TPWD may suspend deer transportation

   October 13, 2002 Austin American Statesman by Mike Leggett
   	 Triple T stands for Trap, Transport and Transplant, a 
10-year-old department program whereby landowners holding a permit 
can capture deer on one ranch and release them on another, either for 
the purposes of population control or genetic enhancement. Wildlife 
Division staff members will hold public meetings this week to take 
comments before they present the proposal to Parks and Wildlife 
commissioners at their November meeting. The commission will vote on 
the proposal after reviewing public comment, and members could pull 
their punches a little. But earlier this year commissioners were 
quick to institute a ban on imports of deer and elk to try to stop 
the possible introduction of chronic wasting disease to Texas until 
testing procedures could be established. So commissioners already 
have shown they are concerned about CWD.

Plus, the vote won't come until Nov. 7, after the Nov. 5 statewide election, thus sparing Gov. Rick Perry a pre-election face-off with landowners who might be angered by the all-Republican commission's decision. That's not a scenario that should boost the confidence of landowners anxious to acquire a Triple T permit.

In addition, more than a few TPWD staff members, including field personnel dealing with landowners, have made no bones in the past about their dislike for Triple T. The usual complaints are that it's unnecessary, it's tampering with nature and it's an example of the hubris of wealthy landowners. Chronic wasting disease -- a fatal brain infection that causes deer to become disoriented and quit feeding -- is another negative being added to that list. CWD has been found in states that have exported deer to Texas, but it has never been found in Texas.

Rumors began circulating earlier this summer that the department might suspend the Triple T program in the name of the fight against chronic wasting disease. At that time, TPWD was trying to rally scientific breeders to accept a voluntary testing program for CWD while also putting the finishing touches on plans to test 2,000 to 3,000 wild deer for the disease this fall. The commission approved those procedures in August, but didn't take on the Triple T program at that time.

If the Triple T program is suspended, the fallout could be felt in Lakeway, where city leaders are scrambling to find a way to reduce the deer population. "I hate to waste all of our effort out here," said Mayor Charlie Edwards. Lakeway has moved about 1,500 deer in two years through a trapping program that sentmost of the animals to ranches in Mexico.

Edwards said Lakeway residents don't want the deer shot or captured and euthanized on the spot if it can be avoided. Edwards would rather see them moved to Texas ranches where hunters could eventually benefit from the growing herds. "We'd just like to let people know we still have deer to move if there are ranches that can receive them," he said. "We feel like there are places that could use these deer."

Edwards said the deer-population reduction that already has occurred in Lakeway reduced deer-auto accidents in the community by at least 50 percent in the past year.

But since the proposal that will go before the Parks and Wildlife commission would halt the movement of all wild deer in Texas, Lakeway's trapping program would be blocked, Cooke said. "It still depends on what the commission says," Cooke said. "They could exclude the urban deer-removal permit and let them keep capturing deer." However, the staff proposal currently calls for halting the movement of all wild deer in Texas, he said.

Scientific breeders still would be able to transport deer under the plan as long as they are meeting the requirement of their permits, Cooke said. And the Deer Management Permit, which allows landowners with high fences to capture deer and hold them for breeding purposes, also would be unaffected by the Triple T suspension.

Texas has an estimated 4 million white-tailed deer, the largest population in the country. Hunting is a billion-dollar-plus industry in this state. The department issued fewer than 100 Triple T permits in 2001, authorizing the transfer of about 4,500 deer. The actual number moved was about half that figure, according to Parks and Wildlife records.

"This is strictly about trapping them in one place and turning them loose someplace else," Cooke said. The department, he added, is concerned about the numbers of deer brought into Texas from states with documented cases of chronic wasting disease in their deer and elk herds. Some of those animals went into breeding programs, others were released into the wild, legally in actions that could put CWD-infected animals into contact with native Texas deer.

"The issue isn't whether it's legal," Cooke said. "The issue is did anything come in with them and do we want to spread it around Texas. The question is whether there is sufficient concern for making a change and the commission will have to answer that."

'Triple T' meetings

Parks and Wildlife officials will take comments about a proposal to suspend the Trap, Transport and Transplant program for deer in Texas at these meetings:

Monday, 7 p.m., La Grange, Fire station at 244 N. Franklin.

Wednesday, 7 p.m., Cotulla, district courtroom in county courthouse.

Friday, 7 p.m., Kerrville, Guadalupe Basin Nature Reserve Center, 125 Lehman, Suite 100.

Comments also may be made in writing to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, attn. Jerry Cooke, 4200 Smith School Road, Austin, TX 78744 or e-mailed to 3, 2002 The Guardian (London) by Jon Henley

The French government finally lifted its ban on British beef yesterday, ending a dispute that has soured relations between Paris and London for six years and saw France dragged before the European court of justice.

The decision came less than a fortnight after the French food safety standards agency, AFSSA, produced a report concluding that British beef imports posed "a negligible risk" of causing the human form of mad cow disease, variant Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease.

"Given these facts, the prime minister has decided to lift the embargo," the recently elected centre-right government said in a brief statement. The French agriculture minister, Herve Gaymard, said the necessary legislation would be passed "in the next few days". The environment secretary, Margaret Beckett, said she was pleased the issue was being resolved. "It has been a completely unwarranted shadow hanging over our beef industry for more than three years."

The European Union lifted the export ban on British beef in mid-1999, more than three years after it was imposed during the epidemic of mad cow disease, or BSE, that swept through the UK cattle herd.

France resisted lifting its ban, arguing that its scientific experts believed the beef still carried health risks. It continued to defy a ruling by the European court of justice that the ban was illegal and faced hefty fines of up to pounds 100,000 a day if it persisted.

David Byrne, the European health commissioner, said the decision meant "the validity of the EU scientific opinion has been vindicated". Ben Gill, president of the National Farmers' Union, said the European commission must take action to safeguard against another breach of its rulings.

"It is unacceptable that such a clearly illegal ban has been able to be imposed for this length of time," Mr Gill said. "It is equally unacceptable that the French can walk away from this disgraceful situation at the last possible moment before fines are imposed."

France said yesterday it wanted all EU member states to conduct BSE tests on cattle aged more than 24 months, the practice in France, Germany, Italy and Spain. Other countries test only animals over 30 months.

Until the EU ban in 1996 France had been Britain's biggest export market for beef.

Asked how he thought French consumers might respond to British beef's reappearance on the market, Mr Gaymard said: "We will have to see what happens. As far as I'm concerned, I'll have no problem eating it."

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