Tuesday, September 18, 2007

PENNSYLVANIA NEWS: Unified Sportsmen of PA Sues Game Commission (Again)

For the second time in two years, the Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania has filed a lawsuit it hopes will derail the Game Commission's controversial deer-management plan and allow the state's whitetail population to expand.

Unified's suit, filed Sept. 7 at Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg, says the commission used inadequate scientific data in determining the number of licenses available to hunt antlerless deer. Unified also is asking the court to issue an injunction that would halt all antlerless deer hunting on State Game Lands and State Forests until the commission gathers additional data on deer populations and reproductive success.

''The commission readily acknowledges they do not know how many deer exist in Pennsylvania and have resorted to subjective and ambiguous evaluations to determine deer densities rather than sound, scientific and numerical data,'' Unified Chairman Gregory Levengood of Boyertown said in a news release. ''Such unconventional and careless decision making has resulted in a dramatic, and quite possibly an unsustainable, decline of our public land deer herd.''

Commission officials dismissed Unified's suit as baseless and harmful to sportsmen.

''Unified once again is attempting to waste the Game Commission's limited resources on frivolous lawsuits that have no merit,'' Joseph J. Neville, director of the agency's Bureau of Information and Education, said in a prepared statement.

''Such a lawsuit, filed at this late date, only serves to create confusion for hunters looking forward to hunting seasons. This lawsuit also will result in a diversion of money and staff time that could be better spent managing the state's wildlife resources.''

Unified attorney Charles B. Haws of Reading said the commission has until Oct. 10 to file its initial response with the court. No hearings have been scheduled, and despite Unified's request for an injunction to block doe hunting on public land, Haws said it is unlikely the suit will have any short-term impact on deer-hunting activity.

''There would have to be a hearing regarding the merits of our complaint before the court could issue an injunction,'' Haws said. ''That could take a year. It could take less. It could take more. It depends on how vigorous the debate is between the parties.''

The lawsuit signals the start of a new round in an ongoing battle between the commission and Unified, a statewide hunting organization that says it represents more than 30,000 members.

In recent years, Unified has been the most vocal critic of the commission's deer program, and Unified filed a similar lawsuit against the agency in 2005. Although the legal arguments in that were eventually rejected by a judge, the court ruled that Unified and other sportsmen's groups have legal standing to challenge commission policies.

Commission biologists say the deer-management program is designed to balance white-tail populations with available habitat to limit the damage caused by deer eating small trees, agricultural crops and landscaping. Officials say their goals are to produce healthy deer and healthy habitat while also reducing the number of deer-human conflicts.

But in its lawsuit, Unified alleges the management program relies too much on ''qualitative'' data such as the results of forest regeneration surveys and not enough on ''quantitative'' data such as deer densities and reproductive success.

Therefore, Unified says, the agency does not have sufficient data to make credible deer-management decisions, and as such, there is no legitimate basis for the agency's decision to allocate 865,000 general antlerless licenses for the 2007-08 hunting season, plus an additional 19,136 licenses provided to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources specifically for State Parks and State Forests under the Deer Management Assistance Program.

The suit alleges that because the commission doesn't have enough data, the agency has abused its discretion in making arbitrary antlerless license decisions and violated its legally mandated duty to promote Pennsylvania's hunting heritage.

''By improperly authorizing the killing of too many antlerless deer, [the commission] has improperly reduced the Pennsylvania deer herd below its natural and appropriate population and, as a result, [the commission] has failed to provide an adequate opportunity for the members of USP to hunt deer,'' the suit states.

Unified is asking the court to halt all antlerless deer hunting on State Game Lands and State Forests and order the commission to gather comprehensive, statewide data on deer reproduction and deer population densities.

Haws said Unified is not seeking to halt antlerless deer hunting on private land because the group supports landowner rights and also believes most property owners do a good job of balancing deer numbers.

''If the [commission] would manage public land deer as well as private landowners manage the deer on their land, we wouldn't have any problems,'' Levengood wrote in an e-mail about the suit.

There are about 950,000 hunters in Pennsylvania, according to the commission's 2006 license sales data.

Source: http://www.mcall.com/sports/outdoors/all-lawsuit0918.6039654sep18,0,5586678.story


Anonymous said...

Our camp of 12 hunters hunt Cameron County on public land. We haven't seen a legal buck in 5 years. This county is 96% forested and very mountainess. Aerial surveys showed 8-9 deer per sq mile which with antler restrictions means ONE legal buck per sq mile. I think we have had enough and will start to hunt in Ohio and West Virginia. You have a better chance of seeing GOD than a legal buck on public land in area 2G!

Anonymous said...

PS. There is little if any reforestation occurring in Cameron County so it is hard to believe that 8-9 deer per sq mile can be the cause.

Dan said...

You guys don't get it! Deception is always the trade of the deceivers. After selling off the food sources in terms of nut crops, the deer, like all critters who want to eat, have left the big woods. So now what should the greety blokes do for tricks. Ahhh ha...become a covert gun control group! Yeah...that's it ! Take away hunting and the guns will go away...and Clinton will get her way....she and all other anti freedom jerks want to be SAFE...at your expense. That's it...so why do we have to regenerate trees anyway...whole state burn down...or did they sell the trees...sold them stupid...to protect the deer herd. We used to see 50 deer before noon on the fist day in Centre County...now we see....ZIP. It's a forest problem, now I get it...too many road kills in the big woods...now I understand....I'm slow, but I'm sure.... NO GUNS ALLOWED !!

Anonymous said...

i too hunt the great woods of cameron county and my only question for you is do you guys actually get out of your trucks or do you road hunt like 90% of every one else in cameron

Anonymous said...

George five years ago on first day I would see 20-30 deer last year I saw 2 this year nothing i belive it will take 10 years of no doe hunting in 5a to fix the game commisions screw up

Anonymous said...

My first year deer hunting was in 1980. Opening day was like the battles I experianced in Viet Nam.
Now I hardly hear a shot. My old time neighbors in Sullivan County say they would hear about bears but not see one. Now bear are seen almost every day. We now find out the "Game Commission" in bringing nusance bears to Sullivan county. It was one safe for our older children to play on our property. Now you have to have a gun to walk on your own property.
We now have heard the "Commission" is working with the anti-hunters group the "Audubon Society". They also are introducing mountain lions and the wolf. I have not seen any fawns this year but plenty of bears.
Other states like New Jersey have allowed baiting to help the hunter have more opportunity to control the deer population. So who's side is the "PENNSYLVANIA GAME COMMISSION" ON. Not the hunters. George C. in Sully