Growing up in Montana, nature and the outdoors have consistently played a pivotal role in the development of my identity. From going on long, intensive hikes to simply walking the dogs, my friends and I constantly find ourselves immersed in the beautiful landscapes that Bozeman is known for. The threat that Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) poses to our delicate ecosystem is a serious concern for me and many other teens whose hobbies and lifestyles depend on the deer, moose, and elk that are being affected by it.
While I am not an avid hunter like some of my peers, I depend on these animals presence just as much as they do. Deer, elk, and moose bring a sense of nature to all corners of my life. There is a family of deer that often spend time just across the street from my house. My family loves to see herds of elk on our way up to the mountains, seeing a moose makes our whole day great. If CWD was found near Bozeman it would be nothing short of devastating to me.
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Wyoming, a state similar to ours in its love of the outdoors, has made no meaningful steps to stop the progression of CWD, a disease that is fatal in every case. In fact, the feedgrounds in Wyoming, that supply hay to wild elk in the winter, are a disaster waiting to happen. If CWD gets into the feedgrounds the disease will spread rapidly through the elk population. To protect Montana, it is vital that feedgrounds in Wyoming are phased out. It is also important that natural predators of elk, deer, and moose are protected and their dwindling numbers restored. Animals like grey wolves and grizzlies have a huge role in naturally controlling the deer, elk, and moose populations.
Though CWD has yet to take a large toll on Montana populations, there is a very real chance it will unless measures are taken by Wyoming and surrounding states. Both state and federal government needs to support sustainable wildlife management practices. I hope to see these animals stick around forever.