Hidden dangers for hiking dogs: Trapping starts October 26

Many Vermonters love to hike, especially in the fall. It’s a great way to enjoy the beauty of our state. It is also a chance to spend time with our dogs. What some Vermonters do not know is that there are hidden dangers in the woods: baited leghold and body-crushing kill traps.

Traps are used to capture animals like foxes, bobcats, beavers, and others. For many trappers, this is a hobby. Unfortunately, this hobby results in animals suffering in traps for hours. Animals injure their mouths and paws as they chew at the metal jaws of the trap to free themselves. Some even chew off their own limbs trying to get free. Broken bones, lacerations, dislocations, and other trauma are also common. Often, trapped animals aren’t even given a humane death. Bludgeoning, choking, drowning, and stomping on the animal’s chest are all legal methods to kill trapped wildlife. If the animal is “lucky”, s/he is shot.

Hikers with dogs need to know that a lot of public lands allow trapping. Unlike other states, there is no regulation for how far a trap must be set off a trail or recreation area. Trappers don’t need to put up any signs, so people know traps are there. Traps are indiscriminate. Traps can catch your dog just as easily as it can get a coyote. Protected eagles, endangered pine martin, owls and even black bears, are unintentionally trapped in Vermont. Animals, including dogs and cats, can have painful and debilitating injuries from being trapped. Despite Fish & Wildlife Department claims, animals who are trapped accidentally are not simply released “unharmed”. Many injuries aren’t readily visible to the trapper. Some trappers admit to releasing an animal that will probably die because of their injuries.

Last year, nine dogs and two cats were reported trapped. The number is likely higher since reporting was not required. Two of the dog owners were bitten while trying to release their frantic dogs. One dog was trapped at a popular dog walking spot in Waterford. In Shaftsbury, one dog was trapped just beyond the owner’s driveway. Thanks to legislation passed last year (but opposed by the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department Commissioner), trappers will soon have to report when they trap a dog or cat.

If you want to protect your pet, here are some things you can do:

  • Keep cats inside, for their safety and to protect wildlife from your cat.
  • Keep your dog on a leash. Having your dog close protects them and wildlife too.
  • Check the area before you let your dog swim or wade. Body crushing kill traps set for beavers and other wildlife in the water can trap and kill your dog.
  • Learn how to release your pet from a trap at protectourwildlifevt.org/trapping-and-pets
  • Join Protect Our Wildlife and be a wildlife advocate.

Kristen Cameron

Protect Our Wildlife

Working toward a Greater Essex: What’s Missing?

I’m responding to “It’s time for you to do the talking” (Oct. 3) in which George Tyler writes, “now it’s time for us to zip it up and listen to you, the people we represent.”

Mr. Tyler asks, “Most important, should we move ahead with our plan to hold a public vote about merger in the November 2020 elections?”

This question is moot at best.

Just two and a half months ago, I first became aware of the push toward merger. I went to a meeting where the focus group questions were being finalized. I suggested including the alternative I support, Separate and Share. The response was that many alternatives were considered, and it was narrowed down to two flavors of Merger, or Status Quo.

I quickly learned that the governing bodies may be listening, but they are not hearing.

I question Mr. Tyler sincerity when he asks, “Should we move ahead with our plan to hold a vote on merger?”

At the last Joint Selectboard/Trustee meeting I saw a half-hour spent discussing who should serve on a future charter-writing Committee. This meeting included 10 elected officials (8 from the Village) and at least three staff (2 from the Village). That totals six-plus person-hours spent assuming a new Charter will be needed.

If the question of whether to merge were truly on the table, why would so much effort be expended on the assumption that the answer from the public in the second survey will be yes to merger even before the results are in.

This second survey seems to be cover for an obvious subterfuge. It’s Not a resolution put to voters and not a true random sample of the population where statistical probabilities can be assessed. Instead, Mr. Tyler implies their next moves will be based on the results of an anonymous survey that can be taken by anyone, from anywhere, any number of times.

Then there’s the content of the survey. There are three questions that allow a respondent to express non merger preferences. Two have an “other” option write-in, and these are at the end. Before these questions, respondents are forced to answer many questions that presume merger will happen. Although this may be an unintentional arrangement, it effectively sets the inevitability of merger in one’s mind before getting to the crucial question.

Another justification for moving forward on merger, a slide from the July KSV survey report is often quoted and was once again referred to by Patrick Murray at the 9/24 Joint Board meeting: “7 out of 10 favor merger”. If only he had looked back two slides in the same report. He would learn that “6 out of 10” respondents were not “very familiar” with past merger efforts.

So more than 60% of those who said they favored merger, and on whose response all this effort is supposedly based, were not well- informed as to what merger might mean. In addition, the vast majority of residents did not complete the first survey.

This second survey goes farther to introduce issues like taxation, representation, identity and development. I wouldn’t be surprised, with a better-informed response base, if that 7 out of 10 figure of support reduces to something like 4.2 out of 10 once the 7 are better informed that their taxes will increase without a corresponding vote , or that direct control over the Village budget will end, or that new facilities may be needed to provide equal access to services town-wide.

