Barbara Felitti: It’s time to ban leisure and fur trapping

This commentary is by Barbara Felitti, a resident of Huntington who retired after working for 28 years on the Institute for Sustainable Communities in Montpelier and as a advisor for worldwide group growth and NGO help work.

It’s time for the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Division and elected state officers to behave on the needs of nearly all of Vermonters and ban leisure and fur trapping for furbearers (bobcat, otter, fisher, coyotes, beaver, pink and grey fox, muskrat, raccoon, opossum, weasel, mink and skunk).

Fish & Wildlife just lately commissioned a survey of Vermont residents on furbearer trapping. A majority of Vermonters oppose leisure and fur trapping — 68% disapprove of leisure trapping (solely 26% approve) and 62% disapprove of fur trapping (solely 31% approve). That is per the 2017 Vermont Middle for Rural Research survey discovering that 75% of Vermonters need trapping banned. (See web page 49 of the draft doc “Vermont Residents’ Attitudes Towards Furbearer Management” 2022 by Responsive Administration. The doc was obtained from Fish & Wildlife by a public data request.)

So why are Fish & Wildlife and elected officers ignoring the needs of a majority of Vermonters?

Arguments towards a leisure and fur trapping ban fall alongside some predictable strains:

  • Custom. Trapping is a Vermont “tradition.” However, traditions can and do change with time. Dogfighting and cockfighting were once “traditions” that are actually banned all through the U.S., as they had been acknowledged as a type of legalized animal abuse. There isn’t any reliable want within the 21st century for trapping wildlife in painful methods so somebody can kill them for recreation or fur. 
  • Flatlanders. Some really feel should you haven’t lived in Vermont for generations, you shouldn’t attempt to change traditions. This ignores the truth that some hunters and lifelong Vermonters are a part of the 62% to 68% supporting a leisure and fur trapping ban.

    Moreover, I appear to have missed the place within the Vermont Structure the place rights are assigned to individuals primarily based on how lengthy they’ve lived within the state. Are individuals who haven’t lived in Vermont for generations second-class residents? 

  • Misdirection. Inevitably, the difficulty of banning leisure and fur trapping raises the subject of the a lot maligned beaver and injury to infrastructure. Nuisance injury from beavers could be managed in nonlethal methods. Extra importantly, banning leisure and fur trapping underneath 10 App. V.S.A. § 44 is not going to disallow nuisance trapping underneath 10 V.S.A. § 4828. 
  • Assured rights. Fish & Wildlife’s web site wrongfully states that trapping is protected by the Vermont Structure. It isn’t. The structure ensures the correct to “hunt and fowl,” which have distinctly totally different definitions than trapping underneath Vermont rules. 
  • “Detractors.” Sadly some Fish & Wildlife workers see disagreements with division coverage as having to cope with “detractors” who’re discrediting their work (Fish & Wildlife workers electronic mail Oct. 20, 2021, obtained by a public data request). This can be a disingenuous and dismissive response by public officers that ignores the reliable proper of residents to query and petition for adjustments to division coverage. 

Sadly, ignoring majority public opinion on trapping extends to the Legislature. Final legislative session, S.201 proposed a ban on leghold traps. As an alternative of a ban, the Legislature handed a invoice to ascertain “best management practices” for trapping. Trappers in a working group to advise on greatest administration practices wouldn’t even conform to restrict killing of trapped animals to gunshot solely. They nonetheless need to have the ability to use inhumane strategies — for instance, bludgeoning, stomping, or choking — to kill trapped wildlife. A greatest administration practices-approved leghold lure can nonetheless maim an animal and won’t stop indiscriminate trapping of pet canines and cats, raptors, or endangered species. Is that this actually “best”? 

Trapping greatest administration practices are an oxymoron and a misdirection. It’s an try to make an inhumane exercise sound extra acceptable. Ought to we have now greatest administration practices for dogfighting slightly than banning it? 

Going ahead, I’ve considerations about how Fish & Wildlife will report the survey outcomes primarily based on the division’s previous misrepresentations of public remark to residents and legislators, in addition to my very own direct expertise. It took me 16 months of persistent communications with Fish & Wildlife, the governor’s workplace, Company of Pure Sources and an ethics criticism to right inaccurate statements in Fish & Wildlife’s Massive Sport Administration Plan 2020-2030. 

It was a easy request to take away two sentences that didn’t precisely replicate public remark acquired by the division and that didn’t in any approach have an effect on the report suggestions. Repeated contacts with Commissioner Herrick on the difficulty acquired no response. That is all of the extra disturbing as a result of he has stated that everyone must “dial it down a bit” on differing views of Fish & Wildlife coverage. Being ignored most assuredly doesn’t dial it down. 

The report was lastly corrected, however not with out the governor’s authorized counsel utilizing the detractors argument about “personal insults” and “incivility” towards Fish & Wildlife workers. In my view, Fish & Wildlife’s 16-month refusal to take away info in a public report that was clearly recognized to them as inaccurate was willful misrepresentation and undermining of public belief. I see this as an moral lapse. It seems that to the Company of Pure Sources and the governor’s workplace, that is maligning Fish & Wildlife’s good work. 

Wildlife is held in belief for all Vermonters. Gov. Scott just lately wrote of the necessity to “listen.” I agree. The governor, Fish & Wildlife and legislators have to pay attention and cease dismissing the reliable viewpoints of nearly all of Vermonters about trapping, and act to ban leisure and fur trapping. Do we actually have too many bobcats in Vermont? 

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