By Michael Bielawski
Many Vermonters spoke regarding concerns over new trapping rules developed by the Department of Fish & Wildlife on Thursday evening – including a voice from the state’s indigenous population stating that trapping is “a way of life” for their people.
This was the third public hearing on the subject hosted by the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (LCAR). Next LCAR must vote on the final proposals based on Acts 159 and 165 concerning trapping and coyote hunting respectively.
An Indigenous person speaks
Of 39 speakers, the last scheduled to speak was Jaime Taylor, an Elnu Abenaki Tribal Councilman. He detailed how his people have a long history of trapping.
“We have fought for our hunting rights, fishing rights, and trapping rights,” Taylor said. “As of recently we were given our trapping rights. I’m here today to speak to the fact about trapping as from an indigenous perspective. As the gentleman before me said, this has been going on for generations. My ancestors did this, I do this, my people do this. And now we have the right to do it.
“And now we’re about to lose it. We haven’t even had a chance to do it yet. Trapping is a form of hunting, whether anyone wants to believe it or not. It’s a way of life for indigenous people.”
Traps must be 100 feet away from trails
First to speak was Catherine Gjessing who is general counsel for the Department of Fish & Wildlife. She addressed new setback requirements for traps in regard to Vermont’s numerous trails.
“We expanded the definition to include not just a pedestrian path, multi-uses such as hiking, biking, horseback riding, and the like,” she said. “We also included in that definition the Vermont Rail Trail, The Long Trail, and The Appalachian Trail, all of which have really good websites that really show where those trails are. All of those would be subject to a 50-foot setback.”
Opposition says rules “do not protect” animals, pets, or people
JoAnne Bourbeau, the Northeast Regional Director for Humane Society of the United States spoke in favor of strong restrictions on trapping.
“While the HSUS appreciated being at the table for these conversations, the recommended rule largely ignores the inputs and recommendations of the humane groups that were involved,” she said. “And instead just proposes that trappers and hounders [coyote hunters] use ineffectual self-imposed modifications.”
She continued, “The Fish and Wildlife’s proposed recommendations do not protect wildlife, pets, or the public. And we don’t believe they meet the legislative intent of Acts 159 and 165.”
She suggested that the current proposals are not adequate for assuring that animals are released or killed using the most humane methods.
A Vermont native speaks in favor of trapping
Vermont resident Courtney Ferenc spoke in favor of protecting hunting and trapping rights. She talked about how families that practice hunting and trapping are taught over generations to do these things with care.
“Hunting and trapping is a fundamental part of our lifestyle,” she said. “Our family spends countless hours outside in the woods enjoying this beautiful state, doing all sorts of recreation. Our children have been taught responsibility, ethics, compassion, and many other valuable life lessons while hunting with hounds and while trapping.
“These lifestyles are long-standing family traditions passed from generation to generation. My grandfathers were avid hunters and trappers, my father is an avid hunter and trapper as well, my husband’s family is the same.”
The author is a reporter for the Vermont Daily Chronicle