Ripples: The Newsletter of the
Vermont Agency of Natural Resources
Innovate, Collaborate, Initiate
January 2013


Respect.          Protect.          Enjoy.


In This Issue
From the Secretary's Desk: Each One Of Us Has Something To Offer
Communities Across Vermont Ramp Up For Historic Energy Challenge
Vermont Is Planned By Those Who Show Up: A Look At Vermont's Conservation Commissions
Forestry for the Birds Initiative: Managing Vermont's Woodlots With Biodiversity In Mind
Vermont Lay Monitoring Program Provides Critical Historical Data to Scientists
Friends Groups Mobilize to Support Natural Resource Conservation and Education
Vermont State Parks Announces Graphic Contest

Vote for Your Favorite State Park In's Best State Park In the Nation Contest!


We think Vermont has some of the most beautiful and exciting state parks in the nation. If you think so too, support your favorite Vermont state park in's Favorite State Park in the Nation contest. Click here to nominate your favorite park.

Header Photo: Meteorological Phenomenon "Snow Rollers" Cascade Down A Hillside


Photo Credit: SLV Native, via Flickr


A snow roller is a rare meteorological phenomenon in which large snowballs are formed naturally as chunks of snow are blown along the ground by wind, picking up material along the way, in much the same way that the large snowballs used in snowmen are made.
Snow rollers were found across Vermont a few weeks ago, to the surprise and delight of many residents.
Check out the recent WCAX story on these natural snowballs.
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ANR Secretary Deb Markowitz
From the Secretary's Desk: Each One Of Us Has Something To Offer

A few months ago I had the privilege of hearing EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson address a group of environmental regulators. What she said did not surprise me-- she told us that we could not wait for help from Washington; that the challenges we face are far too great, and the likelihood of meaningful action from our dysfunctional Congress,  far too small. Despite this news, hers was a message of hope. The optimism Administrator Jackson expressed came from experiencing the passion of citizens across the country who are committed to solving the world's most pressing problems - access to clean water and clean air and the threats from climate change. She told us that it was up to us, in each of our states, to be innovative. To take action.


Last week, with the swearing in of the governor and legislature we began a fresh biennium. Over the next two years we can expect legislative discussions about important environmental issues. Read more.

Communities Across Vermont Ramp Up For Historic Energy Challenge 

East Montpelier resident Dave Grundy has very high hopes for the new year. If things work out according to plans, his friends and neighbors are going to notice a lot of activity around town during 2013, including house parties, door knocking campaigns, and community gatherings. Through it all, Mr. Grundy, who chairs the East Montpelier Town Energy Committee, and his fellow volunteers will be helping their neighbors learn how they can reduce their energy costs and help Vermont meet its energy and climate goals at the same time.

That is because, starting in January, residents of towns from around Vermont will band together to reduce their energy usage and environmental impact. The Vermont Home Energy Challenge, which will take place throughout 2013, represents the first time that citizens and communities from throughout the entire state will be engaged together in meeting a statewide energy efficiency goal. If successful, the Challenge could result in thousands of completed home efficiency improvement projects and save millions of dollars in home energy costs every year.

The effort is being led by Efficiency Vermont, in partnership with the Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network, an organization that represents one hundred fifty town energy committees and coordinators in every corner of the state. Read more.

Jens Hilke, F&W Conservation Planning Biologist

Vermont Is Planned By Those Who Show Up: A Look At Vermont's Conservation Commissions

An Interview With Jens Hilke, Conservation Planning Biologist


Vermont is planned by those who show up. These were the first words from Jens Hilke, speaking about the crucial role that conservation commissions play in deciding the future of development in the state. We sat down recently to talk about land use planning and particularly, the role of conservation commissions in guiding responsible development.


Conservation commissions are active in about 30% of Vermont's towns, cities and villages. Usually comprised of three to eight people, conservation commission members serve many roles. They learn about the natural resources and unique features that exist within a town or community, and in turn use that knowledge to review and provide recommendations on land use planning issues, to provide guidance when communities consider development projects, to help to secure grant funding for resource-related projects, to provide natural history and interpretive programming to residents and to organize events, such as Green Up Day, that improve the health and resilience of natural and human communities alike.


