Accepting Public Comment on Actions to Address Chronic Wasting Disease

The USDA Forest Service is accepting public comments on a proposal to continue restricting wildlife feeding on the Allegheny National Forest in northwestern Pennsylvania. A temporary restriction, which only applies to activities on National Forest System lands, took effect on September 1, 2021. The restriction has been very effective, with a high degree of compliance observed, and we now propose to extend the order indefinitely.

The order would prohibit feeding wildlife or laying or placing any food, fruit, hay, grain, chemical, salt, or other minerals on the Allegheny National Forest. Exceptions would be made for:

  • Persons placing a bird feeder in a developed campground unless such bird feeder has been identified as being visited by other wildlife species.
  • Persons or groups with a permit specifically authorizing the otherwise prohibited act or omission.
  • Any Federal, State, or local officer, or member of an organized rescue or fire fighting force in the performance of an official duty.

On May 26, 2021, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture confirmed that a captive white-tailed deer on a Warren County hunting preserve tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). CWD is a highly contagious neurological disease that affects members of the deer, or cervid, family and is always fatal to the animals it infects.  It develops very slowly in the lymph nodes, spinal tissue, and brains of deer and elk in Pennsylvania. To date, there is no evidence that it can be spread to humans.

The feeding of deer can amplify the transmission of diseases like CWD and result in long-term habitat destruction, increased vehicle collisions, habituation to humans, alteration of normal behavioral patterns, and poses risks to other wildlife.

To help slow or stop the spread of CWD, we approved a one-year restriction on wildlife feeding activities on National Forest System land in 2021. We have since determined that a longer-term restriction is necessary to most effectively contain the spread of CWD. The Pennsylvania Game Commission has been very supportive of this restriction and supports extending it indefinitely.

To view the proposal and project documents, please visit the project website at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=62420.  Comments regarding our proposal are requested by August 12, 2022, and may be submitted to comments-eastern-allegheny@usda.gov.

For more information, or to submit comments by telephone or mail, please contact Ecosystem Staff Officer Andrea Hille at andrea.hille@usda.gov, 814-728-6179, or 4 Farm Colony Drive, Warren, PA 16365.