Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Regulations Committee Meeting
November 6, 2002Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
7 BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 6th day of 8 November, 2002, there came on to be heard matters under the 9 regulatory authority of the Parks and Wildlife Commission 10 of Texas, in the Commission Executive Board Room of the 11 Texas Parks and Wildlife Headquarters Complex, beginning at 12 9:00 a.m. to wit: 13 APPEARANCES: 14 THE PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION: 15 REGULATIONS COMMITTEE: 16 Katharine Armstrong, Austin, Texas, Chair 17 Joseph B.C. Fitzsimons, San Antonio, Texas 18 Ernest Angelo, Jr., Midland, Texas 19 John Avila, Jr., Fort Worth, Texas 20 Alvin L. Henry, Houston, Texas 21 Philip Montgomery, Dallas, Texas 22 Donato D. Ramos, Laredo, Texas 23 Kelly W. Rising, M.D., Beaumont, Texas 24 Mark W. Watson, Jr., San Antonio, Texas 25 THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT: 26 Robert L. Cook, Executive Director, and other personnel of 27 the Parks and Wildlife Department ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 2 1 CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Good morning. Greetings. 2 The meeting is called to order. 3 Before proceeding with any business, I believe 4 Mr. Cook has a statement to make. 5 MR. COOK: Chairman, a public notice of this 6 meeting containing all items on the proposed agenda has 7 been filed in the Office of the Secretary of State as 8 required by Chapter 551 of the Government Code, referred 9 to as the Open Meeting Law. I would like for this action 10 to be noted in the official record of this meeting. 11 CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Thank you, Mr. Cook. 12 Before beginning with our committee meetings, 13 I'd like to introduce Representative Charlie Geren, who's 14 here from Fort Worth. Representative Geren has been very 15 helpful in helping us work through a land situation in 16 Tarrant County, Eagle Mountain Lake. And we're glad to 17 have him here today and the opportunity to give him to 18 make some statements to us or a report to us -- 19 And the opportunity we'll have for the 20 Commission to ask you some questions if we have any. 21 Welcome. 22 REPRESENTATIVE GEREN: Thank you, Madam Chair 23 and Commissioners and Bob. I appreciate your time this 24 morning. 25 As the letter that we sent you -- we've put ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 3 1 together a group consisting of the Tarrant Regional Water 2 District. Tarrant County and the city of Saginaw and, I 3 think, the city of Lake Worth has now come in -- as well 4 as some private foundations -- to purchase the Eagle 5 Mountain Park from Parks and Wildlife. We have not, 6 partially because of the elections, been able to get 7 everybody to sit down and work out all the details, but I 8 hope by your January meeting to have something concrete. 9 But we are -- we fully intend to purchase the 10 park from Parks and Wildlife if you all agree to sell it 11 to us. And we're happy to work with you any way we can 12 on this, and, as I said, we -- would agree to the park -- 13 to the land being deed restricted to park use only from 14 now on. So if any of you have any questions, I'll be 15 happy to answer them. If not, I'll get out of your hair. 16 CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Do we have any questions 17 of Representative Geren? 18 MR. COOK: Just thank you. I'd like to express 19 our appreciation for your assistance and the folks up 20 there that are trying to keep this in park land and make 21 it available to the folks up there. And we appreciate 22 your help, sir. 23 REPRESENTATIVE GEREN: Well, thank you. 24 CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Representative Geren, I 25 think the work you've done and the leadership you've ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 4 1 shown us in this matter has maybe and hopefully produced 2 a win/win situation for the residents of Tarrant County 3 and the entire state of Texas, as well. Thank you. 4 REPRESENTATIVE GEREN: Thank you, Madam Chair. 5 Commissioners, thank you. 6 CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: We'll begin today with the 7 Regulations Committee. 8 Joseph Fitzsimons? 9 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Madam 10 Chair. 11 Our first item on our agenda is approval of the 12 committee meeting minutes from the previous meeting. 13 A motion? 14 COMMISSIONER WATSON: So move. 15 COMMISSIONER AVILA: Second. 16 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All in favor, say 17 aye. 18 (A chorus of ayes.) 19 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All opposed, same 20 sign. 21 (No response.) 22 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Motion carries. 23 And our first item is Item 1, Chairman's 24 Charges. 25 Bob? ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 5 1 MR. COOK: Mr. Chairman, the charges to the 2 staff and the Agency applicable to the regulations 3 committee primarily revolve around the implementation 4 provisions of the sunset bill, Senate Bill 305. The 5 Department's sunset implementation report was submitted 6 to the Sunset Commission on November 1. We expect an on- 7 site audit from Sunset staff in December. The Agency has 8 initiated and/or will have implemented every 9 recommendation of the sunset report. 10 The shrimp report being presented to you today 11 by Hal Osburn addresses several other requirements of 12 Senate Bill 305, also, to implement authority and 13 direction given by the 77th Legislature. The crab trap 14 season agenda item being presented by Robin Reichers is 15 the implementation of Senate Bill 1410; this is the 16 second year of this action, and I think that you will see 17 that it is beginning to pay dividends. 18 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Bob. 19 And moving right along with the Senate Bill 305 20 matter and the shrimp report, Hal Osburn has a briefing 21 for us. 22 MR. OSBURN: Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, 23 I'm Hal Osburn, Coastal Fisheries Division Director. I'd 24 like to brief you today on the recently completed study 25 of the Texas shrimp fishery; the study request was part ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 6 1 of the sunset legislation in 2001. Eight teams composed 2 of staff scientists were created to address the numerous 3 issues associated with this diverse and complex fishery. 4 The study was essentially an update of the 5 shrimp fishery management plan that the Commission 6 adopted in 1989, as well as the data analyses that were 7 used in the 2000 rulemaking process. Additionally 8 included were new analyses on marine bio-diversity and 9 the economic health of the fishery. Researchers at Texas 10 A&M university were also contracted to conduct a human 11 dimensions survey of every shrimper and every shrimp 12 dealer in the state. 13 To gather even more input from the industry, 14 five scoping meetings were held on the coast, the shrimp 15 advisory Committee was convened twice to discuss what 16 should be in the study, and draft sections of the report 17 were sent to 18 non-Department scientists for peer 18 review. In addition, staff from the comptroller of 19 public accounts were involved in the analyses and review. 20 The study was completed by the deadline of 21 September of this year, and you should have received a 22 copy of the executive summary; there's also an appendix 23 for each of the scientific team's section. 24 Highlighting some of the results, we found that 25 conservation of wetlands critical to shrimp and shrimp ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 7 1 life history is actually improving; there remain 2 concerns, however, about the quality and quantity of 3 fresh water reaching our bays and estuaries. There also 4 are a host of man-made threats to the environment that 5 need to be monitored, including dredging and bottom- 6 trawling itself. 7 Analyses of bio-diversity indices from our 8 sampling data confirm that we have a complex and dynamic 9 food web in our coastal environment. Each coastal area 10 displayed its own unique pattern of diversity, and we 11 actually encountered over 600 species of fin fish and 12 macro-invertebrates coast wide. 13 And we found that shrimp were generally 14 associated with those areas that had the highest bio- 15 diversity. And that, of course, explains why bi-catching 16 shrimp trawls has been such a concern for these number of 17 years. 18 We believe that the use of the bi-catch 19 reduction devices mandated by the Commission in 2000 is 20 already having a positive effect. We plan to continue 21 working with industry to find ways to increase the BIRD 22 effectiveness, new designs and new ways to attach it to 23 the trawl. 24 We're also seeing positive results of the new 25 shrimping rules for sea turtles; this year, there was a ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 8 1 40 percent decline in strandings, and that was during the 2 spring nesting season most critical to their life 3 history. In addition, the previous record number of 4 turtle nests found in Texas in any year was eclipsed by 5 nearly 100 percent this year, which is very exciting 6 news. 7 Shrimp stocks themselves are also showing 8 recent increases in abundance on average. This is, of 9 course, good news for the fishery, although there remain 10 concerns about excessive growth over-fishing as the mean 11 length of the shrimp that we're detecting in our samples 12 is -- continues to decline. 13 Partly as a result of our bay license buy- 14 backs, we see bay landings declining while more Gulf boat 15 building along the Gulf and folks coming this way with 16 their vessels has actually sent our Gulf landings higher. 17 Shrimp aquaculture in Texas continues to lead the nation. 18 We've got over 7 million pounds harvested annually. But 19 shrimp aquaculture around the world is also booming, 20 which has resulted in a tremendous influx of cheaper 21 imports. 22 In 2000, for example, foreign shrimp imports to 23 the United States were nine times higher than the total 24 Texas harvest of shrimp. This increasing foreign 25 competition has seriously reduced the profitability of ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 9 1 all U.S. shrimpers even as consumers enjoy lower-priced 2 shrimp. This translates into fewer shrimp industry- 3 related jobs in Texas, which stand now at about 5,800. 4 The Texas A&M mail survey found that half of 5 all shrimpers earn less than $40,000 a year while the 6 number of -- for the dealers is 60,000. Shrimpers are 7 also more likely than dealers to not have health 8 insurance or insurance on their boat or businesses. 9 Industry members in the survey noted numerous 10 factors that negatively impacted their livelihoods, and 11 the vast majority of shrimpers indicated they would not 12 encourage young people to enter the business. Overall, 13 the study concluded that shrimp stocks off Texas are 14 fully exploited and, based on that, it is advisable to 15 maintain the current management strategy, including 16 continuation of the bay and bait license buy-back and the 17 development of a similar program for the Gulf fleet. 18 The economic viability of our Texas shrimp 19 industry is threatened by global market variations of 20 supply, demand and pricing. In response, staff has 21 already begun coordination with industry members and the 22 marketing division of the Texas Department of Agriculture 23 to find ways to improve the competitiveness and 24 profitability of our Texas shrimpers. 25 That concludes my briefing. I'd be happy to ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 10 1 answer any questions. 2 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Does anybody have any 3 questions for Hal? I have one. 4 Hal, could you briefly review the status of the 5 buy-back -- license buy-back? 6 MR. OSBURN: Yes. We're just now concluding, I 7 believe, our 11th round. We will have -- we're 8 estimating that at the end of this round, we will have 9 bought back about 900 licenses and that will have been an 10 expenditure of -- I think it was about $4-1/2 million. 11 We continue to get a good number of folks offering their 12 licenses; I think the average value is about $7,000 now. 13 But this round being completed will probably 14 have allowed us to buy back about 27 or 28 percent of all 15 the licenses that were originally put into the fishery. 16 And from our original -- when you all passed the fee 17 increase in 2000 for the surcharge on the saltwater 18 stamp, we had had a target of trying to buy back 50 19 percent of the licenses and we'd be over half-way there. 20 CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Commission Fitzsimons, I 21 have a question. 22 Mr. Osburn, in terms of percentages of licenses 23 bought back, at what point can you start reporting to us 24 on the actual effects that the buy-back program is having 25 on the resource? ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 11 1 MR. OSBURN: Well, we are convinced that the 2 buy-back program has already stabilized the -- what was 3 an increasing amount of effort in the bay fishery. We've 4 stabilized that. 5 We think that our monitoring of the catch rates 6 of the shrimpers themselves -- which we get a measure of 7 how many pounds they catch per day -- that value should 8 go up when the numbers of shrimpers gets back down to a 9 sustainable level, and, as well, as -- the sampling that 10 we do independently should indicate that the resource is 11 not being exploited to the same rate as it was before. 12 CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Are you able at this point 13 to distinguish between the effects of license buy-back 14 and the general economic climate? 15 MR. OSBURN: That's tough. The economics has, 16 we know, had a lot of folks tying their boats up at the 17 docks during times that they would have gone shrimping. 18 So we're very cautious about claiming too much credit for 19 the buy-back at this point until we see that the fishery 20 kind of regains its economic footing if it can. It -- 21 this is really tough times for them because the shrimp 22 imports don't show any signs of letting up. 23 CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Assuming that you have a 24 more stable economic climate for the shrimping industry, 25 do we have a way to measure the effects of the two to ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 12 1 distinguish between the two effects or two actions? 2 MR. OSBURN: Yes, I think so. I think that 3 definitely their catch rate, what they're actually 4 catching, because they have -- if they -- when they have 5 fewer competition on the water -- on Texas waters, their 6 catch rate will go up. And whether they are making money 7 at the dock when they sell that is a function of the 8 imports, but the fact that they're catching more per 9 trawl hour is a direct correlation to the regulations 10 that you all passed and the -- reduced by numbers of 11 shrimpers. 12 CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Okay. Thank you. 13 MR. COOK: Hal, in general, I think of interest 14 on that topic right there -- talk to the Commission very 15 briefly about the basic condition of the shrimpery, the 16 shrimp population, comparatively speaking to where we've 17 been in recent years. 