ConCom asks deer subcommittee to keep focus on mission

Last week the Conservation Commission asked its Deer Management Subcommittee to be careful to stay within its original mission, to coordinate with ConCom on public announcements, and to put less emphasis on reducing the number of ticks.

When members of the Deer Management Subcommittee met with the Conservation Commission last Thursday, June 6, the two groups amicably thrashed out a number of communication issues. Liz Allard, Harvard’s conservation agent, pointed out that the subcommittee’s mission statement says its job is to “investigate” whether the town should allow bow hunting on some conservation lands. But a few of the subcommittee’s recent public statements, she said, sound as if hunting is already a definite plan for next fall—a decision that the Conservation Committee has not yet made.

ConCom member Janet Waldron said information on the subcommittee’s website was also a problem, because the commission had not seen it before it was posted, even parts that refer to ConCom itself. And Allard said town policy is for all boards and committees to use the town’s own website to make their information available to residents. Subcommittee members agreed to take down their website and move the content to ConCom’s area of the town website.

Old Shirley Road resident Libby Levison, who attended the meeting, said she was concerned about the subcommittee’s message that reducing the deer population would be a step toward controlling Lyme disease, which is carried by deer ticks. Levison chairs the Board of Health but said she was speaking as an individual, not on behalf of the board. She said the best defense against Lyme disease is checking oneself for ticks after being outdoors, and she expressed concern that an emphasis on reducing the deer population would undercut that message. ConCom member Wendy Sisson agreed with Levison, saying it’s very unlikely that hunting could lower the deer population enough to reduce Lyme transmission—something that has been achieved only on enclosed areas such as islands.

Longtime ConCom member Paul Willard, who also serves on the Deer Management Subcommittee, advised the subcommittee to focus on the damage too many deer can do by over-browsing the forest. “I would emphasize the damage to the forest,” he said, “and barely mention the ticks because it’s a can of worms.”

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