‘A national problem’ | CraigDailyPress.com

‘A national problem’

McInnis calls for 'assault' on chronic wasting disease

Josh Nichols

Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Colorado, chairman of the House Resources’ Subcommittee of Forests and Forest Health, hosted a joint hearing with the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Conservation, Wildlife and Oceans Thursday to discuss chronic wasting disease.

The meeting was held in Washington, D.C.

The purpose of the hearing was to discuss containing the spread of the disease, which was recently detected in wild mule deer south of Hayden.

In his opening statement, McInnis said he wanted to get the most knowledgeable minds in America on chronic wasting disease in the same room to develop a long-range, integrated plan to contain and ultimately eradicate the disease.

“In a matter of just a few months, this once parochial concern has grown into something much larger and more insidious than anyone could have ever imagined or predicted,” McInnis said. “As each day passes, and this problem grows in its size, scope and consequence, one thing becomes clear: Chronic wasting disease is not a Colorado problem, or a Wisconsin problem, or a Nebraska or Wyoming problem. This is a national problem. Anything short of a fully integrated, systematic national assault on this disease simply will not do.”

Russell George, director of the Colorado Division of Wildlife and Mike Miller, veterinarian with the Colorado Division of Wildlife, who were in Craig Monday night to discuss CWD with the community, represented Colorado at Thursday’s hearing.

Although the Division of Wildlife has been dealing with CWD for years in Northeast Colorado, the recent discovery of the disease south of Hayden has changed the department’s approach in addressing the disease, George said.

“The recent and unprecedented appearance of CWD in the western half of Colorado has forever changed our management approach,” he said. “In situations where the disease appears poised to spread beyond its historic range in our state as in the case of the Western Slope incident, we will aggressively attempt to eradicate it.”

George said the livelihood of many businesses in Northwest Colorado might hinge on how well the disease is controlled.

“If allowed to persist unchecked, the disease has the potential to negatively impact rural economies that rely heavily upon tourism and hunting activities that are directly dependent upon abundant and healthy wildlife,” he said.

The states could use assistance from the federal government to fund increased testing this hunting season, George said.

“We are very concerned that state, regional and national testing labs will not be able to timely process the volume of samples anticipated this fall as a result of the discovery of CWD in Wisconsin and on the Western Slope of Colorado,” he said. “In addition to the increased surveillance desired by wildlife managers and the public, hunters will want assurances that their wild game is safe to eat.”

Assistance will be needed to fund additional labs, he said.

“Additional lab facilities will be needed by September to meet hunter demands,” he said. “The help of this committee and Congress will be crucial in helping us reach our goal.”

Josh Penry, staff director for the House Resources Subcommittee on national forests, said the bill discussed in Thursday’s hearing would allocate $17 million to fighting CWD.

The money would be used for additional surveillance, monitoring, testing and scientific research, he said.

“Rep. McInnis put the wheels in motion to get a plan together,” Penry said Friday. “The message that came out of the meeting is the federal government needs to take a more active role.”

The bill now rests in the hands of the Department of Agriculture and Department of Interior, Penry said.

The federal government needs to move forward with a plan, Penry said.

“We do not have time to dawdle,” he said. “We’re at a point where we needed to take bold steps yesterday.”

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