Don’t Let Chronic Wasting Disease Kill Conservation

ALL hunters should speak up to help stop the spread of CWD

Back when I ran a state deer program, I came to know CWD – the acronym for Chronic Wasting Disease – to also stand for Career Wasting Disease. I don’t recall where I first heard it, but I saw plenty enough evidence for this reference to stick in my mind. Wildlife managers found their attention and budgets consumed by CWD in every state where it was discovered. Managing habitat, conducting wildlife surveys, and engaging with the public on any topic OTHER than CWD all struggled to compete for time and resources. Why? Because wildlife agencies everywhere are fully aware that the emergence and spread of this always fatal deer disease presents an incredible threat to wildlife management in the United States.

In modern times, deer hunting is the backbone of our system of wildlife management. Hunting overall is made more broadly relevant by the 9.2 million Americans that participate in deer hunting each year, contributing more than $20 billion in economic activity, state and local taxes, and wildlife restoration trust fund excise taxes. This significance demands the immediate and strong actions that agencies have taken in response to emerging infections as the potential impacts of CWD on deer populations have become better understood.

An even better approach to the threats of CWD is preventing it from emerging in wild deer populations in the first place. For just one more week – until May 30, 2018 – you have an opportunity to speak up and help make that happen. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the United States Department of Agriculture is taking public comments on its Chronic Wasting Disease Herd Certification Program Standards. These are the rules that dictate how deer farms contain, move, and monitor their privately owned deer, to keep healthy deer healthy and sick deer contained and managed. These Program Standards have serious implications for the threat level these operations represent to wild deer populations, and therefore the future of our hunting heritage and system of wildlife management. The easiest way you can add your voice in support of sensible measures to minimize future problems is to make use of a tool provided by our friends at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP). The TRCP website (http://www.trcp.org) will feature the “Controlling Chronic Wasting Disease” call to action while this comment period remains open. You can use this tool to add your name to a letter calling APHIS to take more aggressive steps to address the growing issue of CWD.

Most grouse and woodcock hunters also hunt deer. Even if you don’t, you need deer hunters to continue contributing conservation funding, supporting local businesses, and exposing the ever-increasing non-hunting public to the benefits of sustaining our sporting traditions, and healthy, sustainable deer populations are critical for those outcomes. The Ruffed Grouse Society and American Woodcock Society will add our voice as an organization to this opportunity to provide input, but strong unity will be demonstrated if more individuals of varying interests speak up. It’s worth your time to do so now, for the interests of your brothers and sisters in deer hunting, for your own good, and for the benefit of our wildlife resources overall. If Chronic Wasting Disease or Career Wasting Disease don’t scare you into taking action, Conservation Wasting Disease certainly should.

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