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Kristyn Brady

December 23, 2022

Congress Passes Important Chronic Wasting Disease Legislation

Bipartisan support for the Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act reflects the dire need to support state efforts to control the disease and ensure the health of wild deer herds with the best possible science

Today, the Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act was approved by Congress, advancing much-needed solutions for curbing the spread of this 100-percent fatal wildlife disease. The legislation now awaits only the president’s signature, having been included in the Fiscal Year 2023 government funding deal. The bill was previously passed by the House late last year.

“As hunters, we celebrate this decisive action by our lawmakers to infuse state and Tribal agencies with the resources needed to control CWD, while investing in targeted research to create stronger disease solutions,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Both efforts are necessary to ensure the future of our wild deer herds, our continued hunting opportunities, and the strong impacts of hunter-driven conservation funding.”

A peer-reviewed report published this month found that wildlife agencies in 16 CWD-positive states spent an average of $773,000 on disease management in 2021. Currently, the federal government invests just $10 million per year in these efforts through cooperative agreements between state and Tribal agencies and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In a 2022 poll, 88 percent of American voters said they support additional federal investment in CWD management at the state level.

“The National Deer Association has been working tirelessly to increase federal support for the research and management of CWD,” says Torin Miller, senior director of policy for the NDA. “We’re celebrating the passage of the CWD Research and Management Act, and we’re incredibly grateful to Representatives Kind and Thompson and Senators Hoeven and Heinrich for their dedication and leadership on this issue. We’re looking forward to efficient and effective implementation and finding additional ways to increase federal engagement and support to combat this devastating disease.”

The CWD Research and Management Act would split $70 million annually through fiscal year 2028 on management and research priorities. This includes $35 million per year for research that would focus on:

  • Methods to effectively detect CWD in live and harvested deer and the surrounding environment
  • Best practices for reducing CWD occurrence through sustainable harvest of deer and other cervids
  • Factors contributing to spread of the disease locally, such as animal movement and scavenging

Another $35 million per year for management, including surveillance and testing, would prioritize:

  • Areas with the highest incidence of CWD
  • Areas responding to new outbreaks of CWD
  • Areas without CWD that show the greatest risk of CWD emerging
  • Jurisdictions demonstrating the greatest financial commitment to managing, monitoring, surveying, and researching CWD
  • Efforts to develop comprehensive policies and programs focused on CWD management

The bill also includes authorization for federal, state, and Tribal agencies to develop educational materials to inform the public on CWD and directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture to review its Herd Certification Program, which accredits captive deer operations as “low-risk” for CWD contamination but has proven inadequate to stem the spread of the disease.

“The captive Herd Certification Program represents an area where we still have much work to do,” says Andrew Earl, TRCP’s director of government relations. “By passing this legislation today, Congress has set us up for the next phase, in which the USDA must hold the captive deer industry accountable for its role in the rampant spread of CWD. Hunters will be pushing for the department to take a hard look at the persistent failures of the Herd Certification Program and identify specific ways to strengthen it.”

Click here for four ways Congress and the USDA can prevent captive deer from spreading CWD.

Click here for what TRCP is doing to help educate hunters and lawmakers about the threat.

2 Responses to “Congress Passes Important Chronic Wasting Disease Legislation”

  1. Michael J. Tonkovich, PhD

    I have no comment, just a question. Can you please share with me your basis for the statement, “…persistent failure of the HCP and identify specific ways to strengthen it.” As the Deer Program Administrator here in Ohio, it is important that I understand all of the issues surrounding the management of CWD. It would be helpful to know what these “persistent failures” are that you reference. Thank you in advance for your time.

    • Kristyn Brady
      Kristyn Brady

      Good question. Here’s a reply from Andrew Earl, our director of government relations and lead on our CWD work: “I’d point to rapidly declining enrollment in the Herd Certification Program and an increasing frequency of CWD detections in herds that are HCP Certified. There are also repeated instances of CWD-infected deer being moved between HCP-approved facilities under the pretense that they are CWD-free.”

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Kristyn Brady

December 2, 2022

15 Conservation Wins We’re Proud of in 2022

Our organizational and legislative successes made possible by your support

In the TRCP’s 20th year of providing a vital service to the hunting and fishing community, we’re proud to say that we haven’t lost any steam. Conservation remains an issue that creates common ground in an otherwise polarized and contentious Washington, D.C.—but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to advance policies and legislation that will benefit fish, wildlife, and America’s sportsmen and sportswomen. With a few weeks still remaining to clinch conservation victories (like these), here are our top achievements to date in 2022.

