VT: Elk hunt-park owner fined
September 1, 2010
Elk hunt-park owner fined
MONTPELIER - Doug Nelson, operator of the Big Rack Ridge elk-hunting park
in Irasburg, was fined $4,250 on Wednesday for failing to comply with
provisions of a law he himself had sought. Nelson was fined for failing to
meet the first deadline under the new law, the Aug. 1 submission of a plan
to manage his captive elk as well as the native deer and moose trapped
inside his seven miles of fencing.
In a move that provoked much controversy in the hunting community, the
state Legislature this year transferred oversight of the shooting park from
the Fish and Wildlife Department to the Agriculture Agency.
The Legislature approved the proposal - which had been drafted behind
closed doors, without the knowledge of Fish and Wildlife officials - on its
Nelson had sought the transfer because Fish and Wildlife regulations
would have required him to shoot all the native deer and moose inside his
fence as a disease prevention measure. That included Pete the Moose, an
animal rescued as a calf, given sanctuary at Big Rack Ridge and the subject
of a save-the-moose online campaign.
The new law does not require the wild moose and deer to be liquidated,
but will require at least some of them to be shot to keep their numbers
Nelson, the state's largest dairy farmer, apparently has had plans for
some time to sell the right to hunt whitetail deer behind his fences,
according to his advertising.
Fish and Wildlife officials and some hunters were angry about the new
law, saying it essentially gave Nelson ownership of wild deer and moose on
his property. They also fear the elk herd could spread disease, although no
evidence of disease has been found in Nelson's herd.
Nelson missed the Aug. 1 deadline, despite a July 7 letter from
Agriculture Secretary Roger Allbee outlining the requirement in detail and
emphasizing the importance of compliance.
Instead, Nelson asked Aug. 2 for a two-month extension in filing his
A hearing on that request was scheduled for Wednesday morning. Instead,
Nelson agreed to accept a fine and signed a document committing him to
supply his management plan by Sept. 10.
Nelson left the meeting without speaking to reporters. His lawyer, Brooke
Dingledine, said her client regretted missing the deadline but was waiting
for the technical assistance of a national deer management expert, James
Kroll, who had not been available.
Dingledine declined to say why Nelson waited until after the deadline to
request an extension.
"It is regrettable that the plan wasn't in on time," she said. "I'm not
going to worry about the past. We are endeavoring to make sure all the
Agriculture Agency's concerns are addressed."
She said Nelson has run his elk park according to best management
practices and will continue to do so.
Allbee, the agriculture secretary, said he was "totally surprised" that
Nelson failed to file his plans as required. "He had full knowledge of what
we expected. He asked for this law."
Allbee said his agency has emphasized to Nelson that the wild deer and
moose behind his fence are state property. They can be legally hunted at Big
Rack Ridge during the state's hunting seasons. Any other plan to shoot them
out of season would have to be approved by his agency, he said.
Allbee said he believes Nelson will comply with regulations in the future.
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