State fulfills a rattlesnake promise, but is it sincere?

WARE, Mass. (WWLP) – It took seven months, but the state has finally fulfilled a promise it made about its plan to put venomous snakes in the Quabbin.

For seven months, the state has dragged its feet putting a “working group” together. 22News continued to press the Executive office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) about the working group they promised in September, October and December.

EEA oversees this proposal and they didn’t leave much time to question the Quabbin as the snakes’ new home.

The state’s plan is to release venomous timber rattlesnakes on Mt. Zion in the Quabbin this spring. The land is surrounded by water, but connects to land at one point. Just a few months away from the snakes release date, the state has formed a working group to discuss and debate the plan.

“Of course it took too long, but better late than never,” said State Senator Eric Lesser, (D) Longmeadow.

“I’m going to cut them a little bit of slack because it did take a long time, but there’s been a lot of upheaval within that agency and so because of that obviously that caused some problems. Unfortunately it was very difficult to get this working group off the ground when they were dealing with a lot of personal matters within the Executive Office,” said State Senator Anne Gobi, (D) Spencer.


Continuing Coverage: Quabbin Rattlesnakes


It’s been seven months since the state promised to put this working group together the question now remains is there enough time for this group to actually work.

(Is this smoke and mirrors (from the EEA) saying we promised to have a working group, but nothing is going to change on their end?)

“It better not be, that’s not my intention going into this. I can tell you if it looks like that what it will be there will be more of a legislative answer to things,” said Sen. Gobi.

Senator Gobi opposes the state’s plan, but told 22News she will go into the working group with an open-mind.

The working group consists of 14 members, including Ware selectman Nancy Talbot. Talbot has yet to form an opinion on the plan, but wants it done right.

“If we need more time and if the outcome isn’t to be that spring is the time for placement, so be it, because I believe in fairness that it has to be done properly,” said Talbot.

The purpose of the working group is to get the community involved in the discussion. Something the state admitted it failed to do when this plan was initially proposed.

The EEA told 22News they will explore alternative options only if there is an elevated level of concern with the working group and the public after extensive engagement.

Below is a statement from the EEA on the working group and its members:

“The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs looks forward to a robust public process in which the working group will engage in a dialogue with the public and environmental stakeholders about how best to strike a balance between preservation of endangered species, access to open space, and public safety.” – Katie Gronendyke, EEA Spokesperson

Chair

  • Dr. Joseph Larson, member Fisheries and Wildlife Board, member Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Advisory Committee, Professor Emeritus, Environmental Conservation, University of Massachusetts Amherst, resident of Quabbin area.

Members

  • George Peterson, Commissioner DFG
  • Leo Roy, Commissioner DCR
  • Jack Buckley, Director DFW
  • Anne Gobi, State Senator, Spencer
  • Eric Lesser, State Senator, 1st Hampden and Hampshire
  • Susannah Whipps Lee, State Representative, 2nd Franklin
  • Dan Hammock, Quabbin Fisherman Association
  • Tony Brighenti, North Worcester County Quabbin Anglers and QWAC
  • Nancy Talbot, Selectperson and Town Clerk, Ware
  • Bill Barnett, Selectperson, Belchertown
  • David Small, Athol Bird and Nature Club
  • Dr. Mike Jones, State Herpetologist
  • Dr. Alan Richmond, Dept. of Biology, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Science Advisory Group

  • Dr. Tom French, Assistant Director NHESP, DFW
  • Lou Perrotti, Conservation Director, Roger Williams Zoo; head-starting project snakes
  • Tom Tyning, Professor Berkshire Community College
  • Anne Stengal, Ph.D. candidate, University of Massachusetts Amherst