Sportsmen’s Alliance, Vermont Hunters, Sue to Restore Refuge Rights

On Sept. 14, the Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation, joined by the Vermont Traditions Coalition, Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs and the Vermont Bear Hound Association, filed suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) seeking to overturn hunting restrictions on Conte National Wildlife Refuge.

On Aug. 16, 2021, FWS released new regulations governing hunting on the refuge, including major reductions in the bear hound-training season, and the elimination of nearly all hunting with dogs on the Putney Mountain Unit of the refuge.

“Federal law requires FWS to show the public their plans before enactment so they can gather public input,” said Todd Adkins, vice president of government affairs for the Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation. “This prevents arbitrary governing and is foundational in a functioning and fair democracy, but the Biden Administration failed to comply, denying Vermont citizens a voice that is guaranteed in law.”

“Hunters were completely blindsided by the hunting restrictions because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service failed to provide any notice or opportunity for public comment despite the drastic changes,” continued Chris Bradley, president of the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs. “The government’s lack of transparency is the focus of our lawsuit.”

“Bear hunters rely on the summer training season to condition their dogs for the fall hunting season,” said Doug DeVost, president of Vermont Bear Hound Association. “That training is essential to maintain healthy, well-trained dogs in the field, and yet FWS didn’t even give us the courtesy of hearing our input on the impact of this decision.”

“The Fish and Wildlife Service had ample opportunity to share their plans to restrict hunting rights on the refuge with Vermont sportsmen and women but completely failed to do so,  leaving it out of their draft plans for Conte, making no mention of the changes in public meetings or other communications.  FWS even stated in a draft hunt plan that the refuge intended to continue the status quo of allowing hunters to hunt with their dogs on the refuge in compliance with Vermont state law,” said Mike Covey, executive director of the Vermont Traditions Coalition.

The four organizations believe that the precedent of allowing the federal government to hide new rules while denying public input was too much to ignore. The groups are asking the court to vacate the restrictions and are seeking the reimbursement of legal costs to defend a fundamental and basic tenant of federal law.

About Sportsmen’s Alliance: Working in all 50 state legislatures, the Sportsmen’s Alliance protects and defends America’s wildlife conservation programs and the pursuits – hunting, fishing, trapping and recreational shooting – that generate the money to pay for them. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation is responsible for public and youth education, legal defense in state and federal court and research to guide the decision-making process of all involved. Its mission is accomplished through several distinct programs coordinated to provide the most complete defense capability possible. Stay connected to Sportsmen’s Alliance as www.sportsmensalliangce.orgFacebookTwitter and Instagram.