Press Release

Responding to Washington Post column on deer hunting, Izaak Walton League weighs in


A Washington Post opinion piece about the environmental impact of large deer populations triggered a response from the Izaak Walton League, which the Post published on February 25. The League’s letter from Executive Director Scott Kovarovics follows:

Dana Milbank made good points in his Feb. 19 Sunday Opinion column, “I bought a gun. And I intend to use it.,” about the need to address the damage caused by deer where their population exceeds the ability of the land to sustain them.

Too many deer per acre stunt the growth and variety of trees in our forests, reduce biodiversity broadly and degrade ecosystems. Predators that kept deer populations in check are long gone in most parts of the country. Conservationist Aldo Leopold described this problem in his essay “Thinking Like a Mountain” nearly eight decades ago. That leaves humans to do the work of managing deer and other wildlife. We seek a balance that achieves thriving populations without exceeding the capacity of the habitat. As Mr. Milbank noted, “none of this is the deer’s fault.”

The Izaak Walton League of America, which has been protecting fish, wildlife and their habitats since 1922, takes issue with some of the ideas Mr. Milbank proposes, such as market hunting. A hunting model based on commerce and profit margins could have disastrous impacts on wildlife. Also, millions of lawful gun owners enjoy shooting sports that demand discipline, precision and strict safety procedures, as Mr. Milbank surely knows.

As we better understand nature, the food web and value of hunting—with all their nuances that go beyond “Bambi” and other cartoons—we can better recognize our own connections and responsibilities to the natural world that sustains us.

– Scott Kovarovics, Executive Director of the Izaak Walton League of America

Founded in 1922, the Izaak Walton League of America is one of the most effective conservation organization in the US with a long legacy of pioneering achievements in policy and law affecting clean water, clean air, wildlife habitat, agriculture and outdoor recreation.  

Contact: Michael Reinemer, Communications Director,, 301-548-0150, ext. 220

    • Conservation