Ripples: The Newsletter of the
Vermont Agency of Natural Resources
 
At The Statehouse
February 2013
     

 

Respect.          Protect.          Enjoy.

 

In This Issue
From The Secretary's Desk: An Overview of Current Legislative Initiatives
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Restoring The Commons: How The Quest To Clean Up Our Waters Ties Us All Together
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New Legislative Initiative Would Create Free Winter Fishing Day
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The Road Less Traveled: Managing Forests For Long-Term Health And Sustainability
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Getting the Wild out of Vermont Hogs
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Proposed Bill Would Decrease The Likelihood Of Petroleum Spills
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Vermont Foresters for the Birds Project Wins National Award
Photo Credit: Audubon Vermont
 
The Foresters for the Birds project highlighted in the January edition of Ripples has won national recognition from the U.S. Forest Service Wings Across the Americas program for its collaborative approach to forest and bird habitat conservation in Vermont and along the Atlantic Flyway. Congratulations to all who were involved in this groundbreaking 
effort. Click here to read more. 
Make A Commitment To Summer Fun With A Camping Reservation At A Vermont State Park

Silver Lake State Park

Photo Credit: Cynthia Masi-Neuenfeldt

Although the snow is laying heavy on the land, spring is right around the corner. It's a great time to make a commitment to fun by booking some camping reservations for the upcoming season. Get your reservations on the calendar now, and you will have something to look forward to when the woods are brown and the mud is thick.
  
Vermont State Parks has a "No-Risk Reservations" policy. That means if you make your reservation now, then later decide you can't come, all you have to do is call more than 24 hours in advance and our fabulous parks staff will assist you in switching your reservations to another date this season with no penalties and at no additional cost to you. So fear not rain or schedule changes, but promise yourself some time to connect with nature and your family. Reservations can be made at vtstateparks.com or by calling 1-888-409-7579. See you out there!
Fish & Wildlife Seeks Deer Hunters for Regional Working Groups
Photo Credit: Dave Kirby

The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is encouraging deer hunters to apply for one of three regional working groups currently being formed throughout the state. The goal of the working groups is to bring together hunters to discuss deer management strategies and regulations as part of the department's comprehensive deer management review process.
  
Hunters selected for the working groups will evaluate public input and will interpret the results of hunter surveys. They will also evaluate data relating to current harvest regulations and season structures and provide feedback to the department.
  
Working group members will meet four times between the end of March and September. Hunters interested in learning more should visit the department's website here.  
Vermont Trivia
 
Did you know that Vermont was once a disputed territory, claimed both by New York and New Hampshire? Or that Vermont produces more maple syrup than any other state in the country? Here are some other fun facts about the Green Mountain State:
  
1. At over 25,000 acres in size, Groton State Forest is the second largest contiguous public landholding in the state.
  
2. The dome that caps the Vermont statehouse in Montpelier is foiled in gold leaf and is topped by a statue of Ceres, the roman goddess of agriculture
  
3. Forest covers more than three-quarters of the state
  
4. There are three mountain tops in Vermont that host rare alpine communities: Mt. Mansfield, Camel's Hump and Mt. Abraham
 
5. Vermont was an independent republic for 15 years before becoming the 14th U.S state in 1791
  
6. Addison County is the wettest county in the state
  
7. Vermont's only poisonous snake, the Timber Rattlesnake, is classified as endangered under Vermont's Endangered Species law
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Deb_Markowitz
ANR Secretary
Deb Markowitz
From The Secretary's Desk: An Overview of Current Legislative Initiatives
 

Last week I had the honor of speaking at a conference sponsored by the Georgetown Climate Center on "Lessons in Resilience."  I talked about Vermont's experience with Irene, recounting the challenges we faced responding to the disaster and the long path to recovery. I observed that, in Vermont, we are focused now on making our communities and our landscape more resilient to future floods.  

