Snakes on a Quabbin island? Not so fast
WESTORO - A state decision on establishing a timber rattlesnake population on Mount Zion at Quabbin Reservoir is at least four months away.
The Fisheries and Wildlife Board on Monday approved a 120-day process that would consider additional comments on the project as well as evaluate concerns about the competence of the science on which the project is based.
Joseph Larson, chairman of the Fisheries and Wildlife Board, told fellow board members that with respect to science concerns, those commenting needed to "identify specific scientific reports that were not adequately considered in planning for the project."
Sometime during the first two weeks of January, the Public Survey Working Group will meet and begin soliciting questions and concerns from their organizations, constituents and contacts.
Within the next month the panel will create a single list of questions and concerns for consideration by the Science Advisory Group.
During the next 30 days, those questions and concerns will be addressed with written comments from both groups.
Those concerns and comments, as well as any recommendations on the project, will be submitted to the Fisheries and Wildlife Board within the next 30-day period.
Asked after the meeting about the board's decision, director Jack Buckley said he would not pre-judge the outcome sometime in the spring, saying it was important to let the process play out.
The 13-member committee reviewing the rattlesnake restoration project will include George Peterson, Department of Fish and Game commissioner; Leo Roy, Department of Conservation and Recreation commissioner; Jack Buckley, MassWildlife director; state Sen. Anne M. Gobi, D-Spencer; state Rep. Susannah Whipps Lee, R-Athol; Dan Hammock of the Quabbin Fishermen's Association; and Tony Brighenti of the North Worcester County Quabbin Anglers.
Ms. Gobi on Monday said, "I appreciate that the Fish and Wildlife Board understands the importance of the formation of a working group to discuss in detail the many issues surrounding the proposal to introduce rattlesnakes at the Quabbin." The senator is co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. "I look forward to being an active participant in the proceedings," she said.
Additional members include Nancy Talbot, Ware town clerk and selectman; David Small of the Athol Bird and Nature Club; Mike Jones, state herpetologist; and Alan Richmond of the UMass-Amherst Department of Biology.
Mr. Peterson, the commissioner, recommended that state Sen. Eric P. Lesser, D-Longmeadow, be included on the panel along with a selectman from Belchertown.
Members of the Science Advisory Group include Tom French, assistant director of MassWildlife and head of the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program; Lou Perotti, conservation director of the Roger Williams Zoo in Providence, where timber rattlesnakes are being reared; Tom Tyning, a Berkshire Community College professor; and Anne Stengel, a PhD candidate at UMass Amherst.
In approving the upcoming survey process, the board sent a letter to Matthew Beaton, secretary of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, outlining its action.
The board's letter thanked Mr. Beaton for his support of the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife's efforts to fulfill statutory mandates to protect endangered species, specifically the timber rattlesnake.
"We thank you and your staff for identifying key public individuals from the Quabbin area, as well as agency officials, should specifically be asked to participate in a review of this project, and to gather and submit comments from constituents and colleagues," the letter stated.