NEED TO PASS HB 1483:

RESOLVING PENNSYLVANIA’S DEER MANAGEMENT AND

WILDLIFE HABITAT CRISIS,

REINVIGORATING RURAL ECONOMIES,

AND ASSURING GAME COMMISSION ACCOUNTABILITY

 

 

July 4, 2017

 

 

Prepared for the Pennsylvania General Assembly

 

 

By John Eveland

 

 

With the Cooperation and Support of

Friends of Pennsylvania Wildlife: Representing Over 700,000 Members

 

GOLDEN YEARS FOR HUNTERS AND ALL CITIZENS

 

 

• For generations, the Game Commission managed deer in accordance to their mandated mission—

         Title 34, Section 322(c)(13): “to serve the interest of sportsmen for recreational hunting”.

 

 

• In so doing, through the year 2000:

 

         • Pennsylvania was ranked as one of the top two deer-hunting states in the nation.

 

 

         • Deer were plentiful as were grouse and most other game and nongame species of forest wildlife.

 

 

         • There were over a million hunters, most of whom filled Penn’s Woods on the first day of

            buck season.

 

 

         • Hunting camps and family cabins were filled.

 

 

         • Rural economies and family businesses within the $5 billion outdoor industry flourished.

 

 

         • Multiple-use outdoor recreation opportunities for the general citizenry were maximized.

 

 

PGC COLLAPSED THE DEER HERD

 

 

• In 1998, 3 men unilaterally decided to ignore PGC’s legislated mission “to serve sportsmen for  

  recreational hunting”, and, instead, changed PGC’s focus to an agenda-driven policy that would

  serve the forestry interests of DCNR and the radical interests of 4 environmental organizations.

 

 

• On a whim, and without first weighing and balancing the costs against the benefits, these 3 men

   manipulated the PGC into annihilating the state’s deer herd – killing over 2,500,000 deer, especially

   does and fawns, over a 5-year period from 2000-04.

 

 

• Commissioners stated in private that the agency had grossly overshot the herd, leaving only

   1-2 deer per square mile in some regions – an unhuntable condition.

 

 

• The deer-staff bragged that they had literally exterminated deer in some regions.

 

 

• Now for over 10 years after the collapse, the Commission has kept the deer herd suppressed using

  high annual allocations of doe licenses and high numbers of DMAP tags for DCNR.  For the

  2017-18 season, Commissioners increased antlerless license allocations by 7.5% -- up from 748,000

  in 2016 to 804,000 for 2017.  The agency’s deer team had requested 873,000, an increase of 125,000

  doe licenses over the 2016 allotment indicating that PGC has no intention of returning our State

  Mammal to Penn’s Woods.  Add to this a record number of DMAP tags for DCNR’s state forestlands.

 

 

PGC’s FAILED POLICY

• PGC collapsed the deer herd in order to accomplish 2 goals:

         • To increase timber sales for DCNR as part of a German-based Green Certification agreement.

         • To increase tree-seedling regeneration as future saleable timber for PGC and DCNR, and to

            provide habitat for nongame songbirds and mammals.

 

• PGC and DCNR had mistakenly blamed declining seedling regeneration and wildlife habitat on deer over-

  browsing, whereas it had been caused by aging forests that are now 80-125 years old with tightly closed

  tree-top canopies that prevent sunlight from hitting the forest floor. In contrast, early-stage forests that

  exist for about 15 years following the cutting of old forests are among the most valuable wildlife habitats.

 

• Therefore, when tree seedlings, wildflowers, and wildlife habitat disappeared from the forest floor

   due to the lack of sunlight, PGC chose the wrong course of action:

      • PGC destroyed the deer herd in order to benefit the forest, which resulted only in the loss of deer

        with no increase in understory vegetation.

      • Instead, PGC should have harvested the forest in order to benefit wildlife.

 

• As a result, grouse habitat and populations are in a freefall, along with dozens of other wildlife species. 

  PGC and DCNR have fenced cut-over areas from access by wildlife, an expensive and destructive policy.

 

• PGC and DCNR had created the problem by failing to cut forests for decades, and turned the problem

   into a crisis by mistakenly blaming and killing deer for the lack of seedling regeneration.

 

• In 2006, DCNR and PGC conducted the most comprehensive deer browsing study in history to prove

   that deer were destroying the forest.  The results were a nightmare for PGC and DCNR, proving that

   deer had never been the problem and that PGC had collapsed the state’s deer herd for no good reason.

