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St. Louis County Board votes to prohibit new cervid farms to combat Chronic Wasting Disease

Lead Summary

The St. Louis County Board has voted to prohibit new cervid farms in the county in an effort to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD). The unanimous vote updates the county’s zoning ordinance to allow existing cervid farms to continue to operate, though prohibits expansion of those existing farms.
The county had been operating under a one-year temporary moratorium, which would have expired at the end of this month. During the past year, the Planning Commission considered options ranging from a complete ban, to doing nothing, or requiring a conditional use permit for new cervid farms.
“We realized our emphasis needed to be to do what we can where we can,” said Planning Director Matt Johnson. “Now we’ll focus on educating the public about testing and helping stakeholders who are looking for a cure.”
Chronic wasting disease affects deer, elk, reindeer, sika deer, moose and other members of the Cervidae family. CWD is fatal to animals and there are no treatments or vaccines. It may take over a year before an infected animal develops symptoms, which can include drastic weight loss (wasting), stumbling, listlessness and other neurologic symptoms. Some infected animals may die without ever showing signs of the disease.
In 2021, a CWD-positive deer farm was confirmed in Beltrami County; and earlier this year, a deer tested positive for CWD in neighboring Itasca County.
“Agriculture is important, but the importance of protecting our white tail deer herds and the traditions of deer hunting in this county have to take priority,” said Commissioner Keith Nelson.
Commissioner Patrick Boyle, who first raised the issue more than a year ago, added, “Most of us at this table have been at a deer camp and enjoy deer hunting. I thank the Board for this. It’s the right step and the right direction.”
The updated ordinance prohibiting new cervid farms and expansion of existing ones is effective immediately.

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