DEER MANAGEMENT SERIES, NO. 23:

SUMMARY OF A TRAVESTY

By John Eveland

November 1, 2014


For decades prior to 2000, Pennsylvania was recognized as one of the top deer-hunting states in the nation – achieved by operating a science-based, "maximum sustained yield" (MSY) method of deer management. In order to guarantee the continued success of the program, in 1996 the Legislature passed HB 1823 – the Title 34 mission (Section 322(c)(13)) that directs the PGC "to serve the interest of sportsmen for recreational hunting". Only two years later, DCNR entered into a Green Certification agreement with the German-based environmental organization, Forest Stewardship Council, toward increasing DCNR revenue from the sale of state forest timber. However, a contingency clause was inserted into the Green Certification agreement that required statewide deer reduction. In addition, another clause was included toward eliminating the MSY method of game management in favor of a biodiversity (nongame birds and mammals) style. Therefore, a deer-reduction strategy had been concocted to serve foresters and environmentalists at the expense of sportsmen. It succeeded in achieving the personal agenda of three men without regard for HB 1823 and PGC's Title 34 mission. As such, PGC has been in violation of Title 34 State Law since the year 2000.

From 2000-04, PGC conducted a devastating assault on does and fawns, killing an average of 476,471 deer per year and eclipsing 500,000 in two separate years. Although PGC's target density was only 5-6 deer per square mile (dpsm) in northern-tier areas, the agency overshot its goal to only 1-2 dpsm in some areas – representing a near collapse of the herd and a virtually unhuntable condition.

Toward perpetuating herd reduction, three North Carolina State University students were hired – all who had been trained on a small five-square-mile agricultural demonstration area in Maryland called Chesapeake Farms. Unlike conventional wildlife management students who are trained to view deer as a beneficial natural resource for sport hunting, at Chesapeake Farms students are taught the need to reduce deer impacts to forestry and agriculture by reducing does and fawns. The deer team succeeded in perpetuating deer reduction by hiding behind a veil of pseudo-science. However, an independent, scientific assessment of PGC's deer-management program discovered that there are few to no benefits that result from deer reduction – not for science, forest health, biodiversity, nor deer health; and especially not for sportsmen and the Commonwealth's economy. To the contrary; the costs of deer-reduction are exorbitant. A Pennsylvania Legislative Budget and Finance Committee study discovered that upwards of 100,000-200,000 sportsmen have quit hunting as a result of herd reduction with an economic loss for the Commonwealth of $285-415 million each year and a cumulative 14-year economic loss of $4 billion. As a consequence, hunting camps stand empty, bankruptcies abound with the loss of countless family businesses, and forests remain virtually silent on state lands even during opening days of a concurrent season. Nevertheless, PGC continues to claim high annual harvests that have eclipsed 350,000 as of 2013 – a circumstance that would require an average of about 80 dpsm on all forestlands, and 50 dpsm on every square mile of land area in the state. PGC's irrationally high harvest claims, therefore, can only be explained by incompetence or deception.

Unfortunately, the Joint Legislature had entrusted PGC to honorably uphold its mission, but lacked the scientific capabilities to recognize PGC's breach of trust and violation of Title 34. To resolve the crisis and prevent such a travesty from resurfacing in the future, a permanent solution has been designed and five deer-management bills written toward legislating the major features of the resolution plan. However, because PGC has stated that the agency will not comply with the essence of these new bills if enacted, it is necessary that an independent, scientific advisory service is created to provide the Joint Legislature with oversight data toward guaranteeing compliance with these pending new laws. Although PGC's Board of Commissioners has successfully stonewalled passage of the five deer-management bills by promising limited internal remedial measures, until these five bills are enacted and an independent advisory service is created, there will be no permanent solution to PGC's greatest conservation mistake in its over-one-hundred-year history.

 

 

 

 

 

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