SPRINGFIELD — Following the Massachusetts Fisheries and Wildlife Board vote to indefinitely suspend a plan to establish a timber rattlesnake colony on Mt. Zion Island in the Quabbin Reservoir, Senator Eric P. Lesser issued the following statement:
“I agree with the decision by the Massachusetts Fish & Wildlife Board to indefinitely suspend the plan to breed rattlesnakes at the Quabbin Reservoir. From the beginning, residents in the Quabbin Region did not feel like their concerns about this project were listened to. I’m glad that after a series of listening sessions in the various communities affected, a decision was made to suspend this plan, and to focus on protecting the rattlesnakes in locations where they already exist.
“Protection of the environment and sound stewardship of our wildlife are values I hold deeply, and I know the residents of the Quabbin region care deeply about them as well. My hope is that in the future, these types of projects will be undertaken with an appreciation for the impact they have on local communities.”
In March 2016, Senator Lesser sent a letter (see below) to Secretary Matthew Beaton in the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs calling for a halt to the plan until public hearings could be held.
Senator Lesser followed this action with a 2016 budget amendment (see below) to establish the Rattlesnake Working Group.
Joint Letter to Secretary Matthew Beaton in the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
March 25, 2016
Secretary Matthew Beaton
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02114
Dear Secretary Beaton,
We are writing to you with serious concerns about the Commonwealth’s plan to place venomous Timber Rattlesnakes on Quabbin Reservoir’s Mount Zion Island.
As you are no doubt aware, the Quabbin Reservoir is a popular recreational and tourist destination in Western Massachusetts. Consequently, there are a significant number of unanswered questions regarding the risks this plan will pose to the public, including the rattlesnakes’ ability to leave the contained area and the potential threat they pose to hikers, fishermen, sportsmen and others utilizing this precious natural resource, in addition to nearby residents.
According to the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA), “As a venomous snake, the Timber Rattlesnake certainly has the potential to be dangerous.” Moreover, EOEEA has stated, “Because the Timber Rattlesnake is venomous, people express understandable concerns for their safety and the safety of family members and pets.”
It is our hope that any action on the plan to introduce Timber Rattlesnakes to the Quabbin Reservoir will be frozen pending an oversight hearing by the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture on May 10, 2016.
Thank you for your timely consideration of this matter.
Senator Eric P. Lesser
First Hampden & Hampshire District
Senator Anne M. Gobi
Worcester, Hampden, Hampshire & Middlesex District
Representative Thomas M. Petrolati
Seventh Hampden District
Representative Todd M. Smola
First Hampden District
CC: Governor Charles Baker
Commissioner Leo Roy, Department of Conservation and Recreation
Director Jack Buckley, Division of Fisheries and Wildlife
Budget Amendment: FY2017-S4-888
Mr. Lesser moved that the proposed new text be amended, in Section 2, in item 2310-0200, by adding at the end thereof, the following:-
“provided further, that no state funding, resources, or personnel shall in any way be used to establish or re-establish a population of venomous Timber Rattlesnakes in a location they presently do not exist; and provided further that the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife shall establish a working group to recommend the best ways to protect the Timber Rattlesnake population in locations where they presently exist.”