Regulations Committee

Wednesday, 9:00 a.m., Nov. 6, 2002

Commission Hearing Room
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
Item No. Subject Public Hearing Agenda Item No.
  Approval of the Committee Minutes from the previous meeting  
  Summary of minutes  
1. Chairman's Charges (Oral Presentation) Committee Only
2. Shrimp Report
Staff: Hal Osburn
Committee Only
3. Statewide Hunting and Fishing Regulations Preview
Staff: Gary Graham, Hal Osburn, Phil Durocher
Committee Only
4. Crab Trap Season
Staff: Robin Riechers
5
5. Scientific Breeder Proclamation – Importation
Staff: Jerry Cooke
7
6. Trap, Transport, and Transplant of Game Animals and Game Birds
Staff: Jerry Cooke
8
7. Future of Hunting Plan
Staff: Dr. Robert Brown
Committee Only
8. CWD Update
Staff: Jerry Cooke
Committee Only
9. Other Business  

Summary of Minutes
Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Regulations Committee

August 28, 2002

BE IT REMEMBERED that heretofore on the 28th day of August 2002, there came to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Parks and Wildlife Commission of Texas, in the commission hearing room of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Headquarters complex, Austin, Travis County, Texas beginning at 9:00 a.m., to-wit:

I. REGULATIONS COMMITTEE:

Joseph Fitzsimons, Committee Chair
Ernest Angelo, Jr.
Phillip Montgomery, III
Katharine Armstrong, Chairman
John Avila, Jr.
Alvin L. Henry
Donato D. Ramos
Kelly M. Rising
Mark E. Watson, Jr.

II. APPROVAL OF MINUTES: Minutes approved.

III. THE FOLLOWING ITEMS WERE PRESENTED TO THE COMMITTEE FOR CONSIDERATION:

1. BRIEFING – CHAIRMAN’S CHARGES

The chair recognized Executive Director Robert L. Cook. Mr. Cook addressed two activities undertaken by Natural Leaders teams to fulfill the mandates of Senate Bill 305.

2. ACTION - MIGRATORY GAME BIRD PROCLAMATION - LATE SEASON PROVISIONS.

The chair recognized Vernon Bevill, chief of the Game Bird program in the Wildlife Division. Mr. Bevill began by noting actions of the federal government that would affect the department's proposal, including framework extensions, the closure of canvasback duck hunting, and the restriction of pintail duck hunting. He also briefed the committee on the alteration of a goose zone in response to federal actions. Mr. Bevill then provided specific information about zones, season lengths and bag limits, as well as a summary of public comment. Commissioner Angelo asked where the pintail season would be situated within the duck season. Mr. Bevill responded that it would be the last 39 days in the north and south zones and slightly earlier in the remainder of the state. Commissioner Fitzsimons asked about the status of the light goose conservation effort. Mr. Bevill reported that progress was being made in controlling the population, but that it was slower than expected and had not yet begun to manifest itself in terms of habitat improvement on the breeding grounds.

