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Canada undermining wildlife protections, according to Vermont Natural Resources Council

in News/Vermont
Photo showing a before and after image of the Boreal Forest, Alberta Canada, May 31, 2011.
Photo showing a before and after image of the Boreal Forest, Alberta Canada, May 31, 2011.

MONTPELIER — According to a document released today by the National Wildlife Federation and Vermont Natural Resources Council, destructive mining and drilling practices in the heart of Canada’s forest bird nurseries have killed thousands of birds and are putting millions more at risk, including the critically endangered whooping crane, America’s tallest bird.

The Department of Interior is under a legal obligation – known as the Pelly Amendment – to determine whether tar sands mining and drilling in Canada is undermining a century-old international treaty to protect North America’s shared songbirds and waterfowl.

“The high carbon intensity of tar sands is driving climate change and putting people and wildlife at risk,” said Johanna Miller, energy program director at the Vermont Natural Resources Council. “Vermont wildlife enthusiasts, birders, and hunters should be gravely concerned about the impact tar sands has on bird species and their habitat.”

As the report details, tar sands development sits in the heart of the previously pristine boreal forest, a haven for bird production. But now an area the size of Florida is being destroyed by huge open-pit mines, toxic waste tailings ponds that are visible from space, extraction wells, noisy compressor stations, refineries, and networks of new roads, drilling pads, seismic lines, and pipelines.

“Unchecked tar sands development is turning a vast, irreplaceable breeding ground into a toxic wasteland,” said National Wildlife Federation Senior Counsel Jim Murphy. “The Canadian Government has vowed to protect these birds, but it is turning a blind eye.”

Oil-laden tailings ponds have resulted in the deaths of countless waterfowl. In 2008, 1,600 ducks died in Syncrude tailings ponds. An October 2010 storm resulted in hundreds of ducks landing on a Suncor tailings pond near Fort McMurray, killing 550 birds.

Canada tar sands oil killing brids

As of 2010, 43 species of internationally protected birds had suffered fatalities from exposure to tar sands tailings ponds. Unabated tar sands development could result in the reduction of 70 million hatchlings over a forty year period.

Of the 130 internationally protected American migratory and songbird species listed in the report as threatened by tar sands development, many are familiar names to bird watchers, hunters, and wildlife enthusiasts in Vermont. The list includes:

Snow Goose, American Goldfinch, Evening Grosbeak, Great Blue Heron, Common Loon, Northern Pintail, Wood Duck, Siskin, Cedar Waxwing, and the Pileated Woodpecker.

“Wildlife and tar sands don’t mix,” said Murphy. “The Canadian Government is putting polluting fossil fuel profits above the welfare of birds and other species. Secretary Jewell and President Obama can send a message to Canada that it is unacceptable to undermine our shared wildlife heritage. The President needs to act by rejecting dirty tar sands pipeline projects like Keystone XL. Moving forward with clean, wildlife-friendly energy, not tar sands, is the answer.”

A sneak peek at Q Burke Mountain Resort Hotel

in Burke/News/Vermont
A before and after view of the new Q Burke Mountain Hotel Resort and Conference Center. Top photo by Tim Daley. Bottom courtesy of PeakCM Construction.
A before and after view of the new Q Burke Mountain Hotel Resort and Conference Center. Top photo by Tim Daley. All drawings courtesy of PeakCM Construction.

BURKE — Construction of the new 116 suite Q Burke Mountain Resort Hotel & Conference Center began last Tuesday with a groundbreaking ceremony. During the event, Jay Peak President Bill Stenger referred to the project as, “likely the most beautiful hotel site in the state of Vermont.”

The hotel will take inspiration from the Tram Haus Lodge at Jay Peak. It’s scheduled to open in November of 2015.

The structure has been designed to reflect the natural beauty of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. The project will use local Vermont materials and local craftsman in an attempt to stay true to the character of the region.

Q Burke Mountain Resort and Hotel Vermont 1

With 116 suites ranging from studios to three bedrooms, with many featuring full kitchens and outdoor balconies, the 180,000-square-foot resort will also include a slopeside restaurant, conference space, ski shops, arcade, coffee shop, and a fitness center with outdoor pool and hot tub.

Q Burke Mountain Hotel Resort Vermont 2

Along with the new hotel and conference center, an indoor aquatic and tennis center are also in the works.

