Bipartisan legislation aimed at combating the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) within the deer population was recently reintroduced by Rep. Ralph Abraham (R., La.)
The bill, H.R. 837, calls for the secretaries of agriculture and interior to partner with the National Academies of Science to study and identify the ways CWD is transmitted among wild, captive and farmed cervids (deer, caribou, elk and moose).
There is currently no live test for CWD, nor is there a cure. The only treatment for its spread is the complete depopulation of a deer herd if an animal is infected. It is not known whether the disease can spread to non-cervid wildlife, livestock or humans.
CWD has been found in at least 25 states, including Mississippi, Texas and Arkansas.
“CWD can have a devastating effect on deer populations and, possibly, other animals. Mississippi confirmed new cases just last week, and I am concerned that it will eventually spread to Louisiana,” said Dr. Abraham, a former veterinarian. “My bill will bring the brightest minds in the country together to provide a comprehensive study that will help us understand how it spreads. It will be the first step in eradicating this disease and saving our wildlife.”
The bill has 10 original co-sponsors: Reps. Glenn Thompson (R., Pa.), Paul Gosar (R., Ariz.), Tom Emmer (R., Minn.), Marc Veasey (D., Texas), Garret Graves (R., La.), Trent Kelly (R., Miss.), Greg Gianforte (R., Mont.), Mike Kelly (R., Pa.), Steve King (R., Iowa) and Sean Duffy (R., Wis.).
Outdoor groups are lining up to support the bill.
“Chronic wasting disease threatens America’s hunting tradition and funding for conservation,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and chief executive officer of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “This legislation will provide solid scientific data so we can attack this disease head on and protect herds across our nation. We want to thank Reps. Abraham and Veasey for their leadership and look forward to advancing this bill in the new Congress.”
“The conservation community has largely recognized the need for reliable and consistent data on CWD so that our nation’s wildlife management agencies can implement effective management strategies,” Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation president Jeff Crane said, adding that his group will continue to work with "Abraham and other Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus members on this legislation to ensure that these agencies have the best available information to continue their legacy of professional, science-based management.”
“We commend and thank Congressman Abraham for the reintroduction of this important piece of legislation,” said Ed Carter, president of the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies and executive director of Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. “We also applaud the congressman for enlisting the National Academies of Science, in partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Department of Agriculture, to provide critically important scientific information needed to manage this devastating disease and help protect our precious natural resources. Now that CWD has recently been documented in wild deer in my home state of Tennessee, the battle against this wildlife health issue is even more near and dear to me.”