Time for CWD action

Transfer of state oversight of deer farms from the Board of Animal Health to the Department of Natural Resources is a good strategy in the fight against the spread of chronic wasting disease in Minnesota’s wild deer population.

Kudos to Minnesota Rep. Rob Ecklund-DFL – International Falls, the bill’s chief author, and Gov. Tim Walz, who Tuesday announced his support.

That measure is one of several in a comprehensive package of legislation to address CWD spread in the state, that we urge the Legislature and the governor to approve.

The transfer of oversight proposal is controversial. Just about anything that involves change that might affect people’s livelihoods will be concerning.

At issue is that the Board of Animal Health, or BAH, was delegated authority to regulate domestic animals, including farmed cervidae, like deer and elk, under state law. In contrast, the DNR is delegated to capture and control domestic animals that have escaped or are posing a threat to wildlife, under state law.

The transfer of oversight, in this case, is justified because the risk of infecting the wild deer herd from an escaped farmed deer is a clear threat to the state’s wildlife. Escaped deer have been found to be the main known source of chronic wasting disease in the state.

A side issue involves whether the DNR’s emergency rule is proper. The rule temporarily prohibiting the movement of all farmed white-tailed deer within the stat is effective through the end of July 2021. The Minnesota Deer Farmers Association opposes the rule saying the process used was improper, and because members’ livelihoods depend on the health of their deer and the ability to move their deer within and outside the state.

Regardless of that legal issue, we ask lawmakers to consider the devastation to the livelihoods that count on a healthy wild deer herd should CWD take a stronghold across the state. Outdoors stores, gas and convenience stores, and restaurants and grocery stores all count on the revenue they make in the fall when about a half-million Minnesotans get ready for and take part in the deer hunt.

Already CWD has shown its ugly head in the north. In May a survey of a dumping site in Beltrami County, used by a nearby former deer farm to discard white-tailed deer carcasses, resulted in a positive test of CWD in at least one carcass.

On Tuesday, the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, of which Rep. Ecklund is a member, approved emergency funding for the environmental assessment of the site.

Now is the time to take action to stop the spread of CWD with the same gusto Minnesotans have worked to stop the spread of invasive species into our precious waterways.