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Together we can beat chronic wasting disease

Scott McInnis

With news breaking earlier this week that the wildlife scourge known as chronic wasting disease had spread to previously uninfected regions in New Mexico, the time for action on the “Chronic Wasting Disease Support for States Act” is now.

It is clear that the growing incidence of the disease in North America’s wild and captive deer and elk populations is on the rise, and in a matter of just a few months this once small concern has grown into something much larger than anyone could have ever imagined or predicted.

As each day passes, and this problem grows in size, scope and consequence, one thing becomes clear: chronic wasting disease is not a Colorado problem, or a Wisconsin problem, or a Nebraska problem, or a Wyoming problem, or now, a New Mexico problem. This is a national problem. And anything short of a fully integrated, systematic national assault on this disease simply will not do.

I recently convened a Congressional hearing and introduced legislation to combat this issue, but let me be clear on one point – I do not believe the federal government should interfere with the primacy of the states when it comes to managing the nation’s wildlife and this disease. It will continue to be my mission to get the best and most knowledgeable minds in America on chronic wasting disease on the same page to begin the process of developing an integrated and long-term vision focused on researching, containing and, ultimately, eradicating this scourge.

My legislation, the “Chronic Wasting Disease Support for States Act,” ensures that the states are, and will continue to be, the decision-makers-in-chief when it comes to managing this disease. That’s the way it ought to be.

Our leaders in the states are the world’s preeminent authorities on chronic wasting disease. Any attempt to take the reigns of control out of their hands would be nothing short of foolhardy.

Without question, the time has come for Congress and federal agricultural and wildlife officials to bring meaningful resources to bear in support of the state-led attack on chronic wasting disease. The federal role in day-to-day decision-making should not increase, but the measure of our financial assistance should never diminish.

Therefore, my legislation will authorize $27 million to combat the spread of the disease. Technical support from the government is also required, and I believe the federal government should immediately step up and expand chronic-wasting-disease-related research. The long-term solution to this problem is summed up in three words: research, research, research. There are other important ways for the federal government to assist, but research should be our job one.

With the disease popping up in new places all the time, and the appropriations season just around the corner, we don’t have the luxury of time. As a result, the legislation I introduced has come to serve as a framework for the federal government to create a unified and integrated game plan that lays out in specific terms how the federal government intends to support state decision-makers, what the division of labor between the federal agencies should look like, and how much money each of the agencies will need to fulfill its assigned mission.

As I stated in the hearing, I don’t want one proposal from Agriculture, one proposal from Interior, one proposal from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and one proposal from United States Geological Service. I don’t want overlapping costs. I want one integrated, comprehensive proposal that will rid this epidemic from our nation’s land.

This is an outbreak that poses deadly consequences to our wild and domestic deer and elk herds in Colorado. Efforts to combat chronic wasting disease will require the full cooperation between the federal and state governments to research and formulate methods to fight the disease. Rest assured that I will continue to work hard to secure funding in any way necessary to assist Colorado and our nation in handling this devastating epidemic.

Scott McInnis, R-Grand Junction, is Colorado’s 3rd District congressman.


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