Q Burke Aquatic Center will house a 50 meter pool and a diving pool. The 50 meter pool will be designed and constructed for training, competition, and water polo. The diving pool will have (2) one meter springboards, (2) three meter springboards, and a diving platform with 1, 3, 5, 7.5 and 10 meter levels.

Q Burke Tennis Center will consist of approximately 21 courts: 1 exterior central court, 10 indoor courts, and 10 outdoor courts. Four of the outdoor courts will be grass. The facility will also feature a food and beverage area.

The project will be carried out under the direction of PeakCM, whose president and owner, Jerry Davis, was responsible for building the Tram Haus Lodge, Hotel Jay, and Pumphouse Indoor Waterpark at Jay Peak.

Q Burke Mountain Vermont 3

Fish and Wildlife and VTrans Partner to Save Snakes

in Vermont
Photo courtesy of Sue Morse, Keeping Track.
Photo courtesy of Sue Morse, Keeping Track.

The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department has partnered with the Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation and the Vermont Agency of Transportation to provide habitat for a rare snake species near a truck weigh station on Interstate 91 in Guilford.

Doug Blodgett, snake biologist for Fish & Wildlife, has been working with VTrans to create habitat for North American racers, a rare, black, non-venomous snake that is found in only a few towns in the southeast corner of Vermont. Racers are a threatened species in Vermont and they are listed as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in Vermont’s Wildlife Action Plan.

The racers were discovered near the site where an old truck weigh station was scheduled to be rebuilt and expanded. As part of the permitting process, VTrans agreed to use some scrap material and equipment from the project to improve habitat for the threatened snakes.

“Racers are a protected species in Vermont, so we wanted to work with VTrans to make sure this development didn’t harm these snakes,” said Blodgett. “In the end, we have worked together to dramatically improve habitat conditions for them and potentially a variety of other snake species.”

VTrans used overburden from the project – rocks and boulders that are normally considered waste – to build places for the racers to hibernate in winter, basking areas for them to warm up their body temperature, and grassy travel corridors for them to move and feed. The travel corridor was created on the adjacent Roaring Brook Wildlife Management Area, which is owned by the Fish & Wildlife Department and is managed as wildlife habitat.

“VTrans has been a great partner for the Fish & Wildlife Department on a variety of issues, from connecting blocks of wildlife habitat divided by highways to improving fish passages in culverts under roads,” said Blodgett. “Many of these projects improve conditions for wildlife, and they make the roads safer for drivers, saving money in the long-run.”

By leaving material onsite for the snakes rather than transporting it away, VTrans was able to save tens of thousands of dollars on the cost of the project. Racers feed on rodents, insects, and other small animals.

“This was an interesting experiment that resulted in us all learning a lot about creating quality snake habitat,” said Blodgett. “It was a very cooperative, multi-agency project, with Forests, Parks and Recreation District Forester Tim Morton working closely with VTrans excavator operators to guide the construction of the habitat improvements.”

Vermont Salmonella Cases Linked to Baby Chicks

in News/Vermont

salmonella outbreak Vermont four sick

BURLINGTON — For the fourth year in a row, baby poultry from a single hatchery in Ohio are responsible for an outbreak of Salmonella infections in Vermont and other states across the country.

So far this year, the Vermont Department of Health has identified five Vermont cases, including four small children, of salmonellosis associated with baby poultry. All four cases have recovered from their illness. The Department of Health found the same strain of Salmonella responsible for the illnesses in samples collected from the chicks. In each Vermont case, the birds were traced back to Mount Healthy Hatchery in Ohio.

The Department of Health is collaborating with other state health departments, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the United States Department of Agriculture to investigate the outbreak.

More information about the investigation can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/live-poultry-05-14/

When baby poultry carry Salmonella they may not appear to be sick, but they can still spread the germs to people. Live poultry may have Salmonella bacteria in their droppings and on their bodies (feathers, feet, and beaks) even when they appear healthy and clean. The germs can also get on cages, coops, and other objects in the area where birds live and roam.

People can be exposed to Salmonella by holding, cuddling, or kissing the birds and by touching objects where the birds live, such as cages or feed and water bowls. People become infected with Salmonella when they touch something that is contaminated with Salmonella bacteria and then touch their mouth or eat with their hands.

Infection with Salmonella typically causes diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and/or abdominal cramps. Illness can be severe and require hospitalization. Young children, elderly, and those with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop severe illness. Salmonella may spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and then to other parts of the body and can be fatal without prompt treatment.

