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Caution urged in upcoming snowstorm

in Newport/News/Vermont

NEWPORT – The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Warning for all of Vermont from 4 p.m. today until 7 p.m. on Thursday.

Most areas of the state are likely to see 6 to 10-inches of snow with southern counties and other isolated areas expected to receive more than a foot.

Travel will be impacted during the storm and power outages are possible.

During a significant snow event, it is important to take steps to avoid health hazards, especially carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause flu-like illness or death. Symptoms of CO poisoning include nausea, headache, and dizziness. If you feel these symptoms, leave the home and call for help.

Important safety reminders:

Check on neighbors, especially those who are elderly or who may otherwise need special assistance. Be sure their heating vents are clear of snow, and during a prolonged weather event that they have heat, electricity and any needed medical supplies.

Clear all heating vents of snow. Deep snow can create carbon monoxide hazards by blocking heat and exhaust vents. Clear all heating vents of snow. Even in areas of lesser accumulation winds could create a snow drift on the side of the home and block vents. With no way to vent, CO will drift back into the home.

Always have working CO and smoke detectors in your home and in all living areas.

Never use a generator indoors. Only operate generators outside away from the home. Even if operated outside CO can drift back into the home through an open window, door, or vent.

Take it easy while shoveling, take frequent breaks. Overexertion can bring on a heart attack, a major cause of death during the winter.

If you must travel, remember:

Snow, snowdrifts, and icy spots could contribute to worsening road conditions.

Slow down, allow extra stopping distance and give plow trucks plenty of room to work.

Please DO NOT call emergency dispatch or 911 to determine road or traffic conditions. Call 911 only if you have an emergency.

During major weather events, dispatchers are busy handling emergency calls and supporting first responders.

Stay away from downed power lines. Call 911 if you see a downed line and report outages to your utility.

Vermont’s Free Ice Fishing Day is January 27

in Outdoors/Vermont

NEWPORT — Vermont’s fifth annual Free Ice Fishing Day is set for Saturday, January 27, and will be celebrated by a fun-filled ice fishing festival in Castleton.

Vermont’s Free Ice Fishing Day, which takes place each year on the last Saturday in January, enables both residents and non-residents to go ice fishing on any legal waterbody in Vermont for the day without a license.

“Free ice fishing day creates opportunities for a range of anglers, and really helps to showcase the great ice fishing we have here in Vermont,” said Louis Porter, commissioner of Vermont Fish & Wildlife. “From those looking to try out the sport for the first time, to non-residents who may want to sample some of Vermont’s quality fisheries, the day offers full accessibility to great ice fishing fun across Vermont.”

Vermont’s Ice Fishing Festival also occurs annually in concert with Free Ice Fishing Day, and the 2018 celebration will be held at Lake Bomoseen State Park in Castleton.

The festival will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on January 27 and is free and open to anyone interested in ice fishing.

Staff from Vermont Fish & Wildlife and instructors from the Let’s Go Fishing Program will be on hand to teach ice fishing basics including knot tying, drilling holes, rigging and using an ice fishing rod, setting tip-ups and preparing for a day on the ice. Fishing regulations and fish identification will be covered as well.

Fisheries biologists will also operate a fish fry station to cook up participants’ catches, and there will be other refreshments on hand including plenty of hot cocoa in the warming huts. Lake Bomoseen State Park also offers opportunities for ice skating, and a playground for the kids.

“The ice fishing festival is a free, easy and fun way for newcomers to get started in ice fishing, and also a great opportunity for kids and families to enjoy time together outdoors,” said Nicole Meier, information and education specialist with Vermont Fish & Wildlife. “We encourage people of all ages to come out for the day, wet a line, try some fresh-cooked, local fish and enjoy all that Vermont has to offer during the winter.”

Vermont Fish & Wildlife will lend ice fishing equipment to attendees for the day, but participants may bring their own tackle if they wish. Participants are advised to dress warmly and wear ice cleats if possible.

Pre-registration is encouraged but not required, and can be completed online at www.vtfishandwildlife.com. For more information, contact Nicole Meier at 802-318-1347 or nicole.meier@vermont.gov.

Vermont’s rifle deer season starts next Saturday

in Outdoors/Vermont

NEWPORT — Hunters are gearing up for the start of the traditionally popular 16-day rifle deer season that begins Saturday, November 11 and ends Sunday, November 26.

A hunter may take one buck during this season with at least one antler having two or more points one inch or longer.

A point must be one inch or longer from base to tip. The main beam counts as a point, regardless of length. Spike-antlered deer, mostly yearlings, are protected during this season.

“Vermont’s pre-hunt deer population is estimated at approximately 157,000 this year with the greatest numbers of deer found in the southwest, east-central, and northwestern regions of the state,” said Deer Project Leader Nick Fortin.

Vermont’s regular hunting licenses, including a November rifle season buck tag and a late season bear tag, costs $26 for residents and $100 for nonresidents. Hunters under 18 years of age get a break at $8 for residents and $25 for nonresidents.

Licenses are available on Fish & Wildlife’s website and from license agents statewide.

Fish & Wildlife urges hunters to wear a fluorescent orange hat and vest to help maintain Vermont’s very good hunting season safety record.

