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Friends of Animals and CARE Sue to Stop National Park Service Deer Control Plans

November 12, 2009 | Deer

Friends of Animals and CARE Sue to Stop National Park Service Deer Control Plans
Suit challenges plan to kill nearly 80 percent of deer living at Valley Forge

12 November 2009

Philadelphia, PA - Friends of Animals, an advocacy organization founded in 1957, is suing the U.S. National Park Service to stop a proposed deer-control plan for Valley Forge National Historical Park.

Just a few minutes west of Philadelphia, Valley Forge Park is historically known as a six-month headquarters for George Washington during the Continental Army's encampment in 1777. Today, it is known as a five-mile spot of peace and safety for animal life in the midst of suburban shopping malls and road works.

Under the government's "White-Tailed Deer Management Plan," however, rifle-toting agents would enter the park to kill the vast majority of the deer this winter, continuing the same way for at least four years.

Were this to occur, hundreds of deer would die and be dragged out of the park this winter, and the deer, following their nature, would rebound with extra fawns in spring, turning the plan into a long-term cycle of violence.

"The government's desire to deploy a rifle team to war on the deer lacks biological, ecological, and ethical sense," said Lee Hall, legal director for Friends of Animals.

"That park officials would actually encourage local residents to believe deer have no business on the land the minute they do something inconvenient -- even including the ingestion of ornamental plants -- is not responsible leadership."

Allison Memmo Geiger, president of co-plaintiff CARE (Compassion for Animals, Respect for the Environment), said, "Valley Forge National Historic Park's managers and the National Park Service have displayed a lack of respect for nature, for those of us who enjoy and pass through the park, and for the deer whose habitat is the park."

Noting that the government proposal includes spending future years controlling the deer with a lab-created birth control substance, Geiger stated, "I'm not sure which is worse -- shooting deer or wreaking havoc on their biology and their social and reproductive interactions by imposing birth control on them."

Additionally, the suit charges that shooting the deer endangers public safety and ignores local laws. Eerie Insurance Company research shows that cars hit deer the most when the deer are being hunted, with the opening day of hunting season and the first Saturday of hunting season being the highest days for these accidents.

"The park has decided it's OK to discharge firearms in this small park so close to roads and developments -- adding to the mix a population of suddenly frightened deer? This is unacceptable," said Geiger.

The deer are not responsible for the park's manicured lawns, for deliberate removals of natural vegetation over the years and the planting of non-native foliage, for a lack of respect for the animals comprising the park's natural food web, for paved areas and buildings, for more than a million visitors per year, vehicle exhaust, or for the constant presence of (often speeding) cars. These factors must be addressed directly to address the pressure on the deer, Friends of Animals and CARE have urged.

The lawsuit alleges the Park Service's White-tailed Deer Management Plan for the Valley Forge National Historical Park violates federal law, including the National Environmental Policy Act, the Organic Act and the park's enabling legislation.

"Decisions under the National Environmental Policy Act cannot be based simply on seizing upon the apparently easiest answer to a perceived problem, said Hall. "Killing deer is not the answer to the decline of plant life in a sprawling, concrete-covered suburb."

"Like any conscious beings, moreover, deer need special concern in decisions involving the ecological balance of a space; and our government needs to stop disregarding common sense and ethics."

The suit names Mike Caldwell, Superintendent of Valley Forge National Historical Park, the National Park Service, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, and National Park Service Regional Director for the Northeast Dennis R. Reidenbach.

On behalf of Friends of Animals and CARE, Lee Hall expressed appreciation for the outstanding legal work on the case by the University of Denver - Sturm College of Law Environmental Law Clinic, directed by Professor Michael Harris. The lawsuit is being filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.


It is difficult to see how the arguments opposing the decimation of deer in Valley Forge park, as presented by Lee Hall and Allison Geiger, can be challenged in any reasonable manner. Let us hope that reason, common sense, and justice do prevail here, leaving the deer to live in peace. It is time for our government's unrelenting war against animals to come to an end, allowing us, and those who come after us, to enjoy, with the animals, the beauty of the natural world.

no one even seems to mention the heavily asbestos-laden areas in the park that perhaps is wreaking havoc within this Valley Forge environment! Also, then the park wants to give out these poor deer to food kitchens & such after they have been grazing on all this asbestos. Something is definitely amiss here.

