Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Democratic Hunting under Attack in VT

From the Calidonian Record:

Vermont Lawmakers Save 'Pete The Moose'

Robin Smith
Staff Writer

Local lawmakers believe they have saved Peter the Moose, his "girlfriend" and all the other wild deer and moose in Doug Nelson's elk hunting preserve in Irasburg.

Sen. Bobby Starr, D-Essex-Orleans, announced Wednesday the House and Senate conference committees have approved the budget bill that addresses the status of the preserve and the wild animals in the 700-acre enclosure, including Pete.

Even if the budget itself is vetoed by Gov. James Douglas over conflicts with the Democratic legislative leaders on capital gains taxes, the language about the preserve isn't part of the conflict, Starr said, and it will stay intact.

"We are good to go," Starr said.

Preserve Has New Status

Pete and other moose and deer that are in the elk preserve were illegal because the preserve fell afoul of new Fish and Wildlife laws governing hunting facilities.

The law required Nelson to get a permit for elk hunting on the nine-year-old preserve, which was created before such laws existed.

However, the permit would not allow native animals such as moose and deer inside the enclosure for fear they would catch tuberculosis and chronic wasting disease from the elk and spread the diseases to the native wild deer and moose population.

Now, under the language in the budget bill, the elk preserve will no longer be under Fish and Wildlife jurisdiction but under the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, which already supervises captive deer herds. The hunting preserve becomes a game farm.

Read more

Here is my comment on the story:

Wild animals are held in the public trust by our state government. 250 years of case law and 500 years of common law have been subverted by this change in the law. This legislation has given our deer and moose to Mr Nelson to shoot, market or sell for his own personal gain. The state gets nothing. Although the cynic in me suspects the politicians will get some good campaign donations.
This is the greatest attack on democratic hunting since we fought the British.  

Here is the full section that was put in the Appropriations bill in the last days of the session. Sources tell me that Fish and Wildlife was not consulted about the content or language.