Young children are especially at risk for illness because their immune systems are still developing and they are more likely to put their fingers or other items into their mouth. The Health Department recommends that children should not handle baby poultry.

You can reduce the risk of Salmonella infection from live poultry by taking the following common sense steps:

Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching live baby poultry or anything in the area where they live and roam. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available. Adults should supervise hand washing for young children.

Don’t let younger children, especially those less than 5 years of age, handle or touch chicks, ducklings, or other live poultry.

Don’t snuggle or kiss the birds, touch your mouth, or eat or drink around live baby poultry.

Don’t let live baby poultry inside the house, in bathrooms, or especially in areas where food or drink is prepared, served, or stored, such as kitchens or outdoor patios. Keep live poultry outside.

Don’t eat or drink in the area where the birds live or roam.

Tour de Kingdom set to start

in Arts and Entertainment/News/Vermont

Tour de Kingdom Newport Vermont

NEWPORT — About 50 road cyclists from all over New England, New York, Ontario, Quebec, and as far away as Florida and California, are starting to pack their bags and make their way to join this year’s Eighth Annual Tour de Kingdom.

The event offers one to five days of cycling in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont and The Eastern Townships of Quebec. It will run from Wednesday, June 4th, through Sunday, June 8th.

This year’s Tour will raise money for North Country Hospital’s Patient Care Initiative Fund, which helps low-income Vermonters with unreimbursed expenses related to medical care, such as gas cards to help with travel expenses related to treatments for cancer patients.

Twenty percent of all U.S. registration fees go to the fund. Twenty percent of Canadian registration fees are donated to the Christian Vachon Foundation in Magog.

The Tour has evolved from a one day event when it started in 2007, to five days of guided and supported rides through some of the most beautiful countryside in North America. Each evening riders gather at what they call “The Long Tables of Newport, Coventry, and Derby,” with a different restaurant picked each night for a group dinner.

They will also have a “Shop Till You Drop” party at the all new Louis Garneau Factory Outlet. There is even an award for the most unique or fun thing purchased at Pick & Shovel.

Registration remains open on line at www.tourdekingdom.org.

NEXUS program enrollment event in Newport next week

in Newport/Vermont

nexus border event newport vermont

NEWPORT — The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) agency has announced a series of opportunities next week for Vermonters to more conveniently enroll in the NEXUS program. There will be four of these mobile enrollment events across the state, with Newport’s event being held June 5, at the Gateway Center.

NEXUS allows expedited screening for approved enrollees at the northern border and many airports across the country.

Those interested must first complete an online application in order to schedule an appointment at any of the four Vermont mobile enrollment events.

NEXUS Benefits

Expedited processing by U.S. and Canadian officials.

Faster passage with a dedicated lane at peak travel hours at Highgate Springs border crossing.

Provides access to the PreCheck security line at many airports nationwide and at marine reporting locations, including Lake Champlain and Lake Memphramagog.

How to sign up for NEXUS:

Vermonters must apply using the Global On-line Enrollment System. There is a $50 application fee.

Once you have submitted your application online, schedule an interview at one of four Vermont mobile enrollment locations open the week of June 2.

Call 802-524-6527 to schedule an interview. Be ready to provide the application ID number assigned to you when you submitted your online application.

Bring a valid passport and picture identification with you to your appointment at the mobile enrollment site.

Canadians are welcome to sign up for the NEXUS program, and should follow the same procedure.

“55 percent of guests that come to Jay Peak each year are from Eastern Canada,” said Bill Stenger, President and CEO of Jay Peak Resort. “They have a choice in where they go and, while safety and security is a priority, anything we can do to make it more efficient for them to come into Vermont is important. NEXUS is a great example of how we can do that. I have a NEXUS card and use it whenever I can and it really helps. This is a program that I am very pleased is being promoted.”

Vermont NEXUS mobile enrollment events (appointment required):

June 2 – South Burlington at U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 228 Aviation Avenue, Suite 100 (8 a.m. – 4 p.m.)

June 3 – Montpelier at the Statehouse, 115 State Street (8 a.m. – 4 p.m.)

June 4 – St. Albans at the Federal Building, 50 South Main Street (8 a.m. – 4 p.m.)

June 5 – Newport at Gateway Center, 84 Fyfe Drive (8 a.m. – 4 p.m.)