Biologists are collecting middle incisor teeth from November season deer in order to evaluate regional differences in ages and antler characteristics of bucks as well as to help estimate population size, growth rate, health, and mortality rates.

Each tooth will be cross-sectioned to accurately determine the deer’s age, and the results will be posted on the Fish & Wildlife website next spring.

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    Photo by Phil White.

Kingdom Swim 2017 welcomes swimmers from all over the Americas

in Arts and Entertainment/Newport/News/Northeast Kingdom/Outdoors/Vermont

NEWPORT — Over the weekend, Lake Memphremagog welcomed open water swimmers and “yackers” to the 9th Annual Kingdom Swim.

They came from 25 different states, two Canadian provinces, and Argentina, with ages ranging from 10 to 74.

This year’s swim was underwritten by North Country Hospital.

Sandra Frimerman-Berquist, age 34 of Excelsior, MN, smashed the record for the 25 km, Border Buster with a time of 5:49:55, leading a record number of 30 swimmers to complete the event.

Winning among the men was Stephen Rouch, 37, of Indianapolis, IN, who finished with a time of 6:25:48.

Stealing the show was 13-year-old, Vera Rivard, of Springfield, NH, who came in third among the females and fifth overall, with a time of 7:15:33. She is the youngest ever to complete the Border Buster.

The “most mature” to complete the Buster was Dan Shaub, 68, of Baltimore Maryland, with a time of 9:58:59. He and his local “yacker” Pam Ladds sported a combined age of 136.

The Busters headed out at 6:00 a.m. with mist rising from the lake after a cold night, but had the benefit of light tail winds from the south as they headed north and then from the north as they headed south back from Canada.

One of the purposes of this cross-border swim is to promote a more open border. This year everyone celebrated a change in Canadian rules that now coincides with US rules that you don’t need to report at the crossing if you don’t touch Canadian soil or a Canadian boat.

Taking home walking sticks, hand-carved by Bill Peck of Derby, in the WOWSA 10 Mile Championship were Anthony Szmul, 24, of Queensbury, NY (4:36:57) and Emily Boerger, 22 of Kingston, MA (4:47:54).

Margaret Rivard, age 10, of Springfield, NH, became the youngest to complete the 10-mile course which she did with a time of 5:50:12, placing her in the middle of the pack.

Eric Nilsson, 30, of Cambridge, MA, returned for another year, and claimed the crown as king of the 10 km with his blistering time of 2:03:34. Eric is one of the fastest swimmers to ply the waters of Lake Memphremagog .

Winning among the women was Rachel Horgan, 31, of Atkinson, NH, with a time of 2:23:56.

Kevin Jaubert, 45, of Towson, MD finished second. He’s one of two “lifers” who have swum in every single Kingdom Swim since it was started in 2009.

In the 5-km distance, it was a battle of east and west among the women, with Elizabeth Mancuso, 31, of Boston, MA, (1:09:49) fending off Ali Hall, 55, of San Francisco, CA (1:15:24).

Winning among the men was Lawton Harper, 50, of North Conway, NH, with a time of 1:23:13.

Laura Maliewski, 47, of Westmore, VT kept her streak alive as a “Lifer.”

In the 1-mile swim, Luke Nicholas, 14, of Mesa, AZ, gunned down Stephen Rouch, 37, of Indianapolis, IN, with a winning time of 0:19:28. But then, Stephen had just finished the Border Buster and was still hungry for one more mile in mighty Memphremagog before the day was done.

Luke’s dad, Kent Nicholas, narrowly missed the chance to swim the one-mile course with his son, completing the Border Buster in 8:25:15, just 25 minutes after the start of the 1 mile.

Among the females, Gayla Chalmers of Athens, GA, took first place with her time of 0:26:20.

Lilly Jaubert, 12, of Towson, MD won the miler among the female youth.

Winning in the ¼ was 10-year-old Claire Jaubert, of Towson, MD and Rex Lord, 11, of Bloomfield, NJ.

Prizes of Brault’s Beef Jerky and Couture’s Maple Syrup were offered up to the winners in each race, with jerky to the 2nd and third place finishers.

Music for the weekend was provided by Patti Casey and Tom Mackenzie on Friday evening, Kingdom Dixie and DJ Rena Demeo, during the swim, and by The Hitman at the Pig Roast and Party at Prouty after the swim.

  • DSC_0161-001-2.jpg
    All photos by Phil White.
  • DSC_0126-001-2.jpg

Local riders win the Moose

in Derby/Newport/Northeast Kingdom/Outdoors/Vermont

NEWPORT — Randy Durivage and Laurie Durivage of Derby, defended home turf and won this year’s Moose, a 103 mile “timed event” that runs through Caledonia and Essex Counties.

Randy Durivage, 54, shared the title of King of the Moose with Julian Grijns, 42, of Westport, CT, both finishing with a time of 5 hours 33 minutes and 30 seconds.

Laurie Durivage claimed her title as Queen of the Moose with a time of 5 hours, 50 minutes and 55 seconds.

