BILL AS INTRODUCED H.91
2011 Page 1 of 9 VT LEG 260502.1
Introduced by Representatives Deen of Westminster, Webb of Shelburne,
Andrews of Rutland City, Atkins of Winooski, Bohi of
Hartford, Botzow of Pownal, Branagan of Georgia, Browning
of Arlington, Consejo of Sheldon, Dickinson of St. Albans
Town, Donahue of Northfield, Donovan of Burlington, Evans
of Essex, Fisher of Lincoln, Gilbert of Fairfax, Grad of
Moretown, Helm of Fair Haven, Jerman of Essex, Keenan of
St. Albans City, Kitzmiller of Montpelier, Klein of East
Montpelier, Koch of Barre Town, Krebs of South Hero, Lenes
of Shelburne, Martin of Wolcott, McCullough of Williston,
Mrowicki of Putney, Nease of Johnson, Potter of Clarendon,
Pugh of South Burlington, Taylor of Barre City, Till of Jericho,
Townsend of Randolph, Waite-Simpson of Essex and Wilson of
Referred to Committee on
Subject: Fish and wildlife; management of wildlife
Statement of purpose: This bill proposes to declare 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. The bill would also declare that
the fish and wildlife of Vermont are owned and controlled 1 by the state in its
sovereign capacity as the trustee for the citizens of the state. The bill would
repeal the regulatory authority of the agency of agriculture, food and markets
over the wild cervidae at a captive cervidae farm in Irasburg. Regulatory
authority over the wild cervidae at the Irasburg facility would be transferred to
the department of fish and wildlife. In addition, the bill would make
permanent the transfer to the fish and wildlife board of regulatory authority
over the state deer herd by repealing the reversion of such authority to the
An act relating to the management of fish and wildlife
It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:
Sec. 1. FINDINGS
The general assembly finds and declares:
(1) The protection, propagation, control, management, and conservation
of the wildlife of Vermont are in the best interest of the public.
(2) Exposure of wildlife to domestic animals, as that term is defined in
6 V.S.A. § 1151, increases the risk that a disease or parasite, such as chromic
wasting disease, is introduced into or spread to the wildlife of Vermont.
(13) To prevent the introduction or spread of 1 a disease or parasite to the
wildlife of Vermont, white-tailed deer and moose should not be entrapped in
facilities that contain domestic animals.
(4) If white-tailed deer or moose is entrapped in a facility that contains
domestic animals, the owner of the facility should consult with the department
of fish and wildlife or the agency of agriculture, food and markets in order to
determine the best method for complying with relevant state rules regarding
removal of the entrapped white-tailed deer or moose.
(5) To preserve the health of the wildlife of Vermont, all owners of
facilities with domestic animals should remove entrapped white-tailed deer or
moose and work to prevent future entrapment.
Sec. 2. 10 V.S.A. § 4081 is amended to read:
§ 4081. POLICY
(a) It is the policy of the state that the (1) As provided by Chapter II,
Article 67 of the Vermont Constitution, 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. The state of Vermont, in its sovereign
capacity as a trustee for the citizens of the state, shall have ownership,
jurisdiction, and control of all of the fish and wildlife of Vermont.
(2) The commissioner of fish and wildlife shall manage and regulate the
fish and wildlife of Vermont in accordance with the requirements of this part
and the rules of the fish and wildlife board. The 1 protection, propagation
control, management, and conservation of fish, wildlife, and fur-bearing
animals in this state is in the interest of the public welfare, and that
safeguarding of the state, through the commissioner of fish and wildlife, shall
safeguard this valuable resource for the people of the state requires a constant
and continual vigilance.
(b) Notwithstanding the provisions of section 2803 of Title 3 V.S.A.
§ 2803, the fish and wildlife board shall be the state agency charged with
carrying out the purposes of this subchapter.
(c) An abundant, healthy deer herd is a primary goal of fish and wildlife
management. The use of a limited unit open season on antlerless deer shall be
implemented only after a scientific game management study by the fish and
wildlife department supports such a season.
(d) Annually, the department shall update a scientific management study of
the state deer herd. The study shall consider data provided by department
biologists and citizen testimony taken under subsection (f) of this section.
(e) Based on the results of the updated management study and citizen
testimony, the board shall decide whether an antlerless deer hunting season is
necessary and if so how many permits are to be issued. If the board determines
that an antlerless season is necessary, it shall adopt a rule creating one and the
department shall then administer an antlerless program.
