Update: Vermont BHA Opposes Legislative Bill to Restructure Fish & Wildlife Board



Thanks to pressure from the hunting and angling community, which was generated from New England BHA and other key Vermont Sporting groups, lawmakers made significant amendments to S.258 before it ultimately passed the Senate. Even with these improvements, the Vermont NEBHA team remains steadfast in its opposition to the bill which would ultimately undermine a proven system of wildlife management and conservation. 

We believe that S.258 is an agenda-driven response to the recent dispute over rulemaking decisions about trapping best management practices and hunting coyotes with dogs. Rather than working within the robust public input process that VTF&W currently uses, this legislation needlessly restructures the Fish and Wildlife Board and transfers authority to the Department of Fish and Wildlife, costing the Department time and money.

Functionally, the bill proposes to restructure the fish and wildlife board to provide "a balanced representation and include members of the public representing an approximately equal number of licensed users and nonlicensed users of wildlife". The bill also transfers the authority to adopt rules for the taking of fish, wildlife, and fur-bearing animals from the Fish and Wildlife Board to the Department of Fish and Wildlife. In addition, the bill would prohibit the hunting of coyote with dogs.


S.258 Recap

The chapter's work on S.258 began in early January, when members of the VT team quickly identified that forces in Montpelier were aligning in such a way that this bill was going to have the support to be a clear and present threat to the historically successful model of wildlife management in Vermont. When the bill was sent to Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy calendar in February the chapter began rallying support from our membership and the hunting and fishing community. Several chapter leaders and members gave informed and passionate in-person testimony to the committee during the public comment period, along with other hunters and anglers. Despite rational testimony from the hunting and fishing community and the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department's leadership in opposition, it was clear that members of the committee were intent on passing some form of the bill. 

With the writing on the wall that the bill was going to be reported favorably from Natural Resources and Energy, Vermont BHA stepped up the outreach by contacting our Vermont members and supporters, providing clear and actionable steps to engage in the process, along with regular updates on social media and email. Chapter Board Member Matt Breton and Chapter Corporate Partner Adrian Guyer made the podcast rounds, which helped in furthering the awareness and driving Vermonters to our Take Action page. As expected, the bill was reported favorably by the committee and returned to the floor for a second and third reading. During this period, the bill saw some additional amendments and there were some vocal critics of the bill were heard in the Senate, but the bill ultimately was passed and moved to the House. 


S.258 Presently - Time to Engage (again)

The VT Team has been diligently working against this bill in the Vermont House, but we need your help again. The House Committee on Environment and Energy will be taking up bill sometime in the near future. We are requesting that in the next few days you call and email the committee members (listed below) and your own representative (found here) and respectfully request they NOT support this bill.

Feel free to utilize our "one-pager" for background, or to pass along to your Representative. A summary of the points, including some "fast facts" are listed below. You can also utilize our updated Action Alert when contacting your own Representatives. Remember, the more personalized you can make your outreach the better. Follow up those emails with a phone call! 


House Committee on Environment and Energy

Rep. Jill Krowinski, Speaker (Chittenden-16) [email protected] (802) 828-2228

Rep. Amy Sheldon, Chair (Addison-1) [email protected] (802) 828-2228

Rep. Laura Sibilia, Vice Chair (Windham-2) [email protected] (802) 384-0233

Rep. Seth Bongartz, Ranking Member (Bennington-4) [email protected] (802) 828-2228

Rep. Paul Clifford (Rutland-4) [email protected] (802) 828-2228

Rep. Kate Logan (Chittenden-16) [email protected] (802) 828-2228

Rep. Kristi Morris (Windsor-3) [email protected] (802) 885-2949

Rep. Avram Patt (Lamoille-Washington) [email protected] (802) 223-1014

Rep. Larry Satcowitz (Orange-Washington-Addison) [email protected] (802) 828-2228

Rep. Gabrielle Stebbins, Clerk (Chittenden-13) [email protected] (802) 828-2228

Rep. Brian Smith (Orleans-1) [email protected] (802) 766-4962

Rep. Dara Torre (Washington-2)_ [email protected] (802) 828-2228

William Marlier, Committee Assistant [email protected]


S.258 Fast Facts

  • Fish & Wildlife Department is against this bill and has asked Senate Natural Resources Committee to work with the Department and stakeholders to find a better way.
  • The existing Fish & Wildlife Board has a very narrow focus related to fishing, hunting, and trapping regulations. S.258 would broadly expand the scope of the board, which will be burdensome for the Department.
  • A nongame management plan already exists and it one of the most comprehensive in the nation and incorporates public input, yet the bill calls for an additional plan.
  • The decisions of the existing Fish & Wildlife board are based on the recommendations and research provided by the professional scientists of the Department.


What are the potential impacts of S.258?

  • Aggregates rule making authority under one political appointee, with only minor checks and balances. This opens up the regulatory process for greater political influence in the future.
  • Adds vague Board influence on policy related to all aspects of the Department which would include Act 250, habitat management, law enforcement, outreach and education, fish stocking, and more.
  • Time and financial strain on an already tight Fish & Wildlife budget. The Department estimates this bill would require two additional staff and an attorney.



About New England BHA Chapter

New England BHA is a voice for the sporting community in New England that values solitude, silence, clean and free flowing rivers, and habitat for large, wide-ranging wildlife.