18 MR. OSBURN: Well, we're actually and, of 19 course, we -- because of the variability in shrimp stocks 20 and any of these natural species, we like to have a 21 number of years to have a trend to see that it's not a 22 one- or two-year phenomenon. But we have some of the 23 highest populations that we've ever detected of white 24 shrimp, which was one of the species that had been 25 targeted very seriously particularly by that Gulf fleet ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 13 1 of very large boats. 2 We think that the rules did what they were 3 intended, which was to take pressure off the spawning 4 stock on the shore and beaches, and that has translated 5 into higher populations in the base. So the white shrimp 6 in particular, we're seeing a good rebound, and the brown 7 shrimp also has had good recruitment. So we think that 8 the rules are working. 9 MR. COOK: That was the only question I was 10 going to ask. 11 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any other questions 12 for Hal on the shrimp study? 13 (No response.) 14 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Hal. 15 That's a briefing item that doesn't require any 16 action. 17 Thank you. 18 Next we have another briefing. 19 Gary's not here, is he? Is -- 20 MR. COOK: Ron George is here. 21 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Ron? 22 MR. GEORGE: Mr. Chairman, Commissioners, I'm 23 Ron George, Deputy Director of the Wildlife Division. 24 Dr. Gary Graham is representing this Agency at the 25 Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 14 1 in Chile, and he asked me to give the presentation. 2 The purpose of this briefing is to discuss 3 issues related to the Statewide Hunting and Fishing 4 Proclamation. And after discussion here today, some of 5 these issues will be brought back to the Commission as 6 proposals at the January meeting. If approved at that 7 time, they will be published in the Texas Register for 8 public comment with final Commission consideration at the 9 April meeting. 10 The Wildlife Division's White-tail Deer 11 Committee has brought forward a total of five issues they 12 would like to be considered. The first of these deals 13 with the regulations of wildlife management plans, and 14 this would change the wording from, "Population census," 15 to, "Population data." This would allow the use of 16 browse surveys and other indirect indicators of the 17 population status with or in place of census data, actual 18 count data. 19 Under the current regulations, antlerless and 20 spike buck control permits, also known as ADCPs, may be 21 issued only by a Conservation Scientist Six or above. 22 The change that's proposed would allow any employee 23 authorized to approve wildlife management plans to issue 24 these permits. 25 The next issue also deals with ADCP permits. ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 15 1 Until last year, ADCP application sheets had a December 2 10 deadline. But this was not in the regulation, so that 3 statement was removed from the application sheets. This 4 proposal would establish an official December 10 deadline 5 and would allow staff to more efficiently handle those 6 permit requests. 7 The deer range in Harris County is mostly in 8 the northern part of the county, which is Piney Woods 9 habitat. The proposed change which is shown here on the 10 slide would give Harris County the same deer regulations 11 as other adjacent Piney Woods counties. 12 The final issue related to white-tail deer is 13 to add a muzzle loading season in San Jacinto, Trinity, 14 Walker and Harris Counties. Staff recommends including 15 Harris County only if the previous proposal related to 16 Harris County is approved. There are currently 11 other 17 southeast Texas counties with a muzzle loading season. 18 The next issue relates to mule deer. At the 19 August Commission meeting, the Commission received a 20 request from the public to provide an MLD permit program 21 for mule deer in the Trans-Pecos. This proposal is 22 similar to staff proposals in previous years that were 23 rejected at that time by Trans-Pecos landowners. 24 The next issue relates to desert big-horn 25 sheep. It's a proposal from the Wildlife Division Sheep ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 16 1 Team and the Texas Big-horn Advisory Committee to mark 2 big-horn skulls with a unique identifying plug; this 3 would make Texas consistent with other western states and 4 help prevent illegal possession and transport of skulls. 5 Both of these issues, mule deer and the big-horn sheep 6 issues, will be taken to the next meeting of the Trans- 7 Pecos Advisory Committee, which, I believe, is November 8 21, for their consideration. 9 In regard to Rio Grande Turkey, the proposal is 10 to change the general season closing date from the last 11 Sunday in February to the third Sunday in January in 12 Brooks, Kennedy, Kleburg and Willacy Counties. This 13 would make these four counties like the other south Texas 14 counties in regard to closing date. And this 15 recommendation is based on long-term drought in that area 16 and the depressed turkey numbers. 17 Current regulations allow pheasant hunting in 18 seven coastal counties in Texas. The proposal is to 19 close the pheasant season in four of those counties: 20 Wharton, Fort Bend, Brazoria, Matagorda. And that would 21 limit pheasant hunting along the coast only to those 22 counties that have a huntable pheasant population, and 23 those would be Chambers, Jefferson and Liberty Counties. 24 Pheasant season is also allowed in 37 counties 25 in the Texas Panhandle. The Agency has received a ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 17 1 petition for rulemaking that would lengthen the season 2 for pheasants from 16 days, which it currently is, to 30 3 days and reduce the daily bag limit from three cocks to 4 two cocks. The staff anticipates that this would have no 5 biological effect on the pheasant population, but it 6 would result in some additional days of hunting, which 7 might be valuable for our youth around the Christmas 8 time. 9 Hunting for Lesser Prairie Chickens is 10 currently allowed in eight Panhandle counties. There has 11 been a long-term decline in Lesser Prairie Chicken 12 numbers throughout their range, and the current harvest 13 is only about 200 birds per year; staff attributes this 14 decline primarily to habitat loss and not hunting. 15 However, there is currently a multi-state 16 effort to recover the Lesser Prairie Chicken, and Texas, 17 having the majority of the Lesser Prairie Chickens still 18 in existence, would be the most logical place for getting 19 brood stock for stocking those other states. And so the 20 recommendation is to close the Lesser Prairie Chicken 21 hunting season. 22 The final issue relates to Mearn's Quail, and 23 would call for an open season with only a two-bird 24 aggregate daily bag -- two Mearn's Quail aggregate daily 25 bag statewide. This would provide a limited opportunity ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 18 1 for hunters interested in taking all four species of 2 Texas native quail and would also legalize the occasional 3 Mearn's taken during other quail hunting. 4 This would be very similar to the regulations 5 which we currently have, which allow two White-tipped 6 Doves as part of an aggregate dove bag statewide. And if 7 you'll recall, White-tipped Doves occur only in south 8 Texas, but we allow that two in the bag statewide just 9 for simplicity's sake; the same would be true for the 10 Mearn's Quails, which occur only in the Trans-Pecos and 11 western Edwards Plateau. 12 And are there any questions related to these? 13 Yes, sir? 14 COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Well, while we're talking 15 about the quail, what is the situation with the Gamble's 16 Quail? 17 MR. GEORGE: The Gamble's Quail is -- has a 18 very narrow range. It always has. 19 COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Right. 20 MR. GEORGE: It's mostly along the Rio Grande 21 with occasional pockets away from the Rio Grande. And 22 there's a population right north of Van Horn, for 23 example. They do well in that habitat along the river; 24 they don't do well beyond that. And they are a legally 25 hunted species, and they can be taken right now as part ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 19 1 of an aggregate 15-bird daily bag. 2 COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Mr. Chairman, I also had 3 a -- 4 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Go ahead. 5 COMMISSIONER ANGELO: On the mule deer and the 6 Trans-Pecos, you mentioned that the landowners might have 7 some objections to it. What were they -- I don't recall 8 when we heard it before what their objections were. 9 Could you refresh my memory on that? 10 MR. GEORGE: Well, MLDs, of course, allow a 11 landowner greater flexibility in harvesting their deer if 12 they have a management plan for that area. Their exact 13 objections I don't know, but objections sometimes fade 14 over time. Since this proposal came before the 15 landowners in the Trans-Pecos, we brought it forward for 16 your consideration and -- to see if you want to list this 17 as a proposal. 18 COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Well, is there any high 19 fencing in the Trans-Pecos? And if so, would high 20 fencing affect the movement of mule deer as it does 21 white-tailed? 22 MR. GEORGE: To my knowledge, there are very 23 few high fences in the Panhandle. I would call on Dr. 24 Jerry Cook if he wanted to add anything to that. But, of 25 course, high fences would restrict the movement of deer ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 20 1 if they were in the area. 2 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Commissioner Angelo, 3 I attended the Trans-Pecos wildlife meeting back in 4 August, and there was a definite shift in the interest in 5 MLDs from -- and I think a lot of that is the function of 6 more wildlife management plans. 7 Is that correct? 8 MR. GEORGE: That's correct. 9 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: There are more 10 wildlife management plans now in the Trans-Pecos than 11 there were. 12 COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Would you consider that 13 at all -- if we had the MLDs permitted out there, would 14 you consider that an incentive for people to high-fence 15 ranches in that part of the country, or is the size of 16 those ranches such that that's not a practical idea, 17 anyway? 18 MR. GEORGE: Many of those ranches in that area 19 are very large, and it would be expensive to high-fence 20 them. This could lead to some high-fence increase in 21 relatively small areas. 22 COMMISSIONER ANGELO: But the population of the 23 deer is pretty limited as far as deer per acre -- 24 right? -- or -- 25 MR. GEORGE: Correct. ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 21 1 COMMISSIONER ANGELO: -- acres per deer? 2 MR. GEORGE: Mule deer populations were much 3 higher two decades ago. 4 COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Right. 5 MR. GEORGE: And they've been depressed for a 6 long period of time, primarily due to drought. And, 7 hopefully, they'll recover at some time. 8 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Chairman Armstrong? 9 CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: It's my understanding that 10 the Trans-Pecos Advisory Board will be meeting later in 11 November, and I hope that this is an issue that is taken 12 up at that meeting; we'll be able to get some input from 13 landowners in that region. I think that our friends in 14 the Trans-Pecos would say yes, drought is a big cause for 15 the rather alarming decline in both mule deer and prong- 16 horns, but the predation probably has a rather 17 significant role to play, as well. 18 Would you come? 19 MR. GEORGE: Well, certainly, predators eat 20 deer. Many studies in the scientific literature indicate 21 that predators are often controlled by the numbers that 22 are prey, rather than vice-versa. Predators have to eat 23 something; when there are low deer numbers, they 24 sometimes eat other prey like javelina and even skunks, 25 racoons or whatever's available. But yes, predators are ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 22 1 a factor, but long-term drought and habitat are probably 2 a bigger factor. 3 CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Thank you. 4 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Al, Commissioner 5 Henry? 6 COMMISSIONER HENRY: Would you go back to 7 Number 2 and briefly tell me about the change in 8 philosophy that's bringing about this change with the 9 issuance of the permits? And is there any concern about 10 control or broadening it or lengthening? 11 MR. GEORGE: In terms of who can -- 12 COMMISSIONER HENRY: Issue the permits. 13 MR. GEORGE: -- issue the permits? Right now, 14 as I said, the Conservation Scientists Six or above -- in 15 other words, our upper-level folks, are issuing these 16 permits. We have personnel on the staff, some long-term 17 employees, that are -- some of them are even technicians 18 that are imminently qualified and are now allowed to 19 approve wildlife management plans. 20 And if we -- and those are the individuals, 21 those people that can approve wildlife management plans, 22 that we would allow to also make the decision on issuing 23 these control permits. And we feel those people are very 24 qualified to do that. 25 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Well, we seem to be ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 23 1 going backwards in your list, because I want to go back 2 to Number 1. 3 MR. GEORGE: Okay. 4 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Ron, can you discuss 5 a little bit more the reasons behind that proposal that 6 the -- I'm familiar with the browse surveys and 7 participated in those, but you may want to discuss -- 8 MR. GEORGE: Right. 9 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: -- specifically how 10 that makes it more flexible. 11 MR. GEORGE: Statewide spotlight surveys are 12 probably the most used census technique for deer. But in 13 east Texas, where you -- a spotlight doesn't go very far, 14 that's not a very effective way of counting deer. So 15 other ways of getting some handle on what the deer 16 numbers are include things like browse surveys where you 17 actually go out and look at plants -- you know, you look 18 at different kinds of plants, plants that are known to be 19 ice cream plants for deer and plants that are less 20 palatable. And a skilled biologist can make a 21 determination of how many deer are in that area. 22 Other things would be like just the physical 23 condition of the deer. You just observe the deer. If 24 they're skin and bones, you know you've got more deer 25 than the habitat can support. But those kind of factors ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 24 1 would be then used and -- in addition to actual count 2 data or census data or maybe in place of actual count or 3 census data, which is just a more efficient way of 4 counting and determining deer populations in all kinds of 5 habitat we have to deal with in Texas. 6 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And then I have one 7 other question on the pheasant. Was there any indication 8 of the landowners' and the hunters' concerns about that, 9 about the reduction in bag limit? Do they want more 10 days -- 11 MR. GEORGE: The -- 12 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: -- as a trade? 