“Increasing participation in the NEXUS program is a fast-track solution to shorten the processing time at U.S.-Canadian Customs entries,” said Megan Smith, Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing. “Less time parked in line at the border means more time doing business and generating tourism dollars.”

Fish & Wildlife and Trout Unlimited work to improve habitat in the NEK

in Outdoors/Vermont

Trout Habitat Work Newport Vermont

The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department and Trout Unlimited have partnered to improve trout habitat in the Nulhegan River watershed in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.

The team, led by Jud Kratzer, fisheries biologist for the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, and Joe Norton, project manager for Trout Unlimited’s Upper Connecticut Home Rivers Initiative, have been updating culverts under roads to improve upstream passage for trout so that they can access spawning habitat and find cooler water in the heat of summer. They have also been strategically felling trees into the river in order to improve trout habitat.

“Good trout habitat is often messy,” said Kratzer. “It’s full of boulders, trees, sticks, and leaves. It may not look like the manicured stream bank that you would find in a city park, but trout thrive in that environment.”

According to Kratzer, historical logging practices around the turn of the twentieth century took a toll on trout habitat in the Nulhegan watershed. In order to ship Vermont logs to mills in southern New England, dams were built, riverbeds were straightened, and large boulders and trees were removed. This drastic alteration in the river proved devastating for trout, and much of the damage still exists today.

The team has replaced two culverts that were barriers to the upstream movement of fish with bridges that now allow fish to move upstream into areas that were previously inaccessible to them.

“In some instances, we are opening up smaller trout streams that have not had access for larger mainstem trout for nearly 50 years,” said Norton.

The team has also strategically added wood to portions of several rivers and streams in the watershed. These strategic wood additions are improving fish habitat by providing places for trout and other fish to hide from predators, retaining food for the aquatic invertebrates that fish eat, and by helping the river to form deeper runs, which trout prefer over shallow riffles.

“We’re all working together to restore the rivers in this watershed so that trout have a place to thrive and reproduce,” said Kratzer. “Past land use practices have left a legacy of poor trout habitat in many of Vermont’s rivers. Our work is one small step towards restoring the former health and beauty of these waters.”

Moose hunting application deadline June 10, hunters urged to apply online

in Arts and Entertainment/News/Vermont

Vermont Moose Hunting Season Online Lottery

NEWPORT — Vermont’s moose hunting permit lottery application deadline is June 10, and the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is urging hunters who plan on entering to do so now online.

The application is quick and easy to fill out on the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department’s website www.vtfishandwildlife.com.

“It’s a really quick process that ensures your entry is immediately entered into the lottery,”said Director of Wildlife Mark Scott. “Plus, it saves postage. Printed moose applications are available at license agents, but we really encourage you to use the online application. It is more efficient for you and for us.”

Lottery applications are $10 for residents and $25 for nonresidents. Winners of the permit lottery must purchase resident hunting permits for $100 and nonresident hunting permits for $350.

Five moose hunting permits also are offered in an auction with a bidding deadline of August 15. Bids must be submitted on the department’s moose permit bid form available from Fish & Wildlife at 802-828-1190. Money received from the winning bids is used in the department’s conservation education programs.

A person may apply in the lottery and bid in the auction but can receive only one moose hunting permit. If a successful bidder receives a permit in the general lottery drawing, the person is no longer eligible in the auction.

The Fish and Wildlife Department is issuing 285 moose hunting permits by lottery for the regular October 18-23 moose season and 50 permits for an archery moose season October 1-7.

The 2013 Vermont Moose Harvest Report with details on last year’s hunt, including the towns where moose were taken, is on Fish & Wildlife’s website as well.

Peter Miller’s “Lifetime of Vermont People” recieves third gold medal

in Arts and Entertainment/Vermont

Photographer Peter Miller sat down with Newport Dispatch last month while visiting the Haskell Library. He was interviewed by Tanya Mueller. He just recently received his third gold medal for his book “Lifetime of Vermont People.” Below is a video from the interview. The story follows.

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A Lifetime of Vermont People, written and photographed by Peter Miller of Colbyville, Vermont, has been awarded another honor. The Independent Publisher Association gave an IPPY gold medal to the collection as the best non-fiction book of 2013 written by an author living in the northeast.

The 208 page book has 60 profiles and black and white photo portraits of rural Vermonters. Lifetime of Vermont People may be viewed at www.silverprintpress.com.

