The Colorado Agriculture Commission on Tuesday reluctantly approved strict new regulations on the elk-ranching industry designed to prevent another outbreak of chronic wasting disease.

Commission members said they agreed with most of the new regulations that were spelled out in a memorandum of agreement between the state wildlife and agriculture departments.

But the members strongly objected to a provision that gives the state wildlife agency veto power over elk imports. Many saw it as a direct challenge to the authority of Dr. Wayne Cunningham, the state veterinarian.

“Looking at this long term, this turns my stomach,” said Glen Murray of Commerce City.

Commissioner Don Ament told the commission he feared the legislature or Gov. Bill Owens would remove the agency’s authority over elk farms and alternative livestock operations if members didn’t pass the regulations.

The commission approved the rules on a 6-2 vote but vowed to revisit them if the state wildlife agency fails to approve elk imports.

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