Christopher Herrick: Wildlife conservation requires respect for differences

This commentary is from Christopher Herrick, Commissioner of the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.

When Vermonters balances our passion for wildlife with a commitment to mutual respect, our state sees results.

The first half of this legislative session illustrates what this approach can achieve. After years of regulatory and legislative stalemate, the House and Senate Natural Resources Committees have worked with the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department to improve bills for wanton waste, trapping, and hunting of coyotes with dogs, expanding their efforts. based on science and a spirit of cooperation.

The designs now pending are designed to balance the values ​​of wildlife activists with those of hunters and trappers, leveraging the expertise of department scientists, game wardens and educators, in addition to elected officials. Together, these bills provide an opportunity to move past Vermont’s recent stalemate over wildlife conservation.

But because Vermonters care so much about wildlife, we must constantly affirm our commitment to respect those whose opinions and values ​​are different from our own.

This commitment has been put to the test in recent weeks. Since the transition of legislation on March 11, I have seen discussions about wildlife management sink to the level of personal attacks, profanity and threats. Wildlife activists, hunters and trappers, elected officials and my own staff have all been targeted and harassed.

As Commissioner of Fish & Wildlife, my job is to remind Vermonters that our state’s wildlife cannot afford this behavior.

Acrimony undermines Vermonters’ focus on the conservation challenges facing five species that were first identified as threatened or endangered this year. It undermines our ongoing work to combat habitat loss and fragmentation in response to development and climate change. Ultimately, it undermines the efforts of my own staff, the citizens who chair the Fish & Wildlife Board, and elected officials who strive to preserve Vermont’s wildlife and habitats for the enjoyment of all.

Preserving wildlife for everyone means working with Vermonters who have incredibly diverse values. Some cherish the knowledge that endangered sturgeons swim in Lake Champlain, even if they never see one. Others build community by sharing meals from bears harvested from a neighbor’s land or beavers trapped in public waters. Still others connect with the ecosystem we are all part of when they hear Canada geese calling during migration. I suspect many Vermonters identify with more than one of these examples.

Some may see this diversity as an invitation to judgement, or as an obstacle to good nature management. I recognize it as one of our state’s greatest assets in achieving lasting, impactful conservation. But to achieve those long-term conservation effects, Vermonters must respect each other, even if the differences in how we value wildlife seem to overshadow the fact that we all really value it.

We’re halfway through the second half of a legislative session with important implications for wildlife conservation in Vermont. With so much at stake, the temptation to dismiss differences will certainly be great. But division is not a basis for good decision-making. If we want to build a sustainable nature policy this spring, we must do so on a common basis.

Let’s remember our shared concern for wildlife and recommit ourselves to a standard of mutual respect as we work to conserve them. This is what Vermont’s wildlife and wild places deserve from us.

Did you know that VTDigger is a non-profit?

Our journalism is made possible by member donations. If you value what we do, please contribute and help keep this vital resource accessible to all.

Filed under:


Keywords: balancing valuesChristopher Herrickhunters and trappersFish and Wildlife in Vermontnature activists


About comments publishes 12 to 18 comments per week from a wide variety of community sources. All comments must include the author’s first and last name, city of residence, and a brief biography, including affiliation with political parties, lobbyists, or special interest groups. Authors are limited to one comment published per month February through May; the rest of the year, the limit is two per month, space permitting. The minimum length is 400 words and the maximum length is 850 words. We require commentators to cite sources for citations, and on a case-by-case basis, we ask writers to substantiate claims. We do not have the resources to verify comments for facts and reserve the right to reject opinions due to taste and inaccuracy. We do not publish comments that are endorsements of political candidates. Comments are community votes and do not represent VTDigger in any way. Please send your comments to Tom Kearney, [email protected]