Concerns While Hiking in Vermont

To the editor:

Do you like to hike in Vermont? Well, if you do, I think what I am about to say will interest you. Recently, the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources invited the public to join a virtual discussion on outdoor recreation in Vermont that included the Commissioner of Fish and Wildlife, Louis Porter. I was looking forward to sharing my experiences that I have had while hiking at various locations on public land during different seasons.

I personally love nothing more than hiking in Vermont but really do not enjoy hearing gunshots in close proximity. It seems no matter where I go hiking, hunting is allowed also. There have been many times when I have been concerned that they might be getting too close and, even if I am wearing a bright orange vest, they might not see me. It takes all the fun out of what should be a stress-free enjoyable hike. I also have had visitors from out of state that love to hike but when they hear the gunshots close by, they really aren’t sure they want to go hiking anymore in Vermont.

Now, I understand that hunting is important in Vermont, but I don’t believe that it should be at the expense of the majority of Vermonters that don’t hunt or cause visitors from other states to want to hike elsewhere. I respectfully asked if Fish and Wildlife could designate certain areas for people that hike that did not include hunting. Commissioner Porter was quick to respond by telling me that hunters license fees pay for the programs for Fish and Wildlife and that hearing a few gunshots in the distance was not that concerning. He was indicating since I was not someone that had a hunting license that my outdoor experience just didn’t matter. I guess you could say I was shocked and extremely disappointed in his answer because it is general knowledge by the Department and the public that hunting is in decline and wildlife watching, kayaking, hiking, and other non-hunting outdoor activities are on the rise, yet Commissioner Porter continues to spread this misinformation about the general revenue for the Department. Our tax dollars, entrance to the parks, etc. all go to the Department and all Vermonters should be allowed to enjoy the outdoors in a venue that is free from fear or harm.

I really did think this virtual meeting was to listen to the public and hear their concerns to hopefully address them. I did contact Julie Moore at the Agency of Natural Resources to ask for a copy of the meeting, but she told me it wasn’t recorded. There were many good ideas at the meeting and I guess now there will not be public records to share. I hope in the future all meetings that they plan for public commentary will be recorded so there is transparency on how your government is working for you. If you have comments or concerns about this or any other aspect you feel is important to share, I hope you will contact Julie Moore at ANR or Louis Porter at Vermont Fish and Wildlife, but don’t be shocked if your voice doesn’t really matter unless you have a hunting license. 

Lark Shields