Thursday, June 24, 2010

VT Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs opposes the Nelson amendment and calls for it's repeal

This just in from the Federation via email:

The Federation opposition on H.789 Section 702.1 "Transfer of Regulatory Oversight and Special Requirements for Facility and Herd Management" is attached. 

Acting Secretary 

Clint Gray

Sportsmen and Sportswomen

Be advised that on the last day of the Legislative session H.789, the FY2011 Budget Bill was passed out of this year’s legislature and sent forward to the Governor for signature.

The Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Club, Inc. held their monthly meeting on June 13, 2010, and discussed H.789 and unanimously opposed the legislation as passed.

Section E 702.1 “Transfer of Regulatory Oversight and Special Requirements For Facility and Herd Management.”

The language is very problematic in many areas.

The above section (E 702.1 of H.789) gives a private entity:
·    Private use of wild animals including whitetail deer and moose to do as they wish and to profit from.
·    It allows that culling of the deer or moose to avoid over population, but does not set seasons to run with the State seasons.
·    It allows that deer and moose to be subject to a paid hunt, as a method of culling.

At least one animal was illegally taken alive from the wild, transported illegally to the enclosure and raised without securing a permit or permission of the Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife, as required by statute.  There are statutes that dictate the rehabilitation of wild animals if one as been found to be injured.

This section E 702.1 ignores the illegal acts by one or more persons, rewards the owner of the enclosed area by expanding the ownership of the wild animals that are located within the enclosed area.  Then any future wild animals born within the enclosed area and the wild animals presently located outside and enters into the enclosed area now becomes the property of the owner.  These wild animals are no longer the property of all the people. (You and I)

When the first settlers arrived to this new land and settled here, they wanted all animals to belong to the people.  They had come from countries where the animals were the property of the King or Royal family.  In order to take or harvest an animal, permission had to be granted by the King and the Royal family.

From this Common Law and then the Case Law, the Public Trust Doctrine was created “The Wild Animals belong to the people as a whole and are held in trust by the State”.

·      Wildlife is held in trust for all Americans. 
·      Any legislation that threatens this long held tradition must be opposed. 
·      The wildlife belongs to the people, not one individual. 
·      This has been the rule for the past 180 years or so, case law supports that the animals are held in trust by the State. 
·      Additionally this is has been supported for over 400 years of Common Law.

This legislation (Section E 702.1) that passed has a possible serious consequences for future legislation due to the fact that precedent has been set:

·      All owners of enclosures here in the State may ask to have the wild animals that are in or may get into their enclosure to be transferred to their ownership.  The owner may want to be treated equally.
·      Owners of hunting preserves here in the State, that have been in business for may years, and have paid hunts could not, up until now, have hunts involving wild animals that are in the enclosed areas. 
·      The owners of hunting preserves may now request that these wild animals in the enclosed areas or the wild animals that get into their hunting preserve and come under their private ownership. These animals will then be able to be culled any time of the year to prevent over population. 
·      These wild animals will no longer belong to the people, but belong to a few private owners.


Free Press Editorial: Secrecy fatal flaw in Pete the Moose bill

June 24, 2010
Editorial: Secrecy fatal flaw in Pete the Moose bill

The saga of the amendment passed to save Pete the Moose from slaughter reflects a deeply troubling disregard for the open government and the idea that our elected representatives always must keep the broad public interest foremost in mind.
The legislation granted Big Rack Ridge in Irasburg exemptions from state hunting preserve regulations that banned the enclosure of wild game and the mingling of wild and captive animals.
The intent was to allow the preserve to keep Pete the Moose, an orphaned moose raised in captivity, but the law also allows Big Rack Ridge to claim ownership of wild white-tailed deer and wild moose within its fenced lands.
The result was a transfer of what has always been a public good to a private individual who may use it for personal gain -- in this case, as fodder on a hunting preserve. Right or wrong, the best intentions can be obscured behind a veil of secrecy. That the law, as the Free Press reported, was "written behind closed doors, kept secret from the Fish and Wildlife Department and introduced on the session's final day" is its fatal flaw.
No one familiar with how government works in this state should be surprised at the dark route this amendment traveled to passage. Secrecy is often the way business gets down from town offices to the Statehouse.
Many can claim credit for keeping the moose bill from anybody who might have a stake in this issue other than the owners of Big Rack Ridge: Sen. Robert Starr, D-Essex-Orleans, for writing an amendment to benefit Doug Nelson in secret; Sen. Susan Bartlett, D-Lamoille, candidate for governor, for adding the Starr amendment to the must-pass state budget on the final day of the session when there was no time for a proper debate; and Gov. Jim Douglas for his administration's participation in the cover-up.
Brian Ames, chairman of the state Fish and Wildlife Board, describes the whole situation as "depressing, discouraging." He raises the critical point that no one can treat wildlife like a personal pet "except if you are well-enough connected, apparently you can."
That's the point.

