. 4376 – An Act relative to the reduction of gun violence – a critical look

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Well, the much awaited anti-gun violence bill was finally passed by our legislators and signed by Governor Patrick.

According to Jim Wallace, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Gun Owners Action League (GOAL) two interesting things happened during the deliberations.  First, it became clear that the MA Legislature was going to take a much more deliberate process than our neighboring states did.  Second, there was a “tectonic” shift in terms of what happened when MA legislators began discussing further restrictions of the gun owner’s rights.  GOAL members (15,000 members strong) sent out a loud and clear message and they were heard.

Positive changes according to GOAL:

  • Critical training language correction for juniors allowing trainers to provide firearms to junior shooters and hunters with parental consent.  Juniors are now able to apply for their FID card a year early (age 14) and receive their card at 15, thus allowing them to hunt in their first eligible year.
  • Persons over 18 years old will no longer need an FID card to purchase pepper spray.  15-17 years old can possess but must have an FID card.
  • Police chiefs must first petition the court to deny someone an FID card.  They now have to put denials in writing.  Now, gun owners can appeal their LTC restrictions in District Court which places the burden of proof on the police chief to defend the denial or restriction in District Court and in writing.    The language also includes time limits.  If there is no decision rendered in the prescribed amount of time, the license will be issued.
  • The term “prohibited person” is now being used for both licenses – instead of “unsuitable”.   This change in the language provides a much needed change in framework around who is prohibited.
  • A 90 day license renewal grace period was fixed. Gun owners will now receive a receipt upon renewal, which makes the license valid until the new license is received.
  • Language was added protecting people who voluntarily seek mental health help preventing them from being listed as a “prohibited person”.  This also gives protection to people who voluntarily seek help for drug and alcohol use.
  • There will be exemptions for the sale of Olympic-style handguns.  They were previously not allowed to be sold in the Commonwealth.
  • Curios and relic (C&R) collectors can now purchase handguns and firearms that may not comply with the approved firearms roster.  They can now legally transfer them to licensed C&R dealers.
  • Created online portal for face-to-face transfers preserving private sales.
  • Removed the Class B License to Carry and made all one LTC license
  • Language was added providing protection of property for firearms owners.  Now, if your firearms get confiscated, the licensing authority shall at that time inform you in writing of your ability to transfer them to an independent licensed individual.  (Apparently there were cases where confiscated firearms disappeared and were not returned to the rightful owners, even though they were cleared of charges).
  • Language was added so that a person who, in good faith, reports lost or stolen firearms will have protection, so that the licensing authority cannot make them considered a prohibited person.
  • The time period active duty military members have to become licensed, or renew their license has been extended from 90 to 180 days.  Also, veterans will now be exempted from having to take the mandatory gun safety training classes.

According to Wallace, here is what was stopped in H.4376, thanks in part because of gun owners’ and GOAL’s efforts:

  • The original bill would have criminalized private sales of firearms between licensed individuals.  It was struck and private sales remain legal.
  • It would have applied a “suitability” clause to the issuance of FID cards.  This was modified so that the licensing authority now has to prove in court that the applicant is unsuitable
  • It would have made the FID applicant list a “reason” for applying.
  • It would have given the licensing authority the ability to place restrictions on FID cards.
  • It had onerous language regarding the confiscated/seized firearms.
  • It would have penalized licensees for not renewing early
  • It would have had a restrictive amendment including a one gun a month rule.

According to GOAL, the things that they did not like with the legislation are as follows:

  • MA police chiefs now have more power over license applicants via applying “suitability” to FID cards.
  • Increased penalties for violating storage laws
  • Increased penalties for being in possession of a firearm on school grounds.

GOAL took a neutral position with NICS compliance.  (GOAL worked hard to ensure that the language met Fed standards), “safe and supportive schools” (NRA’s idea of adding armed police to schools) and increased fines for criminal acts involving firearms.

Wallace noted that the scope of the bill is very large and in order to get an accurate assessment one needs to step back and examine it as a whole, what was gained, what was lost and what was stopped.  “We certainly did not receive letters forcing us to register our rifles and turn in our magazines.  We didn’t wind up with laws mirroring Vermont or Montana but rather made strides in the right direction”.

Kudos go to Jim Wallace for lobbying so hard for reasonable legislation.  It is doubtful that he got much sleep during the deliberation period.  Kudos to our local legislators, too, for supporting this reasonable legislation.  And kudos especially to the gun owners who flooded legislator’s e-mails, tied up phone lines, filled up mail boxes and ran fax machines out of paper. You were heard and you made a difference.

Antlerless deer permits are ready. Did you win one?

 

Hunters who applied for an Antlerless Deer Permit (permit) by July 16 must return to the MassFishHunt licensing system to try to win a permit. The instant award period began August 1 and continues through December 31.  The odds of winning a permit during the instant award period are the same whether you try to win in August, September, or any time before December 31.  Hunters have one chance to try for an instant award permit.

There are three ways in which a hunter may participate and try to win a permit: log into the MassFishHunt system,  visit a MassWildlife office, or visit a license agent location. Staff at these locations will help you out.

If you log onto MassFishHunt, here is what you do:

  • Enter your  last name and customer ID
  • Click the Enter Sales button
  • Click Accept in the Customer Electronic Signature dialog box
  • Choose Hunting Permits and Stamps from the main menu
  • Choose Add next to Antlerless Deer Permit
  • The zone for which you previously applied will appear on the next screen.
  • Click Select to check whether a permit has been won for that zone.
  • One of two messages will appear on the screen indicating the permit win/lose status:  “Congratulations! You have been awarded an Antlerless Deer Permit which has been placed in your shopping cart. Close this window and click check out to purchase it.” Or the one which I usually get, “Unfortunately you did not win this product.”

If you win, an Antlerless Deer Permit will be placed in the shopping cart, and you check out to complete the purchase.  These permits will remain in the shopping cart until purchased or expired.  Be sure to print your permit upon completion of the transaction.  All permits expire on December 31 of the year issued.   Good luck. *****

 

The Onota Fishing Club is sponsoring its 27th Annual Crappie Derby next Sunday at Onota Lake.   It will run from 6AM – 12 Noon.  Participants will be in 2 person teams at $25/person.  Prizes will be awarded for most crappie, most pan fish and heaviest crappie.  Sign up for the derby at Portsmitt’s Lakeway Restaurant where there will be an all-you-can-eat fish fry that will follow at a cost of $10 fee for non-participants.  For more information, call Chris Porter at 413-496-0105. *****

 

The Lee Sportsmen’s Association will be holding an NRA Basic Pistol Course for men and women on Sunday Aug 24 from 8AM to 1PM, and Aug 28 from 5:30 to 8:30PM.  Both sessions are mandatory.  Cost is $100 which includes an annual LSA membership.  To pre register, call Vicki 442-8107 or lady45white@gmail.com. *****

 

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The Berkshire Hatchery is busy these days.  According to Berkshire Hatchery Foundation Board Member Steven. J Schwartz, the hatchery’s primary mission is to provide lake trout as brood stock for Lakes Ontario and Erie.  The Foundation has continued with its support of two brood stock strains for the Lakes and each strain has multiple age classes.  Some of the trout raised at the Hatchery will provide eggs this year to the USFWS lake trout restoration program.  These fish will provide millions of lake trout fingerlings that will help the Lakes regain their breeding trout population.  The younger age classes will ensure a steady supply of eggs into the future and allow breeding between different aged fish which will help maintain genetic diversity.

 

This year the Hatchery and US Fish & Wildlife Service helped supply trout for 30 public fishing events in Western MA and CT.  In addition to those events, the Foundation sponsors six monthly fishing derbies for children (there is one scheduled for next Saturday from 9 to 10:30 at the lower pond).  The Hatchery is open during the summer months with the help of an intern and, on a permit basis, children can fish the lower pond.

 

The Foundation sponsored a graduate at Dartmouth College, Marcus Welker, who is researching the homing abilities of the Atlantic salmon. His doctorate will focus on how the migration to its natal stream is affected by the composition of amino acids in our waterways.

 

The Hatchery is continuing its efforts in the field of environmental research by providing two scholarships for local students.  These students will continue with their education in the field of environmental research.

 

Incidentally, the Hatchery Foundation is having its annual Lobster Fest on August 24 from 2 to 5 PM.  Tickets, which cost $65, can be purchased by contacting the Hatchery at (413) 527-9761.   Hope you can make it for such an organization deserves our support. *****

 

As you are well aware, we have had a very wet summer.  And nowhere is it more evident than in our vegetable garden.  It is so wet and muddy in parts of it that I have to wear knee high rubber boots.  And once in the garden, I sink and slide in the mud constantly fearful of losing my balance and falling into the quagmire.  I wouldn’t dare go there without using my fishing wading staff.

 

Think I am exaggerating?  Well last week it was so wet, I saw a great blue heron at the edge of the garden, peering through the garden fence.   Apparently, with all of the water, it thought it could snag a fish or two.  When it saw me, it flew just a short distance into our field and stood there watching me.

While wondering why it was hanging around it occurred to me that it was probably after the multitude of voles and baby rabbits that have invaded our property this year.  The voles in particular have raised havoc with our garden.   I hope that bird has a good appetite and sticks around for a while.

Questions/comments:  Berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com.   Phone/fax:  (413) 637-1818

 

Get the lead out……save our loons

Recently, wildlife officials in New Hampshire reported the third documented lead poisoned loon death this year.  It was discovered in July on Lake Winnipesaukee where the bird beached itself.  It was transported to an animal hospital for a blood test and x-rays.  Radiographs showed a lead-headed fishing jig and blood lead levels were at toxic levels, so the loon was immediately euthanized.  The link between loon deaths and lead poisoning first emerged in the 1980s.  Necropsies performed by the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine on dead adult common loons in New Hampshire revealed that 49% had the remains of lead sinkers and jigs in their gizzards and had died from lead poisoning. A loon will die approximately two to four weeks after ingesting lead tackle.   Officials believe it is likely that loons are eating fish that have tackle in or on them. As the acidic juices in the bird’s gizzard break down the food, the lead is also broken down and gets into the bloodstream of the bird, said Emily Preston, a wildlife biologist with the N.H. Fish and Game Department.   Necropsies of dead adult loons show that lead tackle accounts for more deaths than every other human factor combined. The loss of so many adults from this preventable cause of mortality has inhibited the recovery of loons in New Hampshire, according to the Loon Preservation Committee. “Because loons do not breed until 6-7 years of age and have low reproductive success, it is important that adult loons survive for many years to produce surviving young. The loss of an adult loon may also result in the loss of that loon’s nest or chicks, further negatively impacting the population.” Over the objections of some sportsmen, Governor Hassan signed a bill (SB 89) in 2013 that increases protection for loons from lead fishing tackle by banning the sale and freshwater use of lead fishing sinkers and jigs weighing one ounce or less.

