Doug Mccullough finishes a hike at the wildlife management area on Snake Mountain in Addison. But soon some of his favorite outdoor activities may be banned in certain parts of the state.
"It's too hard to make a call whether it is a good thing or bad thing," he said.
The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department wants to regulate land use at its 88 wildlife management areas, covering 133,000 acres. The goal to protect wildlife and the safety of people visiting the areas.
"We want the public to use these properties, but we also need a legal mechanism to make sure we can control and manage these activities," said John Austin with the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.
Hiking, fishing and hunting would still be allowed under the proposed rule change. Activities like ATV riding, snowmobiling, mountain biking, rock climbing and horseback riding would be prohibited, but exceptions are expected to be granted.
"We may set up seasonal restriction so bicycles weren't going through during hunting seasons," said Austin.
"The last thing you want to see are trails being taken away," said Ryan Thibault of Mountain Bike Vermont.
At first, the mountain biking community in the state had major concerns about the rule change. But now they feel it will help the sport as it becomes more popular.
"It puts all info in the table, we can assess where we are currently with mountain biking in the state and where we are going," said Thibault.
"VAST supports this proposed rule," said VAST executive director Alexis Nelson.
VAST says the rule change will help riders better identify where they should and shouldn't be riding.
"As long as we stay on designated corridors and continue with our mission, we have a great working relationship with fish and wildlife and hope to continue with that, and I think through the cooperation we will continue to be able to snowmobile in these areas," commented Nelson.
The rule change still must survive two more votes by the Fish & Wildlife Department and the legislature. Doug McCullough is curious if it passes how he will be impacted.
"Because I ride all around Vermont, the odds are pretty good as far as mountain biking is concerned," he commented.
A public hearing will be held Thursday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Kehoe Conservation Camp in Castleton. You can also comment on the proposed rule change on the Fish & Wildlife Department's website.
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