Lesser: Lot of questions about rattlesnake plan
By BRIAN GELINAS,
ADN Staff Reporter
(June 20, 2016)
BOSTON — State Sen. Eric Lesser (D-East Longmeadow) has offered comment in response to the Advocates for Snake Preservation group’s expressed support of the state’s plan to place endangered timber rattlesnakes on Mount Zion Island at the Quabbin Reservoir.
Of the Arizona-based ASP’s support, Lesser said Monday, “I certainly respect their opinion…but my feeling is there are still a lot of questions about the plan.”
Following a legislative oversight hearing held in Athol earlier this year, Lesser filed a Senate-approved amendment to the proposed fiscal year 2017 budget that would implement a one-year moratorium on the placement of rattlesnakes on the island. It would also call for a study group to be formed to determine the best preservation practices and the group would be required to submit a report to the legislature’s Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture by the end of the year.
Lesser said there needs to be a pause in the implementation of the plan in order for the study group to adequately hear input from the communities and local officials that would immediately be affected, and to consider the potential impacts to public access to the Quabbin Reservoir watershed. He expressed a concern that even one incident involving a snake bite could lead to further restricted access at the reservoir.
Lesser said he respects the science behind the plan, but added there are other factors to consider. Noting his position as chair of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development, he said, “We’ve done quite a lot of work to build up the Quabbin as a four-season attraction…What does it do for marketing if we start a colony of venomous snakes there?”
Commenting further on the ASP’s support for the plan, Lesser said “it seems a little odd” and “convenient” for a group from Arizona to take such an interest. “We have to live with the consequences,” he said. “The people in the communities around the Quabbin should have the strongest say.”
Lesser’s Senate district includes the towns of East Longmeadow, Hampden, Longmeadow, Ludlow and Wilbraham, and parts of Chicopee and Springfield in Hampden County, and Belchertown and Granby in Hampshire County.
Both Lesser and State Sen. Anne Gobi (D-Spencer) are calling for more to be done to protect the roughly 200 timber rattlesnakes that comprise colonies at five known denning sites across the state, from the Berkshires to the Blue Hills, before a new site is created at the Quabbin Reservoir.
The North Worcester County Quabbin Anglers and the Quabbin Fishermen’s associations have also gone on record in opposition to the plan.
In contrast, Gov. Charlie Baker has expressed his support of the state’s Division of Fisheries and Wildlife’s Mount Zion proposal.
State Rep. Susannah Whipps Lee (R-Athol) has said she is withholding comment on the plan until such time as the study group is in place and conducting its review and taking input.
The ASP is critical of Lesser’s moratorium proposal and claims many conservation groups and individuals across the state support the Mount Zion rattlesnake proposal.
The group is also calling for the legislature’s conference committee to remove Lesser’s amendment from the FY17 budget. The House and Senate appoint three members each to a committee to reconcile any differences between the House and Senate budget proposals. The conference committee offers a final compromise bill to the House and Senate for a final vote of acceptance in each branch.
An in-depth article on ASP’s support of the plan appeared on page 1 of the Athol Daily News on Thursday, June 16.
courtesy Athol Dailey News