If you value the future of Vermont’s flora and fauna, please read and pay it forward.

It’s no secret Vermonters put a high value on outdoor recreation. Two out of three Vermonters hunt, fish and watch wildlife, totaling $780 million in trickle-down spending. Over the decades, the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department has grappled with decreased revenues, in part, augmented by the continued decline in license sales. Increased demands on VTF&W from demographic shifts and climate change have put additional strains on their budgets. Frankly, the proposed $24.1 million 2020 budget is already woefully short, and often-asked changes do not come to fruition.

H.190 addresses one important issue: is VTF&W addressing the demographic and cultural attitude change? This bill establishes a six-member legislative working group to find collaborative solutions and options for broadening stakeholder representation. This Wildlife Governance legislative group also addresses long-term sustainable revenue sources. OK, this legislative approach seems innocuous but it is not without political bias. I suggest a different model, a Collaborative Governance model, a volunteerism approach.

On Aug. 30, 2006, VTF&W convened with the second and the last of its Wildlife Congresses held at the Lake Morey Resort. All stakeholders were invited, including farmers, loggers, birders, bikers, hunters and anglers, to mention a few. The attendance was very promising.

Opportunities for the 2005 Wildlife Action Plan were discussed. Several key obstacles to the plan implementation were identified and in the afternoon, groups broke out into sessions for common ground solutions. Unfortunately, additional Wildlife Congresses have not convened again.

I strongly suggest VTF&W have another Wildlife Congress and invite all stakeholders invested in the great outdoors. There is much common ground for all of us; One comes to mind immediately — the 6 million acres of land we share together and enjoy. This is the beginning step for a potential Collaborative Governance model, altruistic and for the greater benefit of our flora and fauna friends.

Climate change continues to strain the efforts of the current VTF&W model (including all volunteer groups). More financial and human resources are needed. As the congress evolves from breakout groups from this initial meeting, new alliances and communication networks can evolve and grow. Participation from non-consumptive users and educational outreach (especially students) will be key issues.

Equally important will be for the CG group to find new additional revenues. Let’s face it, VTF&W will always be broke. These new revenues may be garnered into a separate Collaborative Governance Fund. VTF&W and the Collaborative Governance group can share these funds with the CG model providing ideas and in-kind services. VTF&W can provide their expertise.

Vermont’s population of 630,000 people definitely helps to increase the chances for a successful one-of-a-kind model. This novel idea will be a stepped and lengthy process. Over time, perhaps in, say, 10 years, we Vermonters can have model to be proud of.

So in closing, my flora and fauna friends are asking you for your help. If you truly want to help them and like the essentials of this model, please pay it forward by contacting Louis Porter, VTF&W commissioner, (louis.porter@vermont.gov) urging him to organize another Wildlife Congress and ask another friend to pay it forward. A groundswell of support is the only way to make this happen.

Vermont is a special place, let’s show them.

Pete Diminico stewards 4.4 acres on the divide of the New Haven River and Lewis Creek watersheds. He is a past president of the New Haven River Anglers, founder of New Haven River Watch and co-founder of the Bristol Conservation Commission.

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