May 17, 2002 The Denver Post by Mike SoraghanWASHINGTON - U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis is prodding federal agencies to come up with a coordinated strategy to help states stop the spread of chronic wasting disease among deer and elk from Colorado across the Mississippi River to Wisconsin.
McInnis, chairman of the House forest subcommittee, said he has a $ 17 million plan to set up clear lines of responsibility and lay out money for research into the causes of the incurable brain disease. The malady has devastated Colorado's elk industry in the past year and is now threatening Wisconsin's $ 1 billion-a-year deer-hunting industry with the discovery of the disease in that state - the first incidence east of the Mississippi. But McInnis, R-Grand Junction, says he wants to give federal agencies a small amount of time to come up with their own plan before he introduces his. 'If we don't get a unified proposal,' McInnis said. 'I've got one here for you.'
The Agriculture and Interior departments have formed a joint working group to come up with such a plan.
McInnis' plan calls for the states to retain control over all aspects of fighting the outbreak, with the federal government providing assistance, research and coordination. The Department of Agriculture would work with states to manage the problem in captive herds on elk farms. The Department of Interior would work with state wildlife agencies to manage the disease in the wild.
His plan calls for a more than $ 5 million increase in funding for wasting disease research and a new monitoring program to track outbreaks of the disease nationwide.
U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., has called for doubling this year's proposed increase in funding for the disease from $ 7 million to $ 14 million. The National Park Service also announced that it has doubled the amount of money, from $ 430,000 to $ 900,000, it is putting into developing a management plan for its elk herd. State officials, including Wisconsin Gov. Scott McCallum and Colorado Division of Wildlife Director Russell George, told the committee that states need federal help to fight the disease. But they also said that states should retain primary control over how to battle the disease.
'Wildlife is a local matter,' George said.
But the Humane Society is criticizing the methods that states are using to eliminate the disease - killing thousands of deer and elk. The group's lobbyist, Wayne Pacelle, also urged Congress to clamp down on elk farms, which he says have spread the disease by shipping elk from stricken areas to areas where disease crops up.
'We need an interstate ban on shipment of captive (deer and elk), at least until effective control measures can be developed,' Pacelle said.
But McInnis rejected the Humane Society's suggestions, saying: 'I think you may have mixed up this issue with your opposition to elk farming.'