Land Conservation

A moose in the Nulhegan Basin Division of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge in Brunswick, Vt. Gov. Phil Scott is raising concerns about a plan by the federal government to expand the refuge.
U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service / Flickr

Gov. Phil Scott says he’s “very apprehensive” about a plan by the federal government to expand a U.S. Fish and Wildlife refuge in northeast Vermont.

Angela Evancie / VPR

A legislative effort to reform the state’s premier land conservation program has again fallen by the wayside.

Supporters of changes to the Current Use tax program say abuses of the system have fueled perception problems that threaten to undermine public support. But while most people have begun to acknowledge the existence of a problem, lawmakers can’t seem to agree on a fix.

Woodstock Rep. Allison Clarkson has dedicated a good deal of her last three terms in office to the Current Use issue. And she says that’s for good reason.

On Monday, the Vermont Land Trust announced that it is backing out of the legislative process on a controversial bill that would have allowed conservation easements to be altered after legal review by either the environmental court or new five member panel. The bill had sparked significant opposition from experts who said legal avenues already exist to amend easements.

The Vermont Land Trust has withdrawn support from legislation it was backing that would allow conservation easements to be altered or lifted after a legal review.

The move Friday followed criticism by others in the conservation community that the bill opened the possibility that a donor’s intent to preserve a particular piece of land would not be fulfilled.

John Dillon / VPR

Conservation easements are legal agreements designed to protect land from development forever. But a bill under consideration in the Statehouse would allow those restrictions to be amended, or lifted entirely.

The bill has sparked a fierce debate among land conservation advocates. Opponents argue the legislation could lead to circumstances in which land that was supposed to be protected "in perpetuity” no longer would be.

Lawmakers have been working for years on reforms to the state’s premier land conservation program. But differences between the House and Senate are again threatening to derail legislation.

The Current Use program has been around since the late 1970s. And land-use experts say it’s probably the most successful conservation program in the history of Vermont.

Stowe Land Trust

Caitrin Maloney, of Morrisville, will be the next executive director of Stowe Land Trust. In its 26 year history, the trust has conserved nearly 3,500 acres in Stowe, Morristown and Waterbury. The trust also owns five properties which it manages for public recreational use.

Maloney has directed the Lake Champlain Sea Grant Watershed Alliance, and most recently she served as executive director of the Friends of the Mad River, a watershed conservation organization based in Waitsfield.

New England Forestry Foundation

A couple who have been conserving forest land in Braintree and Rochester recently turned over an entire community forest to the New England Forestry Foundation.

The Braintree Mountain Forest is 1,547 acres owned by a foundation established by Braintree residents Paul Kendall and Sharon Rives. New England Forestry Foundation Director Robert Perschel said the Braintree Mountain Forest is the largest land gift his organization has received in all of its 70 years.