Friends of Animals and CARE Sue to Stop National Park Service Deer Control Plans
Suit challenges plan to kill nearly 80 percent of deer living at Valley Forge

12 November 2009

Philadelphia, PA – Friends of Animals, an advocacy organization founded in 1957, is suing the U.S. National Park Service to stop a proposed deer-control plan for Valley Forge National Historical Park.

Just a few minutes west of Philadelphia, Valley Forge Park is historically known as a six-month headquarters for George Washington during the Continental Army’s encampment in 1777. Today, it is known as a five-mile spot of peace and safety for animal life in the midst of suburban shopping malls and road works.

Under the government’s “White-Tailed Deer Management Plan,” however, rifle-toting agents would enter the park to kill the vast majority of the deer this winter, continuing the same way for at least four years.

Were this to occur, hundreds of deer would die and be dragged out of the park this winter, and the deer, following their nature, would rebound with extra fawns in spring, turning the plan into a long-term cycle of violence.

“The government’s desire to deploy a rifle team to war on the deer lacks biological, ecological, and ethical sense,” said Lee Hall, legal director for Friends of Animals.

“That park officials would actually encourage local residents to believe deer have no business on the land the minute they do something inconvenient — even including the ingestion of ornamental plants — is not responsible leadership.”

Allison Memmo Geiger, president of co-plaintiff CARE (Compassion for Animals, Respect for the Environment), said, “Valley Forge National Historic Park’s managers and the National Park Service have displayed a lack of respect for nature, for those of us who enjoy and pass through the park, and for the deer whose habitat is the park.”

Noting that the government proposal includes spending future years controlling the deer with a lab-created birth control substance, Geiger stated, “I’m not sure which is worse — shooting deer or wreaking havoc on their biology and their social and reproductive interactions by imposing birth control on them.”

Additionally, the suit charges that shooting the deer endangers public safety and ignores local laws. Eerie Insurance Company research shows that cars hit deer the most when the deer are being hunted, with the opening day of hunting season and the first Saturday of hunting season being the highest days for these accidents.

“The park has decided it’s OK to discharge firearms in this small park so close to roads and developments — adding to the mix a population of suddenly frightened deer? This is unacceptable,” said Geiger.

The deer are not responsible for the park’s manicured lawns, for deliberate removals of natural vegetation over the years and the planting of non-native foliage, for a lack of respect for the animals comprising the park’s natural food web, for paved areas and buildings, for more than a million visitors per year, vehicle exhaust, or for the constant presence of (often speeding) cars. These factors must be addressed directly to address the pressure on the deer, Friends of Animals and CARE have urged.

The lawsuit alleges the Park Service’s White-tailed Deer Management Plan for the Valley Forge National Historical Park violates federal law, including the National Environmental Policy Act, the Organic Act and the park’s enabling legislation.

“Decisions under the National Environmental Policy Act cannot be based simply on seizing upon the apparently easiest answer to a perceived problem, said Hall. “Killing deer is not the answer to the decline of plant life in a sprawling, concrete-covered suburb.”

“Like any conscious beings, moreover, deer need special concern in decisions involving the ecological balance of a space; and our government needs to stop disregarding common sense and ethics.”

The suit names Mike Caldwell, Superintendent of Valley Forge National Historical Park, the National Park Service, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, and National Park Service Regional Director for the Northeast Dennis R. Reidenbach.

On behalf of Friends of Animals and CARE, Lee Hall expressed appreciation for the outstanding legal work on the case by the University of Denver – Sturm College of Law Environmental Law Clinic, directed by Professor Michael Harris. The lawsuit is being filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.