Public input sought for wildlife management plans

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(Host) Vermont’s Fish and Wildlife Department says the health of the state’s big-game species is generally good.

Biologists say they want that to continue. So they’re drafting new policies that will guide wildlife management for the next decade.

VPR’s Ross Sneyd reports.

(Sneyd) It wasn’t all that long ago that all of Vermont’s big game species were in trouble.

State wildlife director John Austin says moose and black bear, deer and turkeys all were in danger of disappearing.

(Austin) “All four of those species were virtually extirpated from this state at the turn of the 20th century. And through aggressive restoration efforts we’ve been able to bring them back.”

(Sneyd) And now the challenge is to keep the number of animals in balance with the amount of food available to them – and with the public’s interest in seeing them in the wild.

So management plans will be drafted by this summer to guide state policy over the next ten years.

The management plans will set goals for how many animals can be supported by the available habitat. The policies will establish when the state needs to step in to control animals that are becoming a nuisance to a farmer or even to a suburban neighborhood.

And hunting regulations will be guided by the management practices set in the plans.

Fish and Wildlife biologist John Buck says the department wants to take into account a wide diversity of views – from hunters to farmers and loggers, to people who just like to watch wildlife in the woods.

(Buck) “I don’t think there is one answer that absolutely satisfies all spectrums of interest. So we try to find the answer that is an optimal carrying capacity that provides both for the ecological integrity of our forestland and for the satisfaction of not only deer hunters, but all the people of Vermont to enjoy seeing deer, and bears and moose and turkeys and all of our wildlife.”

(Sneyd) Buck says there’s a misconception that the management plans are primarily for hunters.

He says everyone who cares about nature and wildlife should be interested.

The department is holding a series of public meetings to gather the public’s views. Then it will write the final plans and publish them over the summer.

For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.

(Host Outro) The next public meeting will be Wednesday in Springfield.

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