Charlie Booher

July 13, 2018

What in the World Is a CWD Prion?

The key to understanding the threat of Chronic Wasting Disease is learning more about the particles that cause it

My home in Wisconsin is less than 20 miles away from the detection site of the first case of Chronic Wasting Disease east of the Mississippi River in 2002. Michigan State University, where I attend school, is within the same proximity of the first detected case in the state of Michigan. It is safe to say that this disease has been in my backyard for most of my life.

As the disease spreads across the country, more and more hunters are finding CWD in their backyards too. And while its name is increasingly familiar among sportsmen and women, CWD still remains a source of confusion for many, much of which pertains to the small particles that cause it, known as prions. Although we commonly associate transmissible diseases with viruses and bacteria, prions are neither. Nor are they Fungi. They are not even alive.

So just what are these things, how do they spread, and why should we be worried about them?

Prions 101

The term “prion” is derived from “proteinaceous infectious particle,” and it was coined in 1982 by Stanley B. Prusiner of the University Of California San Francisco. In the United States, it is commonly pronounced PREE-on, while in the U.K. it is usually said PRY-on.

In short, prions are malformed proteins. Like other proteins, they are made up of complex chains of amino acids and exist in the membranes of many normal cells. Many forms of prions are not harmful, but certain prions can be highly destructive when they accumulate in the brain or other nervous tissues of an organism.

As prions do not have their own genetic information, they cannot reproduce independently, like bacteria, or through a host cell, like a virus. Prion molecules are dangerous because they “reproduce” by denaturing the normal proteins that are in close proximity to them. This process both facilitates the spread of the disease through the body and can cause the degradation of nervous tissue.

Modeled structure of a prion, by Jawahar Swaminathan and MSD staff at the European Bioinformatics Institute
How They Kill

Prion-caused diseases, CWD among them, form holes in the brains of affected organisms and are known as Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies, or TSEs—a very technical name for diseases that affects the brain (Encephalo = brain; pathy = disorder) by causing nervous tissue to become porous (spongiform = sponge-like), and can be spread from one individual to another (transmissible). These neurodegenerative disorders exhibit a comparatively long incubation period, are fatal in all circumstances, and include “Mad Cow” disease in bovid species, scrapie in sheep, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans.

Because they are not alive, prions cannot be killed. The collection of amino acid molecules comprising a prion must be chemically denatured to lose their detrimental capabilities. As a result, prions are incredibly resilient to change–exposure of up to 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit will not deform the proteins—and can remain in a given environment for long periods of time.

In a deer infected with the disease, prions may be found in diverse body fluids and tissues, but particularly those relating to the nervous system. Bodily contact, urine, feces, and saliva can all serve as transmission vectors. In addition, a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggests that prions can also be present in and spread through environmental vectors, including soil columns and waterways.

Chronic Wasting Disease sample sorting, photo courtesy of USFWS
The Big Picture Threat

It is important to consider the epidemiology of CWD when comparing it to other threats against whitetail herds. Due to the nature of this disease, it can take years of prion buildup for a deer to exhibit symptoms of CWD such as weight loss, stumbling, lethargy, and other neurological conditions, whereas viral diseases like EHD (Epizootic hemorrhagic disease) can be evident after only seven days. This is one reason why hunters do not often find heaps of deer carcasses in the field from CWD, but see mass die-offs from EHD more often. However, this does not mean that CWD is not harmful. In fact, this feature makes CWD more insidious because it is more difficult to detect early infections.

While there has never been a recorded case of cervid-human transmission, the Center for Disease Control advises against eating meat from infected individuals. As early as 1997, the World Health Organization recommended that known agents of prion diseases be kept out of the food chain. Recent research suggests that CWD could be transmissible to primates, but this has only been studied on Cynomolgus Macaques and was a single, limited study.

The nature of this disease, especially the rapid transmission and longevity of prions, makes CWD the biggest threat to herds of whitetail, mule deer, elk, and moose populations. If hunters and conservationists hope to successfully combat this disease, it will be important to support wildlife professionals and scientists in their research efforts to learn more about prions and how to appropriately address their effect.

To learn more about Chronic Wasting Disease, visit the CWD Alliance.

