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Audit of PGC program Coming.

Old 01-09-2008, 03:07 PM
Typical Buck
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Default Audit of PGC program Coming.

Audit of PGC deer program coming

By Bob Frye
Capital Correspondent
Thursday, January 3, 2008 9:45 AM CST[/align]Harrisburg - Pennsylvania's deer program may get put under a microscope after all.

Almost one year ago, at the Pennsylvania Game Commission's quarterly meeting in late January 2007, several state lawmakers suggested the time had come for the agency's deer-management program to be audited. State Rep. Sam Rohrer, the Berks County Republican who serves as minority chairman of the House Game and Fisheries Committee, even said legislators might be willing to help pay for the audit.

They never followed through, however. No money was ever appropriated, and no audit ever got done.

That appears as if it's about to change.

[/align]The Legislative Budget and Finance Committee is drafting an outline of an audit for the deer- management program. The plan is to put it out for bid and attempt to find an independent consultant to look at deer management here in the Keystone State.

It's not 100 percent certain that the audit will get done even then, said Phil Durgin, executive director of the committee. The lawmakers on the committee will have to approve any bid received.

But that's likely just a formality, said state Rep. Dave Levdansky, the Allegheny County Democrat who serves as treasurer of the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee and the man pushing this idea.

The committee exists largely to do these kinds of studies, he said. It has its own budget to finance them. So unless the bids received are outrageously expensive, an audit is likely to get done.

“It's become increasingly obvious to anyone watching the debate on deer management that we have people talking past each other,” Levdansky said. “That's why I think we need to do an objective analysis of our deer-management plan and see where we are and where we need to go.

“If we can get data that's accurate, reliable and trustworthy, then I think we can begin to have an informed debate about where we want to go in deer management.”

Staff of the Budget and Finance Committee has been working for a few weeks now on trying to determine just what the audit should be looking at. Letters seeking suggestions were sent to about 30 groups, including everyone from the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs, Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania and Quality Deer Management Association to Audubon Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and Pennsylvania Landscape and Nursery Association.

“We tried to hit the full range,” Durgin said.

Levdansky has ideas of his own, too. And he admitted they take in a lot of territory.

He said he'd like to know how many deer the state has in each wildlife management unit. He'd like to know the deer population goal per unit. He'd like to know, too, if Pennsylvania's forests are regenerating and, if so, what species are coming back. If that doesn't include oak, he said, he'd like to know how to get it. He'd also like to know what the state can do -besides lowering deer numbers -to get adequate regeneration.

He wants more than just data, though. He wants the consultant to provide recommendations on how to solve any problems that become obvious.

“That's the whole point here. It's not just to collect data. I want findings and recommendations, too,” Levdansky said.

Game Commissioner Tom Boop, of Northumberland County, -an outspoken critic of the agency's deer program - is one of those who has called for an audit. He did not return a phone call by press time.

Another commissioner responded to news of the likely audit, though.

Game Commissioner Russ Schleiden, of Centre County, said he welcomes a review, particularly if the committee goes with a nationally-recognized consultant, “the best in the business.”

Wildlife managers, hunters and lawmakers all around the country have been watching Pennsylvania, he said. So any audit here will have national implications, he added.

“It should really be impeccable. It should be done to the highest standards,” Schleiden said.

What the audit should not be, he cautioned, is an attempt merely to count deer, or something so broad that it's meaningless.

“If they want to look at what we're doing, the data our staff is generating and using to make decisions, I'm all for that. That's what this was supposed to be about, or should be about,” Schleiden said.

“What is the biggest criticism of this agency in regards to deer? They should figure that out, then design a study to answer that question. Then the results will be what they will be and no one on either side of the aisle can argue, so to speak.”

The Budget and Finance Committee's goal is to put out a request for proposals in January, Durgin said. It will allow six weeks or so for potential bidders to respond. If a suitable bidder at a suitable price is found, they should be awarded a contract shortly thereafter, Durgin said.

How long it will take to get a report is uncertain, however.

“It would be good if we could get it before the end of 2008. I'm not sure if that's realistic, but that's our goal for the moment,” Durgin said.

Levdansky said he's not overly concerned with how long it takes to get a report. He's more concerned that it be done well and provide some starting points for discussion.

“All I know is that there are a bunch of people out there who aren't very happy, a lot of hunters who aren't very satisfied,” Levdansky said. “I just think it's high time we sat down and took a look at some of this stuff.”
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Old 01-09-2008, 05:10 PM
Typical Buck
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Default RE: Audit of PGC program Coming.

How many wouldn't want to know how many deer there are in each WMU, but wanting to know and actuallyfinding out, are two different things. How many other states claim they know with any certainty, how large their deer herds are?

Rep. Sam Rohrer brought up a legislative audit of deer management months agoand several others made noises about it, but when a long list of state outdoors orgs sent a letter encouraging the legislature to have a qualified entity do such an audit of our deer managment practices, it was meant with deafening silence from all who had demanded one.

Great idea if it primarily dwells on how good or bad our current deer management practices are, but I don't really expect anyone to comeup with a system to accurately count deer. Do you?
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Old 01-09-2008, 05:41 PM
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Default RE: Audit of PGC program Coming.

At this point, I think everyone from all sides would welcome an independent audit. I also agree with Dennyf that no audit is going to produce a system for counting deer.

Hopefully,an auditwill compare Pa's methods for estimating deer populations with the methods of other game management organizations and either support or criticize the methods being used in PA.

I do think it will be interesting to see what (if any) auditing entity will be deemed "acceptable" to our friends at USP
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Old 01-09-2008, 06:50 PM
Typical Buck
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Default RE: Audit of PGC program Coming.

I do think it will be interesting to see what (if any) auditing entity will be deemed "acceptable" to our friends at USP
Heck, that one's easy.It would be the one that decided there will only be 50,000 deer left in Pennsylvania by 2009.

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