“It is a much deserved award, said Jim Barnes, Editor and Awards Director of the Independent Publisher association. “A Lifetime of Vermont People is one of my favorites of the year. Of course, the photography is amazing but the life stories of the Vermonters are what brings it all home.”

The New England Book Festival, held in Boston in January, awarded A Lifetime of Vermont People a gold medal as the best art/photograph book by a New England author.

This is the first time one of Mr. Miller’s books, best known for elegant black and white photography, has been recognized for the writing content.

Over 5,500 books were submitted for the IPPY awards. The award ceremony will be held in New York City on May 28th.

Peter Miller is the author of six documentary books of photographs and text. Four of them are collections of Vermont photographs and profiles. He also authored books on the Great Plains and Paris, France.

Cell Phone Use While Driving Will Soon Be Illegal

in News/Vermont

NEWPORT — Many of us are guilty of doing it, but starting October 1, we can expect to be pulled over and issued a ticket if caught by police. Governor Shumlin is expected to sign a ban on hand held cell phone use while driving.

The penalty for driving while using a cell phone in Vermont will start with a 100 fine.
Keep Reading

22-Year-Old Morrisville Man Found Dead Off Long Trail

in News/Vermont

FAYSTON — The Vermont State Police officially identify the deceased hiker from the May 6 incident in Fayston, as Nicholas Dewey, age 22, of Morrisville. They are still awaiting autopsy results from the Vermont Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, however, there is no indication of foul play at this time.

On Tuesday morning the police received a call advising that Dewey was missing in the Fayston area. According to information gathered from family members, Dewey left to hike from the Hedgehog Trail for a 3 – 5 day trip.
Keep Reading

Vermont Launches Online Child Support Payment Service

in News/Vermont

NEWPORT — The Vermont Office of Child Support (OCS) has launched a new service that allows parents and employers to make child support payments online using credit or debit cards.

The EZpay4kids.vt.gov website was developed in partnership with the Vermont Information Consortium, the State’s e-government partner. The online service is available 24/7.
Keep Reading

New Law Prohibiting Idling of Motor Vehicles Starts Monday

in News/Vermont

NEWPORT — If you’re one of those people who likes to leave your car idling while you run inside the gas station for a few minutes, be warned. Starting Monday, if caught, you will be ticketed.

Vermont’s prohibited idling of motor vehicles law takes effect May 5, 2014. This law applies to all motor vehicles. It limits the idling of vehicles to five minutes in any 60 minute period.
Keep Reading

Bald Eagles Slowly Recovering in Vermont

in Feature/Vermont

Photo by John Hall, Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.

NEWPORT — The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is asking bird-watchers to give nesting bald eagles a hand this spring by enjoying them from a safe distance.

Bald eagles are slowly recovering in Vermont after being absent in the state for decades. Their nests are mostly found along the Connecticut River and the surrounding waterways, although some bald eagle pairs have begun nesting in other parts of the state.
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The Drift Dusters Snowmobile Club out packing snow in the Holland area at the start of the season. Photo courtesy of Roger Gosselin.

Snowmobile Season Ends: One of the Best in Years

in Vermont

DERBY — There may still be snow on the ground in Derby, but the 2013-2014 snowmobile season officially came to an end on April 15th. The Vermont Association of Snow Travelers (VAST) is reporting another great season that saw some of the best statewide riding conditions experienced in years.

The VAST grooming fleet was able to groom approximately 130,000 miles on the 4,700 miles of snowmobile trails that make up the Statewide Snowmobile Trail System. The system stretches from Lake Champlain to the New Hampshire border, and from the Massachusetts border to Canada. It’s enjoyed by 25,000 snowmobilers from all over the country each season.

A spokesman for VAST said that the 129 snowmobile clubs across the state would like to thank all of the landowners for their generosity in allowing the use of their lands for snowmobiling. They also thank the hundreds of volunteers who maintain the trail system, the law enforcement officials for their efforts to keep the trails safe, and the thousands of members who joined VAST and supported the trail system this season.

VAST is already planning for another great winter in 2014-2015. A few items for riders to look forward to for next season include the ability to purchase your trail pass online, and some upgrades to the interactive map and phone apps that were released earlier this year. Early bird discounts on 2014-2015 trail passes will apply on purchases made before December 16, 2014.