 

This bill will be implemented in June of 2016, but N.H. Fish and Game and the LPC are urging everyone to remove lead tackle from their tackle boxes now.  Safe alternatives to lead tackle are weights made of steel, tungsten, tin, bismuth, and other materials.  They are effective and readily available.

In Massachusetts, it has been illegal to use any lead fishing sinkers and lead jigs weighing less than 1 ounce in inland waters since January 1, 2012.  Prohibited tackle includes lead sinkers and jigs weighing less than an ounce regardless of whether they are painted, coated with rubber, covered by attached “skirts” or some other material.  *****

With the hot weather upon us, trout fishing in our local rivers has pretty much shut down until the fall for many local anglers.  They don’t want to overly stress the trout which are trying to survive the low, hot water conditions.  One exception is the Deerfield River which has frequent cold water releases from the bottom of the dams and the fishing is good all summer long.

Fuad Ameen, of Pittsfield, former writer for Western Mass Angler Newspaper, sent in this article which is a warning for us all.  Many thanks, Fuad.

“What is unusual about the Deerfield is the fact that many dams impound the waters and regulate the flow of the river daily.  This everyday release of the water causes the river to rise quickly and this rapid rise can jeopardize your wading safely back to shore.  The fly caster must be alert and use extreme caution when in the stream.

 

Fishing close to the dams, the water rises quicker and is even more dangerous.  The incident that follows happened to me one summer evening.  My friend, Max, and I were fishing the famous “Old Mill Dam Hole” near the entrance to the Hoosac Tunnel in Zoar, MA.

 

The “Old Mill Dam Hole “is in a section of the river close to one of the dams.  Max was upstream from me, while I was casting off of some submerged timbers in the main pool.  In low water, the pool was perhaps eight feet in depth.

 

I heard Max’s warning whistle first and then what sounded like a strong wind blowing pierced my ears.  That sound of wind was actually the rushing and rising waters coming around the bend and quickly filling the “Old Mill Dam Pool”.

 

Making my way back off of the sunken beams, I saw several large trout rising at the tail end of the pool.  Feed was washing down and the trout were quick to surface.  I looked back at Max and yelled “watch me take some of these”.  But in that split second, I had let my guard down and stepped off of the sunken timbers.  I was quickly caught in the roaring currents.  As I sank, I knew I would have but one chance to surface as my waders quickly filled.  I doubled up and when my feet hit bottom, I surged upward with all of the strength I could muster.  Just my head broke the surface and I was being carried downstream in the raging currents.  My rod and cap were gone.

 

Max had witnessed my distress and was running along the shore trying to catch up with me.  He picked up and extended a long branch on the first bend and the currents pushed me towards Max.  I grabbed and hung on to that branch for dear life and was dragged out.

 

I have fished the Deerfield my entire life and knew of the dangers of the rising waters, yet could have lost my life that day.

 

After dark, I returned to the “Old Mill Dam Hole” as the waters had receded.   I recovered my favorite rod for future adventures.  My fishing cap was lost forever”……Fuad Ameen

Westfield River’s Keystone Arches – Gems in our back yard

 

Say, did you happen to read DFW Western District Manager Andrew Madden’s fine article in the most recent issue of the Massachusetts Wildlife magazine dealing with the Westfield River Keystone Arches?   The pictures were magnificent and so was the article.  Those granite arches truly are gems in Western Mass. They were built in the 1840’s when the Western Railroad was extended out through the Berkshires.

Due to the serpentine course, the arches cross the river 10 times and are wholly dry laid, not a drop of mortar was used in them.  Some of them are no longer used because new bridges were built when they relocated part of the line.

For the longest time, they could only be reached by trespassing and walking along the railroad tracks which follow the West Branch of the Westfield River between Bancroft (part of Middlefield) and Chester, MA.   But recently a 2.5 mile hiking trail was constructed to two bridges abandoned in 1912 which are wholly on the property of the MA DFW (Walnut Hill Wildlife Management Area).

There is much more information on the arches in Madden’s article and also on a web site http://keystonearches.com.

Coincidentally, a close friend (Fred Rugo, from Rhode Island) and I were there the same week that the article came out.  He had heard about the arches and asked me to take him there to view them and perhaps fish while we were there.   Because we were in a hot weather spell (80 degrees by 11:00 AM), I couldn’t assure him that the fishing would be all that great.  Instead, we fished the Housatonic River in Lee that morning and later on went to visit the arches.

At the time I was unaware of the above referenced hiking trail and we entered off of Middlefield Road in Chester near the twin arches area.  While there we saw two teen aged boys fishing the holes near the trestles.    It was good to see that kids enjoying the outdoors during their summer school vacations and were not stuck in front of a computer screens.  We asked one kid if he caught any trout and he did.  He went upstream to retrieve the fish that he had stashed in a cold water hole to preserve them.   We couldn’t believe the size of one of those rainbow trout, it had to be 17 inches long and the second one was well over a foot long, also.  He was so proud of those fish, and rightly so.

