Vermont’s Governor Peter Shumlin has signed into law a bill, H.91, that codifies the old North American Model of Conservation principle that wildlife belongs to the people, to be managed by the states with the people’s consent. Field and Stream‘s own Lawrence Pyne has the best story on the new law and the skullduggery that led to its creation. Hint: game farmers enclosing the public’s wildlife, aided by hasty and misguided politicians, made the new law necessary. In a series of ruses that would have delighted Prince Machiavelli, the photogenic once-wild, now-captive Pete the Moose was used in a campaign to privatize your wildlife. The saga began at a domestic elk-shooting farm near Irasburg.
From Pyne’s story in the Burlington Free Press:
Conceding that he and other lawmakers made a mistake last year, Gov. Peter Shumlin signed into law Wednesday legislation that nullifies an amendment a few legislators put into the annual appropriations bill in the final hours of the 2010 session. That amendment stripped the state Fish and Wildlife Department of its authority to regulate a so-called “captive hunting facility” in Irasburg and, worse, it essentially transferred ownership of Pete and scores of other native moose and white-tailed deer trapped in the facility to its owner. He was then free to sell them to the highest rifle-toting bidder, despite a state Fish and Wildlife Board rule crafted with legislative oversight and considerable public input that forbids having native deer in a captive facility for wildlife health reasons.
_The bill the governor signed Wednesday, H.91, not only overturned those provisions, but it also goes two significant steps further: It mandates that, with the exception of Pete, all the moose and whitetails in the high-fence facility be killed within three years, which is the only way to ensure that infectious diseases spread by non-native elk and red deer do not enter native populations; and it set in law once and for all that, “the fish and wildlife of Vermont are held in trust by the state for the benefit of the citizens of Vermont and shall not be reduced to private ownership.”
Take a closer look at the photo, and note that right beside the podium is a copy of Montana’s own Jim Posewitz’ classic “Rifle in Hand: How Wild America was Saved,” the blockbuster history of American hunter-conservationists in the early days. (The photo is courtesy of Orion: the Hunter’s Institute. More on this excellent group later.)
This is a welcome move by the Governor of the state that gave us Don’t Tread on Me and the fighting Green Mountain Boys. Ethan Allen would be mighty proud.
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