Fish and Wildlife Commissioner to resign for concert with Washington Electric Cooperative

Louis porter
Louis Porter in 2019. Photo by Mike Dougherty / VTDigger

Governor Phil Scott sets out to find a new commissioner for the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.

Current commissioner Louis Porter will soon assume the new role of CEO of the Washington Electric Cooperative. He will leave the department at the end of October.

Porter, 45, will replace Patty Richards, who ran the Vermont Co-op for eight years. She announced her decision to step down in May of this year. Founded in 1939, the electric company is the third largest in the state, serving approximately 10,800 member-owners in Washington, Orange, Caledonia and Orleans counties.

Porter said he had long been a member of the local electric utility and viewed the new position as the continuation of a career in the public service.

“I have a lot of respect and appreciation for the cooperative model on which it operates,” he said. “The fact that this is a public service owned by its members is a big draw. “

Porter has held various positions in Vermont. He covered state politics as a reporter for the Rutland Herald and Times Argus, then served as chief of the Vermont Press Bureau. He accepted a position as a Lake Champlain Advocate for the Conservation Law Foundation in 2010.

In 2012, Porter served as Secretary of Civil and Military Affairs under Shumlin before the Governor appointed him to head the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department in 2014. When Governor Phil Scott took office in 2016, he retained Porter. at his post.

“Louis has been an exemplary commissioner in two administrations,” Governor Phil Scott said in a statement. “He has served the people of Vermont well and will leave some really big shoes to fill in the ministry. Although he will be missed in the state government, I have no doubts that he will continue to have an impact and I want to thank him for all he has done.

Porter said he was proud of a number of departmental accomplishments throughout his tenure, including conserving tens of thousands of acres, rewriting hunting and fishing regulations, launching a clean water wetland restoration program; launch of a habitat stamp donation program; and addition of two wildlife management areas.

“As a co-op, our mission is closely tied to the well-being of the residents of the 41 central Vermont cities we serve,” Stephen Knowlton, president of Washington Electric, said in a press release. “Choosing someone to lead the co-op who has a long history in the community and a demonstrated commitment to public service in Vermont makes sense. “

The cooperative helps other local businesses provide high-speed internet access in the communities it serves, as well as supplying electricity to its members, which comes from renewable sources.

Washington Electric Co-op and Vermont Fish and Wildlife “are responsible for managing and promoting a shared resource that is jointly owned,” Porter said.

Porter’s last day with the department is scheduled for Oct. 29, and the governor’s office will begin looking for a replacement in the coming weeks, according to Jason Maulucci, the governor’s press secretary.

Members of the Protect Our Wildlife advocacy organization are closely monitoring the start of the Scott administration’s search for a new candidate. The organization’s president and co-founder, Brenna Galdenzi, said she hoped the administration would appoint someone who “is willing to go across the aisle and work with protection officials. from wildlife “.

Although sales of hunting licenses have fluctuated recently – decreasing steadily before 2020, then increasing during the pandemic – Galdenzi noted that the number of people who observe and photograph wildlife is increasing.

Porter said the data shows that hunting under current regulations has not had a negative impact on wildlife populations, and “in fact, hunting has been a critical part of the incredible recovery. and restoration of wildlife “.

Galdenzi said his group disagreed with Porter on issues such as coyote killing contests and a bill currently in the Legislature that would ban the unwarranted wasting of wildlife.

Porter said the department’s policies have helped restore and recover wildlife. He hopes “people rate his success on science and on data,” he said.

Galdenzi said she hopes there will be less divisions between her group and the next commissioner.

“We cannot move forward in protecting wildlife in the 21st century with all the new challenges and threats, from climate change to all these diseases that are showing up in wildlife, if we don’t find ways to come together on areas of wildlife. ‘common interest, “she said.

Porter said he will bring an environmental perspective to his new post.

“Climate change is going to be the challenge for wildlife in Vermont and around the world,” Porter said. “It’s interesting that the climate is also a challenge for infrastructure, as utilities provide electricity to their customers. “

“This is the part of the world that I grew up in, that I want to live in and that I want to see succeed,” Porter said.

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