Vermont Senate Bill 258 (S.258) would transfer the authority to adopt rules for the taking of fish, wildlife, and fur-bearing animals in Vermont from the Fish and Wildlife Board to the Department of Fish and Wildlife. The bill would also amend the authority of the Fish and Wildlife Board so that it serves in an advisory capacity only to the Department of Fish and Wildlife. In addition, the bill would prohibit the hunting of coyotes with dogs or bait.
Please consider joining the National Deer Association (NDA) in opposing this legislation. S.258 undermines the rulemaking responsibilities of the Fish and Wildlife Board and the qualifications necessary for service on the Board. Both serve as hits to the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. Additionally, S.258 ties on an unrelated predator bill that hinders management objectives of the Department of Fish and Wildlife. CLICK HERE to ask your lawmakers to oppose S.258.
Currently, the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board considers, amends, and votes on rules that govern management of fish and wildlife resources within the state. S.258 strips that authority from the Board, instead giving the Board ‘advisory’ authority only. The bill also injects politics into the Board – the Board would be reduced from 14 members (appointed by the Governor) to 12 members, with four members appointed by the Commissioner, four members appointed by the Speaker of the House, and four members appointed by the Committee on Committees.
Similarly, S.258 would require seats on the Board go “members of the public representing both consumptive uses and nonconsumptive uses of wildlife.” Nonconsumptive uses are defined as “watching, photographing, listening to wildlife, and similar other activities without engaging in hunting, fishing, trapping, or any other form of extraction.” State agencies – Vermont included – are overwhelmingly funded through the purchase of hunting and fishing licenses. These dollars benefit games species, of course, but they also benefit many more non-game species. Unfortunately, we’re seeing multiple states move away from fish and wildlife boards and commissions comprised of conservationists – hunters, anglers and trappers – to those comprised of members with preservationist or protectionist interests. And as we’ve seen in places like Washington and Oregon, the outcomes for wildlife resources and hunters have not been good.
Finally, S.258 also ties on previous stand-alone legislation that would ban the hunting of coyotes with the use of dogs or bait. The NDA strongly believes that wildlife management decision-making should lie in the hands of professional wildlife managers – not legislatures. The Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife is best equipped to make science-based decisions regarding methods of take for coyotes. The NDA views predator and competitor management as an important wildlife management component. It’s not a priority because we don’t appreciate predators and the role they play in wildlife management; rather, we understand that careful management of predator populations is for the greater good of all wildlife and people.