Legislative Victories

The TRCP-led MAPLand Act was signed into law to enhance recreational access on public lands by investing in modern mapping technology. Learn more about the benefits of MAPLand.

As a part of the largest climate-related investment in U.S. history, Congress doubled funding for Farm Bill conservation programs over the next four years—a $20-billion increase—while providing $4 billion to mitigate drought in the West and funding the restoration of forests, watersheds, and coasts. Here’s what you need to know about the legislation and what it will do for hunters and anglers.

The House and Senate passed the 2022 Water Resources Development Act, which includes a first-of-its-kind study, conceived of by TRCP, to evaluate natural infrastructure project effectiveness. We’re tracking the conferenced version of the bill, which could pass in an end-of-year spending package as early as next week. Here’s our full wishlist for WRDA.

With overwhelming bipartisan support, the House passed comprehensive chronic wasting disease legislation that would fund disease management and research. The Senate could vote to send this bill to the president’s desk under unanimous consent any day now. Read more about the need for more resources to manage CWD at the state level.

Big game migration routes across 8.3 million acres of public lands in Colorado will be conserved, with TRCP and partners supporting state funding for wildlife crossings in Wyoming, New Mexico, and Oregon. Take action here to support migration corridor conservation and here to support wildlife crossing projects in your state.

Chesapeake bay striper guide charter, fishing rod
Photo by Steve Droter/Chesapeake Bay Program

Legislation passed the Louisiana House to cap the industrial menhaden fishery in the state and create buffers to protect sensitive habitats along the coast. Both of these efforts would move the Gulf menhaden fishery toward ecosystem management, which is now in place along the Atlantic coast. East Coast anglers are still pushing for more consideration of menhaden, however, with more than 10,000 sportsmen, sportswomen, and local residents calling for Virginia decision-makers to move industrial menhaden fishing out of the Chesapeake Bay, a key striped bass nursery. Add your name to the petition.

The Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers began to reconsider which waters and wetlands should be protected under the Clean Water Act, with formal feedback provided by the hunting and fishing community. Check out this brief history of the Clean Water Act for how we got here.

$1.5 billion was secured for Everglades restoration to bring back natural flows and improve fish and wildlife habitat. Get to know a key restoration project that will benefit South Florida’s wetlands and estuaries.

After the administration implemented multiple recommendations from TRCP and its partners, enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program outpaced expiring contracts, resulting in a net increase of conserved acres. This legislation would boost the CRP even more.

Thought Leadership

So much of the work we do is educating lawmakers and the hunting and fishing public on conservation priorities. Through digital resources and reports this year, we shared:

Commitment to Transparency

Finally, TRCP again received top ratings by charity watchdog groups Charity Navigator, GuideStar, and the Better Business Bureau. We work hard to ensure that every dollar you give goes as far as possible for conservation, and this recognition of where we stack up against other charities is very important to us.

Given all that we’ve accomplished this year to guarantee Americans quality places to hunt and fish, we hope you’ll consider lending the TRCP your support during this season of giving. If you’re a first-time donor, SITKA Gear will match every dollar you give, and previous donors will get a match on any increase over their last gift. There’s no better time to get involved in conservation and make twice the impact.

Support Conservation Now

Kristyn Brady

November 18, 2022

32 State Wildlife Agencies Share How Much They Spend on CWD

With growing CWD costs that threaten to undermine other conservation efforts, state agencies need Congress to act in the next few weeks to better support disease management and research  

Beyond the threat it poses to hunters and wildlife, chronic wasting disease represents a growing cost to state agencies, especially during hunting season. A new peer-reviewed report published in the November/December 2022 issue of The Wildlife Professional starts to quantify these costs for the first time.

Report authors Noelle E. Thompson, of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, and J. Russ Mason, with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, found that, on average, state wildlife agencies in 16 CWD-positive states spent $773,000 annually on disease management. This includes sample collection and disposal, testing, salaries, supplies, and logistics.

The data was collected in a national survey conducted with help from the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. All 50 states were invited to participate, and 32 states were able to compile and return their data for the most recent fiscal year. Across these 32 wildlife agencies—including those in states where CWD has yet to be detected—the annual costs associated with CWD ranged from just under $8,000 (Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation) to north of $2 million (Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife), for an average of $503,000 per state.