(a) The general assembly finds and declares that:
(1) Vermont has long recognized that the protection and management of
the state’s native cervidae population is in the interest of the public welfare.
 (2) An abundant, healthy deer herd is a primary goal of wildlife
management, and hunting is a time-honored Vermont tradition.
(3) Vermont’s captive cervidae herds are regulated as game farms under
authority of the secretary of agriculture, food and markets under chapter 102 of
Title 6 and the agency of agriculture, food and markets’ rules governing
captive cervidae.
(4) Captive cervidae herds provide economic benefit to Vermont in the
same manner as farms producing cattle, sheep, pigs, and other amenable
(5) Tuberculosis is a transmissible disease that can infect species of both
the cervidae and bovidae families and is zoonotic. The family bovidae
includes cattle. The family cervidae include white-tailed deer, moose, and elk.
(6) Chronic wasting disease is a transmissible spongiform
encephalopathy that has been identified in both free-ranging and captive
cervidae populations in other parts of the United States, including New York
(7) Tuberculosis can be transmitted in cervidae and bovidae by nose-tonose
contact and through the sharing of watering and feeding troughs. It is not
known exactly how chronic wasting disease is transmitted, but the most likely
route of transmission is nose-to-nose contact. The agency of agriculture, food
and markets’ rules governing captive cervidae contain provisions both for
managing herds that may be susceptible to chronic wasting disease and for
testing cervidae to monitor for the control of zoonotic diseases contagious to
livestock, including tuberculosis.
(8) The captive cervidae facility located in Irasburg manages a specialpurpose
herd established in 1994 within a 700-acre enclosure. At the time of
the enclosure, the 700 acres contained a small population of native cervidae
that currently falls outside the jurisdiction of the agency of agriculture, food
and markets.
(9) In order to align state regulatory oversight of the facility and balance
the state’s responsibility to protect and manage its native cervidae populations
with the economic benefit contributed by the 700-acre captive cervidae facility,
it is necessary to transfer to the agency of agriculture, food and markets full
jurisdiction and authority for regulatory oversight of the Irasburg facility and
full authority for herd management of the facility and all cervidae currently
contained within the 700-acre enclosure.
(b) Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, for the purposes of this
section, the term “cervidae” shall include all white-tailed deer and moose
currently entrapped in the Irasburg captive cervidae facility that contains a
special-purpose herd, as “special-purpose herd” is defined in the agency of
agriculture, food and markets’ rules governing captive cervidae.
(c) The Irasburg captive cervidae facility that contains a special-purpose
herd shall:
(1) Erect a secondary-perimeter fence inside the existing, primaryperimeter
fence sufficient to reduce the possibility of contact between native
cervidae and any cervidae within the facility. The secondary fencing shall be
approved by the secretary of agriculture, food and markets and shall be erected
no later October 1, 2010.
(2) Submit a written herd management plan for all cervidae, including
entrapped native cervidae, within the facility to the secretary of agriculture,
food and markets for approval. The plan shall:
(A) contain a specific disease surveillance component, acceptable to
the secretary of agriculture, food and markets, that presents at least 30 mature
native cervidae to the secretary of agriculture, food and markets for
tuberculosis and chronic wasting disease testing per year. For purposes of this
subdivision, “mature” means an animal older than 16 months of age;
(B) provide for the culling of antlerless native cervidae at a rate that
prevents the herd size from overpopulating the enclosed area. The culling
program shall include a provision to allow members of the Vermont National
Guard who did not participate in the Vermont regular deer or moose hunting
seasons and who were awarded or are eligible to receive a campaign ribbon for
Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom to assist with the
cull; and
(C) be filed with the secretary of agriculture, food and markets no
later than August 1, 2010.
(3) Comply with all disease testing protocols established and required
by the secretary of agriculture, food and markets.
(4) Demonstrate by no later than September 1, 2010, substantial
compliance with the agency of agriculture, food and markets’ rules governing
captive cervidae.
(5) Remain in good regulatory standing with the secretary of agriculture,
food and markets.
(d) The secretary of agriculture, food and markets may grant a variance
from the agency of agriculture, food and markets’ rules for the design and
construction of the secondary-perimeter fence required under subdivision
(c)(1) of this section if the fence design proposed by the owner of the Irasburg
facility serves the underlying purpose of reducing the possibility of contact
between free-ranging native cervidae and any cervidae enclosed within the
facility. The secretary of agriculture, food and markets may grant variances to
other provisions of the agency of agriculture, food and markets’ rules
governing captive cervidae provided that the health and welfare of free-ranging
native cervidae are not compromised or put at risk.
(e) In order to ensure that the appropriate number of native cervidae are
provided to the secretary of agriculture, food and markets for disease
surveillance as required under subdivision (c)(2)(A) of this section and that the
facility is able to meet the cull rate required under subdivision (c)(2)(B) of this
section, the facility may harvest cervidae during a special season, if necessary.
Any special harvest shall be approved in advance by the secretary of
agriculture, food and markets after consultation with the commissioner of fish
and wildlife. Notice of approval for a special season shall be posted at least 10
days in advance of the season in the office of the town clerk of Irasburg.
(f) Any native cervidae discovered between the primary and secondary
fences at the Irasburg captive cervidae facility or any cervidae carcass
discovered within the Irasburg facility shall be immediately presented to the
secretary of agriculture, food and markets for disease surveillance.
(g) The secretary of agriculture, food and markets may enforce a failure to
comply with the requirements of this section under chapter 1 or 102 of Title 6.
(h) It shall be a violation of chapter 103 or 113 of Title 10 if a person
knowingly or intentionally entraps or allows a person to knowingly or
intentionally entrap a native cervidae within the Irasburg captive cervidae


  1. From a private email:
    Yes, this negates the Board rule on Nelsons property and gives him free reign to "sell" hunts and establish his own seasons for native species.Wardens now have no authority over this "special purpose herd". It is my belief that this is political favoritism at it's worst. It rewards illegal behavior and sets a dangerous president for the future, anyone with enough money and political influence can have themselves exempted from current law and have their political cronies create law for them. Slip a few paragraphs into a appropriations bill at the end of the session and undo previous Legislative intent with little if any debate. This would have gone nowhere had it been a stand alone bill. This is exactly what he wanted from the beginning, to take ownership of the deer and moose.
    There is a much bigger story here then has been told to the public to date. I hope, and am going to work to see it told!!

