Where Manly Men Hold Sway — UPDATED and Even More Manly

Typical meeting of the Fish & Wildlife Board (Artist’s Rendering)

Here’s another thing that won’t change until Phil Scott isn’t governor anymore: The state Fish & Wildlife Board is chock-full of hunters, almost all of them men.

Scott recently appointed three new people to the 14-member board (one member from each county). All three were hunters. All three were men. The makeup of the board: 11 men, three women.

Correction: It’s 12 men and two women. Maybe.

The F&W Board webpage listing the members has a typo. “Nicholas Burnham” is spelled “Nichola Burnham.” I jumped to the conclusion that “Nichola” was female.

Also, I’ve been told that Board member Nancy Mathews has resigned. I haven’t been able to verify that. If true, the makeup of the board is 12 men, ONE woman and a vacancy.

Generally speaking, Scott has done a very good job of appointing women to top positions in his administration. But apparently that notion of equity doesn’t apply to deer camp.

The Board’s gender imbalance is concerning; surely there are more than three qualified women in Vermont. But more concerning from a policy viewpoint is the administration’s clear preference for loading the Board with hunters. As if they are the only ones whose opinions matter.

A gubernatorial press release extols the three nominees, Nicholas Burnham, Neal Hogan, and Robert Patterson, for a shared “love of hunting that began during childhood as a driver of their commitment to conservation.”

Is there no other way to view conservation except through the steely eye of the hunter? Is no one else capable of providing different kinds of insight?

I guess not. Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Chris Herrick said that “board members who hunt are able to evaluate hunting policies objectively.” That’s a little hard to believe, honestly. Hunters have a vested interest in maximizing opportunities to shoot at stuff. They have valuable experience and first-hand knowledge, sure, but their experience and knowledge aren’t the alpha and omega of Fish & Wildlife wisdom.

Herrick also said it’s important for Board members to have detailed knowledge of the sports they are regulating:

“You really want people who understand what happens in the woods, or when you’re angling, to understand the impact of policies that you, as a board, are making,” he said. “The example that I’ve used is, you really don’t want non-electricians on the electricians board.”

Sorry, Commissioner, but that’s horse hockey. You know why I can say that? Because the five-member Vermont Electricians Licensing Board includes only two electricians along with an administration official, an insurance agent and a utility representative. Yup, electricians are a minority on the real-life “electricians board.”

Mr. Herrick should perhaps start measuring before he cuts.

Most boards, in fact, include a variety of professional backgrounds and experiences. A government board should include multiple points of view and reflect the community it serves, not just a single interest group. Hell, the governor appointed a man to the Vermont Commission on Women, which is a lot more of a stretch than putting a non-hunter on the Fish & Wildlife Board.

I’ve got no problem with significant hunter representation on the Fish & Wildlife Board. It’s important to have members who “understand what happens in the woods.” But there are other people with deep knowledge of our forests and wildlife. There simply isn’t a case for appointing hunters to the exclusion of everyone else.


6 thoughts on “Where Manly Men Hold Sway — UPDATED and Even More Manly

  1. Walter Medwid

    This is one of the most insightful examinations of the FW Board that I’ve read. The precision and light heartedness is a powerful combination. Thank you.

  2. gunslingeress

    I don’t agree with Phil Scott on much, but I do agree with him on this one. It is critical to have people on boards that deal with sports (especially “life sports” like hunting and trapping which go much deeper than mere athletics) who know what they are doing. There are plenty of female hunters. Look at the percentage of hunting licenses male v. female in Vermont and try to match that figure more closely. But I totally oppose putting non hunters on such a board. I support the right to bear arms but my husband was the hunter in our family. I was not. So I would not consider myself qualified to serve on that board just because I have an opinion. Opinions are a dime a dozen. Decisions a board like this makes have real ramifications for the people who participate in that sport. For example, I feel that it would be totally inappropriate to appoint someone to that board who was anti-hunting and opposed killing animals. The people who oversee the sport and make the rules MUST know what the consequences their rule-making will have. I wish politicians behaved that way. Most of them have totally insulated themselves from the consequences of their actions.

    1. Lark shields

      I respectfully disagree with your opinion. There is much more to be evaluated in conservation other than hunting or trapping. It would be helpful to have people with varied backgrounds that know about wildlife and its effects on the environment and animals. A veterinarian, biologist, forester, etc. would enhance the perspective of the Board. Hunters and trappers are not the only ones that utilize the forest or know what is best. It really boils down to if you think wildlife and the forest is only to serve man or if we are to respect its diversity and enhance it for all.

  3. kip ross

    Herrick like his predecessor L.Porter is a hack in the game for the hunters and trappers and the noble “sportsmen” who trespass with impunity on private property with the hounds. for stating that wanton waste is good fertilizer. Gee, does the forest floor need fertilizing from a rotting coyote carcass? Is this science based? Nope…

    Killing more moose to protect the dwindling moose population from ticks is another dingbat, pro-hunting approach to wildlife management. Herrick, the hack is another ineffectual bureaucrat and woefully unsuited for his job as Commissioner of VT F and W. Thanks, Governor Scott for your misrepresentation of most Vermonters by appointing hacks like Herrick and the former hack, L. Porter.

    When the antiquated wildlife destruction policies begin to impact tourism, maybe the Governor will realign his appointments to represent the majority rather than a sliver of the sports folk.

  4. Brian

    Sure, Walter and others, limp wristed men can associate with anti-hunters, fur hating, anti-trappers using their tried-and-true hackneyed propaganda methods that extreme protectionists always use and that is selfish exploitation of fear, bigotry, ignorance and intolerance. They will always try to win the day with it. However, most farm boys and country folk are knowledgeable about composting methods to use animal carcasses to provide a valuable fertilizer component. A sportsmen’s forest and field in Vermont that Lark recommends where the likes of Groton wildlife criminals, both Donna Babic and Betty Eastman have sway in is untenable.


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