Guess I had better start fishing that stretch again next year, although it is not the easiest place to get at, especially as you go upstream a ways from Chester toward Middlefield.  As I recall, in some places you have to be part mountain goat in order to get to the river some 65 or 70 feet below the arches.  *****

We all have been seeing what is happening in California what with the drought they are currently experiencing.  Things are getting so bad that the rivers and reservoirs there are being de-watered.   In the eastern part of Massachusetts they are also having some problems with water shortages.  This issue was addressed in the latest newsletter from MassWildlife in an article entitled:  Sustainable stream flow, balancing the needs of fish and people.

The article states that because both fish and people need water, the DFW is playing an important role to ensure that stream flow needs of fish are considered in the water withdrawal permitting process.  DFW has been participating in Sustainable Water Management Initiative (SWMI) stakeholder meetings providing input on revisions to the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Water Management Act.  Working with DEP, state agencies, water suppliers, environmental advocates, industry representatives, and concerned citizens have crafted a framework designed to ensure a balance between both human and environmental needs for stream flow. The framework describes the methodology for defining Safe Yield in each of the state’s 27 watersheds and how stream flow criteria will be applied by DEP when issuing Water Management Act permits.

From the largest bass to the smallest minnow, fish and fish habitats benefit from protected stream flow. This in turn benefits anglers who pay for fish and wildlife conservation through fishing license and equipment purchases. SWMI’s proposed Water Management Act revisions are designed to prevent past extreme conditions such as occurred in the Ipswich River: dry river beds and dead fish. The current Water Management Act revisions recognize how critical stream flow alterations can negatively affect fish communities.  At the same time, the proposed revisions continue to ensure water availability for the needs of people.*****

 

The American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, VT (next to the Orvis store) has announced a program entitled, Angling & Art: The Confluence of Passions. Art and the sport of fly fishing have been intimately connected throughout history and remain so today; from angler Winslow Homer to naturalist James Prosek, artists have captured the magic and chronicled the heritage of fly fishing for centuries.

This year, Angling & Art takesplace through the month of July and will be held in its nationally recognized Gardner L. Grant library located at 4070 Main Street in Manchester.  We are also invited to an informal artist workshop with artists George Van Hook and Dave Morse on Saturday, July 26 from 1-3 p.m.  For more information, click onto its web page http://www.amff.com/events-activities. *****

Concerned about ticks and the possibility of getting infected by them?  I received a couple of e-mails from readers giving information on an informational website (http://www.cdc.gov/ticks/geographic_distribution.html).  It lists 7 types of ticks here in the US along with pictures, geographic locations, diseases transmitted by them and the symptoms, how to avoid them, how to remove them and more.  Check it out.

Environmental officials remind citizens to practice safe boating and wear life jackets

 

The Massachusetts Environmental Police (MEP) are reminding boaters of safety guidelines, including the importance of wearing lifejackets. They also are urging boaters to take a boating safety course, and reminding operators it’s the law to operate boats only while sober and have safety equipment onboard.

“For the protection of everyone on the water, we want to remind all boaters to travel at reasonable speeds and never operate a vessel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” said MEP Acting Director Chris Baker.  “Officers will be patrolling our waters and enforcing both state and federal recreational boating laws which are in place to ensure that all boaters have an enjoyable and safe boating experience.”

Each boat must be equipped with one personal floatation device, or life jacket, for each person on the vessel. All children under 12 must wear a life jacket at all times on any vessel, including personal watercraft such as Jet Skis or Sea-Doos.  Everyone riding personal watercraft, and all water skiers and tubers must wear approved life jackets.

Last year there were 88 boating accidents in Massachusetts resulting in 12 fatalities.   In 2012, there were 93 accidents and 15 fatalities.  Of those 27 fatalities in 2012 and 2013, 17 were drownings and only two of the victims were wearing life jackets.  According to the US Coast Guard, there were 560 boating fatalities nationwide in 2013; 77% of those deaths were due to drowning and of those, 84% of the victims were not wearing lifejackets.

Boaters are also prohibited from operating within 150 feet of a public or private swimming area. For inland waters, operating at speeds greater than 45 mph is prohibited.

Under Massachusetts law, boaters under the age of 12 may not operate a motorboat unless accompanied and supervised by an adult.  Children between 12 and 15 must complete an approved boating course prior to unsupervised operation.  Children under the age of 16 may not operate a personal watercraft.  All boats are required to carry life jackets, fire extinguishers and navigation lights. A paddle or an oar is required on boats less than 16 feet long.

All boating accidents should be reported to the MEP at (800) 632-8075.

Staying with this sad subject, my fishing buddy, Attorney Michael Shepard of Dalton and I spent a weekend fly fishing recently on the West Branch of the AuSable River near Lake Placid, NY.  We took advantage of NY’s free fishing days.  The day before our arrival two teenage boys had drowned in the swollen river and they were still searching for one of them when we arrived.

The boys had been jumping into the raging river near the Flume, a place near where the river crosses under Rte 86 at the foot of Whiteface Mountain between Lake Placid and Wilmington, NY.  The river is squeezed into a chute with walls that stretch nearly 100 feet up on both sides.  You can see it while standing on the bridge and it is a scary sight.    The day before the teenagers drowned, the area had received 4 inches of rain and one can only imagine how that river was thundering through that chute.  You rarely see any fishermen there even under the best of conditions.

