Scoping Meeting Etiquette

Public scoping meetings are part of the process used by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department when considering revisions to fishing and hunting regulations. Revisions often become necessary, and for a variety of reasons. Chief among these are rapidly increasing human population, habitat decline, and growth in user participation. Sometimes anglers and hunters seek the ear of policy makers for regulatory changes that might improve the average quality and size of fish and game harvested.

The way the system works here in Texas, the agency is directed by a commission appointed by the governor, that establishes fishing and hunting regs, among other duties. Commission members are briefed on a range of facts by agency division staff on topics being considered, and part of the fact-finding is reaching out to users for comment and opinion before actually creating or revising existing regs.

In this column last month I provided a heads-up that spotted seatrout and flounder regulations were back in the crosshairs for possible regulation changes. I urged readers to attend a scoping meeting in their region to gain understanding of management options and also to express their opinions. I hope you were able to attend, if not, you can still send comment to [email protected]

Not all government agencies operate this way I say we should feel very lucky and blessed that TPWD does.

I have attended perhaps a dozen or more public scoping meetings when fishing regs were on the agenda and there has been a prevalent and disappointing theme.

Without fail a handful of individuals, for reasons I do not understand, evidently feel it their duty to dominate the discussion and put forth their best effort to derail the proceedings.

Why must they be so rude; talking over other attendees and repeating themselves until it makes you cringe? Why must they argue with TPWD staff during data presentations? Hey – it's OK if you disagree. But damn it, wait for the comment period.

Maybe we need a traffic light system like they use at TPWD commission hearings. Attendees wishing to address the commissioners are required to sign in before the meeting and they are allotted three minutes to speak. Upon reaching the podium a green light comes on and remains until the two-and-a-half minute mark when it turns yellow, the cue to wrap it up. At three minutes the light turns red and the mike goes dead.

Everybody gets the same chance and everybody follows the same rules. Now wouldn't that be a pleasant change?