Deer hunting regulations may change

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(Host) There are indications that controversial new deer hunting regulations may be changed. The Fish and Wildlife Department says it stands to lose a significant portion of its revenue if the regulations are approved by the Fish and Wildlife Board.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports:

(Zind) The Fish and Wildlife Board which is responsible for managing the deer herd has given tentative approval to new regulations that would limit hunters to one buck per year as a way to increase the number of bucks in the woods.

The Fish and Wildlife Department strongly opposes the rule. Instead, the department wants to limit the antler size of bucks that are killed, to prevent hunters from taking younger spike horns.

Earlier this month, the board postponed a final decision on the regulations in order to hear from the legislature’s Administrative Rules Committee.

Thursday morning, Craig McLaughlin of the Fish and Wildlife Department told the committee that the regulations would mean the loss of more than a million and a half dollars in department revenue.

(McLaughlin) “It restricts hunter opportunity, which translates into restriction of license sales which translates into a strong negative impact on the department’s finances.”

(Zind) McLaughlin says the ban on killing spike horns makes more financial and biological sense than the one buck limit.

Fish and Wildlife Board member Walt Driscoll voted in favor of the buck limit. Driscoll says there are sound biological reasons for the limit. And Driscoll said until this week, the department hadn’t told the board what the economic impact of their decision would be. In fact, Driscoll said board members had been told by the department not to weigh the financial effects.

(Driscoll) “We were told in our decision making to not consider revenue, to consider the good science and the public input. We have never heard numbers or estimations on what that might translate to.”

(Zind) Driscoll says he’d be willing to vote to drop the buck limit in favor of an antler limit, but he says the department’s recommendation on the antler restrictions needs to be improved.

The chairman of the Fish and Wildlife board says several members who supported buck limit have indicated they’ve changed their minds.

The Administrative Rules Committee delayed a decision on the regulations, and legislators urged the Fish and Wildlife board to work with the department to change the proposal to eliminate the economic downside. The board will meet next month and it looks increasingly likely that some change will be made.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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