House approves plan to auction off moose permits

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(Host) The Vermont House, by a one vote margin, has given its approval to a plan to auction off five moose permits in order to provide new money for fish and wildlife conservation programs. House Speaker Walter Freed cast the deciding vote on this issue.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The debate raises a key philosophical issue for many House members: should a small number of moose permits – issued by the Fish and Wildlife Department – be made available as way to bring new revenue into the department? It’s projected that the department will issue over 800 moose permits later this year; those permits will be distributed through a lottery system. But under this proposal, five permits would be auctioned off and the proceeds – which backers say could total more than $25,000 – would be dedicated to the department’s conservation education programs.

Supporters of the auction noted that the sale of fishing and hunting licenses has declined in recent years in Vermont, putting new financial pressures on the Fish and Wildlife Department. Castleton Representative Robert Helm defended the auction plan because Helm said it was a way to help keep licenses affordable in the future.

(Helm) “Unless we start thinking outside the box, that’s what we’re going to do every two years, is just hit the pocket of every hunter and fisherman that wants to go to the shore of lake now and then with his grandkid. And just keep increasing his license annually to the point where we’ll even lose more license sales.”

(Kinzel) But Orwell Representative Mark Young opposed the auction plan because Young believes it establishes a very dangerous precedent for the state:

(Young) “I’m concerned of the perception. That is, that the fish and wildlife of this state by constitution belong to its people. And the very thought of having an auction – I don’t know where it would be advertised to held or how it would be held – but to take any portion of the state’s fish and wildlife and offer it up to the highest bidder, no matter how worthy the cause is, somehow runs against my grain.”

(Kinzel) After several hours of debate, the House voted 58 to 57 to support Young’s amendment to prohibit the auction. But House Speaker Walter Freed voted to create a tie, a move that blocked the amendment from being added to a fee bill that was being considered by the House. The fee bill, with the auction included now goes to the Senate for its consideration.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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