Groups like this are so uninformed when they bring suit. The number of deer in the Park has caused many automobile accidents both in the Park and on the roads and highways around the Park. You can count the ribs of the scores of deer standing by the roads thru the park. You can see that almost all natural vegetation has been eaten by the deer. The advocated use of Coyotes is really stupid. They mostly prefer house cats. FoA comments: Anecdotal accounts of car accidents and observations of deer and vegetation while driving through the park does not qualify as either reliable or useful information. You are not just misinformed, but uninformed as well. Uninformed about how to live in peace with the other animals we share this park and planet. The use of coyotes is not being advocated. The coyotes already reside in the park.

The famously-gifted Alice Walker once wrote, "The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women created for men." How incredibly honest...and profoundly TRUE! Those that approach the circumstances with the deer at VF Park with the mindset that the deer are a "problem" to be "controlled" are incredibly misguided. We are the ones that built and developed on the wildlife's land, and then forced the deer closer and closer into "our territories", by destroying the areas of protected wild land and forest where they once freely roamed, far from busy roads, concrete, and entitled-feeling, cantankerous neighbors who whine about ornamental plants being nibbled. Also, it seems there is much grumbling from the "anti-deer people" about taxpayer dollars going to fund some aspect of the lawsuit: as it stands, tax payer dollars are planned to be used to fund the sharp shooters, at an OUTRAGEOUS amount. As a federal tax payer and resident of a city where deer and elk are allowed and encouraged to roam freely and naturally (and ARE controlled by natural predators, and do limit their own numbers, which is what would happen in this case, if the VF officials would act responsibly and abandon their violent and ridiculous plan) I do NOT want my federal tax dollars spent on a plan that endangers the lives of people, nor animals. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to deduce that if you live in an area that is highly-populated with wildlife (for example, Evergreen, CO, which is where I live) you simply move there knowing that the animals were there first, that adaptations are expected to be made (on YOUR part) so that everyone may live in harmony. You do simple, logical, EASY things, like driving more SLOWLY and with your car headlight "brights" on in the areas where the deer are thick (and where roadways are within their grazing areas). Evergreen has crosswalks and signs with blinking lights which sense movement on the sides of the roads, specifically created to address the safety-needs that accompany this scenario of the elk and deer freely roaming in and out of the neighborhoods, businesses, forests, and yes, even at least 5 (that I can think of off the top of my head) large, activity-filled, state parks. The deer and elk are negotiated around by mountain bikers, horseback riders, family picnic'ers, and dog walkers. This October, during mating season, when a bull elk attacked a woman for getting too close to try to snap a photo, SHE, the "human", was scolded and brought up on a misdemeanor charge for tampering with and endangering wildlife (she went to the hospital with minor injuries). So there ARE communities who understand that we do not "rule over", nor own, nor have any pre-assigned authority over these animals...and that to peacefully co-exist is the most intelligent, mutually beneficial, and most joyful way to live- and it works; it works VERY effectively, at that. Forest regeneration studies reflect a successful system (it's been studied in extreme detail in this region) wildflowers are more abundant this year than they ever have been in any past season- they are everywhere, and because most of Evergreen is privately-owned land: the deer, elk, fox, bear, and other wildlife are protected, and the "NO HUNTING ALLOWED ON PRIVATE LAND!" signs are ALMOST as ubiquitous as the " 'Got Elk ?" bumper stickers that almost every vehicle seems to proudly display. These animals are literally respected to the extent that if a family of elk decides to cross a busy road at rush hour, it soon becomes one of the obstacles that makes the 5 o'clock news, and makes the traffic commute more lengthy- because EVERY car slows to a complete stop and waits for the sometimes between 15-50 members of a herd to cross, allowing them to take their sweet time in doing so. The deer at VF are guilty of is an honor to share this planet with them, and SHARE is the operative word in that statement. If we continue to approach our dilemmas like the one in VF Park, with bloodshed and the decimation of at least 80% of their herd, we are not only acting like barbarians in lazily reaching for firearms when more peaceful and less-expensive alternatives are available (and realistic)... but we are also setting an example for our children as to how to take the most aggressive, self-centered, careless, violent, and IRREVERSIBLE "approach" possible. 'Shame on anyone and everyone in support of such a "plan", when perfectly viable, peaceful, less-expensive, and relatively easy alternatives are readily available. Sometimes, once a bully has shown us his fists, he doesn't want to back down, at any cost, even if there's no longer a reason to fight. The VF bullies want to opt for expense, violence and bloodshed over peaceful, less expensive, and MUCH more logical solutions. Thank God a strong group of individuals had enough courage, intelligence, motivation, and just plain respect, for both animals AND people, to bring about this suit. I appreciate everything that Lee Hall and the FoA (and CARE) are doing to stop the violent nonsense that the officials at VF have attempted to bring about, especially at a NATIONAL PARK- a location that is supposed to be one that is peaceful, family-friendly, and BULLET-FREE.

