Ripples: The Newsletter of the
Vermont Agency of Natural Resources
Honoring Our Own Earth Day Heroes
April 2013


Respect.          Protect.          Enjoy.


In This Issue:
From the Secretary's Desk: Honoring Our Own Earth Day Heroes
Steve Parren: Protecting Species Diversity
Ashley Lucht: Assisting Communities In Creating Sustainable Drinking Water Systems
Ken Cox: Sustaining Aquatic Habitats
Kate Willard: Conserving Land And Promoting Working Landscapes
Steve Fiske: Studying Benthic Wildlife To Assess Ecosystem Health
Sandy Wilmot: Creating Management Strategies That Encourage Resilient Forest Ecosystems
Rich Poirot: Monitoring Air Quality For Public Health And Quality Of Life
Kim Lutchko, Karen Knaebel and Bryn Oakleaf: Developing Recycling Processes To Conserve Materials And Keep Usable Goods Out Of Landfills

Do you know why we celebrate Earth Day on April 22nd?


The date stems from an earlier observance, Arbor Day. The date of Arbor Day was set due to the birthday of J. Sterling Morton, a Nebraska pioneer and journalist who launched the first Arbor Day in 1872.

Please Don't P On Your Lawn
New laws in New York and Vermont that took effect Jan. 1, 2012 prohibit the application of phosphorus fertilizers except in certain circumstances.
Phosphorus is a plant nutrient found in lawn fertilizer that feeds algal blooms in waterways. Create a beautiful lawn and keep "P" from polluting water by using P-free fertilizers and following these tips for a green lawn, not a green lake:
1. Take a soil test: If you are seeding a new lawn, or want to learn more about your lawn's nutrient content, pH level and organic content.
2. Fertilize: Only with phosphorus-free fertilizers. Most northeastern lawns and 75% of Chittenden County lawns tested by UVM had enough phosphorus (P) and only need nitrogen (N).
3. Water: If desired, in early morning when there is less than 1 inch per week of rain. Grass will survive droughts without watering by going dormant.
4. Plant Grass Seed: On existing lawns in the fall and spring to out-compete weeds and leave legumes such as common white clover, among the grass to add nitrogen, which will naturally fertilize your lawn.
5. Mow: to maintain a height of 3-4 inches and cut off no more than 1/3 of grass blade. Leave clippings on lawn to add nutrients and organic matter, but be sure to sweep the clippings off pavement.
6. Weeds: Will be discouraged by following these healthy lawn tips! Just pull any that are left by hand.
Please visit to learn more.
About the Author:
All interviews were conducted by Leila LaRosa, Outreach Coordinator for the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources. Leila enjoys uncovering the values that inspire the work of her interviewees. She lives in Chelsea, Vt with her husband, daughter and two cats.
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ANR Secretary Deb Markowitz
From the Secretary's Desk: Honoring Our Own Earth Day Heroes


The first Earth Day was held in 1970 - after the environmental devastation caused by a massive oil spill in California moved Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson to find a way to inspire the young people who were involved in the anti-war effort to expand their movement to include environment protection. Gaylord hoped that a national day of consciousness-raising about environmental issues facing the world - air pollution from leaded gas in cars and trucks; raw sewage toxic pollution being direct-discharged into our rivers, lakes and seas; the loss of wilderness; and toxic chemicals being dumped along our roadsides (it is hard to remember now just how bad it was back then) - would bring together the many separate groups that had been working on social change.


That first Earth Day, nearly 20 million people across the country participated in a national teach-in and protests for environmental protection. This new movement led to the enactment of our modern environmental laws - the Clean Air Act, The Clean Water Act, laws requiring the proper disposal and clean up of toxic waste, and so on.


Of course, we continue to face serious environmental threats. Oil spills still devastate our marine life today, we have not yet figured out how to safely dispose of our nuclear waste, our rivers, lakes and ponds continue to be at risk from pollution and climate change is putting ecosystems in peril across the globe. Given the many challenges we face, Earth Day is more important than ever as an opportunity to educate and rededicate ourselves to taking action to protect the earth that sustains us.


In honor of Earth Day and the many people at ANR who have dedicated their lives to protecting our environment, we have profiled ten outstanding staff members from across the agency. Each one of these dedicated state employees has played a part in helping Vermont to move toward ecological sustainability. During their interviews we asked each one of them for thoughts about what we could be doing in our homes, jobs and communities to support their work. It is my hope that their stories inspire you to get involved and to rededicate yourself to doing more this year to make our world sustainable. 