The Moose starts at Mike’s Tiki Bar in East Burke. Cyclists have to tap the bar at the finish. It runs up Route 114 to Island Pond, Norton, and Canaan, Down the Connecticut River on Route 102, back to Island Pond on Route 105, and down to East Burke on Route 114.

Second and third among the women were Fran Plaisted, 53, of Orford, NH (6:07:50) and Carrie Nourjian, 64, of Stowe, (6:08:23).

Tied for third place among the men were Jake McLoughlin, 27, of Lyme, NH, Michael Fogg, 57 of Norwich, and Benjamin Williams, 43, of Thetford, all with times of 5:57:53.

Each of the male and female winners claimed a 6 pack of day tickets to Burke Mountain, a quart of Couture’s Maple Syrup, and a half pound of Brault’s beef jerky.

This year, seven teams competed in the Team Challenge, KVG, Upper Valley Velo, Team Ottawa, Flatlanders, Vermonters, Onion River Sports and Burke Mountain Academy.

The Upper Valley Velo narrowly edged out KVG.

The Moose is one of the three days of riding in the June Tour de Kingdom, which also includes a guided ride around Lake Memphremagog on Friday and a Lake Region ride on Sunday.

About 50 cyclists participated in the weekend, traveling from Ontario, New Jersey, Illinois, New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and all around Vermont.

Police postpone recovery of body found in Westmore

in Newport/News/Orleans/Vermont/Westmore

WESTMORE — Search and rescue teams have located a dead body in Westmore, but say they are unable to retrieve it at this time.

The body of the dead man was located in the southern area of Lake Willoughby, in a wooded area at the bottom of a steep drop-off.

Police say the body was discovered visually, but because of the difficult and technical nature of the terrain, searchers have been unable to reach the individual to confirm the identity.

At this time the scene has been secured, and technical rescue equipment is being brought to the area for the recovery.

“Because the finding was made this afternoon with only a small number of daylight hours left, it was decided to wait until at least tomorrow to conduct the recovery,” a statement issued by police reads.

They say it’s unclear exactly when this effort will begin.

While positive ID has not occurred, the family of Tyler Robinson, the 23-year-old man from Orleans who has been missing since Friday, have been notified of the discovery.

Investigators say they have no evidence or information to suspect foul play in this incident.

[VIDEO] Megan Bonnell interview and music from the Haskell Library

in Arts and Entertainment/Vermont

On Monday, Toronto-based singer-songwriter Megan Bonnell opened up for Great Lake Swimmers at the Haskell Library.

After the show, she gave this interview with Tanya Mueller to discuss her musical background, and offer some advice to young artists who are starting out.

For more on this artist, check out http://www.magnoliamusic.info

Driver jumps from moving vehicle on I-91 in Bradford

in Vermont

BRADFORD — Police responded to a bizarre incident on I-91 in Bradford this morning, where they say a 53-year-old woman jumped from a moving vehicle she was driving.

The incident took place at around 7:00 a.m.

According to witnesses, the driver, identified as Delynn Flanagan, 53, of Enosburg Falls, was traveling at approximately 65 miles-per-hour when she jumped from the vehicle she was operating and onto the roadway.

Flanagan’s vehicle, a 2015 Chevrolet Equinox, continued a short distance without striking any other motorists before traveling into a ditch on the right shoulder.

She was the only occupant of the vehicle.

Police say Flanagan sustained severe injuries from the incident but is expected to survive.

Police are still investigating, and ask anyone with information regarding this incident to contact Trooper Ostrout with the Vermont State Police at 802-222-4680.

Vermont blizzard and significant snowstorm update

in News/Vermont

WATERBURY – A Blizzard Warning for the Champlain Valley of Vermont and Winter Storm Warning for the remainder of Vermont are still active and will be into tomorrow.

The National Weather Service predicts a minimum of 18-inches of snow in most areas of Vermont with two feet or more in some spots.

The Vermont State Police advise that driving conditions on Interstate 89 and 91 are extremely difficult. Drivers heading home from work are experiencing whiteout conditions with very low visibility.

On I-89 in Chittenden County, at least five vehicles have been involved in slide-offs. No injuries have been reported, however, multiple cars have been abandoned in place by their owners, as operators seek safety from the ongoing storm.

Authorities say if you do slide off the road, call for help and police will provide you with safe transportation. Ensure your tailpipe is clear of snow or turn off your car to avoid a buildup of carbon monoxide in the car if you are buried in snow.

Vermont State Police are advising the owners of cars involved in slide-offs that they will not be allowed to tow their vehicles for the time being due to road conditions. VSP will arrange for removal when it is safe to do so.

VSP is strongly recommending drivers remain off the roadways. If you must drive, please be prepared for blizzard conditions and drive appropriately for conditions.

VSP and the Agency of Transportation report that no major state roads have closed for any extended period. A handful have closed temporarily throughout the day to allow for the clearing of auto accidents.

If you encounter a road that is closed, please respect all detours.

The Vermont State Police are also asking that people not call emergency dispatch or 911 to determine road or traffic conditions. During major weather events, dispatchers are busy handling emergency calls and supporting first responders.

Please visit: http://vtstatepolice.blogspot.com/ or http://vtrans.vermont.gov/operations/winter for road information or call 2-1-1.

