Monday, July 31, 2006

PENNSYLVANIA NEWS: Unified Sportsman Sues for More Deer

By Bob Frye
Monday, July 31, 2006

Hunters unhappy with the Pennsylvania Game Commission's current deer management program won at least a partial victory in court last week.
Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson said in a ruling last week that the Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania can proceed with a lawsuit against the Game Commission and its deer program.

The suit centers around deer populations. The Game Commission has lowered deer densities in many areas of the state through a program biologists say is meant to bring deer into balance with the available habitat.

The Unified Sportsmen, however, allege that the program is based on faulty science and has decimated deer populations needlessly, thereby threatening hunting and deer.

The commission -- being represented by the state Attorney General's office, as required by law -- tried to get the case thrown out of court. Their attorneys had argued that the commission, as the agency responsible for managing deer in the commonwealth, "owned" the deer, so no entity such as the Unified Sportsmen could sue it over its deer plan. In his ruling, Simpson disagreed with that opinion.

"Because the Game Code clearly recognizes the interests of sportsmen and protects an adequate opportunity to hunt and trap the Commonwealth's wildlife resources, standing is conferred by statute," Simpson wrote.

"In other words, the judge soundly rejected the idea that the Pennsylvania Game Commission is not responsible to sportsmen, and he further rejected the idea that sportsmen have no right to sue them," said Greg Levengood, chairman of the Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania. "This in itself is a major victory for sportsmen."

Simpson did, however, did dismiss the portion of the lawsuit that targeted the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Gov. Rendell, two entities Unified had targeted because of their support for the deer program. Simpson said neither are directly responsible for deer management,

Simpson said the Unified Sportsmen must now clarify its complaint before it can move forward.

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