The Potomac Highlands Watershed School 

High School Environmental Forum

Moderator's Comments 11/5/05

 Here's the moderator sticking his nose into your business with a few things to think about as you begin the final week of the Forum:


Many 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?


Many 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?


You had some truly excellent discussions about reintroducing wolves and mountain lions.  A few thoughts:

  1. "images of mountain lions attacking people in their backyards and homes are highly exaggerated."  Yes, but they are on the rise in western states where people are moving into mountain lion country.  Have there been instances of wolf attacks on people?

  2. 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.

  3. 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 


No one took a swipe at the Deer Advocate.  Sad.  The Advocate may have said one or two (or even more) things that weren't quite true, maybe even intentionally to see if you were paying attention.  Scientists never meekly accept what other scientists say.  They poke and prod and look under the covers.  I'll just about bet that your teachers would consider giving you extra credit for an accurate deconstruction of the Deer Advocate's POV.


You all probably noticed that I 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.  I 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?

                                                                                                         - Neil Gillies, Cacapon Institute