It's both a state, U.S. issue

Let it not be said that bipartisanship is dead.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., has joined forces with Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., in the effort to stop the nationwide spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in deer and elk.

The two senators want the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Interior to expand federal tracking and mapping of CWD and to establish universal standards for transporting deer across state lines.

We applaud this effort. It's high time that the federal government took a leadership role against CWD, because deer don't respect state boundaries. People often refer to "Minnesota's deer herd," but deer can roam a long ways, especially during mating season. Earlier this year, researchers captured and put GPS tracking devices on wild deer near Preston, Minn. — the heart of our region's CWD "hot zone" — and were stunned by how far some deer traveled in a relatively short time.

But the reality is that the fastest way for a CWD-infected deer to travel great distances and cross state lines is at 70 miles per hour in the back of a hunter's pickup or in a trailer as it is hauled from one deer farm to another. The carcass of an infected deer contains prions — mutated proteins — that when dumped in a ditch or woodlot can linger in the soil for years and infect other deer. Furthermore, hunters and wildlife officials have long suspected that the interstate transport of live, captive deer and elk has contributed greatly to the spread of CWD since its discovery in Colorado in 1967.

The irony here is that Klobuchar and Wicker shouldn't be the ones leading this fight, because the cat is already out of the bag in their home states.

In Minnesota, 18 wild deer have tested positive for CWD so far, and the disease has also been found on eight deer/elk farms. The latest round of testing near Preston indicates that the "hot zone" is spreading northwest, so it's entirely possible, if not probable, that hunters in the Rochester area will soon be required to have all deer tested.

Mississippi is much earlier in its battle, having detected its first three cases of CWD this year, but even the most optimistic wildlife biologists agree that once CWD reaches an area, it's virtually impossible to eliminate it. The best that can be hoped for is to slow its spread and keep the disease at manageable levels.

So we'd argue that even after eliminating Hawaii and Alaska, there are 46 senators from 23 as-yet-CWD-free states that should be clamoring for federal leadership, with the goal of keeping the disease from ever crossing their borders.