Following efforts by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) and partners in the sporting-conservation community, Congress continues to seek more ways to address the spread and prevalence of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). In total over the last 11 months, Congress has held two oversight hearings, two legislative hearings, included funding in appropriations bills, and introduced a number of standalone pieces of legislation that will help address CWD.
A legislative hearing last week in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) exemplifies Congress’ growing prioritization of legislative efforts to combat CWD. While a formal bill has yet to be introduced, EPW’s hearing was focused on draft legislation that seeks to establish a task force within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that will be responsible for combating CWD. This hearing builds off of previous legislative hearings EPW has held on wildlife diseases, including the October 16 hearing entitled “Examining the Impacts of Diseases on Wildlife Conservation and Management.”, where CWD was the main topic of conversation.
On October 17, CSF hosted a Capitol Hill luncheon that was attended by 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 community to discuss CWD. On the same day, the House of Representatives Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies held an oversight hearing as an effort to raise attention to CWD. In advance of the hearing, CSF submitted a statement for the record to the Committee, which expressed gratitude and support for the Committee’s efforts to address CWD.
On June 25, the House of Representatives passed a package that contained the FY20 Agriculture Appropriations bill, which included language that would provide a total of $15 million in funding for the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) to renew cooperative agreements with state wildlife agencies to combat CWD in deer, elk, and moose populations. In the same package, the House also approved $1.72 million in funding for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to conduct research on CWD. Earlier in the day on June 25, the House Natural Resources Committee held an Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on Chronic Wasting Disease titled “Chronic Wasting Disease: The Threats to Wildlife, Public Lands, Hunting, and Health.”
The Senate Agriculture Appropriations bill, which included a total of $5 million in CWD related funding, passed the Appropriations Committee on September 19, and awaits further action on the Senate floor. On December 2, CSF and 31 other sporting-conservation organizations sent a letter to the leadership of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees urging them to maintain the $15 million funding levels for USDA APHIS as approved by the House on June 25.
There have also been a handful of standalone bills that have been introduced in both chambers of Congress that seek to address CWD through a number of different ways including: the Chronic Wasting Disease Transmission in Cervidae Study Act (H.R. 837/S. 382), the Detection, Enhanced Education, and Response Act of 2019 (H.R. 1919/S. 613), the Chronic Wasting Disease Management Act (H.R. 1550/S. 689), and the Chronic Wasting Disease Research Act (H.R. 2081/S.1326).
CSF applauds both chambers of Congress for prioritizing efforts to combat CWD and looks forward to working with CSC Members to advance legislation that will help address this disease.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?