Despite beginning the April 15 meeting with Chair Tom Cargie saying it would most likely be their last, River Forest’s Ad Hoc Deer Committee will meet one more time prior to finalizing the group’s report and recommendation to cull the deer population. That report will be provided to the River Forest village board, which will make the final decision on whether and how to control the deer population in River Forest.

Before submitting the final report and recommendation, the committee will seek confirmation from an expert that using his name in the report is acceptable, will change some wording and make grammar adjustments, and will add information about the process sharpshooters may use if the village approves culling.

The committee voted 8-6 in favor of culling at its Jan. 13 meeting. Those in favor were Cargie, John Flynn, Dan Hollenback, Cathleen Hughes, Ron Lemar, Joel Lueking, Dawn Mizgala and John Roeger. Those who voted against were Julie Armstrong, Katherine Christmas, Laurie Gillard, Marta Kozbur, Ingrid Liu and Annette Madden.

Based on that vote, a report was put together by Cargie, with evidence and expert testimony backing up the committee’s recommendation to “enter into an intergovernmental agreement with the Forest Preserve District of Cook County to authorize a controlled culling of the deer herd in the Thatcher Woods Complex.”

The committee also recommends that the village create and provide an educational program for residents on steps they can take to avoid property damage from deer.

The sticking point on finalizing the report during the April 15 meeting came from board member Julie Armstrong, who raised concerns about the report being “pretty weighted” with commentary from Christopher Anchor, senior wildlife biologist for the Forest Preserve District of Cook County. Armstrong was concerned about whether the comments from Anchor, who had been reluctant to appear before the committee, should be considered “on the record” and included in the report. These comments were made available to the board through an email forwarded by committee member Lueking with Anchor’s permission.

Mizgala said that since the information had been shared in previous meetings, all of which are public, the information is already out there and part of public record. “I’m having a hard time understanding why we’re even discussing this,” Mizgala said.

Armstrong disagreed, citing an email forwarded by Lueking to the rest of the committee with Anchor’s email address redacted, requesting that the information be kept confidential. Lueking said he had received permission from Anchor to share the email with the rest of the committee.

“[Anchor] did ask that I not include his email address, because he doesn’t want to get involved in local politics,” said Lueking. “So I simply cut and pasted the exact email that he sent to me because he gave me permission to share his comments with the committee.” Lueking said he later asked Anchor to participate in a call with the committee, and Anchor declined.

The letter from Anchor, however, which was sent by Lueking to other committee members’ village email addresses, would be subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and as such could be requested under that act, making it available to the public regardless of whether or not Anchor had said he wanted it kept confidential, said Sara Phyfer, management analyst for the village.

Anchor’s comments were used in the report as part of the rationale behind the committee’s recommendation to enter into a culling agreement with the forest preserve. For example, part of the report reads as follows: “Anchor stated that there are indisputably too many deer in the Thatcher Woods Complex for the preserve to support. Anchor also reiterated that a detailed research project to determine whether or not there was an overabundance of deer was not necessary because the absence of a browse line is unequivocal proof of overabundance … Anchor stated that deer typically stay in their own forest area and that research has not shown that more deer would fill in if some deer in Thatcher Woods were to be culled.”

Like Mizgala, Cargie said that because Lueking had shared the comments during a public meeting, the problem of getting authorization from Anchor was a nonissue.

Addressing Armstrong, Cargie said, “[Lueking] did tell the committee on the record in an open committee meeting what Chris Anchor had said. So I think your concern is addressed … I don’t know that there has to be this formal endorsement by Anchor.”

Still, the committee decided to meet once more to address that and several other issues. Prior to the next meeting, Lueking will reach out to Anchor to see if he is okay with his name going in the report and the language used. Cargie will make some grammar, word and definition changes suggested by committee members. The committee will also add information about the process by which sharpshooters will take down the deer, which will be processed and the meat donated to organizations that feed those in need.

The report as presented at the April 15 meeting can be found here.

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