With deer-hunting season less than three weeks away, organizers of Southold's deer management program are attempting to give hunters the opportunity to utilize land preserved by Suffolk County as the program enters its third year of operation.
Jeff Standish, who has organized the program from the ground up and is the town's deputy director of public works, spoke before the Town Board on Tuesday with land management specialist Laura Klahre and sought the board's approval to seek permission from the county to allow hunters access to over 600 acres throughout the town either partially or wholly owned by the county.
At Tuesday's Town Board meeting, the board is expected to pass a resolution authorizing Supervisor Scott Russell to forward the proposal to the Chair of the County Parks and Recreation Committee, Legis. Lynne Nowick, R - St. James. From there, the proposal would need to be honed and passed by both the committee and general legislature before hunters could access the land.
With the proposal in its initial stages, even if all went as planned for the deer management committee, it would not be implemented until after hunting season begins on Oct. 1.
"First we have to open the door for discussion," said Klahre, who works in the town's Land Preservation Department. "This is just a first step, so we don't want to do too much analyzing at this point."
Klahre pointed to a 97-page report issued in 2008 by the Suffolk County Tick Management Task Force as at least one reason to support use of county lands for hunting.
The report recommends "maximiz[ing] the amount of county-owned property open and available to hunters," among a handful of other suggestions.
Should the committee gain access to the county lands, it could be a huge boon to its goal of herding the deer population, estimated by Russell last fall at over 10,000. With just over 300 available acres to the program, the 17 county parcels would triple the current amount of space available to hunt.
However, whether the program will have the numbers to fill the land remains a question. As of Friday, 43 hunters had signed up to participate, with a total of 75 slots available. Nancy Foote, who works with Standish in the DPW, said the slots are expected to be filled.
Among the 43 include 17 hunters with nuisance permits, which will allow hunting off-season. According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, nuisance permits are issued "when standard hunting opportunities alone do not provide the means to adequately control deer numbers."