Local CWD testing facility sought

Committee looks at privatization effort to establish lab

Rather than waiting to see if the state will set up a chronic wasting disease test site in Moffat County, a local committee established to address the issue wants to start a grassroots initiative to set up such a facility.

"Why don't we consider going to privatization?" asked Dick Dodds, a committee member and owner of Elkhorn Outfitters at a meeting Wednesday. "Can we do it on our own? What would it cost?"

The 11 people present at the meeting in the Moffat County Courthouse basement agreed that Dodds' questions were worth exploring.

The group has asked Moffat County Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos to pose these questions before the Colorado Division of Wildlife. Raftopoulos is a member of the Colorado State Wildlife Commission to the state's Division of Wildlife.

Committee members said a few questions that must be asked include:

How much would a testing facility cost?

How much funding would the state be willing to provide to assist in the project?

What does it take to train people or get properly trained people to run a lab?

"We'll have to ask all of these questions, then we'll meet again," Raftopoulos said. "Then we'll decide how to do the funding."

The Colorado Division of Wildlife was recently given $1.9 million from the state to put toward chronic wasting disease research, surveillance and testing.

Several local officials hoped a portion of that money would be put toward placing a lab in Northwest Colorado, but the funds have not yet been earmarked.

Craig City Manager Jim Ferree said he thought local outfitters and meat processors, along with county and city governments, could team up to fund a chronic wasting disease testing facility.

"Let the Division of Wildlife know we're willing to take part financially, then ask what they can give us for help," Ferree told Raftopoulos.

Dodds said he thought it was necessary that a local testing facility be set up.

"I don't see any other way around it myself," he said.

Carl Chapman, owner of Chapman Automotive Service Center in Craig, said everyone would reap benefits of having a local lab.

"If we got a testing facility here it wouldn't just be beneficial for us but it would be beneficial for the Division of Wildlife as well," Chapman said.

He agreed that hunters who want to have an animal tested would not be opposed to paying a fee.

"There's not a hunter that is going to drive this far then complain about spending $25 for a test," he said.

Wally Ralston, who sits on the chronic wasting disease committee, said by exploring this issue local officials and businesses are showing hunters they're willing to help.

"The hunters come out here to get away," said Ralston, who was recently hired as the Craig/Moffat County Economic Development Partnership executive director. "It's our job to make sure they have a good trip. We can show them the county, city and population has come together to move forward with this issue."

Ferree agreed.

"We're providing them a service they want," the city manager said.

Moffat County Commissioner Les Hampton said this area could set a precedence in combating chronic wasting disease if it can set up a local lab on its own.

"If we can do this intelligently, it could be huge in the future," he said.

Committee members discussed charging people approximately $25 for the service.

Chapman said another way for the area to cater to out-of-state hunters would be to issue a free hunting license for next season to anyone who killed an animal that tested positive for chronic wasting disease.

The committee is scheduled to meet again at 3 p.m. June 5 when Raftopoulos will have answers to the questions posed at Wednesday's meeting.

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