The missing teen’s mother, from Plattsburg, NY, was staying in the same motel where we were (Hungry Trout) and was awaiting recovery of her son’s body.   Her husband had recently passed away and she had only the one son.  It was so sad.

On Saturday, Mike and I fished but the river was still high and dangerous and we had no luck.  During the day, police helicopters were constantly flying overhead searching for the boy’s body as were drift boats manned by NY State troopers.  They even had some brave souls in kayaks searching every nook and cranny along the shores and banks.

On Sunday, the river had come down a little and we decided to fish it downstream of a dam which impounds the river in Wilmington (called Lake Everest).  There is a spot down there where Mike likes to fish, and he usually wades out to the middle and leans or sits on a big rock while he fishes.  But the water was still a little too high and he was forced to turn back.

I linked up with him after an hour or so of fishing and as we were talking, the river unexpectedly got loud, the water began to surge and its level came up almost a foot.   His rock was suddenly under water.  It turned out that officials had begun lowering Lake Everest in search of the body, without any siren or warning signs whatsoever.  I shudder to think what would have happened if Mike had made it out to that rock.  We may have been searching for another body.

We subsequently learned that it wasn’t until the following Monday that they recovered the teen’s body.  There is nothing that can bring a community down like a drowning.   Please, let’s have none of that here in the Berkshires by obeying the boating safety regulations and respecting the water. *****

MassWildlife reports that approximately 2,550 wild turkeys were taken by hunters during the 2014 spring turkey season; slightly less than recent averages. They cited many factors that likely contributed to the decline: cold, rainy weather during the 2013 hatch resulted in sub-par poult production; the longer, colder past winter probably affected the timing and extent of spring turkey breeding movements, and lastly, cold and rainy weather during the first week of the turkey hunting season may have influenced hunter effort as well as turkey activity.   *****

Attention deer hunters:  This Wednesday is the deadline for submitting applications for antlerless deer permits.

Don’t invite black bears to your neighborhood

 

 

Every year MassWildlife reminds us to take in our bird feeders in the spring because they could attract bears into our neighborhoods.  Once they find our feeders, they are like hobos (vagabonds) who keep track of the places where they can get a good meal and come back.

 

At the same time more people are raising chickens for food these days.  Chickens and other fowl are usually fed cracked corn, laying mash, etc.  Well, guess what? Bears love grains, too and if they can grab a chicken or two while there, all the better.

 

Recently, Pete Viale of Lee sent me pictures taken from a trail camera taken on the evening of June 18 at their hunting camp (which is owned by a group of sportsmen) near Goose Pond, Tyringham.  The bear was trying to get into a quail recall pen that they had set up there.  The bear, which had two tags in his ears, didn’t get in that night but was successful two nights later with the loss of all birds released.

 

Viale contacted Western Region DFW Biologist Tony Gola and gave him the tag numbers.  Gola contacted DFW Bear Biologist Laura Hajduk-Conleewho in turn contacted CT Wildlife Biologist Paul Rego.   He replied that it is a male bear that they tagged as a 35 lb yearling in the den in March 2013.   He is currently 2.5 years old.  The den and the sow’s home range were in northeast Hartland, CT adjacent to the MA border.  He did not recall having any conflict complaints about this bear.  His mother lives in an area with low human density and they have not received many reports or complaints about her.  According to Rego, another male yearling that they tagged this March has traveled to southeast Vermont and has caused some issues there.

 

Gola recommends that everyone raising poultry should protect their flocks with electric fencing. DFW receives numerous complaints each year of bears raiding “free-range” chicken pens. Most often the bear is after grain stored in the pen, but some will make a meal of the poultry. The website: Living With Wildlife Foundation:  www.lwwf.org has an excellent publication for installing electric fences to deal will a myriad of bear conflicts. Incidentally, you have the right under Mass General Law to shoot the bear if caught in the act of depredation.  “It’s not likely you will be there if the bear returns whereas an electric fence works 24/7”, Gola said.

 

Hopefully by taking steps to discourage bears from our bird feeders and grains, they will move on into the woods where they belong and cause no trouble or damage.  Otherwise, they may come to a sad ending which we may have indirectly caused. *****

 

The Patrick Administration announced that $4.74 million in coastal resilience funding was received from the U.S. Department of Interior for dam removal and shoreline protection projects. Eleven projects will be managed by the state Department of Fish and Game (DFG) and will restore river and marine habitat, improve public safety and create jobs. The funding includes $4.5 million to DFG’s Division of Ecological Restoration and $240,000 to DFG’s Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF).

 

The projects are concentrated in areas where coastal and inland flooding poses a risk to public safety and where dam removal and habitat restoration will have tremendous ecological benefit. As more extreme weather is expected to impact Massachusetts, state and local communities are focusing on building resiliency to help better prepare for storms.

 

“Removing aging dams reduces risks to communities from large storms and is a proven method for restoring critical wildlife habitat,” said DFG Commissioner Mary Griffin. “These dam removal projects will open up 189 river miles for migratory and resident fish and restore 90 acres of floodplain wetlands, while the Boston Harbor project will restore marine habitat and help protect coastal infrastructure.”

