Conservation

ATA to Help Craft National Strategy for Combatting CWD

The Archery Trade Association, National Deer Alliance, and several state agencies and conservation groups have identified the need for a national strategy to combat chronic wasting disease and protect cervid populations.
Photo Credit: John Hafner

Author: Cassie Scott

The Archery Trade Association’s Dan Forster and representatives of several national conservation groups discussed creating a nationwide strategy for managing chronic wasting disease at a meeting convened by the National Deer Alliance at the recent Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show in Las Vegas.

Groups represented at the meeting included the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, National Wildlife Federation, Quality Deer Management Association, National Shooting Sports Foundation and the directors of state wildlife agencies from Idaho, Arizona and Wyoming.

Forster, ATA’s director of government relations, said everyone sees the need for a national strategy to help combat CWD. This contagious neurological disease affects whitetails, mule deer, elk and moose. The agent thought to cause CWD – a rogue protein called a prion – differs from bacteria and viruses because prions aren’t living entities. Therefore, they can’t be “killed” by heat when cooking meat. CWD is 100 percent fatal in cervid populations and cannot be treated in those populations. The disease is also difficult to diagnose until its victims are near death. Prions shed by deer through urine, feces and decomposing body parts persist in the environment indefinitely.

CWD has not been associated with any human diseases.

Chronic wasting disease is – experts think – transmitted by infectious proteins called prions. This contagious neurological disease affects whitetails, mule deer, elk and moose.

Forster said CWD poses a serious threat to white-tailed deer, the nation’s No. 1 big-game animal. Therefore, CWD could seriously hurt the outdoors, archery and bowhunting industries as it spreads and worsens nationwide.

“CWD is arguably one of the greatest threats to deer hunting that we know of today,” Forster said. “Because of the nature of the disease and its potential impact on hunting, the ATA is interested in creating a national strategy to coordinate efforts to control or even reduce CWD’s prevalence. That’s a priority if we’re to protect, enhance and grow bowhunting for deer and other species. The other organizations at the table share ATA’s concerns.”

The ATA and other organizations have long been concerned about CWD, and are working to control its spread on their own. For example, the ATA worked with scent manufacturers and scent suppliers to create the Deer Protection Program to slow CWD’s spread as much as possible. The program helps protect wild deer herds by requiring that ATA-member scent manufacturers follow protocols to ensure their products are as safe as possible.

Forster, however, said it’s time for all organizations to combine and coordinate their efforts to create strong nationwide CWD policies. He said the NDA recognizes that conservation organizations must also communicate their messages consistently to avoid confusing hunters or scaring them away from the sport.

The ATA believes chronic wasting disease poses a significant threat to white-tailed deer, the nation’s No. 1 big-game animal.

The NDA plans to use an open-forum approach to craft the strategy, not a closed group of individuals writing an inflexible plan for tackling CWD. Forster envisions the effort being more fluid and persistent, so that anyone interested in helping is welcome to serve on a committee to develop all aspects of the strategy.

The NDA expects to play a prominent role in the process. NDA CEO Nick Pinizzotto will convene the meetings, and intends to explore all relevant CWD-related issues while establishing working relationships with participating organizations.

“Everyone wants to work together, and that has been clear from the start,” Pinizzotto said. “The role NDA can play is that of a convener to bring together state agencies, conservation groups, and top scientists to develop a plan and clear messaging. It’s easy to say we should all work together, but taking the steps to get there can be difficult. That’s where NDA can help.”

Pinizzotto thinks the open-forum approach will help shift and allocate resources to better address CWD-control efforts. The coordinated effort by constituent groups will strive to create a consistent message and help develop best-management practices for state wildlife agencies to use for managing and controlling CWD outbreaks. The NDA would also advocate for funding and research.

The Archery Trade Association, National Deer Alliance and their constituent groups will strive to create a consistent message and help develop best-management practices for state wildlife agencies to use for managing and controlling CWD outbreaks.

ATA’s role in the CWD initiative is important. Jay McAninch, ATA’s president/CEO, chairs the NDA’s board of directors, and provides the NDA guidance and support. The ATA also offers many resources to NDA, including political advice, wildlife-agency experience, and fiscal and mass-communications resources.

“We’re long overdue for coordinating shared strategies for dealing with CWD policies, research, management and communication,” Forster said. “I see this coalition coming together swiftly on behalf of NDA, which is well-positioned to serve that coordinating role most admirably.”

Pinizzotto agrees. “One reason NDA was founded was to lead on issues like CWD, and while I’m proud of the role we’ve played so far, we have a long way to go,” he said. “The most encouraging thing is how much everyone wants to work together to deal with the most critical issue deer face. That also makes it a critical issue for the entire hunting industry. The more people interested in, and working on CWD, the better.”

To get involved or learn more about the NDA’s CWD strategy, contact Pinizzotto at nick@nationaldeeralliance.com.

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