The photo is of the Drift Dusters Snowmobile Club out packing snow in the Holland area at the start of the season. Photo courtesy of Roger Gosselin.

For more information about the Drift Dusters Snowmobile Club, visit them online. If you are on Twitter, you can follow the club at: @DriftDustersSC and at Facebook.com/driftdusters

For more information on snowmobiling in Vermont or how you can help your local snowmobile club please visit the VAST website at www.vtvast.org.

St. Johnsbury World Maple Festival Set For April 26

in Feature/Vermont

ST. JOHNSBURY — On Saturday, April 26, a significant portion of historic downtown St. Johnsbury will host the World Maple Festival. Maple syrup judges will determine this year’s World Champion Maple Syrup Producer.

Events at the festival will include:

5K Sap Lap Run
Pancake Breakfast
Sugar on Snow
Music from “The Labor Days” and “Tritium Well”
Rock Climbing
Kid’s Activity Area
Food Court
Historical and Scientific Exhibits
Maple Syrup Judging

The World Maple Festival is organized by a group of volunteers from St. Johnsbury who are committed to the advancement of the Maple Industry and its historical connection to the town.

“This year’s festival promises to have something for the thousands that will attend.” Scott Beck, World Maple Festival organizer, said. “We are anxious to welcome maple syrup producers and lovers from around the world to St. Johnsbury.”

Approximately 80 vendors will be in attendance.

Detailed information about the World Maple Festival can be found at www.worldmaplefestival.org. Interested vendors and syrup producers should email Scott Beck at scottbeck@worldmaplefestival.org to reserve space or enter the syrup contest.

For local hotel accommodations, call 802-748-1500.

Brianna Maitland Still Missing After Ten Years

in Feature/Vermont

MONTGOMERY — Ten years ago today, Brianna Maitland was just 17 years old when she disappeared. She was last seen at her place of employment at the Black Lantern Inn, located in Montgomery.

Investigators continue to receive and investigate active leads in the case. They believe there is a strong indication that Brianna was, in fact, a victim of foul play.

Brianna reportedly left work on March 19, 2004, at approximately 11:20 p.m. Brianna’s car was discovered the next day adjacent to an abandoned farmhouse, located on VT Route 118 in the town of Montgomery, just a short distance from work. There is no evidence at this time to indicate that Brianna willingly left the area.

Vermont State Police detectives continue to explorer any and all investigative strategies in an attempt to uncover information about Briana’s disappearance. The Vermont State Police, along with the Maitland family, cannot overemphasize the importance of anyone coming forward with information.

The Maitland family continues to offer a $20,000 reward for information. This reward includes $10,000 for anyone who can identify the exact location of Brianna and $10,000 for anyone with information leading to the arrest of those responsible for her disappearance. The State Police remain optimistic that new information will lead to a resolution in this case.

Recently the Vermont Intelligence Center launched a Vermont Missing Persons page on Facebook..

The intent of the page is to highlight current missing persons in Vermont, regardless of law enforcement jurisdiction, in the hopes of bringing these individuals home to their families. At any given time, there are approximately eight active missing person cases in Vermont, less than a year old.

The new Facebook page will also highlight the anniversary of unresolved missing person cases in the hopes of soliciting new tips in these investigations. Currently there are 32 missing person cases over a year old that remain unresolved. Any anonymous tip that comes in for a missing person case will be forward by the Vermont Intelligence Center to the investigating law enforcement agency.

The Vermont State Police is also offering a reward of up to $5,000.00 for information leading to the resolution of the Maitland case or information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible.

The Vermont State Police offers rewards on specific major cases with an emphasis on unsolved homicides and missing persons where foul play is suspected.

Anyone with information is asked to contact: Vermont State Police at (802) 524-5993; the State Police Crime Information Tip Line at (802) 241-5355.

Marten Population Growing in Vermont

in Feature/Vermont

The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department believes there is an expanding population of American marten in Vermont. Marten are small carnivores in the weasel family. They are smaller than a house cat and are closely related to the more common and slightly larger fisher.

Though marten were extinct in Vermont by the early 1900’s, evidence collected over the past two decades indicates that two small populations of marten have become established in the state. The frequency of recent sightings leads biologists to believe that the populations are expanding.

This expansion comes despite numerous obstacles, including the continued fragmentation of Vermont’s forests, competition with an abundant fisher population, and milder winters. Marten have been spotted on remote trail cameras and marten tracks have been identified in several locations.

