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“Chronic wasting disease is not a new threat, but it is one that has fundamentally changed our efforts to manage and conserve wildlife. Unchecked, this disease could truly be catastrophic for wildlife and for local economies.”

Click here to watch Sen. Barrasso’s remarks.

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) spoke on the Senate floor about bipartisan legislation he introduced today to address chronic wasting disease and increase wildlife managers’ ability to keep wildlife healthy.

Excerpts of Senator Barrasso’s remarks:

“I have spoken many times in this chamber about human health from my perspective as an orthopedic surgeon.

“Today, I am here to talk about a different kind of health crisis that’s facing our nation.

“Earlier today, 24 of my colleagues joined me in introducing a bill to combat
chronic wasting disease. It is in cervid populations across the country.

“Chronic wasting disease is a terrible, degenerative brain disease.

“It affects captive and wild deer, elk, moose, and caribou in at least 26 states and several Canadian provinces.

“It is highly contagious and always fatal.

“In my home state of Wyoming, chronic wasting disease was first detected back in 1985.

“Since then, the Wyoming Game and Fish has partnered with scientists, with state wildlife managers, and with federal agencies to understand how the disease spreads.

“Many other state agencies have forged similar partnerships to study the same things.

“Over the last 34 years, their work has shown that the disease is spread by prions.

“But how these prions actually infect animals remains a mystery.

“The disease could be transmitted through nose-to-nose contact, through animal waste, or through carcasses of infected animals.

“Some studies have suggested prions can remain in affected soil for up to 16 years.

“There’s a lot we still don’t know about this disease, including the risk to humans.

“Chronic wasting disease is a type of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy.

“There are a number of diseases that I studied in medical school from a human standpoint that now seem to be affecting animals as well.

“There have been no reported cases of chronic wasting disease in humans as of this time.

“But the Centers for Disease Control CDC takes the risk of human infection quite seriously.

“The CDC developed a list of things people can do to reduce their own risk of consuming meat from an infected animal.

“Across this country, many people rely on the meat they harvest from deer, moose, and elk to feed their families.

“For them, hunting is not a recreational activity, but an important part of their way of life.

“Hunting also contributes tens of billions of dollars in economic activity each year.

“Those dollars fund important wildlife research and habitat conservation, and contribute nearly 10,000 jobs in Wyoming alone.

“Dollars derived from sales of tags or hunting licenses, and hunting equipment, are used by state wildlife agencies to carry out important monitoring, management, and conservation work.

“If this disease persists, and we cannot instill confidence in the public that the risk can be controlled, hunting will decrease.

“Fewer licensees sold means less money for our wildlife agencies, which means less research. We need to act now.

“Chronic wasting disease threatens the iconic deer, elk, and moose herds that roam our state.

“It’s a threat to our western heritage. But this is not just a Western problem.

“Chronic wasting disease has found its way to Alabama, New York, and Pennsylvania.

“After finding the disease late last year, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency now requires hunters to check in their deer at physical locations to check for infection.

“The Muley Fanatic Foundation in Wyoming, which does fantastic work, told me ‘there is no bigger threat to our big game populations than the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease.’

“The bill that we introduced today, requires the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the U.S. Geological Survey to work with the National Academies of Sciences to answer some important questions about Chronic Wasting Disease.

“They’ll review gaps in current scientific knowledge about transmission. They’ll review where federal and state ‘best management practices’ can better align; and they’ll review areas at greatest risk for new infections.

“State wildlife managers need answers to these questions so that they can coordinate prevention and control efforts among the states, and they can target their research to fill in any gaps in current knowledge.

“Chronic wasting disease is not a new threat, but it is one that has fundamentally changed our efforts to manage and conserve wildlife.

“Unchecked, this disease could truly be catastrophic for wildlife and for local economies.

“Across our nation, whole industries are built around wildlife – tourism, wildlife watching, deer and elk farming.

“I believe this bill, and this research, can make a real difference.

“I am glad that so many of my colleagues agree and have cosponsored the legislation.”