Levin: Mowing The Lawn

5 hours ago

Mowing the lawn under the weight of the summer sun is a wearisome chore - around the house, the garden, the barn; between the upper pasture and the riding ring. But, when the dew lifts from Coyote Hollow, which gets later and later in September, I set my course and begin. And sometimes, if I’m energetic, I’ll mow the entire yard in a single outing.

Kathleen Masterson / VPR

Vermont’s small farms have always been subject to state clean water standards, but now the state’s near 7,000 small farms are facing a new reality: farm inspections.

For the first time, small farms will have to certify with the state and undergo routine farm inspections to make sure they're doing everything they can to keep pollutants out of the water.

For small dairy farmer Frank Hutchins, this means big changes — and big costs. Hutchins’ farm has about 70 milker cows, and he grows crops to feed them on a couple of hundred hilly acres on his farm.

Sometimes Vermont's sewage plants dump sewage into rivers and lakes. And they're allowed to. What's up with that?

Taylor Dobbs / VPR File

In a packed ballroom in South Burlington's DoubleTree Hotel, a well-known scientist studying Lake Champlain stood up and told state officials that some of the targets they've set to reduce pollution into the lake simply cannot be reached.

"It's just silly," said Mike Winslow, the staff scientist for the Lake Champlain Committee in an interview. He was talking about the state's target of a 60 percent phosphorus reduction from forests in a section of the southern Champlain watershed.

Ted S. Warren / AP

The forest fires in California and the Pacific Northwest may feel very far away, but crews of local firefighters and Forest Service employees have been rotating out to those locations all summer to provide relief and assistance in fire suppression.

Toby Talbot / AP

Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Vermont state government released new targets for reducing pollution in Lake Champlain and a detailed plan for how the state would reach those targets. But the plan is already attracting some criticism.

Ric Cengeri / VPR

The state of Vermont and the EPA are collaborating on a twenty-year plan to reduce the phosphorus running into Lake Champlain by more thirty percent. That includes federal lake pollution targets and the state's plan for how to get to those goals.

We're looking at the new targets, the plan to hit them, and whether it will all be enough to keep the lake clean for coming generations.

Agento04 / iStock

A marshy pond is the perfect spot for catching frogs, trying not to spook them, then scooping one into your hands and peeking between your fingers just enough to see the little guy before he jumps away. 

Kathleen Masterson / VPR

About 40 percent of the nutrients that run off into Lake Champlain come from farms. But surprisingly, about half that manure produced in the state actually comes from small farms. In the case of dairies, that’s defined as operations with fewer than 200 cows.

Angela Evancie / VPR/file

More than two-thirds of the problematic phosphorus overload in Lake Champlain comes from Vermont. To clean up its act the state recently signed Act 64, the Vermont Clean Water Act. It tackles runoff coming from sources varying from roofs and roads to forests and farms.