Yankeetown hunting compromise favored

Yankeetown Pond (photo by Dion Ogust)

Yankeetown Pond (photo by Dion Ogust)

The Woodstock Town Board voted 3-2 to recommend a compromise allowing limited hunting on a New York City-owned land around Yankeetown Pond and rejected by that same margin, a recommendation by Councilman Jay Wenk to ban all hunting and trapping on the property.

The land is maintained by the City’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), an agency tasked with protecting the Ashokan Reservoir watershed.

The compromise recommendation was drafted by Councilman Bill McKenna and Councilwoman Cathy Magarelli, who sat down with residents on both sides of the issue. Councilmen Ken Panza and Jay Wenk voted against it. Only Panza and Wenk voted for the no-hunting proposal. Supervisor Jeremy Wilber sided with McKenna and Magarelli.

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The recommendation limits days of available hunting to 108, down from 243 days. It opens the land mostly to big game hunting, with bow hunting allowed October 1 through mid-December and rifle hunting mid-November through early December. A turkey season would be allowed throughout May from dawn until noon. The compromise resolution has a provision to revisit the issue at the end of the 2016 hunting season to entertain possible amendments. The DEP still has the final say as to whether it will adopt or reject the town’s recommendations.

As with any compromise, not everyone was satisfied.

Nancy Butler Ross, who raised the issue last year, announced she has a petition with 1,080 signatures of mostly local businesspeople and residents urging the Town Board to recommend closing the area to hunting. Butler Ross particularly objected to the May turkey season, saying “many animals will be birthing amongst the sound of gunfire.” Woodstock is known as a colony of the arts, she said, people do not come to Woodstock in order to hunt. “If you recommend a compromise for Yankeetown Pond, please think of how you would like hunting in your back yard.”

Nearby resident Betsy Stang said she could be OK with the big game hunting, but also has a big issue with the turkey season. “It is a major disruptor of the spring migration and nesting cycle,” she said. She added hunting turkey is “unsustainable” at that time of year because they are thin and ragged from the winter. Also, she said, the state is planning an open space project and allowing hunting on the land would cause the town to lose out on the associated resources and funding.

Wenk appeared disappointed. “Where’s the beef?” he asked, about the recommendation. “I don’t see any compromise on what you presented.” McKenna pointed out the recommendation calls for fewer hunting days than would be allowed by state law.

Magarelli said she is not sure the DEP will adopt the recommendations, but if the agency will only accept an all or nothing propositions, she promised to endorse Wenk’s recommendation.

But Councilman Ken Panza said the compromise effort may be fruitless. “The DEP made it quite clear they don’t want to be in the business of managing hunting seasons,” Panza said. “They want a simple yes or no answer. They’ve made it absolutely, positively clear in several instances.”

Panza recommended adopting Wenk’s resolution and let the task force appointed last month continue to craft a solution agreeable to the DEP.

“If the DEP rejects the recommendation, Cathy will join Jay,” Wilber said. “So there’s nothing lost making this argument to the DEP.” Wilber said the town had a lot of hunters when he was growing up and he never heard of anyone getting maimed or killed by a hunter.

But things change, Wenk said. “We have more people, more homes, more danger. There’s no shortage of hunting lands in this area.”

This past summer, the town Environmental Commission recommended most of the 828-acre parcel owned by the DEP be opened to hunting. In its rationale, the commission said the area is overpopulated with deer that are devastating the plant life. It said opening the area to hunting would control the deer population and that most of the land is not hospitable to other types of hunting. The DEP has stated it would only accept an all-or-nothing response to the question of hunting, not a compromise.

The town considered the matter resolved when it recommended a similar, but slightly less restrictive solution in 2007. The DEP did nothing with the land until late last year when it sent a letter to Wilber requesting a recommendation. Wilber, assuming the DEP was implementing the 2007 recommendation, did not respond to the letter. The DEP soon posted the land as available for hunting.

Wenk does not buy the deer population argument, citing a study by the Hudsonia Institute that did not find any evidence of a deer or plantlife problem in the area. Wenk also called the placement of a 1,000-foot buffer from the homes “wishful thinking” because of the range of some hunting rifles. Wenk also wants a ban on hunting and trapping on the town-owned Comeau preserve, citing similar concerns.

But Joe Leone, past president of Ulster Federated Sportsmen, called the Hudsonia study “slanted” and called the 1,000-foot buffer more than adequate. He said Yankeetown and Wittenberg ponds were built by families who hunted and there have never been any hunting-related incidents there.

 

Gone too far

In other business, Wenk took issue with Ulster County Sheriff Paul Van Blarcum’s recent announcement that all entering the Department of Social Services offices on Ulster Avenue in the town of Ulster will be required to show identification and will be checked for active warrants. Wenk said he recently protested with a group of people outside the DSS offices.

“I think it’s atrocious for any single group of people to be singled out,” said Wenk, who plans to meet with the sheriff October 24 to air his concerns.

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