13 MR. GEORGE: The staff has recommended for many 14 years to increase the season length particularly in the 15 Panhandle area, and there has consistently been 16 resistance from the landowners in that area to a longer 17 season. Most of the pheasant hunting in that area occurs 18 during the first weekend of the season. But since this 19 was a proposal -- actually, a petition for a rulemaking, 20 which we have to address in some manner, and it called 21 for increasing the season length, which we think would be 22 beneficial to hunters in the area, particular local 23 hunters and youth that might be able to hunt more during 24 that period of time, this is brought forward for your 25 consideration. ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 25 1 And as a legal matter, the petition for 2 rulemaking, as I understand, has already been denied by 3 the Agency because we couldn't implement it within 60 4 days. But we have contacted the petitioners and told 5 them that we would include this as part of the normal 6 regulatory package for your review, and that's what we're 7 doing now. 8 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And the petitioners 9 are hunting groups, or landowners, or both? Or -- 10 MR. GEORGE: The petitioners, as far as we 11 know, are hunters in the area, and I don't know more than 12 that about them. 13 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And in those 14 counties -- you had the map up earlier -- 15 MR. GEORGE: Right. 16 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: -- and you don't need 17 to go back and find it. 18 MR. GEORGE: Okay. 19 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: But it's mainly 20 northwest? 21 MR. GEORGE: That's correct. 22 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Right 23 MR. GEORGE: There are 37 counties, and -- 24 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: The southern 25 Panhandle and northwest Texas? ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 26 1 MR. GEORGE: Right. 2 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I don't remember 3 exactly what our wildlife management plan numbers are 4 there, but they're not particularly high or -- certainly 5 not when compared with south Texas. But is there an 6 opportunity in here to encourage wildlife management 7 plans in that area as a possible alternative? 8 MR. GEORGE: I think that's a good possibility. 9 The Panhandle has traditionally been much slower in 10 adopting any kind of wildlife management, quite frankly. 11 I went to school at Texas Tech in the early '70s, and 12 there was -- you could go essentially anywhere at that 13 time, knock on the door and go pheasant hunting any place 14 pheasants were for free. And you could also hunt water 15 fowl and sand hill cranes. 16 Over time, landowners in that area and hunting 17 guides have recognized that wildlife has a value. And as 18 that has happened, those free hunting opportunities have 19 declined; people willing to pay to hunt have recognized 20 that economic benefit, and you're seeing a whole lot more 21 interest in managing for wildlife than you did two or 22 three decades ago. 23 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Do we have pretty 24 good data on hunters' success for pheasant hunting in the 25 Panhandle? ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 27 1 MR. GEORGE: Yes, we have good data. Hunting 2 success is quite low, usually one or two cocks per season 3 per hunter. 4 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any others? 5 COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Well, the pheasant 6 population of the Panhandle has had the same problems as 7 a lot of other wildlife in Texas. The drought has 8 affected it, I think, significantly, and, also, some of 9 the habitat up there has changed. The southern counties 10 especially have gone to a lot of CRP where there used to 11 be grain. And the population is distinctly down in, say, 12 counties like Hale County, for instance, where I've 13 hunted quite a bit. 14 Is that -- do you see any changes in that that 15 might improve the population and density of the pheasants 16 up there? Or -- 17 MR. GEORGE: You are correct. When CRP came 18 into the Panhandle, I predicted it would have a very 19 positive benefit for pheasant in that area; it was 20 providing nesting cover and wintering cover where it 21 didn't occur before. Unfortunately, a lot of that CRP 22 went into grain fields and didn't go into cotton fields 23 very much. 24 COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Right. 25 MR. GEORGE: And the pheasant population in ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 28 1 some areas even went down. But where pheasants can 2 survive and you can get off a brood, they now have, you 3 know, almost unlimited winter cover, and so those birds 4 are surviving well. I've lost your original question. 5 COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Well, I'm just wondering 6 if anything significant was being done to improve the 7 habitat -- 8 MR. GEORGE: Oh, yes. 9 COMMISSIONER ANGELO: -- situation. 10 MR. GEORGE: Right. As part of the new farm 11 program, there are -- and, in fact, the last farm bill, 12 as well, there was provisions that allowed putting in 13 food plots as part of the CRP package that would, 14 hopefully, add that missing component of food to CRP. 15 COMMISSIONER ANGELO: I noticed in -- for 16 instance, in South Dakota, a lot of the CRP land was 17 actually crops that were beneficial to the wildlife, 18 whereas, in the Panhandle, the CRP that I was familiar 19 with was almost entirely, I believe, Love grass, if I'm 20 not mistaken -- 21 MR. GEORGE: Right. 22 COMMISSIONER ANGELO: -- which is -- other than 23 for cover has no value at all. Is that not correct? 24 MR. GEORGE: That's correct. Love grass was 25 the cheapest thing to put in. When the CRP came in in ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 29 1 1985, there was suddenly a tremendous market for native 2 grasses, and some of those states that already had native 3 grass programs of various kinds had the seed on hand, but 4 there wasn't enough to plant 4 million acres in Texas. 5 In some counties where -- even when a landowner 6 could find the seed, the local county committee 7 disapproved of native grasses, native plants, on the 8 grounds that they could spread the money further across 9 more farmers by going to cheaper things like Love grass. 10 Some of that CRP has now been taken out of the CRP 11 program. Some of it has been entered in the program -- 12 re-entered in the program again but under different 13 requirements that allow more native grasses and native 14 plants. 15 COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Is there anything we can 16 do or have done to increase the use of more helpful 17 plants? 18 MR. GEORGE: I think we are doing it. We're 19 making slow progress in that direction. Some states have 20 three and four staff that are just federal farm program 21 biologists. For a number of years in the early -- mid- 22 to late '80s, I served as the federal farm program 23 coordinator for Texas as an additional duty, and we got a 24 lot of progress on the national level and the state level 25 at that time; it didn't translate down much to the county ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 30 1 level. 2 We now have a full-time federal farm program 3 coordinator that's up at Temple, I believe, Chuck 4 Kowaleski. And he has been in place now -- he and his 5 predecessor -- for about five years. And they're making 6 a lot of progress. 7 And we're talking about the possibility of 8 getting federal farm program dollars to actually hire a 9 Texas Parks and Wildlife staff, three or four of them, 10 that would spend all their time working with the federal 11 farm program and with local counties and local farmers. 12 And we think we're on the right track; we're just kind of 13 slow in getting that done. 14 CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: I can't resist touting one 15 of my -- 16 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes. 17 CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: -- favorite subjects. 18 The -- giving all the help we can to the re-introduction 19 or rehabilitation of these sort of lands in the native 20 grasses is an important task. The economics of it are 21 tough in a chicken-and-egg sort of situation because -- I 22 know that native plant seed is very expensive. 23 We have partners in this effort with Texas 24 Department of Transportation and some universities and 25 the like and a lot of private landowners that would like ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 31 1 to see this happen, and I'm glad to hear that the 2 Department is joining hands in that effort to try to 3 recreate habitat where it once existed and has not and 4 we'd like to see it back again. 5 MR. GEORGE: Yes. Well, there's seed -- native 6 seed available that's adapted to northern Texas that's on 7 the market now. Seed for southern Texas is generally not 8 there, but we're working with the Caesar Kleburg Wildlife 9 Research Institute at Kingsville to try to remedy that. 10 CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Thank you. 11 MR. GEORGE: Thank you. 12 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Following up on that 13 comment, I couldn't help but think that we've had a lot 14 of success in creating incentives for landowners to do 15 the sort of management you're talking about by giving 16 them a reason to do it. And I'm looking at this 17 proposal, and I'm wondering if maybe this proposal 18 doesn't really fit the model we know works. 19 And what I'm wondering is if we want people to 20 manage and make their own, instead of waiting for someone 21 to bring them a program -- what I've noticed is what 22 works best is if they're encouraged to go do it 23 themselves -- if we have this longer season without a 24 reduction in bag limit for those who have a wildlife 25 management plan that is focused exactly as you say, ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 32 1 Commissioner Anglo, towards better habitat for pheasant. 2 I mean I really don't know that we're following the 3 models that we know work. 4 CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Commissioner Fitzsimons, 5 it would seem to me to be consistent for us to do that. 6 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Could that be 7 considered? 8 MR. GEORGE: It certainly can be considered. 9 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any other questions? 10 I didn't mean to take the whole morning on pheasant. 11 (No response.) 12 MR. GEORGE: Thank you, very much. 13 CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: They deserve our time. 14 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes, that's right. 15 They do deserve our time. 16 Any other questions before we go to inland 17 fisheries? 18 (No response.) 19 CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: You're next. 20 Thank you, Ron. 21 MR. KURZAWSKI: Good morning, Commissioners. 22 My name is Ken Kurzawski; I'm with the Inland Fisheries 23 Division. And this morning as -- I will brief you on 24 some of the regulation proposals we are considering. As 25 Ron George mentioned, we will formally present these to ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 33 1 you in January. 2 All right. These -- this year's potential 3 changes are a result of our evaluations of the 4 regulations. These evaluations are ongoing and are a 5 vital component of our regulations process. 6 We are constantly evaluating through population 7 surveys, angler catch, specifically harvest fare, and the 8 angler desires and their opinions on these regulations to 9 determine their success and if they are meeting our 10 objectives. This has been an important part of our 11 process for the last two decades, but we are going to 12 formalize it through our new strategic plan. 13 We're going to set up sort of sunset groups of 14 regulations. For instance, we would take slot limits for 15 bass -- take a look at those and look at them as a whole 16 and see if they are meeting their objectives. 17 The potential regulation changes that we have 18 for this year share some common ground. They are going 19 to -- the ones we will discuss today are ones that will 20 all revert back to statewide regulations from special 21 regulations. And for these special regulations to work, 22 angler harvest must play an important role in reshaping 23 the populations, and we believe the ones we're going to 24 discuss with angler harvest wasn't sufficient for that to 25 happen. ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 34 1 The first is on Lost Creek Reservoir in Jack 2 County. We propose to change the limit for large-mouth 3 bass from the current 16-inch minimum back to the 14-inch 4 minimum. The bag limit would be -- of five fish per day 5 would be retained. 6 The goal of this change would be to increase 7 the opportunity for angler harvest by dropping it back 8 down to 14 inches and, also, utilization by tournament 9 anglers. There's a nearby reservoir, Lake Jacksboro, 10 that the anglers also use, and making the regulations the 11 same with these two reservoirs would be an advantage 12 there. 13 The next is Lake Waxahachie in Ellis County. 14 We currently have a 14-to-18-inch slot, and we propose to 15 change that back to a 14-inch minimum with a five-fish 16 bag. And once again, here our goal is to increase 17 utilization by tournament anglers and, also, some 18 opportunity for angler harvest. The 14-to-18 slot wasn't 19 producing many fish in that slot, and anglers weren't 20 harvesting many fishes below 14 inches, so we weren't 21 having any impact on the populations that we wanted. 22 The last group of regulation changes concerns 23 12 reservoirs. We implemented a 12-inch minimum bag 24 limit or -- 12-inch minimum length limit on these 25 reservoirs which was from -- which was a change from the ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 35 1 statewide regulations, which is 10-inch, and we are 2 proposing to revert that back to the 10-inch minimum. 3 Daily bag would remain at 25 fish. 4 These changes on these groups of reservoirs 5 were implemented in both 1992 and 1995. The objectives 6 at the time of the 12-inch minimum were to increase 7 population numbers, decrease variability in the year- 8 class strengths and increase yield by providing a larger 9 fish to the anglers. 10 We have not seen any noticeable improvements in 11 these populations. Other factors, such as water flows, 12 water levels and conditions during the spring spawning 13 run, are having a greater impact on these populations, 14 and angler harvest was not -- at least in these 15 situations was not the one that was shaping the 16 population on a year-to-year basis. So we are proposing 17 to move it back to that statewide 10-inch minimum. 18 One other potential change that we're 19 considering concerns Lake Ray Roberts. We're evaluating 20 the current -- that currently has a 14-to-24-inch slot 21 for large-mouthed bass. There is some local desire to 22 revert back to the 18-inch minimum. We did receive a 23 petition for rulemaking on that. We are in the process 24 of evaluating our fall population sampling, and, also, we 25 will plan to gather more public input in that area. ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 36 1 We've scheduled a public hearing in the local area in 2 December to try and determine -- get a little bit more 3 input from the anglers. 