MANAGEMENT SERIES, NO. 3: BETRAYING A TRUST
Deceiving Sportsmen and Legislators into Believing Deer Reduction
in Their Best Interest
1999, the Game Commission had complied with DCNR's request
to permanently reduce the deer herd. Only three people were
directly involved -- Bryon Shissler (the auditor for DCNR's
Green Certification award), Daniel Devlin of DCNR, and Calvin
DuBrock of PGC. In this scheme between foresters and environmentalists,
PGC's Calvin DuBrock was faced with convincing sportsmen and
legislators that the action was based on sound science and
in the best interest of sportsmen. This would not be easy.
Changing PGC's Mission. The following
statement was included in DCNR's 1998 first green certification
award: "steady and continuous progress is needed by the
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in order to develop and implement
a deer management program that shifts from the current nutritional
carrying capacity paradigm to one of diversity carrying capacity."
This represented a change of PGC's legislatively-directed
mission from 'serving the interest of sportsmen for recreational
hunting' to, instead, 'serving the interests of foresters
and environmentalists'. It eliminated the science-based "maximum
sustained yield" style of game management that had made
Pennsylvania one of the top deer hunting states and replaced
it with a subjective system called "ecosystem management"
that favored biodiversity (nongame mammals, songbirds, and
wildflowers). This new program, however, was illegal, but
legislators trusted the agencies and had no way to scientifically
assess agency actions.
Deceiving Sportsmen and Legislators.
Calvin DuBrock switch Gary Alt from the bear program to head
the new deer-reduction program and initiated a statewide tour
because Alt was PGC's most respected staffer and, therefore,
the person who was most likely to successfully convince sportsmen
of the seemingly impossible – that deer reduction would be
temporary and in their best interest.
Deceiving Sportsmen and Legislators
Again. In 1998, a Deer Management Working Group was created
by the PGC. It was chaired by Scot Williamson – a deer-reduction
advocate. In 2000, Williamson presented the Board of Commissioners
with recommendations for a deer-reduction program that included
increased antlerless allocations, concurrent buck/doe seasons,
increased DMAP, and large non-county-based WMUs. This implied
that the deer-reduction program was the result of a panel's
recommendations. It should be noted that in 2009 Scot Williamson
was granted a $92,000 contract to evaluate PGC's deer program.
This represented an egregious conflict of interest and violation
of state law.
Others Knew. In 2001, outdoor writer
Dave Drakula had discovered the green-certification scheme
and had published articles in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
He wrote, "Pennsylvania State Forests received Green
Certification. The Governor accepted the certification with
fanfare amid a blizzard of news releases. Green Certification
targeted deer reduction, and might be withdrawn without immediate
deer reduction – an embarrassment to the current administration
and its Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Calling it politically damaging would be an understatement.
It was no coincidence that a major effort to overhaul Pennsylvania's
deer management program followed." Drakula wrote, "Commissioner
Riley explained that the deer management plan is actually
a forestry bureau issue, based on the state forest's Green
Certification. The Game Commission is pushing the deer management
plan because the state needs the deer herd reduced. It's all
about the forestry resource. This isn't even a Game Commission
issue, but we're making it that way." Drakula continued,
"When asked if he now thought it would appear as though
any commissioners voting in favor of the proposed deer management
plan would be perceived as having a lack of integrity and
to have been 'bought' by the forestry interests, Sam Dunkle,
Board of Commissioners President, replied, "Yes, I guess
it could appear that way". "