  2. From and FWD insider:

    Bob Star played a big role in this, just like he did in the 1990s, when politics trumped science (the dept's position against deer farming) and legislature enabled Nelson and others to start up their "diversified farming" ventures.

  3. Eric,
    When you say "F&W was not consulted" on the issue, it makes me bristle. Know why? Vermont Fish & Wildlife officials who should be responsible, proactive and engaged with the Legislature. They are not. That's a big problem within the department.
    Laroche and Co. seem to have little clue about pending legislation in either the House or Senate and their cavalier attitude has come back to bite them here, and in other cases.

  4. Well according to an interview a year ago in 7 days, Nelson said he gets $4000 for a "hunter " to shoot an elk and most moose on guided trips go for $4500-9000(else where, not on "his farm"), I think Pete will run around $5000-6000 do to his size and simple kill. The last moose killed on his land went for $4800, but it was a cow and a "package deal" with a whitetail 12 ptr.
    It is funny that the WCAX never brought that up(the 7day article) or is the public that dumb? He admitted that he charges to kill animals. Duh!!!!!!!!
    Nelson already charges his friends to hunt for the whitetail on his land and the state just gave it to him.

    Here is the article from 7 days.

    "It’s certainly more profitable. A typical elk “hunt” on the Nelson property runs about $4000 "

    Was the legislature f*#$ing stupid?????!!!! They aren't saving the moose, just making Nelson rich!

  5. I would file a lawsuit and have the state supreme court rule on it because it gives private ownership of STATE/PUBLIC property. Also, I support veterans and their special licensing examptions but FREE hunting 365 days a year on that farm! That is going to get abused so bad it is not funny. Why don't we give them free pickup trucks while we are at it! Where was the BFP and other reporters on this scam or the VFSC?

  6. This whole deal stinks of politics. There should be no hunting on this property for ANY native game. Funny how they claim an economic benefit...
    but to who?

  7. From the Wildlife Society Blog which linked to Fair Chase Hunting:
    Based on Roman and British Common Law, wildlife in America has traditionally been held in the public trust and for the benefit of all. Not so in Vermont, where the state has passed legislation that now lets private landowners do what they will with the wildlife on their premises. This is a bad idea. The Wildlife Society will soon publish a technical review of the PTD and why it has been so important to the history of hunting heritage and wildlife conservation in our country. Tearing down this legacy will not be good for wildlife–far from it. The author calls this legislation, which seems to be aimed at one particular hunting preserve, the “… greatest attack on democratic hunting since we fought the British.”

  8. thanks Eric - seems like very few are paying any attention to this - if hunters cannot unite on this issue, they cannot unite on anything. How much does it cost in VT to have my own personal deer/moose hunting preserve? This is an 800-yr step backwards to Forest Law pre-dating the Magna Carta. Does this also mean he can take life or limb from poachers of his penned deer and moose as the nobles once did under Forest Law? Recall the story of Robin Hood, having to steal game and fowl from Royal Forest to feed the village, and the real reason why we came to America (some say)- recall the U.S. and VT constitutions that prohibit anyone from owning wildlife for this reason. I think some folks might be in trouble over this in the end - sportsmen and women unite and remember this when voting.

  9. people are wondering about the media on this issue. The media have not gotten the right story yet, not even close. Incompetent and irresponsible, local media are guilty of spreading a pack of lies that the public has taken hook, line, and sinker - worldwide even - Bartlett and Starr too. It is easy to fool the foolish. but one man is laughing - for now.

  10. Anon 5/25 - Dennis Jenson with the Rutland Herald has picked up on this and is working on a major story - Stay tuned!

  11. His name is spelled Jensen, not that it really matters.

  12. Pyne beat him too it in the BFP.


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