EPW Hearing Statement: Legislative Hearing on a bill to create a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Chronic Wasting Disease Task Force

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a legislative hearing on a bill to create a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Chronic Wasting Disease Task Force. Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.), as prepared for delivery:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Although chronic wasting disease is an unfamiliar topic to many of us in the First State, our neighbors in Maryland and Pennsylvania are dealing with it firsthand. Therefore, in the spirit of the Golden Rule, Delaware has an interest in, and an obligation to, prevent the spread of this deadly disease.

“Deer are an important part of the ecosystem and link in the food chain. They’re also an attraction for wildlife watching and hunting – two recreational activities enjoyed by our state’s residents and visitors alike. In fact, I’m told that seven out of every 10 hunters in Delaware hunt deer.

“Spending associated with hunting and wildlife watching provides a major boost to our state’s economy. The money spent on equipment, lodging, and transportation supports jobs and local businesses, as well as many of our state’s conservation efforts. Additionally, the sale of all hunting licenses, tags, and stamps, when combined with funds generated from taxes on hunting equipment, comprises approximately 60 percent of Delaware’s annual budget for wildlife programs.

“Furthermore, hunting is Delaware’s primary tool for deer management, as it is in many of our states. If chronic wasting disease spreads into Delaware, it could deter these hunters. In addition to the impact that would have on our wildlife management revenues, it would force our state to divert resources to alternative deer management tools. So, while we may not have any context for managing the impact of chronic wasting disease in the First State, we can certainly understand the major threat that it poses to states’ environments, recreational opportunities, and economies. With the disease now detected in 26 states nationwide, it’s more important than ever that we work together to stop its spread and support the states, tribes and federal agencies grappling with its impacts.

“The legislation we are considering today encourages federal agencies and states to better coordinate their monitoring, research and management efforts. With several federal agencies implicated in addressing the disease, creating a federal chronic wasting disease task force could be one step in the right direction.

“In addition, as I think we’ll hear from our witnesses today, we know that a task force is only part of the solution to the problem. The magnitude and severity of this disease demands a proportionate federal response, which should include meaningful funding.

“Over the past two Congresses, we have held multiple hearings on the conservation challenges our states are facing, including management of wildlife diseases, human-wildlife conflicts, and species conservation. Time and again, the message from states has been made clear: the best way the federal government can help states address conservation and management challenges is to ensure they have adequate resources to do their job.

“As many of you have often heard me say, things worth having are worth paying for. I believe our nation’s precious wildlife resources are worth having, and I think most Americans agree. That means we should work together to address both state and federal funding needs, while thinking creatively about how to pay for these investments.

“Addressing chronic wasting disease is a high priority.  Our Committee also has pending before us numerous bipartisan wildlife conservation bills that help protect species that I hope we will seriously consider, too.

“Each of our witnesses today bring expertise on many of these matters. I look forward to hearing from them and to the conversation that will follow about how to comprehensively address chronic wasting disease and meet other conservation needs.

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for bringing us together today and to our witnesses for joining us.”