 

Top photo courtesy of USFWS Midwest

7 Responses to “What in the World Is a CWD Prion?”

  1. Yeah, years ago in the 1990’s I was performing timber survey’s in Public Forest the Apache/Sitgreaves N.F., and I was close to a cow-elk and she was kinda’ spinning herself in cicles and shaking her head. She was concerned for me and my close proximity to her but not too much. That was when I first was introduced to this CWD. Thanks for your informative research report you provided, ya’ll do excellent work.

  2. UNLESS STATES REQUIRE CWD CHECKS ON ALL HARVESTED, FARM RAISED, OR ON PRESERVES ETC. CWD WILL NOT EVEN BE SLOWED DOWN. I STILL CAN’T BELIEVE COLORADO DOES NOT REQUIRE CHECKS ON ALL HARVESTED ELK AND DEER. SEEMS TO ME THEY HAVE NOT HELPED MUCH AT ALL TO CURTAIL THIS DISEASE!

  3. Sounds as though it would be extremely difficult to eliminate these denatured proteins from the environment. I suspect the answer more logically involves finding a way to make the affected cervids “immune” from the effects of the prion much the same as humans (currently) are. And much better if that immunity could then be passed along to offspring of immune parents. I may not be a fan of genetic manipulation but it may have a place here. C’mon whiz kids put my college tuition money to use.

  4. ”Bodily contact, urine, feces, and saliva can all serve as transmission vectors.”
    Maybe deer should be dispersed from areas of high contact and concentration.
    Like every federal refuge where hunting is not allowed.

  5. My concern is if a hunter harvests a deer with CWD and it appears healthy, he consumes the deer, is this a danger to to his health? Is there any danger to consuming a deer that has just come in contact with these prions? Will this lead to no one wanting to hunt deer?

  6. Ian Courts

    Wolves are the natural cure for CWD infections. They can detect affected deer long before the disease is evident to humans. Where there are wolves the herds remain healthy.

Do you have any thoughts on this post?

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Kristyn Brady

July 11, 2018

Landmark Fisheries Reform Takes Major Step Toward Becoming Law

House passes major federal fisheries management reauthorization bill with provisions of the Modern Fish Act, which would help recognize the value of recreational fishing and update data collection methods

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 200, a bipartisan bill that includes the Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2017 (Modern Fish Act). This historic vote marks the first time the priorities of the recreational fishing sector are included in the reauthorization of our nation’s primary marine fisheries law, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

The provisions of the Modern Fish Act (H.R. 2023) were included in H.R. 200 by the House Committee on Natural Resources on December 13, 2017. H.R. 200 is sponsored by Representative Don Young (R-Alaska) and cosponsored by Reps. Garret Graves (R-La.); Brian Babin (R-Texas); Clay Higgins (R-La.); Gene Green (D-Texas); Robert Wittman (R-Va.); Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.); Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.); Steve King (R-Iowa); Marc Veasey (D-Texas); Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), and Austin Scott (R-Ga.).

“Marine recreational fishing is not a partisan issue, which was illustrated by the support H.R. 200 received from both parties today in the House,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Sportfishing Policy. “We owe great thanks to Chairman Rob Bishop, Congressmen Don Young, Garret Graves, Gene Green and Marc Veasey for working together to properly recognize recreational fishing within the Magnuson-Stevens Act. These bipartisan leaders have made the difference for anglers from coast to coast.”

In 2014, the priorities of the recreational fishing and boating community were identified and presented to federal policy makers by the Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Management in a report “A Vision for Managing America’s Saltwater Recreational Fisheries.” This group is also referred to as the Morris-Deal Commission, named for co-chairs Johnny Morris, founder and CEO of Bass Pro Shops, and Scott Deal, president of Maverick Boat Group.

Many of the recommendations of the Morris-Deal Commission are addressed by the Modern Fish Act and included in H.R. 200. This legislation addresses many of the challenges faced by recreational anglers, including allowing alternative management tools for recreational fishing, reexamining fisheries allocations and improving recreational data collection. The bill aims to benefit fishing access and conservation by incorporating modern management approaches, science and technology to guide decision-making.

