CHARLESTON — Natural Resources Director Frank Jezioro agreed Monday to meet with deer farmers in West Virginia to head off what one lawmaker feared would evolve into a “weekly battle” over the fledgling industry in the upcoming legislative session.

Sen. Karen Facemyer, R-Jackson, asked for the pow-wow, telling the DNR leader, “I’d like to get past this.”

Jezioro took the senator up on her offer to meet with industry leaders in quest of rules and regulations all can embrace before the session begins next month.

At the same time, Jezioro emphasized he must weigh the interests of 350,000 deer hunters against those of a handful of private deer farms at a time the DNR is struggling to contain Chronic Wasting Disease, a fatal, neurological disorder already detected in five deer within a 7.5-mile radius in Hampshire County.

“There are some things we can compromise on, some things we can’t,” Jezioro said.

Sen. Larry Edgell, D-Wetzel, co-chairman of the Agriculture and Agri-Business Committee, likewise pursued the idea of a pre-session meeting to explore means of avoiding a session-long conflict over deer farming.

“We don’t want to see a weekly battle over this,” he said.

Afterward, Ronn Grandia, executive director of the West Virginia Deer Farmers Association, applauded Facemyer for seeking such a meeting.

However, he told the senator the DNR imposed its emergency rule that forbids the importation and intra-state movement of captive deer without giving industry leaders any indication of its intentions. Deer farmers see the rule as one that impedes industry growth by forbidding them access to genetics needed to produce a healthier line of animals.

Facemyer offered to mediate any negotiations between farmers and the DNR, and other lawmakers indicated they were willing to join in.

“We’ve been left out of all the negotiations,” said Grandia, a surgeon.

“That’s why we want someone as yourself, an unbiased person, to listen in on these. If we can come up with meaningful negotiations, absolutely. But the past track record has not allowed us to do that.”

Jezioro opened his appearance with a 12-minute DVD provided by the National Wildlife Federation depicting staged kills of drugged and dying deer for the benefit of well-heeled shooters. One animal struggling to walk was propped up in a thicket for a kill that cost the shooter several thousand dollars.

On the brief film, Brian Preston, who represents a four-state region of the federation, said anti-hunting groups are using such evidence to fuel sentiment against legitimate hunters.

The documentary showed illegal practices at an Indiana preserve, where the owner was fined $500,000 and jailed for numerous violations.

Some of the content dealt with fears over CWD, with Preston saying captive deer have been shown to be a source of the mystical disorder.

Afterward, Jezioro told lawmakers he wasn’t attempting to imply such unethical and illegal practices by hunters occurred in West Virginia.

“And I hope I never see it,” the DNR director said.

Jezioro emphasized neither he nor the DNR itself wants to regulate deer farming so it would go out of business in West Virginia.

“The governor says we’re open for business,” he said. “That’s fine. But it has to be a legitimate business. And there have to be regulations.”

Given the precarious nature of CWD, he said, the DNR cannot put the wild deer herds at risk in West Virginia for the sake of a dozen or so cervid farms that are profitable.

“What I don’t want to see is the hunting heritage of West Virginia and this country destroyed by anti-hunting groups and what you just saw,” he said.

Afterward, deer farmers likewise denounced the criminal acts documented at the Indiana game preserve and pointed out hunters who stalk game in the wild in West Virginia have been guilty of unethical and illegal acts, as well, including spotlighting and hunting out of season.

Jezioro said the uncertainty of CWD leaves open the possibility the ailment could spread to humans and livestock, although no such instance is on record yet.

“So little is known about it, if you’re going to err, you want to err on the side of caution,” he told the committee.

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