The Legislative Auditor’s Deer Report and a big Public Lands Rally

Let’s break down a big week for the outdoors and conservation:

First, the Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor this morning released its Evaluation Report of the Board of Animal Health’s Oversight of Deer and Elk Farms. State deer hunters and anyone interested in the status of Minnesota’s deer herd and overall wildlife health have been waiting for this report.

Javier Serna will have a complete story about this in the upcoming print edition of Minnesota Outdoor News, but for those who want to read the report in its entirety, click here.

I haven’t read it cover-to-cover, but at first glance, it appears that Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles and his staff are not playing softball in this report.

In its intro letter to members of the Legislative Audit Commission, Nobles and Deputy Auditor Judy Randall write: “We found that the Board of Animal Health has failed to enforce some laws relating to deer and elk farms. The board has not established clear expectations for deer and elk farm inventories, nor has it systematically analyzed compliance with state laws requiring chronic wasting disease testing. We make several recommendations for the board related to recordkeeping and enforcement.”

The Report Summary concludes with: “We recommend that the Legislature establish an advisory task force to evaluate Minnesota’s policies related to deer feeding and live-cervid imports.”

Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul, the DFL lead on the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee, has posted multiple items from the report this morning via Twitter.

Earlier this week, Hansen introduced legislation to allow for an, optional, voluntary, state buyout of existing deer farms. Hansen released the following statement with the bill:

“Chronic wasting disease has been a slow moving, persistent problem in Minnesota and elsewhere around our country. However, its accelerating presence in the captive and wild whitetail herd is a threat to our environment and economy. It is increasingly clear that we need to take every step we can to prevent the spread of this horrible disease. With the unknowns of this disease, preventing expansion of infected deer throughout is not only prudent, but necessary. By offering deer farmers a voluntary option, a fair price for deer, we can reduce risk and benefit our state. Minnesotans expect us to take every action we can to stop chronic wasting disease and this is one step in delivering that for them.”

Tony Kennedy from the Star Tribune also had a good piece this week about farm deer escapes and the concern that these animals could carry and spread CWD.

Again, watch the print edition of next week’s Outdoor News for complete coverage of the OLA report.

Big rally is Wednesday!

A reminder that anyone concerned about the health of Minnesota’s great outdoors should attend the Public Lands Day Rally at the State Capitol at 3 p.m. Wednesday, April 25.

I’ll be there and look forward to seeing thousands of fellow Minnesotans.

For more details, see the Minnesota Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers Facebook page. By the way, congrats to the Minnesota BHA Chapter, which received the George Bird Grinnell award for the “Outstanding Chapter of the Year” at the annual Rendezvous last weekend in Boise, Idaho (see photo below).

Coinciding with the rally festivities next week, BHA has three upcoming Pint Nights in Minnetonka, Red Wing, and St. Paul. These are great events to network and commiserate with like-minded conservation-focused individuals. I’ll be attending the Sunday event in Minnetonka. That third Pint Night will occur Wednesday evening after the rally at Sweeney’s Saloon in St. Paul from 5-9 p.m.

Finally, need a little public lands inspiration before the big rally? Check out this fine piece that Joe Canella wrote for Outdoor News last year. Posting it again here, and looking forward to seeing everyone at Wednesday’s rally.

The Minnesota Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers deservedly was named the “Outstanding Chapter of the Year” at the annual BHA National Rendezvous in Boise, Idaho. On its Facebook page, BHA MN said: “We accepted this award on behalf of the entire state board and volunteer network in Minnesota that’s doing a phenomenal job for conservation.”

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