I have been driving through the park everyday for 4 yrs to and from work. I have never come close to hitting a deer because I pay attention, drive slower, and limit distractions. People need to stop blaming the deer because they drive like morons.

If we only had 5 miles of space to live on, I'm sure we would be over-populated too! Take a look at NYC! But, you don't see anyone setting up a People Management Plan. I, like lisa, drive through the park (to and from work) and never had a problem. We do need to stop blaming the deer and stop trying to mess with nature.

whats with these people, i stop in this park to eat lunch when in the area. the only reason is to see the deers, i don't go to look at the weeds, if i want to see weeds i can look in my backyard. that's a lame excuse to kill 80% of the deer population to save some plants or prevent people who don't know how to drive from getting in accidents ( they will just run into something else). whoever came up with this STUPID IDEA SHOULD BE FIRED. the only reason people go to the park is to see the wild life. pa has a deficit and there cutting jobs all over,maybe gov rendell should cut this department, they are irratating the pubic and causing unnecessary lawsuits that our tax dollars are going to have to pay for.leave the deers alone and stop blowing our tax dollars on dumb ideas.

There are way too many deer in the park because they have no natural predators to keep things in balance. The imbalance created by this over population has cascading effects starting with the destruction of the natural habitat and subsequent loss of many other species of smaller wildlife and birds that depend on plant life. The wood land is being decimated because there are so many deer that there isn't enough food for all of them. I understand that people think it is cruel to kill the deer but they are certainly not looking we are really nature lovers, what sense does that make? They need a balance in the park - which they certainly don't have now! FoA comments: Nature is not in balance, so just kill the deer? The living, breathing, sentient deer? Deer are not weeds (unwanted plants). Who could possibly suggest killing them when there are many other options which allow us to peacefully live with them?

A few notes so all of our visitors understand the lawsuit being brought by Friends of Animals and CARE against the National Park Service. 1. The claim that deer cause car collisions is inside-out. Cars ~hit~ deer. This is usually because, as Lisa has observed, drivers speed in and around the area of the Park. Indeed this is well known here. There are precautions that can be taken to avert these tragic events. Shooting deer and causing them to scatter in panic is not one of them. 2. Liz brings up unintended consequences for other communities of animals and for plants; our litigators are highly concerned about this, but note that the cascade of unintended negative consequences is far more likely to work in the reverse: when the status quo is disturbed. All we are asking is for the conservation of the status quo in the Park. 3. The lawsuit does advocate letting coyotes play their natural role (as it happens, they are capable predators of deer, particularly weakest and sickest deer - and disease prevention is one of the Park's stated motives for wanting to kill deer). 4. Barbara Schmitt, who lives in another state, clearly understands that this is an issue of national, even international concern. In my view Barbara's comments are both ecologically perceptive and kind. And Maryanne Appel, a CARE board member, makes a good and straightforward point: It is time for our government’s unrelenting war against animals to come to an end. Lee Hall, Legal Director, Friends of Animals

Excuse me for butting in, as I am not a citizen of PA or CO...but at one time I was. I've lived in State College PA, Evergreen, Ft. Collins, and Denver CO. I'm a 63 year old animal rights activist - since I was in my early 20's. My husband and I live in OK. We'd love to move, as OK is a KILL FIRST - NEVER ASK QUESTIONS state!! I wholeheartedly agree with Friends of Animals and CARE's position on suing to stop The National Park Service's Deer Control Plan!!! Who was on this Earth first? Animals? (or) Human Beings? We not only treasure the wild creatures that roam on our land, but we treat them with the love and consideration they deserve!! We have several gardens - we know that some vegetation will go to the feeding of these glorious creatures, and some will be ours to eat, can, freeze, "put up." We've managed to live in harmony with the deer, raccoons,'possums, rabbits, turtles, snakes, and the glorious wild song birds - even the raptors. As a wild bird rehabilitator, I've been most fortunate to aid in saving the lives of some of God's most wondrous birds! Deer roam around unharmed on our land; we watch them from our windows as they stroll around like delicate, slow-motion characters in a sweet movie. People who live nearby have learned to drive slowly when they are on the "back-woods" roads as they wish no harm to the creatures with whom we share the land, water, air. I applaud the persons who have eloquently stated their opposition to the control plans of The National Park Service! ...just an old, disabled woman who hopes, wishes, prays that YOU win!!!...or should I say: The Creatures Win!!!


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