You can also get road, weather, and other alerts sent to you through Vermont Alert: http://vtalert.gov.

Carbon monoxide (CO) continues to be a concern as the snow gets deeper. CO is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause flu-like illness or death. Symptoms of CO poisoning are like the flu and include nausea, headache, and dizziness.

If you feel these symptoms, leave the home and call for help.

Ensure all heating vents are clear of snow as a blocked vent can create a buildup of CO in the home, never use a generator indoors, and always have working CO and Smoke detectors in your home and in all living areas.

Check on neighbors, especially those who are elderly or who may otherwise need special assistance. Be sure their heating vents are clear of snow, and during a prolonged weather event that they have heat, electricity and any needed medical supplies.

Take it easy while shoveling. Overexertion can bring on a heart attack—a major cause of death during the winter.

Vermont unemployment rate drops, Derby still highest unemployment rate in the state

in Derby/Newport/News/Vermont

NEWPORT — The Vermont Department of Labor says that the state’s unemployment rate dropped one-tenth of 1 percent in January to 3.1 percent, but that Derby still has the highest unemployment rate in Vermont.

Overall, Vermont’s unemployment rate was tied for seventh lowest in the country for the same time period.

Unemployment in Vermont’s 17 labor markets ranged from a low of 2.6 percent in the Burlington-South Burlington area, White River Junction, and Woodstock, to a high of 7 percent in Derby.

The seasonally-adjusted Vermont data for January shows the Vermont civilian labor force increased by 900 from the prior month’s revised estimate.

The number of employed increased by 1,150 and the number of unemployed decreased by 250.

Labor Commissioner Lindsay Kurrle says the initial numbers for January show the state’s economy is headed in a positive direction.

Two years ago the old “Newport” labor market area was renamed to “Derby.”

Dental Therapists Bill passes Vermont House 109-32

in News/Vermont

MONTPELIER — The House of Representatives gave preliminary approval to the Dental Therapists bill (s.20) today with a vote of 109-32.

The bill would create a new mid-level position in the dental profession.

Like the nurse practitioners and physicians’ assistants who handle routine medical care, dental therapists would be able to do routine dental care, including nonsurgical extractions and surface fillings.

While under the general supervision of a dentist, the supervising dentist would not need to be on-site.

Supporters of the bill argue this would allow for wider geographical and more affordable primary dental care to Vermonters.

“The Oral Health Care for All Coalition is pleased that Vermont is moving forward to increase access to dental care by allowing dentists to build out their dental health team,” Michelle Fay, Associate Director at Voices for Vermont’s Children said after the vote. “We thank the House Representatives for such strong support for this bill, and we look forward to final passage next week.”

The bill passed the Senate last year with a vote of 18-8.

Final passage in the House is expected on Tuesday, and then the bill will go back to the Senate.

State warning public to stay off ice after recent death

in News/Vermont

NEWPORT — The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is imploring people to exercise extreme caution around frozen water bodies and not to go on the ice for any reason.

After recent tragic events involving ice anglers, Vermont game wardens are reporting that ice conditions have deteriorated to unsafe levels statewide.

Record warm temperatures, wind and rain have caused ice to become unsafe in many areas that would traditionally have held solid ice for several more weeks. Ice may appear thick, but is structurally weak and melting from underneath as well as at the surface.

“With the rain and unseasonably warm weather, some areas of the state are seeing thinner and more unpredictable ice than we would expect this time of year,” said Col. Jason Batchelder, chief game warden. “We would encourage everyone to stay off the ice.”

Wednesday, angler Kenneth Gaudette died after falling through the ice on Shelburne Pond despite a rescue attempt by Warden Dana Joyal.

Joyal was briefly hospitalized for hypothermia.

“We train for these situations, but each one is unique and calls for the judgment and discretion of the officer involved,” said Batchelder. “Dana showed extraordinary courage in this ultimately tragic circumstance. Our thoughts are with the Gaudette family.”

Vermont becomes 5th state to enact paid sick days law

in Health/News/Vermont

MONTPELIER — Governor Peter Shumlin signed the Paid Sick Days bill into law this morning in a ceremony held in the House Chamber. Dozens of advocates and supporters joined the Governor to celebrate Vermont’s becoming the 5th state to enact such a law.

The legislation establishes a mandatory minimum requirement for Vermont employers to provide employees with paid time off when the employee is sick, or to care for a child or family member who is sick, or to access services for domestic abuse survivors.

In Vermont, an estimated 60,000 private-sector workers currently do not have the ability to earn a single day of paid sick time. As the law goes into effect, these workers will gain access to 3 days/year and then eventually 5 days/year of earned time off.

The stated purpose of the law is “to promote a healthier environment at work, school, and in public by ensuring that employees are provided with paid leave time for purposes of health care and safety.”

“Access to paid sick time matters to children and families,” explained Annie Accettella, of Voices for Vermont’s Children. “This new law will mean that parents and caregivers can take care of their children without sacrificing a day’s pay,”

The new law will also allow a domestic abuse survivor to take paid time off to seek services.

