McInnis plans congressional hearing on chronic wasting disease |

McInnis plans congressional hearing on chronic wasting disease

U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Grand Junction, plans to hold a congressional hearing focused on containing the spread of chronic wasting disease among deer and elk.

McInnis, who chairs the House Resources Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health, said that in addition to seeking to contain the disease in the near term, he is interested in finding out how Congress can support research efforts aimed at eradicating the deadly disease altogether.

Last week, a top official with the the Food and Drug Administration said that eradication is possible and that his agency should take aggressive steps to pursue that end.

McInnis announced in a news release, “Our attack on chronic wasting disease should be focused on an endgame strategy to eradicate this scourge, even as we seek to contain its spread in the short run. The states will continue to be the key decision makers as we go forward, but I intend to make sure that the federal government supports state wildlife officials in every possible way.”

McInnis said the hearing is tentatively planned for May 9.

State and federal officials, including representatives of the Colorado Division of Wildlife and U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard, who has worked with McInnis to secure funding to combat the disease, will be invited to the hearing. So will representatives of other states where the disease has been discovered.

Chronic wasting disease attacks the brains of infected deer and elk. It was first detected in Colorado in 1967, but only recently was discovered to have spread to previously uninfected areas of the state, including the Western Slope, where hunting is a major part of the economy of many communities. “This disease has the potential to do grave damage to both our deer and elk populations and the folks in rural America who rely on healthy and viable populations of these species for their economic survival,” said McInnis.

The disease also has been identified in herds in Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Canada. There is no known cure for the disease, and the only way to identify it is to kill deer and elk and conduct lab tests on the brain.

While the impact could be devastating to deer and elk populations if the problem progresses, scientists say that they do not believe CWD can be passed to humans or livestock. But they also cannot rule out the possibility.

Said McInnis, “It’s time to pull all of the best minds on this issue together to devise an integrated and longterm vision before this potentially catastrophic disease gets an upper hand.”

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