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CDACs are meant to balance many perspectives

CDACs are meant to balance many perspectives CDACs are meant to balance many perspectives

Were you surprised to hear, a few weeks ago, that only 27 percent of hunters knew what a CDAC is? We have talked about CDACs for a while, mostly because I bet far more than 27 percent of you faithful readers understand CDAC’s, but here’s a review.

CDAC is an acronym for County Deer Advisory Council. Each county in our state has one. They will determine what the management or hunting will look like in the county they serve. They were developed out of the “Dr. Deer” report as a way to put management back into local control and not rely on the Sex-Age-Kill formula. After these committees go through their processes they essentially place a county into a category of Maintain, Decrease, or Increase the deer herd. They place their county into one of these categories every three years.

Councils are made up of a chair and alternate-chair, who are members of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, and seven citizens who represent various stakeholders in deer management. The seven citizens represent agriculture, forestry, tourism, transportation, local government, hunting organizations, and the Deer Management Assistance Program.

How you get on a council is basically by applying. You can do that from the DNR website, but you must be qualified for the seat you want. If you’re an antihunter you won’t get the hunting organization or tourism seat. Just like a city mayor won’t get an agriculture seat – unless they own and operate a large farm.

CDACs have meetings each spring to set harvest goals, which are turned over to the DNR, and finally accepted by the Natural Resources Board. The recommendations from the CDACs are rarely altered by the DNR and, when they are, they lay out why they did so in great detail.

All CDAC meeting are open to the public and there is also an online public comment period. The DNR goes to great length to publicize when the meetings will take place and how to attend or comment. The department views participation as a positive. And participation comments are taken into consideration.

The idea behind the committees was to bring local observations and thoughts into the management decisions for an area. To recognize that there is a social part of hunting and deer management besides just science. To seek a balance between the state and local community, between public and private, and farmland and forest lands. Most counties have several area types. Take Taylor County. They have agriculture, industry, public forest, private forest, tourism, and local factors. If you own a business based upon tourism, seeing as many deer as possible is good for business, not so for the farmer or the trucking companies with crop losses and car deer accidents. Not so for homeowners’ landscaping and gardens.

Yet the hotel owners, campground owners, bar owners know that deer bring hunters in the fall. CDACs are supposed to bring the stakeholders together to find the common ground. They also decide the quotas for public versus private, farmland versus forested. They are given population matrix info from the DNR.

The criticism of the CDACs is that science has left the building. Maybe and maybe not. If a CDAC leans too heavily in favor of one group over the other, then the DNR’s job is to step in and represent the voices being trampled.

Maybe we learned that deer management too heavily slanted towards the population formulas isn’t going to yield the results we want. And maybe we are learning that leaning too heavily towards the societal aspects of deer management isn’t great either. Maybe we are learning common sense must be interjected from time to time.

What I can tell you is that the makeup of the land and the desires of the landowners can change dramatically within 10 miles distance. I can tell you region wide decisions didn’t work for our fractionalized landscape so well at times because things change so fast in a short distance. Well, it worked, but it didn’t give us the flexibility needed to handle local social and biological variabilities. A CDAC for every county was supposed to provided that flexibility, local input, social input, and remain science based.

And there you have my Readers Digest version of CDAC for dummies. Of course, if you want in-depth information, there is an entire web page of information on CDACs on the DNR website. It’s clear as mud. Kind of like deer management, which we as neighbors have been disagreeing about since before the first deer season in Wisconsin, and that will probably continue.