I'd like to reassure Seven Days readers that no one "yelled fire" or went "off the rails" in reporting on Stephen Bates, Black sheriff of Vergennes ["Chief Example," September 29; Feedback: "Don't Yell 'Fire,'" October 6]. Responsible reporters and historians do not embellish facts or jump idly to conclusions.
Newspaper articles are not footnoted the way scholarly ones are, so the reference for the possibility of arson in the burning of the Bates family home was not included in the Seven Days piece. The source document is the July 2, 1880, Vergennes Enterprise & Vermonter report on the blaze. It said, "Some think the fire the work of an incendiary, either to draw Mr. B. from the bank [where he was night watchman] and leave it exposed to burglars, or in revenge for the faithful discharge of his duties as city sheriff." Sheriff Bates clearly had the admiration and respect of most Vergennes residents, but perhaps not previously convicted or would-be criminals!
To be clear, no one "slurred" the voters of Vergennes. In fact, my comments at the recent historic marker ceremony included the following: "Stephen Bates was a remarkable man, and so were the citizens of Vergennes. Together, they did something entirely out of step with their times."
I hope everyone has a chance to stop by and see — and be inspired by — the marker in Vergennes.
Williamson is a member of the Stephen Bates Marker Team.
I pick up Seven Days weekly in Rutland. Although residing almost two hours from Burlington, I rely on the paper to keep me informed about the plethora of Burlington cultural events.
I was heartened to read your feature on jazz saxophonist Marty Fogel ["Playing It From the Heart," September 29], and I've appreciated the fact that jazz icon and University of Vermont professor Ray Vega has been on the Vermont jazz scene for many years now. A fellow New Jersey transplant like Marty, I had come to recognize Marty's talented contributions to the New York metropolitan jazz scene over the decades. I'm happy he is a present fixture on the Burlington jazz scene.
Thanks, Seven Days, for the meticulous article.
Write to Know
Vermont likes to brag up its "quaints,"
and how Montpelier leaders are saints,
but when asked to confess
of their EB-5 mess,
candid and transparent they ain't.
A Different View
A few weeks ago, we saw a photo of a girl "flipping off" parents protesting mandatory masking at Champlain Valley Union High School [Off Message: "CVU Student Goes Viral After Flipping Off Anti-Mask Protesters," September 6]. A lot of readers shared the student's apparent frustration with those who simply cannot accept facts and therefore endanger lives. It seemed to go without saying that cogent engagement was impossible with people so obviously and egregiously wrong. Chelsea Edgar's "Best-Selling Bunk" cover story [September 22] showed equal certainty about the worthlessness of official COVID-19 narrative dissent.
I, too, grew up thinking the "news" gave us the "truth." Then my thirties and forties happened. I began to curate my own sense of the truth based on my own reading, listening, and personal experience with powerful and trusted institutions. My own sense of the World We Live In is not reflected in almost any media. So I do not assume shared "facts" with my neighbors, especially about big, fuzzy topics like "medicine" and "politics." We have to analyze, as best we can, who is telling us "facts" and why. It is important information that Bill Gates and Kaiser Permanente sponsor NPR.
I share more or less the same beliefs about COVID-19 as Chelsea Green publisher Margo Baldwin and author Dr. Joseph Mercola, as well as some of Baldwin's nonmedical beliefs mentioned in passing to help establish her credentials as an Unserious Person. I wish both were given more space to lay out their cases — or, heaven forbid, to debate a representative of the official COVID-19 narrative.
Guns 'N' Unions
Recently, Vermont's AFL-CIO adopted a resolution in support of gun rights as a means of defense for the union and vulnerable communities from violent extremists and to uphold democracy [Off Message: "Labor Orgs Spar Over Vermont AFL-CIO Gun Rights Resolution," September 24]. Ample evidence demonstrates that gun violence is a public health crisis that must be addressed at all levels, especially in communities of color, where we see disproportionate impacts. Equally apparent is the fact that lax gun laws across the country have given the U.S. one of the highest rates of gun violence in the world.
