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.
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.