MADISON – The public will have an opportunity to comment on a package of chronic wasting disease (CWD) rules and an accompanying environmental impact statement (EIS) at a series of hearings scheduled for March 17-19 across the state.

Copies of the rules and the EIS are available for review at public libraries, DNR service centers, the DNR Web site, by writing the Bureau of Wildlife Management at PO Box 7921, 101 S. Webster St., Madison, WI 53707-7921, and at the hearings.

An informational presentation on the proposed rules and the EIS will begin at 6 p.m. at all hearing locations. The official hearings will begin at 7 p.m. and conclude at 9 p.m.

Hearing Locations:

Monday, March 17, 6 – 9 p.m.-

Ashland, Conference Center, WITC, 2100 Beaser Avenue, Ashland Beloit, Blackhawk Technical College, 6004 Prairie Rd. (located between Hwy 51 & Prairie Rd.) Beloit Fond du Lac, Theisen Middle School , 525 E Pioneer Rd, Fond du Lac Green Bay, Brown County Central Library , 515 Pine Street , Green Bay Richland Center, UW-Richland Center, Copper Top Theater, Hwy 14, Richland Center Shell Lake, Shell Lake Primary School, 601 South 3rd St. (5 Miles south of Spooner), Shell Lake Union Grove, Union Grove High School, 3422 S. Colony Ave., Union Grove Wisconsin Rapids, Lincoln High School, Arts Center, 180 116th Street South, Wisconsin Rapids

Tuesday, March 18, 6 – 9 p.m.-

Dodgeville, Dodger Bowl, Hwy 18 West, Dodgeville Onalaska, Onalaska High School Auditorium, 700 Hilltopper Pl., Onalaska Fitchburg, Fitchburg Community Center, 5510 Lacy Rd., Fitchburg Rhinelander, James Williams Jr. High School Auditorium, 915 Acacia Lane, Rhinelander Waukesha, Country Inn Hotel and Conference Center, 2810 Golf Rd., Waukesha Wausaukee, Wausaukee High School, N11941 US Hwy. 141, Wausaukee

Wednesday, March 19, 6 – 9 p.m.-

Eau Claire, Eau Claire Memorial High School, Auditorium, Keith St., Eau Claire Park Falls, Park Falls High School Auditorium, 400 9th St. North, Park Falls Mosinee, Northwoods Conference Center, Stoney Creek Inn, 1100 Imperial Ave., Mosinee

“These documents represent a lot of hard work and thoughtful consideration of the proposed actions and impacts.” said DNR Secretary, Scott Hassett. “No other state, to my knowledge, has gone as far as drafting an EIS for their CWD management efforts. Citizen participation in important conservation issues like this one is what Wisconsin is all about. I plan to attend a hearing myself and encourage others to do the same.”

Proposed rules

The proposed CWD rules are closely modeled after existing emergency rules approved by the Natural Resources Board in June 2002. The proposed rules:

* Include opportunities for harvesting deer in and around CWD-infected areas to reduce the spread of CWD.

* Authorize the department to establish eradication zones with a deer population goal of zero or as close as possible to zero, intensive harvest zones with a population goal of less than 10 deer per square mile of deer range, and herd reduction zones with a population goal of 10 deer per square mile of deer range.

* Include a statewide deer baiting and feeding prohibition. “This rule package gives the department tools to control CWD where it is found,” said Bill Vander Zouwen, chief the agency’s wildlife ecology section. “It also includes preventive measures aimed at diminishing the chance that CWD will spread elsewhere and become established.”

“We’ve looked at the science available, talked to people with experience and knowledge in CWD management, wildlife health, prion diseases and human health. Based on what we know, we feel these rules are a proper course of action,” said Tom Hauge, head of DNR wildlife management. “New evidence or knowledge may evolve that suggests new directions in the future, but currently, this rule package is considered the best course of action to control the spread of the disease and preserve future management options.”

Environmental Impact Statement

Accompanying the proposed CWD rules is an EIS that examines the impacts of the proposed rules. The EIS analyses potential effects of the CWD management actions and all alternative actions which were considered by the department. The EIS is assembled into sections that analyze:

* Current science, knowledge and management of CWD * Proposed rules to depopulate the herd from a CWD-infected area

* Reducing the deer herd surrounding an infected area to prevent the disease from spreading

* Prohibiting baiting and feeding to prevent the introduction of the disease in new areas.

“Other states have similar control efforts where deer herds are being drastically reduced in infected areas to slow or stop the spread of the disease,” said Hauge. “However, Wisconsin is the first to assess the impacts of a CWD control program. I would encourage anyone interested in this issue to look over this document – it is an excellent source of information.”

The Natural Resources Board is scheduled to discuss a final version of the CWD management rules, the EIS and public comments received at their April 23, 2003 meeting in Madison.

Public comments may be made at any of the 17 statewide hearings. Written comments on the rules or EIS will be accepted anytime during the 45-day public comment period, February 14-March 31. Written comments or requests for a copy of the rules and EIS should be sent to Bureau of Wildlife Management, 101 S. Webster St., PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707-7921.