Letter to the editor: Wildlife stakeholders meeting needed

It’s no secret Vermonters put a high value on outdoor recreation. Two out of three Vermonters hunt, fish and watch wildlife totaling $780 million in trickle-down spending. Over the decades the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department (VF&W) has grappled with decreased revenues, in part augmented by the continued decline in license sales. Increased demands on VF&W from demographic shifts have put additional strain on their budgets. Frankly the proposed 2020 $24.1 million budget is already woefully short, and often-asked-for changes do not come to fruition. 
H.190, Vermont’s Wildlife Governance Bill, addresses one important issue: is VF&W addressing the demographic and cultural attitude change? This bill establishes a six-member legislative working group to find collaborative solutions and options for broadening stakeholder representation. This Wildlife Governance legislative group also addresses long-term sustainable revenue sources. OK, this legislative approach seems innocuous but it is not without political bias. 
I suggest a different model, a collaborative governance model, a volunteerism approach! On Aug. 30, 2006, VF&W convened with the second and the last of its Wildlife Congresses held at the Lake Morey Resort. All stakeholders were invited, including farmers, loggers, birders, bikers, hunters and anglers to mention a few. The attendance was very promising. The 2005 Wild Life Action Plan opportunities were discussed. Several key obstacles to the plan implementation were identified and in the afternoon, groups broke out into sessions for common ground solutions. Unfortunately additional Wildlife Congresses have not convened again. 
I strongly suggest VF&W have another Wildlife Congress and invite all stakeholders invested in The Great Outdoors. There is much common ground for all of us, one comes to mind immediately, the 6 million acres of land we share together and enjoy. This is the beginning step for a potential collaborative governance model, altruistic and for the greater benefit of our flora and fauna friends. As the Congress evolves from breakout groups from this initial meeting, new alliances and communication networks can evolve and grow. Participation from non-consumptive users and educational outreach (especially students) will be key important issues. Equally important will be for the CG group to find new additional revenues. 
Let’s face it, VF&W will always be broke. These new revenues may be garnered into a separate Collaborative Governance Fund. VF&W and the Collaborative Governance group can share these funds with the CG model providing ideas and in-kind services. VF&W can provide their expertise. Vermont’s population of 630,000 people definitely helps to increase the chance to succeed for this one-of-a-kind model. This novel idea will be a stepped and a lengthy process. Over time, perhaps in say 10 years, weVermonters can have model to be proud of! 
So in closing, my flora and fauna friends are asking you for your help. If you truly want to help them and like the essentials of this model: please pay it forward by contacting Louis Porter, VF&W commissioner, ([email protected]) urging him to organize another Wildlife Congress and ask another friend to pay it forward. A groundswell of support is the only way to make this happen. Vermont is a special place, let’s show them.
Pete Diminico
Editor’s note: The writer of this letter stewards 4.4 acres on the divide of the New Haven River and Lewis Creek watersheds and has served in a number of conservation and outdoor organization leadership posts.

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