Critic of PGC admits postives
by Marcus Schneck, Harrisburg Patriot-News - April 20, 2009
Bryon Shissler, a wildlife biologist who has frequently criticized the Pennsylvania Game Commission's management of the state's deer herd, today told the agency he was unable to find a better deer management program in the continental U.S.
Working with the Pinchot Institute, Shissler's Ecosystem Management Project set out in 2005 to find deer management programs in other states from which better ideas could be copied and brought back to improve the Pennsylvania program.
However, researchers involved in the study of programs in all the lower 48 state, which was completed last fall, did not find those better ideas.
"We were somewhat disappointed in what we found," Shissler told the Board of Game Commissioners. Most states are not managing deer based on overall ecosystem goals, but on deer production goals.
"Our goal was to go out and steal those ideas and bring them back. We didn't find very much. There's very little science driving most deer management programs," noted the man whose organization was set up to move deer management farther into the realm of science.
"Pennsylvania has one of the most progresssive deer management programs in the country," he said.
Shissler admitted to expecting to find that "super agencies," in which Game, Fish and Boat, Conservation and Natural Resources, and other resource functions were all combined into agency, had larger and better funding supporting more science-based deer management.
However, he noted, "most deer management programs are run on a shoestring budget."
The one-time advocate of merging the agencies in Pennsylvania explained, "When you merge agencies you don't necessarily get better deer management. You don't necessarily get more money.
He blamed the lack of funding and lack of science in deer management on "political compromise" caused by hunters not wanting to lose control of deer management decisions.
"Pennsylvania has the best program we found," he said.
While he would rate the average across the U.S. a three, on a scale of one to 10 with 10 representing optimum ecosystem-based deer management, Shissler said, he would score Pennsylvania with a five.
That leaves " a long way to go," he pointed out. "We're on the right track, but we have a long way to go."
Shissler did not back away from his previous statements that deer management in Pennsylvania is a "flawed" system.
He pointed to the state's lack of funding from a broader base than hunters to support wildlife management and lack of broader representation from interests other than hunters on the Board of Commissioners, as well as inadequate measures of the ecosystem effectiveness of the state's evolving deer management program, as central to the flaw.