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Congress approves $70 million annually to battle chronic wasting disease

Money will go for research and other programs to curb the fatal deer disease.

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Two deer feed on a cedar tree in Duluth on Thursday.
John Myers / Duluth News Tribune

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congress late last week passed the Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act that offers $70 million each year for the next five years to state and tribal natural resource agencies to curb the spread of the always fatal wildlife disease.

The legislation is expected to be signed into law by President Joe Biden this week as part of the $1.7 trillion fiscal year 2023 government funding deal.

Hunters near Grand Rapids and other areas must have opening weekend deer tested.

“As hunters, we celebrate this decisive action by our lawmakers to infuse state and tribal agencies with the resources needed to control CWD, while investing in targeted research to create stronger disease solutions,” Whit Fosburgh, president of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, said in a statement. “Both efforts are necessary to ensure the future of our wild deer herds, our continued hunting opportunities, and the strong impacts of hunter-driven conservation funding.”

The so-called CWD Research and Management Act will split $70 million annually through fiscal year 2028 on management and research priorities to states with CWD problems. This includes $35 million per year for research that would focus on methods to effectively detect CWD in live and harvested deer and the surrounding environment; find out what the best practices are for reducing CWD occurrence through sustainable harvest of deer and other cervids; and determine what factors contribute most to the spread of the disease locally.

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Another $35 million per year for management, including surveillance and testing, would prioritize:

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  • 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.
  • Jurisdictions demonstrating the greatest financial commitment to managing, monitoring, surveying and researching CWD.
  • Efforts to develop comprehensive policies and programs focused on CWD management.

The bill also includes authorization for federal, state and tribal agencies to develop educational materials to inform the public on CWD. And the bill directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture to review its certification program for captive deer farms. Wildlife biologists say that program has proven inadequate to stem the spread of the disease.
The big federal spending bill also included $23 million in extra money for the National Wildlife Refuge System; the North American Wetlands Conservation Act receives $50 million; and $81 million was earmarked for sagebrush habitat projects.

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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