As an environmental studies major, environmental journalism was a required course. I think my professor would agree that journalism in many ways cannot be taught, but certainly can be edited. I did not excel in the course, but I managed to impress him with my final report. Enjoy a bit of conservation journalism below.
[GEOL 1342 – Parks and Forests — Final Paper]
April 20, 2015
WHITE-TAILED DEER POPULATION REPORT INDICATES CHANGES IN HERD DISTRIBUTION AND FOREST STRUCTURE
On April 8, 2015, the Pennsylvania Game Commission released its 2015-2016 Deer Population Report outlining recent White-tailed deer population trends, related forest structure trends, and future wildlife management strategies.
Each Wildlife Management Unit is viewed independently, and recommends changes in the amount of antlerless licenses allowed for nine of the 23 total WMU’s in Pennsylvania. Four of the WMU’s recommending change either contain or share a border with portions of Allegheny National Forest.
WMU 1A and 1B are near the northwest border of ANF and recommend a shorter antlerless season while allowing more license sales to maintain their stable population.
Population is trending upwards in WMU 2D, calling for more license sales in this area, primarily in the southern region of ANF.
Management objectives for WMU 3A, which borders the northeast corner of ANF, recommend increasing the antlerless deer population by shortening the hunting season while allowing the same number of licenses as previous years.
A study conducted through the University of Pittsburgh Department of Biology by Morgan Kain found that over-browsing by White-tailed deer creates less diverse forests dominated by understory tree species. Research was conducted from July 2011 until September 2011, using deer exclosure area existing on State Game Lands #30 in north-central Pennsylvania.
The exclosure area had been in place for 60 years at the time of the research. Data from within the exclosure found more trees reaching the canopy than from similar diameter trees in the reference area. Tree density of sugar maple, dogwood, black cherry, and yellow sweet birch all were higher inside the exclosure. Striped maple density was 5 times higher outside of the exclosure.
Kain discusses the implications of the diversity loss and changing forest structure further in the Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society in a paper titled “Over-browsing in Pennsylvania creates a depauperate forest dominated by an understory tree: Results from a 60-year-old deer exclosure.”
Allegheny National Forest is managed to meet the standards set forth by the US Department of Agriculture to maintain multiple use and sustainable yield expectations for all users of the land.
“I do not decide how much timber to cut on ANF, I only am able to choose when and where the timbering occurs,” said US Forest Service District Ranger, Rob Fallon from Marionville while discussing ANF wildlife issues on February 23, 2015.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission mission states “to manage all wild birds, wild mammals, and their habitats for current and future generations.” In December of 2009 they released a White-tailed Deer Management plan for the following nine years reflecting the previously stated mission.
Five goals were derived from the management plan prepared by Dr. Christopher S. Rosenberry, with objectives for maintaining the goals and strategies for each objective planning to allow a structured plan through the year 2018, when a new plan will be developed.
The first goal is to manage deer for a healthy and sustainable deer herd. The second goal is to manage deer-human conflicts at safe and acceptable levels. The third goal is to manage deer for healthy and sustainable forest habitat. The fourth goal is to manage deer to provide recreational opportunities. The last goal is to improve the public’s knowledge and understanding of deer and the deer management program.
The management plans set forth by the Pennsylvania Game Commission, combined with multiple use – sustainable yield principles of the USFS alter and stabilize White-tailed deer populations to best manage the parks and forest of Pennsylvania for all citizens.
“The number of hunters seen in the woods in recent years certainly seems low and from the information I gather, it tends to be related to low deer populations; people are missing the old days of seeing 40 deer in a single day in the woods,” said Steve Sherk Jr. life long Bradfordian and owner of Sherk’s Guide Service.
This perspective seems typical of many Pennsylvanian sportsmen. However, it appears that a calculated forest structure change is occurring for the protection of habitat and recreation for generations to come.