CTM Considers Funding for Clifton Deer Project

This coming Monday, 9/14/15, Clifton Town Meeting will be evaluating a proposed one time donation of $5,000 to the Clifton Deer Fertility Control Pilot Program. Because this is a relatively large unbudgeted expense, we wanted to provide the community with some background information and invite residents to attend our 9/14/15 Monthly Board Meeting at 7 pm at the Clifton Recreation Center. The agenda will include this and other topics such as formation of a new CTM committee to respond to the CPS decision regarding Magnet School enrollment and an update on resolving concerns related to noise from the air conditioning units at Good Samaritan Hospital. If you are unable to attend our meeting, please consider sending your comments to us at contactctm@cliftoncommunity.org. We recognize that not everyone will be able to speak on Sept 14 and some may not be able to attend.

Events Leading To This Funding Request
Last fall, the Cincinnati Park Board concluded that, to protect the health of the forests, they needed to reduce the population of deer in three of Clifton’s Parks: Mt. Storm, Rawson Woods, and Edgewood Preserve. At the August and the October CTM Board Meetings, the Park Board proposed starting a program to use certified bow hunters to “cull” the deer herds in the Clifton Parks in the fall of 2014.

Although some residents felt they should accept the Park Board’s opinion that this was their best option, many other residents protested, collected petitions and in October eventually persuaded the Park Board to cancel the bow hunting plans for 2014. The Park Board, however, said that there still was a need to control the deer. They said they could support a non-lethal alternative approach under these circumstances:
1. The non-lethal deer management program would need to be a research project approved by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR)
2. CTM would need to vote in favor of the research project proposal so that the Parks would have some evidence of Clifton community support.
3. The project would need to be privately funded.
4. All city, state, and federal approvals and permits would need to be complete by June 15, 2015.

Two alternative approaches were presented to CTM: a sterilization program and a contraception program. CTM narrowly voted in favor of the sterilization program on 2/2/2015. Here is a link to their website: http://cliftondeer.org/donations/. At the time of this vote, we did NOT expect to provide any funding or resources for the project. We were only stating a preference at the request of the Park Board so that they could request ODNR approval for one and only one approach.

On 5/11/2015, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources issued a permit for the program. The Clifton Deer Project started fundraising immediately but they apparently underestimated the challenge of raising $40,000 prior to starting the program in November. Most of the cost is in the first year ($40,000 versus $5,000 or less in subsequent years) because of the experience of their contractor, White Buffalo, indicating that the most effective approach may be to sterilize 95% of the does in the first year of the program. This is actually the research goal that they presented to ODNR: to prove that a program that sterilizes 95% of the does in the first year will effectively reduce deer population in a park system as is found in Clifton that is partially isolated from surrounding forests. For this $40,000 goal, the Clifton Deer Project has raised over $12,000 so far and just received a $20,000 grant from the Humane Society.

Although the Project is still fundraising, this leaves them about $9,000 short of the funding they need to start this program in November. Due to this unexpected shortfall, they are asking CTM to provide a $5,000 matching grant. If they can then get others to donate a matching $5,000, they will have enough money to pay White Buffalo to sterilize most of the does this year.

Arguments For and Against the Funding

    Arguments for the funding

1. The Clifton Deer Project is the only option available this fall/winter to get deer population under control. The number of does in these parks grew from 30 to 40 just since last fall. There is not enough time to switch to bow hunting or to start a new process to gain ODNR approval for the other major non-lethal option of contraception. If you believe the Park Board, getting the deer population under control benefits the ecology of the parks. Also, it reduces collisions between automobiles and deer, reduces the risk of Lyme diseases, and reduces damage to household gardens.
2. The Project is innovative. If successful, it could lead to an ODNR approved option for every neighborhood in Ohio to address deer population issues without hunting. Maryland became the first state to approve this wildlife management technique after a similar study by the same contractor who would lead the work in Clifton, and, if Ohio follows Maryland, non-lethal deer management options could spread.
3. The Humane Society sponsorship is good PR for Clifton. This huge organization is featuring this Clifton project in their national campaign to celebrate their 60th Anniversary.
4. Animals do feel pain. If we can address ecological needs with less pain and suffering, why not do so?
5. The project is close to raising what it needs, but the November deadline is approaching. With CTM’s contribution and additional fundraising by the Project, they are likely to succeed.
6. This project is relatively affordable for CTM. We have some annual expenses ranging from $1,000 to $6,000. A $5,000 one-time expense is relatively affordable. Also, CTM’s $80,000 cash balance is much more than most community councils, and there are many who feel we should be looking for opportunities to use this money on worthy projects.
7. If this program is NOT funded for 2015, costs are likely to increase along with damage to the ecology in the parks by the time we get to 2016. The population of does grew from 30 to 40 in just one year from 2014 to 2015. This caused the budget for the first year to grow from $30,000 to $40,000. This would be likely to increase further if the Deer Project can’t raise enough funds to start the program in 2015.

    Arguments against the funding

1. When we approved this program in February, we were not told we might be asked to provide any funding. The Clifton Deer Project may not have anticipated the challenges of fundraising, but this is still an unpleasant, unexpected outcome for CTM.
2. What is the “will of the people”? This is a tough question to answer because many Clifton are not aware of all the plusses and minuses of this issue. Also, it may be impossible to get majority support for ANY one option because at all the CTM meetings involving this topic some people were advocated bow hunting, others advocated contraception, and a third group advocated this sterilization project. Everyone was passionate and everyone disagreed. Another complication is that one could argue that people living near these parks are more directly affected by the Project and should somehow have more say.
3. Will costs after year 1 exceed current projections? The Clifton Deer Project expects to use sources other than CTM for all funds in years 2-5. They project annual costs in years 2-5 because this study aims to complete 95% of the sterilizations in year 1. But this IS a research project and nothing is certain.
4. Also, although this contractor has had success in similar projects elsewhere, given that it is a research project, there is no guarantee that it will effectively reduce the deer population.