The Vermont chapter of Moms Demand Action is committed to saving lives by promoting gun safety across the state of Vermont; supporting evidence-backed, commonsense gun safety measures; and partnering with those who help to support our mission. Gun ownership and gun safety aren't incompatible — they go hand in hand. The labor union members I know support efforts to make our communities safer from gun violence. They support commonsense policies that respect the rights of Vermonters while also keeping guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them, such as domestic abusers and others with violent histories.
Spread the Vaccine
COVID-19 vaccination rates in Vermont have been a key point in the state's virus prevention pathway, which, compared to other states and globally, has been very effective. In [Off Message: "Vermont's COVID-19 Outlook Is Uncertain, Top Official Says," September 17], you note that Vermont's ability to resist against the Delta variant surges was due to nearly 78 percent of Vermonters receiving at least their first vaccine dose. Though vaccines and boosters are widely available here, lack of accessibility to the COVID-19 vaccine around the world hinders health outcomes for all ages.
I urge readers — in particular, Vermont's U.S. senators, Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders, and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch — to support the NOVID Act. NOVID supports global vaccine funding and distribution to improve access to the COVID-19 vaccine for low- and middle-income countries. $25 billion would be allocated to purchase these vaccines, and they would be end-to-end administered to make sure they are not going to waste.
COVID-19 has obviously not gone away in Vermont, even after having the highest vaccination rate in the country. Through getting vaccinated in Vermont and supporting the movement to get people around the world vaccinated, we can help flatten the COVID-19 curve. I call upon Leahy, Sanders and Welch to support the NOVID Act through Congress and help those who do not have access to the vaccine right now find access and stop the spread.
'Make Hunting More Humane'
["Wildlife Wars," September 29] brings up so many issues to comment on. First, Commissioner Louis Porter fought the bill to have mandatory reporting of pets caught in traps, yet he is taking credit for it, like it was something he thought of and supported.
Second, I completely agree with Andrew French that we should not be arguing over this. We have asked for open discussions with the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, and we have asked for statewide roundtable discussions regarding how we are treating animals in Vermont — and have only continued to argue for eight years.
I thought we were beyond the name-calling, but this article has clearly shown that is not the case. Again we are focusing on the flatlander thing. The reality is: This is not about where you were born; it is not about tradition or anti-hunting or animal advocates. The petitions and bills introduced have been an attempt to make hunting more humane, to stop the intentional abuse that occurs when you release a pack of six relentless dogs on one innocent animal, to stop the cruelty aspect of slob hunting that engages in animal suffering as a form of entertainment and needless pain.
This is about a civilized and evolved society changing with the times, not pretending that animal abuse is acceptable.
Problem With POW
Thank you for going in-depth on the "Wildlife Wars" [September 29] story. I appreciate the work that went into the article. It was nice to enjoy a piece of real journalism.
Brenna Galdenzi of Protect Our Wildlife continues to operate hastily and attempt to control dialogue that she doesn't agree with. I wrote a letter to VTDigger.org questioning POW and some general comments from its Facebook site. Galdenzi attempted to get the letter pulled, I think, because she thought my comments were not flattering to her cause. She went further, posting on POW's Facebook page, threatening to sue me and allowing false information to be shared. It's against the law to bait bears in Vermont. Instead of correcting the wrong comments, she allowed the dialogue to continue and reinforced it. When I gave her a chance to say she supported muzzleloader deer hunting and bow hunting, she failed to respond.
Please continue with your journalism practices.
Not a Sport
Trapping and "hounding" are cruel, barbaric and inhumane activities that should be outlawed. Furthermore, hunting must be further regulated to protect our wildlife.
Two steps would help accomplish this: Contact your Vermont state legislators to support more diverse representation on the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board and enact laws to prohibit trapping and "hounding."
The times are a-changin', and Vermont must adapt to them.
