The Southold Town Board voted unanimously last night to spend $25,000 on the USDA deer cull proposed by the Long Island Farm Bureau, making Southold the only town left on the East End that has agreed to participate in the cull.
The board also voted that the cull does not need to go through stringent environmental review under the State Environmental Quality Review Act.
Several members of the public came to Southold Town Hall last night to express their dismay at the decision.
“If you agree to this agenda item you will be finding as fact finders of the Town of Southold there’s no possibility the cull will have any negative impact on the environment,” said Benja Schwartz of Cutchogue. “That’s not the way to do it.”
Mr. Schwartz added that he was disappointed the vote was added to the board’s agenda at the last minute.
“Do you job. Your job is to inform the public and make decisions on behalf of the public,” he said. “It doesn’t add up.”
Town Attorney Martin Finnegan said the town’s attorneys have decided that the cull does not need environmental review because it is aimed at protecting agriculture.
“We’re not new to this conversation. We’ve looked into all the options,” said Town Supervisor Scott Russell. “We’ve had wildlife biologists visiting Southold. We’ve had numerous public forums on this. The conclusion by all experts is the only thing that works is reduction of the herd by hunting. It’s the only economically feasible option on the table.”
Both East Hampton Town and East Hampton Village announced on Jan. 31 they would not participate in the cull, after wildlife lovers protested in the streets and filed a lawsuit asking that the cull stop. Southampton and Riverhead have not considered participating, leaving Southold as the Farm Bureau’s only partner in the cull.
All Southold Town Board members voted no last night on a change to their zoning code that would allow a cell phone tower behind town hall, after numerous speakers shared concerns about the health and aesthetic effects of the tower.
“We had this public discussion last February,” said Mr. Russell, who added that he hadn’t know a year ago that there was so much opposition to the tower. “We would never have gotten this far in the process if we’d known there’d be this kind of opposition.”
Dan Durett of Greenport said he believes Southold’s action on the cell phone tower was “groundsetting” at a time when cell phone companies across the country are considering putting towers in historic districts. He added that his take on the cull is that “Bambi has become the new Jaws.” Last Friday night, for the third time, a deer ran into his car.
“It is a very important and key issue. We are not going to decide it tonight,” he said of hunting.
“You made two tough calls today,” said Robert Dunn of Peconic, who added that if local hunters could do the cull instead of the USDA, he would prefer to let them do the hunting. But local hunters aren’t allowed to bait deer or work at night, putting them at a disadvantage.
Mr. Russell agreed.