4 We initially put the 14-to-24-inch slot for 5 large-mouthed bass based on some desires in the local 6 area to take advantage of the potential that Ray Roberts 7 showed to produce some trophy bass and, in that way, 8 enhance that lake. We need to go back there and look and 9 see if -- that that's still what the bulk of the people 10 in the local area want and to see what the population has 11 been doing since we've implemented that. 12 Those are all the changes we are considering at 13 these -- this time. Do you -- I'll be happy to answer 14 any questions if you have them. 15 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Commissioner Henry? 16 COMMISSIONER HENRY: On several occasions, I've 17 received mail from people in the general area that 18 complain about the Department's regulations and changes 19 favoring tournament anglers and people in search of 20 trophies. I couldn't help but notice that on several 21 occasions, that term is used here. Would you comment on 22 that, please -- on that assertion by those individuals 23 and the Department's philosophy in general? 24 MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, our philosophy in general 25 and particularly with large-mouthed bass is trying to ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 37 1 develop a quality fishery and take advantage of whatever 2 that local lake -- the conditions in that lake can offer. 3 And actually, we -- when we do propose special 4 regulations, most of the time, tournament anglers are 5 against those. They favor the statewide 14-inch minimum, 6 which is in -- generally is favorable to a lot of 7 anglers. 8 Also, we have special regulations for bass on 9 approximately 25 of our major reservoirs, those 10 reservoirs 500 acres and over. When you spread that 11 across 167 reservoirs around the state, we don't think 12 that's a large amount. 13 And as I said, we usually implement those to 14 provide an improvement in the quality of the fishery in 15 that local area. We don't look at them as trying to 16 favor tournament anglers or any particular angling group; 17 we're trying to, you know, provide a -- improve the 18 quality of fishing in that area. 19 COMMISSIONER ANGELO: In the same vein as 20 Commissioner Henry, I've had several -- not any 21 significant number but several people question or ask 22 questions regarding our limits. And I think the approach 23 there or the concern they've got is that they'd like to 24 keep more fish maybe. I wondered, considering the fact 25 that so much is going to catch and release with the bass ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 38 1 fishing now, if what -- how we feel about our limits as 2 to whether those -- how those are affecting the quality 3 of the fishery and whatnot. 4 MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, we believe that in a lot 5 of cases, they have improved the quality of the fishery. 6 Certainly, in -- bass anglers -- even when you have a 14- 7 inch minimum, a lot of them don't keep fish. There's a 8 lot of it that is self-regulated catch and release. 9 And a lot of the -- for instance, the slot 10 limits we have -- a lot of the times, they don't work or 11 they don't work as well as we'd like them to because 12 anglers don't want to keep those fish 14 inches or less. 13 We seem to have a little more problem with the 14 regulations -- of anglers keeping those fish because they 15 don't want to. 16 And once again, the bulk of our -- you know, 17 the -- 80 percent of our reservoirs are either a 14- or a 18 16-inch minimum/five-fish bag. So there's -- we think 19 there's plenty of opportunity for places for anglers to 20 catch -- who want to keep bass to keep bass. 21 COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Do you see many of the 22 general public and maybe some of the guides, also, that 23 would like to keep more? Is that a significant number, 24 or not? 25 MR. KURZAWSKI: Especially among guides, no. ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 39 1 Most guides are -- it seems they focus on catch and 2 release. They believe their livelihood is better served 3 by people catching fish and releasing them and then 4 having the opportunity to catch a larger-sized fish. 5 COMMISSIONER WATSON: And I'd like to expand a 6 little bit on Commissioner Henry's question. You know, 7 you seem to have focused on the activities of the 8 tournament fishermen, and I'd just like to know where you 9 are in your thinking relative to the state being 10 compensated for the damage that tournament fishermen do. 11 I mean they're using a state resource, and most 12 of these are highly profitable and for-profit 13 tournaments. And, you know, to my knowledge, we're -- 14 you know, we're not being adequately compensated for the 15 damage that they cause in our reservoirs and the loss of 16 the fish. 17 MR. KURZAWSKI: Well, there is certainly some 18 mortality associated with catch and release, whether it's 19 done by tournament anglers or by normal, every-day 20 anglers. And we see a lot of catch and release by both 21 groups every -- I mean, you know, just regular, every-day 22 bass anglers and tournament anglers. 23 And we see a lot of tournament activity on some 24 of our major reservoirs -- Sam Rayburn -- and we haven't 25 been able to associate any negative impacts to the ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 40 1 populations even with -- when we know there is some 2 mortality associated with that activity. We think the 3 fact that these anglers -- tournament anglers are 4 catching a lot of fish and releasing most of them when 5 they can keep those fish, there are some -- you know, 6 there are negatives and benefits to that. 7 MR. DUROCHER: Commissioners, I'm Phil 8 Durocher, the Director of Inland Fisheries. This issue 9 comes up fairly often to us. We have no data to indicate 10 that tournament fishing is having a negative impact more 11 than anyone else on our reservoirs. 12 The issue of whether or not people should be 13 allowed to make a profit on the waters? That's a whole 14 separate issue. But from a biological point of view, you 15 have to remember that the fish that these people are 16 releasing are legal fish; they could legally keep them 17 all. And the fact that they are returning most of the 18 fish, even if there is some mortality, I think is a 19 benefit to the fishery. 20 COMMISSIONER WATSON: But they are using our 21 resources to make a profit. 22 MR. DUROCHER: Some of them are, yes, sir. 23 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Commissioner Rising? 24 COMMISSIONER RISING: Yes. 25 Phil, I was -- I hear quite a bit about the ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 41 1 catchability of the bass populations as it relates to the 2 Florida -- the penetration of the Florida strain versus 3 the northern strain bass. And have we looked at changing 4 the population or stocking more northern strain for 5 catchability? 6 MR. DUROCHER: That's -- those studies on the 7 catchability are official studies that we did, you know. 8 So we're not trying to hide anything about what the 9 relationship is between the northern and Florida bass. I 10 can say that statistically, there is a difference in the 11 catchability between the northern and the Florida bass. 12 They seem to be more aggressive -- the northern bass seem 13 to be more aggressive and easier to catch. 14 Now, how that's reflected on a body of water 15 with a normal fish population -- for instance, some of 16 the lakes in the state that have the highest catch 17 rates -- Falcon Lake when it had water in it, and Fayette 18 County and some of these other lakes -- are predominantly 19 Florida bass. And I'd hate to think that -- I wonder 20 what the people in Florida think about -- their fish seem 21 to be pretty easy to catch. 22 Now, we didn't introduce the Florida bass with 23 the intention of having the Florida bass dominate all the 24 bass fishing in the state of Texas; we had set a goal of 25 trying to get 20 to 30 percent of the Florida bass. ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 42 1 There are some lakes particularly in south Texas where 2 Florida bass do well, and they are dominating the 3 populations. And we are in the process of producing more 4 northern bass to go back and try to switch those 5 populations back to what we wanted them to be, in the 20 6 to 30 percent range. 7 COMMISSIONER RISING: Okay. So we are doing 8 that -- 9 MR. DUROCHER: Yes, sir. 10 COMMISSIONER RISING: -- down south? 11 MR. DUROCHER: We are doing that. 12 COMMISSIONER RISING: Okay. 13 COMMISSIONER AVILA: Phil, do we currently 14 charge -- we don't currently charge tournaments any fee 15 for a tournament? 16 MR. DUROCHER: No, sir. We tried to get 17 legislation passed about ten years ago to require a 18 permit -- it was not even a charge. It was going to be a 19 free permit just so we could get a handle on how much of 20 this activity was taking place and use these tournament 21 people to gather some data to monitor population trends. 22 And that was defeated. 23 But no. Currently, we have no charge for 24 tournaments. 25 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Commissioner Ramos? ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 43 1 COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Phil, you mentioned 2 northern bass and Florida bass. After some years, don't 3 you end up with a hybrid bass when you stock your -- 4 MR. DUROCHER: Yes. Most of the fish are 5 hybrids. 6 COMMISSIONER RAMOS: And how do they from a 7 catchability standpoint compare to northern bass or 8 Florida bass, or do you know? 9 MR. DUROCHER: I don't know. I don't have any 10 data. I mean, you would assume that it would be 11 somewhere in between. But we just don't know. We 12 haven't looked at the hybrids. But I can say most of our 13 reservoirs have a considerable number of hybrids in them, 14 and I don't know if there's any way we could measure the 15 difference in catchability. 16 It's more related to numbers. When your 17 population is high, you're going to catch more fish. 18 That's what drives it. 19 COMMISSIONER RAMOS: That makes sense. 20 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Phil, on the issue of 21 tournament permit and gathering of data, what -- how 22 would that help? I mean, you don't have it now, and, ten 23 years ago, you asked for it. I guess my question is: 24 What were your reasons for asking for it, and would you 25 still like that data that you would be able to get? ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 44 1 MR. DUROCHER: We -- the fishery resource is 2 pretty extensive that we have to deal with. Like Ken 3 said, we have about 200 major reservoirs, 500 acres or 4 better. Because of the limitations on our staff, we 5 sample these reservoirs routinely about once every two or 6 three years; so we've got two- or three-year periods 7 there where we're not gathering any data on these 8 populations. We had hoped to use the tournament data. 9 The only requirement of this permit would be 10 that the tournament send in a report at the end of the 11 event telling us what they caught, the size of the fish, 12 and that type of thing. And we could use that data to 13 supplement our data in the interim, between when we do 14 our sampling. 15 We looked at -- we were looking at it kind of 16 as a reg flag, you know. If we saw something significant 17 happening in tournament catches on a reservoir, for 18 instance, that would be an indication to us that maybe we 19 need to go put some effort in there to try to figure out 20 what's going on. That was the way we intended to use 21 that data. 22 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And do you get any of 23 that data at all voluntarily? Or -- 24 MR. DUROCHER: That was the -- that was what 25 was claimed at the time, that they would be willing to ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 45 1 give this to us voluntarily. When I first came here in 2 the late '70s, we instituted a voluntary tournament 3 survey. At that time, we were getting returns from 4 about -- anywhere between 25 and 50 percent of the 5 tournament people were sending these reports in 6 voluntarily. 7 So we re-instituted that program after the 8 permit was defeated. And I don't think we ever got more 9 than 25 percent. In fact, it got so low several years 10 ago that it wasn't of value to us, so we completely 11 dropped the program. 12 COMMISSIONER HENRY: I have another question 13 I'd like to ask. 14 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes, Commissioner 15 Henry. 16 COMMISSIONER HENRY: Jim, on the question of -- 17 particularly of tournament and tournament fishing, what 18 is your department's recent -- I take it, since you've 19 been around -- recent history with regard to problems in 20 that area? Are they any more substantial than in the 21 general angler population with regard to controls and 22 lack of controls? 23 MR. STINEBAUGH: I think it would be safe to 24 say, Commissioner Henry, that there are not -- we 25 generally don't have people out there checking them real ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 46 1 closely, because we haven't had problems with them. 2 COMMISSIONER HENRY: It's fair to say that they 3 monitor themselves well? 4 MR. STINEBAUGH: Yes, sir. 5 MR. DUROCHER: They're very avid, and they fish 6 a lot. And, you know, I don't try to tell people why 7 they need to fish just as long as they go fishing. 8 (Laughter.) 9 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I'd agree with that. 10 Well, again, returning to the concept of looking at 11 models that have worked in other areas of management, we 12 through wildlife management plans gather quite a bit of 13 data in the wildlife division from private individuals, 14 again, managing a public resource. Do you think there's 15 any real resistance to asking for this sort of 16 participation from the tournament community to help us 17 manage the resource better? 18 MR. DUROCHER: I suspect there would be quite a 19 bit of resistance, and it's in the -- the idea is, "Where 20 do you go next," you know, when you institute a permit. 21 Even though you don't have any regulatory requirements on 22 that permit, the concern is that sooner or later, you're 23 going to put some regulations on them. That was their 24 primary concern. 25 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And their desire to ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 47 1 help the resource doesn't override that? 2 MR. DUROCHER: Well, it didn't. 3 (Laughter.) 4 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. 5 Does anybody else have any questions? 6 (No response.) 7 MR. KURZAWSKI: Thank you. 8 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you. 9 I think we have coastal with Hal up again. 10 MR. OSBURN: I don't know why Phil has such 11 trouble with his fishermen; mine always agree with me. 12 (Laughter.) 13 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes. We remember. 14 MR. OSBURN: Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, 15 I'm Hal Osburn, Coastal Fisheries Director. I'd like to 16 brief you today on some preliminary proposals for changes 17 to the statewide hunting and fishing proclamation. We 18 intend on proposing in January some measures to clarify 19 and simplify the existing regulations, but our main 20 emphasis is going to be on spotted sea trout. 