Research shows that people with strong social networks are more resilient than those without them - and when communities already have an infrastructure of civic participation, then when disaster strikes, people will come together to rebuild, and great innovation can result. In Vermont we are lucky because we lead the country in civic engagement; from Town Meeting, to volunteering, to voting, Vermonters participate.  We know that by speaking up and getting involved we can make a meaningful difference.

People from other states are often amazed at how accessible our elected representatives are.   Indeed, the State House is the people's house. The public is welcome to listen and learn about what is going on, and they can easily influence the conversation by speaking directly with the decision makers.

This month, the ANR newsletter Ripples includes articles about some of the pieces of legislation being considered by our Representatives and Senators this year.  There are many important issues being discussed in the Senate and House Natural Resources Committees and in House Fish and Wildlife.  Here are some examples... Read more

 
  
Kari Dolan, Vermont Ecosystem Restoration Program Manager

Restoring The Commons: How The Quest To Clean Up Our Waters Ties Us All Together

An Interview With Kari Dolan, Vermont Ecosystem Restoration Program Manager

  

From Aug. 28-29 2011, Tropical Storm Irene pummeled the slopes and valleys of Vermont with heavy rain and wind. Rainfall totals of 3-5" were recorded throughout the state, with many areas receiving more than 7" of precipitation. As a result, major floodwaters and debris poured through our rivers and communities and into our lakes and ponds, ultimately affecting 225 municipalities.

 

Irene's devastation sent the state into disaster mode, as unstable rivers took out roads and bridges, wells and drinking water systems were inundated by toxic floodwaters and hazardous waste, fuel and wastewater made its way into nearly every body of water in the state.

 

"Water quality got hammered by Irene, from small feeders all the way up to Lake Champlain", says Kari Dolan, explaining the origination of Act 138, which called for a comprehensive examination of the health of surface water across Vermont in response to Irene. "After Irene, we needed to understand how we can better manage surface waters with an eye to resilience, and that is how the Act 138 report came about." The legislature tasked the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation with this job, asking specifically, "What are our restoration needs? How much would it cost to comprehensively meet those needs? What are the potential funding sources and who should administer funds raised to address water quality issues?"

 

Dolan, Vermont Ecosystem Restoration Program Manager with the Vermont DEC, oversaw the development of the report that would provide answers to the questions above. What resulted was a 140+ page report that was delivered to the legislature last month along with a $156 million annual price tag and a laundry list of stressors and issues to be addressed.

 

The final report identified 19 needs, grouped into four areas: (1) river and lakeshore instability; (2) stormwater, drinking water and wastewater infrastructure; (3) agriculture and (4) stormwater run off from impervious surfaces. In addition to assessing water quality as it stands, the report laid out 16 options to generate a stable funding source as well as six categories of options for an administration vehicle. Dolan explained that "Our charge was to lay out a multitude of options. Ultimately it will be up to the legislature and to the people of Vermont to choose and enact solutions."

 

The exhaustive report revealed shortcomings as well as opportunities. For instance Vermont is doing poorly at managing shoreline erosion in the state, lagging behind surrounding states with regards to developing and implementing an effective shoreland management plan. The report also reveals that the vast majority of pollution found in Vermont's surface waters comes from unregulated, non-point sources. "Vermont is a rural state", Dolan explained. "The two biggest stressors to our water quality are nutrient pollution and sediment pollution, and that pollution is coming from milking parlors, shopping centers, agriculture, city streets, gravel roads, shoreline development and building lots. It's coming from everywhere." 

 

On a final note, I asked Kari Dolan what she wanted every reader to take away with them. "That we have a shared responsibility", she replied without hesitation. "That every resident, homeowner, business and visitor to Vermont contributes to the pressures placed on our surface waters, and every one of us is reliant on access to clean water. The responsibility lies with us, with every individual, because we all benefit from clean water. I hope this is what people will take away, that any successful solution will depend on each of us doing our part."

 

Click here to read the full report online.

