MANAGEMENT SERIES, NO. 16:
As has been documented within this Deer Management Series,
the plan for the Game Commission's deer-reduction program
was initially concocted in 1998 in order to assist DCNR in
achieving a green certification forestry award. While DCNR's
first green certification award was being broadcast with fanfare
throughout the state, little mention was made of the original
agreement's contingency clause that required reduction of
the deer herd. Instead, PGC announced that deer reduction
was a scientific necessity, and from 2001 to the present the
agency has effectively perpetuated this misconception that
"science" alone justifies herd reduction. It is
a fallacy, however, that needs to be addressed.
can sometimes be a confusing and, even, intimidating subject
– especially for those who are responsible for overseeing
PGC policy. As a point of fact, the author was told that Calvin
DuBrock, PGC's former Chief of Wildlife Management, said during
a private meeting, "I get whatever I want from the
commissioners. I just baffle them with bulls__t."
This method of operation, including the deer-reduction program,
has succeeded because decision-makers in the State Legislature,
Office of the Governor, and on PGC's own Board of Commissioners
trusted the agency to conduct its duties competently and honorably.
Unfortunately, this circumstance has been all-too-well understood
by PGC's deer team – and grossly abused.
and Costs. There are two questions that need to be
answered in order for "science" alone to be considered
as a justification for reducing Pennsylvania's deer herd:
(1) Are there
any significant scientific "benefits"
that result from the deer-reduction program?
(2) If so, do
the scientific benefits offset the "costs"
that might result from long-term herd reduction?
the first question, PGC has identified three science-based
goals of the deer reduction program: improving the health
of deer, improving forest health, and increasing biodiverstiy
(primarily nongame birds and mammals, and forest wildflowers).
Independent analysis has demonstrated that there have been
no significant scientific improvements resulting from herd
reduction – not for deer or forest health, and not for biodiversity.
In fact, PGC's own studies that were conducted "after"
implementation of the deer-reduction program indicate that
no significant problems for any of these three issues had
existed even prior to herd reduction. Therefore, using "science"
as an excuse to reduce the herd is unjustified and a misconception.
the second question, it would require dramatic and unprecedented
improvements for deer and forest health, and nongame animals
would have needed to be in great and immediate peril in order
to justify the loss of 100-200,000 sportsmen, virtually silent
woods on state lands even during opening days of a concurrent
season, empty hunting camps, bankruptcies and the loss of
countless family businesses, and a $4 billion loss to the
state's economy since 2001 that's increasing at the rate of
$415 million each year that the deer-reduction debacle continues.
It is irresponsible for PGC to mislead sportsmen and legislators
into believing the misconception that deer reduction is warranted
based on "science". Try convincing a farmer that
it would be good for him to eliminate his cattle in order
to grow more wildflowers in his pasture.
Again, even if some smidgeon of scientific relevance could
be concocted from a 5-10 year study that PGC has recently
proposed in order to find a new justification for their ill-conceived
action, how could it begin to offset the great and lasting
harm that has resulted from the biggest conservation mistake
in the over-one-hundred-year history of the PGC? I'll take
the return of 10 lost businesses in Potter County over the
"potential" increase of 10 more Indian cucumber
roots per acre -- anytime. A competent manager weighs and
balances science with social, economic, and legal parameters.
Attempting to justify more wildflowers over family businesses
is the reason that natural resources policy should be determined
by informed forest and wildlife managers instead of by the
single-focused agenda of PGC's deer team.