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John Maher

Comments to the Prince William Board of County Supervisors

Prince William Conservation Alliance, December 13 2015
Comments concerning adoption of changes to the County Weapons Code as proposed by the Weapons Control Committee

The Prince William Conservation Alliance Prince is a nonprofit watershed organization working to preserve, protect and enhance natural resources through stewardship, recreation and education. 

Our remaining natural areas are small fragments that often cannot support our many native plants and animals.  Although human land disturbance remains the most critical threat to our natural resources, overabundant white-tailed deer are removing native plant species from our natural areas and backyards, taking away the food that supports hundreds of native insect and dozens of native bird species.

Beginning in the 1970s, researchers began to document the impacts that excessive deer browse can have on natural areas. Removing all native plants in the understory, they eliminate the food and habitat for 75% of our forest birds as well as many other animal species. Research results from the USDA Forest Service and Cornell University verify that the effects of deer browse can alter our forests for centuries.

When you combine the extensive ecological impacts of over-abundant deer with deer vehicle collisions, connections to the prevalence of Lyme disease and extensive economic damage, the extent is significant.

This is not the fault of the deer. They are beautiful native animals that adapt readily to human landscapes. But they are also a prey species, and require a predator to keep their populations in check. Humans have been the dominant predator for thousands of years in North America, and we are the only available predator to control deer populations today.

The Prince William Conservation Alliance is dedicated to protecting our natural resources for their own sake and to provide benefits for ourselves and for generations to come. We want to have our native plants and animals. We want people to be able to enjoy our diverse bird and butterfly species not only in natural areas but in their own backyards. We want to promote the safety and health of residents and their ability to establish backyard habitats that welcome in our native neighbors.

To do this, we need to control white-tailed deer populations. Deer must be controlled where they are, which is just about everywhere in the county. The safest and most accessible way to control deer is through archery on both private and public lands.

To this end, the Prince William Conservation Alliance strongly urges the Board of County Supervisors to adopt the changes to chapter 31 of the county code recommended by the Weapons Control Committee which would separate bows from firearms and provide greater flexibility for their use.

Prince William Wildflower Society, December 13, 2015
Comments concerning adoption of changes to the County Weapons Code as proposed by the Weapons Control Committee

The Prince William Wildflower Society, a chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society, formed in 1982 to “Preserve Wildflowers and Wild Places.”

Virginia’s native flora, the natural communities they comprise, and the many species that depend on them are under increasing pressure. After human land disturbance, over-browsing by white-tailed deer represents the most significant threat to our native flora and the ecosystems they comprise.

The deer remove all native plants in the forest understory, making room for non-native invasive species which animals cannot eat.

Years of deer browse exhausts the seed bed, and the native plants cannot return. Our forests change for the worse, becoming oversimplified, and as trees fall, there is nothing left to replace them but invasive vines and shrubs.

For these reasons, the Prince William Wildflower Society supports and promotes the reduction of white-tailed deer populations to protect and restore Virginia's native vegetative communities and the plant and animal species they support.

We also encourage support for and establishment of programs and organizations that emphasize skill and ethics among hunters and wildlife management professionals to maximize efficiency and minimize animal suffering.

To support these efforts it is critical to have the flexibility in the county code to allow safe methods to humanely reduce deer herds wherever they exist. To this end, the Prince William Wildflower Society urges the Board of County Supervisors to adopt changes to the county code chapter 31 as proposed by the Weapons Control Committee to disassociate bows from firearms and restore greater flexibility to control deer populations.

John Maher, Lake Ridge Resident; January 13 2013
Comments concerning adoption of changes to the County Weapons Code as proposed by the Weapons Control Committee

First I would like to express my support of the Weapons Control Committee (WCC) recommendations. I urge the BOCS to implement the recommended changes promptly.

This issue arose when a small group of HOA members successfully leveraged a county ordinance to overturn their HOA Board decision to cull deer – an issue within the HOA’s authority that should have remained there. In spite of their proclamation to the contrary, this was about hunting from the beginning. County ordinances should be based on factual information, not on an unsubstantiated, irrational fear of archery.

Deer population control is an environmental issue (overbrowsing), a safety issue (deer vehicle collisions), and a health issue (the relationship between a large deer population and blacklegged ticks, carrying Virginia’s most common tick-borne disease (Lyme Disease) and third most common disease (erlichiosis)).

I have attended Supervisor May’s Town Hall meeting, most of the WCC meetings, and the Lake Ridge Parks and Recreation Association (LRPRA) Town Hall Meeting. In every instance, lethal methods were advocated as the only practical solution, and urban archery was cited as the singularly most cost-effective. At the LRPRA meeting, a show of hands showed that approximately 95% of about 100 persons in attendance favored deer management.

Letters from the Director, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries have confirmed the need to control of the whitetail deer population in Prince William County, discounted the effectiveness/practicality of non-lethal methods, and cited the effectiveness of the Fairfax County Deer Management Archery Program (FCDMAP). An article in the Washington Post described the unintended consequences of contraceptives at Cornell University. When does could not be impregnated, they continued their monthly cycle and attracted more (sometimes aggressive) bucks onto the campus. When 7 of the 77 does sterilized had fawns, their ovaries were surgically removed. One of the 7 had a fawn – attributed to incomplete organ removal and regeneration.

I am a Team Leader in the FCDMAP and there have been no accidents during its six-year history. The parks are not closed and patron use is not restricted. Rules to ensure patron safety include bowhunter qualification (3/3 arrows in an 8” circle at 20 yards), personal ID numbers on all arrows, and hunting from an elevated platforms at least 10’ above the ground. I am working to establish a rapport with those HOAs bordering our parks and obtaining written permission to track and retrieve wounded deer that go onto HOA common grounds.

With the resolution of the Archery Safety Zone issue, I urge the Board to direct planning for a deer management archery program for 2015-2016 and to submit a request via certified mail to participate in the Virginia Urban Archery program to VGIF prior to the 01 April deadline.




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