Chronic wasting disease containment at the state level got a necessary increase as Congress passed legislation to fund the government through the remainder of the 2022 fiscal year
With last week’s passage of omnibus legislation to fund the government, Congress has opted to make $10 million available to state wildlife agencies for CWD management through September 30, the end of the 2022 fiscal year. This is an increase of $3 million from the previous year and double the funding made available in FY 2020.
Dollars are administered by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Unfortunately, even with the increase, they won’t go as far as is needed.
In October 2021, the agency awarded 28 cooperative agreements totaling $5.7 million to state and Tribal agencies for CWD suppression. Unfortunately, 36 other proposals were left unmet, due to limited funding. Since then, CWD has been detected for the first time in Alabama, Louisiana, and Idaho. There have also been major outbreaks in wild and farmed deer in Iowa, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and Texas.
“The unchecked spread of chronic wasting disease across the United States poses an existential threat to deer hunting, which generates $40 billion in annual spending, and as the status quo on the landscape continues to worsen, the inevitable costs of managing CWD continue to balloon,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “This increase in federal funding is a positive step forward, but more work remains to be done, including securing investments in research that will make disease management more effective in the long-term.”
One state relying on the APHIS funding to support management efforts is Iowa, which received $200,000 in October 2021. The state has been aggressively testing for the disease since 2002, when CWD was first detected in nearby Wisconsin. It wasn’t until 10 years later that CWD was detected in Iowa. Since that time, the Iowa departments of Natural Resources and Agriculture have continued statewide testing and targeted harvests to manage the spread. Still, the disease has been detected in wild herds across a total of 10 counties—breaking new ground particularly in the past two years.
Many states have come to realize that the most effective strategies for addressing the spread of CWD rely on hunter and landowner participation. The Iowa DNR is using the funds to develop access agreements for hunters on private acreage within endemic zones and authorizing the harvest of an additional buck in specified management zones. Importantly, the agency will also study public perception and understanding of CWD and related management techniques to grow public support and encourage participation among the hunting and non-hunting public moving forward.
Other states are using funds to increase the availability of carcass disposal and testing sites or develop educational materials. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is researching the potential use of dogs to detect the disease in live cervids. Here’s how South Dakota used its funding in 2020.
The TRCP and its partners pushed for this additional FY22 funding to be made available through APHIS, but the hunting community is also urging decision-makers to do more.
For starters, the Senate should take up and pass the CWD Research and Management Act, which passed the House of Representatives by an overwhelming margin in late 2021. That bill would immediately authorize $35 million annually for cooperative agreements with states and Tribes, as well as an additional $35 million to support critical research into the disease. Hunters can take action in support of the bill here.
Top photo courtesy of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries via Flickr.