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Two Things: Intact Forests and Smart Growth

Two things: We need to be thinking about forest conservation and smart-growth design as two sides of the same coin—in other words, integrated, when it comes to climate resilience. And, we hope you’ll join us and partners at 350Vermont’s March and Rally for Climate and Energy Justice in Montpelier this Saturday.

Stay informed, stay connected—two things.

Long-Term Climate Resilience Means Smart Growth and Intact Forests

I (Brian Shupe, VNRC Executive Director) recently published a commentary asking why Vermont’s administration is back-pedaling on their commitment to combating the climate crisis. One thing I want to spotlight here is the important intersection between protecting our intact forests, and thinking of housing and development through a smart-growth design lens.

One of Vermont’s greatest assets in terms of long-term climate resilience are the extensive forests that still cover over 70% of the state. As we’ve reported before, our forests are being lost to subdivision and poorly planned residential development, which threatens the state’s ability to meet our climate goals. At the same time, growing demand and interest for land and housing in Vermont, including increasing climate migration, is exacerbating the pressure on our forests — just as it is fueling the housing crisis.

We have to be considering development from a smart-growth perspective, which means promoting compact, walkable residential neighborhoods around existing town centers. If we’re going to build more resilient communities, we need to be smart about it. This means maintaining intact natural areas and working forests as part of a smart-growth strategy, and vice versa.

Analysis conducted for the Climate Action Council indicates that we are experiencing forest loss and a steady decline in carbon sequestration rates. If this trend continues, it will be much harder for Vermont to meet the Global Warming Solutions Act’s long-term target of net zero by 2050 even if we have success reducing emissions. Intact forests are some of our best forms of flood insurance, too — and we need this insurance more than ever. 

With this in mind, we are currently supporting a bill (H.126) in the Vermont Legislature to accelerate land conservation in the state, including a planning process to identify the best strategies to maintain a resilient landscape. Furthermore, we are supporting smart growth housing proposals in the Legislature, and advocating for the comprehensive reform of Act 250 next year after several legislative studies are completed in the coming months.     

Read more in my op-ed at VTDigger, here.

Do You Love Vermont?

One of the things we have been featuring on our Instagram (follow us!) are the reasons why our staff love Vermont. It probably won’t come as a surprise to hear that when you love something, you are more inclined to protect it. My guess is that if you’re reading this, you love Vermont as much as we do—and we’d love to know about it. Please email our fantastic Communications Intern, Sarah Plaut splaut@vnrc.org, with a photo and one sentence describing what YOU love about Vermont, and we’ll feature it on our Instagram page and in our next newsletter. Feel free to include your first name and the town or city you’re writing from. Let’s spread the Vermont love around our community.

UPCOMING EVENT: March and Rally for Climate and Energy Justice on Saturday Feb. 11

Please join us at the March and Rally for Climate and Energy Justice in Montpelier on Saturday, Feb 11, from 1:00-3:00pm.  We’ll be there with 350Vermont and many other coalition partners to join in the joy and determination of the climate justice movement, and to call for lasting, affordable climate solutions for our state, including the Affordable Heat Act.  We hope you’ll join us—we’ll meet at City Hall (39 Main Street in Montpelier) and march together to the State House. Don’t forget to bring your signs! The March will be led by the always fun and vibrant Brass Balagan.  More information on the rally can be found here.

P.S. The fourth program of the 2022-23 League of Women Voters/Montpelier Library Lecture Series on The Impact of Climate Change on Vermont will be happening tomorrow, February 8 from 7:00 – 8:30 pm.  The panel will present a Current Legislative Initiatives Update: proposed state legislation and the impact of past legislation. Panel members are Sen. Andrew Perchlik and Rep. Gabrielle Stebbins (who chairs the legislators’ Climate Solutions Caucus). Jared Duval, Executive Director of Energy Action Network will moderate. The program will be hosted via Zoom and is open to the public. Attendance is free, but all guests must register at www.kellogghubbard.org/adult-programs.