Tuesday, January 31st, 2023
Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

CWD Act’s $70 million price tag blamed for pause

Wildlife officials were hopeful lawmakers in Washington would move on legislation to fund CWD management. Illinois saw a spike in CWD cases in deer this year. (Photo courtesy of Martha Watson)

Springfield — The clock was ticking on the Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act, a measure that would direct $35 million to researching the disease and $35 million to managing its spread.

If passed, DNR and other state wildlife agencies would be able to apply for funding to fight CWD and protect the deer herd. Rapid response funding would also be available for emergency situations.

“Right now, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, is the lone objection – there are ongoing conversations between his team and members of Congress who are leading on this legislation, as well as members of the coalition working on chronic wasting disease as an issue, and we’re hopeful that he will be willing to lift the hold before the end of the year,” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers government relations coordinator Kaden McArthur told Outdoor Life in mid-December.

Congress was scheduled to go into winter recess on Dec. 22. As this issue of Illinois Outdoor News went to press on Dec. 21, no action had been taken on the legislation.

Illinois’ first case of CWD was in Winnebago County in 2002. There are now 19
counties – all in the northern part of the state – that have had at
least one confirmed CWD case. Compared to neighboring states, Illinois
has had great success in managing the disease to this point. However,
cases spiked during Fiscal Year 2022 and there are concerns that CWD
might show up in southern counties. Nationwide, the first cases of CWD
have recently been confirmed in Idaho, Alabama, and Louisiana, expanding
the range of CWD to 29 states.

Wildlife and conservation organizations have rallied around the CWD Act.

“For far too long, Chronic Wasting Disease has ravaged deer, elk, and moose
populations across the country and harmed ecosystems, sportsmen and
women, and local communities that depend upon healthy wildlife
populations and the outdoor economy,” said Collin O’Mara, president and
CEO of the National Wildlife Federation.

Unanimous consent was desired, because it allows a bill to bypass standard voting
procedures and goes straight to the President’s desk. The Senate uses
the unanimous consent procedure when a bill gets wide support but there
isn’t enough time for floor debate. McArthur said Rand’s issue isn’t
with the bill but rather with its $70 million price tag.

“This is an issue related to spending, not related to the substance of combatting CWD,” McArthur said.

Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wisconsin, originally introduced the House version of the
bill on Oct. 19, 2021, and it easily passed the House on Dec. 8. Sen.
John Hoeven, R-North Dakota, and Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico,
introduced a Senate companion bill on April 28 of this year.

The $35 million per year for management would prioritize areas with the
highest incidence of CWD, areas responding to new outbreaks of CWD,
areas without CWD that show the greatest risk of CWD emerging, efforts
to develop comprehensive policies and programs focused on CWD
management, and jurisdictions demonstrating the greatest financial
commitment.

The $35 million per year for research would focus on methods to effectively
detect CWD in live and harvested deer and the surrounding environment,
best practices for reducing CWD occurrence through sustainable harvest
and what factors contribute to the spread of the disease locally, such
as animal movement and scavenging.

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