“The recreational fishing industry is grateful that H.R. 200, which includes the provisions of the Modern Fish Act, has now passed the U.S. House of Representatives,” said Glenn Hughes, president of the American Sportfishing Association. “The Modern Fish Act represents the collective priorities of the recreational fishing community for improving federal marine fisheries management. There are 11 million saltwater anglers in the U.S. who have a $63 billion economic impact annually and generate 440,000 jobs. This legislation will help ensure that the economic, conservation and social values of saltwater recreational fishing will continue well into the future.”

“We applaud the U.S. House of Representatives for passing commonsense legislation modernizing the federal fisheries management system, which will provide America’s recreational anglers and boaters reasonable and responsible access to public marine resources,” said Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association. “The recreational boating industry calls on the U.S. Senate to pick up the baton, and immediately take up and pass S.1520, the Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2017 (Modern Fish Act). Millions of Americans are counting on it.”

“We are grateful to our champions from both sides of the aisle in the House for recognizing the needs of recreational anglers and advancing this important fisheries management reform,” said Patrick Murray, president of Coastal Conservation Association. “This is truly a watershed moment for anglers in our never-ending quest to ensure the health and conservation of our marine resources and anglers’ access to them.”

“We thank the House Leadership, Congressman Young and the leaders of the House Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus for their leadership in finding bipartisan solutions to move the bill forward,” said Jeff Crane, president of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. “The provisions of the Modern Fish Act contained in H.R. 200 are a top priority for saltwater anglers across the United States and charts a clear course for effective recreational fisheries management while ensuring abundant, sustainable fisheries for future generations.”

“We are on our way to pragmatic Magnuson-Stevens Act reform that will allow better access to rebuilt fish stocks while ensuring long-term sustainability,” said Jim Donofrio, president of the Recreational Fishing Alliance.

“Passing these provisions of the Modern Fish Act means taking the next important step in recognizing the cultural value of recreational fishing and conservation contributions of American anglers,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We will continue to work with our sportfishing partners to engage with senators and see to it that the Modern Fish Act becomes law—it is critical if we hope to see saltwater anglers benefit from the advances in fisheries science, data collection, and management at the heart of this important legislation.”

Following today’s vote, the coalition encourages the Senate to quickly pass S. 1520. Marine recreational anglers and boaters are eager to see these landmark reforms signed into law.

Kristyn Brady

June 21, 2018

House Passes Farm Bill with Some Positives for Habitat and Access, Troubling Outlook for Conservation Funding

Big wins for the hunting and fishing community are undercut by unacceptable provisions that sap long-term conservation funding and threaten headwaters, forests, and wetlands

Today the House of Representatives passed its 2018 Farm Bill, “The Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018,” with a 213-211 vote. While there are some positive provisions for conservation and sportsmen’s access in the bill—the single largest source of federal conservation funding—it also includes a number of provisions that would undercut long-term conservation benefits to headwaters, forests, and wetlands.

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is especially pleased to see a 25-percent increase for the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program. As the only federal program aimed at opening private land to public access, VPA-HIP is a valuable tool for increasing hunting and fishing access to sportsmen and women across the country. The funding increase provided by the House bill is a much needed step towards meeting the $150 million required to meet landowner demand for the program. To date, this successful program has opened more than 950,000 acres of private land to the public for hunting and fishing across 30 states.

But this boost for hunting and fishing access is somewhat overshadowed by the long-term cuts to conservation funding in the bill. Unmet demand for Farm Bill conservation programs is at an all-time high, and sportsmen and women believe Congress should provide increased conservation funding to meet farmer and rancher demand. Also of concern is the inclusion of an amendment which seeks to repeal the Clean Water Rule, which protects our nation’s most vulnerable waterways.

“The proposed $795 million cuts to conservation would constitute a major disservice to all taxpayers—not just hunters and anglers—whose support for agriculture should not come at the cost of clean water and healthy soil,” says Whit Fosburgh, TRCP’s president and CEO. “The Farm Bill ensures that fish and wildlife continue to thrive in and around private lands while boosting hunting and fishing opportunities and the economic health of rural America. Especially since the House bill includes many of our community’s recommendations, we would have liked to see it move forward without short-sighted funding provisions or the handful of unacceptable amendments—like a repeal of the rule that clarifies Clean Water Act protections for headwater streams and wetlands and forestry provisions that would weaken the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act.”