The measure loses credibility because it was drawn up and passed without public knowledge or debate, kept secret from even the regulators and experts within state government, and benefits a man who an aide to the governor who helped keep the bill a secret says "has been flouting the law for years."

Sunday, June 20, 2010

What Racine, Bartlett and Shumlin say about the Public Trust

The following is from the Gubernatorial debate held at Sterling College and comes from the VtDigger website.

Margolis: Another question that has some peculiar importance to the Northeast Kingdom. This question will first go to Susan Bartlett who sponsored a bill to save a famous moose, whose nickname I will not reveal. I don’t want to get into the details of the situation but one aspect of the legislation that was passed and I believe everyone here voted for it, has created a concern for wildlife officials and not just in Vermont. The law didn’t just save this moose. It transferred the ownership of the moose and 200 white-tailed deer living inside the impoundment up here in Irasburg, transferred to title of those animals to the owner of the land and that’s a violation of the public trust doctrine, which goes back to about the Magna Carta, which holds that all animals belong to all the citizens of the state. Again, without rehashing the particulars of this case, would each of you as governor uphold the public trust doctrine in the future and will you support officials who are trying to enforce the laws regarding wild animals?

Potent alliance gives Vermont hunting reserve exemption from game rules

From the Burlingrton Free Press - Front page:

Richard Nelson watches bull elk approach a feeding trough at Big 
Rack Ridge in Irasburg on Monday. Nelson and his father, Doug, keep a 
herd of 50 or more bull elks at the hunt park where clients pay hefty 
sums for a guaranteed kill. In May, they won an exemption from Fish and 
Wildlife rules that would have required removal of the native deer and 
moose from the park — probably by slaughter — to stop any risk of 
spreading disease. The Nelsons say their herd has proven to be 
disease-free, and they hope to add whitetail deer hunts to their 

Potent alliance gives Vermont hunting reserve exemption from game rules

Vermont lawmakers gave special status at the 11th hour to an Irasburg elk park where hunters pay up to $7,000 to shoot penned animals.
Transcript: May 26, 2010 Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board Meeting
- 6:51 am (55)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Trojan Moose???

From Seven Days, Fair Game:
Shay tells me there is more to come...

