Too little, too late from Gov. Walker on Wisconsin CWD management efforts?
It’s amazing what difference an impending election can make. Or maybe it was the rumbling from sportsmen the night of the April 9 spring hearings when they demanded – through floor resolutions that passed with wide support – action from the governor on chronic wasting disease (CWD) management.
Gov. Scott Walker has had a “hands-off” policy on CWD control in the state ever since he was elected eight years ago. He backed the study of deer in the state by an outsider from Texas, who downplayed the seriousness of CWD, and he allowed the DNR to operate with priorities that cater more to businesses rather than its mission of protecting natural resources for future generations.
His DNR, which was run by his appointee Cathy Stepp, refrained from showing any major interest in reducing CWD and even kept people doing public information work for the agency from commenting on the spread of CWD in the state.
But, since the gubernatorial election takes place this November, and Walker is running for re-election, we now find that he wants to make a splash with showing he is supposedly concerned about CWD.
Earlier this year we saw Walker give money to families with young children, dole out money to schools for safety improvements, and now he has decided to actually do something to try and stop the spread of CWD.
Walker announced May 2 that he finally is taking some action to require enhanced deer farm fencing (either double fences, electric fence or an impenetrable barrier), banning the movement of live deer from deer farms in CWD-affected counties, and banning the movement of deer carcasses from CWD-affected counties.
The actions will require rules to be developed by the DNR and Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP).
During those eight years that Walker sat on his hands, CWD expanded to southern Wisconsin and moved into northern Wisconsin.
The DNR reported that in 2017, new detections of CWD were found in Vernon, Milwaukee, Dodge and Lincoln counties, and as of this last February, there are 47 CWD-affected counties.
So far this year, CWD has been found in Eau Claire, Lincoln, and Oneida counties.
There are deer hunters who now think twice about purchasing their hunting license, not wanting to bring home a deer with CWD, and this does not bode well for funding the DNR in the long run.
In taking this action, Gov. Walker missed the opportunity to institute a statewide deer baiting and feeding ban. That move should have been right up there with enhanced fencing and limiting movement of deer-farm animals. It’s great that the governor is finally deciding to do something in hopes of slowing the spread of CWD. I just hope it’s not too little, too late.