Speaking up for the needs of Vermont game wardens
To the Editor,
This letter is addressed to all residents of our state, and in particular to those who hunt, fish, and otherwise enjoy Vermont’s outdoors. This is an issue concerning discrimination against game wardens.
The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department writes the following about Game Wardens: “Wardens enforce fish and wildlife, boat, snowmobile, ATV, and general criminal laws. State game wardens also provide an important law enforcement support role during critical incidents and emergencies. They also have extensive knowledge of Vermont's remote areas and utilize this knowledge and special training for search and rescue operations.”
This is a state with many natural riches, and residents feel that the conservation and preservation of these gifts is vital. It is thus easy to see that game wardens provide essential services to the state.
It may surprise many to learn that game wardens and other law enforcement members of the non-management bargaining unit of the Vermont State Employees Association get less in terms of compensation than do other members of state law enforcement, including state troopers, and all other state employees. It is indeed a shocking situation given the importance of these specialized civil servants.
Game wardens comprise fewer than 40 employees within the 5,000 member non-management unit, and thus their voice is seldom heard. Their needs and concerns are rarely incorporated into an employment contract, and many of their issues concern retirement and working conditions. It seems unlikely that such neglect would be allowed if state troopers were involved, and indeed it should not be allowed in respect to game wardens.
Many attempts have been made to remedy this situation. The Vermont State Employees Association itself has managed to do nothing to address it, and bodies such as the Vermont Labor Relations Board have ignored the VSEA’s lack of action. Actions by legislators and indeed the Vermont State Supreme Court have produced nothing in terms of relief for game wardens.
This situation requires the rest of us — regular residents of this amazing state — to speak out. We must face our lawmakers, and ask them to take notice of the needs and concerns of those who, in addition to many other tasks, risk their lives in service to the many outdoorspeople of Vermont. Please show your support, and demand fairness for your game wardens.