When I asked Jens why the work of conservation commissions, and the planning commissions that they work so closely with is so important, he told me that land use planning is the physical representation of our relationship to the land. We spoke about climate change, and the likelihood that Vermont will see a large influx of people over the next generations, as "environmental refugees" relocate from metropolitan areas inundated by encroaching oceans, and a rise in temperature moderates Vermont's winters. Those few who choose to become involved will likely be the ones who will decide where these incoming people will live, what infrastructure will be created in response to their arrival and how we will develop or protect currently natural areas. Those who choose to become engaged now will likely shape the face of Vermont for the next twenty to fifty years.


Conservation commissions in Vermont are volunteer-based. Any interested resident can become involved, simply by showing up. All meetings are open to the public and posted. Interested citizens need simply attend a few meetings. There is usually an opening available, and since conservation commissions generally do not have a set size limit it is almost certain that someone who is willing to participate will be allowed the opportunity to do so.


If your town does not have a conservation commission and you are interested in forming one, Jens suggests joining the Association of Vermont Conservation Commissions' listserve. "Joining the listserve is the best way to learn, find out what is happening with conservation in other parts of the state, and connect with other conservation commissions and conservation professionals", said Hilke. The Association is a great resource for anyone interested in land conservation and land use planning and is open to everyone, but does require approval by the Association board. To join the Association listserve, send an email to


Group tours Forester's for the Birds demonstration project

Photo credit: Kristen Sharpless

Forester's For the Birds Initiative: Managing Vermont's Woodlots With Biodiversity In Mind

Last Saturday an unlikely collection of students, landowners, biologists and forestry professionals could be found trudging through the snowy woods in Huntington, bedecked in bright yellow hardhats and bundled against the falling temperatures. They came together to learn about an innovative timber harvesting project currently taking place at the 255-acre Green Mountain Audubon Center. The project is the result of a unique partnership between the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, and Audubon Vermont. The timber harvesting that is taking place this winter is a demonstration of some of the ways that timber management can be used as a tool to improve bird habitat while also generating income from forest products to offset land holding costs and keep forest-land undeveloped.


The twenty-or-so participants, some who traveled from out-of-state to take part in the demonstration, learned how staggering the age and species of trees in a forest can contribute to overall biodiversity and create niche habitats to support a variety of bird species, including wood thrush and black-throated blue warbler. It isn't only songbirds that benefit from diverse forests - these land use management practices are good for a variety of forest-dwelling animals such as bobcats, bears and deer. "Diversity begets diversity", explained Nancy Patch, a county forester with the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation. Creating a patchwork of cuttings in a wood increases both light and forage, which in turn supports a wider variety of wildlife. "The same things that are good for forests are good for birds", said Patch Saturday.


Vermont's county foresters are available for consultation. A county forester can walk your land with you and provide an assessment of ways that you can manage your property for both biodiversity and profit, an underlying goal of the partnership. Song birds need forests, and in order to keep forested land available, "we need to make sure there is some economic benefit to landowners in keeping their land forested", stated Michael Snyder, Commissioner of the Vermont Dept. of Forests, Parks and Recreation. "The beauty of this program is that it is a way of connecting human needs with the needs of wildlife. Managing working forests provides economic benefits to landowners and assists them in keeping their land forested, which in turn provides important habitat for wildlife." The program is representative of the Agency's overall goal of creating greater resilience in Vermont's human and natural communities. For more information on how you can manage your own land with songbirds in mind, visit the Forester's for the Birds website or contact your county forester.

Vermont Lay Monitoring Program Provides Critical Historical Data to Scientists

Have you ever considered becoming a citizen scientist? Each year the Vermont Lay Monitoring Program engages with over 100 volunteers all around the state of Vermont for the purpose of collecting water quality data from Vermont's lakes and ponds. For 33 consecutive summers, volunteers with the Vermont Lay Monitoring program have been collecting weekly phosphorus and chlorophyll samples, and recording water clarity readings on more than 90 inland lakes and at 40 stations on Lake Champlain.


