He Said, She Said…

I’ll let you pick out which is which.
On June 3, Gary Alt fired a shot across the PGC’s bow. Not to let that stand without further scrutiny, the scorned agency has replied:

Commission manages deer properly, By Calvin DuBrock

Contrary to Gary Alt’s assertions in his June 3 commentary (“Hunting focus hurts deer management”), the Pennsylvania Game Commission has not caved in to hunters and reduced deer-hunting opportunities.

Quite the opposite is true. The commission reduced licenses to hunt antlerless deer (mainly does) in many of the state’s 22 wildlife management units because of lower deer populations. In addition, deer management opportunities through hunting were increased or maintained despite some vocal hunter opposition.

It is true that as recently as last year, Game Commission estimates indicated higher deer populations. However, a recent review of the methods used to estimate deer populations during Dr. Alt’s tenure as deer section supervisor identified several aspects that could have been improved upon and would have resulted in more accurate population estimates. Although the Game Commission cannot validate the figure of 1.6 million deer in Pennsylvania (the figure that Dr. Alt cited while deer section supervisor), data available now suggest that deer populations in many wildlife management units have declined.

Also, landowners now have additional opportunities beyond the regular antlerless license allocation to harvest more antlerless deer. The Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP), developed under Dr. Alt’s leadership, allows nearly all landowners in the state to receive permits for hunters to take additional deer on their land. In this way, landowners have the ability to manage deer to meet their individual objectives. The antlerless license allocation is no longer the only method available to landowners to achieve deer management goals.

In addition, the Game Commission improved DMAP’s efficiency by increasing the number of permits hunters can receive for each DMAP property. As such, landowners now may provide up to two permits to their most successful hunters to harvest more deer.

Dr. Alt also attacks the commission for a lack of various wildlife management plans, including an urban deer management plan. This is an unusual complaint given that the commission’s deer management plan, approved in 2003, called for development of a plan for urban deer. It was his responsibility to see that the plan was completed, but it was not done before his resignation.

The Game Commission is now working to develop such a plan and provide a forum for citizen input into deer management decisions. Both of these items will improve responsiveness of the commission to deer-human conflicts in Pennsylvania’s most populated areas and provide greater input of stakeholders, not just hunters, into deer management decisions.

Dr. Alt also ignored the fact that the state Board of Game Commissioners, by a very solid majority, voted to maintain the two-week concurrent hunting season, approve a substantial number of antlerless deer licenses, expand DMAP eligibility, and increase antlerless deer hunting opportunities in the Southeastern Pennsylvania wildlife management unit.

Also worthy of response is Dr. Alt’s statement that “less than 5 percent” of the Game Commission’s budget is spent on non-game, endangered and threatened species. All of the agency’s habitat work, as well as the purchase of state game lands, benefits game and non-game species. Each acre preserved for public hunting and trapping is an acre not threatened by development. Each habitat project that cleans up acid-mine discharge benefits game and non-game.

Also, Dr. Alt ignores the role that the Game Commission played in funding and conducting the bald eagle, peregrine falcon, osprey, otter, fisher and other reintroduction and management programs. He also ignores that hunters, most of whom are deer hunters, supported these wildlife conservation programs.

Despite my disagreement with Dr. Alt over how one should interpret Game Commission actions, I do salute his advocacy of alternative sources of funding for the Game Commission, which is now supported through recreational hunting fees.

The hunters and trappers of this state, in addition to footing the bill for wildlife management for more than 100 years, also advocated the agency’s creation in the late 1890s as a means of preserving and protecting wildlife species – both game and non-game.

I am saddened to see Dr. Alt – for whom I have great respect and admiration – attempt to discredit the Game Commission simply because he felt he was “no longer effective” here.

Do you think we have heard the end of this?

Looking for a little traffic from OTB.

UPDATE June 28, 2005.

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