Bipartisan bill aims to boost CWD fight

Bipartisan legislation introduced Tuesday, Oct. 19, in the U.S. House of Representatives would address a host of state and federal needs in the fight to contain the spread of chronic wasting disease. Fatal to deer, moose, elk and other big game animals in the family known as cervids, CWD remains the top threat to the future of deer hunting in the U.S.

Introduced by Reps. Ron Kind, D-Wis., and Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., the Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act is the result of several months of discussion and debate among wildlife partners and captive industry stakeholders, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership said in a news release.

The legislation would expand the federal government’s role in the fight against CWD in four key ways:

  • By authorizing $35 million annually for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to partner with state wildlife and agriculture agencies for CWD management activities.

  • By authorizing another $35 million annually for CWD research. Specifically, research grants will focus on improved testing techniques, long-term suppression strategies, environmental transmission factors and more.

  • By directing the USDA to solicit feedback for improvements to the Herd Certification Program, which accredits captive operations as “low-risk” for CWD contamination.

  • By requiring the USDA to develop, maintain, and publicize educational materials on CWD best practices and precautions based on the best available science.

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“The threat posed by CWD to deer hunting in America is difficult to overstate – for too long, funding woes, research questions and ineffectual enforcement have resulted in a worsening status quo,” Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, said in a statement. “Curbing the accelerated spread of this disease each year requires an all-encompassing effort that can only be achieved by the pragmatic, bipartisan approach in this bill.”

– Herald staff report

PF, QF receive $4M NAWCA grant

Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever are the recipients of a $4 million grant from the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) to deliver habitat conservation projects within Minnesota’s primary pheasant range, the conservation groups said this week.

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The funding will support four separate grant projects: The Southwestern Wetland Initiative of Minnesota, the Minnesota River Prairie, the Border Prairie Wetlands and the Southern Red River Valley Wetlands.

Utilizing these programs, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever will acquire, restore, and enhance more than 6,000 acres of prairie wetlands and upland habitats in Minnesota.

“The significance of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act program to Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever cannot be understated,” Sabin Adams, Minnesota project manager for Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, said in a statement. “Quality wetland habitat creates diverse ecosystems that benefit not only pheasants but numerous other species of wildlife. Support from NAWCA is one of the key drivers to accomplishing Pheasants Forever’s mission here in Minnesota, and we’re very excited to receive this funding and continue our shared goal to protect, restore and enhance wetland habitats for birds.”

Signed into law in 1989, NAWCA has funded over 3,100 projects in the three decades since its inception, with total grants exceeding $1.9 billion. More than 6,500 partners have contributed another $3.9 billion in matching funds to benefit and enhance 31.5 million acres of habitat.

Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever partner with numerous other conservation organizations in relation to NAWCA, including the Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Fund, Ducks Unlimited, Fox Lake Conservation League, The Nature Conservancy, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources.

– Herald staff report

DNR summarizes northwest elk season

Hunters went four for seven for a success rate of 57% during the last of four northwest Minnesota elk seasons in Zone 20 of central Kittson County near Lancaster, Minn., the DNR reported.

According to Jason Wollin, acting area wildlife manager for the DNR in Karlstad, Minn., hunters shot one adult bull and three adult cows during the final season, which began Saturday, Oct. 9, and ended Sunday, Oct. 17.

That puts the overall success rate at 82% for the four, nine-day seasons in Zone 20. The two hunters drawing bull-only tags in Zone 30, the Caribou Township area of northeastern Kittson County, had 100% success during the Sept. 11-19 season.

The DNR offered seven tags – two any-elk and five antlerless – for each of the four seasons in Zone 20. Hunter success was as follows:

  • Season 1 (Aug. 28-Sept 5): Six for seven; two adult bulls and four adult cows, 86% success.

  • Season 2 (Sept. 11-19): Seven for seven; two adult bulls, four adult cows and one female calf, 100%.

  • Season 3 (Sept. 25-Oct. 3): Six for seven; two adult bulls, three adult cows and one male calf, 86%.

  • Season 4 (Oct. 9-17): Four for seven; one adult bull, three adult cows, 57%.

Historically, hunter success has dropped during the final elk season, Wollin said, a trend that could be attributed to such factors as elk wising up to hunting activity, the end of the rut, farming practices moving the elk to different areas and landowners who are fatigued with allowing elk hunters on their properties.

Weather also could be a factor, Wollin said, and the final season started with two days of rain and fog.

Elk hunting in Minnesota is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity open to residents only. This year’s elk lottery drew 4,449 applicants for the 30 available licenses, DNR statistics show.

More info on elk hunting in Minnesota is available on the DNR website at mndnr.gov.

– Brad Dokken

NDGF issues deer tag reminder

North Dakota deer hunters who can’t find their license should contact the Game and Fish Department soon to make sure they have their tag before the season opens.

Hunters must contact the Game and Fish Department by phone at (701) 328-6300 or by email at ndgf@nd.gov to authorize the online purchase of a replacement tag. Printable applications are not available.

North Dakota’s 16½-day deer gun season opens at noon Central Time on Friday, Nov. 5, and continues through Sunday, Nov. 21.

More info: gf.nd.gov.

– Herald staff report