WASHINGTON – Last week, Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith (both D-MN) joined a group of their colleagues to introduce bipartisan legislation to support both the research and management of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). CWD is a fatal neurological illness that impacts members of the deer family. Since its discovery in the 1960s, CWD has spread geographically.
The bill, led by Senators John Hoeven (R-ND) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) would authorize $70 million per year, split evenly between these dual purposes. The USDA would administer the funds through cooperative agreements with state and tribal wildlife agencies and agriculture departments.
The legislation, The Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act, also includes an authorization for USDA and state and tribal agencies to develop educational materials to inform the public on CWD and directs USDA to review its herd certification program (HCP) within 18 months.
“Chronic Wasting Disease poses a serious threat to our state’s deer and elk populations and we need a stronger understanding of how to address and prevent this fatal illness. This bipartisan legislation will help bolster research into surveillance, prevention and management practices, ensuring that we have the most effective tools in place to combat this highly contagious disease,” said Klobuchar.
“Chronic Wasting Disease is a serious threat to the health of deer, elk and other animals—some of which are important food resources in communities,” Smith said. “This bill would help support states and tribes research, address, and prevent spread of the disease. This bill has broad support, and hopefully can start addressing the threats that CWD plays to our wild and farmed deer.”
Specifically, the legislation authorizes funds for the following priorities:
- Methods to effectively detect CWD in live cervids and the environment.
- Testing methods for non-live cervids.
- Genetic resistance to CWD.
- Sustainable cervid harvest management practices to reduce CWD occurrence.
- Factors contributing to local emergence of CWD.
- Areas with the highest incidence of CWD.
- Jurisdictions demonstrating the greatest financial commitment to managing, monitoring, surveying and researching chronic CWD.
- Efforts to develop comprehensive CWD management policies and programs.
- Areas showing the greatest risk of an initial occurrence of CWD.
- Areas responding to new outbreaks of CWD.
In addition to Senators Klobuchar and Smith, the legislation is cosponsored by Senators John Hoeven (R-ND), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M), Steve Daines (R-MT), Jon Tester (D-MT), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), and Cory Booker (D-NJ).
“CWD is a growing threat to both wildlife and livestock, impacting sportsmen, ranchers and the local ecology of regions across the U.S.,” said Hoeven, “Our legislation would empower state and tribal governments to better manage and prevent outbreaks of this deadly disease, while also advancing new methods for detecting CWD and limiting its spread.”
“Chronic wasting disease is a direct threat to the wildlife that New Mexicans cherish, particularly deer and elk,” said Heinrich. “That’s why I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation so that we can invest in much-needed research and mitigation. Together we can protect these species and our unique way of life.”
“By threatening Montana wildlife and ecosystems, chronic wasting disease also threatens our sportsmen legacy and outdoor way of life,” Daines said. “My bipartisan bill will support Montana’s ongoing efforts to research, manage, and contain the spread of chronic wasting disease among wildlife populations.”
“The spread of chronic wasting disease, which has a presence in Mississippi, is a major cause for concern. We must dedicate more resources to understanding all we can about the cause, spread, management and control of this always-fatal disease,” Hyde-Smith said. “I am pleased to support Senator Hoeven’s legislation to give the USDA more resources to focus on this problem.”
“In order to protect Montana’s outdoor recreation economy and pristine wildlife, we have to get a handle on Chronic Wasting Disease,” said Tester. “With cases rising in Montana, it’s critical that the state and Tribes have the necessary resources to research and manage CWD so that we can keep our state safe for years to come.”
The CWD Research and Management Act is supported by the following organizations: the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP), National Wildlife Federation (NWF), Boone & Crockett, National Deer Association (NDA), North American Deer Farmers Association (NADeFA), Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) and the Mule Deer Foundation. Click here for statements of support.
Click here for the full text of the bill.