Why "Pete the Moose" Could Still Be Caught in the Crosshairs

Local Matters
Courtesy of

Eleventh-hour language slipped quietly into the state budget bill is being hailed as saving the life of “Pete the Moose” — a celebrity cervid whose active group of 5000-plus Facebook “friends” overwhelmed state officials with emails, phone calls and letters urging them to spare his life.
In reality, the legislation may do little to save him from a hunter’s bullet, or to save about a dozen other moose and roughly 200 whitetail deer that belong to Doug Nelson, who runs a 700-acre game farm in Irasburg. There Nelson raises elk, but over the years deer and moose have found their way past his farm’s fences in search of food and love.
The legislation grants ownership of these native animals to Nelson and puts his operation under the sole authority of the Agency of Agriculture, rather than the Department of Fish and Wildlife. The DFW had planned to cull the trespassers to ensure that a “mad cow”-like disease called chronic wasting disease would not spread between nonnative and native herds. A CWD outbreak in 2005 at a similar game farm in New York motivated Vermont officials to put in place stronger rules aimed at preventing such an incident here.
Pete was one of the animals marked for probable death. The moose was allegedly injured as a calf, found and rehabilitated by a long-bearded, hermit-like mountain man named David Lawrence. Lawrence, a former big-game hunter who claims to be redeeming himself by nurturing injured wildlife, plopped Pete inside Nelson’s game farm late last year. At that time, state fish and game laws would have prohibited Nelson from profiting off native species found on his land.
Now, because of the legislation that “saved” Pete, Nelson will be able to keep the animals and potentially charge hunters to kill them. Agency of Agriculture officials say they are not yet sure if Nelson will be able to charge for the hunts of native moose and whitetail deer on his property. He currently charges about $4000 to “hunt” elk.
National and in-state hunting groups, along with state wildlife officials, are urging lawmakers to overturn the measure. Some opponents say they may challenge the law in court.
The law may be ripe for a challenge, notes Pamela Vesilind, a Vermont Law School professor who specializes in animal law and has closely followed Pete’s saga.
“The Vermont constitution, Supreme Court and laws all support the 'public trust doctrine,' the idea that state citizens 'own' wild animals and the legislature can only limit that for the common good of the citizens. That’s not what’s happening here,” wrote Vesilind in an email. “I understand the legislators’ good intentions, but they’ve turned wildlife law on its head.”
The legislation was a shock to Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Wayne LaRoche and the state Fish and Wildlife Board. They say neither the legislature nor other members of the Douglas administration sought their input as the law was drafted.
“We were all taken aback,” says Brian Ames, chairman of the state Fish and Wildlife Board, which writes state fish and game laws. “This is completely new territory, and nowhere else have we ever allowed a herd of wild animals to exist basically for personal profit.”
The legislation gives Nelson until August 1 to submit a strategy to thin the native herds, and until October 1 to install new fences. Culling is still required to halt the possible spread of CWD.
“Ironically, although Mr. Nelson didn’t have a legal right to shoot Pete or any other moose on the property, the new law gives him that right. In theory, he could also sell moose-hunting access to anyone who visits his facility,” notes Vesilind. “The elk, moose, and deer on this property aren’t afraid of humans anymore. You may as well shoot a goat at a kid’s petting zoo.”
Most folks concur that it would be a public relations disaster to kill Pete the Moose, or his progeny: As the session wound down, it was revealed that Pete’s “girlfriend” is pregnant. What’s next — “Save Pete Jr.”? Sen. Susan Bartlett, chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, defended the deal, which was crafted by attorneys at the Agency of Agriculture and shepherded through the legislature by Sen. Robert Starr (D-Essex/Orleans) and Rep. Duncan Kilmartin (R-Newport).
“We were compelled to make a decision because of the way that Fish and Wildlife was acting,” says Bartlett. “This herd has been a captive herd for nine to 10 years, and Fish and Wildlife’s solution was to go up and shoot all the moose and deer. As you can imagine, that didn’t sit too well with a number of folks.”
LaRoche disagrees. He was not interested in eliminating all the native animals in one swift kill, he says, but rather over a period of years. Nelson, however, would never agree to terms, because the farmer didn’t believe the state had the authority to govern the hunts on his property, says LaRoche. Instead of having to abide by fish and wildlife laws, which have real teeth, Nelson now only needs to run his plans by the Agency of Agriculture.
“I think the legislature was blinded by the ‘Pete the Moose’ story,” says Ames, “when it wasn’t really about Pete the Moose.”
As for Nelson, he’s saying very little these days now that the attention on Pete has subsided. Multiple messages left with farmhands and assistants were not returned. They said Nelson was busy, feeding his elk.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Violation of public trust article

This from the Rutland Herald:

Wildlife transfer under fire

By Dennis Jensen Staff Writer - Published: June 13, 2010
The last-minute decision by the Legislature to transfer oversight of wild deer and moose at a fenced elk reserve in Irasburg from wildlife officials to the state Agency of Agriculture has come under fire because it took wild animals out of the public domain and into the hands of a private businessman.

That is the view expressed by some members of the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board, The Wildlife Society and Orion The Hunter's Institute.

