The spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a crisis for our state. Last week, the Department of Natural Resources discovered CWD in a wild deer in Crow Wing County, only a couple thousand feet from the fence of a deer farm with known CWD cases.

This was the first confirmed case in a wild deer outside of southeastern Minnesota. There is also a deer farm in Aitkin County with CWD positive deer. How long before wild deer are infected in Aitkin? Then Carlton? Then the rest of the Northland? We must act now to prevent this from spreading.

Generations of Minnesotans, including all of us, have grown up hunting every fall. It’s a constitutional right, and not on our watch will CWD jeopardize our traditions and connection to this land, or the billion-dollar Minnesotan hunting industry. We fill our freezers with venison, but can’t eat infected deer. And we can’t predict what it will infect next.

CWD is incredibly difficult to kill. Heating, freezing and chemicals don’t touch it. It’s always fatal. There’s no vaccine. No treatment. It spreads easily from deer to deer and even to plants. Animals can be infected and contagious for years before they show symptoms, and the only test available right now can’t be used on live animals.

Recently, University of Minnesota scientists testified at the Legislature that it hasn’t infected humans, but they believe it’s likely a matter of when, not if. There are some folks who believe that it’s all a bunch of bologna, but it’s just like mad cow disease.

For years, they wanted to believe it only infected cattle, even though scientists told them that it was only a matter of time. And look what happened. It spread to humans and caused tragic results for people and billions of dollars in damage to the industry. We’re not willing to gamble on our families’ or communities’ health.

We can’t bury our heads in the sand here. We must do more to combat CWD. We need accountability. We need research. We need to give the researchers and the DNR the tools they need to solve this problem. We need to eliminate contact between captive and wild deer and develop a better test that can be used on live animals.

CWD is a crisis, but we’ve figured out much harder things together, and we’re confident we can do it again.

The time to act is now. Stand with us to work on long-term solutions to protect our deer populations, our hunting revenue streams, our traditions, our families, and our way of life. Call your legislators and tell them that you support our bills to address CWD, and they should, too.

<em>State Rep. Mike Sundin represents District 11A; Rob Ecklund, District 3A; John Persell, District 5A; Julie Sandstede, District 6A; and Dave Lislegard, District 6B.</em>