Members of the East Hampton Group for Wildlife renewed a push for the town board to ban hunting on one weekend day during hunting season at the board’s meeting last Thursday, with the submission of a petition bearing 601 signatures, nearly all of them residents.
The Group for Wildlife, asserting that people and pets are unsafe in the woods during hunting season, asked the board in February to institute a hunting ban on one weekend day. In March, the group’s president complained to the board that its recommendations have been ignored, and that the composition of the town’s Wildlife Management Advisory Committee, to which it took the proposal in December, is biased in favor of hunting. In May, the group called anew for a ban on one weekend day during hunting season, but three residents also pushed back, defending hunters’ rights.
“We are grateful to be able to live alongside nature and wildlife, and intend to live here for the rest of our lives,” Yuka Silvera, who over the last several months gathered signatures on the petition seeking a one-weekend-day ban on hunting, told the board.
Those who signed the petition, Ms. Silvera said, are “taxpayers, voters, and your friends who have the right to enjoy a quiet and peaceful weekend day without the horrifying noise and danger of hunting, wherever they want to be.” An artist on the Shinnecock Reservation in Southampton, “the local of all locals,” she said, “wrote in support of the petition. While he also supports the needs of local hunters, he believes that the other locals are also entitled to enter the natural environment without threat of noise pollution and disruption caused by guns. . . . It is not sufficient to set aside parklands for some and not everyone. After all, was the land not preserved for the enjoyment of all who live in the area?”
Bill Crain, president of the Group for Wildlife, likened hunting to animal agriculture and the extraction of fossil fuels, all of which have brought civilization to a looming climate emergency. “Humans have proved that humans can destroy Mother Nature,” he said, including putting “billions of animals into little prisons, so confined they have no space to move. These are the cause of the global crises we see,” manifested in “erratic climate, record heat, and danger to waters that are just going to increase. We need a gentler, more respectful approach.”
Ms. Silvera, he said, “has done such a heroic job and will be presenting a petition we hope you will consider very soon, which will be to allow a large number of citizens to have one day in which they can enjoy the beauty and comfort that nature provides in peace.”
Ronnie Miller Manning of Springs, who said she is a 14th-generation resident, predicted that some board members “won’t budge on their position for fear of upsetting the applecart with local friends and hunters,” and said that she too has family members who enjoy hunting. However, board members “are obliged to consider the needs of all citizens.” Residents, she said, “would love to have one day a week to enjoy walking the trails and beaches or just not be rudely awoken during duck hunting season . . . to the sound of gunshots upsetting our dogs, babies, children.” Those residents, she said, greatly outnumber those who would oppose a one-day ban, while nonhumans too “deserve a break from fleeing for their lives. Just one day.”
Deer hunting with firearms was permitted from Jan. 6 to Jan. 31 this year, seven of those days falling on weekends. Hunting rules and regulations are set by the state and enforced by state conservation officers, as well as by federal Fish and Wildlife agents where migratory birds are concerned, according to the town’s hunting guide for the 2018-19 season. While local municipalities cannot pass laws regulating hunting seasons, they can decide whether to permit hunting within their jurisdictions. Private landowners can also permit hunting on their properties.
The Wildlife Management Advisory Committee previously stated that it does not support the Group for Wildlife’s proposal. It is up to a member of the board to initiate a discussion, should one wish to.