But state Sen. Susan Bartlett, D-Lamoille, who is widely identified as having been instrumental in fashioning the legislation, says it was simply about sparing a celebrity moose the bullet. She said concerns that animal disease could be spread from the facility, which prompted a notification that the whitetail deer and moose there would have to be destroyed, are unfounded.

One of those moose, nicknamed Pete, became a cause celebre, with a website and a Facebook page and supporters who rallied at Vermont's Statehouse. The animal, a 700-pound bull, had been adopted as a calf by a local man and taken to the fenced 700-acre game reserve.

"When Fish & Wildlife decided that Pete needed to be shot … there was the fear that wardens were going to show up with papers and go in and shoot Pete," Bartlett said. "That just made the Northeast Kingdom and the Pete the Moose fan club not only angry, they were scared."

Bartlett, who is running for the Democratic nomination for governor, said she understands the Department of Fish & Wildlife's concerns that the imported elk at the site could spread chronic wasting disease, a fatal brain ailment, to the native deer and moose herd.

However, slaughtered animals have been routinely tested at the reserve and not a single case of chronic wasting disease has been found, she said.

"If any of us thought there was danger of chronic wasting disease for the Vermont deer herd, we would say 'shoot them,'" Bartlett said.

For more than six years, the wildlife department and the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board had tried to work out an agreement with Doug Nelson, the owner of the Irasburg reserve, which charges hunters to target the elk within its fences.

Bartlett is chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and the issue of herd management at the elk reserve was added to an appropriations bill on the last day of the Legislature's session in May. Under the provision, the animals can stay, but Nelson will have to do more to ensure they haven't become sick and don't come in contact with animals outside the fence.

"Special favors'

Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Wayne Laroche and his team of biologists say they believe the moose and deer held on Nelson's land could contract any number of diseases, including chronic wasting disease, and ultimately should be destroyed. Any animals, wild or tame, escaping from there could pass the devastating disease to animals in the wild, they have argued.

In August, the department notified Nelson that the wild moose and deer on his property were being held there illegally and would have to be destroyed.

Nelson has opposed the move from the start and has reportedly told board members that the deer and moose on his land belong to him.

Attempts to reach Nelson for this story were unsuccessful.

Members of the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board, including its chairman, Brian Ames, were livid about the fact that, after many years of study and discussion, the Nelson game preserve matter was suddenly — and without their knowledge — turned over to the Agency of Agriculture.

But no one interviewed was more forceful in his condemnation of what happened on that last day of the Statehouse session than Bob Shannon, the Lamoille County representative on the board.

Nelson was given "special favors" by the Legislature, said Shannon, who runs a fly fishing shop in Stowe.

"We were completely in the dark," he said. "Quite frankly, for the Legislature to take the authority from the Fish & Wildlife Board and the department without asking anyone from the board or the Fish & Wildlife Department to testify is a concern to me because they allowed Mr. Nelson to provide a one-sided story to the Legislature and basically in a closed-door session."

The Legislature's decision to transfer oversight is a "major turning point for the state," Shannon said. "Every sportsman in the state should be outraged over what the Vermont Legislature did."

"This has destroyed the Vermont hunting and fishing heritage," he said, because it allows a private citizen to gain ownership of wildlife, something that has never occurred in Vermont.

That concern was shared by Eric Nuse, the executive director of Orion, a nonprofit based in Johnson that describes itself as dedicated to the preservation of hunting as an important part of the North American conservation heritage.

The decision by the Legislature will have far-reaching effects, Shannon said.

"Now, anybody else that has deep enough pockets and special favors can go into the state of Vermont, put up a fence and start selling hunts, just like Mr. Nelson is going to do," he said.

Sparing Pete

But Bartlett said all parties were invited to make their cases before a joint hearing of the Senate Appropriations and Agriculture committees in February.

Bartlett said the Legislature took on the matter because the Fish & Wildlife Department and Nelson — after many years — could not reach a solution for the captive herd issue.

"House members and Senate folks worked with the (Douglas) administration and came up with the solution," she said.

Fish & Wildlife Department officials and Fish & Wildlife Board members say they now believe that the Legislature's decision gives Nelson the green light to offer paid hunts for the moose and deer in his enclosure, as he does for the elk.