The work of these citizen scientists provides crucial information that Vermont's water-quality experts rely on. Since this program was established 15 years prior to any professional monitoring, it provides essential historical water quality information for Lake Champlain. Thanks to the hundreds of volunteers who have monitored Vermont lakes over the years, on 50% of Vermont's lakes greater than 50 acres there is empirical data that allow scientists to identify which lakes have stable, positive water quality trends and which lakes show reduced conditions. In addition to water quality issues, the data collected has been essential to climate scientists studying climate change trends.


What is truly special about the Vermont Lay Monitoring Program is the ways in which it builds connections between people and the lakes that they share. In addition to collecting scientifically defensible data, the program educates volunteers on the issues facing our lakes and exemplifies the notion that Vermont's shared resources are a shared responsibility as well. Lay monitors come from all walks of life and all generations. What brings them together is their love of Vermont lakes, and their contributions to the health of Vermont's lakes and ponds.


If you are interested in becoming a Lay Monitor for one of Vermont's lakes, please visit the Vermont Lay Monitoring Program website. All water quality sampling is provided by the VT Dept. of Environmental Conservation. The monitor supplies the time, boat and gas. Sampling takes place weekly between June 1st and September 1st.

Photo credit: Ronald Kelley

Friends Groups Mobilize to Support Natural Resource Conservation and Education

"Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead


In 2005 when the Friends of Green River Reservoir was formed, the members had no idea how extensively their work would influence and benefit what was to become the Green River Reservoir state park. Originally formed by a group of concerned citizens when the State of Vermont was considering purchase of the park, the group has expanded to include fund raising, outreach, interpretive education, marketing, land conservation and long-range planning to their ever-growing list of accomplishments.


The largest and oldest "Friends" group in Vermont, the Friends of Green River Reservoir is made up of over 150 members from near and far, all who share a connection with the Green River Reservoir area. Their mission to "educate and act to protect the wilderness-like character and wildlife habitat of Green River Reservoir State park while preserving its heritage and historical uses for future generations" has led to a strong collaborative relationship with the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation. The group was heavily involved in developing the long-range management plan that the park currently operates within, and more recently played a crucial role in the addition of the 393-acre adjoining "Zack Woods" parcel, which will provide an excellent opportunity to provide more public education.


In addition to their unswerving support of Green River Reservoir, the Friends of Green River Reservoir is considered a model for "Friends" groups in the state. Not only is the group actively accepting members, they are also available to work with and advise any group or individual interested in creating their own "Friends" organization. President Sally Laughlin may have stated it best when she said, "it is so exciting to know that a group of people who believe in something can effect change."


To learn more about the Friends of the Green River Reservoir visit their web page. 

Put Your Message on Our Bottle! Vermont State Parks Announces Graphic Contest


This season, we're seeking a fresh, new look for Vermont State Parks water bottles that are sold all over the state and on the web, and we're asking for your help!

We invite you to participate in Vermont State Parks' first ever Water Bottle Graphic Contest!

Come up with a graphic design that is, or can be shrunk, to 3" x 3" that embraces the personality or feeling of Vermont State Parks. The design should use only three colors and will need to fit a variety of and materials and colors (green, blue, plastic, stainless steel, etc.). We'd like graphics submitted in high-resolution digital format, if possible.

We'll post entries on our facebook page and you can let us know which designs you like the best. We'll award first, second and third prizes. Third prize will be a punch card good for 10 park visits, second prize will be an individual pass that will get one person into the parks for day use all season long. The grand prize first place winner will receive a Season Pass, good for free park day entry for up to eight people at a time, in any park, all season long. Plus, of a course a few water bottles to share with your family and friends. All winners will become instantly famous and will receive accolades and adulation on the parks website and facebook pages.

Hurry though: Entries must be received by February 28th to qualify. E-mail your entries to or Vermont State Parks, 81 River Street, Montpelier, VT 05602.Click here for more information.

Like Us On Facebook! 
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Contact Us:

Deb Markowitz, Secretary

Vermont Agency of Natural Resources