New Video Arms Hunters with Must-Have Skill to Combat the Spread of CWD
Featuring MeatEater’s Rinella and Putelis, the how-to on deboning a deer in the field helps hunters adhere to new regulations and avoid transporting parts of deer carcasses that could carry chronic wasting disease
The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership joins several of the nation’s other leading conservation and hunting organizations in launching a new how-to video on deboning a deer in the field. This helps to prevent bringing home parts of the carcass that could carry chronic wasting disease.
Arming hunters with this information and preventing the transportation of certain deer parts that can contain CWD prions—including the brain, spinal cord, lymph nodes, and spleen—is a critical part of the overall strategy behind stopping the spread of this 100-percent fatal disease in deer, elk, and moose. Many states have recently implemented restrictions on the importation of harvested deer bones and soft tissue as part of a CWD response plan.
“Hunters want to be part of CWD solutions and we’re already being asked, in some cases, to change the way we hunt so as not to perpetuate what is already a rapidly growing epidemic in our wild deer herds,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the TRCP. “That’s why we thought it was important to put this resource out there and make the direct connection between the simple act of deboning your deer in the field and slowing the spread of chronic wasting disease. It’s not much to ask when you consider that the future of deer hunting is at stake.”
The 9-minute educational video was produced by the team at MeatEater, features Steven Rinella and Janis Putelis, and has the support of the National Deer Alliance, Mule Deer Foundation, Quality Deer Management Association, Archery Trade Association, and National Shooting Sports Foundation.
“We’re grateful for the expertise of the MeatEater team and the support of our partners, who will help carry this message to millions of deer hunters across the country,” says Fosburgh.
The TRCP is also asking sportsmen and women to support federal investments in CWD research and testing, to help states respond to this disease. Take action here.
Four Conservation Priorities That Need Lawmakers’ Attention After Recess
When Congress returns from about a month spent with in-state constituents, the clock will be ticking on these spending bills and conservation policies we need to get across the finish line
You might be picturing lawmakers on a five-week vacation, but the annual August recess is time that senators and representatives spend meeting with their constituents and visiting with leaders in their communities. Ideally, they also find some time to enjoy the outdoors and experience what we all value so much as sportsmen and women.
Of course, we hope they’re thinking about the legislative to-do list for when they return in September, because the timeline grows short for several critical conservation items that must be addressed to benefit fish, wildlife, and habitat. Here’s what we need Congress to move on before the end of the year or, in some cases, within weeks of their return to Capitol Hill.
Settle Up on Spending
A familiar debate awaits when Congress returns to Washington: writing and passing all the required appropriations, or annual spending, bills. Now that both the House and Senate have reached a two-year, bipartisan budget deal they must pass appropriations bills for Fiscal Year 2020, which starts on October 1. This means that Congress must find a way to fund the government for the next year before the end of September, or they risk another government shutdown.
The House’s spending measures passed earlier this summer include landmark wins for conservation including strong investments in—and in some cases new funding for—Farm Bill conservation programs, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, chronic wasting disease surveillance and research, and critical infrastructure projects from the Everglades to the Front Range.
The ball is now in the Senate’s court to support conservation in their own appropriations bills and send it all to the president’s desk. What happens if they don’t? The government shuts down while they agree on a deal or lawmakers can give themselves an extension by passing what’s known as a continuing resolution. CRs keep money flowing at previously agreed upon funding levels, but they prevent new funding going to something like CWD research that has never been done before.
State departments of transportation, wildlife biologists, and conservationists have been urging Congress to provide dedicated funding for crossings to restore and improve habitat connectivity within migration corridors and reduce deadly wildlife-vehicle collisions where animals are often found crossing roads.
This also marks the first time that climate change language has been included in a highway bill. As written, the legislation creates a grant program called PROTECT to prioritize natural infrastructure solutions as roads and bridges are being planned, which would help to restore and improve ecosystem conditions around passenger roads.
All in all, senators on the committee have been trailblazers for conservation in the next iteration of the highway bill. Now, it’s on the House to get the job done.
In fact, the House can do even more for conservation in its forthcoming version of the bill by increasing funding for the Federal Lands Transportation Program, which supports the ongoing maintenance of passenger roads through public lands. Carrying on the chronic underfunding of U.S. Forest Service roads through FLTP will contribute to an already colossal deferred maintenance backlog on these important public lands.
Modernize the Pittman-Robertson Act
The TRCP and our conservation partners have been leading the charge to update a vital source of funding for state fish and wildlife agency conservation efforts—the Pittman-Robertson Act. Right now, the fund created from excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment can’t be used to help recruit, retain, and reactivate (R3) hunters.
It’s time for that to change.
Congress has already updated the policy for fishing-related spending to give state agencies the ability to recruit new anglers. And this has likely helped to drive the recent bump in fishing participation and a more than 36-percent increase in spending on fishing equipment, which in turn creates an increase in funding for conservation.
It’s time for Congress to modernize Pittman-Robertson and allow similar outreach campaigns for hunters. Before the recess began, the Senate introduced S. 2092, a companion bill to the House’s H.R. 877. These bipartisan bills, aptly titled the Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act, are essential to help fund, preserve, and grow our rich heritage of hunting.
Last Congress, a similar measure passed unanimously out of the House but did not make the end-of-year finish line. Now that the legislation has been introduced in both chambers, passage of this long-overdue legislation is a no-brainer. It’s a bipartisan success story waiting to happen.