The Wildlife Society, which describes itself as an international nonprofit association dedicated to excellence in wildlife stewardship, has written letters to state legislators calling for a repeal of the law and "restoration of Vermont's wildlife to its rightful owners, the public."

The language of the provision "amounts to little more than a license for Mr. Nelson to profit from Vermont's publicly owned wildlife," the society said in a news release. "… the language was quietly added without the benefit of a public hearing, opportunity for expert testimony or engagement of the Fish & Wildlife Department or any conservation or sportsmen groups."

'Political deal'

Meanwhile, Elizabeth "Wibs" McLain, a special assistant to Gov. James Douglas, appeared at the May 26 meeting of the Fish & Wildlife Board to answer members' questions about what she termed the "special provision that was made to the farm in Irasburg."

Several board members, including Shannon, Ames and Jeremy Baker, said they were stunned by some of the frank comments that McLain made about how that decision was reached.

McLain's comments are documented in the minutes of the May 26 meeting.

In response to a question by Laroche, McLain said that when the two Senate committees held the joint hearing, "it was very clear to me … that they were going to do something. … The whole thing was a set-up; the testimony was a set-up …"

McLain told the board that she was well aware of how long and hard the Fish & Wildlife Board had worked to resolve the issue with Nelson.

"The traditional approaches for resolving this issue have not been effective for a variety of reasons and, so while we can look at it as a reward for illegal behavior, I think you can also look it as a way to kind of stop the bleeding on this one issue."

Board member Wayne Barrows told McLain that he was concerned that the Legislature's decision could open doors for similar animal facilities in Vermont.

McLain told Barrows not to worry, for the wording in the legislation makes it clear it applies only to Nelson's facility.

"Somebody could step forward and make his or her own argument that they want another special deal like this special deal, but they can't come in under his special deal," she said.

"I wouldn't say it was a backdoor political deal," she told the board, "but it was certainly a political deal and it was certainly the result of a special interest who had the ear of the Legislature."

Nelson, McLain said, "has been flaunting, if I can say that, the law for years."

McLain argued that Nelson doesn't get off lightly under the arrangement. He has agreed to put up a second fence around the facility.

Also, "Mr. Nelson will have to capture, mark and test all cervids and not just the elk, but the deer and the moose that are inside that enclosure. … He will have a lot of things to do in order to address the issue of disease escaping his facility into the wild," she said.

Nelson maintains that there are about a dozen moose and 120 whitetail deer on his spread, while Fish & Wildlife says the figures for both species are double that.

Baker, the Rutland County representative on the Fish & Wildlife Board, said the Legislature's decision put politics before the health of the deer herd in Vermont.

"A very small group of legislators in the Northeast Kingdom, which Doug Nelson has strong ties to, want his continued support so they fixed this rule to benefit Doug Nelson," Baker said. "I don't think they understand the potential damage that could take place if those animals escape that enclosure."

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Outdoors: Pete the moose saved, but at what cost to wildlife?

This from the Sunday Burlington Free Press. Interestingly, just below this article was a press release from the Fish and Wildlife Dept warning people not to pick up newborn wildlife. So you and I can't own or possess live wildlife but Mr. Nelson can with the help of our legislators? Anyone for a tea party?
Lawrence Pyne

Outdoors: Pete the moose saved, but at what cost to wildlife?

Lawmakers' last-minute change overrides authority of Fish and Wildlife Board at Big Rack Ridge

Hallelujah! Pete the Moose, his pregnant girlfriend, Patty, and their entourage of whitetail deer friends are saved!

