Reply Letter From Dr. Chilton
Hey there. This was the response to the form letter I posted earlier that I got back from Dr. Chilton:
Thank you for your thoughts on HB3391. We understand your concern about the potential for rejecting a plant species that does not need to be rejected. That is why all species currently on the draft rejected list are being re-evaluated.
All persons that conducted risk analyses were professional biologists or trained horticulturists. Once the initial analyses were conducted each was reviewed by botanists hired through the Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Council (an organization composed of industry, academia, governmental entities, and non-governmental entities. Additionally, biologists at Inland Fisheries Division Heart of the Hills Research Station conducted additional checks on species that had been rejected. Finally, staff utilized valid information received directly from aquarium, nursery, and aquatic gardening industries as well as academics, and information from other state and federal entities.
There is a misconception that the Texas Legislature mandated automatic approval of some species. That was not the case. The statute reads:
In adopting rules that relate to exotic aquatic plants, the department shall strive to ensure that the rules are as permissive as possible without allowing the importation or possession of plants that pose environmental, economic, or health problems.
The approved list must include an exotic aquatic plant that: (1) is widespread in this state; and (2) is not, as determined by the department, a cause of environmental, economic, or health problems.
In compiling the approved list, the department shall develop a process to evaluate the potential harm that may be caused by the importation or possession of exotic aquatic plant species into this state. The process must include the use of: (1) a risk assessment model to help determine the potential harm of a species to the aquatic environment; (2) published scientific research findings; (3) findings from regulatory agencies; or (4) scientific analyses from third-party laboratories.
Please note the Department has been instructed to be permissive, but not to allow plants that pose environmental, economic, or health problems. Further, the Department was instructed to evaluate the potential harm that could be caused by these species.
TPW staff is conducting species evaluations with reviews and re-evaluations built into the process to avoid the potential for error as much as possible. Indeed, after further evaluation some species that were previously in the “reject” category have now been moved to the “approved” category and will be recommended by staff for inclusion on the Approved List at the January TPW Commission meeting.
Again, your input is greatly appreciated.
Dr. Earl W. Chilton II
Aquatic Habitat Enhancement Program Director
TexasParks and Wildlife Department
4200 Smith School Road