The Sounds of Silence

Posted on 12 March 2014

The silence emanating from the North Haven Village Board over its decision last month to hire a private company to undertake a deer cull in that community is frustrating for anyone who wants to know what their government is up to and downright childish on the part of the board.

Readers may recall that last year the village, after holding a series of very public and well attended meetings, determined that its longtime efforts to control the deer population needed to be improved because of concern over the rise of tick-borne illnesses, safety on the roads, and damage to lawns and gardens.

In February, the board authorized Mayor Jeff Sander to negotiate a contract with White Buffalo, a Connecticut firm that specializes in reducing the deer population of suburban communities. At the time, Mayor Sander explained that the company would bring in hunters, armed with shotguns, who would be charged with reducing the size of the village’s deer herd to about 100, a process, he said, that could take several years.

But the village’s decision just happened to coincide with the hullabaloo surrounding a broader deer cull championed by the Long Island Farm Bureau and involving sharpshooters from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services. Once opponents of that effort went to court and East Hampton Town and Village dropped out of the Farm Bureau program, North Haven officials, no doubt concerned over the threat that they too would face a legal challenge, clammed up.

Requests from this newspaper and others for the most basic of information about the village’s deal with White Buffalo have gone unanswered. Village officials will not say whether the village has been sued, whether a contract has even been signed, how much the hunt is expected to cost or what it will do if it can’t strike a deal before spring arrives, the trees fill out and seasonal weekenders return, making a hunt both impractical and dangerous.

The board’s refusal to discuss its deer cull is ironic in light of the fact that, judging by the attendance—or more accurately the lack of attendance—at recent board meetings, village residents either completely agree with the policy or simply don’t care one way or the other about it. Contrast that to the scene 20 years ago when the board, faced with a growing deer population and angry residents who didn’t want to see their expensive (and often inappropriate ) landscapes being denuded by hungry deer, agreed to allow bowhunting within the village limits. Opponents of hunting crowded Village Hall for months before and months after the board made that decision, with meetings often devolving into angry shouting matches between the two camps.

It’s a good bet the village attorney has advised board members to zip their lips because of the threat of a lawsuit. That would be understandable if reporters were trying to ferret out details of the village’s legal strategy, but they are not. They are simply inquiring about a decision adopted by an elected board on behalf of its citizenry.

That’s what North Haven Village Board members have seemed to forgotten: They have been elected to do the public’s work—and to do it in public. They might be able to get away with silence now because of the lack of interest in the deer cull, but some day they will touch a nerve, and their constituents will be well justified in demanding answers.

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2 Responses to “The Sounds of Silence”

  1. earthspirit says:

    Long Island Deer Win Reprieve as Judge Puts Temporary Hold on Planned Cull
    Monday, March 10, 2014

    Washington, DC—A state court judge in New York issued a temporary injunction on Thursday to prevent new permits from being issued to kill deer as part of the Long Island Deer Cull Project—one of the largest planned deer slaughters in the country. The injunction comes in response to a lawsuit filed on March 6, 2014, by the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) and a group of local organizations in Suffolk County to stop the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) from issuing the permits until the DEC fully evaluates the environmental impacts of the cull, as required by state law. The diverse group of plaintiffs includes eastern Long Island citizens and conservation, animal welfare, and local hunting organizations.

    “While this court order does not stop the killing, it does slow the DEC-led deer killing frenzy occurring on eastern Long Island,” explained Cathy Liss, president of AWI. “The court acted in a manner consistent with the law and we would now welcome a DEC decision to cease issuing permits, repeal existing permits, and subject its program to the requisite environmental review.”

    The Long Island Deer Cull Project, devised by the Long Island Farm Bureau and the US Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services Program, calls for the killing of potentially thousands of deer over several years on eastern Long Island. Under the Project, federal sharpshooters using high-powered weapons would shoot deer over bait piles or potentially trap and shoot groups of deer using nets.

    “As a society, we need to stop using bullets to address deer-human conflicts and, instead, use existing non-lethal techniques and seek out new strategies for living with deer,” adds D.J. Schubert, wildlife biologist for AWI. “We believe most citizens of eastern Suffolk County, knowing the facts, would be outraged by this slaughter. Yet their voices and concerns have been ignored by the DEC, Wildlife Services, the Long Island Farm Bureau, and the municipalities, which refuse to consider feasible and effective alternatives to wholesale slaughter.”

    The temporary injunction issued by the court will remain in place until at least March 28, 2014, when a hearing on a preliminary injunction is currently scheduled to occur.

    Plaintiffs in addition to AWI include the Wildlife Preservation Coalition of Eastern Long Island, Hunters for Deer, LLC, Long Island Orchestrating for Nature, the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center, Inc., and several individuals. The plaintiffs are being represented by Jeffrey S. Baker and Jessica R. Vigars of Young/Sommer LLC in Albany, one of the preeminent environmental law firms in New York state.

    Media Contact:
    D.J. Schubert, Animal Welfare Institute, (202) 390-7680, dj@awionline.org

    ###

    File Attachment:

    application/pdf iconComplaint

    application/pdf iconMemorandum of Law

    application/pdf iconSimon Affidavit

    application/pdf iconTemporary Restraining Order March 6, 2014

  2. Kathryn Menu says:

    Editors note: For the record, the deer cull in North Haven Village is separate from a deer cull planned as a part of an initiative by the Long Island Farm Bureau.


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