Shea-Porter Introduces Legislation to Address Growing Threat from Wildlife Diseases
WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) today announced that she has introduced H.R. 7005, the Wildlife Disease Emergency Act. This legislation would address the growing threat that wildlife diseases pose to our health and economy. The bill has been endorsed by the American Bird Conservancy, National Audubon Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. In New Hampshire only one Little Brown Bat was found this past winter compared to the more than 3,000 that would regularly hibernate before the population was decimated by white nose syndrome. The legislation is cosponsored by Congressmen Matt Cartwright (D-PA), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Richard Nolan (D-MN), and Bennie Thompson (D-MS).
“Wildlife diseases are a threat to our nation’s economy, food security, and environmental health,” said Shea-Porter. “The Interior Department has to have the ability to monitor wildlife diseases and coordinate an effective response to these emergencies as they arise. This bill would help address the threats posed by wildlife diseases by allowing the Interior Department to declare and rapidly coordinate responses to wildlife disease emergencies such as white-nose syndrome, which has devastated bat populations in places around the country. My legislation would create a federal Wildlife Disease Committee to help federal agencies and state governments respond to these diseases, and it establishes a grant program to fund states’ efforts to counter these diseases.”
Wildlife diseases are a significant threat to our nation. North American bat populations are currently suffering from white-nose syndrome (WNS), an emergent disease that is quickly spreading across the United States and Canada. Characterized by a white fungus that grows on the skin of hibernating bats, WNS has killed more than 5.7 million bats throughout 25 states.
Diseases like white-nose syndrome impact our nation’s economy. Approximately 75% of our crops depend on pollinators like bats and bees. Bees alone contribute to nearly $19 billion worth of crops, while the U.S. Geological Survey estimates that bats provide at least $3.7 billion in pest control services to farmers each year. The loss of just these two species from diseases would be devastating to our nation’s agriculture, endangering our economic and food security.
“Early detection and rapid response are important components of effective disease monitoring and control,” said Steve Holmer, Vice President of Policy at the American Bird Conservancy. “The ability to quickly respond to new threats is a cost-effective approach to conserving species and protecting valuable wildlife resources.”
The WDEA addresses the threats posed by wildlife diseases by allowing the US Department of the Interior to declare and coordinate responses to wildlife disease emergencies. It also provides for the creation of a Wildlife Disease Committee to assist in preparing federal agencies, state governments, and tribal entities to respond to these diseases. Finally, it gives the Secretary the tools to fund these important emergency response activities by authorizing a grant program to support state and tribal actions and establishing a Wildlife Disease Emergency Fund within the U.S. Treasury.