Federal CWD Legislative Initiatives
Six legislative bills regarding chronic wasting disease (CWD) have been introduced at the US federal level—including four that have both House and Senate versions. Summaries and updates for the bills are compiled below. Additional information on the bills and their sponsors is available (Congress, 2019).
Chronic Wasting Disease Management Act (HR 1550 / S 689)
The Chronic Wasting Disease Management Act would establish a grant program that provides financial support to state and tribal agencies for CWD management and research. Grants would support research looking for methods and products to detect and decontaminate prions in the environment. Other supported research includes the identification of best CWD management practices to reduce disease spread. On top of that, the bill seeks to identify risk factors that are contributing to the emergence and continued spread of CWD both within and across cervid populations.
Chronic Wasting Disease Research Act (HR 2081 / S 1326)
The Chronic Wasting Disease Research Act looks to establish a grant program that would fund CWD research. Grants would support research on methods to detect prions in live cervids, in the environment, and on inorganic surfaces. Funding would also be used to discover methods for decontaminating prions in the environment and to study markers of genetic resistance to CWD in cervid populations. Finally, the act would support research on approaches for long-term suppression or eradication of CWD.
Chronic Wasting Disease Transmission in Cervidae Study Act (HR 837 / S 382)
The Chronic Wasting Disease Transmission in Cervidae Study Act looks to support research and identify how CWD is spread between cervids. This includes (1) the pathways and mechanisms of CWD transmission among cervids, (2) the specific dosage and rates of infection for each identified pathway and mechanism, (3) the frequency of infection via each identified pathway, (4) the role of human and environmental factors that are contributing to CWD emergence. This bill would also identify existing knowledge gaps regarding CWD transmission and prioritize research based on those gaps. Additionally, the bill would review the recognized best practices and guidelines for CWD management from the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (USDA APHIS) CWD Herd Certification Program, and appropriate state agencies.
Authorizing Critical Conservation and Enabling Sportsmen and Sportswomen Act (HR 1326)
The Authorizing Critical Conservation and Enabling Sportsmen and Sportswomen (ACCESS) Act seeks to protect and enhance American outdoor traditions. The proposed bill includes provisions on wetlands conservation, resource protection, wildlife conservation, and increased opportunities for outdoor recreation on federal lands. This bill also includes two CWD provisions. Both the aforementioned Chronic Wasting Disease Management Act and Chronic Wasting Disease Transmission in Cervidae Study Act are featured in the ACCESS Act text. Passing the ACCESS Act into law would provide financial support for state and tribal agencies in charge of controlling and conducting CWD surveillance. Additionally, it would provide funding for enhanced CWD research.
Detection, Enhanced Education, and Response Act (HR 1919 / S 613)
The Detection, Enhanced Education, and Response (DEER) Act aims to improve agency coordination on CWD while also supporting disease management, surveillance, and research efforts. The DEER Act would provide funding to state wildlife and agricultural agencies for improved CWD surveillance, testing, management, and response. In addition, the act would create a multiagency CWD task force with representation from appropriate federal and state agencies. Goals of the task force include determining priority areas for funding, providing CWD information to the public, and appointing a single federal point of contact that can be used as a resource for agencies working on CWD issues. Finally, the DEER Act would provide a grant to a college or university in the Southeast area of the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. The selected institution would form a policy research center that focuses on CWD in white-tailed deer, which would involve commitments such as creating an epidemiologic research program for CWD, expanding the capability of CWD surveillance and testing, and forming partnerships with educational institutions also working on CWD.
America’s Conservation Enhancement Act (HR 925 / S 3051)
Status: Became Law
America’s Conservation Enhancement Act looks to improve and promote the conservation of natural resources, including wildlife. The bill includes efforts to modernize the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act, which provides critical funds to agencies leading natural resource conservation efforts, and to safeguard fish and wildlife habitat and health. In regard to CWD, the bill proposes the formation of a federal CWD Task Force within the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). CWD Task Force representatives would include individuals from US FWS, USGS, and the USDA. Each state will have the option to select up to two individuals that represent the relevant wildlife and/or agriculture agencies overseeing the surveillance and management of CWD. In addition, the CWD Task Force will include two representatives from tribal organizations and five representatives from non-governmental organizations. The CWD Task Force would be responsible for highlighting resource requirements needed to effectively address CWD, updating identified best management practices, and detailing the latest CWD research. Also included in the bill is the CWD Transmission in Cervidae Resource Study, which is detailed above.