Should deer hunting have been decided at Town Meeting?
“Ah October, the perfect time to get into the woods and let the dogs run free. But what you say? Hunting on town land?” This seems to be the reaction many have had to learning Carlisle will this fall, from October 1 to November 24, be allowing bow hunting on town-owned property. During this time walkers are being told to stay on trails and keep dogs leashed. There are many good reasons for wanting to control deer in Carlisle. But was the proper process followed in reaching the hunting decision?
In the Annual Town Election of May 2015 a non-binding referendum on deer hunting passed by a wide margin (350 to 90). But look again at the wording: “Shall the town of Carlisle request the Selectmen to place an Article on the next Town Meeting Warrant to regulate bow hunting on town-owned lands as an approach to deer management?” Those voting on the ballot question were voting to allow deer hunting to be discussed, not voting to allow hunting. The implication of the question is that no decision will be made without a Town Meeting vote.
The ConsCom may respond that the plan was discussed at public meetings, that hunting already takes place on other property in Carlisle and that some high-use walking areas, such as the Cranberry Bog, are exempt. However, many busy people do not follow the town boards, but rely on Town Meeting for a heads-up on important issues. Whether the hunting plan is good or bad is moot. The concern is that an important decision was made outside the expected process.
Since the hunting season was announced, some have come forward with concerns: What restrictions on the rights of walkers are fair? What signage is necessary? Should hunting even be allowed? A more public process would have garnered this input before the plan was implemented. The whether, where, when and how of bow hunting in Carlisle, decided in meetings of the ConsCom’s Deer Control Committee, might better have been discussed at Town Meeting, where important changes to town policies are typically vetted. In future, it is hoped that the Selectmen will encourage committees to prioritize process and not take power away from the people. And it is not too late to weigh in by writing to the Selectmen who will be looking for input after this first year’s trial. ∆