OVER $7 BILLION OF DAMAGES

• After-the-fact studies by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, Legislative

  Budget and Finance Committee, independent scientists, and the Commission itself, indicated that:

 

         • There are no benefits that have resulted from herd reduction – not for science, environment,

            sportsmen, general outdoor recreation, society, or economy.

 

         • Instead, the resulting impacts are outrageous and unacceptable:

              • A collapsed deer herd (PA’s State Mammal) along with collapsing grouse (PA’s State Bird)

                and 150 other wildlife populations due to mismanagement and the continuing loss of habitat.

              • An annual impact of $1.16 billion to rural economies and the Commonwealth.

              • A loss of $92.5 million per year in state and local tax revenues.

              • Thousands of bankrupt and closed family businesses.

              • Hundreds-of-thousands of sportsmen who quit hunting because of the lack of deer.

              • Family cabins and hunting camps that stand empty because of the lack of deer and wildlife.

              • A cumulative 16-year economic impact of over $7 billion to the Commonwealth.

              • Declining outdoor recreation opportunities for all citizens.

 

• The two goals of PGC and DCNR have been dismal failures:

         • Although DCNR netted $1.2 million per year in increased timber sales, the trade-off has been over

            $500 million per year in losses for family businesses, rural communities, and the Commonwealth.

          • After 16 years of herd reduction, there is no increase in seedling regeneration.

 

• The agency, itself, has made the greatest conservation mistake in the over-one-hundred-year history

   of the Game Commission.

 

 

THE NEED FOR HB 1483

Subject: (1) Deer Management, (2) Wildlife Habitat, (3) Rural Economies, and (4) Accountability.

 

 

HB 1483 WILL:

 

(1) Return Pennsylvania’s deer herd to scientifically responsible numbers and return hundreds-

      of-thousands of hunters while improving the forest ecosystem.

 

 

(2) Improve wildlife habitat for not just deer, but for grouse and other species of game and nongame

      wildlife from snowshoe hares and wild turkeys to songbirds, bats, and pollinators such as

      honeybees and Monarch butterflies.  At their current rate of habitat improvement, it would take

      PGC 100-200 years to accomplish what HB 1483 will achieve in 10-15 years.

 

 

(3) Stop the socio-economic rape of family businesses and rural communities that rely on ample

      populations of deer and other wildlife with over $1 billion of annual economic recovery, refill family

      cabins and hunting camps, generate $92 million per year in tax revenues for state and local

      governments, and improve the outdoor recreation experience for all Pennsylvania citizens.

 

 

(4) Assure that the Game Commission is held fully accountable to the General Assembly by

      scientifically assisting the agency with crucial wildlife management decisions, and by providing

      the Joint Legislature with scientific advisory services for responsible on-going oversight of the PGC.

 

 

NEED FOR GREATER ACCOUNTABILITY

• Since 1999, PGC has been operating as a rogue agency – serving DCNR foresters and a radical

   environmental agenda in violation of their legislated mission (Title 34, Section 322 (c)(13)).

 

• Quoting PGC’s top executives:

         • “I get what I want.  I baffle them with b_ _ _ s _ _ _.”

         • “Sportsmen have no role in deer management.”

 

• PGC’s employees have realized the severity of their deer-management mistakes, but are unwilling

   to correct them because they are more concerned with protecting their jobs than in doing their jobs.

   The wildlife resources, social, and economic impacts are so great that they cannot admit their failure.

 

• PGC claims that nearly everyone loves their deer-management program.  In reality, however, at the

   request of the Legislature a phone survey was conducted in April 2016 to determine if PGC’s claim

   was truthful. Of 110 contacts, only 1 was in favor of PGC’s policy, and 109 sought legislative reform.

 

• Prior to collapsing the herd 16 years ago, PGC’s deer biologist toured the state to convince sportsmen and

  legislators to trust the Commission – that deer reduction would be limited, temporary, and in their best

  interest.  However, none of these claims were truthful.  Today, PGC’s new executive director is touring

  the state in an attempt to convince sportsmen and legislators to trust the Commission – to agree with the

  agency’s deer policy and to give PGC the ability to raise hunting-license fees at any time and to any

  degree without further accountability to the Legislature.  Fool me once, shame on you! Fool me twice…

 

• HB 1483 has been specifically designed to resolve the serious problems that PGC has caused, and to

  help the agency out of a crisis that it is unable and unwilling to resolve on its own.  There are a billion

  good reasons to pass HB 1483, and no good reason to reject it.

Contact: Friends of Pennsylvania Wildlife • John Eveland • 412.601.0077 • jfeveland@friendsofpennsylvaniawildlife.org