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Commission Catches Flack Over State Hunting Survey Critique

The Conservation Commission feels a DEEP survey contains loaded questions designed to make it look like Newtown supports hunting.

A potential political landmine exploded this month for the Conservation Commission over the question of allowing deer hunting on town open space as a way of reducing the epidemic of tick-borne diseases.

At the commission’s meeting Tuesday, it voted to amend its July 24 meeting minutes to include a discussion about a state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) survey. The failure to mention the discussion was a bone of contention last week when Selectman James Gaston accused Conservation Commission Chairman Mary Wilson of misrepresenting her commission’s position on the hunting issue.

Wilson said after getting "hammered" by Gaston, she spent several hours preparing a transcript of the July 24 discussion from the audio recording of the meeting.

The Conservation Commission opposes hunting on town open space land, but that wasn’t what Gaston criticized Wilson for.

Wilson and most of the other members of the Conservation Commission agreed on July 24 that the DEEP survey asks leading questions designed to give state officials a basis for claiming that Newtown residents support allowing hunting as a way to reduce cases of Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases.

Newtown has one of the highest rates of Lyme disease of all the towns in the state. Although some officials say deer hunting reduces the number of ticks, because ticks feed on deer, hunting opponents say other towns near Newtown have not seen any reduction in disease cases after allowing hunting.

Wilson and other commission members attended the Board of Selectmen meeting on Aug. 6 because the tick disease issue was on the agenda. The selectmen postponed that agenda item until next month, but First Selectman Patricia Llodra invited Wilson and the others to speak since they were there.

When Wilson noted the opinion that the DEEP survey asked loaded questions, Gaston fired back that the commission’s minutes showed no discussion had taken place.

On Tuesday, Wilson said the audio recording shows the discussion took place, although it wasn’t included in the minutes. "Our statement was very appropriate," she said.

However, the commission members cautioned each other to be careful about when to state they were speaking for themselves and not for the commission.

"We put ourselves in a bad spot if we speak on something without a vote to do so," observed Adria Henderson.

Jim Gaston August 24, 2012 at 02:30 AM
This is a no-story. A CC representative sent a letter critiquing the DEEP deer tick questionnaire to go out to the public. Your report that I accused "Conservation Commission Chairman Mary Wilson of misrepresenting her commission’s position on the hunting issue" is absolutely false. The issue was the DEEP "questionnaire", not "hunting". No one accused anyone of anything. The matter involved a signed letter to the BoS from a Conservation Commission (CC) official, absent reference who all was involved in its writing, and whether it had been discussed by anyone other than the one individual. The CC meeting minutes reflected not a single word that the issue/letter had even come up. There was no mention whether the issue or decision on the letter was vetted. The pubic had no idea whether the issue/letter had been mentioned at the meeting, discussed, vetted, or voted on. The public had no idea who voted for or against it, or which member said what about which question. When preparing for our BoS meeting I was frustrated because I, like the public had no information from the minutes. The public should not be required to sift through hours of CC videos to secure Minute information. Actually, members of the CC in attendance helped clarify what transpired at their meeting. There were no "accusations." My take-they recognized the minutes should have included the discussion-they would amend the minutes to include same. The CC did exactly that. Matter closed. Non-story. Thanks.
Bruce Walczak TheNewtownRooster.com August 24, 2012 at 12:55 PM
Thanks Jim. I agree that meeting minutes should give enough information so that readers can understand what transpired. All too often minutes are brief and add little to the readers understanding of town governement. Taxpayers, as you said, should not have to listen to hours of meeting videos to get an understanding of whats happening. Minutes should be educational and add tothe taxpayers understanding. A good case in point were the most recent BOE minutes which seemed to actually go out of their way not to tell the reader what happen at the August 9th Special meeting.
Obi-wan August 24, 2012 at 06:06 PM
It was executive session was it not. Nice attempt to try and paint the boe as not following the rules. Did you and mr. Hart discuss this after his failed attempt to railroad Debbie by airing laundry to the bee rather than discussing prior to the meeting??? The Ipn should be familiar with FOI rules by now...
Lou Reda August 28, 2012 at 01:34 PM
The tempest in a teapot as to what the CC did or didn't do regarding the Questionaire the DEEP econmmended regarding attempts to use the reduction in the deer herd as a means of limiting the population of Lyme bearingg ticks is as Mr Gaston said a none event. The real event is that the deer herd has grown to the point that folks who plant expensive ornamentals in my neighborhood and I'm certain in most of he other neighborhoods in Newtown, watch those plants disappear every evening as the deer forced out of the decreasing wood lots return to thefeast. Let's stop wasting time discussing the Lyme problem as the only reason to control the size of the deer herd in our town. As someone who lives near and frequently walks in our state forest I can attest to the fact that the understory that supports not only the deer but the rabbits, woodcock and grouse no longer exists! The deer have eatten everything within their reach. Even in dense swampy areas the only plants thriving are those the herd doesn't eat, like mile a minute vine, purple loose strife, and Japanese barberry. To not recognize that a major contributor to rapid expansion of these invasive plants is the destruction of the native plants by the unsustainable deer herd.
Lou Reda August 28, 2012 at 01:42 PM
To finish my post I'd like to say to not recognize the deer herd is destroying the envirnoment that once supported the many now gone animals is foolish. When I moved into my home 34 years ago we would see a deer once or twice a month, today as I type this I am watching 4 does and 6 fawns graze on my neighbors lawn and shrubs! when I moved here I would see grouse and woodcock daily on my walks in the forest. I haven't seen a grouse in more than a decade. As for woodcock I last saw one about 7 years ago based on my log book. Those birds deserve a place iin our town every bit as much as the deer. Balance is the key and right now the deer are weighing too heavily on the scale!

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