Public relations and deer: National Park Service readies plan to control the herd

02_5_deer.jpgJust two days ago I posted my thoughts on the role of public relations in wildlife management issues, especially the deer problem. Scroll down. It’s there.

Today’s Akron Beacon Journal reports that the National Park Service will “reopen the debate” over reducing the herd in Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park. CVNPs last plan to trim the deer population (using sharpshooters) stalled when activist groups convinced a judge the park hadn’t done a thorough environmental impact study. But park officials now have strong evidence to back their proposal AND survey data showing public support for the use of lethal means to cull the herd.

NPS biologists say deer population has reached about 130 per square mile. Ideal for herd sustainability is between 15 and 30 per square mile. Deer-car collisions are a problem, but CVNP’s primary concern is the herd’s impact on the entire ecosystem. Over-sized deer herds become underfed deer herds. And they’ll devour just about anything that’s green and less than six feet off the ground. Such aggressive browsing can wipe out plant species, stifle new hardwood growth and eliminate habitat for ground-dwelling mammals and low-nesting song birds. In short, too many deer turns the ecosystem on its ear.

NPS has a very strong case, or at least I think so. Now, as a PR professional, can you translate the NPS rationale into public consensus for killing Bambi? Such challenges are why I call this site — and this business — “tough sledding.” (OK, my name had a little to do with it, too.)

It’s great to see that NPS will begin the process with wide-open public meetings. But is a win-win compromise possible, or is the issue too emotional, ala pro-choice vs. pro-life?

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