By John Eveland

November 4, 2014

In 2000-01, I was asked by the senate majority leader to assess PGC's deer-reduction program, and again was requested by the Office of the Governor and the majority leader of the House Game and Fisheries Committee in 2007. In 2010, members of PGC's Board of Commissioners asked me to prepare a new deer management plan for them in the event that they could muster a majority of votes to halt the deer-reduction program. From my investigations, I have come to two over-riding conclusions: (1) that no significant benefits have resulted after 14 years of herd reduction—not for science, forest or deer health, biodiversity, society, nor economy—while the negative impacts to the future of sport hunting and the Commonwealth have been great; and (2) that PGC's deer-reduction program is designed to serve foresters and radical environmentalists at the expense of sportsmen and recreational hunting, and as such is in violation of PGC's mission and state law.

On a personal note, I am not a newcomer to forest and wildlife issues, and as a former Penn State scientist and independent wildlife biologist I have had a long relationship with DCNR and the Game Commission. I admit that some of my dealings with PGC have not always resulted in the fondest of memories. In this regard, a former PGC Commissioner wrote in an email: "Some of my good information from inside the PGC came from folks that had paid their dues. They had 35+ years of PGC employment. They knew it all. I knew about John Eveland long before his name came up in the (deer management) audit proceedings. John was the brains behind the PGC bear program. Not Gary Alt. Gary Alt was handed the bear program on a silver platter. John was also the mastermind of the elk program. He handed it to Rawley Cogan, again on a silver platter. John was a marked man in the PGC. He was never given credit for his accomplishments. There was real bad blood with John and the PGC. John has enough info compiled to sink the PGC ship."

That said, I have always felt that the PGC was a capable and necessary state agency. Some of my best, lifelong friends have been employed by PGC and DCNR – foresters, biologists, WCOs, administrators, and board members. I have sat in the homes of disgruntled WCOs and DCNR foresters contemplating resolution of the deer reduction program, and they in mine. These are good and honorable people, and I believe that a few bad apples should not be permitted to spoil the barrel. There are those in the legislature who desire to merge PGC with the Fish and Boat Commission, some who wish to roll PGC into DCNR, and others who seek to end PGC's independent status by making it a department within state government – the Pennsylvania Department of Fish and Game. In my mind, there would be great and lasting harm that could result for sportsmen and recreational hunting – especially for deer management. It is my hope that the deer-management debacle can be resolved without destroying the autonomy of the agency.

Some of the best days of my life have been spent hunting and fishing with my dad, grandfather, and brother. I cannot bear the thought that these days have already ended for many families and will continue to dwindle for many more because of the mismanagement of our deer herd – Pennsylvania's state mammal – for the dreams of ill-advised foresters and environmental ideologues. I have been fortunate during my career to have not only conducted Pennsylvania's vanguard research on both bears and elk, but to have also conducted forest, wildlife biodiversity, endangered species, and ecosystem research in over 30 states and provinces throughout North America. Because of this, I have concluded that any scientific benefits to the ecosystem or biodiversity that have resulted from deer reduction are few to nonexistent. After 14 years of over-harvesting does and fawns, PGC has gained nothing. However, the agency has lost much: 100,000-200,000 sportsmen lost from the ranks of hunters, empty hunting camps, untold bankruptcies and destroyed family businesses, a cumulative state loss of $4 billion dollars since 2001 that continues to increase at the rate of $415 million each year, and silent woods in the fall. Considering this, I would be remiss to turn my back on sportsmen and citizens. I, therefore, choose to continue in my pursuit to bring attention to this travesty until PGC's deer reduction program is resolved -- because it is the right thing to do. It's time for common sense to prevail.





©2011 • Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania