Get our newsletters

Sourland Conservancy testifies in favor of Deer Control Bill


Representatives of the Sourland Conservancy testified today in favor of a bill to allow farmers more leeway in controlling deer and reducing deer damage to their crops. Sourland Mountain is a 17 miles long ridge in Central New Jersey, extending from the Delaware River at Lambertville to the western end of Hillsborough Township near the community of Neshanic, through Montgomery Township and into Hopewell Township in Mercer County.

Laurie Cleveland, the Sourland Conservancy's executive director, and Cliff Wilson, a member of the organization’s Public Policy and Advocacy Committee, testified before the Agriculture and Food Security Committee of the New Jersey Assembly, in support of bill A4182. While the focus of the bill is preventing loss of crops, the conservancy sees synergy with its mission to halt and reverse deforestation that is being caused by the overpopulation of white-tailed deer.

“In our view, any reasonable action that might make a dent in the deer population is worthwhile,” Wilson said in his testimony.

“The Sourland Forest is dying,” Cleveland testified. “It has been decades since the forest has been able to regenerate at anything close to a sustainable level. The main reason is a vast overpopulation of white-tailed deer, which feed on the seedlings and saplings in the understory.”

The pair called for the state to formally recognize the importance of the Sourlands; to fund reforestation efforts; and for further action to control the deer population, including incentives for hunters to take more deer. They also introduced the idea of allowing the sale of wild-caught venison, which is currently illegal in all 50 states.

“When we think of problems associated with New Jersey’s growing deer population, we often think of car accidents, farm crops being destroyed and landscapes decimated. However, the deer population is severely preventing our forests from natural regeneration, as well.” said Assemblyman Roy Frieman of Hillsborough, a sponsor of the bill and chairman of the committee. “The Sourland Mountain is the third largest forest in New Jersey and is at risk because of the uncontrolled deer population in our area.”

The committee also heard testimony from farmers, academics, sportsmen and animal welfare advocates. Nearly everyone agreed that there are too many deer in the state, causing a wide range of problems. Most suggested ways to increase hunting, although some participants suggested that sterilization might be part of the solution.

The committee will now work on possible revisions to the bill before voting on whether to release it to the General Assembly.

Join our readers whose generous donations are making it possible for you to read our news coverage. Help keep local journalism alive and our community strong. Donate today.