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Letter: Deer management should be a concern

To the Editor:

Recent letters by Michael J. Murray appearing on these pages on the declining deer population and DNR hunting management merit the attention of all area residents concerned about the status of wildlife, the environment and quality of life in this region.

Because of my keen interest in these issues, I'm compelled to add my observations, experience and opinions to those of Mr. Murray.

I'm the sole year-round resident on Somers Lake in Clam Falls Township. Nearly completely surrounded by undeveloped, forested land, this eutrophic 1,200 acre body of water is spring fed and bordered by marshes and wetlands that offer shelter, feeding and breeding ground for all kinds of native wildlife and migrating birds. (The deepest point in the lake is approximately 15 feet, and the bottom is composed of decaying vegetation and mud more than knee deep. The water is usually brownish in color, with visibility not more than a few feet). Somers is definitely not suited for recreational enjoyment other than in-season fishing and hunting; however, given its relative seclusion and wooded perimeter, enhanced on the west by a large, thickly timbered public (county) set aside, it's an ideal place to observe and monitor the native and seasonal game population. I spend a good deal of time in the woods, both summer and winter doing just that.

I've not hunted, fished or trapped in more than 30 years. When I came here in 1999, I purchased DNR licenses for these activities. I never intended to exercise the privileges that they authorize, but felt paying the annual licensing fees was my way of contributing to healthy wildlife management and enforcement of responsible harvesting of game. I stopped doing that two years ago when I became completely disenchanted with DNR game-wildlife management practices.

Over the past 10 years, I've observed a steady, progressive decline in the number of virtually all native wildlife species in this area, and given current DNR hunting and fishing policies, I do not see this trend ending much less being reversed.

This should not be interpreted as a wholesale condemnation of the DNR. As a lay person-volunteer, I've worked with DNR staff on water quality, trail usage, environmental-pollution and enforcement matters. I've also learned a lot about the department and how it functions. The environmental science, recreation and forestry people do their best, but the game-wildlife management divisions enjoy the budgetary priorities.

I've listened to DNR non-game/wildlife staffers complain about how difficult it is for them to get into the field, to practice first-hand the science they're career trained to perform.

"It is almost impossible for us to do what we should be doing because of the burdens of paperwork, endless meetings, required seminars and other administrative distractions and alleged funding constraints. Getting into the field becomes a last priority."

Comments such as this suggest to me that there are some root problems with the department and its role in state government. I've seen this before in personal experience with public agencies: the primary mission becomes secondary to sustaining and expanding the institution. Based on all that I've observed nd learned, I've come to the conclusion that the decline in wildlife, particularly hunting, fishing and trapping species, is directly related to the existing licensing-permitting policies of the DNR which are not compatible with the game population and its maintenance at a healthy reproductive level.

I believe our already ecologically threatened wildlife and game species are being traded off for the perpetuation and when the DNR needs or wants more money, they expand the harvesting rules and issue more licenses and permits regardless of the long-term impact on nature.

I commend Mr. Murray for his thoughtful, detailed observations and for bringing his view to public attention.

Bradley E. Ayers