Wildlife Action Plan Wins Federal Approval

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Vermont's Wildlife Action Plan, the product of a two-year planning effort to conserve wildlife and wildlife habitat has been accepted by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, according to Vermont Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Wayne Laroche.

The Wildlife Action Plan, a blueprint for the conservation of all of Vermont's wildlife, is the largest planning effort of its kind in Vermont's history. Representatives of more than 60 local, state and national agencies, sportsmen and conservation groups, academics, land managers and other wildlife experts pooled their knowledge to create the plan.

"These are the people who know Vermont's wildlife best. It could not have been done without them," said Commissioner Laroche.

"The Vermont Trappers Association has a long history of working with Vermont Fish & Wildlife," according to president Rick Schoonover. "Vermont trappers endorsed the Action Plan process, because healthy wildlife populations and ecosystems are important to trappers, hunters and other sportsmen and women," said Schoonover.

Governor Douglas welcomed the news of plan approval, noting that, "Healthier wildlife populations contribute to Vermont's reputation for a high quality of life and conservation of natural resources. Two-thirds of Vermonters take part in wildlife-associated recreation. These Vermonters and the tourists coming to Vermont to enjoy our wildlife add more than $380 million to our economy annually."

All U.S. States and Territories agreed to develop Wildlife Action Plans and submit them to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by October 1, 2005, as a condition of accepting State Wildlife Grant Program funding.

Commissioner Laroche sees the State Wildlife Grants program as a vital new addition to the traditional and overstretched programs that fund state wildlife management.

"Vermonters love their wildlife," said Roy Marble, president of the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs, "but for decades it's only been sportsmen that have paid for wildlife management through license sales and an excise tax on hunting and fishing gear. We welcome this opportunity to broaden the funding base to better conserve wildlife."

"The Wildlife Action Plans offer the first comprehensive national vision for wildlife conservation," said Marvin Moriarty, northeast regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "We are tremendously impressed with the overall quality of Vermont's Wildlife Action Plan and the extensive partnerships employed to develop it. We look forward to continuing our partnership with the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department to assist them in implementing this Plan to protect, restore and manage fish and wildlife habitat in Vermont."

Vermont's Plan emphasizes acting before wildlife become threatened or endangered.

"Proactive conservation like the Wildlife Action Plan makes real sense for the bottom line. If we invest in conserving wildlife and wildlife habitat now, drastic and expensive measures won't be required later," said Jim Shallow, Director of Conservation for Audubon Vermont. "As a science-based organization, Audubon supports the research driven process that created the plan. Personally, as a taxpayer, I like that it has cost-effective recommendations for getting the work done. And as a parent I like knowing that my children and future generations will enjoy wildlife too."

Sherb Lang, president of Hunters, Anglers & Trappers of Vermont recommended, "The Fish & Wildlife Department should begin by focusing down the middle -- on the projects and opportunities that have the broadest public support, the greatest chances for success and that benefit the most wildlife species."

The Wildlife Action Plan contains conservation strategies that all Vermonters can help implement -- from state and federal agencies to local communities and nonprofit groups to individual landowners.

VTrans volunteered several staff to Wildlife Action Plan development and will be a partner in implementation." VTrans is committed to practicing good stewardship," said VTrans environmental policy manager Gina Campoli. "When wildlife conservation is integrated with transportation planning wildlife, motorists and taxpayers all win. Roads are safer, maintenance costs may be reduced, and projects speed through the permitting and regulatory process."

The Wildlife Action Plan can be viewed at www.vtfishandwildlife.com/SWG_home.cfm.