Ken Signorello

A walk through history

By Linda Myers, former Essex Selectboard Chair and current State Representative (8-1) and Tim Jerman, former Essex Junction Trustee and State Representative (8-2)

[The “Working towards a greater Essex” regular column has been replaced this week by a guest column. This column represents the opinion of the authors and does not speak for the Essex Selectboard, the Essex Junction Trustees, or any individual board member.]

History repeats itself! Nowhere is this old adage truer than in the history of governance between Essex and Essex Junction. And now we’re poised, in a year’s time, to stand once again at the threshold of a united community vote with uncertain outcome. We’ve been here before.

We are definitely “old warriors” from prior merger votes with a lot of history on the issue. We served our community as both state representatives (Linda is still serving) and local officials (Tim: Village Trustees, Linda: Town Selectboard). Philosophically we support merging the Town and the Village and will likely support the plan of merger when it is developed and presented to voters in November 2020. Our purpose here is to remind voters of why a united community was sought in prior votes, and the facts of what happened, both in the consequential votes of 1999 on separation and consolidation, and the 2006-7 votes on merger.

Prior to 1999, the Village had voted twice to defeat separation from the Town: in 1971 (1200-299) and in 1978 (1147-718). But in March 1999, it passed narrowly, 1179-916. There was a recall vote on May 25, 1999, and it passed again by a razor-thin 1266-1229 (note: neither of your authors ever favored Village separation). If supported by the Legislature at that time, this would have been a worst-case scenario for the Town outside the Village with respect to revenues--a near instant 47% loss of tax base. The Town Selectboard then acted swiftly to propose a merger vote in November 1999 to create a new “City of Essex Junction.” What they said then prior to the vote is instructive today (note: Linda’s husband Marty Myers was Selectboard chair at the time):

“The Essex Selectboard is unanimous in their opinion that a united Essex community will serve all residents more efficiently and effectively than one which is divided. By remaining together, Town residents in the Village can:

Participate as elected or appointed officials on any of the Town’s boards and commissions.

Realize continued tax savings by sharing services such as police, real estate appraisal, town clerk, property and vital records, emergency management, etc.

Enjoy the benefits of greater economic leverage and diversification potential to more successfully compete in local, regional, and global economies.

Enjoy the benefits associated with the political clout as the State’s third largest community (now second!).

Continue with the same high quality level of services provided by our community at a lower cost.

Develop a shared vision of the future of the Essex community.”

That merger vote passed overwhelmingly in the Town outside the Village, 2362-306. It failed in the Village, but only by 1363-930, so the combined result was easy passage. Why wasn’t that the end of it? Because the Legislature, with control over all charter proposals, was faced with dueling charter changes and refused to act, so the status quo was maintained.

Now fast forward to 2006. Much had changed in a few years; the loss of the IBM Machinery and Equipment Tax over time plus Act 60 Education Tax pressures had squeezed Village revenues, so that paying taxes to the Town for services it already provided to its own residents brought the merger issue up again. This time, both local boards voted to pursue planning for merger. A task force reviewed the results and made compromises prior to warning the vote in November. Many residents remember long meetings to discuss governing structures; even the issue of the name (Town of Essex Junction) took up all of a five-hour meeting.

The much-anticipated merger vote passed in November 2006 by a combined margin of 4376-4167. The Essex Reporter headline on November 9 was “Merger Wins.” The votes had flipped from 1999. In the Village, merger passed 2922-1085. In the Town outside the Village, the vote was 2319-1283. Then, in a petitioned re-vote in February 2007, the combined vote failed passage, with only 2/3 of the number of voters participating.

This negative vote was followed by independent mediation between the boards to see if some tax agreements could be reached that would not need legislative involvement. The mediation ended in impasse, but a surprising thing then happened. Both boards, wary of contentious bickering, began to collaborate on how to move forward together. This has led to the successful consolidation efforts of the past 12 years. It includes regular Selectboard-Trustees joint meetings, a shared Town-Village manager, collaboration between departments, joint stormwater abatement, and much more. Both boards now believe it is time to join forces for the betterment of the community and finalize the unification, avoiding some of the known pitfalls of past merger debates.

We agree, and we care what happens. It matters to the Village what happens in the Town Center, and it matters to the Town that the Village is healthy. We have disagreed on many issues over the years, but NOT ON THIS! We know a united Essex is stronger than a continued parochial governance structure.

Now we are in the age of social media. We have been surprised at the misinformation already being promoted, particularly naïve suggestions from residents that want to revisit Village separation as a viable alternative. No! The recent school unification has shown that cooperation works. Please give your current boards the time and space to develop a good plan. They know that Town residents are concerned about higher taxes and representation and they know Village residents are concerned about identity and accessibility of services--they will address these issues among many others.

Once again, we will have a historic opportunity to make this place we love stronger, more affordable, and better. Let’s get it right in 2020!

*Statistics and facts in this article came from articles in old issues of The Essex Reporter, Town merger documents, and personal recollections.