Vermont has state forest land and a 100-year tradition of creating and maintaining town forests. However, the vast majority of forested land in the state is privately owned. Until now, there was no easy way to get a complete picture of Vermont's forests.
A new online tool called the Vermont Forest Stewardship Atlas is designed to identify and categorize the state's forest resources. The atlas was developed by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources in cooperation with eight of Vermont's Regional Planning Commissions, with the Lamoille County Planning Commission taking the lead. The U.S. Forest Service provided funding for the effort.
"Rather than looking at forest management on an individual parcel‐by‐parcel basis, this project employs a regionally‐based landscape approach, allowing for more integrated planning of private and public forest lands in Vermont, with the ultimate goal of keeping forests as forests," a press release put out by the Lamoille County Planning Commission states.
The online atlas organizes over 50 forestry-related datasets into six categories:
- Ecological Resources
- Water Resources
- Scenic and Recreational Resources
- Human and Environmental Constraints
Planners using the online atlas can view, identify and query the datasets; print and export maps; and output summary reports for selected geographic areas and layers, according to the atlas webpage.
"Web accessible forest stewardship data will help landowners, towns and forest managers to inventory and assess forest resources in order to more effectively manage these resources," the webpage states. "Having better access to and understanding of landscape scale data will assist in keeping forest land intact to maintain habitat connectivity, forest health and productivity, ecosystem quality and strong forest products based economic activities."
Taylar Foster, forest stewardship project manager for Lamoille County Planning Commission, commented, “The Forest Stewardship project allows each Regional Planning Commission to inventory and assess forest resources and the impacts of human change on those resources. Working together, we’re developing tools and strategies for sustainable statewide planning of forest resources."
According to the Vermont Forest Resource Fact Sheet, almost 80 percent of Vermont’s nearly 4.6 million acres of forest can be characterized as privately owned "nonindustrial private forest land," divided among an estimated 88,000 landowners.