Congress Delivers Wins For Wetlands, CWD Research And Management


The U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to fund the federal government, including funding for several critical conservation programs. Most notably, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) – one of DU’s highest-priority programs – received record funding at $50 million.


“Record funding for NAWCA is a home run for the nation’s most successful wetlands conservation program,” said DU CEO Adam Putnam. “DU and our partners have worked with this Congress from start to finish to ensure critical conservation programs, like NAWCA, remained a priority, and this year-end funding reflects that. We appreciate our legislator friends from both parties who recognize the immense value of conservation, and we look forward to transitioning these dollars to the landscape for the benefit of wildlife, people and our environment.”

NAWCA is a voluntary matching grant program that leverages non-federal and federal funds for wetland restoration. Since enactment in 1989, NAWCA has conserved more than 30 million acres and created an average of 7,500 new jobs annually. Every dollar spent by the federal government, on average, receives a $3 match from program partners like Ducks Unlimited. Further demonstrating the effectiveness of investments made by wetlands programs like NAWCA, the recent State of the Birds report revealed widespread losses of birds in all habitats – except wetlands.

The legislation also includes the Charitable Conservation Easement Integrity Act, which stops the abuse of syndicated conservation easements and reserves deductions for true charitable conservation purposes. Also included were important policy provisions from the Growing Climate Solutions Act and the Sponsoring USDA Sustainability Targets in Agriculture to Incentivize Natural Solutions (SUSTAINS) Act.

Notable conservation programs to receive funding:

  • North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) – $50 million
  • Partners for Fish and Wildlife – $60.2 million
  • Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) – $368 million
  • Delaware River Basin Conservation Act – $11.5 million
  • Chesapeake Bay Program – $92 million
  • Chesapeake WILD Program – $8 million
  • North American Waterfowl Management Plan/Joint Venture Programs – $16.8 million
  • National Wildlife Refuge System – $541.5 million
  • State and Tribal Wildlife Grant Programs – $73.8 million
  • Assistance to rice producers – $250 million
  • NRCS conservation operations – $941.1 million



Today, the Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act was approved by Congress, advancing much-needed solutions for curbing the spread of this 100-percent fatal wildlife disease. The legislation now awaits only the president’s signature, having been included in the Fiscal Year 2023 government funding deal. The bill was previously passed by the House late last year.

“As hunters, we celebrate this decisive action by our lawmakers to infuse state and Tribal agencies with the resources needed to control CWD, while investing in targeted research to create stronger disease solutions,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Both efforts are necessary to ensure the future of our wild deer herds, our continued hunting opportunities, and the strong impacts of hunter-driven conservation funding.”

A peer-reviewed report published this month found that wildlife agencies in 16 CWD-positive states spent an average of $773,000 on disease management in 2021. Currently, the federal government invests just $10 million per year in these efforts through cooperative agreements between state and Tribal agencies and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In a 2022 poll, 88 percent of American voters said they support additional federal investment in CWD management at the state level.

“The National Deer Association has been working tirelessly to increase federal support for the research and management of CWD,” says Torin Miller, senior director of policy for the NDA. “We’re celebrating the passage of the CWD Research and Management Act, and we’re incredibly grateful to Representatives Kind and Thompson and Senators Hoeven and Heinrich for their dedication and leadership on this issue. We’re looking forward to efficient and effective implementation and finding additional ways to increase federal engagement and support to combat this devastating disease.”

The CWD Research and Management Act would split $70 million annually through fiscal year 2028 on management and research priorities. This includes $35 million per year for research that would focus on:

  • Methods to effectively detect CWD in live and harvested deer and the surrounding environment
  • Best practices for reducing CWD occurrence through sustainable harvest of deer and other cervids
  • Factors contributing to spread of the disease locally, such as animal movement and scavenging

Another $35 million per year for management, including surveillance and testing, would prioritize:

  • Areas with the highest incidence of CWD
  • Areas responding to new outbreaks of CWD
  • Areas without CWD that show the greatest risk of CWD emerging
  • Jurisdictions demonstrating the greatest financial commitment to managing, monitoring, surveying, and researching CWD
  • Efforts to develop comprehensive policies and programs focused on CWD management

The bill also includes authorization for federal, state, and Tribal agencies to develop educational materials to inform the public on CWD and directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture to review its Herd Certification Program, which accredits captive deer operations as “low-risk” for CWD contamination but has proven inadequate to stem the spread of the disease.

“The captive Herd Certification Program represents an area where we still have much work to do,” says Andrew Earl, TRCP’s director of government relations. “By passing this legislation today, Congress has set us up for the next phase, in which the USDA must hold the captive deer industry accountable for its role in the rampant spread of CWD. Hunters will be pushing for the department to take a hard look at the persistent failures of the Herd Certification Program and identify specific ways to strengthen it.”