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Monday, August 16, 2021

Vermont Fails to Protect Bats from Pesticides, Suit Claims

Posted By on Mon, Aug 16, 2021 at 7:24 PM

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service biologist holding a little brown bat - U.S. FISH & WILDLIFE SERVICE/ ANN FROSCHAUER
  • U.s. Fish & Wildlife Service/ Ann Froschauer
  • U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service biologist holding a little brown bat
Two environmental groups are suing Vermont’s Agency of Natural Resources for allegedly failing to protect endangered bats from pesticides meant to kill mosquitoes.

The Vermont Natural Resources Council and the Center for Biological Diversity filed the lawsuit Monday in the Environmental Division of Vermont Superior Court.

The groups say the agency should have required a mosquito protection district to get “incidental take” permits under Vermont’s Protection of Endangered Species Act for harming five threatened and endangered bat species.

The state Fish & Wildlife Department opted not require the Brandon-Leicester-Salisbury-Goshen-Pittsford Insect Control District to apply for such permits, arguing there was no evidence its pesticide spraying actually harms the creatures.

“Poorly regulated pesticide spraying is putting the state’s threatened and endangered bats at risk,” Mason Overstreet, staff attorney at Vermont Law School’s Environmental Advocacy Clinic, said in a press release. “ANR’s decision to ignore both the scientific consensus and the plain-preventative language of Vermont’s endangered species law abandons their responsibility to protect vulnerable wildlife.”

The agency’s July 2021 decision was made despite the unanimous recommendation in March by its own Endangered Species Committee that such permits should be required. The committee is a scientific panel that advises the agency.

A 2019 report by Huntington bat expert Jeff Parsons found that five bat species — Indiana bat, northern long-eared bat, eastern small-footed bat, little brown bat, and tri-colored bat — were all likely to suffer “acute toxic impacts” from flying through clouds of the insecticides malathion and permethrin.

In her ruling, Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore noted that the state is "fully committed to protecting" threatened and endangered species if an activity "actually poses a reasonable likelihood of risk of injury" to it. She called the risks to bats "speculative and unquantified."

The committee’s recommendation and the expert report raised sufficient questions about the risk to the bats that the department should have at least required the district to apply for a permit, said Jamey Fidel, Vermont Natural Resources Council's general counsel.

“The threshold is whether there’s a risk to injury of wildlife, whether the injury occurs or not,” Fidel said.

The permit process would have been a forum for experts to discuss whether there are alternatives or ways to lessen the impact of the pesticides, he said.

“There’s no doubt that Vermont’s refusal to follow science and the law will result in these amazing, imperiled animals being harmed by toxic insecticides,” Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a release. “Given that bats actually help to regulate mosquito populations, the state’s reckless decision to allow them to be killed in order to kill mosquitoes is a shortsighted choice that will cause long-term harm. It leaves us no choice but to go to court to protect them.”

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Monday, July 5, 2021

Vermont's Loon Conservation Gets Lift From Oil Spill Settlement

Posted By on Mon, Jul 5, 2021 at 1:45 PM

Warning signs on Big Averill Lake in Norton - COURTESY OF BECKY SCOTT
  • Courtesy of Becky Scott
  • Warning signs on Big Averill Lake in Norton
Vermont’s annual loon protection budget is seeing a long-term expansion this year, thanks to a settlement from a 2003 oil spill in Buzzards Bay.

A grant of about $450,000 will be used to improve protection for loon nesting sites in Vermont lakes, and new mapping and education tools, said Eric Hanson, a biologist for the Vermont Center for Ecostudies who works on loon management in partnership with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Hanson said the center’s Vermont Loon Conservation Project will also use the money over the next several years to revamp the database of the volunteers who provide information about the large migratory birds and their nesting sites at lakes around the state.

“And I’ll be able to get safety gear for ice rescue,” said Hanson, noting sometimes chicks or adults are found frozen but alive on lake surfaces. “We’ll be able to capture them and give them a second chance.”

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Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Vermont Is Planning to Install Rattlesnake Road Crossings

Posted By on Wed, Jun 2, 2021 at 4:11 PM

  • Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department
  • Timber rattlesnake
When endangered timber rattlesnakes wake from their winter hibernation area in Rutland County, many of them need to cross Route 22A to reach their feeding grounds.

As they slither across the busy two-lane road, some of the cold-blooded creatures stop to curl up on the warm spring asphalt — and never make it to the other side.

“That’s where truckers are hitting 60 miles per hour on their way up from Route 4 into the Champlain Valley,” said Jens Hilke, conservation planner for the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.

So when the road is rebuilt in the coming years, it will likely have the state’s first ever wildlife crossing — for rattlesnakes.

The five tunnels are proposed to cross the roadway under a mile-long section near West Haven. The project was mentioned this week in a New York Times story on wildlife crossings around the country.

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Friday, August 30, 2019

Leahy Vows to Close Organic Loopholes to Protect Small Dairy Farms

Posted By on Fri, Aug 30, 2019 at 6:52 PM

Stony Pond Farm owner Tyler Webb leads Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy on a tour of the 300-acre dairy farm in Fairfield. - KEVIN MCCALLUM
  • Kevin McCallum
  • Stony Pond Farm owner Tyler Webb leads Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy on a tour of the 300-acre dairy farm in Fairfield.
U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said this week that loopholes in federal dairy regulations are hurting small organic dairies in the state by allowing massive farms in western states to claim organic status they don’t deserve.

On a visit Tuesday to Stony Pond Farm, a 60-head organic dairy in Fairfield, Leahy said the growth of the organic food market into a $50 billion industry had attracted massive producers that don’t necessarily share the values epitomized by Vermont’s organic family farmers. 

