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Town land wildlife plan would not end hunting

(8/23) A resolution to be considered at the Sept. 4 town meeting to suspend hunting and trapping on town land would not lead to efforts to stop hunting activities on town lands altogether, according to its sponsoring commissioner.

Resident Larry Little expressed concerns at the Aug. 7 town meeting that the proposal looked like an attempt to end hunting on town lands. Little added that hunting is a "long and proud industry" and generates hundreds of millions of dollars for Maryland. "Don't turn our commissioners into wildlife management," he said.

However, Commissioner William B. O'Neil Jr., who informally presented the draft resolution to the board at the Aug. 7 meeting, told The Dispatch that the temporary moratorium on hunting and trapping was intended to give the town time to develop wildlife management practices to protect natural assets and human safety, including hunters, and was not a strategy to end hunting.

Use others' best management practices

O'Neil said he did not think developing the wildlife management area could drag on like the town's comprehensive plan work, since what is required would mostly be adopting existing best management practices from other some local and state governments and tailoring them to Emmitsburg.

Establishing wildlife management rules would be essentially a three-step process. First, there would be a temporary stay on town-issued hunting permits for town land (the proposed resolution). Second, the commissioners would need to adopt an ordinance declaring certain lands within the town as wildlife management areas subject to an approved set of wildlife management guidelines, the creation of which would be the third step in the process.

A number of stated objectives would ultimately be addressed by a wildlife management plan, including:

  • Protection of a "sustainable and diverse wildlife population (in essence, assuring no native animal - including beavers - would be hunted to extermination);"
  • Establishment of wildlife-dependent recreation areas (nature trails); and
  • Protection of ecologically sensitive areas and threatened and endangered plants and animals.

O'Neil also proposed that any future guidelines include property boundary markers demarking town lands along with a review and evaluation of any existing no-fire (safety) zones, which are given to hunters when they apply for hunting permits. Fishing would not be covered under the moratorium because of its low impact on ecology and safety.

Beavers and wayward shots inspired action

Recent public concerns over proposed plans by the town to exterminate the beaver population at Rainbow Lake and reports of shots fired from town property into private land prompted interest in establishing wildlife management areas.

Although administrators said the town did not intend to continue killing the beavers, the board of commissioners took measures to ensure that they would first approve any such proposal in the future.

Both Catherine Forrence and her mother, Betsey, had stated at a town meeting that shots had been fired, apparently by hunters, from town land into property owned by Betsey Forrence.

O'Neil's plan would involve Maryland Department of Natural Resources in developing both safety strategies and providing wildlife management guidance.

Some prevention methods that might be used to protect property owners next to land where hunting is taking place could include well-marked boundaries and even berms to impede a hunter's line-of-sight, although they would not block those hunting from trees.

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