A lawsuit filed against the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Village of North Haven, and the Long Island Farm Bureau, over efforts to reduce the deer herd, will be heard in a Suffolk County court, as opposed to one in Albany County, according to a decision handed down by the State Supreme Court last Friday.
The suit was filed by the Wildlife Preservation Coalition of Eastern Long Island, the Animal Welfare Institute, Hunters for Deer, Long Island Orchestrating for Nature and The Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center, as well as a handful of residents.
The suit alleges that deer nuisance permits, also known as deer damage permits, issued by the DEC for eastern Suffolk County in 2014 should be annulled because they violate the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act as well as New York State Environmental Conservation law. The suit also asks the court to not allow the DEC to issue any deer nuisance permits as a part of deer management programs promoted and sponsored by the farm bureau and North Haven Village without first requiring the completion of environmental assessments and environmental impact statements.
In March, North Haven Village attorney Anthony Tohill challenged the petitioners’ choice of court venue—
Albany rather than Suffolk County—and attorneys for the farm bureau followed suit.
The plaintiffs argued Albany County was the proper venue as it is where the DEC is headquartered and that agency is tasked with developing, adopting, and implementing statewide deer management plans. However, DEC and Commissioner Joe Martens noted while the agency is headquartered in Albany, all the deer nuisance permits in question were issued in the DEC’s Suffolk County office, and that all permit holders in the case, including several municipalities, are also located in Suffolk County.
In its decision made last week, the court found that given all events relating to the suit occurred in Suffolk County, because the village and all named parties maintain offices or live in the county, and because none of the petitioners in the case reside in Albany, the case should be heard in Suffolk.
Last fall, the farm bureau announced it would use $250,000 to bring U.S. Department of Agriculture sharpshooters to the East End to complete a deer cull. The farm bureau planned to bring the sharpshooters to private land, but also reached out to municipalities seeking matching funds to expand the cull. While East Hampton town and village originally signed onto the program, both dropped out after a judge issued a temporary restraining order. Southold Town became the only municipality to support the Farm Bureau plan with $25,000.
North Haven Village has not signed onto the farm bureau plan, instead planning to undertake its own deer cull through the issuance of deer nuisance permits. The village also signed a contract with the private firm White Buffalo, Inc., a wildlife management company based in Connecticut, although village officials have remained mum on specific details regarding the cull.