3. ACTION - SCIENTIFIC BREEDER REGULATIONS

The chair recognized Jerry Cooke, Game Branch chief. Mr. Cooke began by reviewing background information on the Commission's previous and pending actions in response to the chronic wasting disease issue. Mr. Cooke then addressed the specific rulemaking before the committee, recommending that actions to define 'healthy condition' and to impose mandatory herd monitoring be tabled, given the voluntary efforts on the part of scientific breeders. He also explained additional provisions, including the requirement of a fawn report, a prohibition on the movement of deer out of state for nursing or veterinary purposes, and a requirement for written approval from the department prior to release of scientific breeder deer to the wild. Mr. Cooke also stated that given the entry requirements promulgated by the Texas Animal Health Commission, the temporary suspension of deer importation enacted by the commission in a previous meeting could now be rescinded. Commissioner Angelo inquired as to the nature of the TAHC rules. Mr. Cooke responded with the requested information. Executive Director Cook then emphasized the number of scientific breeders that had enrolled in the voluntary monitoring program. Mr. Cooke continued, discussing the statistical significance of the voluntary efforts. Commissioner Fitzsimons asked about the actual number of animals covered by the voluntary effort. Mr. Cooke responded that the specific breeders were unknown, and the exact number wouldn't be known until the TAHC involvement was well under way. Commissioner Ramos asked about how the provenance of imported animals would be traced. Mr. Cooke responded that since the TAHC rules require a proven herd status, the originating facility would have to prove that animal had either been in that facility for the requisite period of time, or had been acquired from a facility with a proven herd status. Commissioner Ramos then asked how long it took to perform the diagnostic test. Mr. Cooke responded that ideally it would be approximately 48 hours. Commissioner Ramos inquired as to how long the department's efforts would have to continue before an accurate picture of the disease's status could be ascertained. Mr. Cooke responded that until something changed, the process would essentially be open-ended. Commissioner Ramos asked about the need to control the interstate movement of deer. Mr. Cooke replied that it could be a problem, giving the hypothetical example of chronic wasting disease being detected at a state park where deer had been trapped and relocated to other parts of the state. Commissioner Ramos then asked if TAHC had taken any steps to limit intrastate movement of deer. Mr. Cooke responded that they had not. Commissioner Montgomery asked how much data staff would have by the November meeting. Mr. Cooke responded that it would probably be April before the data started coming in. Commissioner Ramos asked how much data would be needed to be satisfied that there wasn't a health issue. Mr. Cooke responded that if 2,000-2,500 animals from all ecoregions were tested negative, that would be a good sign. Commissioner Ramos then asked what kind of timeframe would be necessary to determine that Texas deer were healthy. Mr. Cooke responded that it would take at least two years. Commissioner Ramos stated that he felt that the more aggressive we were, the shorter the amount of time for a definitive picture to resolve. Mr. Cooke concurred. Commissioner Ramos asked if data could be obtained from Triple T permits. Mr. Cooke replied that TAHC and department staff had identified the counties of highest risk, and that sampling efforts would be intensive in those counties that had received large numbers of deer. He added that staff had a draft CWD management plan. Chairman Armstrong congratulated all involved for their efforts.

4. ACTION - ALTERNATIVE LICENSING RULES

The chair recognized Mr. Jerry Cooke, Game Branch chief. Mr. Cooke explained that the department had no clearly articulated back-up licensing system in the event that the electronic system suffered a failure. Mr. Cooke stated that the proposed rules eliminated possible conflicts with existing rules concerning tagging, in the event that a different licensing system had to be implemented. Commissioner Angelo asked if this was a prelude to a tagless license, noting that the issue had been discussed in the past. Mr. Cooke responded that essentially, the tags provide integrity for enforcement and biological data collection, but that the wildlife resource document provided the same data. Executive Director Cook spoke about department efforts to simplify the licenses and to explore different delivery platforms such as Internet sales, but mentioned that license tags were a tradition. Commissioner Fitzsimons expressed his approval for anything that provided more convenience, but was concerned about compromising data collection.

5. ACTION - COMMERCIAL NONGAME PERMIT RULES

The Chair recognized John Herron, Wildlife Diversity Branch chief. Mr. Herron began by addressing a proposed rule that would allow the temporary possession of threatened and endangered species for purposes of relocation. He then addressed proposed rules concerning commercial nongame permits, providing historical background and a synopsis of the program's effectiveness. He continued, pointing out that the proposed amendments simplified paperwork requirements for permittees, vastly shortened the list of species to which the rules apply, increased the number of specimens that could be possessed without a permit, strengthened controls on export, lengthened the time period that documentation must be maintained by permittees, and addressed means and methods of take. He also provided a summary of public comment. Commissioner Angelo asked if the data gathered by the department had caused any concerns for any of the nongame species. Mr. Herron replied that there were concerns about a few species, but nothing that warranted action at the present time. Commissioner Ramos asked if the temporary possession permit would specify when and where the animals would be released. Mr. Herron responded that the permit required immediate relocation and did not authorize possession beyond that. Commissioner Ramos asked if staff was able to distinguish between animals collected for the hobby trade and animals collected for the food trade. Mr. Herron responded in the affirmative, using turtles as an example. Commissioner Fitzsimons asked about compliance. Mr. Herron replied that he estimated compliance at approximately 90 per cent.

IV. ADJOURN: Commissioner Fitzsimons then adjourned the meeting.


Committee Agenda Item No. 1

Regulations Committee
Chairman's Charges
November 2002

(This item will be an oral presentation.)


