On October 17, the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation (CSF) hosted Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus (CSC) 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).
Chronic Wasting Disease affects cervids such as deer, elk, and moose, and has been detected in 26 states. CWD is a fatal neurological disease affecting both farmed and free-ranging cervids that has no known vaccine or cure. The luncheon featured a moderated panel discussion in which Nick Pinizzotto of the National Deer Alliance, Shawn Schafer of the National Deer Farmers Association, and Executive Director Bryan Burhans of the Pennsylvania Game Commission all partook, with comments from Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus (CSC) Co-Chair Rep. Mark Veasey. The panel discussed the disease from varying perspectives and identified what measures should be considered when developing legislation that will provide assistance to our nation's wildlife managers to reduce the prevalence and spread of CWD.
The pursuit of these animals alone produces nearly 80% of the hunting economy. Obtaining adequate funding to perform necessary work to combat CWD is a primary challenge for state fish and wildlife agencies that are facing ever-increasing conservation challenges that are straining their financial resources. This strain on existing funds is coming at the expense of other conservation priorities due to allocations being diverted to CWD efforts from other conservation initiatives.
"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 CSF 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. 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," said Burhans. "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 ubiquitous in the United States."
Prior to the luncheon, an Oversight Hearing on CWD was held in the House Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies as an effort to raise attention to the issue. CSF applauds the 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 "minibus" that included a number of CWD funding related amendments that were high priorities for CSF and the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus. This hearing builds off of that success and lays the groundwork for future appropriations bills. In advance of the hearing, CSF submitted a statement for the record.
Luncheon Sponsors included, 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.
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- Improve hunter and target shooter involvement in regulatory and legislative processes. (10.81%)
- Enact or expand temporary hunter education deferral programs (apprentice license programs, multiyear options, programs for all first-time hunters regardless of age, and programs promoting hunting of multiple game species). (13.81%)
- Offer shooting sports and hunter education as school activities and recreation programs. (62.46%)
- Link existing programming into family-oriented organizations (such as churches and home-school groups) where participants will have the social support to continue. (12.91%)