The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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February 18, 2012

Deer farm transfer bill hits temporary snag in the Senate

CHARLESTON — Putting deer farms under the Department of Agriculture ran into a temporary stall Friday, allowing time to end a “feud” between them and Natural Resources Director Frank Jezioro.

Rather than vote on SB421, the Senate agreed to detour the legislation to the Rules Committee and afterward, two leaders insisted the bill is in no trouble.

Idea of the legislation is to remove the fledgling industry from the supervision of the Division of Natural Resources and turn it over to the agriculture agency.

Majority Leader John Unger, D-Berkeley, said the delay was sought by Agriculture Chairman Ron Miller, D-Greenbrier, to bring the two sides together.

“It’s absolutely not in trouble,” Unger said of the bill. “It’s just to give them more time to bring together those parties that have been feuding for all these years. We want to bring that feud to an end. Hopefully, we can do that in the next couple of days.”

Deer farmers insist the DNR hamstrings their industry with unreasonable rules, chiefly one that bars them from selling whitetail venison.

Jezioro, however, says the DNR needs to maintain the reins to protect West Virginia’s wild deer herd from disease.

What’s more, the director says allowing the sale of venison would trigger poaching of wild deer.

Miller said he wants some time to meet with the DNR early next week to clear up some rumors associated with the bill.

“The bill is not in trouble as we see it,” he said. “We also want to see where it’s going in the House.”

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In another venture into the animal kingdom, the Senate voted 32-1 to limit the possession of wild and exotic animals.

Natural Resources Chairman Bill Laird, D-Fayette, said West Virginia is one of eight states lacking any restrictions on such animals kept on private property.

Under the bill, the DNR, Agriculture, and Bureau of Public Health via rule-making would develop a comprehensive list of what is deemed “a wild and exotic animal,” Laird said.

Only Sen. Dave Sypolt, R-Preston, voted against the bill.

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