Thursday February 7, 2013

KEITH WHITCOMB JR.

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- Vermont will avoid being one of the last states in New England where people who have had their hunting, fishing, or trapping licenses suspended or lost in other states can go to continue those activities.

Fish and Wildlife Department Chief Warden Col. David LeCours said that’s because Vermont is the first New England state to join the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact (IWVC), which works like the system used to keep track of people with suspended driver’s licenses when they travel to other states.

Vermont is the 39th state to join the compact, said LeCours, adding that New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Massachusetts legislatures are in the process of passing the necessary laws to join, while Maine’s legislature has already done so. Maine has not yet applied for compact membership. New York, which borders Vermont, is a member.

"Joining the IWVC provides an added deterrent to Vermonters who might be tempted to violate fish and wildlife laws at home and then expect to hunt, fish or trap in other states or vice versa," said LeCours. "Also, we didn’t want Vermont to be one of the last states where bad actors from other states can come to violate our fish and wildlife laws.


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LeCours said for a person to be blocked from buying a license in Vermont, their violation from the other state must be ratified. He said, for example, Vermont has no regulations regarding hunting guides, so if a person had their license suspended over a hunting guide related violation they would not have an issue buying a hunting, fishing, or trapping license in Vermont.

LeCours said by the end of this year the department’s goal is also to have the licensing purchase system automated, so local license dealers will be able to tell immediately if a person’s ability to buy a license in Vermont is inhibited. About half of the state’s licensing agents have that ability, said LeCours and it will be required for all.

Vermont joined the compact Jan. 1 of this year, and violations logged before that will not be affected, however new violations will be, he said. At any one time, 2,000 people have their hunting, fishing, or trapping license suspended, said LeCours. Most of those are for unpaid fines and those suspended for that reason stay that way until the fine is paid or the charge cleared. He said people can lose their license for more serious reasons, and those suspensions last between one and three years. He said given the total number of people in the state with a hunting or fishing license, offenders represent about one percent of that. According to LeCours, between 350 and 400 people have their licenses suspended in Vermont over the course of a year.

LeCours said the compact began in the 1980s and was formed by western states. Once states began joining, others were more eager to get involved as they did not want to become havens for people with violations in other states. He said the compact is not governed by a federal entity but is run by the member states, with leadership roles that shift according to a schedule. He said there was no cost for Vermont to join, only administrative costs associated with ratifying violators which has to be done manually.

Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at kwhitcomb@benningtonbanner.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.