Friday, March 23, 2007
Is hunting a good idea for Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge?
What are the effects of hunting on Carlisle's O'Rourke Farm portion of Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge (NWR)? Public comments will be accepted until April 16 on a draft Environmental Assessment of the Great Meadows NWR Hunt Program published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS.) These evaluations are being produced for NWRs across the country in response to a recent court ruling (see press release on page 19).
For the past two years white-tailed deer hunting, by archery only, has been allowed on the O'Rourke Land and waterfowl hunting has been permitted along the Concord River. Why was the land opened to hunting? It is one of the wildlife-dependent uses specifically allowed in the NWR System Improvement Act of 1997, along with fishing, wildlife observation and photography, environmental education and interpretation. While the primary goal of the refuge system is the conservation of wildlife, Eastern Massachusetts NWR Complex Manager Libby Herland said that in the dozen years that she has been managing refuges, "The emphasis on providing people opportunities to hunt seems to be growing."
There have been no hunting accidents reported on the O'Rourke Land, no conflicts between hunters and non-hunters, and no complaints from Carlisle residents, Herland said, though she remembers there was local concern about the hunt program before it got underway. A NWR law enforcement officer patrols the refuge weekly.
One goal of the hunting program is to reduce the growing deer population. Herland estimated that last year 26 deer were taken during hunting throughout all of Great Meadows — roughly equal to the deer in one square mile in this part of the state.
The assessment recommends continuing the status quo. "Although hunting removes individual birds and mammals, this activity would be controlled through appropriate regulations to ensure that no wildlife populations or species are jeopardized."
The hunting season spans about five months. The report notes the possible side effect, "that there would be a slight reduction in non-hunter use of the refuge," but Herland has not seen any problem, "The locals have accommodated themselves to the hunt. They are wearing the orange vest." As an example of how the hunters and non-hunters coexist, she told of a group that had been hunting from a tree when people had "walked by right under the tree without knowing the hunters were there."
What has been your experience? Has the hunting season limited your uses of the O'Rourke Land? Do you enjoy hunting there? If you have strong opinions, now is the time to speak up. USFWS will hold public meetings at 1 and 6 p.m. on Wednesday, April 11, at the Eastern Massachusetts NWR Complex headquarters, 73 Weir Hill Road, in Sudbury (1-978-443-4661.)
Budget constraints have hindered other new initiatives such as nature walks, and while educational programs are held elsewhere in the refuge, none are currently planned for Carlisle. Hunting may be part of a plan to increase national support for the refuge system. The report concludes, "As more hunters are attracted to the refuge, opportunities to communicate with the hunting public would increase, thereby fostering greater understanding and support of Great Meadows NWR, the National Wildlife Refuge System, and other Service programs. Thus, the hunting program would provide an opportunity to build a more effective constituency base."
The Environmental Assessment can be accessed online at: www.fws.gov/northeast/greatmeadows.
If it is spring, a young man's thoughts are supposed to turn to love. In which case, Valentine's Day should be in April and the thought might be more exciting. If it is, indeed, spring, my thoughts turn to work and how many days there are until solvency and Christmas (the terminator gene on my agricultural calendar). It seems that not only do I work toward tax-freedom day but also toward income-generation day — when I can start selling the plants I have been coddling in my greenhouses while sending what seem like exorbitant cheques to the warmer oil-producing states. It does seem unfair that an awful lot of the world's petroleum and natural gas is generated in those places that seem to need it the least. I am also sure that there may be another way to look at this problem. But I feel selfish right now. How is it that when it is too early to plant, we have the warmest weather of the winter and when the greenhouses are filling at an exponential rate, the mercury dives to record lows and stays there for protracted periods?
This January, it was not cold enough to kill whatever I did not want growing in my greenhouses. That took one of my favorite organic methods off the table. (January has normally been house-cleaning month. No more!) The question then becomes: Can I depend on aberrant weather patterns for the foreseeable future? And, if so, will they be helpful or harmful? For the last two years, I have been able to harvest relatively warm-season crops later and later in the fall. Every year I gamble on that being an off chance. Certainly, past performance is not a guarantee of future success. But when do gambles become reasonable expectations? A nice crop of zucchini in early October would delight my customers (who dread the thought of that flavorless Floridian papier-mache) and is easily worth a thousand dollars on the wholesale market.
I know what you are thinking at this point: here comes the argument that global warming is a good thing. Well, I won't be sanctimonious and deny that there might be certain benefits to a little judicious and isolated warming on my farm. After all, don't we all want to preserve farmland, keep farms in the hands of farmers, on the tax rolls and out of the hands of greedy developers? Where's the balance?
I suppose there isn't any, really. What is sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander as your grandparents might have said. "Justice" in the real world is illusory. Thinking globally and having parochial local interests is an irresolvable conflict — we cannot have it both ways. But my feet and hands are cold, my cupboard is bare and I can't wait for warmer weather when I can get out to start planting so I can eat fresh, local food. We plan ahead, hoping for the best possible outcomes from the one uncontrollable variable, knowing also that at some point in the next growing cycle we will be frustrated and disappointed with one crop and thrilled with the success of another. I only hope that the object of my happiness is more valuable than that of my disappointment.
© 2007 The