Kristen Cameron: Fish & Wildlife continues the public comment charade

This commentary is from Kristen Cameron, a resident of Burlington.

Again, the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is simply going through the motions of public participation in recommending changes to hunting and trapping regulations.

It holds hearings and accepts public comments. It then downplays or dismisses opposition by suggesting it comes from people “who are generally against moose hunting” or that the commentators don’t understand the science.

It is the responsibility of Vermont Fish & Wildlife and the Fish & Wildlife Board to at least recognize, consider and address public opinion, especially when it does not support their current “Groupthink” practice. Remember, Vermont Fish & Wildlife’s No. 1 strategy of the Big Game Plan 2020-30 is to “maximize the opportunities for big game hunters”. (See page 52.) The real “big game” is the illusion that the audience is being heard.

In practice, the public is invited to contribute ideas about proposed legislation and regulations. In 2020, Mark Scott, director of Fish & Wildlife, dismissed opposition to the elk hunting plan, claiming it came from people who “as opposed to moose hunting in general.”

This year, Vermont Fish & Wildlife simply avoided acknowledging that 192 of the 194 emails it received from the public opposed moose hunting in 2022. Instead, it focused on one misleading survey question from 2019, highlighting its alleged ignorance. of Vermont residents. †Video of the meeting of April 18, 2022 of the Fish & Wildlife Board.) Scott claimed that “65% of Vermont residents are in favor of preserving a smaller moose population by hunting IF it reduces the number of moose that die each year from winter ticks. Only 15% is against this approach

The big “IF” in this question practically leads to a “yes” answer to protect elk calves. Frankly, I’m surprised that even 15% were against the approach, based on that fallacious research question. It is especially unfair because it implies a positive result for moose, when in fact the density plan is based on an unproven theory.

Furthermore, the graduate thesis research that led to the moose density plan was partially funded ($120,800) by Safari Club International, which is a mouthpiece for trophy hunters. It has funded other studies that are easily decided trophy hunting for polar bears was sustainable and killing nearly half of all bears except 40 was acceptable in MissouriSafari Club International also finances the Inclusive Conservation Group, who, according to some accounts, is involved in disinformation campaigns to promote trophy hunting and wildlife trade. There is good reason to be skeptical of the research Vermont Fish & Wildlife relies on.

Scott also said the public’s biggest “problem” (still not called an opposition) was about ticks and the approach Fish & Wildlife is taking. He pointed to the research using Vermont residents’ self-reported knowledge of moose and ticks, claiming the knowledge was “low.” However, that question shows that nearly half (49%) of Vermont residents are aware of the impact of winter ticks on Vermont’s moose population.

Of course, the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department and the Fish & Wildlife Board shouldn’t be expected to go against sound science just because people make public comments. Even though it went against science and extended the otter trapping season and nearly expanded the bobcat catch a few years ago. These two animals are listed in Vermont as “species of greatest conservation need” and should be protected, not killed for fur or trophies.

This also raises the question of whether Vermont Fish & Wildlife science meets the characteristics of: scientific integrity, including transparency, objectivity, etc. Regardless of what the department and board decide to do, they have a responsibility to honestly consider public sentiment and recognize the opposition. Instead, Fish & Wildlife consistently downplays or dismisses opposition and emphasizes any data or anecdotal information that justifies hunting and trapping as the solution to any problem.

People were against moose hunting in 2022 for a variety of reasons. The overarching concern is that there are a number of other threats moose face, from heat stress to brain worms. Just because the humans disagree with killing moose to kill winter ticks doesn’t mean they are uneducated.

Allowing public comment on hunting and trapping proposals should democratize the process. At the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, it was always the opposite. It is locked to various values ​​and is suitable for trophy hunters and trappers.

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Keywords: 2020-30 Big Game PlanKristen Cameronpublic commentssafari club international


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