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Gov. Evers vetoes proposal to use hunters' fees to fund CWD research at deer farm
In action Wednesday to finalize the 2019-21 Wisconsin state budget, Gov. Tony Evers vetoed a measure that would have used fees from hunters to partially fund a proposed chronic wasting disease research project at a deer farm near Mineral Point.
The proposal, inserted in the budget by the Republican-controlled Joint Committee on Finance and later approved by Republican majorities in the Assembly and Senate, would have taken $100,000 from a Department of Natural Resources account funded by hunters and earmarked for CWD testing and applied the money to a captive deer study.
"I am partially vetoing this section because I object to limiting the flexibility of the department to perform research on chronic wasting disease to only certain areas of the state," Evers wrote in his budget document released Wednesday. "Instead, I am directing the Department of Natural Resources to study all available options and use the funds for scientific research on chronic wasting disease that is likely to lead to the most success in improving deer management practices in Wisconsin."
The proposal had drawn opposition from hunters and conservation organizations, principally since it would have diverted funds intended for CWD testing of hunter-killed deer.
Six groups wrote a letter June 20 to Evers and asked him to veto the measure.
"(We) are not opposing the Legislature’s funding of the domestic deer farm CWD study, however we strongly oppose that sportsmen and women’s dollars are being used to fund the study," the organizations wrote.
The letter was signed by representatives of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, Wisconsin Bowhunters Association, Wisconsin chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, the Buffalo County Conservation Alliance and the Mondovi Conservation Club.
The groups responded positively to the veto.
"I think the governor struck a good balance in vetoing the sportsmen's and sportswomen's funding going to the deer farm research, which to our knowledge is not going to have benefit for the wild deer herd," said George Meyer, executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation. "Even better, it allows the $100,000 to be used by the DNR in doing broader research of CWD and deer management."
Chronic wasting disease is a fatal disease found in white-tailed deer and other members of the deer family. It is fatal to all deer that contract it, but some genotypes of deer live slightly longer in the presence of the disease, according to several studies.
Work published by Mike Samuel and Stacy Robinson at the University of Wisconsin found two of genotypes lived about 8 months longer than the more common genotype.
Deer farmers have been keen to learn as much as possible about resistance to CWD in hopes of breeding or selecting stock that could live longer in the face of the deadly disease.
The proposed Wisconsin deer farm project was supported by Whitetails of Wisconsin, a deer farming association.
According to Laurie Seale, vice president of the group, the CWD deer farm research was planned to run for three years and would cost $150,000 per year. Nick Haley, a CWD and prion researcher from Midwestern University in Glendale, Arizona, would lead the work.
Other than the contested $100,000 that was vetoed by Evers, deer farmers or donors planned to fund the remaining costs, Seale said. Wisconsin deer farmers would also donate animals to participate in the study.
Seale said Wednesday she was hopeful the research project could find another source of funding to help it move forward
From a broader perspective, the 2019-21 state budget was a great disappointment to many conservationists who have asked for additional funding to combat CWD.
Other than the contested deer farm proposal, it included no new measure related to CWD funding.
Some expect a bill to be introduced this year in the Legislature to fund deer carcass dumpsters.
However, the Legislature has recently shown no appetite for CWD-related bills or funding.
Last year, the Republican-controlled Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules rejected a rule that would have restricted deer carcass movement in the state. The rule had been recommended by then Gov. Scott Walker and approved by the state Natural Resources Board.
Similarly, the Legislature let an emergency rule to expire that would have required deer farms to erect double fences.
"There is much work to do on CWD," Meyer said. "It's clearly going to take a bipartisan effort to get something done."