Fish and Wildlife Board dismisses concerns of wildlife protection organizations

BRATTLEBORO — Wildlife advocates recently presented four petitions at the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board meeting, including a petition to restrict recreational trapping.

Despite the fact that the petitions were submitted to Fish & Wildlife in February, we petitioners were contacted only one week prior to the June board meeting and were told that we had to attend in person if we wanted to participate.

Fish & Wildlife staff responded to the petitions with presentations that were not so much responses as they were orchestrated takedowns of the petitioners which sought to challenge our credibility.

Additionally, a prior board member (a former president of the Vermont Trappers Association) whose term expired in February, was brought back on for June's vote - his county seat remains vacant. Vermont statute states that reappointments are not allowed. This member lamented that people come to Vermont from other states and want to change trapping laws. Not surprisingly, he voted no on our petition.

Trappers comprise about 0.15 percent of the Vermont public and have been over-represented on this board, which includes no one from the wildlife protection community.

Protect Our Wildlife contracted with the highly respected University of Vermont's Center for Rural Studies (UVM CRS) to survey Vermonters about their position on trapping. The results indicated that 75 percent of respondents wanted to ban leg-hold and body-gripping traps.

Fish & Wildlife claims the survey question led the public to a desired response, so the agency is critiquing UVM's survey methodology. Yet, the state agency has a $125,000 contract with Responsive Management, a company that creates trapping surveys for fish and wildlife agencies nationwide.

To protest that Protect Our Wildlife contracted with UVM CRS (an unbiased party) for our survey, while not disclosing who conducts theirs, is disingenuous at best and reeks of political pandering to trappers.

Change is certainly coming - but will it arrive too late for Vermont's wildlife?

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