Working Lands


Working Lands

In brief

“Working landscape” and “rural countryside” are commonly used terms to describe Vermont’s unique landscape. They describe the various ways that generations of Vermonters have interacted with, and inhabited, the land. While fewer Vermonters rely on the land for their economic livelihood today than perhaps at any time in the state’s history, productive use of the land still defines our landscape and our culture. Protecting, enhancing and promoting our open spaces, forests, farms and ecosystems involves a variety of strategies that can be used to strengthen communities, attract economic opportunities and preserve our landscape.

The issue

The term “working landscape” and “rural countryside” are often used interchangeably to describe Vermont’s distinctive scenery that is a mixture of productive forests, farms and fields. Each term can mean different things to different people. Some think of cows grazing, others swaths of forests and still others visualize a fragile ecosystem where a variety of natural processes sustain life.

In general, working landscapes are lands actively used for the production of food, fiber, earth products and outdoor recreation. They include cropland, woodlots, orchards, sugarbushes, pasture, plant nurseries, quarries and fee-based recreation. Open space is generally defined as undeveloped land that provides resources for the production of food and forest products, recreation opportunities as well as protection of natural, historic and scenic resources. Rural countryside refers to agricultural fields, forests, farms and residential development at much lower densities than in village centers.

Whatever the term, Vermonters’ agree that our unique landscape is an asset to our economy, our culture and our environment. In fact, it is one of the State’s planning and development goals [24 VSA § 4302] “to plan development so as to maintain the historic settlement pattern of compact village and urban centers surrounded by rural countryside.”

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Vermont Division of Forests:  provides a wealth of data and statistics for forestry in Vermont

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