Park assessing public comments on wasting disease

Shenandoah National Park is moving closer to the approval of an amendment to its Chronic Wasting Disease Management Plan.

The park is in the middle of assessing public comments received in various manners between Nov. 10 and Dec. 10.

Jim Schaberl, the park’s chief of natural and cultural resources, said that the 25 comments received online were largely a mixed bag. “It’s a full range of reactions,” Schaberl added.

“We had some agree with the approach, while others disagreed,” Schaberl said.

Schaberl also noted that some comments were from people who suggested approaches, such as the introduction of predators, that the park has already deemed as non-viable solutions.

Other comments, Schaberl said, were from people simply seeking clarification on aspects of the amendment.

One such point of clarification, according to Schaberl, is on potential impacts that the amendment might have on deer residing outside of the park’s borders. Schaberl said that hunters have voiced concerns over a dwindling deer population and whether or not it would impact those deer.

“Our original plan talks about how we’re working in partnership with state agencies on disease detection,” Schaberl said.

This proposed amendment would give the park the capacity to lethally remove up to 500 deer from high-density populations of the park — if the disease were to be detected within five miles of the park’s borders.

Schaberl said that the park would only be authorized to lethally remove deer within its own borders.

Schaberl noted that, in the case of this misinformation, the park “could have been clearer in that regard.”

At the same time, Schaberl said, “We haven’t gotten comments that say we’ve gotten anything too wrong.”

Moving forward, Schaberl said that the park will be looking at each comment carefully to see if there is anything they missed. Schaberl also said they will be posting a public comment report on the park’s website. This report will contain further points of clarification. This is another effort by the park to, as Schaberl noted, be “as open in the public process as possible.”

The park is also gathering informal responses from additional sources such as email to different park employees for this assessment period, Schaberl said. The park is looking to complete the assessment process after the New Year.

Schaberl said that the “jury is out” as far as a set date for the amendment to be officially approved.

“We have the potential to complete this in January of 2015,” Schaberl said.

When the process is complete, Schaberl said the park “will try to get the word out” on social media and their website.

However, Schaberl said that the park wants to “get everything right beforehand.”

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com