Commentary, Opinion

There’s a hole in Vermont’s memorable brand

By Dan Galdenzi

As Vermonters, we take on a certain reputation — or maybe, more accurately, a set of stereotypes — that come immediately to mind for non-Vermonters.

Whether earned or not, those stereotypes are part of being a resident in this unique community. In fact, there was a study recently that said Vermont was No. 2 out of the 50 states in terms of having a “memorable brand.” Texas was first, in case you were curious.

So, it’s no wonder why people take an outsized interest in our little state when you tell them you’re from here.

Early this week, I was at a work lunch with a group of people from out of state. The gentleman seated next to me, whom I had just met that day, said his image of Vermonters was liberal while being gun-friendly and libertarian while being socially minded. I thought, hmph, that captures us pretty well in a quick, on-the-spot mental dump by someone from the Midwest.

We talked some more, and he mentioned noticing yellow signs on trees everywhere and asked me what that was all about. I explained to him that to prevent hunters from coming onto your property, you must physically post your land and be sure a sign is hung at least every 400 feet. Then, go to your town hall and pay a fee to register your land. But that’s not all! You need to do this again every year.

I shared with him that many hunters just tear the signs down and then, voila!, your property is no longer legally posted, according to the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.

He was, as anyone of sound mind would be, confused by that, and he asked me to repeat it to be sure he understood. “You mean that you have to post your own land to prevent strangers from hunting on it, not the other way around?” Somewhat embarrassed and freshly annoyed by it all, I told him yes, that is how it works here.

He happened to be an avid mushroom forager and he said half-jokingly, “At least I could go anywhere I want in Vermont that’s not posted to hunt for mushrooms!” I had to break it to him that he couldn’t. I let him down easy and told him that he could only do so if he had a hunting license and wanted to kill an animal, not a mushroom. Unfortunately, the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department doesn’t make money on mushroom licenses, but maybe it should!

I informed him that, as strange as it may sound, foraging for mushrooms on private property could get you arrested for trespassing, even if the land wasn’t posted. He shrugged and shook his head in disbelief, and in an attempt to make me feel better, told me that there’s still a law on the books in Wisconsin that says margarine is illegal.

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