The study group charged with keeping Douglas County’s natural deer herd safe from chronic wasting disease adopted a pared down ordinance regulating deer farms.
The ordinance adopts state regulations for captive deer operations, creates a mechanism for the county to inspect farm fences and establishes a local penalty for anyone not in compliance, a fine of not more than $200.
“If it was a matter of breaking a rule … we would already be in violation of all the standards we’re already held to, which would result in getting our license revoked,” said Cade Musch, an owner of Long Lake Whitetails in South Range.
The ordinance was drafted by Corporation Counsel Carolyn Pierce after a review of proposed regulations raised questions about whether the county has the authority to enforce more stringent restrictions.
Proposed restrictions would have included regulations to quarantine or kill escaped deer and a requirement to provide financial assurances in the event a deer farm developed CWD. The county doesn’t have the statutory authority to enforce either, Pierce concluded. She said the original draft put Douglas County at risk of litigation and could increase the county’s liability.
The adoption of the ordinance, which still requires board approval, doesn’t end the work the committee hopes to accomplish to establish standards for deer farms or hunting reserves in Douglas County.
The Zoning Committee is going to begin discussing a proposal Wednesday, Sept. 9 to develop an Agriculture 2 zoning district specifically for deer farms and hunting reserves. No action can be taken at that meeting.
Supervisor Mary Lou Bergman suggested study group members provide information about what they would like to see in establishing an AG-2 zoning district.
Changing the zoning ordinance is a lot more involved; officials have to get town approval for that, said Tessah Behlings, zoning coordinator.
The study group is planning to meet again at 5:15 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17 to discuss possibly extending a moratorium on importing captive deer and other cervids into Douglas County.
Musch questioned the committee’s ability to do that since the moratorium has been in place for almost two years. He said he would hope the committee could make an exception for existing deer farms with the fall rut because his goal is to breed deer that are genetically resistant to CWD.
Pierce said the committee could probably extend the moratorium for a few more months, but she wouldn’t recommend extending it for another year. The county could be legally challenged, she said, if the timeline is not reasonable.
“It’ll be two years in November,” Pierce said. “We’ve already extended it once. But obviously, no one expected having to deal with COVID-19 though and what impact that has had on government function.”
Supervisor Scott Luostari questioned what would happen if the moratorium was dropped before the new AG-2 zoning district was in place.
A new game farm could come in under current zoning regulations without the moratorium in place, Pierce said.
The Douglas County Board considers the new ordinance related to fencing and importation when it meets at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17.