21 As you know, staff has spent considerable time 22 this last year reviewing the management strategy for the 23 recreational spotted sea trout fishery, one of the 24 largest on the coast. Our sampling data have confirmed 25 increases in fishing pressure and efficiency in this ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 48 1 fishery; we've also detected a decrease in the proportion 2 of large trout abundance, as well as a decline in the 3 trout life expectancy. 4 In addition to our biological data review, 5 we've also sought input from anglers through a variety of 6 scoping processes. One of the most helpful was the 7 creation of a spotted sea trout work group composed of a 8 wide diversity of stakeholders, including fish guides, 9 city officials, bait camp owners, conservation 10 organizations and general anglers. As you can imagine, 11 we received a wide range of suggestions. 12 We learned that the current 15-inch minimum 13 size and ten fish daily bag limit were still popular, but 14 we also found widespread concern about two particular 15 issues: The increasing effectiveness and use of live 16 fish, such as croakers, for bait, and the increasing 17 number of fish guides. 18 There has been a 300 percent growth of fish 19 guides since the early 1980s, but this actually reflects 20 the management success that we have had in rebounding 21 over-fished stocks of trout and redfish. You don't have 22 guides if you don't have fish. The guides are good 23 fishermen; they have a catch rate of about three times 24 the average angler, and that ratio goes up even higher 25 when guides use live fish for bait. ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 49 1 Our creel survey data show that for the guides 2 with the highest catches, those with five or more trout 3 per person on the trip, live fish is the dominant means 4 of harvesting. Now, frequent suggestion for addressing 5 this high harvest rate, one that we heard even from fish 6 guide organizations on the coast, was to establish a boat 7 limit equal to the daily bag limit times the number of 8 customers. And the guides would still be allowed to fish 9 on the trip, and they could even retain fish at the end 10 of the trip. 11 This idea has actually been around for awhile 12 even for inland waters. And with the concurrence of Phil 13 Durocher and Inland Fisheries, we're recommending this 14 rule preliminarily for all species statewide. 15 In addition, to bring the guide license fee in 16 line with their impact on the resource, as Commissioner 17 Watson was suggesting, we're suggesting that we increase 18 the fee, which is currently $75 a year, for a fish guide 19 license. We don't have a specific value to offer right 20 now, but we will be talking with our inland guides and 21 our saltwater guides in trying to gauge an appropriate 22 license fee for those entities. Proof of coast guard 23 certification as a for-hire captain or equivalent 24 training would also be a suggested requirement for 25 receiving the fish guide license. ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 50 1 A final recommendation specifically for coastal 2 trout fishery would be the establishment of a 25-inch 3 maximum size limit with one trout over that size allowed 4 per day. Now, for the trout population, the effect of 5 this maximum size limit combined with the -- and this is 6 combined with the guide boat limit -- would be a 13 7 percent increase in the spawning biomass, which would 8 help keep our populations high and even building. 9 Our modeling efforts on our data indicate that 10 these changes would also produce a 39 percent increase in 11 the population of trout greater than 25 inches. Not only 12 would there be more large trout to catch, but they would 13 be caught by a greater distribution of all angler types 14 over a longer period of time. 15 Now, as opposed to a host of other possible 16 size and bag limit combinations that we've heard in our 17 scoping process, the advantages of these two specific 18 changes are that they address the two greatest concerns 19 we heard in our scoping process and they cause the least 20 disruption of current fishing practices. In addition, 21 they do take a moderate proactive approach to the steady 22 increase in coastal angling pressure. 23 Prior to offering these as formal proposals at 24 the January Commission meeting, staff will reconvene the 25 spotted sea trout work group to gather their input, and, ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 51 1 in addition, we will review the results of our ongoing 2 statewide mail survey of both fresh water and saltwater 3 fish guides. 4 That concludes my presentation. I'd be happy 5 to answer any questions. 6 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Hal, I would just 7 like to thank you for your hard work on this. I went to 8 three of those seven scoping meetings; I've never seen 9 anything so thoroughly scoped in all my life. 10 (Laughter.) 11 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: It was -- the 12 tournament -- the spawning biomass term may not be 13 familiar to most people, but -- I think Commissioner 14 Rising and I were both at that meeting where it became 15 obvious that that is really where the rubber meets the 16 road, so to speak, as far as the resource. Could you 17 talk about how that -- 18 MR. OSBURN: Well, basically, any population of 19 animals is dependent on reproduction for the next 20 generation, and spawning biomass is just one way of 21 describing basically the fecundity of the population: 22 How many trout and what size they are. As -- the larger 23 the average trout in the water and the more trout in the 24 water, the greater your reproduction is going to be and 25 the greater number of eggs and juveniles you're going to ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 52 1 produce for the next generation. 2 So we have seen the spawning biomass, the 3 reproduction, increase steadily from the kind of the bad 4 old days in the '70s and '80s. It -- we believe that the 5 carrying capacity of the environment is capable of 6 handling even more trout. They are not food-limited; 7 they're only limited most seriously now by fishing 8 mortality. So tweaking the rules to allow more fish to 9 be in the water longer -- particularly the larger ones -- 10 will increase the reproduction for the next year. 11 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And that's 12 accomplished by the size limit of -- 13 MR. OSBURN: By the size limit and the reduced 14 take by the boat limit concept for guides, because the 15 guides will basically -- if there was three customers on 16 the boat and the guide and you adopted this rule and it 17 passed, there could be 40 trout landed, and then, in the 18 future, it would be 30 trout. 19 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I was impressed that 20 the guide associations, the Coastal Bend Guide 21 Association, just for an example, were all in favor of 22 limiting themselves, which I thought was very 23 progressive. 24 COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Mr. Chairman? 25 I was -- some of the concern expressed by the ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 53 1 fishing public initially had to do with the thought that 2 we might be going to change the minimum size -- is that 3 correct -- but you've decided now not to do that -- not 4 to recommend that? 5 MR. OSBURN: That's correct. There was concern 6 that 15-inch -- if you go up on that, there would be 7 definitely some biological benefits that we've 8 recognized. But it would probably -- that would be 9 outweighed by concerns that folks would not be able to 10 catch as many fish. Because -- as with any fishery, 11 most -- over 50 percent of the harvest of trout happens 12 between 15 inches and 17 inches. If you moved it up, it 13 would be that same 2-inch increment for most of the 14 people. 15 But at this point, we're taking a more 16 conservative approach to the fishery. It's not in 17 biological trouble. So I think we will -- you know, 18 we'll continue to look at that and see if we can build 19 support for improving the fishery even better than it is. 20 COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Well, that should have 21 eliminated a large degree of the opposition. Correct? 22 MR. OSBURN: I think so. 23 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: It eliminated my 24 opposition. 25 COMMISSIONER ANGELO: For one. That's pretty ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 54 1 important. 2 COMMISSIONER RISING: Hal, I had a question. 3 Do -- I've also seen models that show an increase in 4 fishing pressure for the future. Do these proposals that 5 we're looking at here -- do they kind of keep up with the 6 models that we're seeing for increase fishing pressure as 7 far as the biomass? I mean I know it's a -- that's 8 probably a complicated number that you have to look at, 9 but -- 10 MR. OSBURN: Yes, it is. I know that between 11 1990 and 2000, there was a 19 percent increase in the 12 population of folks moving to the coast. We anticipate 13 that that's going to grow. 14 People will have more leisure time, and they 15 are getting better at fishing. And so, you know, I think 16 it's something that -- this is certainly a step in the 17 right direction. That increase in spawning biomass is, I 18 think, important, but I would suggest that it would be 19 wise to monitor those trout populations as we've been 20 allowed to do, and report back frequently on that. 21 COMMISSIONER RISING: What percentage of the 22 angler -- recreational anglers usually catch more than 23 one fish over 25 inches? Do we have any -- I know the 24 numbers that I've seen -- 25 MR. OSBURN: Yes. ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 55 1 COMMISSIONER RISING: -- seem pretty low. 2 So -- 3 MR. OSBURN: Yes. It was actually -- 4 COMMISSIONER RISING: -- it's probably less 5 than 1 percent, or something thereabouts. 6 MR. OSBURN: Actually, it was more like 2 7 percent. Now, the guides are twice that or more. So 8 it's -- and even -- and we looked at our tournament 9 anglers. We looked at our guide anglers separately. 10 It's a very low percentage of their catch, and, quite 11 frankly, we would like it to be higher. So these 12 proposals could do that. 13 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any other questions 14 for Hal on the spotted sea trout? 15 (No response.) 16 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Hal. 17 I believe we'll take a short break and adjourn 18 the -- 19 COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Recess? 20 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Recess. I'm sorry. 21 -- recess the Regulations Committee and reconvene in ten 22 minutes. 23 (Whereupon, a short recess ensued.) 24 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: We reconvene the 25 Regulations Committee at 10:32. ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 56 1 And the next item on the agenda, I believe, is 2 the crab trap season, Robin Reichers. This is our Senate 3 Bill 1410 work. 4 Robin? 5 MR. REICHERS: Chairman Fitzsimons and 6 Commissioners, my name is Robin Reichers, and I'm the 7 Management Director of the Coastal Fisheries Division. 8 I'll be presenting a proposal regarding the abandoned 9 crab trap removal program in the statewide hunting and 10 fishing proclamation. 11 As mentioned earlier by Bob, this item proposes 12 final adoption of amendments to Chapter 65 Section 78, 13 crabs and Ghost Shrimp. In the 77th Legislature, Senate 14 Bill 1410 granted the authority to create the closed crab 15 trap season for the purpose of removing abandoned traps 16 from the waters of the state. 17 Closure could range from ten to 30 days, and, 18 after the first 7 days of the closure, volunteer help can 19 be used to remove the traps because, basically, at that 20 point, it is declared litter. The closure can occur at 21 any time in February and March as it was created by the 22 legislation. 23 In reviewing the 2001 abandoned crab trap 24 clean-up, we were able to pick up over 8,000 traps during 25 the week of the closure or -- during the 16-day closure. ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 57 1 We had over 550 volunteers using their own boats, and 2 over 200 of them brought vessels down on our organized 3 clean-up to help remove the traps from the state waters. 4 In all, over 58 companies, organizations, 5 municipalities and government entities donated resources 6 ranging from tarps and gloves to grappling hooks to grab 7 the traps, all the way to actually getting donated 8 facilities to actually take those traps and -- refuse 9 facilities, if you will. 10 And, of course, as you heard, earlier in the 11 year, when we did a more complete review of the closure, 12 we actually had commissioners come and participate in the 13 closure, and basically everybody, every division that was 14 anywhere near the coast, helped in some way. And we 15 certainly appreciate all of those efforts. 16 Based on input from the crab advisory committee 17 and a review of last year's closure, the Department again 18 proposed and published in the Texas Register a proposal 19 for a 16-day coast-wide closure. This year, we chose to 20 basically propose to move the closure from March 1 or -- 21 to have the closure from March 1 to March 16. That's a 22 difference in -- we actually held it in the last two 23 weeks of February last year. 24 And again, we would have no exemptions 25 regarding any particular types of traps. All traps would ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 58 1 have to be removed from the state or -- from the waters 2 of the state. 3 We held four public hearings on this issue 4 along the coast. We had 41 people in attendance; 22 5 people participated by giving comments. And, of course, 6 the comments typically have a wide range. And this year, 7 we did get some comments that were suggesting that we 8 only close in certain areas of the coast or that we close 9 every other year or something like that, as well as, of 10 course -- one individual mentioned that if we would just 11 create a biodegradable trap, this would all be solved. 12 We're going to work on some of those things, 13 but, for this year, we're still looking at a 16-day 14 closure. And in general, most of the comments that 15 directly related to the closure were regarding the timing 16 of the closure. And we would -- most of those comments 17 basically asked us to move it back into the first two 18 days of the February closure. 19 To give you a little background, our crab 20 advisory committee met, and they were the ones who 21 suggested moving it. It was truly driven at that point 22 by some issues on the lower coast; they felt like they 23 were in good crabs when the closure occurred, and when it 24 opened back up, there weren't as many. So they were 25 proposing that move. So that's why we went to public ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 59 1 hearing with it that way. 2 But based on the comments we received at public 3 hearing, we are proposing to move it back into February, 4 the last two weeks of February. I can tell you we have 5 double-checked back with all of the crab advisory 6 committees minus one that we haven't been able to get in 7 touch with, and based on the comments, they concur, as 8 well, that we move it back into February. 9 What this would basically mean is the closure 10 would start February 15. It's in pink or red or magenta 11 on your screen there. The first seven days of the 12 closure would be the time when wardens or law enforcement 13 could pick up traps. The main event days, as shown there 14 in green, actually would start. We would target our main 15 event weekend as the 22nd and 23rd. The closure would 16 run through the 2nd, and the fishery would open back up 17 on March 3. 