WASHINGTON, DC — The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation on Oct. 17 hosted Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus members, other federal policymakers, state agency representatives, leaders of both the wild deer community and deer farmers, and leaders of the broader sportsmen’s conservation community for a bipartisan Capitol Hill luncheon to discuss chronic wasting disease (CWD).
CWD affects cervids such as deer and elk and has been detected in 26 states. The fatal neurological disease affects both farmed and free-ranging cervids and has no known vaccine or cure.
CWD first was detected in Pennsylvania in 2012. Since then, more than 250 wild deer have tested positive for CWD. In areas where CWD-positive deer have been detected, special regulations are enacted to limit the spread of the disease. These areas are known as Disease Management Areas.
The luncheon provided a moderated panel discussion featuring Nick Pinizzotto, of the National Deer Alliance; Shawn Schafer, of the National Deer Farmers Association; and Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans. Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Mark Veasey also provided comments. Panel discussion included the varying perspectives on CWD and identified measures that should be considered when developing legislation to assist wildlife managers in reducing the prevalence and spread of CWD.
Cervid hunting generates nearly 80 percent of the nation’s hunting economy, and remains the biggest reason why Americans buy hunting licenses. Obtaining adequate funding to perform necessary work to combat CWD has become a primary challenge for state fish and wildlife agencies, most of which are facing ever-increasing conservation challenges that are straining their financial resources. These spiraling unanticipated costs, which include CWD management, are coming at the expense of other conservation priorities.
“The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation has long recognized that increased attention to, and funding for, regular screening and testing of cervids at the state level is necessary to ensure a timely response is possible in the event of a Chronic Wasting Disease outbreak,” said Foundation President Jeff Crane. “We are thankful these individuals joined us today to discuss the varying perspectives of CWD and how all interested parties can find common ground to move forward with solutions that will help address the disease.”
“I think one of the biggest things that we can do is stop pointing fingers, because the only thing that matters is that we have CWD, and we have to deal with it,” noted Burhans. “We each have to recognize where the risks are, and focus on the science and what we actually know about CWD and work together to fix this – and I mean industry, conservation [organizations], Congress, and legislatures. This is one of the most divisive issues that I’ve ever faced in my career, and it’s that divisiveness that will end up with CWD being ubiquitous in the United States. We must work together.”
Prior to the luncheon, an Oversight Hearing on CWD was held in the House Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies to raise attention to CWD. Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation applauded efforts made by members of the Appropriations Committee to address this issue and to continue moving forward with solutions to fight CWD. Earlier this year, the House passed a legislative package that included a number of CWD funding related amendments that were high priorities for Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus. This oversight hearing builds off of that success and lays the groundwork for future appropriations bills. In advance of the hearing, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation submitted a statement for the record.
Luncheon sponsors included the Archery Trade Association, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Bass Pro Shops, Boone and Crockett Club, Mule Deer Foundation, National Deer Alliance, National Shooting Sports Foundation, North American Deer Farmers Association, Quality Deer Management Association, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Whitetails Unlimited.