“The State of Vermont has worked for decades to develop a comprehensive range of services and protections for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, but survivors need the flexibility to access these services in the safest way possible,” Auburn Watersong, Associate Director of Public Policy at the VT Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, explained. “Sometimes the safest time to seek counseling, health care, or legal protection is during work hours. Court hearings only happen during business hours, which requires many survivors to take time off from work. This new law will provide an absolutely critical window of time for survivors to seek safety and protection for themselves and their children.”

Advocates have worked on the Paid Sick Days bill for close to a decade. The bill passed the House of Representative in April of 2015 with a vote of 72-63. In February of 2016, the Senate passed an amended version of the bill with a vote of 21-8, and then the bill was passed again when Senator Bill Doyle (R-Washington) asked to reconsider the bill. On February 17, 2016, the House of Representatives agreed to accept the Senate’s amendments and passed the bill in final form with a vote of 81-64.

The new law phases in the requirement to provide paid sick days to employees over two years. Employers who have more than five employees will be required to provide the benefit in 2017. Employers with five or fewer employees will be required to provide the benefit in 2018.

Winter weather advisory issued for Vermont

in News/Vermont

NEWPORT — Motorists in Vermont could encounter some treacherous travel tonight and into Wednesday morning.

The National Weather Service in Burlington has issued a winter weather advisory for mainly freezing rain with some snow and sleet mixing in, which will be in effect from 10 p.m. Tuesday night, through 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Light snow is expected to start late Tuesday and then transition to a wintery mix Wednesday morning.

The period of light freezing rain should occur through Wednesday morning before ending early evening.

Hazardous driving conditions across Vermont is expected.

Motorists should be prepared for slippery roads and limited visibilities tomorrow morning, and use caution while driving.

Sub-zero wind chills expected this weekend

in News/Vermont

NEWPORT — Public Safety officials are urging Vermonters to brace for what could be the coldest temperatures of the season this weekend.

The National Weather Service is forecasting sub-zero wind chills in areas of Vermont Friday through Sunday, with some areas possibly reaching a wind chill of 30 below zero or colder Saturday night.

Everyone is reminded to bundle up and be prepared for the cold.

The Vermont Division of Emergency Management & Homeland Security offers the following information along with the notice:

Dress in layers, ensure you have a sufficient heating fuel (oil, wood, etc.) supply for your home, recognize health risks, and take other safety measures as needed.

Only heat your home with a heating source that is professionally designed for that purpose. Improper heating devices can lead to dangerous carbon monoxide buildup in the home. Carbon Monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause flulike illness or death. Symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to the flu and include nausea, headache, and dizziness. Always have working CO and Smoke detectors in your home and in all living areas, ensure all heat sources are ventilating properly, and always operate a generator outdoors and away from the home.

Dress in warm layers with a hat and gloves to prevent frostbite or hypothermia. The Vermont Health Department says hypothermia most often affects older people who have inadequate food, clothing or heating, babies sleeping in cold rooms, people who are outside for long periods such as the homeless, hikers, and hunters, and those who drink alcohol or use drugs. Even healthy adults can become hypothermic if not dressed warmly enough for weather conditions.

In the car, keep a blanket, hat and gloves, first aid kit, flashlight and extra batteries. If you get stuck, don’t venture out on foot in extreme cold. Have a cell phone to call for help.

Other reminders:

Check in with neighbors and friends who may need assistance to ensure they’re staying warm.

Be mindful of pets and limit their time outdoors.

Local Senator urges Vermonters to share views on energy projects

in Glover/News/Vermont

NEWPORT — Senator John S. Rodgers of Glover is encouraging citizens who want change in the siting of energy projects in Vermont to come to Montpelier on Wednesday, January 20.

Rodgers is organizing a day for local elected officials, citizens and citizens’ groups to share their views on the siting of energy projects with legislators.

“This is a day for Vermonters from around the state to come together to lobby their legislators for change in the way we site energy projects and to act in collaboration with like-minded people from across Vermont,” Rodgers said.

Citizens who cannot attend the rally can still make their views known to their state legislators on January 20 by calling or emailing the Sergeant at Arms with a message for their legislators.

The day-long event will take place at the Vermont statehouse. Starting at 9 a.m., Vermont League of Cities and Towns staff will introduce municipal officials who will give testimony before the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee. Testimony will again be given before the House Natural Resources and Energy committee in the afternoon.

Members of the public are welcome to attend the committee hearings. A press conference will be held at 12:00 p.m. in the Cedar Creek Room of the capitol building.

To send a message, citizens can call Janet Miller, the Sergeant at Arms, at 802-828-2228, or email her at jmiller@leg.state.vt.us, with a brief message for a specific legislator.

The message will be hand-delivered promptly to the legislator.

Public comment sought on planned ban on importing untreated firewood

in News/Vermont

A proposed Rule Governing the Importation of Untreated Firewood into the State of Vermont has been filed with the Secretary of State. The proposed rule, as filed, is open for public comment until Friday, Jan. 15, 2016.

The purpose of the rule is to protect forest health by slowing the long-distance movement of wood-borne invasive forest pests, such as Asian longhorned beetle and emerald ash borer, and preventing the spread of pests into Vermont.

