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LaPlatte River Marsh Wetland one step closer to enhanced protections

The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) has granted the Vermont Natural Resources Council (VNRC) Petition to designate the LaPlatte River Marsh as a Class I wetland.  The decision puts the LaPlatte River Marsh one step closer to having the highest level of protection in Vermont.

Wetlands provide habitat for a wide variety of fish and wildlife, absorb water to minimize flooding, naturally filter pollutants, and provide beautiful natural areas in our forests and fields. Under Vermont law, either the state or any resident can petition for enhanced protection for Vermont’s most valuable wetlands. To qualify for this enhanced protection, called Class I, a petitioner must demonstrate that a wetland is exceptional or irreplaceable in its contribution to Vermont’s natural heritage based on the functions and value that wetland provides. To date, only six wetlands have been designated for this enhanced protection since the inception of the Vermont wetlands program.

VNRC submitted a petition to the Vermont Agency of Natural resources in 2017 to designate Class I protections for the LaPlatte River Marsh Wetlands in Shelburne. This month, ANR agreed that the area merits the highest level of protection and they have initiated the next step in the designation process.

The LaPlatte River Marsh is truly an oasis in Chittenden County, providing invaluable habitat to at least 60 species of birds, 20 species of mammals including otter, mink and muskrat, and 50 species of reptiles, amphibians, and fish – including at least 22 rare, threatened, or endangered plant and animal populations. Moreover, the LaPlatte’s wetland ecosystem is essential to helping filter and clean the water that empties into Lake Champlain and is part of nature-based solutions for maintaining water quality.

Jon Groveman, VNRC Policy and Water Program Director said, “the LaPlatte River Marsh is a truly exceptional natural area.  VNRC is extremely pleased that ANR has recognized this by granting VNRC’s Petition.”

ANR has a filed a proposed rule to legally recognize the LaPlatte River Marsh Wetland as Class I.  Class I wetlands have a wider protective buffer and greater restrictions on activities that may occur within the wetland than what are known as Class II wetlands.  If the proposed rule is adopted, the LaPlatte River Marsh will be one of only six wetlands in Vermont to gain a Class I designation.

We wish to thank the many VNRC members who allow for this important work to take place. Protecting irreplaceable wetlands require multifaceted community conversations that involve a variety of stakeholders. In addition to advocating for greater protections for the LaPlatte River Marsh Wetlands, VNRC – through generous contributions made by Shelburne residents and VNRC members – is supporting the town of Shelburne in their ongoing litigation regarding the Vermont Railway salt transfer facility off Shelburne Road near the LaPlatte River. At VNRC, we have a long legacy of working to protect, enhance, and restore Vermont’s water resources. While we are only acting as a fiscal agent and will have no role in the appeal, our contribution serves the public purpose of supporting the town of Shelburne.