Committee Agenda Item No. 2
Presenter: Hal Osburn

Regulations Committee
Status of Shrimp Report to the Governor
November 2002

I. DISCUSSION: Staff will brief the Regulations Committee on the development and status of the report titled “The Texas Shrimp Fishery; A report to the Governor and the 77th Legislature.” This report was written and submitted pursuant to the provisions of §77.005 of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Code amended under Senate Bill 305 by the 77th Legislature whereby the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) was directed to conduct a comprehensive study of the shrimp resources, including the shrimp population and the shrimp industry. The study was mandated to include an analysis of: 1) the status of the shrimp population in coastal waters, including the size and projected growth of shrimp grounds; 2) the economic health of the shrimp industry; 3) the status of conservation measures, including TPWD regulations and license buybacks; and 4) the status of marine resources and habitats affected by shrimping.

This report includes information obtained from a survey of resident and non-resident commercial bay, bait, and Gulf shrimp boat, bait-shrimp dealer, wholesale fish dealer and wholesale fish truck dealer license holders in Texas. The survey was completed by the Human Dimensions Laboratory, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, Texas A&M University. The report also includes a compilation of the monitoring data and special studies conducted by TPWD as well as an extensive literature review. In addition, TPWD solicited and considered input from other scientists, the public, the shrimp industry and the Texas Comptroller of public accounts. The resulting document includes an Executive Summary and eight individual appendix documents as follows:

Appendix A. Overview of Coastal and Marine Habitat in Texas
Appendix B. Estuarine Biodiversity in Texas
Appendix C. Nearshore Gulf Biodiversity in Texas
Appendix D. Overview of Bycatch Problems and Solutions in the Shrimp Fishery of Texas and the Southeastern United States
Appendix E. Sea Turtle Conservation
Appendix F. Managing for Sustainable Shrimp Stocks
Appendix G. Status and Trends of Commercial Shrimp in Texas
Appendix H. A Social and Economic Characterization of the Texas Shrimp Fishery.

[Appendices available upon request.]


Committee Agenda Item No. 3
Presenters: Gary Graham, Hal Osburn, Phil Durocher

Potential Changes to the Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation 2003-2004
November 2002

I. DISCUSSION: Responsibility for establishing seasons, bag limits, and means and methods for taking wildlife resources is delegated to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission under Parks and Wildlife Code, Chapter 61. The potential changes are based upon statutory requirements, including scientific investigation and required findings of fact where applicable. The potential changes are intended increase recreational opportunity, decrease regulatory complexity where possible, promote enforcement, and provide for the sound biological management of the wildlife resources of the state.

Attachment – 1

  1. Exhibit A – Synopsis of Potential Changes to the Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation for 2003-2004

Committee Agenda Item No. 3
Exhibit A

Potential Regulation Changes
Statewide Hunting and Fishing Proclamation
2002-2003

WILDLIFE

White-tailed deer:

1. Proposal: Regulations governing the content of wildlife management plans condition the issuance of Managed Lands Deer permits at least partially on the inclusion of ‘deer census data.’ The proposed amendment would remove that term and replace it with ‘deer population data,’ which would then be defined as “The results derived from deer population surveys and/or from systematic data analysis of density or herd health indicators, such as browse surveys or other scientifically acceptable data, that function as direct or indirect indicators of population density.” Counties affected: Statewide.

Expected Results: This would allow the use of indirect indicators of population density, such as herd health, browse survey data, and reproductive data to be used in place of, or with, census (survey) data.

2. Proposal: Under current regulations, Antlerless and Spike Buck Control (ADCP) permits may be issued only after approval by a department biologist classified Conservation Scientist VI or higher. This proposal would allow any employee authorized to approve wildlife management plans to issue control permits. Counties affected: Statewide.

Expected Results: This would broaden the number of personnel authorized to issue such permits and provide more rapid customer service.

3. Proposal: Until last year, Anterless and Spike Buck Control (ADCP) permit sheets had a Dec. 10th deadline, but this deadline was not in the regulations. This proposal would establish an official deadline of Dec. 10th.

Expected Results: Establishing a deadline for applications in the regulations (and on the information sheet) would allow staff to better address applications in a more timely and consistent manner.

4. Proposal: Current harvest regulations in Harris County allow a hunter to take three deer, no more than one of which may be a buck and no more than two of which may be antlerless. The proposed amendment would increase the bag limit to four deer, no more than two bucks and no more than two antlerless and establish “doe days” for Harris County. Counties affected: Harris.

