I recently attended the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules meeting in Montpelier in regard to allowing extending otter season for trappers.
I really wanted to see how the process works. Protect Our Wildlife has been on the forefront of calling out the Fish and Wildlife Department for allowing trappers to put forth frivolous petitions to extend bobcat and otter season.
After much public outcry and advice against the petition from their own fur biologist the Fish and Wildlife Board did vote against the bobcat season extension however they continued to press forward with extending the otter season. They were rebuked in a 4-3 vote by the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules to not grant the extension of the otter season which was one component of the rule, however it takes a 5-7 vote to object to the rule or any part of the rule. Therefore, Vermont’s otter season will be extended.
The public needs to understand that the Fish and Wildlife Department is not accountable to anyone. Even if the legislative committee voted to not allow the rule the Fish and Wildlife Department could still allow the petition to extend otter season. Even the Department of Fish and Wildlife can only advise the board. The board has ultimate authority. They cannot be voted out because the governor appoints them.
It is clear to all that have followed these issues that they are all powerful and have been doing the bidding of the special interests of trappers and hunters. Even one of the senators on the rules committee commented that if the board had just said in the beginning that the petition was for trapper convenience then he would have to vote to allow the petition because that was the job of the Fish and Wildlife Board but the fact that they put forth other reasons such as animal welfare it became apparent that he couldn’t vote to allow the extension of the otter season.
There is much more I would like to say but my words are limited and my only hope is that the public will become more involved and make their own decisions. All Vermonters should have a voice about the wildlife and not just a few special interests that are represented on the board that now are reflected by only hunters and trappers.