 

Some of this grant money is earmarked for the removal of the Pittsfield’s Tel-electric Dam, a key element in the City of Pittsfield’s greenway plan. The dam is aging, dangerous and removing it will reconnect the West Branch of the Housatonic River to coldwater habitat in the mainstream Housatonic River.  *****

 

Readers may recall the November 17, 2013 article about studies that were conducted of PCB levels in crayfish in the Hoosic River entitled “Hoosic River in good health despite remaining PCB’s).  Williams College chemistry professors David Richardson and Jay Thoman and students from Williams College, MCLA and Bennington College reported on the results of their studies of PCB levels in crayfish taken from various sites in the river and feeder streams.

The results were reported at theHoosic River Watershed Association’s (HOORWA) annual State of the River Conference.

 

This year, Professors Richardson and Thoman, along with some Williams College students will soon be starting a research project focused on making significant measurements of PCB levels in fish, principally trout, in the Hoosic River.  They are hoping to build a contact group of local fishermen/women who could help by catching fish and donating samples and maybe even training some students to become proficient at catching fish themselves.

 

They are in the planning stages of this project, and are imagining the construction of a network of folks who would contribute to creating an extensive sampling project in a very grass roots way.  This would be a great training experience for the students and it would help them write the next chapter in the natural history of the Hoosic as it works to recover from PCB contamination.

 

Interested volunteer anglers can contact Professor Richardson at David.P.Richardson@williams.edu*****

 

The Berkshire Hatchery Foundation will be holding a kid’s fishing derby at the lower pond next Saturday from 9 to 10:30 AM.    Children under 12 years old must be accompanied by an adult.

Sportsmen, conservationists need to take action with checkbook and letters

 

 

Berkshire Natural Resources Council is a non-profit land conservation organization working throughout the Berkshires in Massachusetts to preserve threatened lands.  The Council places special emphasis on protecting Berkshire’s farms, forests, streams, and ridgelines – the great landscape features that give us clean water, fresh air, local produce, healthy wildlife, and outstanding recreational opportunities. You still have time to help them accomplish some wonderful projects by making a donation by June 30.

 

According to Tad Ames, BNRC President, by June 30 they hope to close on a Golden Hill deal in Lee which will permanently conserve and transfer hayfields from a corporate ownership into the hand of a local farmer.  Neighbors and the Lee Land Trust have helped leverage a state agricultural investment.

 

Two more farm projects should also close in late summer or early fall.  That would bring BNRC’s tally of protected farms to 30 with four more pending.   All credit goes to committed farmers, the Massachusetts APR Program and you, the supporters.

 

Also by June 30 they expect to buy a parcel from the City of North Adams that will connect the Hoosac Range and Mahican-Mohawk Trail.  Another closing will be the purchase of a 52 acre parcel in Lanesboro linking BNRC’s Constitution Hill with Lanesboro’s Laston Park on North Main Street.  They hope to build a bridge across Town Brook to connect the two parcels for walkers.

 

BNRC’s stewardship staff is taking care of 8,695 acres that they own and looking after 84 conservation restrictions that protect 10,322 acres.  *****

Hunters and shooters:  Are you aware that House Speaker Robert DeLeo released a bill entitled “An Act Relative to the Reduction of Gun Violence” to the general public?   Upon reviewing the legislation the Gun Owner’s Action League (GOAL) was very unhappy with it.  All 50 of the parts of the bill are listed as well as what GOAL supports and opposes.  For details, click onto  http://www.goal.org/goal-response-may-30-2014.html.   You are encouraged to read it but you will be upset.

GOAL’s assertion that the newly proposed legislation was supposed to be about addressing mental health issues and providing more crime fighting tools. While some of the bill covers those matters to some degree, there are proposals in it that will simply result in the further persecution of lawful gun owners.  People like you and me – hunters, skeet shooters, etc.

You are encouraged to respectfully and courteously contact your local representative and senator and ask them not to vote for this bill.    Don’t depend on the other guy to do it or your sportsmen’s club or the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen.  You do it!  Let your legislator know that there is a person attached to this letter.   *****

As you may know, the EPA has announced its proposal for the removal of PCBs from the rest of the Housatonic River.  After challenges and other delays, it will probably take 5 years before they begin and then it will take another 13 years or so.

Many people have no problem with their removing the PCB’s immediately upstream of the dams.  That would eliminate nearly 90% of them from the river.  However; from the confluence of the East and West Branches of the River in Pittsfield to Woods Pond in Lenox, the plan calls for removal of riverbed sediment and soil in eroding river banks in hot spots, and reconstruction of  the banks with an engineered cap covered with a bio-engineering ”soft” layer or if necessary with rip-rap.  Parts of the riverbed will also be capped.

This cap consists of a mixing layer, a filter layer, bioturbation layer, protective layer and a habitat layer.    Personally, I just can’t understand this cap business in moving water.  Surely they must be aware of the tremendous force of a raging river with the ability to roll huge boulders and take down trees which will then scrape and scour the river bottom and presumably any caps that exist there.

There are plans to dredge Woods Pond and cap it, too.  Some folks think they should just dredge it and skip the cap.  All the capping from upstream will end up there anyway.  The dredged material would be shipped off-site to existing licensed facilities, presumably by train.

Perhaps they should get off of this shovel and wheelbarrow technology and seriously look in to other methods of bio-remediation too, such as whatTim Gray and the Housatonic River Initiative folks have been advocating for years.