Reviving These Fish Bills
From the Gulf to the Great Plains, there’s a lot happening this summer that affects our fisheries and the anglers who enjoy them, including pending legislation that deserves a vote without further delay.
The National Fish Habitat Through Partnerships Act—H.R. 1747 in the House and S. 754 in the Senate—would permanently authorize and provide funding for one of the nation’s best tools to protect and restore fish habitat across the nation. Comprised of 20 individual partnerships that advocate for regionally specific projects, this model has been effective for years but still limps from authorization to authorization, depending on the whims of Congress.
But legislation introduced in both chambers is vote-ready and can end this vicious cycle.
Another easy win would be passing legislation to conserve forage fish, which support all the sportfish we love to pursue. Numerous pressures, including changing ocean conditions and overfishing by commercial interests, have led to a decline in forage fish populations, which could shorten or even end recreational fishing seasons for the predators that rely on these baitfish.
Bipartisan legislation in the House, the Forage Fish Conservation Act (H.R. 2236), aims to ensure that forage fish remain in the marine food web by introducing a variety of commonsense, science-based provisions into existing management plans. These include creating a national, science-based definition for forage fish in federal waters, accounting for predator needs, assessing the impact of commercial fisheries on marine ecosystems before authorization, and requiring that managers consider forage fish when establishing research priorities.
Anglers are dependent on forage fish to keep our fisheries healthy and we are, in turn, depending on Congress to act now on this major conservation priority.
A Challenging Timeline
Numerous conservation-wins-in-waiting are ready for congressional action once lawmakers return to Capitol Hill. Though the most pressing demand for legislators will be drafting and passing appropriations bills that strengthen our nation’s investment in conservation, we need to turn their attention to other measures that preserve wildlife, improve habitat connectivity, and ensure the future of our hunting traditions.
After the spending deadline has passed, the 2020 election will take a lot of the air out of the room, and we need to clinch these victories before that happens.
House Approves Investments in Chronic Wasting Disease Research
After sportsmen and women urged Congress to invest in solutions, spending bill contains new funding dedicated to combatting CWD in wild deer
A House spending bill for federal agriculture, interior, and environmental agencies (H.R. 3305) has passed with amendments that create new dedicated fundingto research, test for, and battle chronic wasting disease, a fatal disease discovered in deer and elk populations across more than half the U.S.
Led by Representatives Veasey, Gosar, Kind, and Abraham, an amendment to the House’s Agriculture Appropriations bill will send $15 million to the states to combat the spread of chronic wasting disease in wild deer.
“Chronic wasting disease is a dangerous and contagious condition affecting deer, elk, and moose in 26 states and over 250 counties,”said Representative Marc Veasey (D-Texas).“The disease spreads to new counties and states every year, threatening our wild deer populations rises. State fish and wildlife agencies are doing their best to combat the spread of this disease with the limited resources they have, but they need more support from the federal government to ramp up their efforts and effectively respond to both new and ongoing outbreaks in wild deer populations. That’s why I introduced a bipartisan amendment to dedicate new resources in the fight to contain and eventually eradicate the disease. My amendment designates an additional $12 million to be sent to state fish and wildlife agencies, bringing the total to $15 million, and I was glad to see the it adopted by the House of Representatives.”
Reps. Gosar and Abraham successfully introduced a second amendment that will direct $1.72 million to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to research chronic wasting disease and improve the effectiveness of testing methods.
“Research into chronic wasting disease and enhanced testing methods will help give hunters the confidence they need to continue to harvest wild deer, elk, and moose,” said Representative Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) “I look forward to continuing to address threats posed by CWD in order to conserve resources for sportsmen and protect America’s hunting traditions.”
Together, these amendments allocate a total of $16.72 million to fighting CWD in wild deer. It’s the first time that some portion offunding for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, which maintains a certification program for captive deer operations that take precautions against CWD, could be used to benefit wild deer herds.
“This is a major milestone in our effort to combat CWD and preserve our hunting traditions,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of TRCP. “This new funding will support states in their efforts to keep deer herds healthy.We want to thank House appropriators for taking this first step, and we urge the Senate to prioritize these investments, as well, so Congress can pass legislation that tackles this epidemic head–on.”
The Senate has yet to release its version of the appropriations bill.
This news comes on the heels of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s advocacy push to include increased resources for responding to CWD in the Agriculture Appropriations bill. The TRCP has rallied more than 1,500 sportsmen and women to contact their lawmakers and ask for these investments.
Take action and urge senators to include these investments in their appropriations bills.
What Is Chronic Wasting Disease and How Does it Kill Deer and Elk?
The key to understanding the threat of CWD 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 this confusion 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?
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.
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.
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.
TRCP Backs Bill to Help Combat Chronic Wasting Disease
U.S. Representatives Ralph Abraham and Marc Veasey introduce bill in new Congress to help protect hunting economy.
U.S. Representatives Ralph Abraham (R-La.) and Marc Veasey (D-Texas) are introducing legislation to help combat the spread of chronic wasting disease among deer, elk, and moose populations across the United States.
The bill directs the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Interior to study how chronic wasting disease (CWD) is transmitted, how quickly it spreads among a given population, and how easily it infects individual animals. With CWD now present in 26 states, this legislation will provide critical information to guide future wildlife management decisions.
“Chronic wasting disease threatens America’s hunting tradition and our nation’s model for funding conservation,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “This legislation will provide solid scientific data so we can attack this disease head-on and protect deer herds across our nation. We want to thank Representatives Abraham and Veasey for their leadership and look forward to advancing this bill in the new Congress.”