Vermonters overwhelmingly want to conserve wildlife habitat such as deeryards, trout streams, and bear habitat. Cities and towns have made noticeable strides in improving attention to wildlife habitat and natural resource conservation, and nearly every municipality recognizes wildlife habitat as an important local resource, according to a recent report issued by the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department and the Vermont Natural Resources Council. The report, Wildlife Considerations in Local Planning ‘ An Evaluation of a Decade of Progress in Vermont, was based on a detailed assessment of all municipal plans and related zoning bylaws and subdivision regulations adopted by Vermont communities. About VNRCThe Vermont Natural Resources Council is an independent, member-based, nonprofit research, education, and advocacy organization founded in 1963 to protect Vermont’s environment, economy, and quality of life. The report is the result of months of detailed, technical, and comprehensive review of 248 town plans, 219 municipal zoning regulations, 204 zoning bylaws, and 137 subdivision regulations. The report compared results from a similar study performed ten years ago, and offers specific findings and recommendations.A summary of the report findings are provided below: ‘Community outreach and technical assistance for land use planning is a priority for us,’ said John Austin a wildlife biologist with the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. ‘This report affirms the many benefits of the Department’s Community Wildlife Program and technical assistance from organizations like Regional Planning Commissions and non-profits like Vermont Natural Resources Council and others,’ Austin added. Subdivision regulations are an increasingly important tool for conserving habitat:Of the 133 subdivision regulations reviewed, 89% include planning standards, 46% of which mention wildlife habitat.51% of municipalities in Vermont have subdivision regulations; however only 8% of these municipalities include a specific definition of wildlife habitat in these regulations. In light of these positive findings, the authors found there is a noticeable disconnect between what wildlife values Vermonters say they want to conserve and the actual implementation of those goals in zoning and subdivision regulations. The report recommends that the state and others continue to help communities bridge the gap between their planning vision and the implementation of that vision. In addition, the report suggests that municipalities need to pay more attention to specific concepts that affect wildlife and habitat conservation, such as habitat fragmentation, habitat connectivity, invasive species, and climate change. The information highlights the importance of wildlife and land to Vermonters and draws a connection to the myriad of interests including hunters, anglers, trappers, hikers, bird watchers, local schools, and many more. The report demonstrates that towns overwhelmingly recognize the public benefits of wildlife habitat. Over the past decade, municipalities have made many gains in mapping and recommending protection of wildlife habitat in municipal plans. The report credits the work of the Fish and Wildlife Department and technical assistance providers in increasing the availability of resources for towns. According to VNRC and the Fish and Wildlife Department, there needs to be a shift from planning to implementation over the next 10 years. ‘There is a huge need for more technical assistance as we shift towards implementation given that decisions are made at a local level by volunteers on planning commissions and development review boards,’ said Brian Shupe, Deputy Director of VNRC. Vermont relies heavily on local government for land use planning. For instance, according to an in-depth review of subdivision activity in eight towns conducted by VNRC, just five of 380 subdivision proposals were subject to Act 250 jurisdiction. While most towns recommend the conservation of wildlife habitat in their municipal plans, the report documents a significant lag between plan recommendations and actual implementation of binding standards in local bylaws. Municipalities have improved attention to wildlife conservation through land use plans:Ninety-nine percent of municipal plans identify wildlife habitat as an important resource.Ninety-nine percent of municipal plans identify some form of habitat or wildlife feature (an increase of 8% from 2000).Ninety-one percent of town plans include mapped data (up from 52% in 2000.)Eighty-seven percent of all municipal plans recommend the protection of wildlife habitat.Eighty-six percent of plans include some form of natural resource inventory data (up 11% from 2000.)Eighty-three percent of municipal plans note public benefits associated with wildlife habitat (up from 62% in 2000).Only half of municipal plans identify the effect of habitat fragmentation on wildlife habitat (42% note the importance of habitat connectivity and travel corridors)Just two percent identify the importance and/or relevance of climate change effects on wildlife habitat To read the report and its recommendations go to either the VNRC’s website (VNRC.org) or the Vermont Fish and Wildlife website (vtfishandwildlife.com). ‘Over the past several years, more and more Vermonters, through their town plans, have clearly and repeatedly said, ‘our wildlife heritage is important’ ‘ now there is a need for on-the-ground work to assure those values are reflected in specific municipal policies,’ said Jamey Fidel, VNRC’s general counsel and forest and biodiversity program director. ‘This is especially true in light of Vermont Supreme Court guidance that instructs that towns must be very specific with natural resource and wildlife habitat conservation and protection policies,’ added Fidel. Local zoning lags behind municipal plans· · A small percentage of the zoning bylaws reviewed contain conditional use standards or site plan requirements that mention wildlife habitat or specific wildlife related considerations.Of the 211 zoning bylaws reviewed, 88% include conditional use standards, but only 17% of these standards mention wildlife habitat.75% of zoning bylaws include site plan requirements, but only 18% of these standards mention wildlife habitat.51% include some form of conservation district (49% of which mention wildlife habitat).39% include explicit riparian buffers (the average buffer width was 42 feet)22% include a forest reserve district (40% of which specifically mention wildlife habitat).2% of the municipalities include a specific definition of ‘wildlife habitat’ in their zoning bylaws.1% of the municipalities (3 municipalities) include a wildlife habitat overlay district. ‘Decisions about the long-term health of the state’s wildlife habitat lie largely in the hands of local boards, commissions and private landowners, who meet in our town halls and school cafeterias,’ said Jens Hawkins-Hilke, a conservation planning biologist with the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. ‘These very busy and committed volunteers have day jobs, families, and in many cases need additional technical assistance to implement their town’s vision for its wildlife.’ About the Vt Fish and Wildlife DepartmentThe MISSION of the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is the conservation of fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the people of Vermont. www.vtfishandwildlife.com(link is external)
The Dirt Knights Tour is at Buena Vista Raceway for the $2,000 to win Al Ritts Memorial race, another Fast Shafts All-Star Invitational ballot qualifier, on Wednesday, July 24. Pit gates and the grandstand open at 5 p.m. at Alta with 6:45 p.m. hot laps preceding racing. Hancock County is the only track of the four on the tour schedule this week that he’d raced at previously. Brown was the IMCA Sunoco Stock Car feature winner and Cody Nielsen paced the IMCA Sunoco Hobby Stocks. Ninth starting Colby Fett was first to the Karl Kustoms Northern SportMod checkers. Gustin passed travel partner and race-long leader Hibdon on the 26th circuit, then led the last five laps to take the $1,500 checkers ahead of the youngster from Nevada, Jeremy Mills, Kyle Brown and Travis Hatcher. Hibdon had started from the pole, Gustin from inside row two. Hibdon turned the fastest lap of the night the first time around the oval. He was one of four Larry Shaw Race Cars Western Region drivers to start the main event. The front pair were five seconds ahead of their nearest pursuit by lap 10. Gustin used the middle line to take the lead in traffic and pulled away for his tour career-leading 11th win. Already on the Fast Shafts All-Star Invitational ballot, he matched the record of three consecutive victories set last year by Ricky Thornton Jr. BRITT, Iowa (July 23) – Richie Gustin equaled an Arnold Motor Supply Dirt Knights Tour record with his third straight victory Tuesday at Hancock County Speedway. “I look at the race results and the guys I raced with, and to be able to finish ahead of them was awesome,” said Hibdon, in his first full season in the division. “It’s been pretty fun. I’ve been able to learn a lot from these guys and get a lot of laps in. It was good experience running in lapped traffic and having to make quick decisions.” The fourth and final tour event of the week is the $1,500 to win show Thursday, July 25 at Kossuth County Speedway in Algona. Kollin Hibdon, meanwhile, turned heads with his runner-up finish in the IMCA Modified headliner at Britt. Hibdon, who turns 16 late next month and got his driver’s permit shortly before coming to Iowa this summer, had mid-pack finishes to show for the first two Dirt Knights events of the season. Both events will be broadcast by IMCA.TV. Feature results – 1. Richie Gustin, Gilman; 2. Kollin Hibdon, Pahrump, Nev.; 3. Jeremy Mills, Garner; 4. Kyle Brown, Madrid; 5. Travis Hatcher, Honey Creek; 6. Corey Dripps, Reinbeck; 7. Ethan Dotson, Bakersfield, Calif.; 8. Ryan Ruter, Kanawha; 9. Joel Rust, Grundy Center; 10. Cody Laney, Torrance, Calif.; 11. Austin Wolf, Algona; 12. Derrick Stewart, Ainsworth; 13. Tim Ward, Chandler, Ariz.; 14. Kelly Shryock, Fertile; 15. Cody Knecht, Whittemore; 16. J.J. Wise, Garner; 17. Aaron Benson, Clear Lake; 18. D.J. Shannon, Merced, Calif.; 19. Al Hejna, Clear Lake; 20. Ethan Braaksma, Newton; 21. Alan Bohlman, Cambridge, Minn.; 22. Jesse Sobbing, Malvern; 23. Nick Meyer, Whittemore; 24. Brock Bauman, Eureka, Ill.
DES MOINES — The Iowa Senate has voted for some limitations if Iowa voters eventually approve a constitutional amendment that automatically restores voting rights to released felons. The plan would require felons to have paid all the restitution they owe victims before they’d be allowed to vote.“Instead of adopting the view that all felons are now the new victim here in Iowa, what we’re trying to do here in the Senate is say let’s bring this back to the victims, where this process all started to begin with,” Senator Dan Dawson, a Republican from Council Bluffs, said last night during senate debate.Last year, Governor Kim Reynolds called on her Republican colleagues in the legislature to draft a constitutional amendment to automatically give felons voting rights when they’re released from prison. The House passed the proposal in 2019, but it stalled in the Senate. Dawson said that’s because these proposed limitations are necessary for some criminals.“I like to think I live in a place called ‘Realville,’ and inside ‘Realville’ there’s bad people there and they do bad things,” Dawson said. “And we shouldn’t kid ourselves to believe that once they exit prison all is well and they’re new members of society.”The bill would require some felons to apply to the governor for their voting rights if they’ve been convicted of serious crimes, like rape, murder, homicide, child endangerment resulting in death and election misconduct. Dawson called the bill a good faith effort to resolve the issue.“The most disappointing part of this entire process for the last 13 months when we’re trying to find a way to more standardize this process is the absolute lack of discussion around the victims,” Dawson said. “…The Iowa Senate is going to ensure that victims are included in this process — not just words, not platitudes.”Governor Reynolds told reporters Tuesday morning that she considers the bill a compromise she’d accept.Senator Rob Hogg, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, was among two senators who argued during tonight’s debate that every released felon should get their voting rights back, without conditions.“It’s a way of reconnecting them to the community,” Hogg said. “It helps successful re-entry and it reduces crime and it reduces victims.”The bill with proposed felon voting restrictions passed by a 37-11 vote and now goes to the House for consideration.