by Terry Williams
The Fish and Wildlife Board was established in 1961 and is a separate body from the Fish and Wildlife Department. In most cases, it votes on, or amends, proposals brought to it by the department. But on occasion it has prompted the department to consider ideas raised by the public; however, the board has no control over the department’s budget or operations.
I remember when the board came about. I was at Durrum’s Gun Shop in Poultney with my father. He and a lot of his friends were there talking about getting control of the deer herd away from the legislature and into the hands of the citizens of Vermont. There was not a lot of support the hunting of doe deer and the citizenry were upset by the Fish and Game Department decision to have a doe season. I remember a local farmer stating; “I can’t improve my dairy herd by killing the cows”. That battle is still raging, to some extent, in the small Vermont towns, although science has proven that the Fish and Game Department biologists of the time were correct.
In 1984, both the department’s and board’s name was changed to Fish and Wildlife, and in 2004 the board was expanded to 14 members, with one member coming from each of Vermont’s 14 counties.
Currently, the Fish and Wildlife board is made up of ordinary Vermonters who are considered practitioners of wildlife management by their peers. They represent a grassroots level of control of a Vermont tradition. They are not necessarily schooled in the sciences, but represent local, public opinion and their practical views and experience add to the decision making process-not emotion or politics. The current system of the Fish and Wildlife board is working, so why do we need to fix it?
Passage of H.167, in my opinion, will create an unnecessary, additional layer of bureaucracy to the process and is an attempt by the legislature to regain control of hunting, fishing and trapping and wildlife and reward their cronies by an appointment to this new committee. Under current proposal of this bill, there will be only one member of the Fish and Wildlife board on this newly developed committee. Passage of H.167 will signal the end of the Fish and Wildlife board and the loss of more of our Vermont traditions and liberty.
The Fish and Wildlife board decisions have added to the successes of the department and to the benefit of wildlife and habitat. I do not support H.167 and will tell my representatives and senators not to support it. I hope that you will do the same.
The author is a Poultney resident and former candidate for the Vermont State Senate from Rutland County.