J ust as the deadline for this issue hit, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Commission approved a set of regulations pertaining to chronic wasting disease (CWD) and deer management.
CWD and its related regulations have been extremely controversial among Texas’s deer industry and the latest regulations have spawned a variety of opinions in recent years.
Among the provisions adopted by the commission include a suite of options to attain artificial deer movement qualified status through a multilevel system of ante-mortem (“live”) and post-mortem deer testing for CWD. Key changes to the rules include:
• Establishing a minimum level of post-mortem testing in deer breeding facilities at 80 percent
• Providing an opportunity for all captive deer breeders to test-up to Transfer Category 1 (TC1) status through 50 percent ante-mortem testing of their entire herd (a proposed May 15, 2017, testing deadline was eliminated from the rules) and breeders may choose their preferred ante-mortem testing means (rectal, lymph nodes, tonsillar etc.).
• Clarification that the 5-year, 80 percent eligible mortality testing requirement to realize TC1 status may be obtained through testing a 5-year average of annual mortalities and deer breeders may use a 3:1 ratio to substitute live tests for post-mortem tests to meet required testing thresholds.
• Property owners may request to expand release sites, provided release site requirements apply to the expanded acreage.
• Elimination of testing requirements on Trap, Transfer and Transplant (Triple T) release sites.
The rules take effect upon completion of programming modifications to the Texas Wildlife Information Management System (TWIMS), but no later than August 15 and apply to the movement of deer under TPWD permits, including Triple T, DMP (deer management permit), TTP (trap, transport and process) and deer breeder.
“This is bigger than the interests of one group and it’s not about choosing winners or losers,” said TPWD Commission chairman T. Dan Friedkin.
“The fundamental issue is how best to protect our state’s deer herds from a deadly disease,” Friedkin said. “The overwhelming amount of interest this issue has generated illustrates just how passionate Texans are about deer and our deer hunting heritage. The actions taken by the commission today are the result of extensive deliberation with input from all stakeholders, and I applaud the many individuals and groups from all over the state who took the time and effort to remain engaged in the process until the end.”
Conservation Groups Have taken varying stances on the issue. For example is the official position of the Exotic Wildlife Association that “We oppose the rules approved by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Commission on Monday, June 20th. After months of negotiating through stakeholder groups, the voice of the deer breeding industry was not heard. A clear and simple path for breeders to stay in business was offered by industry and replaced by an onerous and very complex set of rules that will make staying in business so expensive and confusing that the deer breeding industry will be severely impacted.”
The Texas Wildlife Association (TWA) said their mission is “to serve Texas wildlife and its habitat, while protecting property rights, our hunting heritage, and the conservation efforts of those who value and steward wildlife resources.” They support the changes.
“We upheld that mission in our support of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission as they approved an amended set of rules for artificial movement of deer by permit as part of the state’s chronic wasting disease (CWD) management plan.
“The approved rules provide continued protection against CWD, which poses a legitimate threat to the biological, ecological and financial health of wildlife populations and to the vibrant wildlife economies in Texas.”
They noted support for the rules came in from Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society, South Texans’ Property Rights Association, Texas Agricultural Land Trust, Boone and Crockett Club, Texas Audubon Society, and Hill Country Alliance, among others.
In an article at tpr.org, Representative Lyle Larson, a Republican from San Antonio decried the regulations.
“Parks and Wildlife definitely needs to have some legislative oversight,” Larson said. “They passed these rules outside the legislature, and I think you will see a number of bills that try to protect private property rights and protect the deer industry. It’s a billion dollar industry in the State of Texas.”
Larson said he’s pleased the new deer regulations include a “live” test for the disease, but, he says “the test is expensive. So for those ranchers who cannot afford the test they will have to continue to kill off sections of their herd in order to stay compliant with the state directive.”
We will have much more on this issue as it unfolds. It will have virtually no impact on the average hunter immediately but it will impact those involved in deer breeding.
The bigger issue at play is CWD itself, as well as the aforementioned property rights that has already gotten the attention of a legislator.
You will see both sides of the issue addressed at fishgame.com in the coming weeks and in-depth stories here in the magazine.
Email Chester Moore at [email protected]