Steve Parren, F&W Wildlife Diversity Program Director
Steve Parren: Protecting Species Diversity

"I didn't do any of this work alone. Every accomplishment that I've had has been the result of joint efforts with a lot of very dedicated people." This is the first thing that Steve Parren wanted me to know, and the way that he has gone about his work for over twenty years. Steve is a big proponent of partnerships. He is also a program administrator, a grant and project manager, a rare species biologist, a representative to ANR's Climate Change Team, part of the Wildlife Action Plan Revision Team and one of the primary people charged with implementing recovery plans for Vermont's endangered and threatened species. And he is convinced that in order to successfully protect the natural world we have to feel connected to it first.

"It comes down to values." Steve explains. "We're scientists but if people don't care, then none of the work that we're doing matters in the long run. What matters is that people make a connection with the natural world, whatever that means to each individual." It turns out that Vermonters, by and large, care a great deal. But you have to invite them in, and you have to be inclusive. "Projects are so much stronger when you have good working relationships. It is important to recognize and appreciate people when they do act. Acknowledgment of the efforts of others is crucial."

I ask Parren what he is really excited about these days and he responds immediately. Read more.
Ashley Lucht, DEC Drinking Water Capacity Development Specialist

Ashley Lucht: Assisting Communities In Creating Sustainable Drinking Water Systems


"Why does the solution always have to be more?" This question was put to me by Ashley Lucht while discussing the sustainable management of public drinking water systems. "So many times the instantaneous reaction to news that there is a problem with a drinking water system is to resort immediately to a technical solution. So often managers assume they need more infrastructure, more money or more capacity. But sometimes, the better solution is not more. Why can't it be less sometimes?"


Lucht's approach of conservation and sustainable long-term management has come to a shock to many managers who have become used to managing things in a certain way, or who may be a collection of volunteers with little experience managing a long-term resource like a drinking water system. Read more.


Ken Cox, F&W Fisheries Biologist

Ken Cox: Sustaining Aquatic Habitats

Ken Cox wants you to spend more time outdoors. A fisheries biologist with the Fish & Wildlife Department, Cox has spent the last 32 years working to conserve Vermont's fish populations, and protecting and restoring aquatic habitats that sustain fish, and give value to our lives. When we sat down last week to talk I wanted to know more about what trends Cox has seen over the last three decades. There have been many, suggests Cox. "There are increasing threats and pressures on our natural resources. We've made a lot of progress to tackle issues of over-exploitation, habitat loss and pollution, but it is a never-ending battle."


What concerns Cox the most though, is what he believes is our society's increasing detachment from the natural world. "Young people are connected digitally, recreation has become more structured and formalized, and youth are not spending as much time outside, just exploring the woods, fields and marshlands the way they once did. If you don't have that connection, how can you see the ecological value or develop a personal attachment to the natural world?"


I ask Ken what he would like to say to readers. Read more.

Kate Willard, FPR Forest Legacy Program Manager

Kate Willard: Conserving Land And Promoting Working Landscapes  


According to a recent study by the Council on the Future of Vermont, over 97% of Vermonters polled endorsed the value of the working landscape as key to our future. Kate Willard has spent her career helping to make that vision a reality. Willard, who works as a Forest Legacy Program Manager, has dedicated the last 24 years to conserving land - first for the Dept. of Agriculture and then with both Fish & Wildlife and currently, the Dept. of Forests, Parks & Recreation. Kate Willard has conserved tens of thousands of acres over the span of her career, including working forest land, agricultural land, conserved habitat and land important for its recreational value.   



Willard wants Vermonters to understand the value of working landscapes and to know that we are in danger of losing them, maybe within a generation. "So many people in Vermont live in rural areas and it's hard to keep land open. It's expensive to work the land." Indeed statistical evidence supports Kate's concerns. A 2011 Action Plan developed by the Vermont Working Landscape Partnership states that, "There is a major contradiction between the values expressed by Vermonters for the future of the working landscape and the difficult realities facing the businesses and families that are the stewards of that landscape. Vermont's working landscape defines us, but if existing trends continue it will not exist for our children and our children's children."      


Willard and the Dept. of Forests, Parks & Recreation have been active in combatting these trends. As a program manager for the Forest Legacy Program, Kate Willard works both alone and in cooperation with nonprofit-based land conservation groups to keep working land in active production. Read more.



Steve Fiske, DEC Aquatic Biologist & State Benthologist
Steve Fiske: Studying Benthic Wildlife to Assess Ecosystem Health


Steve Fiske, an aquatic biologist and benthologist, studies streams and aquatic organisms in the state of Vermont. Fiske works primarily with benthic macro invertebrates. By studying these creatures and noting their presence or absence, their population numbers and species types, and by comparing these metrics over time, Fiske is able to estimate the overall health of an aquatic ecosystem.


