Help us push back and demand transparency—not to mention results for wild deer—from decision-makers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture
Here’s an important topic to bring up at deer camp this year: Hunters were handed a win when Congress recently set aside funding to address the rampant spread of chronic wasting disease—that other epidemic that sportsmen and women know well by now. But the agency tasked with distributing the funds to state agencies has already carved out nearly a third of the total pot for the captive deer industry.
The TRCP is pushing back on this questionable use of funds and other moves that will undermine results for our wild deer. And we need your help.
For years, sportsmen and women have called on lawmakers to take meaningful federal action to control CWD among our wild deer, elk, and moose populations. In 2020, Congress responded by appropriating $5 million to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to send directly to state wildlife and agricultural departments tasked with responding to the disease.
Instead, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is funneling $1.5 million of that funding to individual captive deer operations that have had to eliminate CWD-positive animals. These indemnification payments aid businesses that have unfortunately already been part of the CWD problem and don’t address the continued strain placed on state agencies scrambling to manage the spread of the disease.
APHIS has made it clear that they place a higher value on the $4-billion captive deer industry than on hunters who generate $40 billion each year and contribute to conservation.
In a recent stakeholder meeting to determine how CWD funds would be spent, the captive side outnumbered sportsmen’s groups two to one. (We know this because TRCP was invited to contribute, along with the Boone & Crockett Club, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, National Deer Alliance, and the Wildlife Management Institute.) As a result, the conversations and resulting recommendations repeatedly skewed away from our priorities.
It gets worse: The service’s voluntary Herd Certification Program, which certifies that these businesses adhere to best practices for preventing disease transmission, does not effectively guarantee that a herd is CWD-free. Despite this, APHIS continues to allow the movement of captive herds across state lines, facilitating further spread of the disease.
What You Can Do
As sportsmen and women, we refuse to be undervalued or ignored. But based on what we’ve seen in this decision-making process, we need to be twice as loud to get the attention of APHIS, or else congressional funding for CWD will make no measurable impact for our wild deer herds.
For APHIS to do right by hunters and wild deer, we need to see the agency do the following:
- Spend appropriated funds in a way that effectively addresses the spread of CWD in captive and wild cervid populations.
- Listen to hunter voices, address our priorities, and be transparent about decision-making.
- Update the Herd Certification Program to prevent the transmission of CWD across state lines and hold captive deer operators accountable.
- Improve coordination with other state and federal partners working to contain the disease.
The TRCP is also pushing for a congressional review of APHIS’s appropriation spending, but in the meantime we need your help to demand the above changes.
Support the future of deer hunting and push back against misuse of CWD response funding by signing our open letter to the USDA.