Ross Saxton: Look at land conservation, not new hunting laws, to protect wildlife

This comment is by Ross Saxton, a resident of Waitsfield.

Calls to protect wildlife through new state hunting and trapping laws have become more in focus at Statehouse recently, which is also making waves on social media and in the news.

Debates have arisen over the validity of these recently proposed laws, such as a ban on hunting bears and coyotes with dogs, along with stricter rules for trapping.

More talking and thinking about wildlife can definitely be a good thing for the conservation of wildlife. But some of these “wildlife protection” messages are more precisely about animal welfare and are a distraction to the real solution to protecting wildlife populations – land conservation.

Although animal welfare is an important issue in modern society, it should not be confused with wildlife management. The root of the proposed new hunting laws seems to be the ethics of certain hunting and trapping methods, and although considering the ethics of hunting and trapping is always a worthy effort for those who pursue game, what is ethical or moral should not lead to a science-based wildlife conservation to achieve management objectives.

Clearly, biologists – the professional scientists entrusted with conserving our wildlife – do not fully agree that the proposed rules described above will actually conserve wildlife effectively (see the VTDigger commentary “Jaclyn Comeau: Misinformation Distracts from Vermont’s Bear Conservation Success , “January 24, 2022, for example).

What is quite clear and indisputable is that land conservation is a proven strategy to protect the wildlife of our state. Habitat for wildlife is increasingly threatened each year throughout Vermont as more and more people seek to build new homes across our landscape.

Significant wildlife habitats, including irreplaceable travel corridors, are disappearing and deteriorating due to the development and poor management of forests in many places.

However, there is very good news; Vermont is home to several effective land conservation organizations that work daily with private landowners to protect more land and wildlife habitats; these organizations include land funds, regional conservation partnerships, municipal, state and federal commissions and agencies; and non-profit organizations.

It is the work of these land conservation organizations that should be the main focus of the protection of wildlife if we want to achieve real, long-term conservation of wildlife. Ensuring that these organizations are well-funded and supported is, in my opinion, the best we can do to protect Vermont’s wildlife for generations to come.

Whatever your position on hunting or trapping, let’s get together and protect as much wildlife as we can, through soil conservation.

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Tags: animal welfare, habitat threats, hunting and trapping, land conservation, Ross Saxton, science-based nature conservation, wildlife

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