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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.”
In 2018, TRCP and National Deer Alliance rallied more than 1,000 hunters to call both for updates to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s standards for responding to CWD outbreaks in captive herds and for the Department to take meaningful steps to curb the spread of the disease. The TRCP also joined 29 conservation groups in asking Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to allow the hunting public more time to comment on its proposed CWD program standards.
Companion legislation is expected to be introduced in the Senate in the coming weeks.
Photo courtesy of Bill Sincavage.
TRCP leads effort to support permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and 42 other organizations are urging Senate leadership to immediately vote on a bipartisan agreement to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund and improve outdoor recreation opportunities.
The group of hunting, fishing, wildlife conservation, and outdoor recreation organizations points to the overwhelmingly bipartisan support for this historic public lands legislation (S.47) in both the House and Senate.
“The momentum and support for this package remains widespread across a variety of public lands stakeholders, and urgent consideration of the package in the new Congress is well warranted,” the organizations wrote. “It is thoroughly bipartisan in nature and broad in scope, and passage of this package would be a historical step forward for public lands and conservation.”
U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) negotiated the legislation last Congress and received a commitment to bring the bill to the Senate floor for a vote in the 116th Congress.
The group notes passage of this bill is critical, “so that future generations of Americans can enjoy our public lands, waterways, and the wildlife that inhabit them for years to come.”
Photo courtesy of BLM and Bob Wick.
It’s up to hunters to comply with new regulations on moving deer carcasses and using mineral lures—but it’s worth it to stop the spread of CWD
The Boone & Crockett Club, North America’s oldest wildlife and habitat conservation organization founded by Theodore Roosevelt himself, recently made a bold recommendation to end all human-assisted live transport of deer and elk. Based on the most recent science, B&C said this is absolutely necessary to prevent unknowingly relocating animals infected with chronic wasting disease. Without a practical test for CWD in live animals, the risk is just too great, especially when you consider the rapid spread of the disease in recent years.
CWD has made headline news in the past 12 months—either because the disease has spread or because new regulations are being rolled out to slow the epidemic. We recently counted seven states where chronic wasting disease has deepened its grip since the fall 2018 opener. And we collected news stories from 25 states in the past year that have asked hunters or deer farms to follow new rules meant to control the disease.
Here’s what this means for your hunting.
The recent wave of enhanced regulations leaves only a few states without some kind of official ban on transporting deer carcasses. If moving live deer and elk is too great a risk, many hunters probably recognize that we move just as many dead deer before testing them for CWD.
As a result, 16 states have made recent changes to prevent hunters from bringing home parts of deer harvested in CWD-positive states—or anywhere outside state lines. For a full look at import bans across the country see the map below.
For example, in Oklahoma, where hunters contribute $680 million annually to the state’s economy, the Department of Wildlife has proposed new rules dealing with the import, transportation, or possession of deer carcasses and live deer. The state is surrounded by CWD-positive areas in Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, and Arkansas.
The Carolinas now have strict guidelines on which parts of deer, moose, and elk can be brought home. Their neighbor Tennessee discovered its first CWD-positive deer in 2018.
And Kentucky recently expanded its ban on deer imports to include all U.S. states—regardless of whether CWD has been detected there. Policies like this often link strongly to two factors: the long “incubation” period of the disease and the general lack of research on all the ways it spreads.
At issue are the “high-risk” parts of the deer, which house the animal’s central nervous system. This is where CWD prions would be highly concentrated. Some states, like Kansas, have opted to educate hunters and urge them not to transport anything but deboned meat, cleaned skulls, finished taxidermy, or tanned hides—but stop short of regulating the practice.
Now it’s on sportsmen and women to step up on our own.
Hunters voluntarily submitting deer samples has been the backbone of many CWD surveillance efforts for years. The disease has become such a concern, though, that some states have implemented mandatory testing in vulnerable or infected areas. In designated areas, hunters are required to submit a high-risk part, like the lymph nodes, for testing by the state wildlife agency.
This is part of what Indiana is preparing to do in the event that CWD spreads from either Illinois or Michigan. Mandatory testing and culling deer in infected areas are key parts of the state’s CWD response plan. But those measures, especially mass culling, comes with a steep price: The economic impact of lost hunting opportunities is a major concern for the state’s $15.7-billion outdoor recreation industry.
With wildlife managers still gathering samples in Tennessee’s new outbreak area, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has expanded its surveillance efforts. More harvested deer are being sampled and tested in counties bordering Mississippi and Tenn, but there have been no positive cases of CWD in Alabama, so far.
Deer farm restrictions are being considered by more states as the managers of our wild herds work to keep the captive deer industry accountable. Minnesota, New York, Tennessee, and Wisconsin all took up proposals or instituted new restrictions on captive deer farms in 2018.
In Minnesota, legislation has been proposed that would increase the containment requirements for captive deer farms. They are likely looking at neighboring Wisconsin, a stronghold for both the disease and the deer farming industry, and hoping to avoid the same fate.
After the year CWD has had, sportsmen and women should expect that this disease will change the way we hunt. But there’s still time to adapt to relatively small concessions—whether it’s mandatory testing, restrictions on certain lures, or extra time in the woods to prepare your harvested animal for safe transport—to help control this epidemic.
The stakes are high, and how we respond could mean the difference between carrying on our deer hunting traditions and watching the decline of our wild deer herds.
Top photo by Michigan DNR via flickr
Virginia should do the right thing and let experts guide the future of bunker
Hunting and fishing traditions have deep roots in Virginia—residents have a constitutional right to hunt, and more than 800,000 anglers a year turn out to fish the same waters that George Washington did. But Virginia is also the only state along the Eastern Seaboard that still allows the commercial reduction fishing of Atlantic menhaden, a critical forage fish.
The last holdout of an antiquated fishing industry, reduction fishing of menhaden—or bunker, as you’ll often hear them called on docks around the Chesapeake—involves the harvest of billions of tiny fish that are then reduced to meal and oil for use in a variety of applications, from food for farmed salmon to cosmetics.
There may be many uses for menhaden outside the water, but their real economic and ecological value comes from keeping them in the water.
Atlantic menhaden comprise the very foundation of a diverse ecosystem, which includes some of the most popular gamefish species in the world. From a fisheries management standpoint, it doesn’t get any simpler than this: Fewer menhaden in the water means fewer striped bass, bluefish, cobia, redfish, and weakfish. And that means the potential collapse of a recreational fishing economy worth far more than any reduction fishery.
However, as the sea fog recedes, it becomes clear why Virginia allows this practice to continue.
The commonwealth manages menhaden not through its science-based Virginia Marine Resources Commission, but rather through its state legislature. It begs the question, if the commission is good enough to manage all the other marine fish stocks in the state, both recreational and commercial, why isn’t it being permitted to do its job when it comes to menhaden?
It’s clear to us that Virginia should not allow this reduction fishery to continue while risking the future of the state’s recreational fishing economy. State legislatures are no place to manage species, and if the Marine Resources Commission is good enough to manage striped bass, they ought to be managing what stripers eat, too.
Science should always guide fisheries management decisions to the greatest extent possible. It’s not realistic to take the politics out of the equation completely, but the state of Virginia needs to stop letting politics be the only guiding force in the management of menhaden.
In the last two years, policymakers have committed to significant investments in conservation, infrastructure, and reversing climate change. Hunters and anglers continue to be vocal about the opportunity to create conservation jobs, restore habitat, and boost fish and wildlife populations. Support solutions now.Learn More