The Conservation Commission Thursday night approved an amendment to town open-space regulations that could allow for the permit-based hunting of deer on public land in the future.

The aim of such a move, according to the commission's deer management report, would be to cut the deer population in parts of town from roughly 60 animals per square mile to fewer than 20. The report was affirmed in October.

"A controlled hunt," according to the report, "consists of invited hunters hunting the publicly owned parcel for specific days during the hunting season. Specific rules regarding the use of tree stands, points of entry, park closure, etc., shall be established."

Now, a subcommittee will be formed to develop and implement a hunting plan together with the police, conservation commission, town attorney and other stakeholders, said Conservation Director Thomas Steinke. That process, he added, could take more than a year.

"They adopted a provision not for hunting, per se, but for providing for a permit system," Steinke explained. "No one is going out hunting tomorrow."

The commission's vote, which passed 6 to 1, came after a raucous public hearing in which many in attendance expressed disapproval for the conservation commission's deer management subcommittee and its report.

The report cites high local and regional deer populations, car-and-deer collisions, Lyme disease incidents and environmental degradation in town as reasons for introducing hunting.

But some complained that the report used data from outside of Fairfield and felt it unnecessarily took on a deer-versus-human nature. One man denounced it as flawed, faked and belonged in the trash can, according to a Connecticut Post article (Friday, Nov. 20).

"This commission has never even spoken about the fact that these deer are living, conscious beings," said Nancy Rice, a town resident and outreach spokesman for Friends of Animals in Wilton. "They speak as though [deer] are just factors that can be eradicated and killed and erased. It's appalling."

Whether the amendment is implemented will be determined in the coming year. But the process won't start until after the holidays, said Steinke.

"[They've] got to figure out how to select the hunters, as well as where, when and how to close certain areas to public visitors for controlled hunts," he said. "And that's if they choose to do that. Perhaps they'll have more success in helping coordinate private property owners in [deer-curtailing] efforts."