The enabling legislation requires the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation to adopt regulations on importing untreated firewood. The proposed rule prohibits the importation of untreated firewood into Vermont.

The definition of firewood states that it is wood processed for burning and less than 48 inches in length, but does not include wood chips, pellets, pulpwood or wood for manufacturing purposes.

It allows treated firewood to enter the state if it is treated to the USDA standard of 160° F (71.1° C) for at least 75 minutes at a certified treatment facility and is accompanied by certification of treatment.

By written request, the Commissioner of Forests, Parks & Recreation may waive this prohibition under conditions that ensure that the firewood poses minimal threat to forest health. Violations may result in confiscation of firewood and/or a civil citation.

The rules are to take effect on May 1, 2016.

Questions or written comments can be addressed to Barbara Schultz, Forest Health Program manager, at barbara.schultz@vermont.gov.

Lack of snow has state warning Vermonters to hold off on feeding birds

in News/Vermont

NEWPORT — Normally, December 1 is the recommended start date for feeding birds in Vermont, but this year’s lack of snow is keeping some bears from going into their winter dens. The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is now urging people to wait for colder weather and snow before putting up their bird feeders in order to avoid attracting bears.

“An abundance of beechnuts and apples coupled with our lack of snow cover this year have resulted in male bears staying active, rather than denning for the winter,” said Forrest Hammond, Vermont Fish & Wildlife’s bear biologist.

Fish & Wildlife suggests Vermonters wait for six or more inches of snow that lasts before putting out bird feeders, especially if you have been visited in the past by bears or if there are sightings of bears in your neighborhood.

Due to lack of snow and frozen ground, birds are able to forage in fields and forests for their natural foods anyway.

“Female bears normally go into their dens before males,” Hammond said. “Males tend to enter their dens in response to most of their foods being unavailable to them rather than to cold temperatures. Without snow covering the ground some males are still foraging for nuts and apples.”

A 2011 federal survey revealed that people spend more than $280 million annually to watch wildlife in the state. Feeding birds at home is considered the primary wildlife watching activity.

Derby native Nick Fortin to lead state’s deer management program

in Derby/Newport/Vermont

DERBY — Vermont Fish & Wildlife has hired a new biologist, Nicholas Fortin, to lead the state’s deer management program.

Fortin grew up in Derby, and is a 2001 graduate of North Country Union High School in Newport.

He has an associate’s degree in fish and wildlife technology at Paul Smiths College in New York, a Bachelor of Science degree in wildlife ecology at the University of Maine, and his Master of Science degree in natural resources-wildlife at the University of New Hampshire.

Fortin is currently conducting disease research for both the Washington and Idaho Departments of Fish and Wildlife.

“I’m super excited to get this job, being able to return to my home state of Vermont and working on a wildlife species, white-tailed deer, that I am passionate about,” said Fortin. “This is a great opportunity to work for the Fish & Wildlife Department and interact with the state’s hunters and others who care about deer.”

He will start work in Vermont on September 14.

Fortin has previously done research and assisted in management of moose and deer in New Hampshire, mule deer and moose habitat in Wyoming, and deer wintering areas in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.

“We look forward to having Nick Fortin join our team of wildlife scientists in doing research and management to help conserve Vermont’s wildlife and their habitats,” said Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Louis Porter. “Nick will be the lead person on the deer project with collaboration from other biologists on the big game team and from different regions.”

nick fortin

Health Department warns wild parsnip causes serious burns on skin

in News/Vermont

NEWPORT — A common plant found along roadsides and open areas may not appear harmful, but the Health Department is warning Vermonters that its sap contains a chemical that causes serious skin reactions when exposed to sunlight.

The sap, or juice, inside the stems, leaves, flowers, and fruits of the wild parsnip, also called “poison parsnip,” contains chemicals called psoralens. Contact with the sap causes a chemical burn in the presence of sunlight, a condition known as phytophotodermatitis.

The sap is exposed when the plant is cut or knocked down. Skin reactions begin about 24 to 48 hours after contact with the sap and sunlight and include redness, burns similar to second-degree sunburns, painful rashes, and raised blisters.

Giant hogweed also contains the same chemicals.

Wild parsnip is an invasive species that can grow almost anywhere but prefers disturbed areas like roadsides and open areas. The plant is a member of the carrot family reaching heights of two to four feet with leaves that resemble celery leaves and yellow flowers that look similar to Queen Anne’s Lace.

The Vermont Department of Health advises people to avoid skin and eye contact with wild parsnip sap.

If you need to work with the plant:

Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs.
Wash clothes that come in contact with the sap.
Work with the plant on cloudy days, and always wash your skin immediately after coming in contact with the sap.
If you are using string trimmers or power mowers in areas where this plant grows, wear eye/face protection, in addition to long pants, long sleeves, and gloves.

If you get sap on your skin:

Wash the skin thoroughly with soap and water as soon as possible.
Protect the exposed skin from sunlight for at least 48 hours.
If you experience a skin reaction, call your health care provider.

State tests mosquitoes for EEE and West Nile Virus

in Outdoors/Vermont

NEWPORT — Vermont has its fair share of flying insects, and mosquitoes seem to thrive here in the summer months. Mosquito surveillance, which includes the weekly collection and testing of specific types of mosquitoes, has begun across the state.