Kevin McCallum's excellent article ["Wildlife Wars," September 29] made clear that the stalemate in this arena grows directly out of the deep divide in our country right now. It's a tangled web that can't be untangled, much less explained, in 250 words.
One point that caught my attention was a claim by outgoing Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Louis Porter that the divide between "consumptive" (hunting and trapping) and "nonconsumptive" (e.g., bird-watching) uses of wildlife was a false dichotomy. He strangely attempts to draw parallels between activities such as bird-watching — whose practitioners, he claims, "tromp through nesting areas" — to trapping animals in leghold traps or terrorizing bear families through the woods with hounds for recreation. It's not a "false dichotomy"; it's a specious comparison.
Some sportsmen believe their "traditions" are forever enshrined in the Vermont Constitution, which was written when open land was far more plentiful and the state was less populated. Now there are far more people here, and many of them want to see better protections for wildlife. Dismissing them as not being "Vermonters" won't get us where we need to go. This is of heightened concern when those dismissals come from people with power, as we've seen with certain members of the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board. Since we can't seem to come to any sort of compromise with those in charge at Fish & Wildlife, we will take it to the Vermont Statehouse, where democracy is possible and diverse opinions are welcomed.
Vermonter Values Wildlife
I want to write about my experience with Protect Our Wildlife. I am a born-and-raised Vermonter, an avid hunter and a licensed trapper. I was raised to value all wildlife. I'm raising two children of my own, and this is the lifestyle I want to instill in them — not just to respect animals, but people, too.
As sportsmen, we play a part in the longevity of these species. My years of being in the woods and studying wildlife and human interaction have shown me that we all coexist within a circle. When I trapped a red fox that had denned in a barn and brought it home, my son was so excited to see it and be up close and personal with such a magnificent animal. I took a picture of the fox and my son and posted it to show my friends and family. POW shared that photo on its site, and I instantly received death threats in my personal messages and awful comments toward my 6-year-old son. When I reached out to defend myself, it was instantly taken down off the site so I couldn't be heard. That fox was creating a problem and is now used as a tool for teaching kids about some of our wildlife.
I feel that POW has personal opinions, not biological facts. We all care for our wildlife. By regulating populations with harvesting, we keep all species of animals at a much healthier, more stable herd.
'Our Wildlife Cannot Wait'
The professional organization that represents fish and wildlife departments nationwide, the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, calls for a transformation to meet the changing times. However, those who head up the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department seem stuck in the past. Vermont surveys conducted by the Center for Rural Studies show that Vermonters don't support many of Fish & Wildlife's core positions, such as recreational trapping. In a 2018 survey conducted by Colorado State University, Fish & Wildlife staff indicated that management isn't doing enough to address change. The dramatic drops in hunting and trapping license sales are evidence that the times are changing in very significant ways. Fish & Wildlife must evolve in order to remain relevant and attract new sources of income.
This is not the time for a commissioner to simply maintain the status quo. This is a time for a new commissioner to be responsive to the 1,000 Vermont species that need conservation. A new commissioner must recognize the threats of climate change and focus resources to address the highest priorities and not maintain Fish & Wildlife's direction on cruise control. A new commissioner must be able to transform the department to address today's challenges; that includes reaching across the aisle and working with all Vermonters, not just hunters and trappers.
I urge Gov. Phil Scott to appoint a new commissioner who is capable of tackling today's and tomorrow's issues. All Vermonters deserve to be represented. Our wildlife cannot wait.
I Was a POW Target
A few years back, I was hunting on my farm with a bow and shot a coyote. Being proud to take out a predator, I posted it on Facebook. That's when the trouble began. Anti-hunters I don't even know started to harass me very badly on my page. Then they started with private messages to my page, things like "You should be shot with a bow" or "Meet me I'll show you how it feels" and other life-threatening private messages. These people are out of their minds.
Hunting in our state is more than tradition; it is also population control. Without it, we would see way more rabies and other things like that. We hunters pay good money to be able to enjoy our sport. Protect Our Wildlife and other anti-hunter groups need to be controlled. I was scared that they would find me and do me harm when this happened to me.
