Vermont Outdoor Guide Association
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Article on This Issue
Commercial Use Permits For
Our Petition to
(This was posted in March of 2010 and although it had over
190 signatures, it was not accepted by the F & W Board. They counted this
petition as representing one signature, mine.)
Reasons for This Policy:
The Fish and Wildlife Board adopted Rule #641 in 1962 establishing the
permitted uses of access areas. They also listed some uses that were
prohibited and provided for the use of access areas by organizations for
organizational functions subject to the approval of the Board. This rule
is found in Title 10 Appendix at section 115.
The General Assembly, through the enactment of 10 V.S.A. §4145, has
authorized the Fish and Wildlife Board to regulate public use of access
areas. In 1993, they amended the statute to include a prohibition against
the launching of non motorized vessels used for commercial purposes and
the parking of trailers associated with such vessels. Set out below for
your information is 10 V.S.A. §4145.
These actions established two defining policies. The first
was to allow anyone to use access areas to launch and retrieve non
motorized vessels. The second was to ban commercial non motorized vessels
due to fear of the state losing Federal Funding for access areas.
Myth of Loss of Federal Funding:
It has been repeated over and over by a few individuals that Vermont will
lose Sport Fish Restoration funding if we allow the above mentioned
activities. This is simply not true.
I have been in touch with Vaughn M. Douglass, Program Chief, Lands &
Development, Division of Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration, U.S. Fish &
Wildlife Service and he stated:
"As you note 522 FW 21 and 22 are policies governing use of facilities
constructed and maintained with Sport Fish Restoration (SFR) funds. There
has been no change in this guidance since it was issued as U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service policy in 2006. In accordance with these policies, the
activities you identify below must not interfere with fulfillment of grant
objectives in order for them to take place on facilities constructed or
maintained with SFR funds. I am sure you are aware that it is the State
fish and wildlife agency's responsibility to make this determination.
Moreover, it is the State fish and wildlife agency's prerogative to
determine whether or not they will allow any commercial activities on
Below are links to the US Fish and Wildlife Service policy regarding
access area use.
I have contacted authorities in New York, Massachusetts and New Hampshire
and have learned that they allow guides using non motorized vessels and
they have not lost Federal funding.
They do this by stating in their rules that no commercial activities can
take place on access areas, as does VT. The difference is that other
states targeted commerce on access areas. No money can exchange hands, no
setting up shop or selling of goods or services. This way guides can sell
their service from their business location and move on to the access areas
to provide the service. New Hampshire is a bit different in that they
freely allow guides to use access areas AND companies can take payment for
their services on site. They have few problems with this arrangement.
Vermont already allows commercial motorized activities to launch and
retrieve vessels for charter fishing, sightseeing tours, scuba diving and
more. We also allow commercial non motorized vessels for fishing, hunting
and trapping. We have not lost federal funding in spite of these
commercial activities because they do not interfere with primary uses.
Managed properly, neither will commercial non motorized vessels.
These Activities Will Interfere With Primary Uses:
First, I should state that primary uses of access areas must be promoted
and enforced. They are for the launching and retrieval of motor boats and
vessels used for fishing and the parking of vehicles and trailers used to
move these vessels. Launching canoes and kayaks is not a priority use and
is allowed by the F & W Board if priority use is followed. In other words,
blocking motorboats from launching by having your paddle boats and
vehicles in the ramp area is a violation.
There are however, underutilized access areas and car top only access
areas where limited use by services for launch and retrieval would not
interfere with primary uses.
Special events on access areas are allowed by permit only. I fail to
understand how anyone can say that a special event that could
include hundreds of individuals on an access area is somehow a more
acceptable use than a naturalist with two customers in a canoe. They both
have their places.
Fish & Wildlife could do what is a common practice in land management.
Every spring, the Green Mountain National Forest provides a list of trails
that are overused on weekends and/or during the week. Commercial programs
(both for and non-profit) are prohibited from using these trails during
designated times. Is it unreasonable for F & W to provide such a list for
Parking is an Issue
Parking a van with a canoe trailer takes up no more space than a truck
with a boat trailer. Customers driving to the access areas without vessels
could pose a parking problem. Massachusetts deals with this issue by
banning the parking of vehicles not used for fishing or hauling vessels.
There are many VT access areas that have ample parking space.
Some board members have expressed concern that Vermont's large liveries
will crowd out an access area as if the Board itself can not establish
limits.. The fact is that the larger companies like Umiak in Stowe, Batten
Kill Canoe in Arlington, Green River Canoe in Jeffersonville and others
use private, municipal or other properties. Small companies do not have
the resources to do the same.
Everyone Has to Pay
When the board allowed access to paddle sports
enthusiasts, they did not establish a payment process. If you are
launching a canoe or kayak on a State access area, access is free. Excise
taxes on motor boat fuel and on hunting and fishing gear pay for our boat
Some folks are using this issue as a way to encourage
canoe registration and other forms of collecting fees from those who
do not pay into the system. The guiding industry seems willing to pay for
permits for access but this is not enough for some. They look at all those
kayaks and canoes and want everyone to pay. By holding a few businesses
hostage, they think that eventually they will find a way to make this
A large part of the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department's mission is
wildlife and conservation programming yet independent educators are banned
from using our access areas with canoes and kayaks. People want to access
Vermont's natural areas yet professionals prepared to teach outdoor
ethics, boating safety and technique are banned from using our access
areas. Boat builders and retailers are banned from doing demos on access
areas. Wouldn't it be better to allow these activities and for F & W to
partner with these services to help with education and to promote the
Department's programming such as conservation plates?
