Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Regulations Committee Meeting

November 6, 2002

Commission 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
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           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

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           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

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           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?

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           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

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           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

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           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

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           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

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           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

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           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?

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           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

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           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

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           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

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           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. 

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           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

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           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

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           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

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           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

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           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

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           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.

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           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

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           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

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           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

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           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.

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           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?

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           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?

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           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

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           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

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           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

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           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

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           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,

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           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

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           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.

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           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

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           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. 

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           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

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           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

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           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. 

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           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

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           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

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           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. 

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           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?

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           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?

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           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

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           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

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           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

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           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

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           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.

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           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.

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           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,

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           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

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           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

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           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

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           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.

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           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.

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           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. 

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           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

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           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

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           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.

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           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

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           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

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           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,

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           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.

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           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

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           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.

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           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.

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           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

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           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

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           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

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           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;

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           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.

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           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.

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           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

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           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.

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           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

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           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.

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           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

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           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

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           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.

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           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

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           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.

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           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

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           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.

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           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,

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           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

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           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.

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           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.

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           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

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           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

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           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

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           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.

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           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

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           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.)

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           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

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