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This commentary is by Dan Galdenzi, a resident of Stowe.
If you’ve ever attended a Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board meeting, you’d have the sensation of being whisked away to another time long ago. It’s as if the people in the room have just been unfrozen from a 75-year deep freeze and think they are doing the people’s work from circa 1950.
Let me set the stage. The Fish and Wildlife Board members are political appointees with one board member from each of the 14 counties in Vermont. This board exists to ostensibly represent the people of their respective counties. However, there are no requirements to qualify, other than living in the given county they represent.
Said another way, they are not required to have any skills or knowledge in biology, science, biodiversity or even wildlife. The entire board is made up of hunters and trappers, who represent only 13% and 0.01% of Vermonters, respectively.
The appointment process for the board members is an opaque one. In fact, most of the current appointees never even submitted an application. Although many others did send applications, they never heard back. It seems the one quality they must all possess, in addition to the desire to kill animals, is knowing someone else on the board or at the Fish & Wildlife Department. Cronyism at its finest.
So, while 77% of us are not being represented by our Fish and Wildlife Board appointees, they’re hard at work trying to further the rights of the minority interests they overwhelmingly represent while ignoring petitions, surveys, facts and, really, the entire natural world around them — climate change, biodiversity collapse, animal welfare, and public opinion be damned.
A recent survey the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department conducted asked the question: “Do you support recreational trapping?” Over two-thirds of Vermonters responded, “No.” This was not the outcome the carefully crafted survey questions expected and it caused a wave of concerns inside the echo-chamber of both the Fish & Wildlife Department and its board.
During the most recent Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board meeting on Wednesday, April 5, the department’s commissioner was asked, “What exactly is recreational trapping?” “That’s a misnomer,” the commissioner quipped.
A misnomer? So, the very survey questions his department crafted and approved didn’t have the results they wanted, so instead, the commissioner gaslights the large majority of Vermonters’ opinions as a misnomer. Not surprisingly I suppose, because he too, like his board members, has zero qualifications in biology, science or biodiversity. He is another political appointee of the governor who is in lockstep with the paid trapping lobbyists who roam the halls of the Statehouse.
Let me help the commissioner understand. Recreational trapping is the trapping of animals with leghold traps, body-gripping traps and underwater drowning traps for hobby, tradition or heritage. It is not trapping for property or infrastructure damage, nor is it the trapping for targeted research.
His department goes to great pains to conflate these methods so he can say it’s necessary. It is not. The same trapping hobby that 108 countries and 10 U.S. states have already banned. That’s recreational trapping, Commissioner.
There are two bills in the legislature right now — H.191 and S.111 — that represent the majority of Vermonters’ opinions by putting an end to recreational trapping. If you don’t support recreational trapping, then your Fish and Wildlife Board member does not represent you.