Photo Credit: Gordon Alexander
New Legislative Initiative Would Create Free Winter Fishing Day
By Vermont F&W Scientists Shawn Good and Jud Kratzer

Ice fishing is a mysterious thing to the uninitiated.  Many who have not experienced its joys hold the mistaken notion that ice fishing consists primarily of peering through a hole in the ice, waiting for a fish to bite, all while attempting to maintain feeling in one's fingers and toes.  But ice fishing offers significantly more than that for those who are brave enough to trade their spot on the couch for the wide open expanses of a frozen lake. Beyond the obvious fact that being outdoors in cold weather is still an opportunity to get outdoors, there are other benefits. From a recreational perspective, ice fishing allows those who may not have regular access to a boat the opportunity to move beyond shore fishing and the ability to choose any number of locations. And then there is the quiet. How many can say they have experienced the stillness of a winter morning, overheard owls calling to each other across the empty sky or caught a glimpse of wildlife moving through the snow? If more people had the opportunity to give it a try, they might realize what an enjoyable, affordable, and rewarding sport ice fishing can be.

In order to encourage more people to try their hands at ice fishing, the Fish and Wildlife Department is asking the Vermont legislature to amend 10 V.S.A. 4251(b) to create a free winter fishing day, during which anyone would be able to fish Vermont waters without a fishing license. Free fishing days allow people who are not regular anglers to reconnect with the outdoors, and to experience the enjoyment, relaxation, and thrill of angling.  These days also represent a great opportunity to encourage families to engage in fishing, and to introduce young people to a sport that they might not otherwise be exposed to.

Hopefully, the winter free fishing day will be as popular and successful as the decades-old summer free fishing day, which has typically taken place on the second Saturday in June.  Because ice fishing requires some specialized gear and techniques, the winter free fishing day will be most successful if experienced anglers share their expertise with newcomers.  If you are new to ice fishing or fishing in general, don't let your inexperience stop you from trying something new. Think about who you might know, and reach out to those folks for a helping hand. Alternately, if you happen to be an experienced ice angler, be sure to invite your non-ice fishing friends along.  They may just find that ice fishing alone, with friends or with their families becomes a highlight of the winter and something that they look forward to all season long.

 
  
The Road Less Traveled: Managing Forests For Long-Term Health And Sustainability
By Michael Snyder, Commissioner of Vermont Forests, Parks & Recreatione
Road
Last month's edition of Ripples spotlighted a forestry initiative that was borne out of an innovative partnership between the Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation and the Audubon Society. That program, Foresters for the Birds, is a great example of a program that successfully balances economic vitality with practices that maintain forest health and diversity and ensure that the resources that we use today will still be available for future generations.
  
These same goals make up the basis for House Bill 131, currently in the Senate awaiting final approval and passage. H131 aims to adjust some of the provisions of last year's energy bill, Act 170. Specifically, the new bill reaffirms Vermont's interest in long-term forest health and sustainability by directing the Commissioner to develop voluntary harvest guidelines - reflecting the best current science and experience for forest management - over a two-year period and via a public process with widespread public notice, public hearings and public participation. The bill also disconnects these guidelines from lands enrolled in the Use Value Appraisal program but retains a provision that requires FPR to ensure that harvesting on State Lands will be consistent with the purposes of the new guidelines.
  
In addition to creating a set of voluntary guidelines, H131 clarifies that the Commissioner will develop a procurement standard to be used by State agencies when purchasing wood products from whole-tree harvesting operations. This standard will include specifications requiring the retention of live and dead trees, in order to maintain a forest's fertility, health and habitat functions. Once developed, the procurement standard will be shared with Vermont educational institutions and other users of wood products who may choose to voluntarily follow them. The bill also directs the Commissioner to work with New England and northeast regional groups to develop regional harvesting guidelines and a model procurement standard.
  
In developing voluntary guidelines and in sharing them with the larger forestry community, Vermont is proactively working to create and implement the best available practices for forest health and sustainability, so that our forest products will be available to enrich our lives right now, and also in the future.
  