Other positive provisions overshadowed by cuts to conservation include:

  • $250 million in additional funding for the Agriculture Conservation Easement Program, which incentivizes landowners to conserve agricultural land and wetlands.
  • An additional $3 billion per year for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which helps landowners plan, install, or maintain practices that enhance water quality and wildlife habitat or reduce soil erosion and sedimentation.
  • Increased flexibility and $250 million per year for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, which supports partnerships between conservation groups and agricultural producers to enhance soil, water, and wildlife conservation in multi-state or watershed-scale projects.
  • Maintains conservation compliance—the compact between America’s taxpayers and landowners that ensures support for crop production does not come at the cost of clean water and wildlife habitat.
  • An amendment from Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Penn.) that would prioritize USDA research on controlling the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease in deer.

Should the Senate follow suit and successfully pass their bill in the coming weeks, the TRCP and its Agriculture and Wildlife Working Group will work to ensure the best provisions of each chamber’s proposal are included in the final legislation.

 

Photo courtesy of Northwoods Collective. 

Kristyn Brady

June 14, 2018

TRCP and National Deer Alliance Join Forces Against Chronic Wasting Disease

Together the organizations will lead the sportsmen’s community in advocating for policies to slow the spread of chronic wasting disease

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and National Deer Alliance are proud to announce they have formally joined forces to fight the spread of chronic wasting disease and secure the future of deer hunting and conservation funding in America.

“CWD represents the most significant threat to deer, elk and moose today, and its spread can have a profound impact on the way we manage all wildlife in the country,” says Nick Pinizzotto, president and CEO of the National Deer Alliance. “I’m proud to be working with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, and I’m thankful for its leadership on this critical issue. This partnership will allow us to make an ever bigger impact with Congress and key federal agencies, which will help ensure a bright future for deer and hunters across the country.”

According to the most recent survey published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 80 percent of all hunters pursue big game, and these sportsmen and women contribute heavily to conservation through the purchase of licenses and payment of federal excise taxes that fund state management of wildlife. Hunters spent $25.6 billion in 2016 on trips, licenses, and equipment, sustaining outdoor recreation jobs and small businesses.

Uncertainty about CWD and possible loss of hunting opportunities could irreparably alter the strength of the hunting industry, local economies in deer hunting destinations, and conservation funds for all of North America.

Nick Pinizzotto, president and CEO of the National Deer Alliance, and Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of TRCP.

“TRCP’s mission is to guarantee all Americans quality places to hunt and fish, which means quality habitat, healthy wildlife populations, and abundant access to facilitate our best days afield—the fight to curb CWD underscores all of these efforts,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

“This epidemic is a significant threat to the deer herds of North America and, therefore, to the future of conservation funding in the United States and deer hunting as we know it. By throwing our lot in with the National Deer Alliance, one of our most active and invested partners working on CWD, we have pledged to use our strengths as an organization to advance strategic, science-based policies and guidelines to slow the spread of the disease.”

Among the partners’ priorities is to bring together leaders from hunting and conservation communities to collaborate on an action plan for stemming the spread of CWD and securing robust federal funding for disease research and detection.

In April and May 2018, the Archery Trade Association, National Wildlife Federation, Quality Deer Management Association, and Wildlife Management Institute joined the TRCP and NDA in driving individual comments from sportsmen and women to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service as the agency considered changes to CWD regulations for deer farms.

More than 1,000 hunters called for APHIS to take real and meaningful steps to strengthen standards, rather than allow the captive deer industry to write its own rules. And 29 groups signed a joint letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue on April 12.

Learn more about these efforts here.

Kim Jensen

by:

posted in: Outdoor Economy

May 31, 2018

This State Has One-Third of the Country’s Abandoned Mines (and It’s Bad News for Fish)

Abandoned mines have harmful effects on water quality and fish habitat across the country, but lawmakers can make it easier for volunteers to shoulder some of the cleanup effort without taking on big risks

Coal mining may be a major part of Pennsylvania’s cultural history, but groups like Trout Unlimited are concerned that abandoned mines could threaten the future of some of the state’s most popular trout streams.

Here are the numbers: There are roughly 500,000 abandoned mines across the country—46,000 of these are on public lands—where heavy metals and acidic runoff cause water quality issues on approximately 110,000 stream miles. With 20 percent of these waters serving as habitat for native trout or salmon, this should be of national concern to anglers.

