If a proposed hunting policy fell in the woods and no one was there to hear it, would it make a sound? Westford Hunting Policy Committee believes it wouldn’t but it wants to change that as it concludes its mission.
Created after a furor last fall over what the policy should be toward hunting on Selectmen-owned land, the Hunting Policy Committee’s task of creating a policy recommendation has come up against a thick wall of fatigue over the issue.
As the time moves forward to the point where the Committee will be expected to conclude their studies and provide their recommendation over the next few months, the amount of input from those potentially interested in the outcome of such a policy has dwindled down to a trickle.
Committee chairman Al Prescott says he’s made a herculean effort reaching out to media outlets, other government boards and directly with individuals who might be interested and wonders if anything more can be done to get the word out.
“If the abutters don’t want to show up or even someone who is favor of hunting hasn’t shown up, maybe this has run its course,” he says. “That it was a bigger issue last fall and it’s not as big issue anymore, I don’t know. “
For Selectman Kelly Ross, the Selectmen’s liaison to the Committee, there are two things he’s been seeing that have been tamping down public participation.
The first is time restraints.
“I live in a neighborhood with a lot of families with children, so coming to meetings is tough to do (for them),” he said. “Since I’m a Selectman that lives in the neighborhood, they talk to me and I try to represent their views in the meeting. But ideally, citizens would come directly to the meeting and speak for themselves.”
The second issue is one Prescott has seen as well: the feeling that any opinions from the public will be ignored in the final outcome.
On that point, they want to convince residents that is not the case.
“If you’re upset with the way things are going and you say nothing, you’ll get what you’re upset with, it’s as simple as that,” says Prescott. “I’m not an elected official, I’m just a volunteer trying to help my town. But I’ve learned in the past that if I’m upset with something and say nothing, I don’t get what I want.”
The Hunting Committee will devote its June 26 meeting entirely to public input, more information on the committee is available on the town website.
Work done by the committee will only impact a policy recommendation for Selectmen owned land (see map here). Other town boards that own land can set their own policies and hunting is permitted on private land 500 feet away from a residence with permission of the land owner under circumstances allowing hunting under state law.
CORRECTION: The Meeting is on June 26, not June 22.