Thoughts On The Out-Of-Doors: EPA Funding Aids Champlain Valley Wetlands

Firewood for next winter is drying in the woods. (Courtesy photo)

The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department has developed a new initiative to acquire and restore wetlands as a result of funding from the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the Lake Champlain Basin Program.

“As Vermont Fish and Wildlife is the largest owner of wetlands in the state, this is a natural fit to expand and build upon some of our marquis Wildlife Management Areas such as Dead Creek WMA, and it will enable us to strategically enhance other WMAs,” said Fish and Wildlife’s Public Land Section Chief Jane Lazorchak.

The initiative is strategically focused on acquiring marginal agricultural farmland in the Lake Champlain Basin and working both independently and with conservation partners to restore wetlands and floodplains. The goal of the program is to protect and improve water quality while providing habitat for wildlife and public-use value for hunting, fishing and other dispersed wildlife-based recreation for Vermonters. Conservation and restoration projects are essential to Vermont’s on-going efforts to reduce phosphorus pollution in Lake Champlain.

A wetland steering committee with staff from Vermont Fish and Wildlife and the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation has developed criteria to direct where the funding will be applied. Parcel size, cost and feasibility to restore, and the proximity to wetlands and other protected lands are assessed to prioritize potential projects for phosphorus retention and water quality improvements. Benefits to fish, wildlife, habitat, and natural communities, wildlife crossings, habitat connectivity, and other important ecological attributes will direct prioritization of projects.

“Several strategic wetland acquisitions were completed this year under the new initiative,” said Lazorchak. “With the purchase of five separate parcels, we added 511 acres to four of our largest wetland-based wildlife management areas in the Champlain Valley, including the Rock River, Intervale, Dead Creek and East Creek WMAs. Acquiring these properties for wetland restoration, while adding to our existing WMA system, allows the department to enhance wildlife habitat, protect water quality and improve public access to these sites for Vermonters to engage in hunting, birding, fishing, and other wildlife-dependent activities.”

The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department has a long, successful history of conserving, managing and restoring wetland habitat in Vermont. When the Sandbar Wildlife Management Area was established as a migratory bird refuge in 1920, Vermont became the first state in the eastern region to protect wildlife and habitat for future generations. Now, 100 years later, Vermont Fish and Wildlife has conserved more than 30,000 acres of important wetland habitat and is now the largest owner of wetlands in the state.

Green Mountain Conservation Camps To Open

Youth 12 to 14 years old who want to learn about Vermont’s wildlife and gain outdoor skills should attend one of the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department’s Green Mountain Conservation Camps this summer.

Specific details about whether the Camps will be able to operate, and what protocols relating to COVID-19 will be in place, will be communicated via the department’s website as they become clear.

The one-week camp programs are held at Lake Bomoseen in Castleton and Buck Lake in Woodbury. Campers participate in hands-on learning about fish and wildlife conservation, ecology, forestry, orienteering, safe firearm and archery techniques, swimming, canoeing, fishing and more. Natural resource professionals come to the camp to share information on their programs and take campers out for field activities.

“Whether kids come alone or with friends, they are guaranteed to meet new people and form new bonds while experiencing Vermont’s natural resources to the fullest,” said Fish and Wildlife Education Coordinator Alison Thomas. “An important take-away message and common theme during the week is that conserving and managing habitat will help ensure Vermont will have fish and wildlife in the future.”

“We would love to have all of the advanced sessions filled for girls who have already attended a basic session,” added Thomas. “Advanced sessions are for campers who have completed a basic session the summer before and who are 16 years old or younger. Advanced sessions include more in-depth activities about backpacking, camping, natural resources, and unique hunting and fishing techniques.”

Conservation Camps open June 20 and continue until August 13. Tuition is $250 for the week, including food, lodging and equipment.

Applications and information are available at www.vtfishandwildlife.com.

Vermont Bear Season Sets Records

Bear hunters in Vermont had another very successful hunting season in 2020 setting a record. It was also a safe season with no hunting-related shooting incidents.

Preliminary numbers show that hunters took a record 914 black bears during the two-part early and late bear seasons. The previous highest harvest ever recorded in Vermont was 750 in 2019.

