MADISON, Wis. - Republican Gov. Scott Walker announced a series of changes in Wisconsin’s chronic wasting disease plan Friday, calling for more studies and guidelines for the deer farm industry but rejecting suggestions to resume thinning the state’s herds.
Pressure has been mounting on Walker to step up efforts to contain the disease after infection rates hit a new high last year. A pair of Democratic lawmakers has called for culling the herd in disease zones and a prominent sportsmen’s group has pressed the governor to impose tougher regulations on deer farms.
Walker announced the new initiatives at a Conservation Congress meeting in Manitowoc. He said he wants to update the state’s CWD plan by seeking input from hunters, landowners, farmers and foresters through county deer advisory councils; directing the Department of Natural Resources to study “deer population dynamics” and invest in research to better understand CWD’s effects on the state’s deer herd. The governor also ordered state agriculture officials to create best practices for deer farms and the DNR to conduct deer farm fence inspections every two years. Currently the agency inspects farm fences once per decade.
Walker spokesman Tom Evenson said the DNR will start implementing the initiatives immediately. DNR spokesman James Dick said he didn’t have a cost estimate because the initiatives’ details haven’t been finalized.