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TPWD Commission Meeting - Testimony: Patrick Tarlton, TDA Executive Director

November 5, 2015

Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Meeting
Public Testimony – Interim Chronic Wasting Disease Response Rules
Patrick Tarlton, TDA Executive Director
Thursday, November 5, 2015

Good afternoon Chairman Friedken and commission members.  My name is Patrick Tarlton and I am the Executive Director of the Texas Deer Association. On behalf of our membership, I am testifying today in opposition to the adoption of the Interim CWD Response Rules.

For the past decade, deer ranchers in this state have led the way in CWD testing. No one is more committed to mitigating, controlling, and finding the source of CWD than deer ranchers in this state. Our very livelihoods depend on it. 

The Rules currently governing our industry were created in response to a perceived emergency that we now know does not exist. Animal Health Commission and Parks and Wildlife staff have gained a wealth of information which they did not have at the time of creation and implementation of these Emergency Rules. The “abundance of caution” upon which these Rules were created must be balanced with the facts before us.

Sampling of the high risk deer at the index herd yielded four positive results in a single cohort and pen of breeder deer.  Conclusive test results on the remainder of the index herd have all come back non-detected. The single positive test result outside of the index herd can be easily correlated back to the same pen and cohort at the index herd facility. Through the use of the robust and innovative TWIMS system, we have identified, contained, and managed this incident of CWD in Texas. The system worked. There is no emergency.

Texas deer ranchers have euthanized and tested more than 800 healthy deer since July 1st. The absence of any additional positive test results in this large sample size significantly narrows the potential impact of this CWD incident on both the wild and captive herds. The statistical significance of non-detected results should immediately alter the dynamics of the rules governing our industry moving forward.

This significant increase in CWD testing required by deer breeder facilities should allow the Department to forego testing on Class II release sites without impacting the important function of the Department to contain the spread of CWD in this incident. This immediate relief would equalize testing for thousands of landowners across the state that are completely unconnected to CWD Tier One facilities.  The current testing and surveillance on Class II release sites required by these Emergency Rules are significantly damaging our industry.

I would ask you, Mr. Chairman, to give this matter prolonged consideration. You do not have to adopt these rules as written today. Making them permanent would only validate decisions that were made in haste, with limited information, based on a completely different set of facts than exist today. 

Regulators and industry must work together to make certain we are balancing private property rights, economic impacts, and disease management.  The deer industry in Texas is in dire need of a permitting process that provides regulatory certainty while maintaining a climate conducive to business growth.

We know these challenges lie ahead. The Texas Deer Association is committed to working alongside regulators to achieve fair and balanced rules that take into account the economic livelihood of our essential rural Texas industry.

Thank you for your time, and I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.