During the past few summers, mosquitoes carrying Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile virus (WNV) have been found in Vermont. Results of mosquito testing will be updated on the Health Department website throughout the summer.

In 2014, there were eight mosquito pools that tested positive for WNV and eight more that tested positive for EEE virus. Human illness caused by mosquitoes is uncommon in the state, but in 2012, two people from Rutland County died from EEE. In 2013, two horses in Franklin County were infected and died.

People in these communities should take precautions to prevent mosquito bites, but it is likely that EEE is present in other parts of the state, so all Vermonters are encouraged to protect themselves against mosquito bites.

The risk of mosquito-borne illness increases during the summer months, and persists until there is a hard frost in the fall. As the warm weather brings out the insects, the Health Department encourages Vermonters to enjoy outdoor activities while taking simple precautions to avoid bites.

Below is a list of precautions the Health Department recommends all Vermonters take:

Weather permitting, wear long sleeves and pants and avoid outdoor activities at dusk and dawn – when mosquitoes are most active.

Reduce mosquito breeding habitats by getting rid of standing water. Drain areas where water can pool: rain gutters, wading pools and any other water-holding containers such as old tires.

If you are outside when mosquitoes are biting, use an effective insect repellent. Choose repellents that have an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registration number on the label. This indicates that the product has been evaluated for safety and effectiveness.

Install or repair screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out.

Protect your animals. Horses are susceptible to WNV and EEE infection, and there are effective vaccines available. Llamas, alpacas and emus are also susceptible and can be immunized with the horse vaccine.

Contact your health care provider if you have questions about your health or need medical attention.

Symptoms of WNV and EEE:

Most people who are infected with WNV will not become ill, and this may be true for EEE as well. Those who become ill with either WNV or EEE will have flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, fatigue, joint and body aches.

Symptoms typically last one or two weeks, and recovery can be complete. However, both viruses have the potential to invade the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and cause more serious illness.

Symptoms of severe disease include fever, intense headache, weakness, poor coordination, irritability, drowsiness and mental status changes.

About one-third of people who develop severe EEE disease will die, and many who recover are left with disabilities. Fortunately, severe EEE is rare.

For more information on West Nile Virus and EEE, and to view EEE risk maps, maps showing towns with active mosquito surveillance, and to find out the latest surveillance results, visit healthvermont.gov.

Vermont adds nine species to threatened and endangered list

in News/Vermont

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources recently added nine species to the list of state threatened and endangered species. The listing included four plants, three bumble bees, one amphibian, and one bird.

Three pollinators listed were the rusty-patched bumble bee, yellow-banded bumble bee, and Ashton cuckoo bumble bee. Pollinators such as bees, moths, and butterflies are critically important to Vermont’s agriculture, but many are in decline nationwide. According to a survey by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, beekeepers reported losing 42 percent of their honeybee colonies between April 2014 and April 2015.

Vermont’s bumble bee species appear to be in decline due to a parasite infestation. Another concern for pollinator conservation is the widespread use of a group of systemic insecticides referred to as ‘neonicotinoids.’ These pesticides are used on agricultural crops, and are also used in concentrated doses on home gardens, lawns, and ornamental trees. Several types of neonicotinoids are highly toxic to bees, in addition to making them more susceptible to parasites and pathogens.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency is currently considering legislation that would limit the use of these chemicals.

“Pollinators are essential to our farms and also to our meadows and wild orchards,” said Deb Markowitz, Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources. “Adding them to the endangered species list is only one of many steps we can take to help protect them. Additional techniques, such as integrated pest management and planting more native flowering plants, are others.”

The bumble bee listings do not come with restrictions against currently legal activities such as applying pesticides in accordance with state and federal regulations, although the Secretary may notify a landowner that a permit is required in cases where one of these bumble bee species is likely present.

More information on pollinators, including a list of pesticides for homeowners to avoid, is available on The Xerces Society’s website at www.xerces.org.

In addition to pollinators, the Fowler’s toad and rusty blackbird were listed as endangered in Vermont.

The Fowler’s toad is dependent on scoured sand banks along the Connecticut River, a limited habitat type in Vermont, and has always been extremely rare in Vermont. However, the toad had been detected in the state with infrequent regularity until 2007 when the toad was last heard.

Rusty blackbird populations have declined regionally by more than 90 percent during the past five decades, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Vermont is at the southern edge of the bird’s boreal forest breeding habitat.

Four plant species were also listed as endangered in Vermont. These include the dwarf birch, tulip tree, whorled milkweed, and green mountain quillwort. These plants were previously not thought to exist in the wild in Vermont, but single specimens or single populations of all four species were found recently in the state.

“While we are delighted to have located these rare species, their endangered status reminds us that many of these plants can only survive where there is habitat to support them,” said Markowitz. “We are fortunate in our state that Vermonters value the bees, birds, and plants that enrich our experience of nature and have worked to conserve lands so that future generations might enjoy them as well. It is critical that we continue to protect not only endangered species but the places where they thrive.”

