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Public meeting on CWD planned

The Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania are set to hold a public meeting at the East Freedom Fire Hall 9:30 a.m. March 9. The scheduled speaker is John Eveland wildlife biologist and ecologist who is assisting the statewide grassroots sportsmen’s organization with its chronic wasting disease project.

Blair County landowners recently turned away U.S. Department of Agriculture sharpshooters from their property and halted the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s plan to reduce deer populations for a study about whether that could slow the spread of chronic wasting disease.

Eveland supports the landowners’ effort and said the Game Commission’s deer management policies are not based on current science.

“If you indiscriminately kill deer or eliminate completely out of desperation, you will obviously stop the spread, but you don’t cure anything because the bacteria that causes the disease remains in the soil and is infectious for long periods of time,” Eveland said in a telephone interview Friday. “There has to be a different approach.”

For well over a year, Eveland has been collaborating with Louisiana State University professor Frank Bastian who announced in February that he found the cause of CWD is not a warped protein as is widely accepted but a type of bacteria called a spiroplasma. With that discovery, Bastian believes he can develop the first vaccine for the disease within three years if he has funding.

“I will be discussing two approaches — Dr. Bastian’s vaccines and the diagnostic test kit he will be developing for hunters. And secondly, changes to deer management policy in the interim that can be effective without destroying the deer population,” Eveland said.

The meeting is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. March 9 at the Freedom Township Fire Hall, 139 Municipal St., East Freedom.

The doors will open at 8:30 a.m., said Phil Wagner, president of the Unified Sportsmen of Penn­sylvania.

The fire hall can seat about 300 people, maybe, Wagner said.

“Seats are first come, first served,” he said.

“We are hoping the result is just to get the word out to people in the area who didn’t know the Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania existed and that we are working on research for a CWD cure by supporting Dr. Bastian,” he added.

Wagner said Bastian needs $300,000 over next three years for the vaccine project. The Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania signed a partnership agreement with LSU stating the group would help raise funds.

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