By Alex Lippa
---- — PLAISTOW — Hunters may be told to hold their fire in the 490-acre Town Forest.
The Conservation Commission will discuss whether to continue to allow hunting in the forest at its meeting tonight.
The discussion comes after a town employee expressed some safety concerns to Town Manager Sean Fitzgerald.
“I think these conversations need to take place from time to time,” Fitzgerald said. “We are looking at improving recreational trails and to enjoy the unique areas the forest has to offer. There is always room for coordinating these responsibilities with sports enthusiasts and conservationists.”
The topic also is up for discussion because the town received $100,000 to place more than 300 acres of the forest into conservation easement.
“We need to see whether the wording in the easement even allows us to do anything,” Conservation Commission Chairman Jill Senter said. “The question was raised, so we will discuss it and see where it goes.”
The Conservation Commission will make a recommendation on the future of hunting, but selectmen will eventually have the final say. At least two selectmen were against banning hunting in the forest.
“I don’t think you can close the forest to certain people and not allow it for others,” Selectman Joyce Ingerson said. “It’s common sense; wear orange or bright colors when entering the forest.”
Selectman Daniel Poliquin said he was surprised the issue was brought up.
“I don’t think it’s our responsibility as a town to oversee the health and welfare of every individual,” he said. “At some point, they have to be responsible for their own actions.”
Poliquin said hunting is already restricted in Southern New Hampshire.
“More and more areas are being developed,” he said. “It’s becoming more difficult for hunters to find areas locally to go out before and after work and to spend some time in the outdoors, getting some fresh air.”
Area towns have different regulations when it comes to hunting in their town forests. In Salem, hunters can only hunt with a muzzleloader or bow and arrow. Atkinson just permitted bow hunting in March. Plaistow allows residents to hunt with a low caliber pistol, in addition to muzzleloaders or bow and arrows.
Fitzgerald said he spoke with police Chief Stephen Savage about the issue last week.
“We both recognize that it’s an important discussion to have when it comes to public safety,” Fitzgerald said. “We want the public to just be aware that we have recreational activities going on in the town forest as well.”
Senter said safety was a concern to her, but that she was not in favor of banning hunting.
“Maybe we need some more restrictive measures, but the commission will make a recommendation to selectmen, and they will have the final say,” she said.