Wildlife bill stopped in its tracks

LISA SCAGLIOTTI
Correspondent

A bill before the state Legislature to ban in Vermont the trade of items made from 14 endangered and trafficked wild animals has failed to make it out of committee this session.

There was vocal support from youngsters in Shelburne for S.29 and H.99 – identical versions of the proposed legislation. Students at Shelburne Community School created a large-scale art project to lobby in favor of the bill’s passage. Several students also testified to House and Senate committees tasked with reviewing the bill and potentially moving it forward for votes in the full chambers.

Neither the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs nor the House Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife Committee cast votes on the bill despite having bill sponsors in each group.

As of press time, the legislature was aiming to adjourn by the end of the week with final action happening on bills that already had made their way through at least one chamber.

Senate committee Chair Sen. Michael Sirotkin, D-Chittenden, reached last week had this to say in an email reply to the Shelburne News: “I have heard from the antiques dealers who in the past have raised several concerns. I intend to connect with them and supporters of the bill to see if we can move it next session.”

Sirotkin did not say who the potential opponents to the draft were or what concerns they raised.

Because this legislative session was the first in a two-year biennium, bills that were not passed in 2019 may resume their path in 2020.

House committee Chair Rep. Amy Sheldon, D-Middlebury, did not respond for comment.

Animal rights activist Ashley Prout McAvey, a Shelburne resident who heads the group Vermont for Wildlife, has been advocating for legislation in Vermont on this issue for years. She said she hopes support for the measure will motivate lawmakers to act next session.

“Federal law only governs import, export and interstate trade. Intrastate trade (the trade that happens within a state) is governed by state laws. As long as Vermont fails to act, we here in this state are directly contributing to the continued trade in imperiled animals’ parts and thus have a direct hand in their very near extinction,” she said.

McAvey said the bill has exemptions to address concerns from dealers in antiques and musical instruments. “We do nothing and these animals will vanish, or we act. It is that simple,” she said.

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