McInnis to host meeting on deer disease

U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Colorado, has scheduled a meeting Thursday with the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Conservation, Wildlife and Oceans to discuss containing the spread of chronic wasting disease.

The meeting will be in Washington, D.C.

"This disease has the potential to do grave damage to both our deer and elk populations and the folks in rural America who rely on healthy and viable populations of these species for their economic survival," McInnis said in a press release. "It's time to pull all of the best minds on this issue together to devise an integrated and long-term vision before this potentially catastrophic disease gets an upper-hand."

Chronic wasting disease has been in Northeastern Colorado since 1967, but recently was discovered in a herd of wild mule deer south of Hayden. It was the first time the disease has been discovered on Colorado's Western Slope where many local economies rely heavily on revenue generated from out-of-state hunters.

Representing Colorado at the hearing will be Russell George, director of the Colorado Division of Wildlife, and Mike Miller, veterinarian with the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

George and Miller were in Craig Monday night discussing chronic wasting disease in a public meeting with more than 100 Craig residents.

Gov. Scott McCallum of Wisconsin, where the Department of Natural Resources recently announced a plan to kill between 10,000 and 15,000 deer to contain the spread of CWD, will also be at the meeting.

McInnis said the meeting has been scheduled to find out how Congress can support research efforts aimed at eradicating the disease.

"Our attack on chronic wasting disease should be focused on an end-game strategy to eradicate this scourge, even as we seek to contain its spread in the short-run," he said. "The states will continue to be the key decision makers as we go forward, but I intend to make sure that the federal government supports state wildlife officials in every possible way."

Blain Rethmeier, press secretary for McInnis, said Tuesday there is about $8 million dollars available that can be put toward funding the fight against the disease.

"These teams are going to discuss what we can do financially to assist the states," Rethmeier said. "The federal government needs to help with the cost of trying to fight this disease."

The purpose of the meeting is also to try and get the agencies to work better together.

"We will have all the experts we need there," Rethmeier said. "All of these agencies need to take a unified approach to combat a seemingly threatening disease. We need to have a more unified attack."

Others invited to the meeting include:

Tom Thune, chief of the Services Division of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department

Bruce Morrison, assistant administrator of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Representatives from the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Department of Interior, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the Agricultural Research Service

Colorado Sen. Wayne Allard.

Chronic wasting disease attacks the brains of deer and elk causing them to die.

It has been identified in deer and elk herds in Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Canada.

While it is fatal to infected deer and elk, CWD has not been proven to spread to cattle or humans.

Scientists have not discovered a cure for the disease.

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