Senator Lesser Joins Legislative Hearing on Future of Quabbin Rattlesnake Project

Sen. Eric P. Lesser joined the legislature’s Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Energy at a May 10 oversight hearing on the state’s plan to build a Timber Rattlesnake colony on Mt. Zion, an island in the Quabbin Reservoir. During the hearing, Secretary Beaton apologized for the agency’s lack of public engagement and announced a working group that would study the impact and make an unbiased recommendation to the Baker administration.

“Right now, local residents feel like this plan is just another example of decision makers in Boston not being sensitive to the needs of local communities,” Sen. Lesser said.

The hearing, which was attended by more than 200 people, featured testimony from experts and several state officials responsible for developing and implementing the project, including Secretary of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Matthew Beaton, Department of Fish and Game Commissioner James Peterson, and Division of Fisheries and Wildlife Director Jack Buckley.

“Secretary Beaton’s commitment to slowing the process down and taking a hard look at the impact of this proposed plan on local communities is helpful. We need to understand how this plan will impact the local tourism economy and the health and safety of residents,” Sen. Lesser said.

“The Quabbin Reservoir is an important tourism and recreation destination and our residents rely on it being safe and accessible.”

In late March Sen. Lesser submitted a letter to Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton requesting a freeze in further plans to breed venomous rattlesnakes on Mount Zion Island in the Quabbin Reservoir, pending further legislative oversight.

The letter was co-signed by Quabbin-area legislators, including Senator Anne M. Gobi (D-Spencer), Chair of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, and Representatives Thomas Petrolati (D-Ludlow) and Todd M. Smola (R-Warren), all of whom represent areas surrounding the Quabbin Reservoir.

The plan to breed venomous Timber Rattlesnakes on Mount Zion Island was introduced by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, and has been met with concern from local residents.

The Quabbin Reservoir is the largest inland body of water in Massachusetts, and is one of the largest man-made public water supplies in the United States. The area surrounding the Reservoir serves as a popular recreational area that supports hiking, snowshoeing, hunting and fishing.