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NWF, Affiliates Back National Response to Fatal Wildlife Disease

WASHINGTON, D.C. – News of Montana’s first confirmed case of chronic wasting disease underscores the importance of a bill being introduced today by Reps. Ron Kind and Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin. The bill would give states and tribes the funding and other assistance they need to fight the always-fatal neurological disease in deer, moose and elk that threatens the nation’s big-game populations and hunting opportunities.

The National Wildlife Federation and state affiliates support the bill, which would help states launch rapid responses when an outbreak occurs. Chronic wasting disease, which is contagious and affects members of the deer family, leaves animals uncoordinated and emaciated before it kills them. It has spread among herds from the Rocky Mountains to the Midwest to the Northeast.

“Chronic Wasting Disease poses a grave threat to North America’s deer, elk, and moose herds, and the hunters and communities that depend on them,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “Yet as this terrible disease spreads rapidly across our country, it’s received neither the urgent attention or sufficient resources from Washington to combat it. That is about to change thanks to the leadership of two great sportsmen, Reps. Ron Kind and Jim Sensenbrenner, who understand how serious this threat is and why immediate action is needed. The National Wildlife Federation enthusiastically supports their bill to provide states and tribes the support required to respond to this critical threat to America’s wildlife.”

“The funding and help with research outlined in the legislation by Reps. Kind and Sensenbrenner would give the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources the kind of support it needs as it grapples with the spread of chronic wasting disease in the state,” said George Meyer, executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation. “Wisconsin’s deer herds are critically important to the state’s more than 600,000 gun hunters and 225,000 bow hunters. They represent an estimated $1 billion in annual economic benefits for the state.”

“Montana is the latest state where chronic wasting disease has popped up and should be a wake-up call for sportsmen and wildlife lovers across America”, said John Kanter, the National Wildlife Federation’s senior wildlife biologist. “The disease is a grave threat to wildlife and to America’s hunting heritage, and is in need of far greater attention. Stopping the spread of the disease will be key to protecting wildlife, since once established in a new area it is extremely difficult to control or eradicate. For this reason, the bill’s ‘rapid respond fund’ will be particularly important for efforts to deal with this disease.”

Chronic wasting disease is in the same family of diseases as scrapie in sheep and goats, “mad cow disease,” and even several rare human diseases such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. There is no known cure for the disease and much is still unknown regarding how it is transmitted. Kind’s bill is called the Chronic Wasting Disease Management Act.

Earlier this year, the National Wildlife Federation’s state and territorial affiliates approved a resolution calling for the creation of a national wildlife disease fund to help states with rapid response to disease outbreaks.

Read more about the National Wildlife Federation’s resolution on a wildlife disease trust fund here

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