(f) Annually, the department shall hold regional 1 public hearings to receive
testimony and data from concerned citizens about their knowledge and
concerns about the deer herd. The board shall identify the regions by rule.
(g) If the board finds that an antlerless season is necessary to maintain the
health and size of the herd, the department shall administer an antlerless deer
program. Annually, the board shall determine how many antlerless permits to
issue in each wildlife management unit. For a nonrefundable fee of $10.00 for
residents and $25.00 for nonresidents a person may apply for a permit. Each
person may submit only one application for a permit. The department shall
allocate the permits in the following manner:
(1) A Vermont landowner, as defined in section 4253 of this title, who
owns 25 or more contiguous acres and who applies shall receive a permit for
antlerless hunting in the management unit on which the land is located before
any are given to people eligible under subdivision (2) of this subsection. If the
land is owned by more than one individual, corporation or other entity, only
one permit shall be issued. Landowners applying for antlerless permits under
this subdivision shall not, at the time of application or thereafter during the
regular hunting season, post their lands except under the provisions of section
4710 of this title. If the number of landowners who apply exceeds the number
of permits for that district, the department shall award all permits in that
district to landowners by lottery.
(2) Permits remaining after allocation pursuant 1 to subdivision (1) of this
subsection shall be issued by lottery.
(3) Any permits remaining after permits have been allocated pursuant to
subdivisions (1) and (2) of this subsection shall be issued by the department for
a $10.00 fee for residents. Ten percent of the remaining permits may be issued
to nonresident applicants for a $25.00 fee.
Sec. 3. REPEAL OF DORMANT STATUTORY REQUIREMENTS FOR
MANAGEMENT OF THE DEER HERD
(a) 10 V.S.A. §§ 4743 (relating to muzzle loader season), 4744 (relating to
bow and arrow season), and 4753 (relating to annual deer limit), as suspended
by Sec 5(a) of No. 136 of the Acts of the 2003 Adj. Sess. (2004) § 5(a) and by
Sec. 2 of No. 97 of the Acts of the 2007 Adj. Sess (2008), shall be repealed
July 1, 2011.
(b) Sec. 7(c) (repeal of transfer to the fish and wildlife board of
management authority over deer herd) of No. 136 of the Acts of the 2003 Adj.
Sess. (2004), as amended by No. 97 of the Acts of the 2007 Adj. Sess (2008),
shall be repealed July 1, 2011.
Sec. 4. REPEAL OF TRANSFER OF REGULATORY 1 AUTHORITY OVER
CAPTIVE CERVIDAE FACILITY
Sec. E.702.1 of No. 156 of the Acts of the 2009 Adj. Sess. (2010) (transfer
of regulatory oversight over captive cervidae facility to the agency of
agriculture, food and markets) is repealed.
Sec. 5. TRANSITION
(a) For purposes of this section, "relevant captive hunt facility" shall mean
a captive cervidae facility subject to the requirements of Sec. E.702.1 of
No. 156 of the Acts of the 2009 Adj. Sess. (2010) prior to repeal under Sec. 3
of this act.
(b) Upon repeal of Sec. E.702.1 of No. 156 of the Acts of the 2009 Adj.
Sess. (2010) under Sec. 3 of this act, the jurisdiction and regulatory authority
over a relevant captive hunt facility is transferred from the agency of
agriculture, food and markets to the department of fish and wildlife.
(c) Upon transfer of jurisdiction and regulatory authority to the department
of fish and wildlife under subsection (b) of this section, a relevant captive hunt
facility shall be required to comply with the department of fish and wildlife's
rule governing the importation and possession of animals for taking by
hunting, except that:
(1) upon transfer of regulatory authority to the department of fish and
wildlife, a relevant captive hunt facility that is complying with the
requirements of Sec. E.702.1 of No. 156 of the 1 Acts of the 2009 Adj. Sess.
(2010) and the agency of agriculture, food and markets' rules governing
captive cervidae shall be deemed to be in substantial compliance with the
department of fish and wildlife's rule governing the importation and
possession of animals for taking by hunting;
(2) wild cervidae entrapped at the captive facility shall remain at the
facility until the owner of a relevant captive hunt facility and the commissioner
of fish and wildlife agree to a final disposition of the wild cervidae entrapped
at the facility;
(3) the owner of a relevant captive hunt facility shall not allow wild
cervidae at the facility to escape or be released from the facility;
(4) the wild cervidae entrapped at a relevant captive hunt facility shall
be subject to hunt during an applicable season set by the fish and wildlife
board, provided that no fee is charged for the right to hunt wild cervidae
entrapped in the facility and provided that the owner of the facility may post
his or her land according to 10 V.S.A. § 5201 and may restrict access for
hunting to the facility.