His career with the ANR spans 35 years. He has seen much change over that time. Unlike other aquatic environments like lakes, bays or oceans, a stream's quick moving water means that it by nature is a rapidly changing or dynamic environment. "Streams are different than lakes in that their response time to pollutants is also quick," explains Fiske. "They can degrade rapidly and they recover rapidly when the pollutant source is removed. The most recent recovery that I have documented is in the West Branch Ompompanoosuc River following the cleanup of the Elizabeth Copper Mine."


In recent years, Fiske has been busy establishing what he terms, "a climate change sentinel stream network."  Read more.

Sandy Wilmot, FP&R Forest Health Specialist

Sandy Wilmot: Creating Management Strategies That Encourage Resilient Forest Ecosystems


"You can accomplish a lot in life if you don't care who gets credit for it."

                                    - Harry Truman


These sage words have guided and informed Sandy Wilmot's work with the Dept. of Forests, Parks & Recreation for the last 25 years. A Forest Health Specialist, Wilmot has also worked on international forestry projects, served for thirteen years as a co-director of the Vermont Monitoring Cooperative and is currently the Department's Climate Change Coordinator. In all of her roles and with all of her efforts, Wilmot has strived to identify opportunities for collaboration, to cross boundaries of expertise and geography in order to learn as much as possible about forest ecosystems, and about what it might take to ensure that Vermont's forests, and the organisms that rely on them, remain viable into the future.


For many years Wilmot's work has centered on long-term monitoring of forest ecosystems. "There's a lot of public concern about environmental issues and often we don't have the understanding behind it. A lot of what I'm doing is trying to better understand forests so that we can explain how things are connected and how our management may be affecting forest change. I train our staff for field work going to the same forest locations year after year to learn about trends over time, and report those findings to staff and to forest professionals so that they can get a feel for how healthy our forests are and how the work that they do can support forest resilience."


Far from just looking at trees, Wilmot's work has spanned the gamut from soil nutrition affecting a tree's ability to rebound from acid rain to the effects of air quality on forest health. Read more.

Rich Poirot, DEC Air Quality Analyst
Rich Poirot: Monitoring Air Quality For Public Health And Quality Of Life 


For Rich Poirot, analyzing and interpreting data has translated to real, measurable improvements in Vermont's air quality. Poirot, an Air Quality Planner with the Dept. of Environmental Conservation, has been observing air quality in Vermont for 35 years.
When he began in 1978, his challenge was to develop a State Implementation Plan that would assist Vermont is lowering air pollutants to levels specified by the EPA as "acceptable". At that time, Vermont's air exceeded national air quality standards for ozone and particulate matter pollution. Over the years, not only has Vermont been successful in this endeavor but we have generally continued to maintain acceptable readings as epidemiological practices have improved and national standards for acceptable pollution have tightened.
Rich looks at everything from ozone and fine particle pollution to the sulfur dioxide and nitrogen that contribute to acid rain, carcinogenic toxic pollution and even pollutants that affect visibility and other environmental indicators. "I work primarily as a data analyst. I try to find where pollution is coming from, see what the key sources are, and propose effective controls."
In addition to developing state implementation plans and analyzing air quality data, Poirot has also served on the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee that advises the EPA on revisions to national air quality standards. Read more. 
A Pallet Of Televisions Bound For Recycling Facility

Karen Knaebel, Kim Lutchko & Bryn Oakleaf: Developing Recycling Processes To Conserve Materials And Keep Useable Goods Out Of Landfills 


In 2012, a Statewide Waste Composition Study found that roughly 39% of all residential material landfilled in the state is recyclable and 28% is compostable. Almost two-thirds of everything that we discard on a daily basis are wasted resources, including paper, glass, metals, plastics, wood, electronic components, textiles, construction and building materials, and organics. With the Universal Recycling law adopted in 2012, Vermont is set to dramatically alter these statistics. As it is recognized through numerous environmental benefits, recovery and reuse of materials is more than a feel good endeavor. In 2010, Vermont recycling programs diverted 205,156 tons of mateirials, collected 985,600 pounds of household hazardous waste and mercury-added products, and captured 1.6 million pounds of electronic material. This prevented nearly 206,500 tons of materials from being landfilled.


Wanting to learn more about recycling, I sat down with Karen Knaebel, Kim Lutchko and Bryn Oakleaf to discuss their work within the Waste Management Division of the Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC). All Environmental Technicians or Environmental Analysts, these three women collectively have developed and implemented various aspects of Vermont's recycling programs and legislation. Read more.

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Contact Us:

Deb Markowitz, Secretary

Vermont Agency of Natural Resources