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Why Has the Federal Government Cut Funding for Chronic Wasting Disease Research?

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Why Has the Federal Government Cut Funding for Chronic Wasting Disease Research?

Do you think the Federal Government should have cut funding?

Ask any deer biologist to list the top threats to the future of deer and deer hunting and you can be almost certain that Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) will be somewhere near the top. CWD is the always-fatal deer disease that has been steadily spreading across the country. Twenty-two states and two provinces are now reporting outbreaks of chronic wasting disease. In some states, like New York, it is but a blip on the radar. In other states, like Wisconsin, it is leaving an ever-growing and very large footprint. Small blip or large footprint, the threat of CWD sends chills down the spine of professional deer managers. So why has the federal government cut funding to fight this disease?

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*2012 and 2013 numbers are estimates as no amount was specifically identified for CWD. 2015 total is aslo an estimate. Data is from Bryan Richards, USGS.

Bryan Richards, Emerging Disease Coordinator at the USGS National Wildlife Center, offered this perspective on CWD research: “With the outbreak of CWD in Wisconsin, the USDA declared CWD a national emergency. In 2002 Congress began to appropriate large amounts of monies to states for research. At first we were worried that CWD would spread to humans, so we spent money on humans, and then we shifted our attention to cattle. The US government was appropriating over $18 million per year in the early 2000s for research. Now we are seeing appropriations in the range of $1 million to $3 million per year for CWD. With humans and cattle no longer a concern, the funding has all but disappeared.”

The other experts and researchers I spoke to did not know of any other major federal funding sources for CWD research. They said it was now mostly up to the state budgets to fund CWD prevention and research.

Yet chronic wasting disease continues to spread, and little by little consume the backbone of the hunting industry (i.e. whitetail deer). “It’s as though we have CWD fatigue,” said Richards. But the problem persists, and if anything, it’s getting worse.

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