This commentary is by Chris Bradley, president of the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs.
If you are wondering about the title of this commentary, it’s a phrase that best describes the status of Vermont’s game species, and there can be absolutely no mistake who we have to thank for that. Ensuring that our game species thrive is the responsibility of the Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife and the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board.
As a quick review: The department not only enforces the F&W rules and regulations. Among other things, it also monitors, collects and gathers data on Vermont’s numerous game species. The department’s biologists, experts and dedicated staff review and analyze that data, and from that analysis they gain a solid understanding of how our species are doing.
By following the science, the cepartment may determine that changes should be considered with Vermont’s F&W rules and regulations, and if so, the suggested change(s) are then forwarded to the F&W Board.
The F&W Board itself is comprised of 14 outdoor-knowledgeable volunteers who are also generally sportspeople, one from each county, with each person appointed by the governor to serve staggered six-year terms. This board is responsible for implementing changes to F&W rules and regulations, which it does only after holding extensive statewide hearings, all of which are open to the public. If there is something the board decides should change, all changes must be subsequently reviewed and approved by the Legislative Committee on Rules.
It’s a proven system that works and obviously works well, with the proof being that all our game species are: Abundant and Flourishing.
With such demonstrable success that all Vermonters can be proud of, one may wonder just why there seems to be a never-ending litany of attacks on the F&W Department, F&W Board, commissioner, their exceptional staff or their rules and regs., such as what was recently espoused in a commentary on July 16 titled “Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board tilted towards trappers.”
If the F&W board members are “tilted” toward trapping, it is because they are highly intelligent people — people who are exceptionally knowledgeable about the outdoors; people who recognize that game species must be managed; people who rightfully recognize that trapping is an extremely effective management tool.
They additionally understand that Vermonters highly value our heritage and traditions, not to mention that they know Vermonters have a constitutional right to hunt, fowl and fish. They are correct to listen to, but then set aside, the demands of a small group that wants nothing less than a complete, total and immediate cessation of Vermont’s outdoor traditions and heritage.
I guess I can understand why some would detest the thought of an animal being caught in a trap. Then again, it is a simple truth that animals typically do not die peacefully in nature.
In a similar vein, I imagine there are people who do not like catching fish with hooks, hunting deer with a bow, hunting game with black powder, hunting animals using dogs, or any hunting at all.
When asked about trapping, and due to how a given question may be phrased: Many people will opine that they do not support trapping. They may even remain steadfast in that opinion, up until the time the road they need to drive on is washed out, the bridge that they must cross is washed away, their land is flooded and eroded away, their crops are lost, their livestock is killed, or their taxes or insurance increases to cover damage.
I myself find it interesting that there is a focus on “recreational trapping” as being “bad” (thereby attempting to paint trappers as barbaric heathens), while at the same time recognizing that trapping will always be one of the most effective means of management for some species. For example: Consider H.172, a bill whose lead sponsor openly states is a “trapping ban,” even while it creates a special license scheme to allow for nuisance trapping.
I have news: The vast majority of hunters in Vermont may hunt, fowl or fish for any number of reasons, but most do not really have to for survival, so the majority must be doing it for “recreation.”
In considering any ban on trapping, we should look very closely to Massachusetts and all that has happened since that state began a ban on trapping in 1975. In response, beaver population more than tripled above the state’s own management goal; there were untold millions in infrastructure damage; and complaints of beaver damage also almost tripled. Now, and even though it has “banned” trapping, trapping still occurs in untold numbers under the moniker of “nuisance trapping,” with anecdotal evidence pointing at more beavers being trapped than ever before.
Trapping is a useful and needed wildlife management tool, just like hunting is.