The average number of bears taken over the previous 10 years was 608. The hunting season results are consistent with the Department’s goal of maintaining the bear population to within 3,500 to 5,500 bears, according to Forrest Hammond, Fish and Wildlife’s bear biologist.

In 2020, hunters took a majority of the bears, 823, in the early season and only 91 in the late bear season, which overlaps with the November deer season. Most bears were taken with modern firearms, while 16 percent were taken by archery and 17 percent with the use of bear hounds.

Hammond noted that participation in the early bear season increased substantially with 13,866 hunters choosing to purchase a $5 early season bear tag.

“In addition to an abundant population and the potential of harvesting delicious and nutritious bear meat, larger numbers of bears were harvested due to several factors,” said Hammond. “It was a poor year for natural bear foods, and we saw a surge in hunter numbers brought about by the COVID -19 pandemic and perhaps a corresponding increase in the number of hunters spending more time in the outdoors hunting than in past years.”

Bears were in conflict with humans more than any time in the past with game wardens and bear project staff responding to more than double the number of reports of bear-human conflicts than any year in the past.

Each hunter is required to submit a pre-molar tooth from their bear which will provide information on the age of the animal. Bear ages will be posted on Fish and Wildlife’s website in early May.

Bits and Pieces

Everyone can help support conservation and good habitat for wildlife on Vermont’s Wildlife Management Areas by purchasing the 2021 Vermont Habitat Stamp at www.vtfishandwildlife.com.

The department manages 100 Wildlife Management Areas conserving approximately 130,000 acres for healthy wildlife habitat throughout the state! These areas contain some of the most unique natural communities in Vermont and represent a century’s worth of thoughtful planning and dedication.

The Vermont Habitat Stamp helps support the conservation and management of Vermont’s WMAs, along with funding from sporting license sales and the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Fund.

Donations of $15 and more receive a 4”x5” Habitat Stamp sticker in the mail. A Habitat Stamp is not required to hunt, fish or trap, nor do you have to buy a sporting license to donate.

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To learn more about ice fishing for beginners, visit Vermont Fish and Wildlife’s “Ice Fishing Basics” webpage: https://vtfishandwildlife.com/fish/fishing-opportunities/vermonts-ice-fishing-opportunities/ice-fishing-basics

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Mark Breen reports in the Fairbanks Museum Skywatch Almanac that on January 21, 1979: “Snow finally arrives to stay across Vermont, the latest beginning of continuous snow-cover on modern records.”

He also tells us that January 23, 1857 was the “Coldest day of the coldest month of the 19th century; Burlington was -30 to start, and only reached a high of minus 17. The next morning in Lancaster, NH reported 55 below zero.”

Parting Shots

I want to thank all of you who responded to my request for information on mink farms and fox farms. I have learned so much about a subject I only faintly remembered from my youth.

Everything I have learned has been given to Beth Kanell who originally contacted me to ask about a mink farm in St. Johnsbury Center. She is researching fur farms for an article.

Once it is done, the information, photos and personal accounts will be on file at the Vermont Historical Society Library. I am happy that, with your help, the information will not be lost so that future generations may learn about a once-popular enterprise that existed in Vermont and New Hampshire. Unfortunately, many of those who owned or worked on the fur farms have long since died and the knowledge of the operations lost except for what you supplied us.

It is important that the history of the fur farms not be lost.

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“Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break, and all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.”

The above is by L.R. Knost the award-winning author, feminist, social justice advocate and authority on child-rearing. She is the founder and director of the children’s rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine.

The quote is from Louise Penny’s January newsletter. I am a great fan of Penny’s and read each of her novels as soon as it is published. There are 17 of them and they take place all over Canada and the U.S. and the latest in Paris. However, they are centered in the fictional town of Three Pines, which is a composite of the Town of Knowlton and the surrounding area just north of the Vermont border. It is there the main character Inspector Gamache lives.

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“Masks on faces, 6-foot spaces and uncrowded places,” is what Vermont’s Health Commissioner Dr. Lavine touts. It is a simple phrase that if followed may save the life of a friend or loved one.

Syndicated columnist Gary W. Moore may be reached by email at gwmoore1946@icloud.com or at Box 454, Bradford, VT 05033.

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