In Vermont, the Fish and Wildlife Board (FWB) makes regulations for hunting, trapping and fishing. While they are given advice and recommendations from the State Fish and Wildlife Department (FWD), they are not required to implement those recommendations. “A trapper’s request to extend the bobcat trapping season was not recommended by FWD biologists back in 2016, and the request was only narrowly defeated as nearly half of the FWB members voted against the biologist’s recommendation,” said Brenna Galdenzi, Protect Our Wildlife President (POW) & Co-founder.
“In Vermont, we have a fish and wildlife board that represents the interests of only a narrow slice of Vermont residents. Despite the fact that the Vermont constitution says that, ‘…the fish and wildlife of Vermont are held in trust by the State for the benefit of the citizens of Vermont…,’ the board has historically been comprised solely of only hunters, anglers, trappers and business owners who benefit from those activities, despite these groups representing a narrow portion of Vermont’s population,” said Lisa Jablow, POW Board member.
Wildlife advocates state that the FWB is making public policy decisions on a shared public resource—wildlife—without broad representation from the public. Their hope is that with three vacancies on the board, there is an opportunity to appoint members who respect the wildlife public trust doctrine and understand they are to represent all Vermonters, not just a narrow segment.
Derby resident, Walter Medwid, acts as an advisor to POW on wildlife governance matters and shared, “There is no debate within the wildlife profession and the majority of the public that it is time for the public to have standing in decision-making over wildlife, a public asset by law. Those values held by the public must be reflected in the people chosen to serve on the board. It defies the law and it defies democratic process to keep the public on the outside looking in.”
POW asks that the governor broaden the board to ensure that it represents the views of all people in the state. This builds on the idea that the state manages these resources in the public trust for all Vermonters, not just license holders. POW recommends the appointment of board members who are trained in biodiversity conservation—not game management—and understand the modern extinction crisis and the role of science in decision-making. The appointees should understand and support the need to conserve fish and wildlife, and to adjust policies to changing conditions, such as climate change and to Vermont’s changing attitudes towards wildlife, including a desire for better protections and more humane standards. Galdenzi shared, “The time is long overdue for a member of the wildlife protection community to have a seat on this board.”
Protect Our Wildlife is Vermont’s #1 all-volunteer wildlife advocacy nonprofit organization. Their mission is to make Vermont a more humane place for wildlife. To get involved or learn more go to www.ProtectOurWildlifeVT.org.
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