Letter to a Vermont Hunter
Hunting, fishing and trapping. It's murder, more murder and torture.
This is not a melodramatic statement, nor is it exaggeration. It is the simple truth. If you kill someone — or any animal of any species — for a reason other than self-defense, it is murder. Any explanation that is more involved or contrived is just an attempt to justify and rationalize the actions you make to fulfill your desires. You kill things — trap and torture and skin fellow earthlings — because you don't give a damn about them. You see yourself as superior and therefore more deserving of life, when, in fact, reasoning and judging from your actions and lack of empathy and compassion, you are far inferior to any nonhuman animal that you may victimize with the violent expression of your demented bloodlust.
I can just hear all your excuses and reasons spewing uncontrollably forth. "Nature, conservation and tradition"? Bullshit, bullshit and bullshit! You do it because you want to do it.
Then you cherry-pick, contort and distort statistics to justify your desires. Be honest, at least to yourself. It may save you some expensive therapy bills.
However and whenever the issues at the Fish & Wildlife Department get addressed, there must be a basis in fact guiding the transformation. As excellent as it was, the "Wildlife Wars" article conveyed misinformation about Fish & Wildlife's finances. Commissioner Louis Porter stated that about a third of its budget comes from license sales. In actuality, according to Fish & Wildlife's own pie chart, only 26 percent comes from license sales. Perhaps a small rounding error from 26 percent to 33 percent? Not exactly. The commissioner overstated the amount by $1.8 million!
That distortion led the reporter to a second error, when he reported that two-thirds of Fish & Wildlife's budget comes from hunters, trappers and anglers. There is no factual basis for that conclusion despite Fish & Wildlife's contention, even on its website. While it does receive a third from two federal excise taxes, those taxes stem from a whole range of sources — not just hunting and fishing. Those include trap, skeet and target guns and ammo, as well as the millions of handguns and rifles bought for personal protection.
The most definitive published research on this is from emeritus professor of wildlife ecology John Litvaitis of the University of New Hampshire, who concluded that only 23 percent of one fund came from hunters and anglers, while 45 percent came from other sources. Applying his research to Vermont leads to the conclusion that only 40 percent of Fish & Wildlife's budget comes from license holders; the rest, from people who don't hunt, trap or fish.
Emotion vs. Science
"Wildlife Wars." Imagine the outrage from anti-hunters if a houndsman or trapper had labeled a letter or commentary as such?
Brenna Galdenzi's organization assumes that it owns Vermont wildlife, which needs "protection" from Vermonters who hunt and trap when it is, in fact, supported by that very community. Protect Our Wildlife believes it knows best when it comes to wildlife, but what has it done to foster wildlife conservation? To my knowledge, it's done nothing to improve wildlife habitat, which is the single most important element to maintaining a reasonable population of wild critters.
A couple years ago, when hunting and trapping groups pooled money to support land conservation in Stowe, Galdenzi attacked the land trust for adding it to the public trust instead of supporting it. This land, which will provide critical habitat, is now preserved in perpetuity. Where was POW? Lobbying, bombarding the media with half-truths, and harassing the Fish & Wildlife Department.
These anti-hunting and trapping groups are motivated by emotion, not science. They are as rabid as those opposing abortion. They want to control the Fish & Wildlife Board? To what end? Would we want a right-to-lifer on the Planned Parenthood board?
Seven Days' love affair with Galdenzi is apparent. Regulated taking of wildlife results in a positive for Vermonters, our wildlife included.
A member of POW told me about seeing a wolverine in her backyard. Before these organizations place demands and restrictions on Vermonters who support our wildlife, I suggest they learn the difference between a wolverine and a woodchuck.
Editor's note: Seven Days editors wrote the headline "Wildlife Wars" for Kevin McCallum's September 29 story. We believe it is an apt description of this conflict.