“Factory-scale farms want a piece of the action. They want to cut corners. They want to erode the true intent of organic farming,” Leahy said. “They are flooding the market with cheap alternatives.”

The ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee vowed to head back to Washington to close loopholes in the 1990 Organic Foods Production Act that he helped author.

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Thursday, January 11, 2018

One Controversial Coyote Hunt Is Canceled, and Another Crops Up

Posted By on Thu, Jan 11, 2018 at 6:27 PM

Coyotes killed by a Northeast Kingdom hunter in 2015 - FILE: MARK DAVIS
  • File: Mark Davis
  • Coyotes killed by a Northeast Kingdom hunter in 2015
Sponsors of a monthlong coyote hunting contest planned for February canceled the event. Series11 sporting goods store and the Weston Rod & Gun Club in southern Vermont cited a lack of interest in a posting on social media.

Meanwhile a different coyote hunting contest, for the weekend of February 10 and 11, is being sponsored by the Green Mountain Houndsmen Club in Franklin County, according to Protect Our Wildlife, a Stowe-based nonprofit.

The Stowe organization is one of several animal rights groups pressing Vermont lawmakers and state Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Louis Porter to ban coyote hunts on the grounds that they promote senseless killing of animals that no one wants to eat.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Dogs-Gone: Franklin County Animal Rescue Fights to Reopen

Posted By on Tue, Aug 15, 2017 at 2:49 PM

Kelly Frederick and Toki - KATIE JICKLING
  • Katie Jickling
  • Kelly Frederick and Toki
The Franklin County Animal Rescue sat vacant on Friday, save for Toki, an immense white and brown cat who stalked the halls like he owned the place.

For now, Toki, three other cats and a brood of six kittens are the only residents in the shelter, which shuttered in April because of financial woes. He meandered past vacant "cat condos" and rubbed affectionately against the legs of Kelly Frederick, who was hired in July to fix the failing organization.

Frederick hoped to find a new home for Toki, who'd been adopted once and then returned to the shelter. It's one item on a long list of challenges she's faced in her job as transition manager for the cash-strapped St. Albans shelter. There were also phones that broke last week and kittens left — abandoned — in front of the shelter.

Frederick shrugged. "I'm the boots on the ground," she said.

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Friday, August 11, 2017

Chittenden County Humane Society CEO Nancy Cathcart to Step Down

Posted By on Fri, Aug 11, 2017 at 7:15 PM

Nancy Cathcart will step down from her post as head of the Humane Society of Chittenden County in September.

Cathcart, who has spent four years as president and CEO of the South Burlington nonprofit, will resign to focus on her health, according to a press release the organization put out on Friday. Her final day will be September 15. The release says:

In the fall of 2016, Nancy Cathcart was preparing for long-needed bilateral knee replacement surgery when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The Board and staff accommodated her leave of absence and part-time status through treatments. As she approached another extended leave of absence for knee replacement surgery, she made the decision to resign her position to focus on her healing and recovery.

Cathcart, who has worked in fundraising for numerous local and state nonprofits, called her tenure with the Humane Society "the greatest challenge and the greatest learning experience of my career."

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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

No Prison Time for Man Whose Loose Bull Caused Fatal Wreck

Posted By on Wed, Jun 28, 2017 at 4:59 PM

A surviving bull, Big, behind a fence at Craig Mosher's Killington property in June 2016 - MARK DAVIS
  • Mark Davis
  • A surviving bull, Big, behind a fence at Craig Mosher's Killington property in June 2016
The owner of an escaped bull that caused a fatal car crash pleaded guilty Wednesday to a charge of reckless endangerment and got a suspended sentence.

Craig Mosher's 1,800-pound Scottish Highland bull was loose on Route 4 in Killington in July 2015 when it was struck by a car with two people inside.

Jon Bellis, 62, of Connecticut, was behind the wheel and died at the scene. His wife, Kathryn Bellis, was injured.

In the weeks before the fatal collision, police twice responded to reports that Mosher's bull had gotten loose on Route 4. Minutes before the fatal accident, another motorist called police and said he had narrowly avoided the bull while driving on the road. (That person also notified Mosher that the bull was loose.) A Vermont State Police trooper was en route when the fatal collision occurred.

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Monday, February 22, 2016

Defendants in Irasburg Poaching Case Avoid Jail in Plea Deal

Posted By on Mon, Feb 22, 2016 at 1:21 PM

  • Courtesy of the Barton Chronicle
  • Wayne Dion
An Irasburg couple, whom authorities alleged ran one of the most elaborate deer poaching operations in Vermont history, recently agreed to a plea deal that saw them lose their hunting privileges but avoid prison.

In Orleans Superior Court earlier this month, Wayne Dion pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of failure to tag big game and no contest to misdemeanor charges of baiting deer and taking deer out of season. Jennie Dion pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of possessing a deer taken by illegal means.

Wayne Dion, 67, was ordered to pay more than $2,500 in fines and restitution. Jennie Dion, 65, was ordered to pay $1,500 in fines and restitution.

As part of the agreement, both will lose their hunting licenses for five years, Orleans County State's Attorney Jennifer Barrett said in an interview.

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Monday, January 11, 2016

After 18 Months on the Lam, Murphy the Dog Rescued

Posted By on Mon, Jan 11, 2016 at 10:50 AM

  • Courtesy of Wilson Ring
  • Murphy the dog
Murphy is home.

After 559 days of roaming the Morrisivlle/Waterbury corridor after being spooked by a car accident, the golden retriever whose escapades captivated the region was captured in a trap on Saturday night.

He has been reunited with his owners in Morrisville, who were aided in their search by a band of volunteers who deployed traps and game cameras and coordinated responses to a slew of reported sightings.

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