Elk NetworkTester Introduces Bill to Support Montana Hunters, Fight the Spread of Chronic Wasting Disease

Conservation | December 20, 2017

Senator’s Bill Comes After Fifth Montana Deer Found with Fatal Neurological Virus

(U.S. Senate) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester today introduced legislation to defend Montana’s hunting heritage and fight the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease as more cases of the neurological virus are identified in Montana.

Chronic Wasting Disease has been prevalent in 21 states across the west, infecting white-tail and mule deer, elk, and moose-including in multiple states that border Montana. Tester’s bill will immediately provide wildlife management agencies with resources to stop the spread of the disease that could impact big-game hunting and diminish Montana’s growing outdoor economy.

“In Montana, hunting is a part of our way of life because it helps provide our families with food, manage our wildlife, and sustain rural economies,” Tester said. “It is critically important that we stop the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease before it diminishes our big-game herds and undercuts our outdoor economy.” 

Sportsmen from across Montana have endorsed Tester’s bill.

“Senator Tester’s bill will give Fish, Wildlife and Parks and wildlife managers around the country the resources they need to aggressively tackle this deadly disease,” said Dave Chadwick, Executive Director of the Montana Wildlife Federation. “Montana hunters are lucky to have a leader like Jon Tester, who is willing to put the spotlight on this issue and work toward a practical, on-the-ground response.”

“As chairman of Montana’s Fish and Wildlife Commission, I want to thank Sen. Tester for taking a leadership role in helping Montana address the emergence of chronic wasting disease in our state,” said Dan Vermillion, Chairman of the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Commission. “Montana has the expertise in its department, but we are in dire need of funding to fight this deadly wildlife disease.”

“Chronic wasting disease represents a great threat to the health of our elk, deer, moose and other ungulate populations,” said David Allen, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation President and CEO. “If passed, this bill will provide critical funding for state wildlife agencies and researchers to help find a cure in a more timely manner.” 

“Montana sportsmen and women-plus anyone who cares about wildlife-should be alarmed by the recent discovery of Chronic Wasting Disease within the borders of our state,” said Joel Webster, Director of Western Lands for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We need to do everything we can to more fully understand and control this disease, and Senator Tester’s newly introduced legislation would help us do just that.”

“Chronic Wasting Disease may pose the greatest risk to the sustainability of North America’s deer, elk, and moose populations,” said Matt Dunfee, Project Coordinator at the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance. “This proposed legislation is critically needed to secure the tools wildlife managers need to fight Chronic Wasting Disease at a level appropriate to the severity of the disease.”

“Of the challenges our wildlife populations face today, chronic wasting disease is one of the most urgent,” said Collin O’Mara, President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “The contagious, always-fatal neurological disease has now been found in elk, deer and moose herds from the northern Rockies to the Midwest to the Northeast. State and tribal wildlife agencies need help in combating this grave threat to our outdoor and sporting heritage and the bill by Sen. Jon Tester would provide much-needed funding and tools to do that. Sen. Tester’s bill is an important companion to one by Reps. Ron Kind and Jim Sensenbrenner and will help halt the spread of this devastating disease.”

Tester’s bill will authorize $60 million to help state and tribal wildlife management agencies stop the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease. These funds create new research grants to better understand the disease, allow states and tribes to develop and implement management plans, and establish a rapid response for newly infected areas.

There have been at least five identified cases of Chronic Wasting Disease in Montana, four along the Montana-Wyoming border and one north of the Hi-Line near Canada. Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks recently sold 1,200 additional deer licenses for a special hunt to determine the prevalence of Chronic Wasting Disease in Montana.

In Wyoming, Chronic Wasting Disease has led to a 21 percent annual decline in the mule deer population and a 10 percent decline in the white-tail deer population. There is not a known cure for the disease.

Before the recent infection of Montana deer, Montana was Chronic Wasting Disease free for nearly 20 years.

Hunting is a major component of Montana’s outdoor economy, which sustains more than 70,000 jobs and generates $7.1 billion in economic activity annually. 

Tester’s bill is available online HERE.