H.126, An act relating to community resilience and biodiversity protection
- Vermont is the third-most forested state of the lower 48, with approximately 4.5 million acres of forestland covering approximately 76% of the state.
- Forests maintain air quality, water quality, flood resilience, and wildlife habitat, and are a valuable tool for fighting climate change by sequestering and storing carbon.
- The U.S. Forest Service estimates that Vermont may be losing upwards of 12,000 acres of forestland every year, and if this rate continues, over 300,000 acres of forestland may be lost by 2050.
- Research by VNRC shows that the phenomenon of forest fragmentation through parcelization and the subdivision of forestland into smaller and smaller pieces and multiple ownerships is gaining momentum.
- Vermont’s Climate Action Plan recommends the state of Vermont set a conservation goal to conserve 30% of Vermont’s land by 2030.
H.126, referred to as the “30 x 30” bill, is an effort to elevate land conservation as a necessary strategy to promote healthy forests, habitat connectivity, biodiversity protection, outdoor recreation, sustainable forestry, public health and climate resilient communities.
The policy recognizes that Vermont’s most effective and efficient contribution to conserving biological diversity and maintaining a state that is resilient to climate change is to conserve an intact and connected landscape with a mix of management approaches including ecological reserves and working lands.
WHAT DOES H.126 DO?
- Help implement Vermont’s Climate Action Plan by setting conservation goals for the State of Vermont; specifically, to conserve 30% of Vermont’s land by 2030, and go beyond that recommendation to also plan to conserve 50% by 2050;
- Have the Agency of Natural Resources and Vermont Housing and Conservation Board develop a plan to meet the conservation goals established in the bill. This plan would include an inventory of public and private land already conserved, a review of different conservation categories, and recommendations for current and future programs that will be needed to achieve the conservation goals; and
- Recognize that a diverse set of stakeholders and the public should be involved in the planning process, including landowners, conservation groups, working lands enterprises, outdoor recreation groups and businesses, local and regional planners, state and federal agencies, municipalities, and Indigenous groups and representatives from historically marginalized and disadvantaged communities.
VNRC testified in support of H.126 and worked hard with legislators, a coalition of state partners, and the Agency of Natural Resources to build support for the bill in the Legislature. We support efforts to develop a plan to advance Vermont’s Climate Action Plan goal of increasing the pace of land conservation in Vermont, in addition to supporting planning to employ diverse strategies to maintain a resilient landscape in Vermont. We agree that the value of our forests lies in their broad uses, supporting biodiversity, community and climate resilience, as well as our outdoor recreation economy and working lands enterprises. All of these uses are supported in the bill, and this bill will
help maintain the durability of our natural areas, and the lands that contribute to our
rural economy, and our tourism and recreation economy.
WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW?
The bill is now moving to the implementation phase.
By way of background, the Vermont House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed
H.126 on a vote of 108-36. Once in the Senate, the Senate Committee on Natural
Resources & Energy passed the bill out of committee on a unanimous 5-0 vote, and it
was then was voted out of the Senate on a 20-7 on second reading.
It then returned to the House and the House concurred with the Senate’s proposal of
amendment. The Governor allowed the bill to become law on June 12, 2023.
Further questions about the bill?
Contact Jamey Fidel, General Counsel & Forest Program Director, firstname.lastname@example.org