It would be preferable that Vermont allow the above activities at no
charge as other states have done. A permit process is a possible remedy.
It may turn out that a permit process will cost more to manage than it
brings in. If this is the case, then please consider the no charge option.
Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department and Board Blocks Nature Guides
and Paddle Sport Instructors from Fishing Access Areas
The title of this article isn’t exactly true. Nature guides, paddle
sport instructors and environmental educators can use state fishing access
areas if they use motor boats. Canoes, kayaks and even rowboats are banned
from the above uses. Boat builders and retailers are also banned from
doing demos with their vessels.
It should be noted here that any person may launch a non motorized vessel
at our state owned access areas, regardless of their skills or ability.
Knowledge of environmental ethics, technique and safety are not required.
If you are prepared to teach these qualities, you are banned. Vermont is
the only state in the northeast, possibly the country that bans these
Vermont has an interesting way of managing this issue. Due to legislation
enacted several years ago, the Fish & Wildlife Board may adopt rules,
under chapter 25 of Title 3, to regulate public use of access areas.
“These rules also shall permit the launching of all non-motorized vessels
not used for commercial purposes and the parking of vehicles and
boat trailers used by these vessels.”
This would seem to indicate that the Board can not set rules regarding
non-motorized vessels used for commercial purposes, but this is not the
case. In 2006, the Board ruled to allow fishing, hunting and trapping
guides using non motorized vessels to launch, retrieve and park on state
Commercial use of federally funded access areas is banned in every state
that receives federal funds under the Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish
Restoration Act. This has not stopped states from allowing the launching
and retrieving of vessels used by businesses because it is up to the state
to determine what activities do not interfere with the primary uses of
their access areas.
While commercial activity, the exchange of moneys and setting up a place
of business are banned under federal law, most states allow the launching
and retrieving of vessels used by businesses. This includes Vermont.
Virtually any business using a motorboat including charter boat companies,
motorized touring companies, scuba diving services and now non-motorized
vessels used by fishing, hunting and trapping services can use our access
Vermont is however, the only state in the northeast that bans certain
services from using canoes and kayaks on state access areas while allowing
others. I have tried to work with the Fish & Wildlife Department for 10
years to correct this problem. Resistance from individuals within the
department has been strong.
In order for the F & W Board to make informed decisions, they need
information based on fact yet are fed misinformation by Department staff.
Scare tactics including threats of loss of Federal funding and
overcrowding at access areas have routinely been offered up in their
successful attempts to block progress. One former F & W employee continues
to testify against rule changes while he holds a permit to use a fishing
access as a personal parking lot for his hunting camp. Not exactly a
Over the last ten years VOGA has made several proposals to the Board
including the use of permits, opening up the 90 or so underutilized access
areas and allowing the above uses on car-top and carry on access areas
only. We have suggested that parking in access areas be limited to
vehicles used only for launching, retrieving of vessels or for fishing.
All of our petitions have been voted down by the Board due to the
influence of a few F & W employees.
The only recourse is to change chapter 25 of Title 3 and strike “not used
for commercial purposes”. Who knew that Vermont would become a national
leader in paddle sport participation per capita at the time this
legislation was passed?
Please contact me if you interested in helping resolve this issue.
Graydon B Stevens
Vermont Outdoor Guide Association
P.O. Box 10 North Ferrisburg, VT 05473-0010
§ 4145. Access, landing area
board may adopt rules, under
chapter 25 of
Title 3, to regulate the use by the public of access areas, landing
areas, parking areas or of other lands or waters acquired or maintained
pursuant to section 4144 of this title. Such rules shall be posted in the
areas affected and shall permit the launching of all vessels which have a
Vermont registration certificate required by
chapter 29 of
Title 23 and the parking of vehicles and boat trailers used by these
vessels. The rules shall not preclude the authorization to launch vessels
not registered in
Vermont. These rules also shall permit the
launching of all nonmotorized vessels not used for commercial purposes and
the parking of vehicles and boat trailers used by these vessels.
The commissioner may enter into agreements with owners of land, which
shall not involve payment to the landowner, in order to allow public
access for launching of nonmotorized vessels in public waters. The
commissioner may agree to upgrade the land area in a minor way; for
example, the commissioner may agree to build a footpath to the water,
build and maintain a small parking area, or perform minor grading to
improve boat access. The commissioner may not agree to major upgrading,
such as building a launching ramp or paving a parking area. A landowner
who enters into an agreement under this subsection shall be afforded the
landowner liability protections of
section 5793 of
Title 12. The commissioner shall post signs in these areas, inviting
private contributions to the fish and wildlife fund for the purpose of
building and maintaining nonmotorized vessel access areas, and shall issue
to any person contributing, a sticker which may be placed on a vessel and
which identifies the person as a contributor to the nonmotorized vessel
access area program.
The commissioner shall keep account of funds, including private donations
and state appropriations, which are deposited into the fish and wildlife
fund for the purpose of building and maintaining access areas and shall
annually, on or before January 15, report to the house committee on fish,
wildlife and water resources, the senate committee on natural resources
and energy and to the senate and house committees on appropriations,
concerning the use of those funds in the past year and plans for use of
the funds for the coming year.
1961, No. 119, § 1; amended 1991, No. 230 (Adj. Sess.), § 14; 1993, No.
52, § 5; 1999, No. 76 (Adj. Sess.), § 1