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Deer management goes local

Beginning this fall, local residents will have more say in the management of deer at the county level.

The Department of Natural Resources approved the move earlier this year in response to the recent Deer Trustee Report findings.

“This is groundbreaking,” said Al Horvath, of Superior. “There’s nobody doing anything like this.”

To bring control to a local level, each of Wisconsin’s 72 counties has created a deer advisory council.

Horvath is the chair of Douglas County’s deer advisory council. The council will be responsible for reviewing data and making harvest quota recommendations for the county.

“They were very strict about the process of how people were chosen, and they really wanted to cover a broad range of folks that are involved in issues that might entail deer management,” Horvath said.

Under DNR guidelines, each deer advisory council must have representatives for specific “stakeholder” groups. Those groups include agriculture, forestry, local government, hunting or sporting groups, tourism, transportation and tribal interests.

For the Douglas County council, most seats have been filled.

“The tribes have decided not to participate, so that (seat) will stay open,” Horvath said.

Mark Schroeder will represent forestry interests for the county, and the Douglas County Fish and Game League is expected to serve as the local hunting/sporting group representative.

Rules also require that the council be chaired by a member of the Conservation Congress, and at least three of the council members must have purchased deer licenses in seven of the past 10 years.

Council members are asked for a three-year commitment, but there is no set term limit.

“This is putting more power in the hands of local folks than there’s ever been,” Horvath said.

Each advisory council will make a three-year recommendation for the management of the deer herd at the county level.

Councils will make decisions in October to increase, decrease or stabilize the herd, and that decision will then be reviewed during a public comment period running into December. The final plan must be approved by the Natural Resources Board in February.

“The whole point of this is for people to represent their area of expertise and for the public to put in their comments on what they’re observing,” Horvath said. “So when people from across the county come in and say, ‘I was over south of Brule and I saw deer.’ Or guys out in Dairyland say they saw wolves but no deer — you get that cross-section.”

The first meeting of the Douglas County deer advisory council is set for Sept. 16 at the Superior Public Library. Horvath said the meeting is tentatively scheduled to run from 6-8 p.m.

The council will make its recommendation for population objectives and quotas on Oct. 21. That meeting is also tentatively set for 6-8 p.m. at the Superior Public Library.

Meetings will be open to the public, and Horvath said that’s where he’s hoping to see the greatest participation from the community.

“With what’s going on in the world this is probably not a grain of sand on a beach,” he said, “but if there’s an opportunity to participate I think you owe it to yourself and your community.”