The drama surrounding deer management in Missouri came to an end Thursday in the General Assembly.
Hours after the Senate voted to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of a bill that would have reclassified captive deer as livestock, not wildlife, the House voted to let the veto stand.
But even then, there was plenty of drama. The final tally was 108-52, one vote short of the two-thirds majority needed to overturn the veto. The decisive vote came in the waning moments of the roll call when Rep. Jeff Roorda, a Democrat from Barnhart, switched his vote and came out in opposition of overriding Nixon’s action.
That vote brought pause to a hot-button issue that had simmered for months. After the Department of Conservation came out with strict proposed guidelines on managing private deer farms — aimed mostly at reducing the potential to spread chronic wasting disease from captive cervids to wild deer — deer farmers accused the agency of trying to put them out of business and pushed for legislation that would transfer management of captive deer from the Department of Conservation to the Department of Agriculture.
The bill picked up traction and was approved by both the House and Senate. But Nixon vetoed the bills in July, stating that deer are wildlife and should be managed by the Department of Conservation.
Supporters of Nixon’s veto celebrated Thursday.
“This is a huge, historic win for the conservation community of Missouri,” said Brandon Butler, executive director of the Conservation Federation of Missouri. “This fight was about so much more than deer.
“Hopefully, it will wake up the masses of Missouri citizen conservationists and they will begin engaging in efforts to protect our natural resources that come under attack way too often.
“This year it was deer. What is next?”
But the battle might not be over. Sam Jones, president of the Missouri Whitetail Breeders and Hunting Ranch Association, told The Star that his group is considering legal action.
“We don’t feel this is over,” he said. “We’re looking into taking this to the courts.”
To reach outdoors editor Brent Frazee, call 816-234-4319 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.