Arkansas is home to outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy all the recreation opportunities afforded by “The Natural State.” Preserving the traditions of hunting and fishing is important to wildlife conservation and management and creates significant economic benefits. In order to ensure successful practices and support our sportsmen and women we must combat the growing threat of wildlife diseases. 

In October, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) held a hearing examining the impacts of disease on wildlife conservation. One ailment that Arkansans are increasingly concerned about is chronic wasting disease (CWD).

 CWD affects deer, elk and moose, causing the degeneration of the animal’s brain, loss of bodily control and death. There is no known treatment or cure for this disease. CWD has been detected in 26 states including Arkansas. As of mid-September, there have been 619 positive cases of CWD found in our state’s deer population. Since it was first detected in 2016, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) has taken action to prevent its spread by implementing innovative ways to address this problem. 

For example, AGFC provided drop boxes so harvested deer and elk can be sent off and tested for CWD. Last deer season AGFC sampled and tested more than 7,500 deer and elk from across the state. Of those, 6,800 were harvested by hunters during the 2018-2019 hunting season. This season it plans to install at least one drop box in every county. 

As states respond to CWD and execute plans to fight this disease, collaboration at all levels of government is necessary. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the primary federal national wildlife management agency, provides technical assistance and grant funding to support state efforts like those in Arkansas. 

In addition to government agencies, private organizations also play a critical role. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) has been a long-time advocate in bringing attention to CWD and its devastating effect on the wildlife population and conservation efforts as well as the economic impact. 

According to the CSF, the excise taxes on fishing, hunting and shooting equipment, in addition to license fees help support wildlife agencies and conservation programs, contributing nearly $3 billion a year. In Arkansas, these recreational sports support 25,000 jobs and account for more than $1 billion in economic activity. 

CSF recently brought together state and federal policymakers, sportsmen’s conservation representatives and other interested parties to discuss CWD and what can be done to prevent the spread of this disease. 

One recommendation is to develop reliable and consistent data about CWD. There is still a lot we don’t know about the disease and how it is transmitted. That’s why I support the Chronic Wasting Disease and Transmission in Cervidae Study Act. This legislation authorizes a special resource study to determine how chronic wasting disease spreads and can be prevented in deer and elk. The results should provide valuable information that will allow wildlife management professionals to craft and implement strategies to protect deer and elk herds from CWD. 

I am committed to preserving and protecting our wildlife so we can keep the tradition of sport hunting alive for future generations.

John Boozman is one of two senators representing the state of Arkansas. Visit Senator Boozman’s website at Boozman.senate.gov or call his Washington office at (202) 224-4843. 

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