Status of HB 2083 and Our Efforts to Resolve the Deer Crisis
By John Eveland
October 23, 2016
Although we were successful at moving HB 2083 out of committee in the House of Representatives on September 26, unfortunately there was not enough time left in this two-year legislative session to advance the bill out of the House and on to the Senate. Therefore, we will again introduce the bill this January and hopefully complete the job.
I would like to thank Martin Salinas, Pete Kingsley, and Phil Wagner who testified with me at the September 20 hearing in support of the bill; those who also submitted written testimony in support of the bill including Rod Ansell, Wayne Haas, Steve Mohr, Jack Iannantuono, and Randy Santucci; and all those who assisted in getting the bill passed out of the House State Government Committee -- especially Representative Dave Maloney (prime sponsor of the bill), Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (Chairman of the State Government Committee, Rep. Mike Hanna (House Minority Whip who provided extensive expertise in moving the bill forward), and Rep. Bryan Cutler (House Majority Whip). I would like to also thank all off the legislative cosponsors of the bill, and members of the Senate who support the bill.
I would like to especially thank Unified Sportsmen for your expertise and persistence in recognizing the seriousness of the pending problem nearly two decades ago, for taking dogged action to address the crisis, and for taking a leading role with other organizations toward resolving the matter. We would not be at this stage toward permanent resolution without USP leadership. It should be noted that PGC is attempting to identify HB 2083 with only USP -- claiming that it's a one-organization initiative. USP has been partnered with many other sportsmen clubs, gun rights organizations, businesses, and others who now comprise a coalition of organizations representing about 700,000 members. Along with USP are the Allegheny County Sportsmen's Association, Firearms Owners Against Crime, Eastern Pennsylvania Firearms Coalition, and Pennsylvania State Camps Association. Other clubs ranging from 20 to 10,000 members in size, businesses, and even county chambers of commerce representing 100 to 1,000 businesses want immediate deer management reform and are in support of our legislation. Adding these entities and those outdoor-loving and concerned citizens who want deer management, forest, and wildlife reform would likely tally to well over a million people who support our actions.
All who participated in this effort should be proud that resolution has come so far. We are close to "permanently" resolving the deer-management crisis that has plagued Pennsylvania hunters, threatened Second Amendment rights, devastated rural communities especially across the state's northern tier counties, closed family cabins and hunting camps, and caused the bankruptcies and closings of uncountable family businesses. PGC's deer-reduction program jeopardizes the future of sport hunting in Pennsylvania, and besides costing the state $5 billion in lost economic activity, has cost the Game Commission, itself, $10-20 million per year and counting in lost license sales -- indicating that they wouldn't be pleading for a license-fee increase if they had responsibly managed the deer herd.
Even if there had been some good reason for PGC's action with measurable benefits, such as for science, it still could not have justified what the Commission has done. It has been demonstrated that there are no scientific benefits from their deer reduction program -- none -- and the social and economic impacts to the Commonwealth are egregious and unacceptable. Therefore, we have no recourse but to see resolution of this crisis to its successful conclusion.
Much time has been spent by many sportsmen, gun rights organizations, camp owners, business owners, legislators, and concerned citizens toward this end, and more time will be needed. If we are too involved to realize it, our wives surely know that it takes time to correct such large issues on a statewide basis. Just ask Kim Stolfer about the rewards of persistence regarding his Second Amendment initiatives.
None of us is getting any younger. We need to end this thing now before the Commission's prediction comes true -- that if they can keep the deer-reduction program going for a generation or two, there won't be anyone left who remembers the good old days. Legislation represents the only permanent solution. We tried dealing with PGC's board, officers, and staff to no avail. Their policy is deeply entrenched and not dependent on any one person. Agreeing to anything less than a permanent legislative fix would be again bowing down to PGC promises that they now see the light and will fix things internally. We fell for that trick during the last legislative session. Temporary fixes are not an option.
We need to consider all public lands in our fix. HB 2083 will heal the outrageous damage that was caused across the state and especially on our 1.5 million acres of state game lands and our 2.4 million acres of state forest lands. It is high time that it is remembered that these lands do not belong to the agencies, but to the people of Pennsylvania. In addition, these state game lands were purchased with hunters' dollars and the Commission is directed by Title 34 state law to manage these lands in the best interest of sportsmen. Our bill will enforce this legislative directive. HB 2083 is also sensitive to the State Constitution by designing a resolution management program that will serve the best interests of all Pennsylvania citizens by greatly improving the overall forest ecosystem and preserving all forest-dwelling wildlife species for future generations.
Now we must stay focused toward a common goal that is in the best interest of not only sportsmen, but of forest and wildlife resources, Second Amendment rights, rural economies, and the outdoor loving citizens of the state.
Here's how our actions have shaped out so far:
1) Starting in 2001, we realized that there was a really big problem and asked PGC and legislators to resolve it. PGC was not willing and legislators were not able at that time.
2) From 2009-11, I worked closely with PGC's board and Executive Director to resolve in internally -- meeting with individual board members in their districts and together with the Executive Director on Elmerton Avenue. I was asked to prepare a new deer management plan for the board. They were unable to vote it into action. The Executive Director and staff would not change.
3) During the next session, we traveled extensively to speak with legislators and to encourage legislative action legislators, however, did not know how to resolve it at that time. So we took matters into our own hands.
4) During the past 2013-14 legislative session, with the help of many legislators we introduced five bills that were the foundation of HB 1720 and 2083. These five bills, however, did not include the accountability provision, habitat enhancement, and reductions in doe tags. The Commission promised that if the maximum-sustained-yield (MSY) bill were passed, they would further destroy the herd and sport hunting by crafting MSY standards that were to PGC's liking -- stating tat sportsmen should be careful what they wish for. Therefore, it was likely fortunate that these five bills didn't pass at that time.
5) During the current 2015-16 legislative session (which in now about to end), HB 2083 greatly expanded on the five bills, placed them into a single bill, and resulted in a truly state-of-the-art approach to hunting, forest and wildlife management, and multiple-use natural resources management. Not to be forgotten is that we included DCNR into the mix.
6)While HB 2083 would represent a fabulous bill to permanently resolve the crisis, we now have gained additional experience and opportunity to include other strong provisions into the bill. Stay tuned for HB 2083 version 3.0.