HB 1299 and New Hampshire Cervid Importation Policy

PRS Briefs
Monday, March 7, 2022

Cervids constitute a centrally important aspect of wildlife importation policy. In the past fifty years, the cervid-borne Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been identified in twenty-nine U.S. states, threatening wild and domestic game while complicating wildlife management and deer importation policy. The prion disease is totally fatal, has no therapeutic treatment, and has been shown to drive decline in wild deer populations. New Hampshire remains CWD-free. However, the complex cervid importation policies of the state have prompted citizens and legislators to seek adjustments to the relevant statute, most recently in HB 1299 (see Appendix A). In this report, we articulate the key issues regarding cervid importation into New Hampshire in light of HB 1299 to provide legislators with the information necessary to make policy decisions on this issue. To that end, we answer five questions: (1) What are the state-level risks related to cervid importation? (2) How is cervid importation regulated in New Hampshire? (3) How would HB 1299 affect cervid importation policy? (4) How do other states manage cervid importation? and (5) Which legislative options could address these concerns?
First, we find that CWD is extremely difficult to remove from environments and it leads to declining cervid populations. The disease can pass between wild and captive populations, as well as between cervid species, but there is little evidence that it naturally infects other livestock or humans. There are also numerous other cervid diseases that can pose risks to livestock and humans, including bovine tuberculosis and COVID-19. Cervid importation could also negatively alter soil and biodiversity (see Section 2). Second, we find that, even if HB 1299 was codified, all cervid importation to New Hampshire would remain illegal. Although cervid importation policy is jointly regulated by two administrative bodies, one rule of the NH Department of Agriculture, Markets and Food imposes a de facto ban on nearly all cervid importation. Agr 2116.01 (a) requires New Hampshire to maintain a U.S. Department of Agriculture-recognized Herd Certification Program, which it currently does not (Section 3; see Appendix B for text of Agr 2116). Third, in addition to establishing a reasonable permitting window for the NH Fish and Game Department and an appeals process for denied applications, HB 1299 invokes a sufficient standard for importation which could create significant legal discrepancy between the authorities of the NH Department of Agriculture and the NH Fish and Game Department (Section 4; see Appendix A for text of HB 1299). Comparing the cervid importation policy of New Hampshire with that of other states, we find that the state is unique among its regional peers in distributing cervid importation authority between two departments. Finally, we present legislative options beyond HB 1299, including the creation of a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)-recognized Herd Certification Program, removing the requirement for such a program, streamlining the permitting process, and implementing a formal ban on cervid importation.