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Summary of VNRC 2023 Member and Activist Survey

The Vermont Natural Resources Council (VNRC) works to protect Vermont’s environment and working landscapes, strengthen our vibrant communities, and prepare the state for future challenges and opportunities. This work would not be possible without the support and engagement of our members and all of the Vermonters who take action by contacting their legislators, organizing in their community, writing op-eds, serving on their town energy committees, conservation commissions, planning commissions, select boards, and more.

In March of this year, we issued our 2023 Member and Activist survey to hear from you about your priorities, what you think about VNRC’s work, and ways that our advocacy and communications have helped to amplify your concerns in Montpelier and beyond.

Your responses indicated high levels of interest on many of our key issues. At the top of the list was protecting Vermont’s wildlife and biodiversity (96% said they were “very interested” in this goal), followed closely by interest in protecting Vermont’s forests (95%), protecting Vermont’s wetlands, rivers, and streams (90%), and advancing strong state policies to reduce planet-warming climate pollution (86%).

There was also a great deal of concern about the threats to our health and wellbeing. Toxic pollution from PFAS, forever chemicals that infiltrate our drinking and groundwater, was the leading concern about the risks to Vermont’s waters (84% indicating they were “very concerned”), followed by polluted runoff from farms (80%) and new development that degrades existing high quality waters (79%).

The vast majority of respondents (86%) thought action should be taken to stop sprawl (commonly defined as dispersed development outside compact urban centers and villages, along highways, and in the rural countryside). Three quarters agreed that Vermont needs an overarching policy or regulatory approach to cost-effectively and equitably reduce carbon pollution in our heating and transportation sectors, our two most polluting sectors.

The high levels of concern and interest in addressing these threats to our environment align with many of our top legislative priorities. This year we are prioritizing the “30 x 30” bill, H.126, to preserve 30% of Vermont’s land by 2030 and 50% by 2050. We are working to advance the Affordable Heat Act, S.5, to study the best way to equitably transition the way all Vermonters heat their homes to clean energy solutions. Over the past several years, we have successfully passed first-in-the-nation legislation to cover the medical monitoring costs of our neighbors who have been impacted by toxic PFAS pollution through no fault of their own, and to prohibit the sale of toys and many consumer products that contain these toxic “forever chemicals.”

While we are incredibly proud of these achievements, there is much yet to accomplish and your voice is a crucial part of this work. Many of you have existing relationships with your legislators and 36% of the survey respondents indicated they had contacted their legislator because of a request from VNRC. A dedicated core of respondents has also attended an event on a specific issue (19%) and spoken out on an issue at a public meeting (11%). These are crucial ways to ensure your priorities are heard by our elected officials, and we will keep working to elevate these shared priorities and make it easier for every concerned Vermonter to get involved.

In 2022, we shifted our e-newsletter from a monthly digest to a weekly highlight of two or three things that we think are the most important to share. We’ve heard a tremendous amount of positive feedback on this shift. At the beginning of this year, we also launched our Instagram account (@vt_naturalresources) which continues to grow, helping us reach new people every day.

As we work to broaden our communications and make them easier to consume, we are encouraged by the issue-driven motivations of our members and email subscribers. Over 70% of respondents indicated that getting involved with an environmental issue motivated them to become a VNRC member (rather than a special introductory rate or a tangible benefit). These responses speak to your dedication and focus on making meaningful change.

As we head into the final weeks of the legislative session, that meaningful change is exactly what we are aiming to achieve. Keep an eye out for priority action alerts over the next month — these calls to action are one of the best ways to connect with your legislators around key policies in pivotal moments of action.

As always, if you can financially support our work, please consider making a donation. As a membership organization, your contributions are a crucial part of our success.

On a final note, we hear your feedback about what we can do to help you become more involved. We are looking forward to more opportunities to connect over the coming months — around specific issues, more opportunities to hear from you, and recreational events over the summer. We are also looking forward to welcoming you to our 60th anniversary celebration in the fall (Save the date for September 21st)! VNRC began as a dedicated group of Vermonters concerned about the threats of poorly planned development to our environment, and we’re honored to build on the achievements of the last 60 years as we head into the next 60.

Onward together!