The Real Cause of the Deer-Reduction Program

By John Eveland

May 5, 2014

In 1993, the Rainforest Alliance founded the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) in Bonn, Germany. By 1995, FSC was influencing forest management throughout the world and had established Scientific Certification Systems, Inc. of Oakland, California as its U.S. Representative. By 1996, a Mr. Bryon Shissler (an independent Pennsylvania wildlife biologist who had spent much of his career culling urban deer herds) had been identified as their Central Appalachian Regional Representative.

In 1996, Mr. Shissler proposed to enroll the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) into FSC's Green Certification Program as the first American enrollee – "a case study for the rest of the nation." The pilot study culminated in a July 1997 workshop in DCNR's Rachel Carson Building among Mr. Shissler, Dr. James Grace and Dan Devlin of DCNR, and foresters from other state agencies. When questioned by attendees about the lack of science and the subjective values of the auditor, Mr. Shissler responded "We concoct scientific solutions based on what we are trying to accomplish – which, of course, are deemed on what we deem valuable." Other attendees elected not to pursue FSC certification, stating: "Criteria are too value-laden and not based on current forest science." DCNR, however, elected to enroll all of its 2.1 million acres of Pennsylvania state forest lands into the program.

The annual "green certifrication" award was intended for two purposes:

  • For money—to generate more revenue for DCNR from the sale of timber on state forest lands
  • For agenda – to change the focus of deer management from serving the interests of sportsmen
    to serving the interests of foresters and environmentalists. According to their assumed premise,
    more seedling oaks, nongame mammals and songbirds, and wildflowers should result by reducing
    deer. (Note that independent, scientific assessments have proven this premise to be a fallacy.)

It should be noted that this international "green-certification" scheme has no effect on the quality of lumber being sold domestically or in Eurasian markets – a 100-year-old black cherry log from a certified forest is no different than a 100-year-old log from Farmer Brown's uncertified woodlot.

Although Mr. Shissler could have chosen any number of criteria on which to evaluate DCNR's forest management activities (such as acid-rain remediation, improved timbering practices, or maintaining stream quality), he chose the issue that had dominated his career – deer reduction. Quoting from the SCS document awarding DCNR its first official certification in November 1998: "The team leader was Bryon P. Shissler, consulting certified wildlife biologist, who had primary responsibility for forest ecosystem issues." Shissler stated in this original report, "If deer are not reduced, the ability of both public and private landowners in Pennsylvania to meet or maintain FSC standards will be jeopardized." Further quoting the report, "We recognize that the BOF (DCNR's Bureau of Forestry) has no regulatory authority over the deer resource on its own lands. The unnaturally high levels of deer herbivory ... is a deliberate consequence of the deer management program administered by another State agency, the PA Game Commission. The BOF's certification is therefore conditioned on the eventual resolution of this important matter."

In 1998, PGC complied with DCNR's request to dramatically and permanently reduce the deer herd. As a result, in 1998 DCNR received its first Green Certification Award. In 2013, DCNR received its 16th consecutive award. PGC has repeatedly told sportsmen and legislators that the Green Certification program has had no role in deer reduction. It is left to readers to decide for themselves.





©2011 • Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania