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Letter: Park Deer Adding To Damage, Danger

To the Editor:

The following letter was addressed to Superintendent Kevin Brandt of the C&O Canal National Historic Park.

Dear Superintendent Brandt,

Montgomery County has a serious and growing deer over-population problem. The County Council’s Public Safety Committee (PS Committee) annually reviews the County’s deer management plan and the results of efforts the County has undertaken that include managed hunts and police sharpshooting on County parkland. On Jan. 26, the PS Committee discussed deer management with representatives from Park and Planning, the County’s agricultural services program, and residents who are extremely concerned about increased damage to plants and trees, deer-vehicle collisions, and Lyme disease. Brian Carlstrom, deputy superintendent of the C&O Canal National Historic Park (NHP), attended this meeting and we greatly appreciate the National Park Services’ participation in this discussion.

Deputy Superintendent Carlstrom may have relayed to you that the Council has received many complaints from people living in Potomac adjacent to the Gold Mine Tract of the C&O Canal National Historical Park about the negative impacts from too many deer. Over the past 10 years, these residents have expressed concern about the number of deer in the area. Records on deer-vehicle collisions show a consistently high number of deer-related accidents in the general area. National Park Service deer population data for the Gold Mine Tract for 2010 estimates a population density of about 128 deer per square mile. In addition to causing concern to local residents, a population this high is surely having a negative impact on the vegetation in the park. Our residents are willing to do what they can and several in the area have contacted bow-hunters to see if deer can be legally harvested on their properties.

The PS Committee members were very interested in understanding how the National Park Service will address this problem. Deputy Superintendent Carlstrom explained to the Committee and others present the process involved for a National Park to implement deer management. He stressed the cost and time required to complete a Deer Management Plan and the associated Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). We understand that Rock Creek Park in the District of Columbia has been working on this process for a number of years and is just finishing up the final Plan. We also understand that National Park Service staff from around the country, recognizing a growing need to manage ungulates on NPS lands, are meeting to discuss ways to streamline the process.

We must work together to find ways to manage the deer population along the C&O Canal and its neighboring communities. The Gold Mine Tract represents, by far, the largest refuge in the area. We are formally requesting the C&O Canal Historical Park initiate the EIS process and develop a Deer Management Plan for the Gold Mine Tract to reduce the deer population as soon as possible. We recognize that deer management on National Park Service parkland must strike a balance in your mission to protect and preserve this historic gem. However, the damage is already significant and getting worse. A solution needs to be developed now.

Thank you again for sending Deputy Secretary Carlstrom to meet with the Council’s PS Committee. Please contact me or Councilmember Phil Andrews, chair of the PS Committee, if you would like to discuss this request further.

We look forward to your reply.

Roger Berliner

Council President