Deceiving Sportsmen and Legislators into Believing Deer Reduction

was in Their Best Interest

By John Eveland

May 20, 2014

By 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". "






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