Editorial: Let’s keep the plan moving

Fri, 02/21/2014 - 3:00pm

The ambitious and controversial deer-culling plan scheduled to begin next week has been postponed — for a year. The reason for this last-minute change is that the White Buffalo sharpshooters felt unsure about proceeding without more time to prepare.

Naturally it makes no sense to go forward with a plan unless everyone is convinced that it will succeed. There are some very compelling arguments about how, with more time to plan, the entire enterprise can be improved. It is especially promising that White Buffalo has expressed interest in working with local hunters for next year.

Concerns about improper baiting, inappropriate locations for the culling, the failure to clear the way for firearm suppressors and other issues call into question how prepared the DEM was to begin the project this year. True, they have never done a project like this before, but it does give one pause.

It is alarming to learn that the taxpayers on Block Island and not the DEM will likely have to come up with the $12,000 to $14,000 of expenses to date. Not so long ago the DEM claimed that the deer belonged to them, but when it came time to pay the bill for the culling, the DEM wanted nothing to do with it.

Delaying the culling for a full year raises other concerns.

The leadership of the town  and the Deer Task Force worked diligently and strategically to achieve what many thought to be impossible. First they got the DEM to develop a plan to reduce the deer herd. Then they got the votes on the Town Council to approve it. There is no guarantee that they will have the appetite to see this thing to fruition through another year of controversy.

This is an election year. A new council could reverse the decision. New leadership at DEM could stop the plan.

And who is to say that White Buffalo will choose to continue with the plan? Company president Anthony Denicola has expressed interest in continuing with the project, but he can still opt out.

No one really believes that the culling plan is an ideal solution to the deer problem. But after years of talking about the problem without solving it, we don’t have a lot of options.

Putting off the solution for another year guarantees that the herd will grow and that the problem will not diminish.

Make no mistake about it. We need to do something about the deer. They have become a threat to public health and a public safety menace.

Let’s not let this delay cause us to “lose momentum,” as Town Manager Nancy Dodge said. Let’s use this time wisely to improve the project for next year.