18 If you have any questions, I'll be happy to 19 answer them at this time. 20 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any questions for 21 Robin? 22 COMMISSIONER ANGELO: It sounds good. 23 MR. REICHERS: Thank you. 24 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: We thank our Chairman 25 for being part of that. ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 60 1 CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Well, I've enjoyed it. 2 MR. REICHERS: We look forward to it again this 3 year. 4 CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: I do, too. 5 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: If there are no 6 further questions or discussion, without objection, I'll 7 place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda 8 for public comment and action. 9 Next we have the scientific breeder population. 10 Jerry Cooke? 11 MR. COOKE: Mr. Chairman and members, my name 12 is Jerry Cooke. I'm Game Branch Chief for the Wildlife 13 Division, and I'll be presenting to you the proposed 14 changes to the scientific breeder proclamation. And I am 15 doing this without the benefit of slides. So -- 16 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. 17 MR. COOKE: The reason that I didn't prepare 18 any slides is because I thought this was going to be 19 fairly simple on the outset because the only action that 20 was being brought to you was the repeal of our 21 importation suspension as directed at the last Commission 22 meeting. 23 Unfortunately, in order to accomplish that by 24 this meeting and accommodate the public comment period, 25 we were required to withdraw several sections that were ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 61 1 included in the adoptions in the last meeting. So I'm 2 going to lay those proposals to you, as well, for re- 3 adoption today to be included when we go to the secretary 4 of state with your actions. 5 Besides the repeal of the importation 6 suspension, which would place all importation under the 7 entry requirements of the Texas Animal Health Commission 8 in the future, the temporary transfers of fawns for 9 nursing purposes and the temporary transfer of deer for 10 veterinary treatment, we thought it was fairly clear at 11 the outset that we meant that they needed to stay inside 12 the jurisdiction of the state of Texas, but it obviously 13 wasn't clear to some. So we're making it a little more 14 overt in our regulations. 15 Also, it was not clear in our regulations just 16 exactly who could or could not buy a purchase permit for 17 the purposes of transfer of ownership. And we're making 18 it clear that it could be either the buyer or the seller 19 in the proposal. 20 Also, two of the adoptions from the previous 21 meeting involved a fawn report, a November 1 fawn report, 22 and, also, a pre-release inspection requirement for 23 scientific breeders. And there was a great deal of 24 confusion about those particular issues and some 25 particular concerns of the breeders in that adoption in ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 62 1 the way that it was done, basically. So we promised them 2 that we would bring it back before you now for another 3 discussion. 4 And to, hopefully, assist in that discussion, 5 we also brought it before our TTTMLDP task force last 6 Thursday and asked for their recommendations to the 7 committee. Basically, their recommendations were to 8 repeal the fawn report from the requirement and rely on 9 the annual report and periodic inspections by the 10 wardens, as it has been done in the past. Also, they 11 propose that we also repeal the pre-inspection 12 replacement. 13 Their third proposal was basically to replace 14 the pre-inspection requirement -- pre-release inspection 15 requirement with a very straightforward proposal, and 16 that is: To release deer from a scientific breeder 17 facility to the wild, that facility should be involved in 18 the voluntary CWD monitoring program with the Animal 19 Health Commission and be able to produce a valid herd 20 health management plan for CWD that had been approved by 21 the Animal Health Commission. 22 So basically, the first three elements -- the 23 repeal of the importation, the temporary transfer issue 24 and the purchase permit issue -- could all be addressed 25 tomorrow in an adoption; however, the three final ones, ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 63 1 which would be the fawn report repeal if you choose to do 2 so, and the pre-release inspection should you choose to 3 do so, and the adoption of the monitoring program 4 requirement for release, could only be done in January. 5 We would have to publish that following this meeting for 6 action in January if you so directed. 7 If you have any questions, I'd be happy to try 8 and answer those at this time. 9 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any procedural 10 questions for Jerry? 11 COMMISSIONER RAMOS: I have one question. 12 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Commissioner Ramos. 13 COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Jerry, what's the 14 rationale behind repealing the pre-release inspection 15 requirement? 16 MR. COOKE: It would be replacing it with -- 17 the requirement would be part of the voluntary monitoring 18 program, which would be a pre-release inspection process. 19 COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Oh. Okay. So we would 20 still have the -- an inspection program? 21 MR. COOKE: Instead of relying on our 22 biologists, our game wardens or a private practice 23 veterinarian, it would be placing it within the context 24 of an existing monitoring program through the Texas 25 Animal Health Commission. ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 64 1 COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Okay. 2 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any other questions 3 for Jerry on this issue? 4 (No response.) 5 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Jerry, if there are 6 no further questions or discussion, without objection, 7 I'll place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting 8 agenda for public comment and action. And, Jerry, you 9 stay right there. We'll start in -- 10 MR. COOKE: I'm staying, sir. 11 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: -- on the agenda item 12 of trap, transport and transplant of game animals and 13 game birds. 14 MR. COOKE: Again, Mr. Chairman, my name is 15 Jerry Cooke, Game Branch Chief for the Wildlife Division. 16 And I'll be presenting to you a brief presentation 17 related to the published proposal. The proposal that was 18 published for public comment was simply to remove white- 19 tailed deer and mule deer from the Triple-T program until 20 that section were repealed by your further actions. 21 To give you a quick update on a long process 22 that has covered the last year, basically, the suspension 23 of importation of breeder deer was for the purpose of 24 allowing the Animal Health Commission the opportunity to 25 establish entry requirements that would protect the ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 65 1 resource, and that has been accomplished. 2 The effort to establish a voluntary monitoring 3 program among scientific breeders to allow the Animal 4 Health Commission the confidence that they could detect a 5 2 percent incidence of disease should it occur has been 6 accomplished. And that -- we have begun our initial 7 testing processes in the state of Texas. We are testing 8 every clinical animal that we can place our hands on. 9 During this hunting season, we will be sampling 10 and testing virtually all deer taken on wildlife 11 management area state park hunts this year, which will 12 give us a relatively good, stratified sample. And, also, 13 later in this meeting, you'll have an opportunity to get 14 an update on the status of our draft CWD management plan 15 for Texas which has been done in conjunction with the 16 Animal Health Commission. 17 Since the last time I've shown you this map, 18 chronic wasting disease has been found in free-ranging 19 white-tailed and mule deer in this -- in the U.S. It has 20 been free-ranging in Wisconsin and New Mexico and 21 Illinois and has been found in a confined elk herd in 22 Minnesota and a confined white-tailed deer facility in 23 Wisconsin. And each of these new discoveries was a 24 significant geographic distance from any place that we 25 had known it was before. ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 66 1 So I wanted to focus a little on the potential 2 impact of TTTMLDP disease. And that's all it is is 3 potential, and I want to stress that. 4 Number 1: Texas has among the highest density 5 deer populations on the planet. Approximately 4 million 6 deer are found in Texas; over a third of those are found 7 in about 25 percent of the state. And this has all been 8 developed through the restoration efforts of this Agency 9 over time and with the cooperation and assistance of the 10 private landowners of Texas. 11 Hunting in Texas is about a $1.6 billion 12 enterprise; however, about $644 million a year goes into 13 rural economies directly as a result of white-tailed deer 14 hunting in Texas. About half of that is found in the 15 Edward's Plateau, the Piney Woods and south Texas, with 16 fully a quarter of it found in the Edward's Plateau 17 alone. 18 The Triple-T program -- I've placed this slide 19 up to emphasize one point. There has always been some 20 permits issued in this state for trapping and moving 21 animals. Some of them were research related, some were 22 management related, et cetera. However, in 1993, when 23 the Triple-T program was developed by the legislature and 24 implemented by this -- by the Commission, those 25 activities have significantly increased in Texas. ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 67 1 This slide just shows the number of animals 2 moved through the years in the program. The big drop-off 3 there between '97 and '98 was primarily related to our 4 Commission's -- this Commission's actions in requiring 5 that management plans and adequate habitat be identified 6 in release sites before a permit could be approved. 7 Also, the jump there in 2000/2001 is primarily 8 because the Commission has allowed for trivial transfer 9 of animals where it was not particularly a resource issue 10 identified at the time. 11 I mentioned the restoration efforts in Texas 12 briefly. To make -- be a little more clear about that, 13 in 1939, with most of the game species in Texas 14 completely depleted, primarily through unregulated 15 hunting -- market hunting, this Department and its 16 predecessors re-established the white-tailed deer 17 population in Texas by trapping and moving about 31,000 18 deer. It is clearly a good management tool under certain 19 contexts. Since 1993, 38,000 deer have been moved under 20 this program. 21 The map on the left shows the counties in which 22 deer were trapped over the past two years in this 23 program; the map on the right shows the counties in which 24 those deer were released in the same period of time. To 25 put those both on the same map, the yellow counties are ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 68 1 those that served only as trap sites, the green counties 2 served only as release sites, and the red counties served 3 only as -- served both as trap and release sites. 4 The Texas Animal Health Commission went through 5 a fairly extensive exercise in assessing -- in using a 6 risk assessment. It's an unfortunate use of terms 7 perhaps, but that's what it's called: A risk assessment. 8 And that risk assessment involved evaluating the number 9 of white-tailed, mule deer and elk known to have been 10 brought into the state of Texas and where they were 11 brought and the population size of the receiving 12 counties. 13 These 14 counties were basically outliers; they 14 were so high on the priority list that they were 15 identified specifically for the purpose of alerting both 16 us and the Animal Health Commission that regardless of 17 what sampling we do in Texas, we need to sample those 18 counties for sure. 19 Their total risk analysis included about 84 20 counties, no more than 64 of which I consider to have a 21 significant value in that evaluation. And these are 22 those 64 counties. 23 The particular impact of Triple-T in a 24 relationship to this assessment is shown on these two 25 maps. Basically, the left-hand map is identifying the ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 69 1 counties that were identified both in the risk assessment 2 and identified as trap counties. The map on the right 3 shows where the deer that were trapped in those counties 4 were released. This represented about 2,200 animals over 5 the two-year period of time, which was about a quarter of 6 all the deer that were moved in Texas over those two 7 years. 8 We held four public hearings to address the 9 specific proposal of withdrawing white-tailed and mule 10 deer from the Triple-T program. They were in La Grange, 11 Cotulla, Kerrville, and San Antonio. 12 117 people attended those. The vast majority 13 were either opposed to the proposal outright or proposed 14 to it as it was written. I might want to clarify, too, 15 that everyone who had participated in a Triple-T permit 16 on either side over the past two years were delivered a 17 specific invitation to come to these hearings to be sure 18 that those who would be regulated by any potential change 19 would have an opportunity to comment. 20 Also, we received other comments by e-mail; 21 most of those were in support of the proposal as it was 22 written. We also received significant objection to the 23 proposal or -- opposition to the proposal, shall I say, 24 from the city of Lakeway, the city of Hollywood Park, 25 Fair Oaks and Horseshoe Bay specifically. These are the ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 70 1 four major communities in the state of Texas that use the 2 Triple-T program to remove deer from their communities. 3 This is another issue, and this was the primary 4 reason we brought together the Triple-T task force, which 5 has been very useful to us in the past in solving very 6 prickly issues. We laid this specific proposal before 7 them, and there was considerable discussion. They're a 8 very professional group; I applaud them on their ability 9 to sit quietly and listen to everyone else's views 10 despite their particular feelings on those issues. 11 And as the initial sweep around the table took 12 place, it went all the way from, "We support this 100 13 percent," to, "We oppose it 100 percent," but, through 14 conversation and through discussion by the group, they 15 came to at the time a consensus proposal or 16 recommendation to this Commission. 17 Basically, their recommendation was this: Do 18 not remove white-tailed or mule deer from the program; 19 however, in order to qualify for a trapping permit, there 20 should be some testing on the site where trapping is to 21 take place during the hunting season immediately 22 preceding the issuance of the permit. 23 The recommendation to the Committee was that 24 this test be the number equivalent to 10 percent of the 25 number of deer that would be moved under the program; ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 71 1 however, this number should be no less than ten to allow 2 for a significant test; however, it need not be more than 3 40 lest it weight down our own sampling efforts in the 4 state. If any positive CWD case were found in any of 5 these tests, the permit would be denied. 