No. As you can hear in his testimony to the House Committee on Environment and Energy on March 15th, 2023, Lakes and Ponds Program Manager Oliver Pierson dispels the myth that the two departments don’t work together, and that the Vermont DFW opposed the Lake Bomoseen permit application:
“This process which we’ve developed which we call the aquatic nuisance control internal review procedure is unique. I’m not aware of any other examples in our own permit issuing where the authority to issue the permits voluntarily seeks out the input of other State departments who may have slightly different missions and mandates, but we’re all in this for similar long-term outcomes and does our best to incorporate those into our permitting decisions. And I think it’s worth noting that since we’ve issued the ProcellaCOR permit on Lake Iroquois, and with all of our ProcellaCOR applications since then, as I’ve said, we’ve received input from Fish and Wildlife. With that input, you’ve established permit conditions you may prohibit certain parts of the lake from being treated because there’s rare, threatened, or endangered species. You may say that this part of the lake doesn’t need herbicide because they haven’t demonstrated that the invasive is interfering with aquatic habitat because we’ve taken that feedback from our sister department into consideration, and that’s influenced our permitting decisions. Most recently, for the Lake Bomoseen permit application, we received feedback from Fish and Wildlife, saying that with a few conditions, such as not treating north of the Grady bridge, and a few other conditions, that as long as we implement those conditions, in the permit, they do not object to this application. Again, I’ll let them speak for themselves tomorrow, but I think that is an important point to make that all this division that’s being portrayed between DEC and Fish and Wildlife, when you look at the facts, isn’t as divisive as it might appear to be. We are really working together to issue these permits in a collaborative manner where their feedback is taken into consideration.”
Earlier in his testimony, before this detailed explanation, Oliver stated:
“I can’t speak to what happened prior to 2018, but what I can say, since 2018, there has not been an example of Fish and Wildlife objecting to an herbicide permit issued in Vermont.”
We’d also like to note a response from Secretary Julie Moore on March 20th, 2023 to an individual who made misrepresentations and false accusations about the relationship between the departments, and ‘clandestine’ groups and meetings to the House Environment and Energy Committee:
“I received a copy of the email message you sent to members of the House Environment and Energy Committee last week; I am deeply concerned with the misrepresentations made in your message. Staff at the Agency are dedicated to working in collaboration with other agencies and the public to protect Vermont’s environment and the accusations in your letter represent either an unwillingness to conduct basic due diligence or a willful disregard for the facts.
The Agency’s Lakes and Ponds Program has organized an Aquatic Nuisance Control Pre‐Rulemaking Focus Group to foster discussion and solicit input to a rulemaking on the ANC rulemaking process. Information on this focus group, including participating entities, proposed timeline, and minutes, is available at https://dec.vermont.gov/watershed/lakes- ponds/permit/control/aquatic-nuisance-control/anc-pre-rulemaking-focus-group. Given the emotional and sometimes accusatory discussion on this topic, the group collectively agreed to abide by the “Chatham House Rules,” which simply states that group participants “are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.” This agreement and process allows for robust discussion and constructive disagreement, without resulting in polarizing public exchanges that stifle genuine progress.
In addition, your continued attempts to suggest a schism between the scientists in the Fish and Wildlife Department and those in the Department of Environmental Conservation reveals a basic lack of understanding regarding the collaborative and consultative process involved in management of the public trust and the importance of scientists’ ability to discuss and sometimes disagree with one another. FWD has been included in and engaged in every meeting of the Pre‐Rulemaking Focus Group and all substantive meetings with the Lake Bomoseen Association. The idea that DEC is actively undermining their colleagues is a fiction that does a disservice not only to DEC but also to FWD, and would seem to suggest you believe I am failing in my capacity as the leader responsible for overseeing both departments in ensuring all concerns are being heard and being given equal consideration.
I recognize your passion on this subject but disagree with your divisive approach. Rather than casting aspersions on the dedicated staff in DEC and FWD, I suggest that you focus your time and energy on the substantive issues under consideration before the legislature.”
So, why are these claims still being made? It may be that they are misinterpreting, whether intentionally or unintentionally, a memo dated April 8th, 2022 from an individual biologist in the Fish Division of Fish and Wildlife to the DEC Lakes and Ponds department opposing the permit after comments were solicited on the Lake Bomoseen application. As you can hear from Oliver’s testimony, this lone biologist expressed an opinion that was not shared by the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife. Fish and Wildlife did not oppose the treatment under the conditions they shared with the DEC. It’s important to distinguish comments from an individual and the leadership of the department.
We’ll again suggest that you read the framework / procedure agreed upon by the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Vermont Department of Health to collaboratively review permit applications: “Aquatic Nuisance Control (ANC) Individual Permit Application Internal Review Procedure”.