Stephen R. Patton, Ph.D., Director of Landscape Programs
In Support of Bill 5852 – AAC The Control of Lyme Disease
Testimony of Stephen R. Patton, Ph. D.,
Director of Landscape Programs
Before the Environment Committee – March 10, 2008
On behalf of The Nature Conservancy with 32,000 members in Connecticut, I am here
today to urge your favorable consideration of Bill 5852 - AAC The Control of Lyme Disease.
While the Conservancy’s mission is to preserve the plants, animals, and natural
communities that represent the diversity of life by protecting the lands and waters they need
to survive, this particular legislation is an example where our ecological objectives coincide
with public health objectives. I’d like to direct my remarks to the effects that deer are having
on the ecology of Connecticut’s forests and offer some suggestions on how to reduce these
The overabundance of deer in Connecticut poses a significant threat to the health and
vitality of Connecticut’s forests. Although deer were nearly extirpated in Connecticut 100
years ago, sound management practices adopted by the Connecticut Department of
Environmental Protection helped restore deer populations in the State. The success of
those practices, however, and other important factors have resulted in a deer population
that is now in many places two to six times larger than what our forests can sustain over the
The Nature Conservancy is acutely aware of the fact that deer overabundance has already
had significant deleterious effects on some of the forest sites where we work including
forests within the Saugatuck and Eightmile river watersheds. It is likely that deer
overabundance is having a similar effect, though perhaps not as severe, on other forested
landscapes in Connecticut.
Numerous studies conducted throughout the northeast including at the Conservancy’s
Burnham Brook Preserve by the late Dr. Richard Goodwin of Connecticut College have
demonstrated the serious effects of deer overabundance on the forested landscape.
Wildflowers and other plants have been nearly eliminated from the forest floor. Forest
shrubs and trees are unable to grow and spread because they are either unable to survive
the effects of severe grazing by deer or are stunted and unable to grow to a normal size that
is beyond the reach of deer. Deer overabundance simplifies the ecology of our forests by
eliminating many of the plants that can not tolerate repeated grazing. The loss of forest
plants eliminates food and nesting places for many of the forest dwelling animals including
small birds and mammals.
The Nature Conservancy supports Bill 5852 AAC The Control of Lyme Disease and makes
the following recommendations.
First, we recommend that DEP conduct a thorough reevaluation of Connecticut’s deer
management program and its objectives, incorporating the most current scientific thinking
about the ecological relationships of deer with their natural habitats as well as the
relationship between deer and Lyme disease.
Second, we recommend that DEP establish goals for forest health and with the Department
of Public Health, set goals for reducing the occurrence of Lyme Disease in Connecticut.
And Third, we recommend that DEP consider a range of new incentives to increase the
annual harvest of deer in Connecticut and reduce the deer population to a level that is
consistent with the goals established for forest health and Lyme Disease.