Madison, Wis. – Citizens will have an opportunity to comment on proposed rules for on-going management of chronic wasting disease (CWD) at a series of public hearings. The Natural Resources Board approved the hearings at its January 22 meeting in Madison. Hearing locations across the state will be announced shortly.

Recognizing the high level of public interest in this issue, the Natural Resources Board directed that the department schedule hearings throughout the state and that hearings be held during evening or weekend hours to maximize citizen participation.

The proposed rules authorize the Department of Natural Resources to establish eradication zones, intensive harvest zones and herd reduction zones to address known areas of CWD infection and set earn-a-buck harvest regulations in those zones. Also included are preventive measures such as a statewide ban on deer baiting and feeding. Baiting and feeding deer can serve to spread transmissable wildlife diseases such as CWD and tuberculosis, according to wildlife veterinarians and biologists.

Accompanying the proposed CWD rules will be an environmental impact statement (EIS) that examines the impacts of the proposed rules. Citizens will be able to comment on both documents at the hearings. The EIS is near completion with the official comment period for the EIS expected to begin in mid-February. Complete information on how to receive a copy of the EIS and how to comment will be issued shortly and will be posted on the department’s Web site, www.dnr.state.wi.us.

Following the hearings, citizen comments will be summarized and addressed by the department’s wildlife management team for presentation to the Natural Resources Board. The Natural Resources Board is expected to vote on the CWD rule package at its April 23, 2003 meeting. The rule then goes to the legislature for final review.

“This package is much the same as the emergency CWD rules the Board passed last June and the legislature extended in November,” said Tom Hauge, director of wildlife management at DNR.

“If I could have a wish for Wisconsin wildlife it would be that CWD would disappear,” said DNR Secretary Scott Hassett. “But it’s here and that’s the reality of the situation. We need to deal with it and these authorities are needed to do the job.”

Eradication zones, intensive harvest zones and herd reduction zones would be determined by the Natural Resources Board through an emergency rule each spring and may be established or modified each year by the board.

The department would also continue to have the authority to issue special harvest permits to landowners, extend hunting seasons, authorize use of bait in eradication zones, and allow shooting from vehicles and night shooting by department or other governmental agency sharpshooters. The department would also retain authority to use aircraft during specific times of year to spot or drive deer. Authority to shoot from aircraft is also included in the rule but would be limited to areas where the department has received landowner approval.