Zoe Richards, Chair of the Burlington Conservation Board and Director of Burlington Wildways, is the recipient of the 2022 Arthur Gibb Award for Individual Leadership. The Art Gibb Award is presented annually to a Vermont resident who has made a lasting contribution to their community, region or state in the ways they integrate smart growth and conservation.
We are proud to recognize Zoe for her dedication to preserving and expanding access to Burlington’s natural resources and wild spaces. The award was co-presented by VNRC’s Executive Director, Brian Shupe, and Jens Hilke of the Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife at VNRC’s 59th Annual Meeting at Hula in Burlington on September 22, 2022.
Zoe has been a member of the Burlington Conservation Board since 2013, where she has had a tremendous influence in improving the environmental sensitivity of new development, improving shoreline protection along Lake Champlain, and developing community-informed nature-based solutions to address climate change.
In a major victory for land preservation in Burlington, Zoe played a key advisory and fundraising role that led to the protection of Rock Point—over 160 acres of land of the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont and the City of Burlington’s Arms Forest in 2018.
Under her leadership, the city implemented a “low mow” standard along the lakeshore that will help to improve the ecological integrity of the shoreline as properties are redeveloped.
Zoe has also played a leadership role in formulating the recently adopted Nature-Based Climate Solutions: An Addendum to the Burlington Open Space Protection Plan. This planning document was incorporated into the city’s comprehensive plan and addresses six broad areas where the city can implement climate solutions: Urban Forests & Tree Canopy; Water & Wetlands; Green Infrastructure; Agriculture & Community Gardens; Lawns, Fields, & Small Open Spaces; and Equity, Inclusion, & Relationships.
As founder of the Burlington Wildways Coalition—a partnership between Burlington Parks, Recreation & Waterfront Department, the Burlington Conservation Board and City Council, the Winooski Valley Parks District, Rock Point, and the Intervale Center—Zoe has led the effort since 2017 to increase connectivity among the city’s natural areas and to increase the effectiveness of ongoing conservation efforts. The endeavor also works to increase public awareness of these areas and expand the ranks of people who actively care for wild lands, as well as to improve Burlington’s flood control, moderate urban temperatures, and sequester carbon.
Zoe began her career as a wildlife biologist, studying a nesting colony of Great Blue Herons on Lake Champlain, which inspired her to protect the wetlands they relied on to forage and feed. We are honored to present her with the 2022 Arthur Gibb Award for her commitment to protecting our wildlands for the benefit of both humans and our non-human neighbors. Our sincere thanks to Scott Gustin, Principal Planner & Zoning Division Manager for the City of Burlington, for nominating Zoe for the award.
The Arthur Gibb Award for Individual Leadership was established by Smart Growth Vermont in 2006 in honor of the late Arthur “Art” Gibb, who was first elected to the Vermont Legislature in 1962. Gibb played a major role in passing key environmental and land use legislation that includes banning billboards, enacting Vermont’s bottle deposit law, regulating junkyards, and modernizing statutes governing local and regional planning. Gibb was on the commission that laid the groundwork for Act 250 and served twelve years on the Vermont Environmental Board, including one as Chair. Smart Growth Vermont merged with VNRC in 2011. To learn more about the Arthur Gibb Award, visit vnrc.org/awards.