A bipartisan effort is underway to establish a chronic wasting disease research grant program.

U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and John Hoeven, R-N.D., introduced the Chronic Wasting Disease Research Act to establish the program.

CWD, which poses a serious threat to deer populations, is a fatal and contagious neurological disorder that has been documented in captive and wild herds in 26 states across the country, including Wisconsin.

"In Wisconsin, we have a proud, longstanding tradition of hunting and enjoying the great outdoors," Baldwin said. "But season after season, our sportsmen and women continue to deal with the presence of chronic wasting disease in new areas. It's clear we need to invest more federal resources in researching how to stop the spread of this deadly wildlife disease that threatens Wisconsin's hunting traditions and our deer herds. I'm proud to join Sen. Hoeven and provide our state and tribal partners the tools they need to take on this disease."

Specifically, the bill authorizes up to $15 million annually for CWD research, such as detection and decontamination of disease in deer; long-term suppression and eradication; and determining markers for genetic resistance.

"North Dakota has a rich outdoor heritage with many sportsmen participating in the annual deer hunt," Hoeven said. "Chronic wasting disease threatens deer populations in North Dakota and across the nation, however very little is known about this fatal disease. This legislation provides grants to help bolster research into prevention and management efforts to stop this very contagious disease from impacting not only our sportsmen by protecting deer in the wild, but also our deer farmers."

Entities eligible for the research grants include universities, state and tribal departments of agriculture and research facilities conducting CWD research, including tribal research facilities.

"This is a tremendous step forward in battling this national animal health disease," said Shawn Schafer, executive director of the deer farmer's association. "The stigma around this disease has a negative impact on the number of people who hunt and the industries that support hunting. I applaud our sponsors' foresight and dedication in combating CWD as this legislation is the key to protecting both wild and farmed deer and elk and to stop its spread across the country."