“All of this evidence leads us to believe that there may be more marten out there than we had previously thought,” said Chris Bernier, furbearer biologist for the Fish & Wildlife Department.

According to Bernier, Vermont currently contains two distinct populations of marten. The population in the southern Green Mountains may have originated from 115 individuals that were released from 1989 to 1991 by U.S. Forest Service and Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department staff as part of a marten reintroduction effort.

Follow-up studies in the mid-1990s failed to capture any signs of the animals, leaving researchers to believe that the release was not successful. However, recent evidence of the presence of marten in this region indicates that some individuals may have become established as a result of this effort.

Vermont’s other marten population is in the Northeast Kingdom and likely originated from New Hampshire or Canada.

Fisher are a primary competitor of marten, occupying similar habitats and eating many of the same foods. Fisher have also been known to prey on marten themselves. Marten, however, take advantage of their small size in deep snow, hunting for rodents in tunnels beneath the snow that are inaccessible to fisher.

“It’s very encouraging to see these animals become established in Vermont,” said Bernier. “Marten depend on large blocks of unfragmented forests. Their return signals that land conservation efforts are paying off for marten and other rare species in Vermont, and that these large unfragmented forests are being properly managed by biologists and foresters.”

Nominations Open and Online for Vermont Teacher of the Year 2015

in Vermont

NEWPORT — Nominations are now open for the 2015 Vermont Teacher of the Year program, and nominating a teacher this year can be easily done online.

For the first time since the Vermont Teacher of the Year program launched in 1964, the public is being invited to join Vermont educators in going online to directly nominate teachers for this prestigious statewide distinction. The winner serves as an advocate for Vermont’s teachers, students, and education system.

Nominations can be completed through March 28, by clicking HERE.

To encourage more submissions, the process has been simplified to require only the most basic information about the nominator, the nominee, and their school, as well as a short overview of what makes the nominee an extraordinary teacher.

To be considered for the Vermont Teacher of the Year program, a teacher must hold a current Vermont teaching license, with a minimum of five years teaching experience, and be employed by a Vermont public, private, or approved independent school.

Vermont’s current Teacher of the Year is Luke Foley, an Alternative Program teacher at Northfield Middle High School.

[VIDEO] Vermont Sen. Leahy Introduces Dalai Lama on the Floor of the U.S. Senate Today

in Vermont

Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy introduced the Dalai Lama on the Floor of the United States Senate today as the Guest Chaplain, before he offered today’s Senate invocation.

Leahy, long a champion of the Tibetan people, has visited often with the Dalai Lama and also introduced him during his address at Middlebury College on Oct. 12, 2012.

Only about a dozen senators were in the chamber when the Dalai Lama offered the opening prayer in the Senate on Thursday morning.

The chamber’s only Buddhist was Sen. Mazie Hirono, a Hawaii Democrat. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, touched foreheads with the Dalai Lama before he began what he called his “favorite prayer.”

21 Horses Rescued from Starvation and Neglect in Lyndonville

in Vermont

LYNDONVILLE — On Saturday night 21 horses were rescued from the Bona Ranch in Lyndonville, following a rescue organized by the Elizabeth Brown Humane Society.

The Caledonia County Sheriff’s Department had been made aware of the situation at the ranch before, responding to reports of lack of proper food and water. After a complaint came in Friday night about a dead horse located on the grounds, a search warrant for the Bona Ranch was issued.

According to an eyewitness account, the horses rescued Saturday were so hungry, they had started to eat a wood fence located at the ranch. Other reports stated that there were as many as six dead horses located during the rescue. The horses were described as dehydrated, as well as being covered in body sores.

The investigation is ongoing, and nobody knows the reason why the ranch had neglected the animals. What is known is that the owner had passed away about a year ago, and that his son had taken over operations.

No charges have been been filed yet, but criminal charges will most likely be issued.

Spring Hill Horse Rescue in Clarendon assisted in the effort to relocate the horses.

Lowell Voters Oppose Anti-Wind Resolution

in Feature/Vermont

LOWELL — Town Meeting Day voters in Lowell voted against an article opposing Green Mountain Power’s Kingdom Community Wind project.

The anti-wind resolution was passed over in 2012, and was brought back this year after resident Ed Wesolow took the issue to the Vermont Supreme Court.

In a vote of 110 to 27, voters showed their support of the 21 turbines of the Kingdom Community Wind project that are producing electricity. The taxes paid by Green Mountain Power are supplementing the town budget.

