Inside the Outdoors: In working on CWD, county commissioners show the courage our legislators lack – Pine and Lakes Echo Journal

County commissioners in another county — this time Carleton County, southwest of Duluth — voted unanimously to impose a one-year ban on the establishment of new captive deer and elk farms within county boundaries. It’s a clear indication that these commissioners share the widespread concern that these ranching operations pose a potential threat to our wild white-tailed deer.

The spread of a deadly disease known as chronic wasting disease, or CWD, to wild whitetail in Minnesota is consistently associated with the presence of CWD on captive deer and elk farms, and with the movement of infected animals from farm to farm across the state. These farms raise these animals both for meat and for cup antlers, the latter being obtained under pay-for-hunting conditions within the fenced farm boundaries. Currently, there are about 250 such operations in Minnesota.

CWD is a degenerative disease of the brain and nervous system that gradually weakens and eventually kills all deer that become infected. CWD is usually spread by direct contact between deer, or when deer come into contact with deer left on the ground by infected animals.

Carleton County now joins St. Louis County, which includes Duluth, in restricting new captive deer and elk farms. Aitken County and Itasca County are also considering a similar ban. These counties share the trait of being popular destinations for deer hunters, who inject significant revenue into local businesses in the pursuit of their sport.

The Carleton County Lands Commissioner, quoted this week in the Minnesota Outdoor News, noted that roughly a third of the real estate in his county is owned for the purpose of deer hunting, and that if CWD becomes prevalent in the wild deer there, the hunter’s interest — and thus the demand for land ownership — will drop.

These counties have taken this issue because state legislators have failed to meaningfully address the spread of CWD, despite a number of counties demanding that the legislature enact a moratorium on new captive deer and elk farms, so that a solution is found at the state level—with standardization at the state level. State – Accessible.

The urgency is evident not only to those who hunt deer, but to those who benefit from the economic drive that deer hunting in Minnesota represents, one that generates about $500 million in equipment, housing, meals, fuel and other related purchases. Once restricted to a very few wild deer, mostly in the Southeast, CWD is now found in wild deer in seven counties stretching from south to north, and the most recent discovery was near Grand Rapids. The appearance of CWD in wild deer was closely matched in the state’s geography with its presence in captive deer and elk farms, which is unlikely to be a coincidence.

Many believe a statewide moratorium on new captive deer and elk farms was about to happen in May this year, when the Republican-controlled Minnesota Senate was due to approve it as part of a broader farming bill. And five Republican senators cast their preliminary votes for the suspension, enough to secure its passage. But an 11-hour break called Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller of Winona, after which four of the five Republicans switched votes, enough to remove the freeze from the bill.

Winona, Miller’s political base, is at the heart of Minnesota’s captive deer and elk breeding. Senator Miller’s brother owns and operates a captive deer farm. It is hard to imagine a direct conflict of interest for Senator Miller.

The only Republic to maintain its vote to support the freeze resolution was Senator Carrie Rudd of Breeze Point, near Brainerd. Rudd was one of Minnesota’s most pro-conservation and sports lawmakers, but she retired from the Senate after her party failed to endorse her as a candidate in the newly reorganized Senate district. Many viewed this as retaliation for her desire to outsmart the party’s leadership when her values ​​clashed with the party’s position on issues. Rudd was quoted as saying that “there is currently no place in the Minnesota Republican Party for anyone who cares about the environment.”

Mike Run, columnist

A statewide solution to attacking the spread of CWD would be the best solution, whether it be a temporary suspension or permanent ban on new captive deer and elk farms or – as some feel is our only hope of containing CWD – the takeover and the end of such farming entirely in Minnesota. Deer doesn’t recognize county boundaries, so – as positive as the county ban – a statewide solution is really what we need.

These county commissioners deserve a ‘Thank You’. We can only hope that their courage is contagious, and eventually infects state legislators of both parties.

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