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Chronic Wasting Disease Act passes House, heads to Senate

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Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

Congressional legislation to research and help manage chronic wasting disease (CWD) has passed the House and waits for a vote in the Senate.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD), is an infectious brain disease that is fatal in deer, elk, and moose.

The bipartisan bill would authorize $70 million per year toward the effort. The USDA would administer the funds through states and tribes. The legislation also includes authorization to develop a public awareness campaign about the disease.

Joel Bich, a wildlife biologist with the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe Department of Wildlife, Fish and Recreation, said testing deer for CWD is expensive, so the funding proposed in the act would go a long way.

"Our tribal members depend on the deer and elk populations for, not only sport hunting but subsistence use by their families," Bich said. "And in addition to that, we have a large public hunting program. That is a good economic revenue generator for the Tribe and a CWD outbreak could potentially cause problems with the income and really devastate our whole hunting program."

Sportsmen Against Hunger is a non-profit helping hunters donate their game meat to South Dakotans in need. Jeff Olson, who works with the organization, said investing in research to develop quick tests and an eventual cure is extremely important to those who eat venison.

"It'd be nice not to have to worry about the disease when we're eating this meat as hunters and when we're donating to those in need," Olson said.

217 Democrats and 176 Republicans, including Rep. Dusty Johnson, voted in favor of the bill during the House vote. The bill is likely to pass the Senate and be signed into law.

The map below shows where CWD has been confirmed in the state.

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GFP

GFP officials said the department has been extremely proactive in terms of the surveillance of CWD and educating hunters on ways they can slow the spread of the disease.

Hunters can have their deer tested for CWD by dropping off the animal's head at one of the state's collection stations, properly submitting lymph nodes, or by contacting GFP for help at no cost.

The map below shows CWD collection stations in the state.

Joshua is the business and economics reporter with SDPB News.