State Forester's Testimony to the Pennsylvania Game Commission

Testimony to the Pennsylvania Game Commission
April 11, 2011
Dan Devlin, Director, Bureau of Forestry
Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Good morning, I am Dan Devlin, director of DCNR Bureau of Forestry. DCNR is responsible for ensuring the long term health and viability of Pennsylvania’s forests and conserving native plants. We are the largest land steward in the state, actively managing more than 2.4 million acres of state forests and parks.    
I appreciate the opportunity to speak here today on behalf of DCNR.  I will be speaking today mainly about deer and forest habitat management, a topic which greatly affects DCNR’s mission and our ability to fulfill our legal mandates. 
Forest habitat conditions
·   We seek to balance deer populations with available habitat to promote healthy forests and healthy deer populations.
·   The health of the forest and deer are linked.
·   We have seen positive signs of recovery in many of our forests as a result of deer management policies of the past 10 years.
·   Our data, however, shows that forest habitat conditions are still poor in most parts of the state. 
Forest Habitat Recovery
·    Habitat recovery can take a long time. Many areas saw heavy deer impacts for more than 70 years.
·    Many factors involved: “Legacy” impacts and other forest health issues. 
·    Bureau of Forestry alone spends $2 million annually on approximately 12,000 acres just in contract costs to fence timber harvests and manage competing vegetation related to, at least in part, deer impacts.
·    Deer are not the only factor. But they are a significant one we must manage.
·    Our forests will never see widespread habitat recovery if deer management policies do not consistently factor in long-term forest habitat health.
Antlerless allocations
·    Antlerless deer allocations are perhaps one of most important conservation decisions made in Pennsylvania. 
·    Evaluating habitat should be our primary means of determining the allocation.
·    Our available data sources very clearly show that most areas of the state cannot support increases in the deer population.
·    We therefore support antlerless allocations based on current habitat conditions and that do not contribute to further degradation of forest health. 
Concurrent seasons
·    Pennsylvania has a great sporting heritage and hunters are one of our largest recreational constituency groups on state forest land. We seek to maximize their opportunities and ensure that future generations can enjoy Pennsylvania’s natural resources.
·    We believe many of our stakeholders were in favor of the once statewide concurrent antlered/antlerless seasons.
·    We would like to see concurrent seasons implemented again statewide.
·    Likewise, we are concerned with how split seasons impact antlerless deer harvests.
·    We would like to learn more about the results of the study the Board initiated in 2008 to evaluate the impact of split seasons, before a decision would be made on expanding split seasons.  
Deer Management Assistance Program
·    DMAP is an important tool for managing our state forest system.
·    Allows managers to make local land-management decisions.
·    To retain the program’s effectiveness and original intent, issued DMAP tags should be additive to the overall antlerless allocation. 
·    We appreciate the program and hope you retain it as a land-management tool for all Pennsylvania landowners.
·    Deer management decisions are complex. But they are important to the many uses and values associated with our forest resources.
·    At DCNR we understand the challenges of managing natural resources for many stakeholder groups.
·    In the case of deer management, we must operate a responsible herd management plan with a realistic perspective on what the habitat can support in the long term. 
·    DCNR’s goal is for a healthy deer herd and a healthy forest that can provide a full suite of benefits and values to the citizens of our great Commonwealth.