Anglers remain opposed to snake proposal
By Brian Gelinas,
ADN Staff Reporter
(June 8, 2016)
AREA — The North Worcester County Quabbin Anglers and the Quabbin Fishermen’s associations remain opposed to the state’s plan to place endangered timber rattlesnakes on Mount Zion Island at the Quabbin Reservoir.
Ret. Brigadier Gen. William Meehan, of Athol, issued that statement following a June 2 page 1 article in the Athol Daily News reporting on the State Senate’s approval of a fiscal year 2017 budget amendment placing a one-year moratorium on the placement of the snakes. The amendment also calls for the creation of a study group to determine the best practices to protect existing timber rattlesnake populations in the five know denning areas across the state, and requires the group to submit a report to the legislature by year’s end.
Meehan made the statement in an email sent to State Sen. Eric Lesser (D-East Longmeadow), who filed the amendment, and State Sen. Anne Gobi (D-Spencer), who co-chairs the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. He also forwarded a copy of the email to the ADN.
Meehan represents the two fishermen’s associations as a Water Supply Protection Trust trustee. The email was sent in his capacity as their representative.
In the email it is noted the two associations support the efforts of Lesser and Gobi, and are in agreement that the state’s Division of Fisheries and Wildlife and the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation need to correct the problem at existing dens, where the rattlesnake populations are declining due to a number of factors, before considering locating snakes, headstarted at Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, R.I., on Mount Zion.
In addition, the email states the two associations believe the study group, which was originally suggested by the state’s Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, should include representatives of the two associations as well as members of the communities and businesses that could potentially be adversely affected by the plan. They also believe that the group should focus on timber rattlesnake survival across the state and not just on the Mount Zion proposal.
The email is also critical of Dr. Tom French and answers he has given to questions regarding the proposal. French is heading the project, and is assistant director of the DFW’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program.
The full text of the email reads:
“Anne and Eric, on behalf of the two Anglers’ Associations I represent as one of the five Water Supply Protection Trust trustees, I write to tell you your quoted remarks in the Athol Daily News were right on target, and we fully support and appreciate your efforts.
“Anne, we absolutely agree that DFW and DCR need to focus their attention on saving the timber rattlers in their centuries old dens. [Dr. Tom] French wants to tie the Mount Zion initiative to the $500,000 grant, but we know the grant, which he wrote, was originally to end Sep 30, 2015. And, it said nothing about Mount Zion as a feature of the multi-state project; plus, it stipulated that the headstart snakes were to be returned to their sites of origin. We also know now that he asked for an extension of the project to May 30, 2018. That still is not in synch with the Zion plan, which he says won’t see snakes being placed on Zion until 2017 and will continue with more headstarts for an additional 10 years. His response to [Athol Daily News report Brian] Gelinas was merely an attempt to obfuscate the relationship of Zion to the original grant project with no clear status of funding beyond May 2018.
“There are obvious inconsistencies here. Mount Zion was an afterthought — how to expand the grant effort and dollars into French’s legacy — a snake island in the Quabbin. (Rhetorical) We did it with loons and bald eagles; why not restore timber rattlers there? Seems it will become a playground for himself and his UMass grad student for years to come. So, will it become his created legacy, or will it become the state legislature’s legacy that has allowed it to advance for a decade or more. It is after all an experiment and they (the rattlers) may die while he/they try to create a new, model [hibernaculum].
“Eric, regarding the study group, we would hope the focus of the group is on timber rattler survival across Massachusetts — not just Mount Zion. If the group has that singular perspective, the outcome is clear — continue with the Quabbin initiative. Anne, as you have stated, significant resources of both DFW and DCR need to be applied to the five remaining den sites. Only after fixing them should any resources and attention be applied to creating a new site. It is interesting that when French speaks of the rattlers’ survival you never hear him tell of all the great initiatives and programs he is working on with DCR Parks. They appear to be part of the problem and not its solution. One last thought, as we suggested previously, we’d like a position on the study group, with local community representation as well.”
Asked for her opinion of the Mount Zion proposal, State Rep. Susannah Whipps Lee (R-Athol) said in a brief email Tuesday she is not going to comment until the study group is in place and conducting its review.
courtesy Athol Daily News