Hey, DEM: Thanks for nothing

Tue, 04/23/2013 - 3:35pm

Decades ago a very unwise decision was made to bring deer to Block Island. Perhaps no one could have anticipated then what we now know. With no natural predator the deer population would swell way beyond what just under 10 populated square miles could support. Furthermore, the introduction of Lyme disease into the environment is now a public health threat to adults and children alike.

Over the last several years, a clear consensus has emerged that we need to do something. A clear plan, a modified Skidaway Plan, had been advanced by a task force of local citizens appointed by the Town Council. The Town Council has voted to accept the plan in principle.

Now a representative of the DEM sent to meet with the task force and council — Catherine Sparks — basically told us that the decision about what to do about the deer is the DEM’s to make and we will just have to adjust. Well, thanks.

Since our citizens are the ones suffering the consequences of Lyme Disease and the consequences of an overpopulation of a non-native species, we’ll agree with Councilor Sean McGarry and recommend that the responsibility of taking care of sick people be passed along to the DEM. We’ll ask them who to call in case someone gets sick.

It is infuriating to have a state government official visit the community and make ill-informed statements that reflect a lack of knowledge about what we have been trying to do and a total insensitivity to public opinion.

It doesn’t help that when we sent a reporter to cover a meeting of this official with task force members and town officials, she was refused entry by Catherine Sparks, who threatened to leave. We acquiesced, because we wanted progress to be made. But this is not the way to maintain transparency and build public trust.

In the Town Council meeting, Sparks offered some lukewarm words of cooperation, but the underlying message was apparent to everyone.

As Town Manager Nancy Dodge, frustrated, asked Sparks at the council meeting Wednesday night, “Where do you suggest we go?”

Huh, DEM?

Clarification: In this editorial that appeared in print April 20, we wrote that "we sent a reporter to cover a meeting of this official and task force members and town officials, she was refused entry..." While town officials were scheduled to attend that meeting, the Department of Environmental Management official met only with members of the Deer Task Force.