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Conservation groups sue over Fire Island deer culling plan

A deer grazes outside a beach house in

A deer grazes outside a beach house in Ocean Beach, Fire Island, Wednesday, June 21, 2017. Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

Two environmental conservation organizations have filed a federal lawsuit against the Fire Island National Seashore and National Park Service to block a plan that would allow the hunting of white-tailed deer on Fire Island.

Newark-based Wildlife Preserves and Washington-based Animal Welfare Institute filed the suit Wednesday in the U.S. District Court’s Eastern District, which includes Long Island.

The organizations are protesting provisions of a plan released in December 2015, which seeks to control the deer population, since they have no natural predators on the barrier island.

Those measures, which include hunting, birth control and fencing, came in response to complaints and evidence that the deer are destroying native vegetation and threatening the rare Sunken Forest maritime holly forest.

But the suit claims federal law and two deeds that went into effect in 1955 and 1966 prohibit the killing of deer. Long Island activists have long sought a solution to the problem by endorsing only nonlethal means of population control.

“The National Park Service’s decision to allow the slaughter of hundreds of deer blatantly violates the deed restrictions for this land, which require that it be kept as a wildlife sanctuary,” said Tara Zuardo, wildlife attorney with the Animal Welfare Institute. “The agency’s haphazard culling of deer is an outright breach of the law and a waste of tax dollars.”

Officials from the Fire Island National Seashore and National Park Service could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

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