10 years ago VNRC convened the first Forest Roundtable to bring people together who share a common interest in maintaining healthy forests that support wildlife and people through the many functions that they provide. One of the first roundtable efforts was a report in 2007 on the status of forests and the increasing threat of forest fragmentation and parcelization. The report included priority recommendations for addressing these threats, including proactive tax policy, land use planning, landowner incentives, valuing ecosystem services, and maintaining a sustainable forest products economy. Informed by the Roundtable, VNRC has worked to implement many of the Roundtable recommendations in partnership with many organizations and state and federal agencies. Over the past 10 years, we have accomplished a lot, including:
- documenting parcelization and subdivision trends across the state, and creating a data base to track those trends;
- expanding and strengthening the current use program to include Ecologically Significant Treatment Areas that are not subject to active forest management and keeping the program healthy and growing by making adjustments, including strengthening a weak penalty for withdrawing land from the program;
- held a landowner summit to assist forest landowners with long-term planning to maintain healthy forests into the future;
- held over 10 trainings for realtors, engineers and foresters on forest conservation and land development strategies to maintain healthy, intact forests;
- published a guidebook for communities on strategies to conserve and manage forest land and wildlife habitat;
- provided technical assistance to over a dozen communities planning for forest and wildlife conservation;
- developed a statewide forest fragmentation action plan in collaboration with regional planning commissions;
- helped to increase Interstate Highway weight limits to help get timber to markets efficiently (while getting large trucks out of our downtowns and villages);
- passed comprehensive legislation promoting working forests, technical assistance to landowners to help them plan the future of their forests, and increased local and regional planning to maintain intact forest blocks and wildlife connectivity areas in Vermont.
Elizabeth Courtney, former VNRC executive director and current board member, offers context and history of the Forest Roundtable in her recent Rutland Herald commentary. Read it here.
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