Certification and Deer Reduction are Economic Boondoggles

By John Eveland

September 18, 2014

In November 2012, the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (a Joint Committee of the Pennsylvania General Assembly) released a report on the costs and benefits of a "green" certification agreement between the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the German-based Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), including the impact of certification on hunting. The results of the study indicated that the Game Commission's deer-reduction program was caused by DCNR's green-certification program, and that both the green-certification and deer-reduction programs are socioeconomic disasters for the Commonwealth.

According to the report, "By 1999, DCNR had enrolled all of its 2.1 million acres of state forests in the FSC certification program. FSC certification was contingent upon DCNR reducing the number of deer in state forests. DCNR then worked with the PA Game Commission... Since there is little to no policing of the certified parties... certification amounts to little more than a right to use the FSC logo in marketing. In some cases, environmental activists use certification to place barriers on communities." (Note that this happened in Pennsylvania when DCNR and PGC used green certification to achieve deer reduction.)

Quoting the LB&FC Report: "The economic benefits of FSC certification are modest. Between 2001 and 2006, DCNR earned a premium of about $7.7 million. DCNR has a 5-year contract for $101,736. DCNR also incurs some indirect costs." This represents an average annual gain of $1,283,333, minus about $200,000 in costs. Therefore, DCNR's net income from green certification is about $1 million per year.

However, according to the LB&FC Report, the social and economic costs to the Commonwealth are exorbitant. "The number of general hunting licenses sold by the PGC has fallen from 1.05 million in 2001 to about 933,000 in 2011. Nationally, however, hunting participation increased by 5 percent between 2001 and 2011. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates average 2011 expenditures per hunter at $2,484. The decline in hunter participation between 2001 and 2011 therefore represents a potential loss of $285 million (per year) in direct economic activity." Adding to that loss the 5 percent national increase in hunting that has not been realized in Pennsylvania, the annual economic loss for the Commonwealth is calculated to be about $415 million per year. The cumulative economic impact to the Commonwealth between 2001 and 2013 as a result of the green-certification/deer-reduction program is calculated to be $3.39 billion.

These socioeconomic costs are exemplified in northern-tier counties. According to Jack Krafft, owner of First Fork Lodge in Potter County, "On Eleven Mile Run Road I counted only 9 vehicles in 11 miles on the first day of the 2004 deer season, and on the first Saturday only 1 vehicle in 11 miles. Traditionally the lodge has had the same 27 out-of-state hunters on the first week of rifle buck season. Combined, the 27 hunters saw only 10 deer during the week. Only 2 returned for 2005, representing a loss of $60,000 for the lodge." Jack lost 55 of 57 out-of-state bow hunters because of the lack of deer. There were nine motels for sale between Galeton and Coudersport. In 2013, Jack stated that over 60 of the 145 businesses belonging to the Potter County Visitors Association were for sale because of PGC's deer-reduction program. This does not count the small businesses that do not belong to the PCVA that have already closed or are for sale.

Conclusion. Deer Management Series, No.s 11-14 demonstrate that there have been no scientific benefits or justification for PGC's deer-reduction program—not for deer health, forest health, nor biodiversity. It is, herein, demonstrated that the modest $1 million economic benefit from DCNR's green-certification program cannot begin to justify the great and lasting costs of deer reduction—the loss of upwards of 200,000 hunters, and a cumulative 14-year economic loss for the Commonwealth that has reached $4 billion and continues to increase at the rate of $415 million each year that the deer reduction program remains unresolved.





©2011 • Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania