Finger Lakes Institute’s 2015 White Deer Summit

Photo by Dennis Money

A 25-minute drive southeast from the HWS campus, the former Seneca Army Depot is home to a well-known herd of white deer. Many dozens of the wild white-tailed deer that live inside the security fence at the former munitions storage facility have white coats, and are generally known as white deer. Contrary to popular understanding, these all white deer are not albino and are not the result of suspected chemical exposure.

The white deer at the former Depot are like any white-tailed deer, just with a genetic variation that causes their coats to be all white, instead of brown. These deer are considered an important cultural and historical resource, familiar to local families, yet the white deer pose a complication for Depot re-development.

The Depot was formally shut down in 2000 after being used as an army munitions storage facility for decades. The 10,000 acre Seneca Army Depot is predominantly owned by the Seneca County Industrial Development Agency (IDA), and managed in part by the U.S. Army, but not for much longer. The Army expects to be fully withdrawn from the site by 2016. This leaves Seneca County with a quandary – whether to risk the loss of the white deer herd as a consequence of site development, or find a way to conserve and manage the herd while providing appropriate economic opportunities for the rural communities nearby.

Photo by Dennis Money

The Seneca County Board of Supervisors called upon NY State Senator Michael Nozzolio to convene a meeting of stakeholders to examine and develop approaches to preserve the white deer of Seneca County. Senator Nozzolio requested the help of the Finger Lakes Institute (FLI) to organize and host a White Deer Summit.

A team at FLI’s Community Development Center (CDC), led by Program Manager Jim Ochterski, met with community leaders and all key stakeholders to organize a one-day scenario-planning workshop. The goal of this day was to bring together people of many different backgrounds and opinions surrounding the white deer and the Depot, and try to forge a more unified path for the future redevelopment of the site and the future of the white deer herd.

White Deer Summit - July 22 2015 - Final Proceedings (PDF) – Summary of process and discussion that took place at the 2015 White Deer Summit

Infographic: Issue Essentials - White Deer at the former Seneca Army Depot (PDF)

Recommendations for further action to advance former Depot development and conserve white deer (August 2015) (PDF)


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