H131 has passed through the house and now awaits action in the Senate. You can view the language of the bill as passed by the house here.
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Photo Credit: Savio DSouza, via Flickr

Getting The Wild Out of Vermont Hogs

By Mark Scott, Vermont F&W Wildlife Division Director
  

Wild boar, black swine, wild hog, feral pig, razorback, piney-woods rooters are a few of the many monikers for wild pigs. Regardless of the name, these are some of the most destructive mammals that could ever occupy Vermont's landscape. This year the Fish & Wildlife Department is working with the legislature to make sure that doesn't happen.

 

Wild boar (Sus scrofo Linnaeus) are an invasive exotic, which means they are not native to this country. These animals were introduced in the early 1500s by European settlers as a food source. It wasn't until many years later sport hunters and hunting operations introduced Eurasian boar. They are distinctly different from the domestic pig (Sus domesticus) that is raised for food or even held by some folks as pets.

 

Currently an estimated five million feral swine live in 38 states, ranging from Florida to Michigan. Unfortunately, wild boar have established free ranging populations in our region, living in New York, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. These animals typically originate from captive populations and, once escaped, they establish populations quickly. They have the highest fecundity rate of any large mammal, producing an average of 3-8 young, and sometimes as many as 13. They are voracious omnivores that prey on ground nesting birds (grouse, turkeys, etc.) and consume endangered plants and animals. Their tell-tale digging behavior (called rooting) to feed on invertebrates, acorns and plant tubers damages wildlife habitat, forests, streams, rivers, agriculture, and private property, and is easily identifiable.

 

In addition to environmental concerns, feral hog populations can transmit 37 different parasites and 30 pathogens, including swine brucellosis and pseudorabies that can impact domestic swine and other domesticated animals. Pseudorabies, in particular, is especially lethal if contracted by a domestic dog.

 

One challenge for many state fish and wildlife agencies is that wild boar is an extremely popular game animal; however, most state fish and wildlife agencies are fully engaged in attempting to reduce populations or rid their state of them. Once established in an area they are extremely adaptable and adept at surviving because they have few natural predators. They can endure high harvest rates by hunters, making them nearly impossible to completely eradicate.  Nationally, hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent in an effort to control the damage they cause.

 

The only reason wild boar exists today in Vermont is for uses at captive hunting facilities. There are currently two known facilities in the state that possess captive boar. If these animals ever escape, it will require extensive costs and commitment to eliminate them from the wild. The Fish and Wildlife Department, working collaboratively with the Agency of Agriculture, has introduced language in a bill this session to prohibit the possession and importation of wild boar in Vermont.

  

Proposed Bill Would Decrease The Likelihood Of Petroleum Spills

By Matt Chapman, DEC Staff Attorney

  

Last Friday, February 22, the House Committee on Fish, Wildlife, and Water Resources unanimously passed H.226, a bill containing several important provisions that will decrease the likelihood of petroleum spills to the environment. H.226 requires all single wall tanks to be closed and removed from service by January 1, 2016 and requires "combination tanks" (single wall tank systems with double wall piping) to be closed and removed from service by January 1, 2018. The bill also adjusts the fees gasoline tank owners pay so that those fees more closely relate to the risk posed by the tank. Finally, H.226 will increase the maximum low interest loan amounts that the PCF can loan to gas station owners, as well as the amount the PCF can grant to residences for AST heating oil tank replacement.

 

The PCF is a state fund that pays for the costs of investigating and cleaning up releases of petroleum from motor fuel (gas stations) and heating fuel (residential heating tanks). The property owner is required to pay a statutory amount prior to the PCF reimbursing cleanup costs. Over the past several years, the Agency has seen increased numbers of releases from single wall underground tank systems. These systems were banned in 1989, but almost 250 of those systems remain in service "grandfathered" because of their continued operation.

 

H.226 will likely be reviewed by the House Committees on Ways and Means and Appropriations before its consideration by the House.


  

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Contact Us:

Deb Markowitz, Secretary

Vermont Agency of Natural Resources

802-241-3600

anr.info@state.vt.us