Guarding against chronic wasting disease

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a neurological disease found in deer, elk and moose. The disease attacks the brains of infected animals and produces small lesions that result in death. A deer can live with CWD for years and spread it through contact with other animals.

A total of 24 states and two Canadian provinces have found CWD in both free-ranging and captive deer, elk and moose. In Michigan, a total of 11 captive and wild deer have tested positive for CWD since 2015.

The disease is an issue that weighs heavy on the minds of sportsmen and women throughout Michigan and is especially important to the hunters in our district.

I sponsored legislation in the Senate to guard against exposing our Michigan deer population to CWD brought in from out-of-state sources. Rep. Kivela also understood the impact of this disease on Michigan’s white-tailed deer population and sponsored legislation in the House to address the problem.

He knew, as I do, the devastating effect this disease can have on our tourism industry, our economy and our rich outdoor tradition. Our joint interest is proof that this issue is on people’s minds from the Upper Peninsula all the way down to Southeast Michigan.

My bill, Senate Bill 211, would prohibit hunters from bringing certain parts of an animal carcass into Michigan from out of state and increase the penalties for violation of the law.

Kivela, D-Marquette, sponsored House Bill 4424, which mirrors my bill. The Senate recently passed HB 4424 in tribute to Kivela, who died earlier in May.

HB 4424 is specific in its scope and provides exemptions for certain carcass parts that do not pose a risk, including hides; deboned meat, quarters or other parts of the animal that do not have any part of the spinal column or head attached; finished taxidermy products; cleaned teeth; antlers; and antlers attached to a skullcap cleaned of brain and muscle tissue.

I have traveled around Monroe and Lenawee counties and heard from many concerned citizens who want to see the state increase its efforts to combat CWD. This legislation preserves the health of our wild game population and supports Michigan sportsmen.

It has been an honor to have worked on this issue with conservationists and to provide language that preserves the legacy of Rep. Kivela. Together, we are part of protecting the hunting heritage for all of Michigan.