Photo credit: Lilla Frerichs
Many Pennsylvania Forestry Association (PFA) members, Pennsylvania Tree Farmers and other forest landowners are impacted by deer over-abundance issues. The PFA/PA Tree Farm Deer Impact Task Group has identified the following concerns:
· Deer over-browsing consumes much of our desirable commercial hardwood reproduction.
o This has the potential to be a huge economic loss in the future.
· Over-browsing by deer results in the proliferation of deer tolerant, less desirable, competing, and invasive plants.
· Deer over-browsing negatively impacts other wildlife species.
· Deer are “actively” managing the forest at the expense of plant and wildlife diversity.
· In many cases, landowner efforts to be responsible forest stewards are overwhelmed by the high impact deer are having on our forests.
In August the PFA/PA Tree Farm Deer Impact Task Group had the opportunity to represent PFA at a meeting called by the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) deer management staff. Among the other organizations represented at the meeting were the PA Forest Products Association, Allegheny National Forest, DCNR Bureaus of Forestry and State Parks, PA Farm Bureau, and the PA Vegetable Growers Association.
The purpose of the meeting was to review both the PGC Deer Management Assistance (DMAP) and Red Tag programs, and to let PGC staff know what was working as well as additional suggestions for change that the groups might have. Our Task Group, based on feedback from our members, has drafted the following suggested changes:
DMAP: Suggestions for Change
· Move application deadline later to allow more time for agencies to compile field data and complete application process.
· Change the “online” DMAP system to match the regular antlerless system. That is, hunters receive one tag the first round and then can apply during successive rounds for unsold tags up to a maximum of four.
· Increase the season length for DMAP tags on private lands, similar to what is currently done in urbanizing areas of the state.
· Allow hunters the ability to transfer DMAP tags to other adults and to mentored youth. Current policy does not allow DMAP tag transfer to another adult and “mentors” can only transfer one to a “mentored youth.”
· Reduce forest acreage requirement to qualify for DMAP to 25 acres.
· Change the standard allocation to one antlerless tag per 25 acres of forestland. DMAP coupons are currently allocated at one per 50 acres of forestland.
· Increase the number of DMAP coupons a landowner can hand out to an individual. Currently a hunter can only receive two DMAP coupons. This change would allow more tags to go to “alpha” hunters with a better harvest success rate. Recommend four per hunter as max.
· Allow leased properties the opportunity to participate in DMAP.
RED TAG: Suggestions for Change
· Allow private forest landowners to enroll in the Red Tag program. Red Tag permits can be filled by taking antlerless deer only from February 1 – September 28 (except from May 16-June 30).
· Wave the requirement to enroll the property in the Game Commission’s “Public” Access program in an effort to interest more landowners to enroll.
· Increase the number of tags allocated to hunters. Currently a hunter can only receive one permit/red tag. It was suggested to increase it to four to match DMAP suggestion.
· Waive any waiting period before red tags can be issued and filled.
Our Task Group is committed to finding the best solutions to assist all Pennsylvania forest landowners dealing with deer over-abundance. They encourage anyone interested in healthy, sustainable forests to communicate their concerns to the PGC Commissioners. The next Board of Game Commissioners meeting where public comments are heard is Saturday, January 25, 2020. If deer overabundance impacts you, we ask that you attend the meeting and use the above suggested changes in your comments.
If you are unable to attend the meeting but would like to be part of the effort, please contact the Commissioners in writing. A listing of the Board of Commissioners is at: https://www.pgc.pa.gov/InformationResources/AboutUs/Commissioners/Pages/default.aspx
If you feel so inclined, invite them to visit your property to see the damage first-hand.
Change will only be brought about by making sure our voices are heard. Help us find a solution, contact your PGC Commissioner and voice your support for a solution to deer over-browsing in our forests.