The Growing Deer Debate

So, perhaps you have seen or heard about THE GROWING DEER DEBATE scheduled at Margaretville Central School on October 31st from 9AM to 4PM. What’s the “debate” about anyway? “Hey, there aren’t many deer where I live.” Or perhaps you believe, “they were here first.” Or, “they’re eating everything I grow.” Or perhaps you say, “Leave ‘em alone.” Wherever you are on the spectrum, the impacts of deer (regardless of their abundance) can be severe on the forest resource in portions of the Catskills. Sometimes it might be about harvesting more or less deer and other times better habitat management. Solutions are as rare as an apple tree on Balsam Lake Mountain. Why don’t you just come and hear for yourself? Afterwards, you’ll have 45 minutes to ask speakers questions.

RYAN TRAPANI is CFA’s Education Forester. An ISA Certified Arborist & Certified Deer Steward, QDMA, Trapani is a regular contributor to many local publications such as Kaatskill Life, Shawangunk Journal & Mother Earth News. Ryan will introduce the event and speakers.

JIM STERBA is author of Nature Wars: The Incredible Story of How Wildlife Comebacks Turned Backyards into Battlegrounds. Sterba has been a foreign correspondent, war correspondent and national correspondent for more than four decades, first for The New York Times and then for The Wall Street Journal. He plans to give an historic overview of wildlife & forest destruction for 400 years, how the conservation movement reversed it beginning at the end of the 19th century, & how the post-WWII sprawl of people into the suburban, exurban & rural countryside created an integration of re-grown forests, rebounding wildlife, & dispersed people that is unique on the planet. He’ll cover how ideas about nature & wildlife were formed, how modern Americans became de-natured, & why fights about over-abundant wildlife, especially deer, are going on in literally hundreds of communities – fights between people over too much of a good thing and what to do – and what not to do – about it. He’ll end by covering a typical community fight over deer that lasts, in his experience, 5 to 10 years.

THOMAS J. RAWINSKI is a botanist with the USDA Forest Service. Tom has been a professional ecologist/botanist for 33 years. He works throughout New England and New York on invasive plant and deer overabundance issues. In 2014, Tom received the Integrity in Conservation Award from the New England Society of American Foresters. His presentation will explore the deer overabundance issue and its many challenges. His talk title: Deer, Forests & People: Understanding & Managing Socio-ecological Systems.

EDWARD STRINGHAM, Ph.D. is Davis Professor of Economic Organizations & Innovation at Trinity College. He was President of the Association of Private Enterprise Education, & a board member for the Center on Entrepreneurial Innovation & the Center on Culture & Civil Society at the Independent Institute. An author & editor of numerous publications, Dr. Stringham is also a winner of several awards including the Templeton Culture of Enterprise Best Article Award. Dr. Stringham’s presentation will cover Free Market Environmentalism or how private property rights and market solutions can best mitigate environmental impacts. In other words, it is the lack of private property rights – according to free market environmentalists – that increases vulnerability to resource abuse: i.e. Tragedy of the Commons. Resources (deer, land, rivers, oceans, buildings) that are not owned privately are often more vulnerable to abuse since no one person or family has a direct responsibility for them. “No one washes a rental car.” Is this true with deer?

DAVID DRAKE is Professor of Wildlife Ecology & Extension Wildlife Specialist with the University of Wisconsin. Drake co-authored the article from The Wildlife Society Bulletin: Regulated Commercial Harvest to Manage Overabundant White-Tailed Deer: An Idea to Consider? NYS DEC biologists rely upon recreational hunters to control deer numbers. As the average age of hunters increases (currently about 51 years old in NYS) and fewer are hunting in some locations, some wonder if numbers can be controlled by recreational hunting alone. David Drake will introduce the idea of legalizing the sale of venison as an incentive to harvest deer. Currently, over 85% of commercial venison consumed in the US is imported from New Zealand. Hunters in Sweden have been selling moose and deer meat for many years.

RUBEN CANTU is a Certified Wildlife Biologist & Certified Professional in Rangeland Management. He has 27 years with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department as a Wildlife Biologist. Now retired, he created Habitat Advantage, LLC & is co-owner of Wildlife Consulting,LLC. Past president of the Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society, executive board member of the Texas Wildlife Association, on the White-tailed Deer committee, & member of the Texas Section Society Range Management. Authored & co-authored various publications about wildlife throughout his career. Ruben’s presentation will cover Public Ownership—N. American Model of Conservation—Public Stewardship; the Brewing of a Perfect Storm. Texas is 97% privately owned, but – according to Ruben – have some of the healthiest wildlife habitat and deer herds in the country. How’d they do that? Ruben claims it’s because Texas focuses their attention on those that are responsible for where deer live – landowners. “We know that there is no better steward of the land, the habitat, and the wildlife resources than those who have an economic interest in that private property. Together with private landowners on private lands, we can and we are achieving successes in managing the publicly owned wildlife resource.” New York State isn’t Texas, but perhaps there is something to take away.

You can buy tickets online at For more information, contact Catskill Forest Association at 845-586-3054 or email