Audubon Played a Key Role in Reducing Deer

toward Promoting Ecosystem Management

By John Eveland

July 12, 2014

In 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.

Toward 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.

According 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."

In 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."

From 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."

This 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.




©2011 • Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania