Vermont becomes first state to repeal felt wader ban

ADDISON COUNTY — In 2011 Vermont banned people who fish from wearing felt-soled wading boots with the goal of preventing the spread of didymo. At that time, it was thought that this slimy algae was an invasive species, and that it could be transported between rivers in the waders’ porous felt soles.
Now Vermont, the second of seven states to prohibit felt-soled boots, will repeal the ban on July 1.
Vermont is the first state to repeal the ban. The decision came after a Canadian scientist discovered that didymo, also termed “rock snot” by those familiar with the slippery green sludge, is actually native to Vermont and other areas of North America. Shawn Good, biologist at the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, said there was no reason to keep the ban in place. 
“The boots themselves are not more likely to spread invasive species than any number of other vectors,” he said. 
The ban put too much emphasis on a single piece of equipment, according to Good. He hopes that everyone who uses rivers and streams recreationally will consider the potential risk of using any kind of water equipment when it comes to transporting invasive species. He urged fishers make sure that none of their equipment carries non-native plants between bodies of water in Vermont.
Anne Bove, an environmental scientist in the Lakes and Ponds Management and Protection Program at the Department of Environmental Conservation, says the boots still pose a risk for transporting actual invasive species because of the long amount of time it takes to dry them out. She encourages felt users to clean, drain and dry the waders before using them again.
Fisherman and Addison Independent outdoors columnist Matthew Dickerson was initially surprised at the state’s decision to reverse the ban, but he said he trusts that it was based on sound science and that river and stream systems will not be compromised as a result. 
Given a choice, Dickerson said he would rather use felt waders when fishing, provided there are no risks that the boots could carry invasive species. The soft soles prevent slipping better than most other boots, he said, but he was happy to trade his pair for some cleat-bottomed waders from L.L. Bean that, he said, work almost as well. 
“If there’s even a small risk, then I’m willing to do something else,” Dickerson said. 
According to Good, anglers should take careful measures after using their equipment. To prevent the spread of invasive species, gear should be completely dried before it is used in another body of water. Anglers can also use a mild disinfectant or bleach to rid equipment of any lingering pests. 
Dickerson recently bought a pair of waders with interchangeable soles. He says he’s likely to get some felt waders to use under specific conditions when the ban is lifted.

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