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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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Friday, September 25, 2015

Amnesty May Be Coming for Queen City Chicken Owners

Posted By on Fri, Sep 25, 2015 at 5:32 PM

  • Sean Metcalf
Urban chicken keepers who’ve been exceeding Burlington’s four-bird limit may soon get a chance to come clean.

Burlington’s ordinance committee signed off Thursday on rules to govern the raising and slaughtering of livestock within city limits. The full city council is scheduled to vote on the regulations at its next meeting, in early October.

For years, Queen City chicken owners have complained about a city ordinance, created to regulate kennels, that prevents residents from owning more than four of any type of animal without a license. In 2010, after a man was busted for raising 10 chickens at his Old North End residence, city leaders agreed to take up the issue. Burlington didn’t have any rules governing urban livestock, so councilors asked a task force of urban-agriculture experts to come up with some. 

Based on the task force's report, and after more than a year of deliberation, the ordinance committee is proposing the  city's first-ever urban-agriculture regulations. 

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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Talk of Cutting Back Dog Park Hours Draws Howls

Posted By on Wed, Aug 5, 2015 at 4:10 PM

The crowd at the parks commission meeting - MOLLY WALSH
  • Molly Walsh
  • The crowd at the parks commission meeting
An overflow crowd of dog lovers unleashed their opposition to reducing the size of the Starr Farm Dog Park and its hours during a Burlington Parks Commission meeting Tuesday night.

More than 50 people crammed into a room at the Burlington Department of Public Works to oppose possible changes at the popular New North End dog park. Some park neighbors have complained it is too noisy and busy, straining the facility and a small parking lot. Speakers disagreed, and most also opposed the idea of charging fees to use the park — especially for Burlington residents.

"I think it would ruin the park and it would really piss people off," Maureen Schakey of Burlington said just after the meeting, reiterating comments she made during the session. She added: "If you have a kid you don't have to pay to go to the playground. What's the difference?"

Catherine Foley said that she hears children at C.P.Smith School saying the Pledge of Allegiance and shouting on the playground from inside her house. "I don't call the city to complain, because our kids need education," she said. Dog park neighbors shouldn't complain either, Foley said.  And dogs need exercise, she said, adding, "The Starr Farm Dog Park is a jewel in the Burlington Park system." 

More than a dozen people, all fans of the park, spoke during the public comments period. No park critics spoke out. City Councilor Dave Hartnett (I-North District), who has called for changes on behalf of neighbors concerned about the park, was not at the meeting.

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Monday, May 19, 2014

Lake Champlain Fish Die-Offs the New Normal, According to Biologists

Posted By on Mon, May 19, 2014 at 3:02 PM

  • Courtesy Vermont Fish & Wildlife's Facebook page
When 22-year-old Natalie Wheating headed to her Milton lakeside cabin last weekend to open up the camp for the season, she was startled by the sight that greeted her: "Hundreds, if not thousands" of dead fish were floating along the shore of the Lake Champlain.

Her first thought? "I just thought that something was being pumped into the water," said Wheating. 

The reason for the die-off, according to Vermont Fish and Wildlife, is a little less dramatic: Fisheries biologist Bernie Pientka said that mass deaths among alewives, an invasive species of herring, are normal in Lake Champlain at this time of year. Biologists believe the die-offs are a result of temperature fluctuations, food limitations and stress on the fish population following the winter season. 

"They're just not used to rapid temperature changes," said Pientka of the alewives, which first arrived in Lake Champlain in 2003. Alewives cause several problems for Lake Champlain. They outcompete native fish, such as rainbow smelt, and eat the eggs and larvae of other fish species. Alewives also cause major reproductive failure in landlocked lake trout and salmon. 

While the die-offs are "perfectly normal," Pientka said they're still worrisome for fisheries biologists. They point to the problem of invasive species in Lake Champlain, and act as a reminder of what can happen to an ecosystem put off kilter by invasive species. 

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