Expected: The deer range in Harris County is mostly in the northern part of the county which is part of the Pineywoods Ecological Region. The deer season for Harris County should be consistent with adjoining Pineywoods counties to the north and east. A more liberal bag limit would also help address deer problems caused by human development and isolation of the deer herd.

5. Proposal: This would add a muzzleloader season to Harris (only if Proposal # 3 above is adopted), San Jacinto, Trinity, and Walker counties.

Expected Results: This would allow additional hunting opportunity in these four counties and standardize the regulations with these counties and adjoining counties with similar harvest restrictions.

Mule Deer:

Proposal (received via public comment at August Commission Hearing) Current regulations provide for the issuance only of Level I Managed Lands Deer permits for mule deer. The proposed amendment would allow Level II and III MLD permits to be issued for mule deer under similar criteria to those presently in effect for white-tailed deer. Level II and Level III MLD permits provide a landowner with extended seasons and enhanced bag limits to fulfill the harvest quotas established in the wildlife management plan for the property. Counties affected: Trans-Pecos Region.

Expected Results: Would provide Trans-Pecos landowners with greater flexibility in managing mule deer on their property. However, some landowner resistance to this proposal is expected.

Desert Bighorn Sheep:

Proposal: The proposed amendment would implement a system requiring all desert bighorn sheep skulls to be plugged with a unique identifier. Counties affected: Statewide.

Expected Results: This would make Texas regulations consistent with other western states and help prevent illegal possession and transport of bighorn sheep skulls.

Rio Grande Turkey:

Proposal: The current closing date for the fall season in four South Texas counties is the last Sunday in February. The proposed amendment changes that date to the third Sunday in January. Counties affected: Brooks, Kenedy, Kleberg, and Willacy.

Expected Results: This would help protect turkeys for reproduction in counties suffering from long-term drought.

Pheasant:

1. Proposal: Current regulations provide for a pheasant season in six coastal counties. The proposed amendment closes the season in four of those counties. Counties affected: Wharton, Fort Bend, Brazoria, and Matagorda.

Expected Results: This would limit pheasant hunting along the Coast to only those counties that currently have pheasants in huntable numbers.

2. Proposal: (received via petition for rulemaking) Stated purpose is to provide more hunting opportunities in the Texas Panhandle without having a negative impact on the pheasant population . Current regulations provide for a 16-day pheasant season in 37 Panhandle counties, with a daily bag limit of three cock pheasants. The proposed amendment would implement a 30-day season and reduce the bag to two cocks. Counties affected: Armstrong, Bailey, Briscoe, Carson, Castro, Childress, Cochran, Collingsworth, Cottle, Crosby, Dallam, Deaf Smith, Donley, Floyd, Gray, Hale, Hall, Hansford, Hartley, Hemphill, Hockley, Hutchinson, Lamb, Lipscomb, Lubbock, Moore, Motley, Ochiltree, Oldham, Parmer, Potter, Randall, Roberts, Sherman, Swisher, Wheeler, and Wilbarger.

Expected Results: This would have no biological effect on the pheasant population but would result in additional days of hunting at a lower bag limit.

Lesser Prairie Chicken:

Proposal: Current regulations provide for a lesser prairie chicken season in eight Panhandle counties. The proposed amendment closes the season in those counties. Counties affected: Cochran, Hemphill, Hockley, Lipscomb, Ochiltree, Terry, Wheeler, and Yoakum.

Expected Results: Current harvest surveys indicated only 200 lesser prairie chickens are harvested annually in Texas. Staff attributes the decline in lesser prairie chicken numbers primarily to habitat loss, not hunting. However, there is currently a multi-state effort to manage the remaining lesser prairie chickens and Texas, having the most remaining chickens, is the logical source for any stocking efforts in other states. Saving the remaining chickens for brood stock is thought to be the best use of this resource. Closing the hunting season would call attention to the precipitous decline in lesser prairie chicken numbers and would avoid having hunting blamed for future declines that may occur.

Mearn’s Quail

Proposal: The proposed amendment would implement an open season for Mearn’s quail in central and west-central areas of the state and would limit the daily bag of Mearn’s quail to no more than two per day as part of an aggregate quail bag. Counties affected: Trans-Pecos and western Edwards Plateau.

Expected Results: A two-bird daily bag limit on Mearn’s quail would provide limited hunting opportunities for persons interested in taking all four species of Texas’ native quail species. This would also legalize the occasional Mearn’s quail that is taken by accident during quail hunting for other species. This proposal may be opposed by some landowners.

