Carlton County Board to consider moratorium on new cervid farms

A presentation from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on the impact of chronic wasting disease in deer in Minnesota has prompted the Carlton County Board to consider a one-year moratorium on establishing farms.

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At a future meeting, the Carlton County Board of Commissioners will vote on a proposed temporary ordinance prohibiting the establishment of cervid farms in the county.
Steve Kuchera / 2013 file / Duluth News Tribune

CARLTON — The Carlton County Board of Commissioners will vote on a proposed temporary ordinance prohibiting the establishment of cervid farms within the county at an upcoming board meeting.

During its committee of the whole meeting, Tuesday, May 3, the board received a presentation from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on chronic wasting disease in cervids.

Cervids include deer, elk and moose. During the presentation, Capt. Robert Gorecki, DNR enforcement division regional manager in northeastern Minnesota, explained that chronic wasting disease is fatal to deer exposed to it, and there is no cure. The disease affects the brain of the animal and ultimately results in its death.

Greg Bernu, Carlton County land commissioner, said there is only one cervid farm located in the county.

The proposed moratorium would last for a year to study the the impacts and threats of chronic wasting disease in Carlton County and if any modifications are needed to the county's zoning ordinance for cervid farms.


Gorecki added the moratorium would be beneficial to ensure the disease does not spread to Carlton County, as farms across the country aren't testing a third of their animals and then moving them and possibly spreading the disease.

"We are not looking at trying to get rid of deer farmers," he said. "There are no restrictions on exporting any of your animals."

Gorecki added more counties passing similar moratoriums could result in the Minnesota Legislature passing something more sustainable.

Craig Engwall, executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, said more needs to be done at the local level when it comes to preventing the spread of the disease.

The two aspects Engwall said need to be focused on are the geographic range of cervids infected and the prevalence of the disease.

"The geography now is expanded in Minnesota, it is more broad, but our prevalence is so low ... and we need to keep it that way," he said.

The association has been active at lobbying the Legislature to ban importation from states with higher positivity rates of the disease, according to Engwall.

If the disease were to spread in Carlton County, Engwall said it could affect the traditions of deer hunting and even have an economic impact.


"Deer hunting in Minnesota is over a half a billion dollar industry a year," he said.

The proposed moratorium would help to protect the wild deer in the area, as well.

Mike Schrage, wildlife biologist with the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa resource management division, said the Band submitted testimony in support of the moratorium.

"Deer and deer hunting are critical parts of Fond du Lac culture and traditions," he said. "Fond du Lac as a result has been deeply concerned about chronic wasting disease."

After some discussion with those in attendance, Bernu said there will be a chance for more public comment before the board votes on the decision.

Commissioner Gary Peterson said the proposed moratorium is intended to make people aware of the problem as well as prevent it.

"What happens if (chronic wasting disease) comes into this county?" he said. "How is that going to affect deer hunting in this county?"

Peterson said he would be in favor of doing something to help prevent the possible spread into the county.

Dylan is a former reporter for the Cloquet Pine Journal.
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