Currently, the federal government invests just $10 million per year in CWD management through cooperative agreements between state and Tribal agencies and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Unfortunately, this doesn’t come close to addressing the urgent need on the landscape.

CWD represents the greatest threat to the future of deer hunting—should participation drop, there would be significant ripple effects on state wildlife agency budgets and local economies. The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies reported in 2017 that more than 58 percent of the collective annual budget for state wildlife agencies was generated by hunting and fishing activities. Deer hunting generated approximately $23.4 billion in overall economic activity in 2020, according to Southwick Associates. 

To date, 30 U.S. states have confirmed cases of CWD in free-ranging and/or captive cervids—12 states have joined that list in the last ten years alone.

“State wildlife agencies have identified wildlife disease, and CWD in particular, as the most important existential challenge confronting agencies in the 21st century,” write Thompson and Mason. “Many agencies remain unequipped or under-equipped to meet this challenge. New funding models that adequately support disease surveillance and management are essential in order to protect the species and habitat restoration achievements of the 20th century.”

Fortunately, Congress is poised to take action to address CWD. If passed, the Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act would triple the federal resources authorized to be made available to state agencies for CWD suppression and help scientists answer some of the many questions that remain about disease solutions.  

Hunters and conservationists are pushing for lawmakers to close the deal on this important legislative solution in the next few weeks—before the end of the 117th Congress. The bill sailed through the House late last year and was introduced by senators in April 2022.

If they can make the time, lawmakers have the overwhelming support of the public: In a 2022 poll, 88 percent of American voters said they support additional federal investment in CWD management at the state level. Take action now to send the Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act to the finish line and secure the future of our wild deer herds. 

Learn more about chronic wasting disease and what’s at stake for hunters here.

Jaclyn Higgins

October 20, 2022

10,000+ Anglers and Conservationists Support Moving Menhaden Reduction Fishing out of the Chesapeake Bay

Virginia and East Coast residents call on Governor Youngkin to protect the health of the Bay and our coastal economy

More than 10,000 anglers and conservationists from Virginia and up and down the East Coast have signed a petition asking Governor Youngkin to protect the Chesapeake Bay from the negative impacts of industrial menhaden fishing. The petition is being delivered to Youngkin and the governor-appointed members of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission to push for meaningful conservation of menhaden, a critical forage fish species.

A coalition of 11 national and 10 Virginia-based groups teamed up earlier this year to demand regulation changes that would move menhaden reduction fishing out of the Chesapeake Bay and stop wasteful fish spills from fouling the state’s beaches.

Beyond signing the far-reaching petition, Virginia residents have also been showing up to VMRC meetings all summer to make public comments about how the menhaden reduction fishery is affecting their lives. According to Virginia code, menhaden regulations can only be changed from October to December, but menhaden are still not on the VMRC agenda for its October 25 meeting.

“Over 10,000 anglers, charter captains, and Bay-area residents have spoken, and they want the menhaden reduction fishery moved out of the Bay,” says Steve Atkinson, president of the Virginia Saltwater Sportfishing Association. “We are now waiting to see just how much the governor cares about these resources.”

The recreational fishing community is concerned that years of localized depletion from the annual harvest of over 100 million pounds of menhaden in the Bay has deprived gamefish like striped bass, bluefish, and weakfish of a critical food source. Atlantic menhaden play a vital role in coastal ecosystems by serving as the base of the food chain for larger fish, marine mammals, and seabirds. Yet, millions of pounds of these valuable fish are being removed from the Chesapeake Bay and “reduced” into fish meal and oil for pet food and salmon feed by a single foreign-owned company.

Menhaden are especially critical to striped bass and make up 30 percent of the popular sportfish’s diet. The striped bass fishery is the largest marine recreational fishery in the U.S., driving $166 million in recreational fishing activity in Virginia alone. However, the economic value of striped bass fishing to Virginia has declined by over 50 percent in the past decade.

According to the latest science, menhaden reduction fishing contributes to a nearly 30-percent decline in striped bass numbers coastwide. The detrimental impact of menhaden reduction fishing on the marine environment is so pronounced that it is outlawed in every other East Coast state. However, in Virginia, a single foreign-owned fishing company—Cooke Inc., locally known as Omega Protein—is still allowed to harvest over 100 million pounds of menhaden each year from the most important striped bass nursery on the East Coast, undermining the sportfishing economy and small businesses throughout the Commonwealth.

