Missouri deer, and deer hunters, just won a political battle by the narrowest possible margin.
Last July Governor Nixon vetoed legislation that would have reclassified confined deer as livestock. In a Sep. 10th veto override session, after the Senate voted to override the veto, the Missouri House fell 1 vote shy of the 2/3rds majority needed to override SB 506, the bill that contained the livestock language. In order to override a veto, 2/3rds of each chamber must vote for the override. The House needed 109 votes, they got 108.
This victory means the MDC will not need to go to court to assert their authority, giving them at least one more year to regulate the confined deer industry.
CWD is a devastating disease that has strong ties to the captive deer industry. With no effective live test for CWD it is not really possible for the industry to ship live deer around the country without risking new outbreaks. There is no way to prove or disprove where it came from, but the circumstantial evidence is overwhelming that the industry brought CWD into Missouri. And with hundreds of deer breeding and shooting facilities operating across the state, there is a real world risk that more CWD could be trucked into Missouri, creating new outbreaks.
Because CWD is so incredibly persistent in the environment it is nearly impossible to control once firmly established. Missouri's outbreak is still small enough that management techniques may be able to control or at least slow it way down. "Wait and See" is a recipe for disaster. Only early action is effective. Attemtps to interfere with management in the critical early phases of a CWD outbreak could result in devastating long-term damage.
But the deer breeding/fenced shooting industry has brought money, lobbyists and PR firms to Jefferson city to fight the regulations needed to protect wild Missouri deer from the risk of more outbreaks.
The Conservation Federation of Missouri led a broad coalition of Conservation agencies that fought tooth and nail to win this one. But with a margin that thin it is questionable whether we can win again in 2015. Missouri hunters pretty much sat this one out. While attempts to get hunters to wake up and smell the coffee will continue, there is not much reason for optimism. Political wars are won by the side that shows up, and sustaining this veto is just one battle in the war. Until the voices of the half-million Missouri deer hunters is heard, the fate of our deer herd is at risk.
The clearest lesson to be learned from this episode it is that our legislative leaders are committed to re-politicize Missouri's system of conservation, and are willing to use every filthy trick they can think of to get it done. The deer=livestock language was inserted into a perfectly good Ag bill in the waning moments of the session last May, without debate or amendments permitted. Simply disgusting.
We can expect additional dirty tricks -- such as refusal to confirm the Governor's appointments to the Missouri Conservation Commission, like the currently pending appointment of Dave Murphy, recently retired Director of the Conservation Federation of Missouri -- probably the best appointment to that body in modern history. That appointment looks likely to be another casualty of this war.
There will be efforts to politicize conservation by changing the structure of the Commission such that each commissioner represents an arbitrary geographical area rather than all commissioners representing all citizens, the way it's been for almost 80 years.
Also expect an attempt to destroy MDC funding by attacking the "Design for Conservation" 1/8th of 1% sales tax which voters overwhelmingly approved almost 40 years ago, a move that made the MDC the model conservation agency for the nation.
Legislative disrespect for the will of Missouri voters on conservation matters could not be made more clear. Despite polling that shows overwhelming citizen approval of the job done by the MDC, while voter approval the performance of legislative bodies is at historic lows, our legislature seems firmly committed to bring politics back into conservation.
In debate this year they repeatedly criticized the MDC for failing to consult the legislature before fulfilling the duties we voters assigned them via constitutional authority over Missouri fish, forests and wildlife. Other state agencies may need to kiss the legislative ring, but we voters took politics out of conservation in 1936.
Legislative leaders appear not to have gotten the memo.
It is a shame, because it look like their assault on conservation is just warming up.
To see how your Senator and Representative voted on the veto override, go to NoMoCWD.org and check the links in the red alert box.
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