Scott appoints 3 new members to the Fish and Wildlife Board

Members of the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board
Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board members listen to public comments before their 2019 board meeting. File photo by Mike Dougherty/VTDigger

Governor Phil Scott has appointed three new members to the state’s Fish and Wildlife Board, which has jurisdiction over hunting and wildlife regulations.

The directors are: Heartland resident Nicholas Burnham, Bennington resident Neil Hogan and Lincoln resident Robert Patterson. Scott also appointed current board member Brad Ferland of Hardwicke as the new chair.

A press release from the governor’s office on Tuesday said all three new members are “enthusiastic about Vermont’s outdoor accommodations, and are involved in activities ranging from cross-country skiing to mentoring new hunters.” “The three cite a love of hunting that began during childhood as a driver of their commitment to conservation.”

Board members serve for a six-year term, not renewable. The appointment process has been a source of controversy recently. Members usually have backgrounds in hunting or hunting, a fact that has been criticized by wildlife advocates who say the painting does not fairly represent the interests of non-hunting Vermonters.

“Under Vermont’s Bear Act, wildlife is a public trust,” said Brenna Galdenzi, Vermont Wildlife Conservation Chief. Public policy is published by 14 members who are all either fishermen, fishermen or fishermen. They make public policy decisions on this common public resource without broad public representation. This is really the main issue.”

Lawmakers attempted to change the appointment process during this year’s legislative session, which ended earlier this month.

As originally described in the bill, M 129, the commissioner of the Fish and Wildlife Department and members of the legislature were to appoint the new board members in place of the governor. This measure would have changed the authority of the board so that the Fish and Wildlife Department, not the board, would have made the rules, and the board would act in an advisory capacity.

While Resolution S.129 will not become law, Chris Herrick, the commissioner of the Department of Fish and Wildlife, said he is awaiting a letter from the Senate Committee on Natural Resources “which will essentially guide the department to demonstrate that it includes voices from non-fishers in our policy making and work on the Fish Board.” and wildlife according to the rules and regulations.”

Herrick said the department already includes non-hunter voices, “but we’ll be clearer about how we do that in the future,” he said.

Galdenzi, wanting to see non-hunters serving at the board, pointed to a study Trend analysis of wildlife value in Vermonters.

Among the survey respondents, 25% identified as “traditional” who “believe in the need to use and manage wildlife for the benefit of man”; 34% identified as “mutual” who “believe wildlife is part of our social network and that we should live in harmony” and 29% said they were “pluralists” who “prioritize these values ​​differently depending on the specific context” . Another 12% said they felt distant from wildlife issues.

Herrick said it’s important for board members to know the specifics of the sport they regulate.

“You really want people who understand what’s going on in the woods, or when you’re getting around, to understand the impact of the policies that you, as a council, are taking,” he said. “The example you used is that you don’t really want non-electricians on the electrical panel.”

He said that board members who fish are able to objectively evaluate fishing policies. For example, he said the council is currently looking into limiting the wolf hunting season.

Herrick said he expects the board to spend the summer implementing two measures passed by the legislature in this session. One would require the board of directors to establish regulations about hunting wolves with dogs, and the other would support management best practices for the use of leg traps.

Burnham, a Heartland appointee who held his first board meeting last week, is a government employee at the Department of Corrections. He said he is a man with a passion for the outdoors, enjoys walking and kayaking with his family, and has been a fishing coach for 10 years. Burnham applied to join the board of directors because it was “another way to give back to something that was important in my life.”

When asked if he’s open to hearing from Vermonters who don’t fish, Burnham said he has an open mind.

“Everyone’s opinion matters, and we may not always agree on everything,” he said.

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