Most properties in the WMU under discussion would be unable to plant an acre, because they are mostly housing tracts subdivided into lots approximately an acre in size with buffers between tracts. In many cases these 50-yard wide shelterbelts are where the deer go in the daytime, and it's not practical to hunt them there.
It isn't comparable to farming areas where farmers get a tax break on 50+ acres. We're talking about homeowners, not people who derive an income from their land. So, dollars off on property taxes would have to be enough to compensate not only for the equipment needed to plant part of an acre, but also for the time property owners invest in creating habitat. Also thousands upon thousands of property owners would need both the desire and the physical ability to do so.
Taxing bodies at the municipal and county levels in Pennsylvania play no role in wildlife management, and with tax revenues in short supply they are not in a position to share the cost of wildlife management. These folks are subject to the voters, and it would take a big effort to educate the voting public on the benefits. Even then, it would be a coin toss.
The WMU system in place does in fact already account for these smaller-than-WMU areas. They're called "Special Regulations Areas," and the Pennsylvania Game Commission can establish these anywhere necessary.
As for increasing back-tags for these areas, that has also been done already. Antlerless allocations in the urban areas are the highest in the state, and every year they go unsold. These are the areas of highest human population density, but the lowest numbers of hunters. These are not areas with a hunting culture. Any hunter who lives and/or hunts in the area can get all the tags he wants, but he can't always find properties to hunt on. Many hunters who are not local to these areas are buying them, and the license agents still don't sell them all.
There is no DEC or DNR in Pennsylvania. There is a DCNR (Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources), which is not charged with wildlife management. It's the PGC that has responsibility for all wildlife (not just game animals.) There is cooperation between the two agencies, but in PA the PGC is an entity separate from political control.
I agree with you that baiting and sharpshooting are only short-term solutions, or not solutions at all. But, no idea has been off the table. Speaking of "outside the box," for many people, the idea of baiting is way outside the box.
The problem is far more serious than the dietary fondness deer have for the shrubbery around suburban homes. It's also more serious than their dangerous habit of colliding with cars on suburban freeways. The fact is that housing developments, shopping centers, and industrial parks are crowding deer into smaller and smaller pockets of natural habitat.
Baiting was a test. The PGC has determined that it does not sufficiently benefit the deer or the wildlife habitat in urban southeast Pennsylvania. Any solution must accommodate the urban non-hunting mindset of the people who live there. One solution, which I'm sure they're trying to avoid, is the extermination of deer in that part of the state. But, in cities everywhere, that has often been the solution, whether intentional or not.
The PGC biologists and policy makers continue to work on this, but there is no easy solution to making populations of large animals compatible with urbanization -- just as there is no easy answer to the social problems that come with urbanization.
When the Everyday Hunter
isn't hunting, he's thinking about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, writing about hunting, or wishing he were hunting.