Before being built in 2010, 75 percent of residents at Town Meeting Day voted in favor of the project.

The Lowell wind project generated opposition from opponents who felt it would take away from the beauty of the ridgeline. They also felt that it did not provide any real environmental benefit.

In 2010, Wesolow and others petitioned to place an anti-wind article on the Town Meeting Day agenda. The proposed article accused the wind project of violating private property rights, destroying stream headwaters and depressing real estate values.

Bill Passes to Ban Smoking in a Car with Children

in Feature/Vermont

MONTPELIER — On Friday the Vermont House passed a bill that would ban smoking in partially enclosed locations, including smoking tobacco in a car where a minor is present.

According to a press release, smoking would be banned inside locations at schools, workplaces, hotels, and places of public access.  

“This public health measure continues to protect Vermonters from the impacts of tobacco,” Speaker of the House Shap Smith said in a statement. “In particular, I am pleased that we are putting in place safeguards to protect our young Vermonters from the impacts of second hand smoke on their long-term health and wellbeing.” 

An amendment to raise the minimum age to buy tobacco in Vermont from 18 to 21 was withdrawn after some heated discussion. The House Democratic leadership promised that it would be taken up separately later in the year.

Currently there are two bills that increase the age for purchasing tobacco in the House Human Services Committee. One raises the age to 21, while the other does the same with an exception for members of the armed forces. They would still be able to purchase tobacco at 18.

The bill will now head to the Vermont Senate. 

Vermont Businesses Call for Passage of GMO Labeling Legislation

in Feature/Vermont

MONTPELIER — Today, business leaders representing a broad cross section of Vermont’s food industry, including suppliers, manufactures, and retailers, gathered at the Statehouse in Montpelier to urge lawmakers to pass mandatory GMO labeling legislation, H.112.

Representatives from Ben & Jerry’s, Two Guys in Vermont, New Chapter, Black River Produce, Healthy Living, Liz Lovely, and VBSR, all called on the legislature to make Vermont a leader in food freedom and transparency.

The group noted that Vermonters have a reputation for taking food seriously. They identify with food, and are passionate about knowing where it comes from, and what’s in it.

“Food companies should be proud to tell consumers what’s in the products they are selling,” Chris Miller, Activism Manager at Ben & Jerry’s said. “And if they don’t want to share that information, then people should really wonder why?”

Ben & Jerry’s is in the process of labeling all of their products, which will be complete by mid-2014.

“We’ll label all of our products without effecting the price fans pay for a pint of Ben & Jerry’s,” Miller added.

Opponents of GMO labeling have suggested that H.112 would increase the cost of food for consumers.

“Food companies make changes to labels all the time without raising prices,” Jeff Weinstein, Founder of Vermont specialty food company Two Guys in Vermont said. “New ingredients or recipes changes, marketing and branding changes, as well as an ever-changing regulatory landscape are just a few reasons we might make a change to our label. It’s not a big deal to label GMO’s. Minor label changes are just a cost of doing business”.

Non-GMO labeled food is one of the fastest growing trends in the food industry, and retailers nationally and in Vermont have been advocates on behalf of their shoppers for transparency in the food system. The national grocery chain Whole Foods Market announced that it will require labeling of all items sold in their stores by 2018.

Here in Vermont, many food retailers are supporting the call for GMO labeling.

“What brought us around on the issue was one simple sentence, that people deserve to know what’s in their food,” Eli Lesser-Goldsmith, of Healthy Living Market said. “We have agreed with that since the day we started Healthy Living Market almost 30 years ago, and today we still believe in that”.

Fire Destroys Home in Greensboro on Sunday

in Feature/Vermont

GREENSBORO — On Sunday morning the Greensboro Fire Department responded to 800 Eligo Lake Road for a reported structure fire. First responding fire personnel reported that there was heavy smoke within the residence upon their arrival and the home quickly engulfed in flames when forced entry was made through the front door.

Mutual Aid was requested and the fire was quickly suppressed. However, the structure is considered a total loss with an estimated value of $200,000 dollars.

The homeowners were not home at the time of the incident and nobody was injured.

A request was made to the Vermont State Police Fire Investigation Unit for an origin and cause investigation. An investigator with the Division of Fire Safety concluded today that the fire was not suspicious in nature and is being classified as accidental.

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