Congress passes Chronic Wasting Disease to expand research and management

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is an always fatal neurological disease that affects members of the deer family known as cervids, which includes white-tailed deer, mule deer, moose and elk. This horrible disease continues to spread across North America. Concerned wildlife enthusiasts should be happy to know, their U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 5608, the Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act to provide additional funding for researching and combatting CWD.

When you dig in and look at CWD management across the country, you can see the benefits or ramifications to selected styles of dealing with the disease. Take Illinois for example. CWD was discovered in Illinois in 2002, but you don’t hear a lot about the disease there. To date, they have discovered 1,165 positives from a sample size of 141,074 tested. The reason Illinois has been able to keep the disease at bay is largely because of a strong targeted surveillance program that attacks the disease where it is known to be, which requires aggressive culling. 

On the other hand, Wisconsin is a disaster. Also discovered there in 2002, CWD has spread like wildfire, because one of the worst natural resources administration decisions in modern times was to basically do nothing about the disease and let it spread. They now have CWD in over 50 counties with areas where 50 percent of bucks harvested are infected. So far in 2021, out of 6,313 deer tested in Wisconsin, 661 have been positive. Thankfully, citizens made a change in political leadership and regulation changes are being made, but that genie is going to be real tough to put back in the bottle. Other states continue to learn from Wisconsin’s mistakes. 

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation has been at the forefront of CWD legislation for years. The CSF has taken a policy lead working to develop legislation to combat Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). They have been a facilitator of experts, hunting conservation groups, wildlife science professionals, and vested stakeholders. Now, behind the leadership of Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Members Reps. Kind and Thompson who are championing H.R. 5608, they have secured a big win for wildlife. 

According to a CSF press release, the Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act will help address CWD by authorizing $70 million annually from Fiscal Year 2022 to Fiscal Year 2028 to be split evenly between CWD research and management efforts. Of this, $35 million will be dedicated annually for CWD research to develop testing methods, enhance detection efforts, better understand genetic resistance, among others. The remaining $35 million will be used for the management of CWD by prioritizing funding for state and tribal wildlife agencies that have the highest incidence of CWD, are demonstrating the most significant commitments to combatting CWD, are facing the greatest risk of new CWD cases, and more.

“CSF applauds the House for moving quickly to pass the Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act – a thoughtful, bipartisan, and meaningful piece of legislation to combat one of the most pressing wildlife conservation challenges, CWD,” said CSF President and CEO Jeff Crane. “Thanks to the leadership of Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus Members Reps. Kind and Thompson, the House passage of this bill marks the most significant progress a comprehensive piece of legislation to address this issue has made, and we encourage the Senate to quickly follow suit.”

The strong bipartisan support for this critical legislation shown in the House vote, leads us to believe the Senate will follow and move this legislation the President’s desk. He should sign it into law to protect cervids and to provide much needed resources to our wildlife managers. 

 

See you down trail…

Brandon Butler
bbutler@driftwoodoutdoors.com

Pic: Hunters wait to have their deer tested for Chronic Wasting Disease.

 

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