In a letter to Minnesota House and Senate Environment and Agriculture committee chairs, Gov. Tim Walz Tuesday announced his support of a proposal to transfer state oversight of cervid farms from the Board of Animal Health to the Department of Natural Resources.
The move is one of many steps lawmakers are considering to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease, CWD, in Minnesota’s wild white-tailed deer population.
State Rep. Rob Ecklund, DFL – International Falls, chief author of a comprehensive package of legislation to address CWD spread in Minnesota, is still advocating to incorporate the solution into a final Environment and Natural Resources budget package.
“The threat of CWD to our wild deer herd is dire and the current mechanisms to prevent it from spreading from farmed cervidae are proving to be inadequate,” Ecklund said in a statement. “As we see CWD pop up in new spots, with many of the locations linked directly to deer farms, Minnesota leaders have an urgent responsibility to take a new approach.”
Ecklund thanked Walz for supporting the plan to move oversight of deer farms to the DNR, one step of many he’s working on to keep the state’s wild white-tail deer population healthy.
“As we continue work to wrap up a state budget, I’m hopeful we can come to an agreement on this and other proposals to protect Minnesota’s cherished hunting traditions,” he said.
The House approved Ecklund’s comprehensive CWD prevention plan as part of its Environment and Natural Resources budget bill in April. The legislation would also require deer farms to immediately notify the DNR of an escaped animal if the animal is not returned or captured within 24 hours and requires identification of farmed white-tailed deer to include certain contact information of the owner. It allows a licensed hunter to kill and possess an escaped farmed cervidae without being liable to the owner for the loss of the animal and requires farmed cervidae killed by a hunter or the DNR to be tested for CWD at the owner’s expense.
Ecklund’s legislation also expands a provision in current law prohibiting the importation of cervidae carcasses.
In May, the University of Minnesota’s Minnesota Center for Prion Research and Outreach announced a survey of a dumping site in Beltrami County, which had been used by a nearby former deer farm to discard white-tailed deer carcasses. The survey showed a positive test for CWD in at least one carcass.
On Tuesday, the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources , of which Ecklund is a member, approved emergency funding for the environmental assessment of the site.