Enacted in 1970, Act 250 is Vermont’s landmark land use law, regulating development by reviewing larger scale projects for their potential impacts on the surrounding area. VNRC has been committed to the key goals of Act 250 since before it was even created: safeguarding our farms and forests from sprawl, protecting our natural resources, and helping our towns balance growth with community health and safety.
No sooner had VNRC worked to pass Act 250, than critics began to blame it for a drop in non-residential construction. Dispelling confusion and ill will about Vermont’s new environmental laws became our first major public education campaign. VNRC established the Environmental Planning and Information Center (EPIC) to help implement Act 250 and stimulate public participation in preparation of the Land Use and Development Plan.
EPIC conducted a public opinion survey to determine interest in and awareness of environmental laws in Vermont as well as countless meetings with select-board members, legislators, and community leaders. It also produced PSAs, public television programs, several studies and conferences, and VNRC’s famous slideshow, “So Goes Vermont,” which paints a powerful portrait of Vermonters and how they use their land.
In 1992, VNRC issued a report arguing that Act 250 was still a positive economic force in Vermont, which its detractors had long denied. The year later, we produced Made In Vermont: The Dividends of Act 250. In the video, a diverse range of business people, including Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry’s, former VT Development Secretary Elbert Moulton, and banker Zoe Erdman, present their views on Act 250’s importance to Vermont’s economy. In addition, citizens who have protected their homes and businesses through Act 250 speak about the importance of public participation.
In the 21st century, Act 250 remains as important as ever — even more so as our climate changes, and Vermont’s population continues to shift — and VNRC remains dedicated to keeping the law healthy and responsive to Vermonters’ needs. In 2018, VNRC advised the Vermont legislature’s Commission on Act 250: The Next 50 Years.
In 2018 VNRC published Core Recommendations to Strengthen the Environment, Communities, and the Act 250 Process, which addresses ways to usher Vermont’s landmark law into the next half-century. Find it here.
In 2019, VNRC worked with the Vermont Legislature to advance a proposal for modernizing Act 250, which passed the Legislature but was vetoed by Governor Phil Scott.
In 2022, VNRC filed a brief with the Vermont Supreme Court to hear new arguments in the “Snowstone” case and reconsider their initial decision, which would have weakened Act 250. In a rare reversal, the court changed their ruling to uphold Act 250 as it has been applied for over 50 years.
We continue working hard to ensure that Vermont’s “law of the land” is equipped to serve future generations.