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TPWD Begins Annual Hunting and Fishing Regulatory Process
AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Parks and Wildlife Department staff briefed the Regulations Committee of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Nov. 4 on possible changes designed to increase recreational opportunity and further enhance the state’s fish and wildlife resources.
Unlike last year’s regulatory cycle, where wildlife officials made sweeping changes to white-tailed deer seasons and bag limits, the current slate of potential changes is fairly slim. Additional proposals could arise in the next couple of months and a complete suite of staff recommendations will be presented during the Jan. 27, 2010 Commission Regulations Committee meeting.
According to TPWD big game program director Clayton Wolf, following last year’s extensive changes hunters shouldn’t anticipate substantive alterations to deer season for at least a couple of years.
The Wildlife Division is considering a recommendation to implement an open general season for mule deer in Dawson and Wheeler counties. Under current rule, there is no open season for mule deer in Dawson or Wheeler counties. Implementing a nine-day, buck-only season in Dawson County and a 16-day, buck-only season in Wheeler County would offer increased hunter opportunity without adversely impacting mule deer reproduction or distribution. The literature suggests that the implementation of a buck-only season will not have any measurable impact on herd productivity or expansion; however, a measurable change in the age structure of bucks is anticipated as a result of harvest pressure on a previously unhunted population.
On the fishing side, last year saw landmark changes in regulations for harvesting alligator gar and flounder. The Inland and Coastal Fisheries Divisions in collaboration with Law Enforcement are considering changes to regulations on reporting requirements for commercial fishing and on the clarification of language on possession of harvested fish. The department is also exploring removing regulations governing commercial fishing that are currently interspersed within regulations regarding recreational fishing. The commercial fishing regulations would be placed within a separate document.
The Coastal Fisheries Division will also be obtaining public input regarding a potential regulation change to lower the minimum size limit for snook.
The annual regulatory review process begins each year after resource assessments are made by biologists. In addition, the divisions work with law enforcement to ensure enforceability for the game laws each year, as well as considering independent recommendations received from various stakeholder groups throughout the year. During this scoping portion of the process, TPWD gathers public input and weighs the biological implications of each issue before presenting the commission with a set of proposed regulation changes on Jan. 27, 2010. Additional discourse is sought during special public meetings in the spring, and the commission at its April 1, 2010 meeting determines the final regulation changes.
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