The Potomac Highlands Watershed School 

Oh Deer! Environmental Forum

Moderator's Comments

 Here's the moderator sticking his nose into your business:


You should spend some time in your stakeholder groups thinking about who you are (yes, this is role playing), how the problem impacts you as a stakeholder, and what kind of solutions would best serve you as a stakeholder.  As it says in the "What is a POV?" box on the Forum's home page:

"Every stakeholder group has interests that are unique to them, and every stakeholder group wants to be heard.  Your first job will be to write a persuasive “Point of View” statement for your stakeholder group that describes why you are important, how having too many deer (or related problems) affect you, how the possible solutions affect you personally and maybe affect your livelihood.  You will have two "bites at this apple."  During the second week each group should really try to build a strong case for their group's position - based on facts, not just belief.   Think about these questions:

  • Will the solutions “cost” you in any demonstrable way?  What do you have to give up?

  • Will the solutions benefit you directly?

  • What could be done that would make your group more willing to participate?

  • How could the solutions be structured so your group would prosper as a result?

  • What would happen if you were so harmed by the process that you disappeared?"

The POVs need to convey why your group matters, and really lay out a case for your solution.

Results from WV riparian buffer demonstration project just updated (11/9/2006) to include September 2006 results from the Cacapon River site here.  How do you think the deer browse issue will impact these plantings?

I added the following bit to the main page on 11/9/2006Here's an article from Audubon Magazine, "Public Menace", about the challenges of controlling deer in Pennsylvania that talks about the challenges in very personal detail.  Highly recommended!

11/10/06 - Well, the first POVs are all posted, now it's time for you all to read them, do some research, and ask your Thoughtful Questions.  There are a bunch of questions I would want to ask, but that's not really my job.  Remember the rules, your questions have to be on point, fact-based and reasonably respectful, but that doesn't mean that you can't be tough.  Have at it!

11/14/06 - Lot's of Thoughtful Questions up there now, but maybe we need a few more well researched questions.  For examples, someone states that insurance companies have introduced wolves.  Well, I heard they introduced coyotes - but they didn't - IT'S AN URBAN LEGEND!  For the folks who were so dismissive of another group: "Perhaps next time you should look more into what you are typing, words don't mean anything unless you can back them up" perhaps they need to look much more closely at the post from Agronomist and native guide William Grafton on the carrying capacity subject on the main page.  Remember, just saying something, or challenging someone with your belief, doesn't cut it.  You need to challenge with facts that you can support through research.


Some POVs suggested the use of fences to protect sensitive lands.  Have you considered that:

  1. They are expensive to install, and require ongoing maintenance.

  2. They don't solve the problem, they just create small islands of protection.  They are bandaids in the middle of an open sore.

  3. A friend of mine in the U.S. Forest Service once spent some time monitoring the success of large fenced enclosures.  Her experience indicates that the bigger they are, the more likely deer are to find a way in.  So, you need to ask the question – do enclosures really work?


Some POVs suggest extending the hunting season, maybe even allowing year-round hunting.  A few things to consider:

1.       If year-round hunting is successful at reducing the deer herd, will hunters continue to apply the pressure needed to keep the herd small?  Fewer deer means hunters are less likely to see deer when they are in the woods, and less likely to bring a deer home.  Our hunters are, frankly, used to easy hunting as if they were in a game park. 

2.       The history of deer population in this country is instructive.  Did any of you try a web search to learn more about that history?  It's easy.  Enter "deer population historical trend" into a Google search and lots of good information will pop-up.  One of my favorites is this one right here.

3.       No one has suggested allowing hunting for the market as a possible solution.  Just mentioning such a thing can drive professional game biologists into a rage.  That's because of the history.  Do you know anything about that?  Could market hunting be managed in a way that it could become part of the solution?


Thee has been some good discussion about reintroducing wolves.  A few thoughts:

  1. You all had good discussions, but these seemed to be based on opinion rather than readily available information.  Try typing "wolf minnesota problem"  into a Google search and see what pops up.  Why Minnessota - because they have a lot of wolves.

  2. One of the pieces that will pop up will be another excellent essay by Ted Williams of Audubon Magazine titled "Living with Wolves. Wolves are thriving in the Midwest's north woods--and killing dogs and calves in the adjacent farmlands. Is it time to take Minnesota's wolves off the endangered-species list?"  Link 


You all probably noticed that we used quite a few links to various Audubon organizations, studies, and articles?  The reason is that Audubon has a well deserved reputation for developing pragmatic policy positions based on good science.  It doesn't mean they are not advocates for a certain viewpoint, in their case to conserve and restore natural ecosystems.  But they don't let their personal wishes and biases (we all have them) obscure objective fact.  We think that is how all policy should be developed. 


During the final week of the forum, your challenge is to remain advocates for your stakeholder group's interests, but also to develop a deer management policy that serves all of society and is based on the facts you have uncovered over the last two weeks.  You must balance economic, cultural, emotional, and intellectual considerations and produce a just policy.


This business of forming effective policy in a democratic system is hard stuff.  I'll end with this quote from Ted William's "Living with Wolves:"

". . . the Minnesota DNR created a "roundtable" in 1998. It worked about as well as King Arthur's. Thirty-three citizens representing every conceivable interest, notion, and superstition about wolves--from ranchers to trappers to deer hunters to environmentalists to animal-rights zealots--were instructed to hatch a plan for managing the state's wolves, a plan that would placate everyone and at the same time convince the federal government that wolves could be safely delisted. All members of the roundtable had to be in favor of the plan; one "nay" and it would be scuttled. The legislature would then ratify the plan, and the DNR would live by it. 

     The roundtable process was doomed from the start. The representative of HOWL (Help Our Wolves Live) successfully intimidated the other members into not even discussing hunting or trapping by the public. At the 59th minute of the 11th hour, all hands agreed to a plan that would do nothing to slow wolf expansion into farm country but would at least allow people to shoot wolves caught in the act of attacking their pets or livestock. All roundtable members promised to stand by the plan, including the HOWL representative, although she burst into tears and claimed she'd been bullied into signing. At least the animal-rights people kept their word. The cattlemen, on the other hand, quickly reneged, and unsuccessfully pushed their own bill, which would have cut the current wolf population in half. " Link

 Can you do better?


A lesson in the importance of civics.  Here is actor Richard Dreyfuss on the Friday night season finale of Real Time with Bill Mahrer clearly advocating for the teaching of civics and how each citizen is "personally responsible" for sustaining democracy.  Dreyfus is studying civics and democracy at the University of Oxford in England.