PROPOSED LEGISLATION  In 2014, the PA Legislature

Attempted to Resolve the Deer-Management Crisis

By John Eveland

October 22, 2014

As described in the previous Deer Management Series, No. 20: Proposed Resolution Plan, at the request of members of the Game Commission's Board of Commissioners, in 2010 John Eveland prepared a new deer-management plan toward resolving the agency's deer-reduction crisis. Eveland's new deer-management plan was designed with two intents. First, the plan would return deer-management science and deer-hunting success to the level that existed in the Commonwealth for decades prior to herd reduction – to national deer-hunting prominence – without impairment to forests and forestry practices, wildlife habitat, and nongame wildlife populations. Secondly, additional state-of-the-art habitat enhancement techniques were designed to create a deer-habitat and management condition that would be even better than had existed prior to herd reduction – better for sportsmen deer-management goals (increasing the carrying capacity of the forest for higher densities of deer); better for DCNR and foresters' goals (maintaining high quality and productive timber management and creating a system of old-growth legacy forests); and better for PGC's biodiversity goal (improving habitat and increasing densities and diversity of nongame birds and mammals). Nevertheless, the Board could not muster a majority of votes to implement this new program.

Therefore, five separate deer-management bills were created toward resolving the deer-management crisis:

• HB870. Subject: Excluding public lands from the Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP).
• HB1370. Subject: Restricting the length of the changing and start date of antlerless deer season.
• HB1724. Subject: Redesignating Wildlife Management Units and issuing antlerless deer permits                       on a county basis.
• HB1146 / SB547. Subject: Removal of antler restrictions.
• HB1726 / SB1086. Subject: Directing the maximum sustained yield method of game and deer
                                 management and the enhancement of habitat for deer and other wildlife.

Although extensive lobbying had confirmed that significant votes were available toward passage of the bills in late 2014, PGC's Board was successful in halting passage. At the request of the Board of Commissioners, Chairmen of both the House and Senate Game and Fisheries Committees refrained from introducing the bills for consideration and vote. Therefore, PGC has again successfully circumvented two separate attempts to resolve the agency's deer-reduction crisis, and continues to perpetuate the greatest conservation mistake in the over-one-hundred-year history of the Game Commission.

Summary and Conclusion. Two separate attempts have been made to resolve the deer-reduction crisis. First, Eveland designed a plan for the Board of Commissioners toward serving the recreational interests of sportsmen, reducing the impacts caused to society and economy, and providing scientific benefits for the resource and the ecosystem. It would have returned PGC to its Title 34 mission. While the plan offered the Board an opportunity to internally resolve the dilemma, a majority of commissioners could not be mustered to approve and implement this resolution plan. Therefore, five separate deer-management bills were introduced within the House and Senate Game and Fisheries Committees that included the fundamental elements of the 2010 plan. Although members of both the House and Senate were prepared to vote on this legislation, commissioners requested that committee chairmen refrain from bringing the bills to the floor – assuring legislators that commissioners would resolve the dilemma internally. Again, the PGC had successfully stalled attempts to resolve the deer-reduction crisis. Although PGC and its commissioners have assured legislators that remedial changes are up-coming, without legislative action that directs the Commission to implement significant changes to the deer-reduction program, any remedial internal attempts by the board will likely only represent a partial and temporary solution – stalling substantial resolution measures, perpetuating the deer-reduction program, and remaining in violation of Title 34 State Law.






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