6 And all animals moved would be tattooed with 7 identification for identification purposes, perhaps 8 linking it to a specific permit number, for example, so 9 that if any cases appeared elsewhere, we'd have some 10 trace-back method to follow up with further research. 11 Also, because of some concern about the fact 12 that Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostics Laboratory is 13 in its first year of using its new immuno-histochemistry 14 [phonetic] testing facilities, that perhaps a backlog of 15 testing or a failure of equipment, et cetera, could 16 needlessly interrupt the issuance of a permit that might 17 otherwise be issued. 18 The recommendation of the committee was that if 19 samples were provided by December 10, as an example, that 20 would allow five weeks previous to a January 15 decision 21 date so that if, for whatever reason, those samples were 22 not completely tested by the January 15 date, perhaps the 23 permit should be issued, anyway. And that was the 24 conclusion and recommendation of the committee that I 25 brought to you. ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 72 1 And basically, that is my presentation. And I 2 will be happy to try to answer any question that you may 3 have at this time on these issues. 4 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Jerry, how are things 5 going with the diagnostic lab? Are they keeping up with 6 whatever? 7 MR. COOKE: The numbers of samples are very, 8 very small. I'm only aware of -- now, the facility, you 9 know, was set up to handle scrapie diagnosis, as well. 10 It's useful in all of these avenues. As far as I know, 11 we've submitted nine samples and there has been 23 other 12 deer sample submissions by others that have gone through 13 their facility. 14 So who knows? They have advised me that they 15 believe that from the time they put their hands on a 16 fresh brain stem, they can have a test out in two weeks; 17 if they put their hands on an already preserved brain 18 stem, it's much, much shorter. They think that they 19 could handle up to 100 or 150 samples per day without 20 stressing their staff or equipment too much, but, again, 21 that has not been tested. 22 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: But they're confident 23 that they can handle what's coming their way? 24 MR. COOKE: Yes, sir. 25 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right. ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 73 1 Any other questions? 2 COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Yes. 3 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Commissioner Ramos. 4 MR. COOKE: Yes, sir? 5 COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Jerry, based on the 6 historical movement of deer within Texas, do you have an 7 estimate of how many animals would actually be tested if 8 we implemented this program? 9 MR. COOKE: I'm sorry. I didn't prepare that, 10 to be very frank with you. I think -- I'm going to guess 11 here, since we were talking about 2,200 animals in a 12 previous slide over a two-year period, 1,000 or 1,500 13 animals times 10 percent. 14 COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Okay. Did I -- 15 MR. COOKE: We're not talking a big number. 16 COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Did I understand you to 17 say that we would be compelled to grant a TTT permit if 18 for some reason the lab could not do the testing of the 19 animal? 20 MR. COOKE: That -- 21 COMMISSIONER RAMOS: That would be mandatory? 22 MR. COOKE: That was the recommendation. That 23 was the recommendation of the committee to this 24 Commission. 25 COMMISSIONER RAMOS: But it seems to me at ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 74 1 least -- my philosophy is that either we test or we get 2 the test; otherwise, we perpetuate that uncertainty of 3 movement. But do you know the rationale behind saying 4 irrespective of the testing, we would be compelled to 5 grant a permit? 6 MR. COOKE: Just what I said: That there was 7 concern about whether or not -- in other words, if a 8 landowner were interested enough to go to the trouble of 9 taking samples from their own property and submitting 10 them to the lab in a timely fashion -- this is no 11 different than we do, for instance, in applying for a 12 Triple-T permit. 13 If you submit your application by such-and-such 14 a date, we guarantee you a turn-around time. And if you 15 wait later than that, we don't guarantee a turn-around 16 time. 17 COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Right. I guess my concern 18 is that as -- forget CWD. But as it is now, no one is 19 really guaranteed a TTT permit. 20 MR. COOKE: Correct. 21 COMMISSIONER RAMOS: And I -- the way I heard 22 you was that we would guarantee someone a TTT permit. 23 MR. COOKE: Oh. That -- I don't believe that 24 was the intent of the committee at all. 25 COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Okay. ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 75 1 MR. COOKE: I think what -- the intent of the 2 committee was that we allow the application process to 3 take place, and if we were otherwise going to approve a 4 permit and would hesitate to approve it because of a lack 5 of testing, then this mechanism would then trigger a 6 reconsideration of that. It would not be a guarantee of 7 a Triple-T permit, only within the context of whether or 8 not all the samples were completely tested. 9 COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Well, was there any 10 discussion that perhaps -- at a minimum, in instances 11 where you could not get the tests back, perhaps one or 12 two tests would be done as compared to the 30 or 40 as 13 per the formula? In other words, you would have to have 14 some testing even if it's only one, two or three animals? 15 MR. COOKE: That would be up to the Commission 16 to determine if there was some test less rigorous than 17 what was -- what they recommended. 18 COMMISSIONER RAMOS: But only in the event that 19 you could not -- for some reason, the lab couldn't -- 20 MR. COOKE: Yes. 21 COMMISSIONER RAMOS: -- have the turn-around? 22 MR. COOKE: Yes. I understand. 23 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Commissioner Angelo? 24 COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Mr. Chairman, with -- in 25 that regard, I think it's -- it would be inadvisable for ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 76 1 us to put that provision in this until it has been proven 2 that we can't meet the testing requirements, because I 3 think it just -- as Commissioner Ramos just mentioned, it 4 just opens the door to further questions about whether or 5 not we're taking care of the problem. So I would -- I'd 6 strongly recommend that we not put that provision in it. 7 COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Let me just mention one 8 thing. I feel philosophically that we have an extremely 9 valuable resource in this state. And to the extent that 10 there's uncertainty within the state as to CWD, it seems 11 to me that we need to address it as quickly as possible 12 and do the adequate testing. And perhaps the samples 13 should be submitted as early as next month. I mean -- 14 MR. COOKE: Oh. There -- that was also part of 15 the discussion. That was basically why the dates were 16 included in the recommendation, because if you said, 17 "Well, you know, if you can't get them done, then all the 18 samples would go in January 1," which -- 19 COMMISSIONER ANGELO: I'm sure what they're 20 concerned about is we can't meet the requirements that 21 the testing be accomplished, I mean that they provide the 22 samples and we don't get them tested. But I think 23 there's -- you don't have any evidence that that's going 24 to be a problem. And until there is proof that it's a 25 problem, I don't think we should put that in there. ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 77 1 MR. COOKE: Well, I also want to clarify that 2 these tests would be done at the landowner's expense, not 3 at ours. 4 COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Good. 5 MR. COOKE: So they wouldn't be submitting them 6 to us, but directly to TVMDL. 7 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: That was -- the 8 purpose of my first question was that there's no -- they 9 feel confident -- 10 MR. COOKE: Yes. 11 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: -- that the 12 diagnostics can be done. 13 COMMISSIONER ANGELO: So there's no use tying 14 our hands in that regard at this point. 15 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I would agree. 16 Commissioner Montgomery? 17 COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Two questions on the 18 methodology. Is there any concept in there of time line 19 between testing and shipping? 20 MR. COOKE: In what regard? 21 COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Well, in regard to 22 when you test the population, you have a statistically 23 valid sample of the population at that time -- 24 MR. COOKE: Oh. I understand. 25 COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: -- and you don't ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 78 1 wait -- 2 MR. COOKE: I understand. 3 COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: -- six months. 4 MR. COOKE: Ten percent would actually be less 5 than what would be considered to be an adequate sample to 6 absolutely diagnostically -- in other words, we're 7 testing the state of Texas at a rate to detect a 2 8 percent incidence, but we intend to be accumulating those 9 samples over a number of years. 10 COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: I'm talking about the 11 potential lag time between the time of testing and the 12 time of shipping. 13 MR. COOKE: Oh. 14 COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Is there any need to 15 build in any concept of time? 16 MR. COOKE: I personally don't believe so. I 17 mean, most of the movement of deer under the Triple-T 18 program is after the hunting season's over; they don't 19 normally trap deer in the season. 20 COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: But if the testing is 21 done within that calendar year, or that quarter or that 22 six months -- 23 MR. COOKE: Oh. I see what you're saying. 24 We -- the context that was used in the discussion was to 25 use animals taken during the normal hunting season on the ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 79 1 property immediately prior to the actual trapping. 2 COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Oh. Okay. 3 MR. COOKE: Now, we're not granting permission 4 to go kill deer outside of the season. 5 COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Then I think you've 6 answered my second question -- 7 MR. COOKE: Okay. 8 COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: -- which was, Is 9 there a concept in there that the animals tested come 10 from the same source and you don't have a pool that 11 you're shipping where 10 percent -- animals came from one 12 place and 90 came from another? 13 MR. COOKE: No. They should be coming from the 14 trap site specifically. That was -- 15 COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Under that 16 methodology, how do we monitor that? 17 MR. COOKE: Well, it would be difficult to 18 monitor except accepting the word of the landowner that 19 was involved. I mean, there's a certain amount of 20 boldness to a landowner who will sample from his own 21 property test for that and a certain amount of trust 22 involved in how that information would be used. And I 23 think there should be some reciprocal trust in that 24 regard. That's a personal view, though. 25 COMMISSIONER MONTGOMERY: Certainly. ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 80 1 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Commissioner Ramos? 2 COMMISSIONER RAMOS: One more question. 3 Jerry, the window for the actual movement of 4 the deer is March 1 through -- 5 MR. COOKE: Actually, our -- the current window 6 for Triple-T is October 1 through March 31. In reality, 7 most people start applying, you know, in August and 8 September and October with no intention of moving animals 9 until after the hunting season is over. 10 So in this particular context, if you were to 11 adopt such a thing as requiring testing for a final 12 approval of the permit, in actuality it would have very 13 little impact on the actual activity; however, there's a 14 lot of planning that's involved in that in scheduling 15 helicopters and those kinds of things. 16 COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Well, what I was wondering 17 is: For those breeders or those individuals who are 18 testing who could not meet the March 31 deadline, would 19 there be anything wrong in extending that window, let's 20 say, through April? 21 MR. COOKE: That -- 22 COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Would there be any impact 23 to do that to ensure that they could get their testing 24 done? 25 MR. COOKE: That March 31 cut-off is a ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 81 1 biological issue. 2 COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Okay. 3 MR. COOKE: By that time, fetuses have reached 4 the point where handling animals roughly, as you do in a 5 normal trapping operation, could have a detrimental 6 welfare effect on deer. All of our opening and closing 7 windows for trapping is based on those kinds of things, 8 biological ones; it's not an arbitrary date at all. 9 COMMISSIONER RAMOS: So we shouldn't mess with 10 that? 11 MR. COOKE: I would not recommend that we mess 12 with that, primarily because it accommodates the welfare 13 issues that are of concern to others who otherwise would 14 simply oppose trapping and moving of deer at all, in my 15 opinion. 16 COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Thank you. 17 MR. COOK: Jerry, as I recall, the issue of the 18 testing -- you know, the, "Get your samples in by 19 December 10" -- you know, that issue came up, again, 20 because of this concern about a possible backlog and not 21 knowing just exactly how, you know, efficient that lab -- 22 MR. COOKE: Right. 23 MR. COOK: -- at A&M is going to be and the 24 fact that USDA has priority over our samples. 25 MR. COOKE: That's right. ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 82 1 MR. COOK: There are other people who submit 2 samples to this laboratory that they have to work. 3 MR. COOKE: That's correct. 4 MR. COOK: So we tried to reach a reasonable -- 5 the group, the task force, you know, tried to find a 6 reasonable offer there. And we certainly -- you know, 7 it's -- 8 MR. COOKE: That's correct, Bob. And I 9 appreciate you bringing that up, because the USDA funded 10 all of the equipment and the training for the facility at 11 TVMDL. And I guess they're just old-fashioned enough to 12 want to have priority over their equipment, and so I 13 don't know to what degree that would be. 14 But this testing facility at A&M is not a Texas 15 testing facility; it's a regional testing facility for 16 USDA. And their samples would in fact, you know, move 17 ahead of Texas local sampling in the queue. 18 Thank you, Bob. That's another main reason 19 that this was discussed. 20 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you. 21 MR. COOK: Also, I think it's important for the 22 Commission -- I wanted to advise the Commission that I 23 have received a couple of contacts since the Thursday 24 meeting. There are a couple of the folks for sure within 25 the task force who are concerned about this agreement ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 83 1 that was reached on Thursday and have expressed that 2 concern. And I think they'll be at our session tomorrow 3 and can speak to that. 4 And I'll, you know, recommend that -- I'll not 5 try to express their concerns other than that the bottom 6 line is that in thinking it through, in retrospect, they 7 would prefer that the Triple-T permit be left open as it 8 is, no testing and none of the requirements that we're 9 talking about here. And that's important. 10 The task force -- I thought and, I think, all 11 of us who were present thought that the point reached 12 between suspending Triple-T and continuing to allow 13 Triple-T under something around the conditions as 14 discussed here and as proposed -- and by the way, we had 15 four of their folks -- I believe it was four of the 16 folks -- on the task force help with the exact wording of 17 how it was done. And that has all been run through, and 18 we'll continue to work with them closely. 19 But it was a very helpful and very productive 20 session. I think we all agreed on that and still do -- 21 that that approach is a good approach to addressing these 22 kinds of issues. But since the meeting, I think it is 23 important that the Commission knows that there has been 24 some reconsideration in the group. And I think you will 25 hear that tomorrow. ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 84 1 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Commissioner Angelo? 2 COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Bob, I don't want to 3 belabor the point too much, but I do think that it's -- 4 if we feel that the testing is a legitimate requirement, 5 which, obviously, you do, then to waive it just because 6 there's a thought that the testing might not get 7 accomplished, I think, would be a mistake. I want to 8 reiterate that. 9 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Well, it's not 10 logical. It's not consistent with what you're -- no. I 11 think you're right. And, also, we don't know. Until we 12 start running some tests through, we don't know. 13 Chairman? 14 CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: I want to ask Bob some 15 follow-up questions to his comment. I was present at the 16 task force meeting, but I did not -- was not able to stay 17 for the entire thing, and I can characterize what I saw 18 for the time I was there. But I think it's important 19 that we all recognize that this was a group that 20 represented a broad spectrum of interest in this issue, 21 and I want to be sure we understand that we're working 22 together on this thing. 23 Bob, do you feel that the task force covered 24 the necessary ground, aired the concerns that should be 25 aired and worked together to come up with a justifiable, ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 85 1 reasonable and helpful solution? 2 MR. COOK: Absolutely. I -- and I -- again, I 3 think -- Jerry touched on this, but I want to reemphasize 4 it. You know, right at the start of the meeting, it was 5 clear that -- you know, we had -- I forget the exact 6 number, but -- 12 to 15 folks present at the meeting from 7 this task force. 8 And when we first went around the table, there 9 were clearly about five or so that were saying, you know, 10 I think we ought to suspend this; We just don't know 11 enough; We're concerned about it. And then there was a 12 group of about equal number saying, Look, this is a great 13 tool; This is a tool that's very helpful to us; It's 14 important to us; There are areas and issues that this 15 tool helps us address problems and needs, and we'd like 16 to retain it as is. 17 And so we kind of started from there, as you 18 know. And you were present for that. And throughout the 19 meeting, I -- and this suggestion, the basics -- quite 20 frankly, the basics of this suggestion came from one of 21 the outside members of this task force that made these 22 suggestions. 23 And we kind of worked to get their -- and as 24 Dr. Cook has characterized and accurately so, there were 25 some concerns about the testing schedule and this, that ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 86 1 and the other. And I think they did a good job of 2 addressing that to come forward with a very helpful 3 recommendation and this whole study, this whole effort, 4 to learn more about our situation. 5 COMMISSIONER ANGELO: Yes. I want to just 6 express that I hope that the task force continues in the 7 future to work together on these kinds of issues; I think 8 it's critical that they do. I also want to commend the 9 members of the task force for an exemplary example of 10 leadership. This is a sensitive issue that requires firm 11 and steady leadership, and that is what I'm seeing from 12 the different groups and individuals involved. I don't 13 have anything else to say. 14 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Well, if there are no 15 further questions or discussion, without objection, I'll 16 place this item on the Thursday Commission meeting agenda 17 for public comment and action. 18 MR. COOKE: Mr. Chairman, if I might? 19 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes, Jerry. 20 MR. COOKE: On the last agenda item, the 21 scientific breeder, there were three items that we lay 22 before you with the possibility of publishing them for 23 public comment. Could I have some direction on that? 24 Should we publish those proposals -- 25 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes. ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 87 1 MR. COOKE: -- for a January consideration? 2 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Yes. 3 MR. COOKE: Thank you. 4 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Now, the Number 7 on 5 our agenda, the Future of Hunting Plan, has been 6 withdrawn and moved to tomorrow. And next is Doug 7 Humphreys' CWD update briefing. We're right on the 8 subject. 9 MR. HUMPHREYS: I love the lead-in to this. 10 Mr. Chairman and Commissioners, I am Doug Humphreys, the 11 Assistant Game Branch Chief of Texas Parks and Wildlife. 12 With me today is Dr. Ken Waldrup from the Texas Animal 13 Health Commission. Dr. Jerry Cooke from our department 14 will also be here to answer questions later. I do want 15 to recognize Commissioner Jill Wood from the Texas Animal 16 Health Commission; she is also in the audience today and 17 attending this session. 18 I'll present the Texas chronic wasting disease 19 management plan for sampling. The management plan 20 describes the process for decision making and provides 21 information about chronic wasting disease. It's a 22 comprehensive management approach to reduce the threat of 23 the disease to the free-ranging and game farm susceptible 24 species and effectively manage against CWD should it 25 emerge within the state. ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 88 1 Jurisdiction. The Texas Animal Health 2 Commission and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department each 3 have jurisdiction for their respective regulatory 4 responsibilities: Texas Animal Health Commission for 5 animal health issues with alternative livestock 6 producers, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for 7 management responsibility for free-ranging service. CWD 8 knows no political boundaries, potentially affecting both 9 public and private property. 10 There is ongoing targeted surveillance for 11 clinical deer on a statewide basis. Thus far since June, 12 nine have been collected, and all were negative; 23 other 13 deer have been sampled, and all negative. And Texas 14 Animal Health Commission has sampled four white-tailed 15 deer and seven elk from the voluntary monitoring program 16 which is in place, and all were negative. 17 Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is 18 expecting to sample between 1,500 and 2,000 deer from 19 public hunts on WMAs and state parks and cooperating 20 landowners this fall. This sampling will provide 21 information from many regions of the state. If a 22 positive deer is detected, an area large enough to detect 23 three additional positives if 2 percent of the herd were 24 infected would be sampled. If more positives are 25 detected in that sample, additional sampling would be ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 89 1 necessary to determine the distribution and the 2 prevalence of the disease. 3 The "X" would be the location of a positive. 4 The circle is the area surrounding the positive to be 5 sampled. The diameter of the circle from which 150 6 samples can be collected may be eight miles in Kerr 7 County and could be 16 miles in Colorado County, as 8 examples. 9 Contingency plans to control the spread of 10 chronic wasting disease include evaluation of the system 11 where the positive was detected, determining herd 12 attributes or physical barriers which may limit 13 distribution of animals and, therefore, the disease. 14 Strategies for possible treatment following sampling will 15 be discussed and reviewed with the TTTMLDP task force. 16 I just have to say that many people from both 17 Texas Animal Health Commission and Texas Parks and 18 Wildlife have provided assistance to Dr. Waldrup and me 19 toward developing the plan. And do you have any 20 questions? 21 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you for your 22 work. 23 Does anybody have any questions on this 24 briefing item? 25 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Dr. Waldrup, thank ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 90 1 you for being here today. Are -- do you have any 2 comments that you want to add to the presentation just 3 made or elaborate on any of the comments made? 4 DR. WALDRUP: If I may backtrack to Dr. Cooke's 5 presentation before with regard to lab space? 6 Texas is actually very fortunate in that our 7 Amarillo lab is due to come online to also start CWD 8 testing. The projected date for initiating that is 9 December 1. Don't hold that -- don't set that in 10 concrete just yet. But we would be the only state really 11 with two labs functioning. 12 And I think there were legitimate concerns from 13 last year, when all of the testing was done at the 14 national lab in Ames, Iowa. Some of the results were 15 backed up three or three-and-a-half months. But I'm 16 actually very confident especially when you have two labs 17 online that we can get results certainly within three 18 weeks. 19 COMMISSIONER RAMOS: That's encouraging. 20 DR. WALDRUP: I'm sorry. Now back to your 21 question. 22 CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: I have a question. And 23 you're always cautioned not to ask your question if you 24 don't know the answer, but I'm going to take that risk 25 right now. Are you comfortable with the Triple-TTT plan ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 91 1 to go ahead and submit and get the Triple-T permit paper 2 work in order and then wait and see until January what we 3 find? Are you comfortable with the plan as articulated 4 earlier by Dr. Cooke? 5 DR. WALDRUP: Madam Chairman, yes, I am. I 6 think that any plan that gives us additional surveillance 7 is certainly positive, and it's a positive all the way 8 around. I think that part of the question posed to the 9 TTTMLDP group was, Okay, nobody's opposed to testing; 10 It's just how much. 11 And again, at this point in time, if we assume 12 that there's not a widespread CWD problem in Texas, I 13 think that the numbers that were put forth are certainly 14 adequate; if we find we have a problem, then we'll need 15 to adjust that. And that would sort of be -- my 16 professional comment toward the Triple-T situation is 17 that should we find we have a problem -- and that's not 18 actually just limited to CWD, tuberculosis and even 19 anthrax at a given time, any disease problem that could 20 be potentiated from one place to another -- I think the 21 Triple-T has to be re-evaluated. 22 CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Thank you. 23 DR. WALDRUP: But I am confident that the 24 testing as proposed by this group is good. 25 CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Thank you. ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 92 1 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any other questions? 2 COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Well, just a comment. 3 Based on what you said, Doctor, it seems to me 4 then that perhaps -- if we're already testing for CWD, 5 perhaps we should expand it and test for TB, I mean, 6 while they're there. And I'm not suggesting we do that 7 now, but there's a vehicle there where we could do 8 extensive testing if we felt it would be necessary. 9 DR. WALDRUP: Commissioner, we're actually 10 incorporating that CW -- I'm sorry -- the TB testing in 11 with our scientific breeders. For example, when -- if a 12 scientific breeder submits an entire head to the lab, 13 they are checking for TB, as well. 14 Fortunately, with TB -- many of you know Dr. 15 Dan Baca with my agency. Dan started a program four 16 years ago on selected wildlife management areas and 17 selected private areas specifically looking for TB, and 18 we have necropsies of over a thousand animals and to date 19 have found no TB whatsoever. So we're already really a 20 step ahead in that game. 21 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any other questions? 22 Thank you for that briefing. 23 CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: I just want to reiterate 24 that what we really want to do here is take care of the 25 deer herds of Texas in a reasonable, responsible way and ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 93 1 work with the interested parties to get there. Thank 2 you. 3 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, gentlemen. 4 DR. WALDRUP: Thank you. 5 MR. HUMPHREYS: Thank you, Commissioners. 6 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Any other business 7 before the Regulations Committee? 8 (No response.) 9 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I know this is 10 everybody's favorite committee and we'd like to take the 11 whole day, but, hearing none, a motion to adjourn the 12 Regulations Committee at 11:20? 13 COMMISSIONER RISING: Motion. 14 COMMISSIONER RAMOS: I'll second. 15 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All in favor, aye. 16 (A chorus of ayes.) 17 COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: And -- 18 CHAIRMAN ARMSTRONG: Thank you, Commissioner 19 Fitzsimons. 20 (SESSION ENDS.) ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 . 94 1 C E R T I F I C A T E 2 MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department 3 Regulations Committee 4 LOCATION: Austin, Texas 5 DATE: November 6, 2002 6 I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, 7 numbers 1 through 94, inclusive, are the true, accurate, 8 and complete transcript prepared from the verbal 9 recording made by electronic recording by Penny Bynum 10 before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. 11 12/10/02 12 (Transcriber) (Date) 13 On the Record Reporting, Inc. 14 3307 Northland, Suite 315 15 Austin, Texas 78731 ON THE RECORD REPORTING (512) 450-0342 .
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