Omega boats have caused multiple Eastern Shore fish spills in 2022 alone, resulting in the waste of 12,000 pounds of red drum bycatch, but Virginia continues to allow this unsustainable practice. Virginia residents and East Coasters who vacation and recreate in the Bay are fed up.

“I am trying to give the residents who live on the Eastern Shore, as well as the guests and tourists who come to visit, a chance to let their voices be heard to express their disappointment and disapproval of menhaden reduction fishing,” says Christi Medice, an Eastern Shore resident who has gone door to door with a paper version of the petition. “This has given me the opportunity to talk to people about their concerns around dead fish washing up on the various beaches. I have over 1,500 signatures and am still getting more.”

An online petition hosted by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and promoted by local groups, including VSSA, has garnered an additional 8,900 signatures since June 2022. A policy change on industrial menhaden harvest near shore would serve both anglers and tourism businesses, while still allowing Omega to operate in deeper waters.

“Ninety-nine percent of inshore and near-shore gamefish depend on bunker at some point in their lifecycle,” says Captain Tyler Nunn, owner of Tidewater Charters. “Especially for the apex predators like striped bass, red drum, and cobia that my charter business and many businesses around the Bay depend on, the importance of menhaden is immeasurable. No one has seen the potential of the Bay with a healthier forage base. It would make magnitudes of difference in the sportfishing industry and the Bay’s ecosystem if we left more bait in the water.”

“When will decision-makers answer the many questions that have been raised about this company’s activities and choose the side of recreational fishing and coastal economic growth?” asks Jaclyn Higgins, forage fish associate at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “It is necessary to implement commonsense regulations until the science demonstrates that menhaden fishing can be allowed without negatively affecting the broader Bay ecosystem.”

Click here to see the petition that fishing and boating groups have been circulating since June.

Click here for the coalition’s letter to Youngkin in June.

Click here for the letter from Virginia and East Coast businesses to Youngkin in September.

Andrew Earl

October 6, 2022

New Poll Finds Overwhelming Support for Better CWD Management

88% of Americans polled support additional federal investments in chronic wasting disease management and surveillance 

One of the greatest challenges we face in addressing the spread of chronic wasting disease is communicating urgency around such a complex issue that affects people in so many ways. Hunters and non-hunters, the old and the young, and rural folks and city dwellers all have something at stake when it comes to this disease’s impact on wildlife and the outdoors. 

Now, we know a little more about Americans’ breadth of understanding of the CWD threat and how much support there is for solutions. 

In a recent poll of 800 random voters from across the U.S., an overwhelming 94 percent said that the presence of wildlife was important to their quality of life, and 92 percent believe wildlife is important to their state’s economy. It’s no surprise, then, that hunters and non-hunters strongly support action on CWD:  

  • 88 percent support additional federal investment in CWD management at the state level. 
  • 93 percent support increasing the disease detection standards required of captive cervid operations if they are to be accredited as “low-risk” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. 
  • 90 percent support limiting the movement of live, captive deer between facilities to lower the possibility of disease spread—and half of this group said they strongly support such action. 

In total, 96 percent of respondents support their states taking action to curb the spread of CWD across the landscape.  

The poll was conducted on behalf of the TRCP and National Deer Association. Both organizations have been working for years to educate the public about the impacts of chronic wasting disease on deer, give hunters the tools to prevent CWD transmission, and alert lawmakers to the fact that the rampant spread of CWD threatens the future of wild deer and deer hunting in North America. 

Currently, the federal government sends $10 million in funding to state and Tribal agencies for CWD management through cooperative agreements with the USDA each year, and invests $2 million annually in CWD research at the National Wildlife Research Center. Unfortunately, this doesn’t come close to addressing the urgent need on the landscape. The CWD Research and Management Act, if passed by the Senate this year, would increase the overall investment to $70 million annually through fiscal year 2028 and evenly split funding between CWD management and research priorities.  

Increasing these oversubscribed funds is the most immediate way that Congress can impact disease spread on the landscape. But the Biden Administration should also look at these poll findings and realize that it is time to examine and reform the existing Herd Certification Program for captive deer operations. Participation in the voluntary HCP continues to slide, and the disease is being detected more and more often at certified facilities. Without action, the problem’s scope and cost of associated solutions will only increase. 

Learn more about chronic wasting disease and our poll by visiting TRCP’s new online resource for all things CWD 

HOW YOU CAN HELP

CONSERVATION WORKS FOR AMERICA

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.

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