July 20, 2018

Letters to the Editor

Keeping Williston moving

Kudos to the Williston Highway Department. No matter how much snow we have gotten, our road crews have kept the roads passable.

Whenever I have gone out, wherever in Williston I have gone, I’ve always been able to get there.

Thanks to Rick McGuire, Bruce Hoar, Mark Russell and all the highway crew.

Charlie Magill

Williston

Wildlife management for non-hunters

The population of moose has drastically declined in Vermont due to winter ticks, brainworm, lungworm, loss of habitat and hunting. Yet, the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department and its board still support a 2018 moose hunt. For too long the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department and board (which is solely made up of hunters and trappers) have catered to hunters and trappers at the expense of animals, wildlife, homeowners and non-hunting Vermonters.

The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board’s rationale — and that of many moose hunters and hunting guides — is that if the moose hunt is suspended, it will be hard to reinstate. And this is how wildlife policy is made, by pandering to “sport” hunters and irrational, self-serving thinking.

In the 1800’s, the moose population was nearly wiped out because of hunting. Now the moose again are suffering. Moose that are injured and not recovered do not even count toward a hunter’s “bag limit.” Why is it that the Fish and Wildlife Department and board cater to a few when the majority of Vermonters want to see ethical and responsible management?

The fact that the non-hunting public and homeowners have so little say in the way wildlife is managed in Vermont is undemocratic and irresponsible. Animals can be trapped without having to be reported. Traps can be set nearly anywhere, including on public land near walking and hiking trails. Vermont allows killing “contests” and “open” seasons on a number of animals.

There are many Vermonters who enjoy viewing wildlife. Wildlife provides peace, beauty and tranquility to hectic lives. Wildlife watching, including viewing moose, contributes to the economy, in many states far more than hunting does. Those who like to view and/or photograph wildlife, hike and participate in non-consumptive outdoor recreation need to have a say in how policy is made and how wildlife is managed in Vermont.

Alana Stevenson

Charlotte

Alarmed by move to arm election-monitoring

One of my responsibilities as secretary of state is to ensure that our fundamental democratic voting rights are protected.

I recently learned of language included in Section 4012 of H.R.2825, which provides for the reauthorization of the federal Department of Homeland Security, which would allow armed Secret Service agents to enter polling locations — at the direction of the president.

To say that I am shocked would be a severe understatement.

Title 18 of the U.S. Code makes it a crime for a military or civil officer in the service of the United States to bring or keep their troops “at any place where a general or special election is held,” unless it is necessary to protect against an armed invasion.

I am deeply concerned that anyone would think it reasonable to allow Secret Service agents to intrude upon the citadels of our democracy at the discretion of the president, who may also be a candidate in that election.

Opening the door for the possibility that armed federal agents could be directed by the president to patrol polling places and voting centers is a dangerous and slippery slope, and would upend a history of carefully crafted protections that ensure that presidents cannot weaponize military or civil officers to suppress and intimidate voters at their neighborhood precincts.

This action is more emblematic of a totalitarian government than the democracy that I and other elected officials, including the President and members of Congress, have sworn an oath to protect.

It is imperative that Congress take immediate steps to remove this affront to our democracy from H.R.2825 and recognize that it should never have been included to begin with.

While it is disconcerting that we find ourselves in this position, it is my hope that our members of Congress will recognize this proposal for the true threat to our democratic process that it is. There is simply too much at stake.

Jim Condos

Vermont secretary of state

Emerald ash borer and nature’s resilience

The news that emerald ash borer has arrived in Vermont is devastating. In just a few decades, the majestic ash trees in our forests and swamps could practically disappear.

Sadly, the emerald ash borer is just one of many non-native insects and diseases that have affected Vermont’s natural communities over the past century. In the early 1900s, chestnut blight decimated American chestnuts. Soon after, Dutch elm disease took a similar toll on American elms — celebrated street trees, but also the dominant species in floodplain forests along many Vermont rivers. More recently, hemlock woolly adelgid has been spreading north into the state, and hemlock dieback is starting in Windham county.

In many ways, nature has been remarkably resilient to these losses. Other native trees have literally filled the gaps left by the missing species. Instead of elms, silver maples now arch over our floodplain forests. Where chestnuts once stood, oaks now fill the canopy.

Ecologists know that plants and animals have come and gone from Vermont since the continental glaciation some 13,000 years ago. Natural communities changed and adapted. Today, this resilience itself is being tested. Insects and diseases spread quickly around the globe. And over the next century, the rate of climate change is predicted to be 10 times more rapid than any change in the last 65 million years. Nature will have to adapt faster than ever before.

We can help by doing our part to slow the spread of emerald ash borer and other non-native species. We can also support those organizations working to restore disease-resistant elms and chestnuts to Vermont’s woods.

Even more important, we must keep our forests and natural communities diverse, intact and connected. If the majority of our native plants and animals can thrive and move around the landscape, then our natural communities will adapt. One hundred years from now, Vermont’s forests may look very different, but they can continue to provide clean air and water, abundant wildlife habitat, and many other benefits into the future.

Vermont’s forests and natural communities have bounced back from other changes. Emerald ash borer should remind us not to take this outcome for granted. Nature’s resilience comes from healthy, functional ecosystems.

Bob Zaino

Vermont Fish and Wildlife

Middlesex

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