Guest Blogger Tom Landwehr

October 7, 2020

House Leaders Should Demand Action from USDA on Chronic Wasting Disease

Hunters need lawmakers to address USDA’s failure to invest in effective deer disease solutions

Long before COVID-19 emerged, Minnesota’s deer hunters and wildlife enthusiasts had been worried about an epidemic that threatens some of our most iconic wildlife species and important outdoor traditions.

Of course, I’m talking about chronic wasting disease. It too has the ability to alter the fabric of our lives, and it deserves our attention.

The best way to end the spread of CWD – a wildlife disease with no known cure that is 100-percent fatal and threatens Minnesota’s whitetail deer and moose – is to stop the movement of potentially infected animals, whether they are alive or dead. Deer hunters now have a comprehensive set of rules to abide by as they harvest deer and transport carcasses around the state. The state has also taken steps to slow the movement of live captive animals that are especially well-suited to spread the disease.

But while the regulation of wild deer and deer hunters falls entirely to the Minnesota DNR, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Minnesota’s Board of Animal Health, retain the authority to regulate captive deer raised by deer farmers. An agency at the USDA, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, is tasked with the job of ensuring that potentially CWD-infected live deer aren’t being moved across the landscape.

It is a job they aren’t doing particularly well. APHIS uses what they call the Herd Certification Program, an utterly toothless (and strictly voluntary) method for keeping captive deer herds “low-risk.” But the facts tell a different story when each and every year, so-called “low-risk herds” still manage to transport CWD-positive deer across state lines.

What’s more, only a fraction of deer farmers even participate. When it comes to stopping the movement of CWD-infected deer, the Herd Certification Program is about as porous as a screen door on a Northwoods hunting cabin.

This year, Congress set aside funding for APHIS to help state wildlife agencies invest in better CWD management. But that money has been diverted and is in part being used to fund the research priorities of the captive deer industry – research of no benefit to wild deer or deer hunters.

Despite the national–indeed, global–scope of chronic wasting disease, exceedingly little federal money seems poised to make it to the ground where it would matter most.

Fortunately, Congressman Collin Peterson is in a fine position to help Minnesota’s wild deer and deer hunters. As an avid sportsman, Mr. Peterson understands just how important a healthy deer herd is to Minnesota, and as chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, he is uniquely capable of ensuring that the USDA doesn’t remain asleep at the switch.

Chairman Peterson could help ensure a healthy future for Minnesota’s deer and deer hunters by holding an oversight hearing to take a hard look at the persistent failures of the Herd Certification Program and identify specific ways to strengthen it. Deer hunters from across the state encourage Congressman Peterson to use this authority, and hunters across the country stand ready to help, as well.

Tom Landwehr is a concerned deer hunter, lifelong conservationist, and past commissioner of the Minnesota DNR. He currently serves as the executive director of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters.

This guest blog was originally published in the September 16, 2020 edition of Outdoor News – Minnesota. Subscribers can find that here. Top photo by Christa R. via flickr.

 

Sign the TRCP’s open letter to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and demand the transparent and effective use of CWD funding.

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>

Andrew Earl

August 13, 2020

Millions in CWD Funding Intended for States Is Going to Captive Deer Operators

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.

Millions Misspent?

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.

TAKE ACTION >

Kristyn Brady

August 7, 2020

Decision on Chronic Wasting Disease Management Zones in Mississippi Shows Power of Hunting Community

Sportsmen and women were a crucial part of defeating an uninformed effort to weaken disease response

In a complete reversal, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks Commission recently voted to table discussion of altering the state’s chronic wasting disease management zones, focus areas where wildlife officials are responding to the rapid spread of this fatal disease in wild deer.

Even if you never plan to hunt in Mississippi, this is a win for you and all deer hunters. Here’s why: In May 2020, the Commission had already decided to proceed with changes that could have undermined the battle against CWD transmission. But the outcry from the hunting community—in state and across the country—made them reexamine the move and hold another vote.

The TRCP joined more than a dozen organizations representing millions of hunters, conservationists, and wildlife professionals in urging these decision-makers to follow national best practices and maintain the current structure of the state’s CWD Management Zones. Supplemental feeding of wild deer is banned in these areas, where CWD-positive animals have been identified, to prevent concentrating groups of deer that could then transmit the disease far and wide.

Thousands of individual sportsmen and women also commented on the Commission’s move to shrink these zones and change management tactics—which have been recommended by MDWFP biologists and follow the guidance of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies—within.

Advancing chronic wasting disease solutions will take prolonged effort, and some battles—for increased investments, better science, and more coordination—began years ago. It’s encouraging to see at least one example of our voices making a tangible difference in a matter of months.

The lesson: Keep taking action and speaking out for fish, wildlife, and habitat. Decision-makers are listening.

Marnee Banks

July 9, 2020

Preliminary Data Shows How Much Outdoor Recreation Economy Has Been Affected by COVID-19

As part of any economic recovery effort, Congress must invest in conservation that puts Americans back to work

On our social media channels, we’ve shared plenty of news stories that highlight the enthusiastic use of public lands and even an uptick in fishing participation during this pandemic. But, of course, it’s not all good news.

The Outdoor Recreation Roundtable recently released results from a national survey of its members, and the findings make a compelling case for why lawmakers need to invest in conservation to put Americans back to work.

According to respondents from 20 national outdoor recreation trade associations representing businesses with nearly 2 million employees, 89 percent of businesses are experiencing difficulty with production and distribution. A troubling 79 percent of these businesses have laid off or furloughed a portion of their workforce. And 89 percent of these businesses are experiencing a decrease in sales.

And the outdoor sector isn’t the only one feeling the pinch. The leisure and hospitality industry has been hammered the hardest, with a loss of 7 million jobs between March and May. More than 2 million engineers and temporary workers in construction and professional services were sent home since COVID hit.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is posting monthly updates on these numbers, and even with new gains in June, these statistics are deeply concerning as businesses struggle to stay afloat and families grapple with how to pay their bills. That’s why we are calling on Congress to pass economic recovery legislation that invests in shovel-ready conservation projects and modern-day conservation jobs that put our economy back on track AND improve habitat for fish and wildlife.

These jobs will help to paint a brighter economic picture than what we are seeing today. Imagine people in hardhats building highway crossings for wildlife, engineers and technical experts designing resilient and efficient water systems for the Colorado River and Mississippi River Basins, loggers helping to actively manage our forests, and heavy equipment operators preparing the ground for wetland restoration.

When Congress pivots to drafting economic recovery legislation, we want to put Americans back to work restoring our wetlands and forests, improving our coasts and waterways, and rebuilding the crumbling pieces of our outdoor recreation infrastructure.

As hunters and anglers, we need these investments in conservation so we can continue to enjoy our outdoor activities. As Americans, we need these investments because we need to put our nation back to work.

Help us show that sportsmen and women are ready to help Congress take the next step. Take action and tell lawmakers that Conservation Works for America.

 

Cory Deal

by:

posted in: Outdoor Economy

June 22, 2020

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!