CWD in Wisconsin

As an avid deer hunter in Wisconsin, chronic wasting disease or CWD is something that always crosses the back of your mind when you field harvest your deer and when you eventually put a fork to it. If you do not know what CWD is, it is a prion disease that affects deer, elk, reindeer, sika deer, and moose.  This prion disease is neurodegenerative, meaning that it can result in drastic weight loss (hence wasting), stumbling, fatigue, and other neurological problems. If you have ever seen videos of deer with CWD it is as if you are looking at a zombie but in animal form.  It is quite depressing because they no longer have control over their bodily functions.  In 2019, the Wisconsin DNR tested around 250,000 deer across Wisconsin.  They found that about 6500 of those deer were infected with CWD. Therefore, you could calculate that approximately 2% of the whitetail deer population in Wisconsin is infected with CWD.

Most of these cases are found in the Southwestern part of the state and 2% doesn’t sound like much but it is a problem no matter how small it might be.  This is a problem because we know that this disease can be spread to a variety of ungulates, but we do not know whether it can be spread from ungulate to human. Right now, the only thing we do know is that CWD poses a risk to non-human primates like monkeys that eat meat infected by CWD. This is somewhat concerning since we are very closely related to monkeys.  Though no human has contracted CWD from consuming meat from an infected ungulate it is still a very big concern among hunters. If a human ever contracted CWD we could only assume that it could be transferred from human to human and ultimately becoming the next pandemic.  

Clean Energy in Wisconsin

Wisconsin as a state underutilizes the amount of renewable energy it could produce.  Currently, in Wisconsin, only 10% of Wisconsin’s energy is produced by a renewable resource.  As a state, there are many different options that could be beneficial to the environment, but to the economy in Wisconsin as well.  For instance, wind and solar energy are both viable options when it comes to clean energy.  Solar power is continuing to gain traction because solar energy production has advanced in such a way that solar energy is like if not less then buying electricity from local utility plants. The only thing bad about Wisconsin is that the sun does not shine as much during the winter and at some points during the winter we only receive about 4 hours of sunlight per day. Which would not be ideal for solar energy.  

As far as Wind energy goes Wisconsin is highly lacking compared to its neighboring counterparts. Wisconsin currently produces about 648 Megawatts of wind energy installed capacity. Our neighbors such as Iowa, Illinois, and Minnesota produce about 5,000 to 3,000 Megawatts of wind energy installed capacity. Wisconsin has enough land to produce the same amount of energy as its neighboring states, just decides not to

Another renewable energy source that Wisconsin relies upon is Hydroelectricity dams.  In Wisconsin there are currently over 100 dams used to produce electricity and that number is only going to go down. This is mostly due to the many ecological impacts that dams have on an ecosystem.  Overall,  Wisconsin has a very limited amount of renewable resources put into place,  even though you would think that would not be the case being that we are surrounded by various forms of nature.  This has to change in order to make our energy sources more sustainable.

Deforestation…Nah Not In Wisconsin

Wisconsin has a total land area of about 34.7 million acres, and about 46% of that area is covered by trees.  In the late 1800s or early 1900s, most of Wisconsin timber was cut down for agriculture or just for plain old timber itself.  I continue to believe that Wisconsin’s forest is being cut down at an alarming rate due to the need for agricultural land. I believe this because every time I go up north where I hunt, I continue to see the very forests I hunted in getting cut down and used for cranberry bogs or for potato, corn, or soybean fields. However, my eyes have only seen a specific part of Wisconsin get changed drastically by deforestation.

On the contrary, Wisconsin is gaining more forested land ever than before. This is due to multiple factors, but one that is most important is that about more than 50% of Wisconsin forested land is owned by individual landowners. The DNR has continued to educate landowners on the benefit of forest management and wildlife habitat and it seems to be working well. The DNR can help landowners figure out when certain areas are ready to be cut and help identify changes within the woodlot.  In addition to the DNR helping landowners, the landowners also receive property tax relief because they either manage their land for recreation, timber income, or wildlife habitat.  Therefore, my initial thought of Wisconsin forests being cut down at an alarming rate was wrong and the DNR has actually allowed for Wisconsin’s forests to flourish.

Link of the Week

Yet again this week we have an article relating to the coronavirus, but instead of the impacts it is having on the environment this article explores other avenues. Especially since we should be focused on staying home and staying healthy. The blog was posted by Wisconsin Environment and was written by Jennette Gayer. It is an actually pretty interesting article, so check it out.

How COVID-19 is affecting the Environment

When it comes to the coronavirus, we are all affected in different ways.  We are all hopefully practicing social distancing and in some cases quarantine.  Obviously, this is something that we are all adjusting to and something we do not enjoy, but it is a necessary evil.  Even though COVID-19 has taken many lives this necessary evil is not all bad for everyone, as a matter of fact, the environment is enjoying every second of it. Due to the lack of travel, social distancing, and in major cases quarantines that have been put into place we are seeing many positive benefits to the environment.

NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) pollution monitoring satellites have detected significant decreases in nitrogen dioxide (NO2) over China.NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) pollution monitoring satellites have detected significant decreases in nitrogen dioxide (NO2) over China.NASA

One of the main benefits we are starting to see is in air quality.  For example, while China was in quarantine for 2 weeks, they saw a significant decrease in pollution.  This obviously happened because of industrial plants and forms of transport being shut down. This was also seen to be the case in Italy where quarantine occurred. The main pollutant we are seeing a drop in is Nitrogen Dioxide, which corresponds with industrial activity and vehicular traffic.  In addition to that, industrial plants being shut down means less electricity or energy is used. This reduces the use of coal, which reduces the amount of carbon dioxide being given off in these areas.  One of the other effects we are starting to see due to humans being confined to their homes is the increase in wildlife.  With fewer people on the streets we are starting to see animals that have commonly gone unnoticed in urban areas pop up on street corners.

Sure, these environmental impacts are only temporary, but could it be the new norm.  We have seen that the reduction of emissions is possible, but can it be sustainable in the future?