Leyden divided over proposed hunting restriction bylaw

  • Leyden resident Bob Anson speaks during a public hearing for a proposed bylaw that would require hunters to have written permission to hunt on private or municipally owned land at Town Hall on Dec. 4. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

Recorder Staff
Monday, December 25, 2017

LEYDEN — Townspeople are divided on their opinions about a proposed hunting restriction bylaw that’s set to come before voters during a special town meeting next month.

While some residents think the bylaw — which would require hunters to get written permission from landowners to hunt — would give landowners more power and a feeling of safety, others believe state laws and a right to post property are sufficient safeguards.

“I think everybody wants the same thing, it’s just we’re coming at it from two different angles,” said resident Beth Kuzdeba, who supports the bylaw. “(Hunters) are afraid of losing a lifestyle, we’re afraid of losing our life.”

Kuzdeba and her husband Ken Medvetz were two of the signatories on the citizens’ petition proposing the bylaw, which was authored by Barbara Wallace, Susan Howarth and Michele Higgins.

The bylaw would prohibit discharging any firearm or weapon unless given written permission by the landowner in the case of private property, or by the Selectboard or other town governmental body in the case of town-owned property. Exceptions would be allowed for law enforcement officers and “the lawful defense of life or property,” the bylaw reads.

“They know who’s on their land,” Wallace previously said of landowners, believing her bylaw could bring both sides comfort. “(Hunters) would also know from the landowner who else was allowed so they’d know who they’d run into.”

All hunters would be required to carry two copies of their signed permission documents, displaying one on their vehicle’s dashboard and holding another in a pocket.

Kuzdeba, a 14-year resident, said she supports the bylaw because “people who don’t hunt want to be safe on their property.” She spoke to being afraid to walk her dog or be outside in her garden during hunting season.

“There are women in town (who) just hunker down in the house and they’re afraid,” she said. “Why should women be afraid nowadays?”

“We live here. We have so many acres of land. We pay taxes,” Kuzdeba continued. “So why is it what we believe isn’t as important as what (hunters) believe? Why can’t we have the expectation of safety, year round?”

Kuzdeba said she thinks fear is a trend among hunters as well, who perceive the bylaw as threatening their rights.

“Their rights are being taken away,” noted David Curtis, a Leyden resident and 25-year hunter who opposes the bylaw.

Curtis said he believes state hunting laws that give residents the right to post their properties are sufficient, and feels towns that have passed similar bylaws, such as Tolland, “gave their town away.”

“When you start to negotiate, you give little slivers away,” he said. “Before you know it, you give a lot away.”

Resident Jim Baker, who has been hunting for nearly 50 years, also disagrees with the bylaw, and with Kuzdeba’s belief that townspeople worry about their safety.

“There’s no fear in this town, that’s just a made-up deal to get this (bylaw) to go through,” he said. “I have never felt unsafe a day in this town.”

Baker said it’s already difficult to hunt in Leyden, with a lot of land being posted. He believes hunters who don’t want to secure permission slips will move on to other towns, and the remaining hunters would be concentrated on properties where they can obtain permission.

“If they let it go through, this town is going to be overpopulated with deer,” he said.

During a public hearing on the bylaw earlier this month, Ralph Taylor, Connecticut Valley district supervisor with MassWildlife, testified to increased deer populations in towns with hunting restrictions.

Curtis also expressed his concern that the town would need additional funding to have officers enforce the bylaw. The bylaw states the Leyden Police Department, Massachusetts Environmental Police, or “any sworn officer who has jurisdiction in the town of Leyden” would be responsible for enforcement. The fine would be $200 per violation, and any weapon used in the offense would be confiscated by police.

“Nobody’s saying you can’t have a gun,” Kuzdeba clarified. “It’s not saying that you can’t hunt. It’s just saying hunt where people say it’s OK to hunt.”

A vote on the bylaw will be taken at special town meeting, which is scheduled for Jan. 22 at 7 p.m. in Town Hall, having been rescheduled from Martin Luther King Jr. Day.