INLAND FISHERIES

Lost Creek (Jack County)

Proposal: Current harvest regulations for largemouth bass consist of a 16-inch minimum length limit and a five fish daily bag limit. Regulations would be changed back to the statewide 14-inch minimum length limit and five fish daily bag.

Expected Results: Decreasing the minimum length limit to 14 inches will increase the opportunity for angler harvest and possibly utilization. Evaluation with the FAST program also indicated an increase in overall yield. Tournament anglers will appreciate the change since it will make it the same as an adjoining lake, which they often use in combination for tournaments. The change will also make enforcement easier for TPWD game wardens.

Lake Waxahachie (Ellis County)

Proposal: The current harvest regulation for largemouth bass at Lake Waxahachie is a 14-18-inch slot length-limit with a five fish daily bag limit. The minimum length limit would revert back to the statewide 14-inch minimum length limit, but the five fish daily bag limit would be retained.

Expected Results: Because angling activity for largemouth bass at Lake Waxahachie is primarily during fishing tournaments, and few of the fish captured during these tournaments are retained following weigh-in, it is unlikely that exploitation will increase. However, availability of 14-to-18-inch fish for legal possession will increase the numbers of fish that anglers may retain for weigh-in. Anglers in the Waxahachie area that have been contacted have indicated their support for this regulation change.

Lakes Buchanan, Canyon, Conroe, Georgetown, Inks, Limestone, Livingston, Lyndon B. Johnson, Marble Falls, Palestine, Somerville, and Travis reservoirs, and a section of the Trinity River (various counties)

Proposal:

Current harvest regulations for white bass consist of a 12-inch minimum length limit and a 25-fish daily bag limit. Regulations would be changed back to the statewide 10-inch minimum length limit and 25 fish daily bag.

Expected Results:

Decreasing the minimum length limit to 10 inches will increase the opportunity for angler harvest and possibly increase utilization of the fishery. The change will reduce angler confusion and make enforcement easier for TPWD game wardens.

COASTAL FISHERIES

Changes in size and bag limits for spotted seatrout to increase the opportunity for catching trophy-sized fish.

Changes in the licensing criteria and bag limits on select species for fishing guides

Requiring all fish landed from Texas coastal waters to conform to Texas size and bag limits. This will primarily address a concern about excessive harvest of fish in Sabine Lake caught under Louisiana size and bag limits.


Committee Agenda Item No. 7
Presenter: Dr. Robert Brown

Regulations Committee
Future of Hunting Plan
November 2002

I. DISCUSSION: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, in partnership with a number of other conservations organizations and individuals have been evaluating the long-term future of hunting in Texas, beginning with the organization of the “Hunting Think Tank” meeting in 1998. In early 2002, the group began to move forward with a detailed analysis of the issues, opportunities, and barriers that must be considered in order to assure the future of a sport that provides over $3 billion to the state's economy. A consulting group, Group Solutions, provided expertise in guiding us through this evaluation process. Internet hunter surveys were used to identify topics for evaluation, public hearing were held around the state to further refine the issues, and two major facilitated meeting were held during June to finalize the issues. The leadership committee of the Hunting Think Tank group, chaired by Dr. Robert Brown, of Texas A&M, has prepared the final report of this endeavor. The purpose of this briefing is to provide the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission insight into the results and recommendations coming out of this initiative. Staff believe that the future of hunting can be very bright if the identified strategies are implemented by TPWD and its many conservation partners across Texas.


Committee Agenda Item No. 8
Presenter: Jerry Cooke

Regulations Committee
Chronic Wasting Disease Update
November 2002

I. DISCUSSION: Staff will apprise the Committee of the current status of efforts to determine if chronic wasting disease (CWD) is present in free-ranging or captive deer herds in the state, and will brief the Committee on the draft statewide CWD action plan developed in conjunction with the Texas Animal Health Commission and concerned stakeholders.

Attachment – 1

  1. Exhibit A – Chronic Wasting Disease Draft Action Plan

Committee Agenda Item No. 8
Exhibit A

Chronic Wasting Disease Draft Action Plan

1. Jurisdiction


2. Sampling to detect CWD

3. What happens if a CWD positive deer is recorded?

4. Contingency plans to control spread:


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