats. We will also continue to develop publicly accessible spatial tools and data can assist with all stages of renewable energy development and operations. With that, impacts on our state's natural resources can be minimized.

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

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: Any questions for Ms. Zebehazy?

MS. ZEBEHAZY: You got. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FOSTER: I do have just a quick question.


COMMISSIONER FOSTER: There was a lot of news maybe a year ago about the whales and -- up in the northeast.

MS. ZEBEHAZY: Correct.

COMMISSIONER FOSTER: And whether the offshore wind turbines were impacting them.


COMMISSIONER FOSTER: Do you -- do you have any knowledge of that?

MS. ZEBEHAZY: I mean, I have a very general understanding of what's going on. I think there was concern from fisheries up in that area about the impact that the construction and operation of those offshore wind facilities would have on -- I think it was the Right whale. I think it went through litigation. I believe the courts came back recently -- however, I think the litigants are appealing -- is that they kind of missed their opportunity to influence the ultimate decision on building those turbines and that there was no data to support their position on that. But I'm also happy to provide further information if I -- at a later time on that. But I think that's where that landed just recently with the courts.

VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: Commissioner Bell.


VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: I have a question. And, you know, an odd thing. I think we were talking about 40 percent of energy in Texas being renewable. Did we have that conversation yesterday, roughly?


COMMISSIONER FOSTER: It's actually in excess of 40 now.

VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: Okay. So with that in mind, I like the information you provided. A really good summary. Do we have anything -- anything more extensive such as a white paper on this because you're looking at -- that would address even in more detail the impact on, you know, any state park visitation, hunting, fishing, anything along --

MS. ZEBEHAZY: I'm not aware of anything that's an actual white paper as far as the impact of renewable energy on public lands in Texas.

VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: Is that something that would be a value to us, in your opinion?

MS. ZEBEHAZY: I imagine it would, you know, memorialize some of what I've spoken about today. I -- I'm not, you know -- I don't know, Rodney, if you have a perspective if that would be helpful for state parks to have that white paper?

MR. FRANKLIN: For the record, Rodney Franklin, State Parks Director. We're all -- something -- as Laura was mentioning, that's something we're always conscious of and we've done a few studies on viewshed analysis for state parks. So there's some information, but it's not a whole lot of extensive information. So it might be useful to -- we can put some information together for you just so you have as an informational basis, so.

VICE-CHAIRMAN BELL: Well, something like that might be useful; but I yield to my fellow Commissioners on their thoughts as well.


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: You know, it -- go ahead, Leslie.

COMMISSIONER DOGGETT: I would most-heartedly. Yeah, if we could -- because everything we hear is sort of anecdotal on that front and if we could get some real intelligence on that, I think it would be helpful because the impact is pretty substantial I would think. I mean, just visually it is; but I don't know about wildlife. It'd be very interesting, I think.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: I mean, certainly. I think, you know, in many ways nice report, but this is just, so to speak, what's exposed of the iceberg. And for me, I'd like a deep dive into the impact, the influence, incorporate all the new grids, all the electric grids that are going to be required, what influence that has, view corridors, park -- park accessibility and I think there's just a whole lot of elements. Wildlife fragmentation. I mean, we talk about the birds, but what's it doing to the wildlife on the ground and that harmonic sound? And, you know, are we creating large-scale landscape that's devoid of wildlife because you've got spinning rotors or -- I mean, clearly a 50-acre solar array farm is going to have a detrimental affect on wildlife.

So what is it, quantify it, understand the impact truly to the State of Texas. And I think we are probably the best agency to understand that because ours is about wildlife, livestock, land fragmentation, parks, clean water, all of those things. So that's my perspective on it.

Do we --


CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: -- have any -- we don't have any regulatory authority on the placement of solar or wind, do we?

MS. ZEBEHAZY: No, sir.


MS. ZEBEHAZY: We do not. That was -- there was an attempt this past Legislative session to give us some, a role with the PUC and them permitting wind and solar facilities, existing and future. However, it was not picked up by the House. So it didn't go anywhere. So but currently, no, we do not have any regulatory authority. Section 12.0011 gives us the ability to provide that information, but it's voluntary to implement.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: And finally, I mean I don't think, Dr. Yoskowitz, there's any finer agency in Texas that can determine the impact on wildlife and land fragmentation than the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission. I mean, I don't know who else would be more suited. So in my -- in closing, we need to be the subject matter experts on this.

DR. YOSKOWITZ: Right. Let me -- Chairman, if I can suggest, I can get with Laura and John and the team and come up with an outline of what this white paper or study would look like and then get back to you on that.



CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: I think that's a good -- that would be great.

Any or comments/questions?

Okay. Thank you.

MS. ZEBEHAZY: Thank you.

CHAIRMAN HILDEBRAND: All right. Amazingly so, Dr. Yoskowitz, this Commission has completed its business and I declare us adjourned at 1:37 p.m. Thank you, Commissioners.

DR. YOSKOWITZ: Thank you, Chairman.

(Commission Meeting Adjourns)

In official recognition of the adoption of

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


Jeffery D. Hildebrand, Chairman


Oliver J. Bell, Vice-Chairman


James E. Abell, Member


William "Leslie" Doggett, Member


Paul Foster, Member


Anna B. Galo, Member


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


Travis B. Rowling, Member



I, Paige S. Watts, Certified Shorthand

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

I FURTHER CERTIFY THAT the proceedings of such

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

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my

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


Paige S. Watts, CSR

CSR No.: 8311

Expiration: January 31, 2025

TPW Commission Meetings