The remediation plan has barely been touched in this column.  Much more information is available at www.epa.gov/region 1/ge/proposedcleanupplan.html.  You have until August 8, 2014 to mail in your comments to: ( r1housatonic@epa.gov), or fax (617) 918-0028.. *****

The DFW conducts an annual wild turkey brood survey from June through August. It serves as a long term index on reproduction,” explains Dave Scarpitti, Turkey Project Leader.  It helps them determine productivity and allows them to compare long-term reproductive success. Citizen involvement in this survey is a cost-effective means of gathering useful data, and he encourages all interested people to participate. A turkey brood survey form is posted on the agency website.   Completed forms should to be mailed to: Brood Survey, DFW Field Headquarters, 100 Hartwell Street, Suite 230, West Boylston, MA 01583.

The Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club  Youth .22 Rifle League will run 8 weeks from July 2 to August 20on Wednesday evenings from 5 to 7pm.  $40 per child.  SSC membership is not required to join the league which is for kids 6yrs old and up.  The Club supplies all firearms and ammo but the kids need their own eye and ear protection.   Call Mike Buffoni with any questions at (413) 232-7703, or go to www.stockbridgesportsmensclub.org to download an application and mail it in.

2014 Antlerless deer permit allocations remain unchanged in most districts

 

In his May report to the MA Fish and Wildlife Board, DFW Deer Project Leader David Stainbrook recommended few changes to the antlerless permit allocations for this year’s deer hunting season.    In fact, no allocation changes were recommended for Wildlife Management Zones (WMZ) 1 through 9.   (The Western District encompasses WMZ 1 through parts of WMZ 4).  That is because the deer density levels are at the desired levels or very close to them.  However; in WMZ 10, 11 and 12 the Division is still struggling to attain what it considers optimal density levels.  He recommended increasing the antlerless permits from 11,000 to 12,000 in WMZ 10, from 10,000 to 11,000 in WMZ 11 and from 650 to 800 in WMZ 12.  Those zones are at the eastern end of the Commonwealth and Cape Cod.  The Board approved his recommendation.

To get an idea of the density problem which exists  in the east, contrast the total number of permits in WMZ 1 through 9 (13,174), which takes you from the Berkshires to Rte 495, to the 23,000 around the Boston area. They must have a serious deer problem on Martha’s Vinyard and Nantucket too, for the permits total 2,700 on each island.  The entire Western Massachusetts area, west of the Connecticut River only has 2,325 permits.

So why is there such a problem getting the deer density totals down in the east?  The main reason given by DFW is the fact that many of these towns do not allow deer hunting.  As a consequence, the deer herd there has skyrocketed to the point that residents are complaining they are eating all of their flowers, bushes and gardens.  The deer are also taking a heavy toll on various tree saplings necessary to sustain their forests as well as eating rare and endangered plants.  There are also high numbers of deer/auto collisions as well as high rates of lime disease caused by deer ticks.

The only way DFW can get the deer densities down to desired levels is by increasing the number of antlerless permits in towns where people can hunt.

Interestingly, some of those thickly settled towns are beginning to allow archery hunting.  They  consider  it safer than shotgun hunting but is still a way to help alleviate the problem.  Last year in those zones, more deer were harvested by bow hunters than any other method.  Now the State Legislature is looking into possibly allowing archery deer hunting on Sundays.

DFW Director Wayne MacCallum is pleased that two thirds of the state is basically at density goals.  He doesn’t believe there is another state in the country that has a deer population that’s as healthy as ours.   “We have hard winters but we don’t have winter kills because we’ve got those densities down to a point where we have sustainable harvests.  For nearly two decades some 10,000  deer have been harvested a year”.  Healso praised the new data base model used by DFW to manage the deer herd.

F&W Board Chairman George “Gige” Darey expects the new data model to get even better because they are just at the beginning of it.  “It is so important to manage the deer herd.  We can’t let it get out of sync, like what is happening in Maine (high winter kills) and on Long Island (where they are so many that they are contemplating poisoning them).

Stainbrook also reported the final numbers for the 2013 deer hunting seasons.  Some 11,566 deer were harvested by hunters during the combined 2013 hunting seasons. By season, the statewide total breaks down as follows:  6 deer taken during the special deer season for paraplegic sportsmen; 4,486 taken in the archery season; 4,609 taken during the shotgun season; 2,343 taken during the muzzleloading season and 122 deer harvested during the Quabbin Reservation hunt.  For more detailed information, go to the MassWildlife White-Tailed Deer Harvest Information web page.

Incidentally, the deadline for applying for a 2014 antlerless deer permit is July 16.   There is no application fee but a $5 fee is charged if you are selected for a permit during the Instant Award period.  If you are not sure you submitted an antlerless deer permit application, check your hunting license in the Item Purchased section where you will see a line item that reads: “Antlerless Deer Permit Application.  You can also log on to the MassFishHunt website at www.mass.gov/massfishhunt and check your customer inventory.  If you have not yet applied, you can submit your application for an antlerless deer permit either online through a computer or at a licensed vendor.  *****

