Editorial: Stop beating around the bush on tick population

What a silly waste of time.

That’s the only way to characterize the creation of a tick advisory committee meant to help Suffolk’s Division of Vector Control craft a plan to reduce the incidence of tick-borne illnesses in the county. It took months to choose some of the members, only for them to learn at their first-ever meeting the group will soon be disbanded. The resolution creating the group not only reads that the committee “shall meet on a monthly basis,” but also that it “shall be terminated” after vector control creates a plan for tick management in its annual vector control plan. The vector control director informed members at last week’s meeting that he needs to have his annual plan prepared by mid-September, and that their services would no longer be needed for any future tick management planning after that.

So that’s it; just two, maybe three meetings and this committee’s work will be over. A call to extend the life of the committee would be disingenuous, however, as we believe the committee itself is simply a means legislators can use to avoid taking the issue of reducing tick populations head-on.

As committee member John Rasweiler points out in the page 9 Guest Spot, the solution to reducing tick-borne illness in Suffolk County is already clear. Populations of deer, the chief carrier of disease-carrying ticks, need to be reduced through hunting and bait-and-kill culling programs. Of course, this would involve elected leaders on all levels taking a hard line in favor of such practices while standing up to a large and very outspoken group of people who last year fought tooth and nail against federally trained sharpshooters attempting to conduct controlled deer hunts.

Forming a committee to reduce tick-borne illnesses on the county level was questionable in the first place — leaders could have further directed vector control to allocate resources to the tick problem if they so desired. But holding just a few meetings before calling it quits only lessens the committee’s value. In the meantime, the ticks are going nowhere, just like the committee.