Vermont currently has 51 state threatened and endangered animals, and 163 state threatened and endangered plants. Three well known birds were removed from the list in 2005, the peregrine falcon, osprey, and common loon, following the birds’ recovery as a result of conservation efforts.

Shaw’s Natural Spring Water recalled due to possible E. Coli contamination

in News/Vermont

DERBY — Shaw’s announced that Niagara Bottling is issuing a voluntary recall of certain bottled water products, including Natural Spring Water sold under the Shaw’s brand name, due to concerns that one of Niagara’s spring sources is contaminated with E. coli.

E. coli bacteria were found in the water supply on June 10, 2015. No illnesses have been reported to date. The recall affects multiple retailers in the region and was issued out of an abundance of caution. 

People with severely compromised immune systems, infants, and some elderly may be at increased risk if contaminated water is consumed. People with specific health concerns should consult their physician if they have questions.

Presence of E. coli bacteria indicate that the water may be contaminated with human or animal wastes. Microbes in these wastes can cause diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches, or other symptoms.

The following bottled water products sold at Shaw’s in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont have been recalled.

The recalled products have Best By dates of 08DEC2016 through 16DEC2016 (December 8, 2016 through December 16, 2016).

SHAW’S Natural Spring  Water (24) PACK
16.9oz Bottles
UPC Number on Case Packaging – 4567421415
UPC Number on Individual Bottles – 4567452952

SHAWS  Natural Spring Water (35) PACK
16.9oz Bottles
UPC Number on Case Packaging – 4567453026
UPC Number on Individual Bottles – 4567452952

SHAWS Natural Spring Water
(12) PACK
8.0oz Bottles
UPC Number on Case Packaging – 4567452217
UPC Number on Individual Bottles – 4567452217

Consumers who purchased these products should discard them or return them for a full refund. These products have been removed from sale.

For more information, please call Niagara Bottling, LLC Consumer Service, (877) 487-7873.

Memphremagog Watershed Association 2015 Spring and Summer Events

in Newport/News/Vermont

NEWPORT — The Memhremagog Watershed Association (MWA) has scheduled fun and educational events for the watershed community and visitors through the spring and summer of 2015. Most of these events are free and open to the public, however, some do require advanced registration because of participation limitations.

MWAs first major event is the Annual Meeting, June 17 at 7:00 p.m. in room 250 of the Hebard Building, in Newport. The keynote speaker for this event is Eric Hanson with a presentation entitled “Let’s Get Loony: The nnatural and unnatural history of the common Loon.” Eric, who has been the biologist for The Vermont Loon Conservation Project since 1998, will explore Loon history from their territorial takeover and sibling rivalry, to mercury laziness and satellite tracking.

For the third consecutive year MWA will sponsor a lake paddle to explore the creek and wetlands of the Eagle Point Wildlife refuge. This year’s paddle will be on June 20 from 9:00 a.m. to Noon. This event will be led by Paul Hamelin of Vermont Fish and Wildlife. The tour of the wetlands has been applauded by past participants as an opportunity to see and understand wetlands in a new way. Participation is limited, so call 802-334-5819 to reserve a spot. Bring your kayak or canoe to participate.

An opportunity to learn the importance of shoreline buffers and to take home some blueberry plants for your shoreline will take place on June 27 at 423 Miller Way, in Newport Center. This workshop will feature discussions by Perry Thomas, Program Manager of Vermont Watershed Management Division and Judy Davis of the Federation of Vermont Lakes and Ponds. They will explain how a natural buffer moderates the impact of heavy rain, shades shorelines to reduce water temperature, and produces matter essential to shallow-water ecology.

Screen Shot 2015-06-06 at 12.30.57 PM

This is the second of MWA’s Blueberries for Blue Waters workshops and is open to all who live or have property on or near water. Participants will be able to take home a total of four mature Blueberry bushes for a much reduced price of $30.00, and a special price for new members of $15.00. Register by calling 802-334-5819.

Additionally this month MWA is sponsoring several significant workshops and training sessions. The first on June 23 is a workshop on the identification of Cyanobacteria (Blue-green algae). Participants will learn how to identify and report an algae bloom and ask questions of experts on the consequences of these blooms. This workshop is open to the public on June 23 at 7:00 p.m., room 250 of the Hebard Building, in Newport.

Help is always needed to identify invasive species in our watershed waters. Those who would like to participate in this endeavor are encouraged to attend a Vermont Invasive Patroller (VIP) training on June 26 10:00 a.m. to Noon. This will be an on-water introduction and refresher training. Please register by telephoning 802-409-6129 or online at: watershedmanagement.vt.gov/lakes/htm/ans/p_VIP.htm.

MWA hopes once trained the participants will volunteer to be VIPs for our watershed. Click below for full schedule:
CLICK HERE

[VIDEO] Brownington man pleads not guilty to Memorial Day murder

in Brownington/Newport/News/Vermont

Jeffrey Ray, 51, of Brownington was in court on Tuesday. He plead not guilty to the charge of first degree homicide for the shooting death of Rick Vreeland on Memorial Day. Ray was ordered held without bail.

This video is from a press conference given by Orleans County State’s Attorney Jennifer Barrett.

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