Sec. 6. EFFECTIVE DATE
(a) This section and Secs. 1 (findings), 4 (repeal of transfer of regulatory
authority over captive cervidae facility) and 5 (transition of regulatory
authority over captive cervidae facility) of this 1 act shall take effect upon
(b) Secs. 2 (policy for management of fish and wildlife) and 3 (repeal of
dormant deer herd management statutes) shall take effect on July 1, 2011.
H.91 Position Statement
The Vermont Bearhound Association's (VBA) position is to express our strong concern regarding the transfer of native wildlife held in trust by the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department for all citizens of Vermont, to private ownership through the Fiscal Year 2011 appropriations bill (H.789). Section B.702.1(9) of this bill contains language that transfers regulatory authority of illegally taken native deer and moose from the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department to the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets and permits an individual citizen, Mr. Doug Nelson, to own those wild animals, that rightfully belong to all the citizens of Vermont. This unprecedented giveaway of public wildlife resources to a single individual for personal gain is likely to have negative implications on wildlife management within Vermont and beyond.
The VBA was founded in 1976. The VBA mission is to represent and serve wildlife professionals, scientist, technicians, and practitioners actively working to study, manage and conserve native and desired non-native wildlife and their habitats worldwide.
Ever since the United States Supreme Court ruled in 1842 that the public in New Jersey had a common right to take oysters and fish in navigable and tidal waters because they were the property of the public and not of the landowner who owned the shoreline, the concept of public ownership of wildlife has underpinned the management of wildlife resources in U.S. law. This concept has been strengthened and expanded over the past century and a half and enshrined in many state constitutions. If one landowner can be given ownership of Vermont's wildlife, how will you deny others that make similar requests? The Public Trust Doctrine establishes a trustee relationship of government to hold and manage wildlife and fish for the benefit of the resources and the public, its beneficiary. Inherent in the Public Trust Doctrine is the notion that natural resources are important to the lives of the people and owned by the public. All the public, then, should have an opportunity to access these resources for purposes such as fishing, hunting and trapping, not just a wealthy, privileged few. The Public Trust Doctrine is also recognized as the foundation of what has been termed the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. This model is viewed as an important construct of law, policy, program framework and scientific investigation that has led to the protection, conservation and restoration of wildlife populations in the U.S. and Canada.
The language transferring ownership of illegally taken wild deer and moose to a private individual for his singular, personal gain in H.789 and giving the Secretary of Agriculture, Food and Markets sole authority over hunting within this 700 acre pen is problematic for two main reasons. First, it takes wildlife out of the public domain and allows it to be privately owned by a Mr. Doug Nelson, violating the Public Trust Doctrine and all precedent for wildlife management in the United States. Second, this was accomplished without the benefit of a public process. There were no public hearings, no opportunity for citizens and expert testimonies and no engagement of the Fish & Wildlife Department or any conservation or sportsmen groups. It was essentially a late-night deal.
The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department worked in good faith with Mr. Nelson to develop a plan to remove the native animals he illegally possessed while permitting him to keep the non-native animals he legally possessed and he failed to comply with their regulations. Although H.789 sets forth some boilerplate language regarding the need to protect native deer and moose populations from diseases carried by elk, this is not the real purpose of this section of the bill. If it were, culling of the native animals from the captive facility would be a more scientifically and socially responsible solution than designating them a "special purpose herd" for which hunts can and will be sold. The current language amounts to little more than a license for Mr. Nelson to personally profit from Vermont's publicly-owned wildlife.
The VBA opposes private ownership of native wildlife because of the harm it causes to wildlife, wildlife habitats and long-standing public values. These actions by the Vermont legislature will serve to undermine the foundation of wildlife management in Vermont and North American by giving the public's wildlife resources to an individual for his personal private gain. It is unfortunate that such language allowing this to occur was added to the FY2011 appropriations bill. We urge you to repeal this section and restore Vermont's wildlife to its rightful owners, the citizens of Vermont.
The VBA supports H.91 which rescinds the transfer of deer, moose and wildlife animals from the regulatory authority of the Agency of Agriculture Food and Markets and a private individual and returns the regulatory authority to the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department and Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board.
Note, this has no impact on Mr. Nelsen's hunting pen and leaves intact the herd of elk , buffalo, sinka deer and red deer which is located on his property.
Clint Gray, V.P.