February 7, 2022

Vermont’s Sporting Traditions are at Stake This Thursday

Contact: Joe Mullin, Assistant Manager, Northeastern States

Why it Matters: State fish and wildlife agency boards and commissions have instrumental roles in setting the frameworks that result in the successful conservation and management of a state’s fish, wildlife, and their habitats. Sportsmen and women (including hunters, anglers, recreational shooters, and trappers) have played a crucial role in funding conservation efforts in the United States for over 80 years. The American System of Conservation Funding, a “user pays – public benefits” structure in which those who consumptively use public resources pay for the privilege, and in some cases the right to do so, has served a shining beacon for the management of fish, wildlife, and their habitats. Legislative efforts that restrict their pursuits, such as leghold trapping bans and prohibiting the use of dogs while coyote hunting, have the potential to thwart much-needed financial support away from state fish and wildlife agencies.

On February 10, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Eastern, the Vermont Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy will be hosting a virtual hearing on S. 129, S. 201, and S. 281. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation submitted a letter of opposition on February 1 and has registered to testify against these bills during this week’s hearing. Collectively, this legislation threatens to undermine Vermont’s sporting traditions in equally significant and alarming ways.

If implemented, S. 129 would restructure the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board – an unnecessary move that serves no purpose other than to lead to obstructionism which will, in turn, negatively impact the efficiency of the rulemaking process. S. 129 would eliminate the existing process in which the Governor makes an appointment with the advice and consent of the Senate, and instead implements a system in which the Speaker of the House and the Committee on Committees are entitled to four appointments each. Should an anti-sportsman find himself/herself in such a rank, it would be an opportunity to fill the Board with those who oppose our sporting traditions. One need-only look at the issues surrounding the New Jersey black bear season for a case study on the troubles that commonly result from legislation such as S. 129.

S. 201 intends to prohibit the use of leghold traps, effectively eliminating a tool in the shed of wildlife management. Trapping and other forms of regulated take serve as important components of modern wildlife management in Vermont. The varying instruments used in this practice have all been rigorously evaluated for their efficiency, selectivity, practicality, safety, and animal welfare, and can uniquely address a wide breadth of wildlife management challenges.

Finally, S. 281 would eliminate the use of dogs while pursuing coyotes, wholly undermining the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department’s authority to promulgate regulations on the taking of coyotes. This ignores the Department’s ability to rely on the science-based processes in existence, which accounts for both biological and social data.

CSF looks forward weighing-in during this week’s Committee hearing and outlining the many reasons it has for objecting to S. 129, S. 201, and S. 281. Additional updates will be provided as they are made available.

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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