From the February 21, 2024 Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board meeting in Montpelier, Vermont.

All last week, the Vermont Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy heard testimony on Senate Bill 258, an act related to the management of fish and wildlife. The bill includes provisions that would end coyote baiting and hunting with dogs, strengthen the state’s new trapping regulations by requiring all traps to be set at least fifty feet from trails and other places people are expected to recreate. Most importantly for all future wildlife policy decisions, S.258 would also change the rule making authority of the Fish and Wildlife Board and the way its members are appointed. It would also require any member to be knowledgeable and informed with the best science on wildlife issues and required to learn about wildlife conflict resolution and the impact of climate change on our wildlife.

Vermont Wildlife Patrol was just one of many voices speaking from the experience of feeling unheard by the current board. I provided the Senate Committee with links to nine different board meetings where I provided comment on issues before the board. On February 21, 2024 at the board’s monthly meeting, I testified that all of Vermont’s wildlife was not abundant and flourishing, in response to the Commissioner of Fish and Wildlife’s testimony earlier that day to the Senate Committee that it was. I cited lynx, eastern cougar, gray wolf, caribou, marten and fisher as native Vermont species that have yet to fully recover in the state. Fisher now being threatened by rodenticide poisoning in addition to the continued loss of habitat and a statewide no bag limit trapping season.

Link to Vermont Wildlife Patrol’s and other citizen’s testimony on S.258:

Testimony of Addison County resident to Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy on February 22, 2024.

Ironically, after my public comments were received the board heard a report on the proposed 2024 waterfowl hunting season that included an update on eastern mallard populations which have declined 38% percent since 1998. The decrease in breeding pairs of Vermont mallards led to a reduction in the bag limit from four to two birds a day for three years. Various factors are suspectedly responsible for the decline, hybridization with game farm raised ducks, habitat fragmentation, increased hay-cutting in nesting areas and hunting are possibly all to blame for the alarming reduction in this iconic species.

At the February board meeting, I also called out the acting chair and board representative from Orange County, Michael Bancroft for not having approached Vermont Wildlife Patrol to discuss any of the issues that I’ve brought up at board meetings. I said that the lack of other people from Orange County attending board members begged the question, who was he listening too if not my own voice? At the break, Bancroft approached me to humbly thank me for calling him out and acknowledged that he had spoken to no other constituents from Orange County and indeed it was time for a discussion. No Vermonter should have to wait a year for their voices to be heard by any representative.

Testimony of West Glover resident to Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy on February 22, 2024.

At the heart of S.258 is a legislative desire to remedy the fact that many Vermonters who do not hunt, trap or fish do not feel represented or heard by the current board, who predominantly are hunters and trappers appointed by Governor Phil Scott. In the last year of attending board meetings, petitions presented by wildlife advocates are routinely denied while petitions that increase hunting and trapping opportunities are readily approved. S.258 would limit the number of board members the governor could appoint while preventing any majority of members from any particular stakeholder group, such as exists with the current board.

Two six-year board terms expire in February 2024, for Essex and Grand Isle Counties.

We encourage all Vermonters to access the hours of testimony given for and against S.258 to better make your own informed decision on whether you believe a new fish and wildlife board is warranted. Perhaps no better opportunity exists for Gov. Phil Scott to prove that the current board demographic is truly representative of Vermont, thank with his soon appointment of two new board members for Essex and Grand Isle Counties. Both board terms expire at the end of February 2024. Vermont Wildlife Patrol challenges the governor to be fair and impartial in his appointment of new Fish and Wildlife Board members.

Support S.258!

Wildlife Deserves A Better Voice

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