Kristen Cameron: Fish & Wildlife continues public comment charade

This comment is from Burlington resident Kristen Cameron.

Again, the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department only goes through public participation motions when recommending changes to hunting and trapping regulations.

It holds hearings and accepts comments from the public. Then he downplays or dismisses the opposition by suggesting that it comes from people “opposed to moose hunting in general” 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 acknowledge, consider, and address public opinion, especially when it does not support their current practice of “thinking of band”. Remember, Vermont Fish & Wildlife’s Big Game Plan 2020-30 Strategy #1 is to “maximize 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 give their opinion on proposed rules and regulations. In 2020 Mark Scott, director of Fish & Wildlife, dismissed opposition to the moose hunting plan, saying it came from people who were “opposed to moose hunting in general.”

This year, Vermont Fish & Wildlife simply avoided acknowledging that 192 of 194 emails it received from the public were opposed to the 2022 moose hunt. Instead, it focused on an issue of misleading survey of 2019 and pointed to the alleged ignorance of Vermont residents. (Video of the April 18, 2022 meeting of the Fish & Wildlife Board.) Scott claimed that “65% of Vermont residents support maintaining a smaller moose population through hunting IF it reduces the number of moose that die each year from ticks. of winter. Only 15% oppose this approach.”

The big “IF” in this question practically leads to a “yes” answer to protect moose calves. Honestly, I’m surprised that even 15% opposed the approach, based on this misleading survey question. This is all the more dishonest as it implies a positive result for moose when the density plan is, in fact, based on an unproven theory.

Additionally, the graduate thesis research that led to the moose density plan was partially funded ($120,800) by International Safari Club, which is a mouthpiece for trophy hunters. He funded further studies which conveniently decided polar bear trophy hunting was sustainable and killing nearly half of all but 40 bears was acceptable in Missouri. International Safari Club also funds the Inclusive Conservation Group, who, according to some accounts, is involved in disinformation campaigns to promote trophy hunting and the wildlife trade. There are good reasons to be skeptical of the research Vermont Fish & Wildlife relies on.

Scott also said the biggest “problem” (not to call it opposition) from the public is about ticks and the approach Fish & Wildlife is taking. He pointed to the survey of Vermont residents’ self-reported knowledge of moose and ticks and said knowledge was “low.” However, this 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 expect to go against sound science just because people make public comments. Even though it went against science and extended otter trapping season and almost extended bobcat trapping a few years ago. Both of these animals are listed as “species of most conservation importance” in Vermont and should be protected, not killed for their fur or trophies.

It also calls into question whether the science of Vermont Fish & Wildlife meets the characteristics of scientific integrity, including transparency, objectivity, etc. Regardless of what the ministry and council decide to do, they have a responsibility to honestly consider public opinion and must acknowledge opposition. Instead, Fish & Wildlife consistently downplays or dismisses opposition and highlights any anecdotal data or information justifying hunting and trapping as the solution to any problem.

People opposed the 2022 moose hunt for several reasons. The main concern is that there are a number of other threats moose face, from heat stress to brainworm. Just because people don’t agree with the idea of ​​killing moose to kill winter ticks doesn’t mean they aren’t educated.

Allowing the public to comment on hunting and trapping proposals should democratize the process. At the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, it has always been the opposite. It is closed at different values ​​and is aimed at trophy hunters and trappers.

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Key words: 2020-30 Big Game Plan, Kristen Cameron, public comments, international safari club


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