Keep the power with the citizens


Dear Editor,

It may be time for the changing views of Vermonters towards wildlife to be addressed, but bill S.258 will not accomplish it. Currently and historically the 14 members of the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board have been appointed by the governor with input from the Legislature. One seat represents each county. Under S.258 the governor will be stripped of appointments. The appointments would be allocated: Commissioner of Fish and Wildlife (5), The Speaker of the House (5) and the Committee on Committees (5). Somehow, those 15 appointments will be divided across 14 county seats and one at large seat. A perfect set up for gerrymandering. S.258 proposes to force a “balanced” mix of licensed and non-licensed [hunting/fishing/trapping] members. Who will be appointing the licensed and non-licensed? Adding politics where it doesn’t belong is what this will do.

The board will also be stripped of its current authority over Fish and Wildlife rules and the Dept. of Fish & Wildlife will have the authority. The current set up is in place because a half century ago the Legislature acknowledged its lack of expertise around wildlife management and wisely placed it with citizens. Why would we want to make the same mistake again? 

Keep the power with the citizens, not the Legislature.

The anglers, hunters and trappers on the current Fish and Wildlife board are Vermont’s most committed wildlife advocates and conservationists. Don’t think for a second that because they fish, hunt and trap that they don’t have a deep love for all species and understand the challenges of conserving and protecting the people and wildlife of Vermont. 

The starting point for change should be for special interest groups to work with their legislators and donors to find financing and new management structures for the wildlife management they seek, not re-allocate taxes mostly paid by anglers, boaters, shooters and hunters and replace a fish and wildlife management structure that has been successful for over 50 years.

The promoters of S.258 are determined, vocal and have resources. They are truly anti-hunting and trapping, despite their occasional claims about fair-chase.

They should put their effort and money towards future programs that reduce development and vehicle traffic and increase regenerative land use. That will do far more for wildlife in Vermont than S.258 could ever do. 

John Gonter, Burlington and Williston, teaches foraging, fishing, hunting and trapping with Vermont Fish & Wildlife and the Maine Dept. of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

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