2018 Vermont Statutes
Title 3 Appendix - Executive Orders
Chapter 10 - Conservation And Development
App 10-29 (No. 12-02) [West Mountain Wildlife Management Area

Universal Citation: 3A V.S.A. § 10-29

Executive Order No. 10-29

(No. 12-02)

[West Mountain Wildlife Management Area]

WHEREAS, in 1999, pursuant to Sec. 87a of No. 1 of the Acts of 1999, the State of Vermont participated in the purchase of approximately 133,000 acres of land in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom; and

WHEREAS, the appropriation of $4,500,000 was to be "used to purchase and ensure that the lands commonly referred to as the Champion lands in northeastern Vermont are conserved as a working forest for the sustainable production of wood products, for natural resources, including the maintenance of wildlife habitat and conservation of identified natural heritage sites, and for perpetual public access for traditional recreational uses"; and

WHEREAS, the former Champion lands now consist of approximately 84,000 acres of working forest, subject to both a working forest and a public access easement owned by the State of Vermont and the Vermont Land Trust to ensure that the land is perpetually managed for the sustainable growth and harvesting of timber and is perpetually open for public access; approximately 22,500 acres of state-owned land, the West Mountain Wildlife Management Area, conserved for perpetual public access and its fish, wildlife and ecological values; as well as approximately 26,500 acres of land held by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service as a Silvio Conti National Fish & Wildlife Refuge; and

WHEREAS, this land purchase, in which Vermont's contribution equaled less than a fifth of the total purchase price, has guaranteed Vermonters' access to these lands forever; and

WHEREAS, dialogue and clear assurances will allow us to move forward to ensure that the complex land deal that granted Vermonters so much is appreciated by Vermonters for its value and is protected forever.

NOW THEREFORE, I, Howard Dean, M.D., through the power vested in me as Governor of the State of Vermont, do hereby order as follows:

1. The West Mountain Wildlife Management Area (WMWMA) that was acquired by the state of Vermont as part of the so-called Champion land deal pursuant to Sec. 87a of No. 1 of the Acts of 1999, and that is a portion of the so-called Champion lands, is a wildlife management area, and as such it will be managed by the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife or its successor agency or department.

2. All of the approximately 22,500 acres of the WMWMA shall be conserved for lawful and perpetual public access for traditional recreational uses, including boating, fishing, trapping, snowshoeing, skiing, bird watching, hiking, and hunting (including training and using hunting dogs). The Department of Fish and Wildlife shall allow snowmobiling, bicycling, and equestrian uses in designated corridors.

3. The Department of Fish and Wildlife shall manage the WMWMA so as to retain road access to within two statute miles of any point within the WMWMA.

4. The Department of Fish and Wildlife shall manage the WMWMA both for natural resource protection and wildlife, including active management to support both game and non-game species.

5. The Department of Fish and Wildlife shall actively monitor the health, size, and distribution of selected populations of game and non-game species found in the WMWMA. Concurrently, the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation shall monitor forest conditions of critical habitats including the habitat composition, condition, and health of bear-scarred beech stands, black bear wetland feeding areas, vernal pools, and white-tailed deer wintering habitat. These departments shall report their findings at the opening of each biennium to the legislative committees on institutions, natural resources and energy, and fish, wildlife and water resources, or any successor committee or committees.

6. Prior to the implementation of any changes to the management of WMWMA, and prior to the adoption of any new management plan for the WMWMA, the Department of Fish and Wildlife shall report to the legislative committees on institutions, natural resources and energy, and fish, wildlife, and water resources, or any successor committee or committees, with regard to those changes and those new plans.

7. From the date of the execution of this Executive Order, if the Department of Fish and Wildlife intends to change or alter any present traditional recreational use of the WMWMA land or to amend or modify the management plan on the WMWMA, the Department shall inform the legislative committees on institutions, natural resources and energy, and fish, wildlife, and water resources, or any successor committee or committees, of that intent in writing and through personal testimony, if invited by said committees to so testify, by the end of the month of January in any year in which the Department intends to institute changes or alter any present use. An emergency situation of a non-recurring nature necessitating Department action is exempt from the provisions of this paragraph, but information about the emergency action taken must be included in the next year's report to the legislative committees listed above. At the time of the emergency, the Commissioner will notify the chairs of the committees referenced above regarding the nature of the emergency and the steps taken to address the emergency.

8. By this order a Citizen Oversight Council is created to assist in implementing the provisions of this order and the provisions of the Champion land transaction in the northeastern region of Vermont as authorized by the 1999 session of the general assembly. The council shall function as a forum to hear and attempt to resolve concerns involving the so-called Champion lands that are brought to the attention of the council regarding ongoing use and management of state lands, collaboration with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and public access to the public and privately held lands. With respect to the public lands and the role of the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) and its constituent departments, these matters may include: public access; the recreation access plan; snowmobiling and other motorized, mechanical, and equestrian access; private roads; temporary restrictions; federal ownership; timber harvesting; wildlife management; land conservation; water classification; and economic development. The council has no authority to discuss or comment on interests obtained by a private owner who purchases a portion of the property, including timber harvesting and forest management interests obtained. This Council shall consist of the same membership and incorporates the same duties as the Champion Land Transaction Citizen Advisory Council created by 10 V.S.A. §§ 6407-6409. In addition, the Citizen Oversight Council shall:

(a) Function as a source of information to persons interested in learning about the transaction including its legal conditions, or about the ongoing use and management of the land, and to provide for citizen advice, input and information relating to the future of the so-called Champion lands.

(b) Make recommendations to the ANR and its constituent departments and to the legislative committees referenced above on the ongoing process of ensuring that the lands commonly referred to as the Champion lands are: conserved as a working forest for the sustainable production of wood products; conserved for natural resources, including the maintenance of wildlife habitat and the conservation of identified natural heritage sites; and conserved for perpetual public access for traditional recreational uses.

The ANR and its constituent departments shall involve the council in their deliberative processes as they relate to the management of the WMWMA, and shall give due special consideration to any council recommendation provided under this section.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife shall provide administrative and staff support to the council. Citizen council members shall be entitled to compensation as provided under 32 V.S.A. § 1010, for no more than three meetings during a year in which the council is authorized, under this section, to meet.

This Executive Order shall take effect upon signing.

Dated November 1, 2002.

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