In case you missed it, that's more or less how early news accounts described a last-minute move by a handful of legislators that spares scores of moose and deer in a captive-hunting facility in Irasburg from the cold-hearted scientists at the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. Under rules the biologists helped set in 2008, Pete and his pals had to be destroyed if the owner of the facility -- a 700-acre fenced compound called Big Rack Ridge -- wanted to continue offering pay-to-shoot "hunts" for trophy elk, red deer, fallow deer and other exotic game.
The Fish and Wildlife Board adopted the rules governing captive-hunting facilities under the direction of the Legislature after years of expert testimony and public input, and with the unanimous approval of the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules. It banned any new facilities, but otherwise gave Vermont's two existing game preserves almost everything they wanted, save for one thing: in order to receive a permit under the rules, they could not have any moose or whitetail deer in their enclosures.
The reason why is simple. Fish and Wildlife is required by law to sustain a healthy deer herd, and the captive deer industry is the No. 1 source of spreading wildlife diseases into new areas. Among many recent examples are costly outbreaks of chronic wasting disease in Michigan and both CWD and tuberculosis in New York.

Read more:

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Wildlife Society weighs in on wildlife giveaway in VT

The following is from The Wildlife Society on the violation of the state's role as trustee of Vermont's wildlife. They urge everyone to write to their legislature and ask for a repeal of Sec. E.702.1 TRANSFER OF REGULATORY OVERSIGHT AND SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS FOR FACILITY AND HERD MANAGEMENT in the 2010 Appropriations bill.  Find contact information for your senators and representative here.

For immediate release: June 02, 2010
TWS Contact: Jenna Jadin (301) 897‐9770 x 309;

The Wildlife Society Sends Letter to Vermont Legislature Concerns Regarding Recent Bill Transferring Wildlife to Private Owner Statement recommends repeal of bill and return of wildlife to people of Vermont

The Wildlife Society (TWS) recently wrote to Vermont State Legislators in opposition to language in the state’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 appropriations bill (H.789). The problematic language allows for the transfer of publicly‐owned wildlife to the possession of a private businessman. The letter calls for a repeal of the section of the bill containing this language and the restoration of Vermont’s wildlife to its rightful owners, the public.
In the recently‐completed FY 2011 appropriations bill, legislators quietly included language which transfers ownership of illegally‐captured wild deer and moose to a private individual, Mr. Doug Nelson, and gives the Secretary of Agriculture, Food, and Markets sole authority over hunting within his 700 acre enclosure. On the surface, the language sets forth some regulations to protect native deer and moose populations from diseases carried by elk by creating a “special purpose herd,” however, this is hardly the underlying function of the language.
The language is a problem for multiple reasons, first of which is that taking wildlife out of the public domain and allowing it to be privately owned violates all precedent for wildlife management in the United States. As it is, this language amounts to little more than a license for Mr. Nelson to profit from Vermont’s publicly‐owned wildlife. Also a problem is that the language was quietly added without the benefit of a public hearing, opportunity for expert testimony, or engagement of the Fish and Wildlife Department or any conservation or sportsmen groups.
Michael Hutchins, Executive Director and CEO of The Wildlife Society said that "Wildlife is held in trust for all Americans; any legislation which threatens this long‐held tradition must be opposed, as it harkens back to the European aristocracy and is an anathema to the egalitarian ideals on which our country was founded."
TWS opposes private ownership of native wildlife because of the harm it causes to wildlife resources and long‐standing public values. All of the public should have an opportunity to access these resources for purposes such as fishing, hunting, trapping, and wildlife photography and observation, not just a wealthy, privileged few. These recent actions by the Vermont legislature will serve to undermine the foundation of wildlife management in North America by giving the public’s wildlife resources to an individual for his personal private gain. TWS urges people to write to their legislators to repeal this language and ensure that publicly‐owned natural resources are never used for personal gain.
Founded in 1937, The Wildlife Society (TWS) is an international non‐profit association made up of more than 9,000 professionals dedicated to excellence in wildlife stewardship through science and education. The mission of TWS is to represent and serve the professional community of scientists, managers,educators, technicians, planners, and others who work to study, manage, and conserve wildlife and their habitats worldwide.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Drill Baby, Drill

This video was put together by a friend of my family:

Subject: Music Video About Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill
From:    "chris fox" <>
Date:    Mon, May 31, 2010 11:37 am

Greetings! For the past couple of weeks I’ve been working on a music
video that depicts the situation in the Gulf. It’s done to the melody of
“Jambalaya”, but is called “Jumbo-Liar”. I’d appreciate any
feedback you might have and please feel free to forward it to other folks.
Here’s the link>

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