But the backlog of abandoned mines really hits home in the Keystone State, where one-third of all derelict mining operations in the U.S. are located. As of 2006, this left the state with approximately 4,000 miles of streams that were essentially devoid of all aquatic life, according to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

The good news is that elected officials have an opportunity to let well-intentioned groups and volunteers get in on the daunting task of cleaning up the mess, with legislation that would remove a major hurdle.

Shamokin Creek looking upstream in Shamokin, Pennsylvania
A New Endgame

These days, before a coal mine commences operations, a plan is created for its eventual shutdown—even if that may be decades down the road. Mining companies have to figure out how they will dispose of leftover waste and complete a full cleanup, but this wasn’t always the case.

While some states started regulating the coal industry in the 1930s and 1940s, the federal government didn’t begin regulating active coal mining until 1977. At that time, Congress passed the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act to address concerns about the environmental effects of roughly two centuries of mining in the United States.

It used to be that businesses would simply pack up and leave when mines were no longer productive, forcing the surrounding community to deal with the negative repercussions on water resources and the local economy. In many cases, these abandoned mines were “orphaned,” meaning that the government cannot find the original mine owner, which puts taxpayers on the hook for the cleanup. The surface mining legislation of the 70s required that mining companies abide by a set of environmental standards and create plans for the reclamation of land after mining was complete.

Photo by Steve Droter/Chesapeake Bay Program via flickr
The Cost for Fish and Water Quality

People who live near abandoned mine sites can be exposed to serious health hazards from the toxic runoff, so it’s easy to see how bad this can be for fish. Sediment runoff can carry contaminated silt and debris downstream, clogging waterways and altering river flows that keep water at a steady temperature for coldwater fish. Highly acidic waters that come out of abandoned coal mines can decimate fish populations and make some streams completely uninhabitable for any aquatic life, including food sources important to fish we love to catch.

Some of the Pennsylvania’s severely impaired streams are dangerously close to highly productive fisheries. For example, the headwaters of Kettle Creek are Class A wild trout waters popular with fly fishermen, but fifteen miles of the main stem were virtually lifeless by the 1950s because of past mining activity.

That’s where Trout Unlimited stepped in to help. They partnered with Kettle Creek Watershed Association in 1998 to install passive treatment systems that help normalize highly acidic water and, utilizing traditional remediation techniques, they’ve been able to clean up almost the entire creek, which has reopened fishing access in places like Twomile Run.

But even well-intentioned groups like TU have to overcome two major hurdles to help with cleanup efforts that are critical to ensuring that the next generation has quality places to hunt and fish.

Sulfur in the ground.
Here’s the Rub

The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act also created a means of paying for the cleanup of abandoned mines by assessing a small fee on every ton of coal produced. Since the creation of this trust fund, more than $5 billion has been distributed to states in the form of grants to help clean up abandoned mining lands.

But funding for this program expires in 2021. It might not seem urgent, but the last reauthorization took nearly a decade, and opponents of the trust fund are already advocating for the immediate end of the program and fees on the production of coal.

Even if we secure this important funding, there’s an urgent need for “Good Samaritan” legislation that will allow non-federal entities, like TU, to help clean up abandoned mine sites.

Under current legislation, if a nonprofit steps in to help clean up an abandoned mine site, they are legally liable for any issues with the site in perpetuity, even if they had no prior connection to the project. This limits the opportunities for volunteer groups or organizations to shoulder some of the burden of cleaning up and helping to restore fish and wildlife habitat for the next generation, because they cannot take on the incredible risks.

Pennsylvania has provided reasonable liability protection for groups that want to help clean up abandoned mines, and many organizations have stepped up. We’re supportive of TU’s efforts to educate sportsmen and women about Good Samaritan legislation and the ongoing risks abandoned mines pose to fish, wildlife, and clean water in Pennsylvania and across the country.

Watch their video to learn more.

 

First and last photo by Peter and Laila via flickr

HOW YOU CAN HELP

WHAT WILL FEWER HUNTERS MEAN FOR CONSERVATION?

The precipitous drop in hunter participation should be a call to action for all sportsmen and women, because it will have a significant ripple effect on key conservation funding models.

Learn More
Subscribe

You have Successfully Subscribed!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

You have Successfully Subscribed!