​Should Wildlife Advocates Help Set Hunting Rules in Vermont?

Legislators in Vermont are considering shaking up the state board that drafts hunting and fishing rules — by adding members who don’t hunt or fish.

The proposal has touched off fierce disagreement between hunters and wildlife protection advocates in a state known for both its progressive politics and its traditional rural culture, steeped for generations in hunting, fishing and trapping.

Supporters of the measure say that decisions affecting the state’s wildlife should be shaped by a board that reflects residents’ diverse perspectives. The proposal cites people who watch, photograph or listen to wildlife as examples of potential new board members, joining hunters, fishermen and trappers.

“Even people who don’t care about wildlife care about democracy, and believe it shouldn’t be a privileged special interest group making policy,” said Brenna Galdenzi, president of Protect Our Wildlife, an advocacy group based in Stowe that has pushed for the bill.

Hunters say there is nothing wrong with the current system: a 14-member volunteer board made up of hunters, trappers and fishermen from every county, appointed by the governor. The board fleshes out detailed regulations based on laws enacted by the Legislature, with input from the public and state scientists.

The proof of its success, they say, is the healthy status of game species in the state.

“Every one is abundant and flourishing, and that’s where the rubber meets the road,” said Chris Bradley, president of the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs. “So what’s the problem?”

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