Letter: Legislation is needed to stem the spread of chronic wasting disease – InForum

Minnesota’s deer ranching industry has been and remains the primary vehicle for the spread of chronic wasting disease in the state. When new CWD infections are discovered, they were most likely brought to the area in an animal trailer. CWD uses our state’s roads and the help of deer ranchers to develop its footprint, not a deer trail in the woods or on the prairie.

The undersigned groups represent a wide range of conservation organizations who have sought to engage elected officials in Minnesota to implement actions to stop a disease that threatens our wild deer, our deer hunting heritage and the economy that sustains deer hunting. Our groups have begun working together with the goal of supporting a respectful takeover of currently operating deer farms to stop the spread of chronic wasting disease through the transportation of deer and deer products. This objective currently seems unattainable, but measures are passing through the legislature that we support.

During a recent discussion of the omnibus agriculture bill in the Senate, it initially appeared that our elected leaders would indeed act on behalf of the 500,000 deer hunters and the deer-loving public. That was before behind-closed-doors politics and a glaring conflict of interest by the state Senate majority leader surfaced.

During the session, Senator Karla Bigham of the DFL introduced an amendment that would have imposed a moratorium on new deer farms, while allowing currently operating farms to be passed on to the family, restricting the importation of deer from states or provinces with positive cases of chronic wasting disease, and included new testing regulations for deer farms, but did not restrict intrastate transport. This amendment, in our view, does not go far enough, but would at least allow the state to focus on enforcing currently operating farms and stopping the importation of captive deer into Minnesota from States and provinces that have had positive cases of chronic wasting disease.

After the discussion in the hall, a roll-call vote was requested and the duly elected senators voted. Ultimately, the amendment passed by a vote of 36 to 31 with bipartisan support. Five Republican Party members: Sens Jim Abler, Carla Nelson, Carrie Ruud, David Osmek and Karin Housley voted with the 31 Democrats in favor of deer hunting, the deer hunting economy and the health of wild deer in our state. . Independent Senators Tom Bakk and David Tomassoni both voted with the majority of Republicans they caucus with.

Any positive sense of bipartisanship and success in enacting necessary legislation was quickly erased. Shortly after that vote, Republican Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller called a recess with the stated intention of privately meeting with his caucus, ostensibly to discuss the vote in favor of sensible regulation of cattle farms. deer.

After the break, Republican Senator Torrey Westrom introduced an amendment to Bigham’s amendment. His amendment changed Bigham’s amendment by removing all language about the new farm moratorium, transportation of deer in captivity, and changed language regarding testing of deer in captivity. To put it bluntly, he gutted the amendment.

A roll-call vote was taken and Abler, Nelson, Osmek and Housley, who had previously voted for the Bigham Amendment, essentially changed their vote. Only Ruud maintained his position in favor of wild deer and deer hunters. Despite their about-faces, the four individuals voted at least once in favor of deer and deer hunters. Thirty-one Republican senators and two independent senators voted twice against deer hunters when given the chance.

Clearly those who voted against Bigham and with Westrom do not have the interests of wild deer, deer hunting, and our state’s deer hunting economy in mind.

Just as troubling as the sudden shift in votes is this: Majority Leader Sen. Jeremy Miller has family members involved in the deer ranching industry and concerns are being raised over conflict issues. interests surrounding this vote and the suspension that has been called.

It is unfortunate that politics has entered into something as fundamental and important as the protection and preservation of our state’s deer population. A deer population that forms the basis of hunting camps where families and friends share their stories and camaraderie and countless wildlife watchers delight in seeing deer while hiking, camping or traveling. Legislation to slow the always deadly chronic wasting disease is not excessive government or anti-agriculture. Rather, it is a set of proactive actions to preserve our natural heritage that millions of people have benefited from over time.

If you care about deer, deer hunting, or the economics of deer hunting, we invite you to call your elected officials and let them know how important wild deer health is to you. It’s time we stopped allowing a small number of special interest deer ranches to control the future of an animal that so many Minnesotans find so precious in our landscapes.

Brad Gausman, executive director of the Minnesota Conservation Federation, wrote this column on behalf of the following organizations:

  • Minnesota Conservation Federation
  • Bluffland Whitetails
  • Minnesota Chapter of the Wildlife Society
  • Minnesota Division of the Izaak Walton League of America
  • National Deer Association
  • National Wildlife Federation

This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Forum Editorial Board or the owners of the Forum.

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