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December 17, 2004

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Publication Date: Friday, December 17, 2004

Duck hunters may be cut off Duck hunters may be cut off (December 17, 2004)

Council moves to restrict access to salt ponds

By Jon Wiener

A federal government plan to restore hunting access on some local salt ponds has met resistance from the Mountain View City Council.

A small group of hunters showed up at the Dec. 7 city council meeting to voice their support for the plan to open more than 2,600 acres of salt ponds north of Moffett Field to duck hunting. They left fearing council members were poised to render the proposal moot by prohibiting vehicular access to the area.

Hunters, who operate from small boats offshore, tried to allay council members safety concerns by saying that the shotguns have a short range and that hunters will be crossing the trail early in the morning, when few other people are using it.

The proposed access point for hunters is at the end of Crittenden Lane, near the entrance to Shoreline Park and adjacent to the Stevens Creek Trail.

The council sent a letter to refuge officials saying it wanted "to develop an alternative that limits access across the trail to nonvehicular means (e.g., walking or biking)." City Attorney Michael Martello told council members that the city had the authority to prohibit vehicular access itself.

The council voted 4-2 to pursue such a policy if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service does not heed its request. Mayor Matt Pear and Nick Galiotto voted no, and Mary Lou Zoglin was absent.

The potential vehicle ban promises to make things difficult for would-be hunters, leading Pear to accuse his fellow council members of "trying to work around an existing federal law to preclude hunting."

Mark Hennelly, a spokesperson for the California Waterfowl Association, an advocacy group for hunters, said the restrictions would mean hunters have to carry their equipment for up to a mile and a half. Speakers said the city could easily put in stops signs at trail crossings instead.

"It's an area that's been hunted forever, and we'd just like the council to recognize that fact," said Hennelly. "If there were legitimate public safety issues, we'd understand."

Council member Rosemary Stasek said the council should focus on the issues it can control, like restrictions on vehicle access and guns.

"The Bush Administration doesn't care about what we think about this issue -- let's be real serious," she said.

She added, "People using our parks are fundamentally uncomfortable interacting with people carrying very visible weapons."

Cargill Salt, the previous owners of the ponds, leased hunting rights to private clubs for years before selling the lands to the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge in March 2003. The Moffett ponds will be open three days a week starting in October 2005, according to the proposal. An additional 3,000 additional acres previously used for hunting north of Shoreline Park will remain off-limits to hunters.

Hennelly gave a brief presentation to the council highlighting the history of hunting on the bay and the conservation efforts of hunters. Taxes on ammunition and permits have raised millions of dollars for acquisition of wetlands and habitat restoration in the bay.

"We're essentially a wildlife preservation group," said Hennelly.

To Mountain View resident Mike Meyers, a duck hunter and a fisherman, the council's reaction is somewhat understandable.

"Some people find it distasteful that some people shoot animals," Meyers said. "But it's a legitimate use of public land, as long as certain safety precautions are taken."

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