MANAGEMENT SERIES, NO. 8: AUDUBON'S ROLE
Audubon Played a Key Role in Reducing Deer
Promoting Ecosystem Management
1996, acting as a representative of the German-based Forest
Stewardship Council (FSC), Mr. Bryon Shissler introduced the
concept of a "green certification" award to Dan
Devlin and James Grace of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation
and Natural Resources (DCNR). According to the green certification
agreement, DCNR would purchase the award from FSC if, as a
contingency, the deer herd was permanently reduced. Although
DCNR's principal intent was to use the award to increase worldwide
sales of state forest timber, Mr. Shissler's goal was to eliminate
the traditional "maximum-sustained-yield" method
of deer management and replace it with an "ecosystem
management" style, which promoted biodiversity (nongame
animals, songbirds, wildflowers, and shrubs). It was to be
accomplished through deer reduction.
advancing this fortuitous opportunity, by 2001 Mr. Shissler
was serving on a Deer Management Forum for Audubon President,
Cindy Adams Dunn, and was a co-author in a three-year Audubon
endeavor that produced a 362-page master plan for ecosystem
management – achieved by permanently reducing deer.
to a 2004 Pennsylvania Outdoor News article by Bob Frye, Audubon
funded $1,360,500 for the deer-reduction effort over a three-year
period using contributions from five foundations – the Heinz
and R.K. Mellon endowments and three other anonymous foundations.
Regarding the foundation/deer-reduction controversy, Cindy
Adams Dunn (former Executive Director of Audubon and then
Director of DCNR's Office of Communications and Partnerships)
revealed in a testimony before the Legislative Budget and
Finance Committee: "Audubon handled the money for
those projects because the foundations were uncomfortable
giving the (deer-reduction) money directly to the
Game Commission at a time when its board consisted of George
Venesky, Steve Mohr, Nicholas Spock, Vern Shaffer, Bob Gilford
and Sam Dunkle."
a 2004 Western Pennsylvania Conservancy publication, DCNR's
Cindy Adams Dunn advanced her Audubon agenda by writing: "Balance.
That's what this department seeks as it tries to protect flora
and fauna within its jurisdiction. It is a balance that requires
liberal licensing of hunters...Our professional foresters
characterize deer as one of the greatest threats to forest
stability. DCNR was proud to achieve "green certification"
of its state forestland...under FSC (Forest Stewardship Council)
standards. One condition: DCNR must address deer overabundance."
2001-03, Audubon wrote in its ecosystem-management/deer-reduction
master plan: "Deer densities should be reduced below
levels that would be set solely by considerations of deer
health and condition. This would require targets even lower
than those PGC has been unable to reach in the past."
Audubon continued, "With the reorganization
in 1999 of the Wildlife Management Bureau (with Dr. Gary Alt
named chief of the newly formed Deer Management Section) and
the support of agency policy makers, PGC is poised to pursue
a more aggressive deer management program that, in theory,
can effectively reduce deer densities in many parts of Pennsylvania.
Although the PGC staff is strong in the areas of deer biology
and in implementing and enforcing regulations to make hunting
safe, the current staff has limited expertise in the field
of general ecology. At present DCNR cannot fully implement
ecosystem management on its lands because it does not have
the necessary authority to manage deer populations in state
forests and parks."
circumstance, however, would quickly change. Bryon Shissler
and PGC's Chris Rosenberry would soon co-author DCNR's ecosystem
management plan for Dan Devlin, and PGC would adopt it. Once
Bryon Shissler , DCNR's Dan Devlin, and PGC's Calvin DuBrock
had successfully used the "green certification"
award to set the deer reduction process in motion, the resources
of Audubon were used to initiate "ecosystem management"
and exacerbate deer reduction to a far greater level than
was initially envisioned.