The Hunting Policy Committee met on Monday night to discuss managing deer populations, censorship and how it should proceed next in its overarching purpose.
Established after it was discovered there was no distinct policy for hunting on lands owned by the Board of Selectmen, the committee has been charged with creating that policy recommendation for the Selectmen regarding hunting in those areas, which could range from a full hunting ban to relaxing restrictions to state minimums.
An e-mail from local resident Tony Martinez to Committee chairman Al Prescott with information relating to that deliberation took up a significant portion of the meeting, specifically attachments to the e-mail from Martinez advocating the opposition of deer hunting in town.
Sent approximately an hour before the meeting, Prescott asked members of the board whether or not it would be appropriate to post the attachments on the committee’s portion of the town website as an informational tool, or whether posting the attachments would indicate preference toward a specific position, possibly hampering the committee’s fact gathering mandate.
While Prescott told the board he did not feel comfortable unilaterally making a decision on behalf of other board members, deliberation reached an impasse since other members had not yet seen the attachments and were unable to voice their opinion specifically on the attachments.
“I felt as chair I could neither censor something, nor can I unilaterally throw absolutely anything up on the webpage willy nilly,” said Prescott. “It’s the committee’s webpage, it’s up to them on how they publish information that comes to the committee.”
Any decision on whether to make the attachments available on the website was tabled until the next meeting, with an agreement that any future correspondence would be vetted by the board prior to its discussion.
A request following the meeting to obtain the attachments by the Westford Template was unsuccessful, with Prescott stating that the attachment could not be made immediately available due to the decision.
The input from Martinez was not the only discussion on deer hunting during the meeting, as the board heard from
, Deer and Moose project leader for the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.
According to Stainbrook, his department’s goal is maintain local deer populations fewer than 20 per square mile, as he indicated larger populations adversely impact area ecosystems and begin to be seen as a nuisance to humans.
In his presentation, Stainbrook told the board that allowing several weeks of hunting by a small group of responsible hunters, even in limited areas, is the best tool humans have available to keep balance in the overall deer population over the next decade.
“If nothing is done, in those areas with severely limited access to hunting, you’ll continue to see deer populations increase,” he said. “Vehicle collisions, disease, natural deaths and predators are not enough to limit growth, so deer hunting is really the best way to keep those numbers down.”
The committee has not yet come to a final policy recommendation, although Prescott has been invited to the Selectmen’s meeting on Tuesday to answer questions and provide an overall update on the committee’s progress.
More information on the Hunting Policy Committee can be found at its page on the Town of Westford website.
UPDATE, 10:07 a.m. 5/14 – Several weeks earlier, the some members of the committee pondered the possibility of recommending no policy at all, one of the main reasons Prescott was summoned to the Selectmen.
At their meeting on Tuesday night, Board of Selectmen chairperson Andrea Peraner-Sweet requested to Prescott that the board present some kind of policy with specific details for the Selectmen’s approval.