By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

As a new year prepares to dawn, there's sure to be one thing as certain as death and taxes: The discovery of additional cases of chronic wasting disease in northwest Kansas deer.

The CWD discovery, arguably, is much the same as death, as death is necessary before the disease can be sampled. Deer suffering from the disease are sure to die -- eventually, whether at the hands of a hunter, a motor vehicle or the disease itself.

The idea of such a brain-wasting, always-fatal disease such as CWD -- akin to mad cow disease -- isn't ideal fodder for pre-Christmas discussion, but it is among the top outdoor stories for 2011.

Let's face it, there's been plenty of news on the outdoors front. Some of it has been good -- depending on a person's point of view -- while some has been downright bad.

CWD has long been on outdoor Santa's "bad" list, and so far 40 deer have been tested and confirmed to be infected with the disease -- all of them in northwest Kansas.

Zebra mussels, those tiny little clams that are prolific breeders and filters of nutrients in water, deserve lumps of coal as well. They glom on to virtually anything that doesn't move, such as rocks, boat hulls and pontoons.

They also happen to be in Lake Wilson, where the population has exploded enough to force waders to wear water shoes lest their feet be sliced by the open shells.

Other changes have been more administrative.

First, was the appointment of Healy native Robin Jennison as the secretary of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.

Not long after making the appointment, Gov. Sam Brownback signed an executive order merging the Commerce Department's tourism division into KDWP.

Legislators didn't bat an eye and the agency soon became the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.

A whole host of legislation -- adding tourism to every KDWP mention in Kansas law -- is slated to be presented to the Kansas Legislature next year.

To be sure, not everyone was thrilled with the merger, and many still are waiting to see how the marriage will work.

Something of an outgrowth of that drive to combine the two agencies was the first Kansas Governor's Ringneck Classic, held the second weekend of the state's pheasant season.

The first hunt was declared a huge success, especially by Logan County folks.

The hunt will return to Logan County again next year, before taking to the road, first to Norton County in 2013 and Scott County in 2014.

* Next week, a look at the final big events for the outdoors in 2011.