Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) Vermont signed the annual Fish & Wildlife bill into law Monday.
"I think it's great for veterans, it's great for anglers, it's great for people who enjoy hunting, as I do," Gov. Shumlin said.
The new law lowers the threshold for veterans with disabilities to get free licenses and permits for hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities. Before, only 100% disabled vets could get the free licenses. Now, 60% disabled vets can also jump in on a lifetime of free sportsmanship.
"Which is very positive, especially given all the veterans coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq with disabilities," said Evan Hughes, Vice President of the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs. His organization helped craft the law.
State Rep. David Deen (D-Putney) chairs the Fish, Wildlife & Water Resources committee, which helped craft the bill. He says the law will help with a few issues. For example, while it was already law that hunters have to be 25 feet from the roadway, the law didn't actually ban people from then turning around and shooting across the road.
"It's dangerous for everyone but a deer," said Rep. Deen. In addition to that fix, the law clarifies what 25 feet means. Rep. Deen says people were confused.
"Does it mean 25 feet from your car? Does it mean 25 feet from a boundary line? We tried to clarify it to make it clear that it's 25 feet away from the road," he said.
The law also says that while people can hunt and fish on their own property for free, that privilege will be taken away if their license is suspended for breaking hunting laws. Even though the person owns the land, the animals are owned by the people of Vermont.
There's good news for fans of conservation plates, the Vermont license plates with pictures of wildlife on them. There will be three new animal options for your bumper, included a white-tailed deer. The money raised from the sale of plates goes to conservation summer camps, in part.
"A lot of children go through those courses, and they get their first introduction to the outdoors," Hughes said.
Finally, Vermont now has an official fly-fishing fly! It's called the "Governor Aiken Bucktail" and was made for the former governor in the 1930s. Governor Shumlin said Governor Aiken is his favorite Vermont governor, and he plans to hang the fly fish in his office next to Aiken's portrait.
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