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Chronic Wasting Disease: Missouri Legislators Move to Strip Department of Conservation’s Authority

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Missouri Chronic Wasting Disease is causing a political stir.

On July 8, 2014, Governor Jay Nixon vetoed Missouri House Bill 1326 and Missouri Senate Bill 506. These bills would have redefined deer as livestock in captive deer populations within high-fenced hunting preserves; some with known cases of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). These bills would have also stripped the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) from its ability to monitor CWD and enforce regulations within these locations.

Chronic Wasting Disease is a highly-transmittable, neurological disease that affects white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose. It is always lethal. The disease, which is similar to Mad Cow Disease, produces lesions on the brain of the infected deer. These lesions prevent normal coordination, cause abnormal behavior and lead to extreme weight loss and, eventually, death. At this time, there is no known cure for CWD.

Chronic Wasting Disease appears to have been introduced into Missouri through imported deer at high-fence hunting preserves in Linn and Macon counties. It was first detected within these facilities in 2010 and 2011 and has since spread to areas outside of these properties. Until this time, the closest known positive case of CWD in free-ranging deer was more than 250 miles from these counties. This factor would eliminate the natural introduction into the state.

In a letter addressed to the Secretary of State, Governor Nixon declined to support HB 1326 because, “it clearly violates the Missouri Constitution” and further eliminates the exclusive authority of the Conservation Commission.

The Conservation Commission, the governor referenced, was created in 1936 when a majority of Missourians voted to pass a constitutional amendment that led to the creation of the Missouri Department of Conservation. Among other duties, the MDC is responsible for protecting and managing wildlife resources. Further, a 1/8 of one cent sales tax was passed by Missouri voters in 1976 to ensure the long-term management of their resources, including wildlife.

Missourians have demonstrated they recognize the importance of their natural resources and the efforts of the Missouri Department of Conservation. Governor Nixon agrees and further wrote in his reply:

Growing and managing our deer herd and fostering the hunting opportunities that we enjoy takes hard work and sound science, and the Department of Conservation should be commended for employing both to preserve this important part of our heritage, not stripped of its authority to do so in order to protect narrow interests.

The tireless work of the Missouri Department of Conservation has allowed Missouri to become a model for other states. Deer populations of less than 400 in 1925 have soared to an estimated 1.3 million. Today, healthy deer populations allow hunters to contribute more than $1billion to the economy from deer hunting revenue alone.

It is imperative our state legislators know Missourians value their resources, recognize the efforts of the Missouri Department of Conservation and applaud Governor Nixon’s veto of HB 1326 and SB 506.

You may contact these legislators to express your concern at these addresses:

Representative Kevin Austin
201 W Capitol Avenue, Room 135AC
Jefferson City, MO 65101
(573) 751-0232
Kevin.Austin@house.mo.gov

Senator Bob Dixon
201 W Capitol Avenue, Room 332
Jefferson City, MO 65101
(573) 751-2583

Contact your state legislator today!

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Chronic Wasting Disease: Missouri Legislators Move to Strip Department of Conservation’s Authority