New bills could change dynamic of Vt. Fish and Wildlife

 Courtesy: Vt. Fish and Wildlife-John Hall
Courtesy: Vt. Fish and Wildlife-John Hall (WCAX)
Published: Jan. 18, 2020 at 4:30 PM EST
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The Vermont House will be reviewing two bills that could change the dynamic of the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department.

House Bills 581 and 582 attempt to create a study work group that will come up with different ways the department can be funded and the other will call for a reformation of the department's existing mission statement to place a larger focus on environmental conservation.

House Representative James McCollough introduced the bills, and believes the department is already doing a lot for the environment.

"They've got increased responsibilities now, over twenty years ago," he said, "This isn't a problem created by the department."

The department recognizes the decreasing population of hunters, trappers, and anglers in the state. License fees and taxes has served as the departments main source of funding.

Louis Porter, the Commissioner for the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, says that the department understands the need for change.

"We recognize that as in most states, Vermont has a declining number of hunters," said Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, Louis Porter. "We realize that's happening and that we need to prepare for the future, I think these bills are recognizing that in fact the legislature over the years and others have asked the department to step up and do more different kinds of work and there's a recognition that work has to get paid for."

Wildlife advocates, Protect Our Wildlife, is hopeful that a change to the departments mission statement will mean that other outdoor recreation groups, outside of hunters, will receive a greater focus from the department.

"Attitudes are changing towards wildlife, and wildlife departments have to evolve, in order to remain relevant and augment funding," Brenna Galdenzi, President of Protect Our Wildlife.

Galdenzi believes that a new mission statement will give her agency, and others, more of a say in how the department protects wildlife.

"We don't always have to agree on how we recreate with wildlife, but we do all agree that it's important and our populations should remain healthy and sustainable in the future."

Rep. McCollough is hopeful that these bills will improve the position of the department, as well as the public's view and input for wildlife conservation.

"There is real room for improvement in all avenues that they are doing, that're directly affected by their budget and also directly affected by the mindset," he said.