Steve Bateman of Pittsfield, organizer for the 22nd annual Harry A. Bateman Memorial Jimmy Fund Fishing Derby which was held on June 7, can’t thank you enough for supporting this derby.   A record 252 people participated.  He reports that it was a beautiful day but no monsters were caught.  The winners were as follows:  Children’s Heaviest Game Fish Category:  1ST  place – Jayden Tucker, largemouth bass – 2 lbs 6 oz; 2nd place – Jordyn Hamilton – largemouth bass – 1 lb 7 oz; 3rd place – Chalyce Jones – rainbow trout – 1 lb 7 oz.  Children’s Heaviest Non-Game Category:  1st place Brody Perkins – bullhead – 11 oz; 2nd place– Corey Kahlenbeck – white perch – 7 oz; 3rd place – Logan Barde – bluegill – 7 oz.. Adult Heaviest Fish Category:  1st place – Clem Caryofiles – largemouth bass – 3 lbs 1 oz; 2nd place – Mitch Scace – Largemouth bass – 3 lbs, 3rd place – Brian Barde – largemouth bass – 2 lbs 13 oz.  Special Heaviest Fish 1st Place Awards:  Bass: Shaun Herforth – smallmouth bass – 3 lbs 2 oz, Perch/Crappie: Dakotah Thiede – yellow perch – 9 oz.  Trout Adult:  Stan Les – rainbow – 1 lb 11 oz.  Trout Child:  James Lambert – brown trout – 3 lbs.  Sportsmanship Award:  Lillian Wilson.

Students now raising and stocking trout

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Readers may recall that the Connecticut River Atlantic Salmon Egg Rearing Project (ASERP) ended last year.  The US Fish & Wildlife Service decided to no longer fund it and the affected New England States’ Fish and Wildlife Agencies could not absorb the cost to maintain it.

When the salmon program ended, so did the ASERP school programs.  The faculty of the Becket Washington Elementary School felt that this program was too valuable an education program to end.   In lieu of salmon, they switched to raising brown trout.  Like the salmon program, the 3rd and 4th graders received the eggs from the MassWildlife Reed Hatchery, hatched them out in their aquarium, fed them and release them into the nearby Yokum Brook on May 29.

They had received 80 eggs in the spring and, according to teachers Mrs. Mary Kay McCloskey and Mrs. Patty Robie, there was a very low mortality rate.  The trout averaged around 2 inches long when they were released.  Many of the fish were given names, like Elvis III, Airiana, Wink and Pete.  Unlike Atlantic salmon which migrate to the sea after a couple of years, these fish will stay and grow in Yokum Brook or swim downstream to the nearby West Branch of the Westfield River..

Hats off to the school, teachers, and principal Leslie Blake Davis for continuing this program and exposing the children to the fish and their environs.  Unquestionably there was additional work running this program but they enjoy doing it.  For example, Mrs. Robie received a Berkshire County Teacher of the Year Award this year and received a small stipend which she used to buy more boots for the kids.  *****

Incidentally, returning adult sea-run Atlantic salmon are being tagged and released at all fishway/trap facilities. If a tagged salmon is caught while fishing, you must release it immediately unharmed. You are asked to call 413-548-9138 ext. 121, as indicated on the yellow streamer tag below the dorsal fin, to provide information on the event. Please do not remove the fish’s tag.  As of June 5, 19 of them have returned to the Connecticut River.  The estimated total of all anadromous fish that returned this year will be covered in a future article, as soon as the final tally is made. *****

While the Becket-Washington students were busy raising and releasing the trout, students from Taconic High School were learning how to catch them with a fly rod and how to release them unharmed.  Don’t worry, those Becket-Washington trout are too smart to be caught.  After all, they went to school.

 

Taconic High School teacher Ron Wojcik conducts an after school flyfishing class.  The course includes fly casting, fishing knots, entomology, ethics and good sportsmanship.  At the end of the course, he and his wife Diane fed the kids pizza, cookies and soft drinks before taking them fishing at a private pond.  Five students were able to participate and they were:   Michael Boc, Adam Delphia, Joe Kozlowski, Alex Kent, and Jonathan May.   There they were joined by Taconic Chapter Trout Unlimited members Allen Gray, Paul Knauth, Marc Hoechstetter, Steve Smith and me who helped them improve their fly casting skills.  The students managed to catch several nice trout * ****

The Berkshire County Chapter of Ducks Unlimited will be having a dinner on Saturday, June 21 at the ITAM on 93 Waubeek Road, Pittsfield.  There will be raffles, and live and silent auctions.  Doors open at 5:30 PM.  Space is limited to 150.   The basic price is $40 pp and there is a sponsor package beginning at $250.

Tickets can be purchased online @http://www.ducks.org/massachusetts/events/34336/berkshire-county-of-ducks-unlimited-annual-dinner  (Online sales end on June 20), or by calling either Joe Delsoldato  at( 413)717-0938, or JP Murphy  at (413)822-3915. *****

Hey shooters, do you want to save on ammo expenses?  Jim Finnerty of GOAL is teaching a course on rifle reloading. It includes component selection, proper brass sorting and case preparation, load selection, gauges and tools, crimping, sizing rimmed and belted cases, loading for long range shooting, review of pressure signs, and testing with record keeping.   The 5-hour course costs $100 and space is limited.  Contact Larry for more information at (413) 442-7807.

 

Questions/comments:  Berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com.  Phone/fax:  (413) 637-1818..

 

Attached picture is of the students releasing their brown trout into Yokum Brook.  Thanks to Becket resident Karen Karlberg who has been involved with the fish rearing program, for taking the pictures.