Proposed Amendment to Chronic Wasting Disease Management Rules

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DISEASE DETECTION AND RESPONSE RULES

PROPOSAL PREAMBLE

1. Introduction.

        The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department proposes an amendment to 31 TAC §65.92, concerning CWD Testing. The proposed amendment would require deer breeders to report all mortalities of breeder deer possessed in a breeding facility within 14 days of detection and to submit all CWD test samples to an accredited testing laboratory within 14 days of collection.

        Prior to 2015, the department’s regulatory apparatus for detecting chronic wasting disease (CWD) in captive deer was contained in various subchapters regulating various permits that authorize the holding of deer in captivity. The testing standards imposed by the rules were considered to be at best minimally efficacious for detecting CWD in captive deer populations and were intended to be the least burdensome regulatory footprint possible in light of the fact that up to that point in time, CWD had not been discovered in captive breeding facilities in Texas. However, with the discoveries of multiple CWD-positive deer in deer breeding facilities in 2015 and 2016, the department adopted rules that imposed significantly more robust testing protocols and movement restrictions. Those rules are contained in Chapter 65, Subchapter B, and supersede the testing rules contained in Chapter 65, Subchapter T.

        CWD is a fatal neurodegenerative disorder that affects some cervid species, including white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, red deer, sika, and their hybrids (susceptible species). It is classified as a TSE (transmissible spongiform encephalopathy), a family of diseases that includes scrapie (found in sheep), bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, found in cattle), and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) in humans.

        Much remains unknown about CWD. The peculiarities of its transmission (how it is passed from animal to animal), infection rate (the frequency of occurrence through time or other comparative standard), incubation period (the time from exposure to clinical manifestation), and potential for transmission to other species are still being investigated. There is no scientific evidence to indicate that CWD is transmissible to humans. What is known is that CWD is invariably fatal to cervids, and is transmitted both directly (through deer-to-deer contact) and indirectly (through environmental contamination). Moreover, a high prevalence of the disease correlates with deer population declines, and human dimensions research suggests that hunters will avoid areas of high CWD prevalence. Additionally, the apparent persistence of CWD in contaminated environments represents a significant obstacle to eradication of CWD from either farmed or free-ranging cervid populations.

        It is imperative that deer mortalities within a breeding facility be reported promptly for inventory reconciliation which is necessary for the department to be able to quickly initiate contact tracing in the event of an epidemiological investigation. Prompt submission of CWD samples will aid in early detection of the disease where it exists, which will reduce the probability of CWD being transferred from a CWD-positive deer breeding facility to other deer breeding facilities or release sites. Additionally, prompt submission of CWD samples is recommended by accredited diagnostic testing laboratories. The proposed amendment is intended to provide assurances that reporting and testing protocols are optimal.

2. Fiscal Note.

        Mitch Lockwood, Big Game Program Director, has determined that for each of the first five years that the rule as proposed is in effect, there will be no fiscal implications to state or local governments as a result of administering or enforcing the rule.

3. Public Benefit/Cost Note.

        Mr. Lockwood also has determined that for each of the first five years that the rule as proposed is in effect:

        (A) The public benefit anticipated as a result of enforcing or administering the proposed rule will be the reduction of the probability of CWD being spread from facilities where it might exist and an increase in the probability of detecting CWD if it does exist, thus ensuring the public of continued enjoyment of the resource and also ensuring the continued beneficial economic impacts of hunting in Texas.

        There will be no adverse economic effect on persons required to comply with the rule.

        (B) Under the provisions of Government Code, Chapter 2006, a state agency must prepare an economic impact statement and a regulatory flexibility analysis for a rule that may have an adverse economic effect on small businesses, micro-businesses, or rural communities. As required by Government Code, §2006.002(g), the Office of the Attorney General has prepared guidelines to assist state agencies in determining a proposed rule’s potential adverse economic impact on small and microbusinesses and rural communities. Those guidelines state that an agency need only consider a proposed rule’s direct adverse economic impacts to determine if any further analysis is required. The department considers “direct economic impact“ to mean a requirement that would directly impose recordkeeping or reporting requirements; impose taxes or fees; result in lost sales or profits; adversely affect market competition; or require the purchase or modification of equipment or services.

        (C) The department has determined that proposed rule would result in no direct economic effect on any small businesses, micro-businesses, or rural community. Therefore, neither the economic impact statement nor the regulatory flexibility analysis described in Government Code, Chapter 2006, is required.

        (D) The department has not drafted a local employment impact statement under the Administrative Procedures Act, §2001.022, as the agency has determined that the rule as proposed will not impact local economies.

        (E) The department has determined that Government Code, §2001.0225 (Regulatory Analysis of Major Environmental Rules), does not apply to the proposed rule.

        (F) The department has determined that there will not be a taking of private real property, as defined by Government Code, Chapter 2007, as a result of the proposed rule.

        (G) In compliance with the requirements of Government Code, §2001.0221, the department has prepared the following Government Growth Impact Statement (GGIS).  The rule as proposed, if adopted, will neither create nor eliminate a government program; not result in an increase or decrease in the number of full-time equivalent employee needs; not result in a need for additional General Revenue funding; not affect the amount of an existing fee; not create or expand an existing regulation; not increase or decrease the number of individuals subject to regulation; and not positively or adversely affect the state’s economy.

4. Request for Public Comment.

        Comments on the proposal may be submitted to Mitch Lockwood at (830) 792-9677, e-mail: mitch.lockwood@tpwd.texas.gov. Comments also may be submitted via the department’s website at http://www.tpwd.texas.gov/business/feedback/public_comment/.

5. Statutory Authority.

        The amendment is proposed under the authority of Parks and Wildlife Code, Chapter 43, Subchapter L, which authorizes the commission to make regulations governing the possession, transfer, purchase, sale, of breeder deer held under the authority of the subchapter.

        The proposed amendment affects Parks and Wildlife Code, Chapter 43, Subchapter L.

6. Rule Text.

        §65.92. CWD Testing.

                 (a) – (g) (No change.)

                 (h) Deer breeders shall report all deer mortalities that occur within a breeding facility within 14 days of detection. 

                 (i) All CWD test samples shall be submitted to an accredited testing laboratory within 14 days of collection.

        This agency hereby certifies that the proposal has been reviewed by legal counsel and found to be within the agency’s authority to adopt.

        Issued in Austin, Texas, on

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