Once touted as a climate refuge, 2023 has shown us that Vermont is not immune.
Can we make a difference? We believe the answer is yes. Conservation is playing an important role – protecting critical lands and deploying natural solutions that help our ecosystems and communities adapt.
Flood safety and clean water
Over the past two hundred years, agriculture, community development, and commerce have re-shaped our landscape. For example, 75% of Vermont’s streams today are disconnected from their floodplains, increasing the likelihood of floods. The land struggles to absorb the heavy rains that are now all too common.
In 2022-23, we protected 518 acres of wetlands, conserved land along 59 miles of rivers and streams, and with our partners – including landowners, the State, other land trusts, watershed groups, and volunteers – planted over 14,500 trees. These actions help the land to slow, filter, and absorb more water.
This approach works. Three years ago, we restored a farm field at the confluence of the Mill Brook and Winooski River to a more natural floodplain, then planted native trees a year later to help the forest return. Fast forward to July 2023, this restored floodplain filled with water as intended, helping reduce damage downstream.
Around 75% of Vermont is forested, much of it privately owned by families and individuals. These forests contain headwater streams, habitat that supports wildlife and biodiversity, and trees that absorb and store carbon while also slowing rain water. And yet for all the benefits forests provide, Vermont is losing over 9,000 acres each year.
Combating forest fragmentation and sprawl is an important way to slow climate change. This year, we conserved over 10,000 acres with our partners, including VHCB, USDA, private foundations, and others. This included over 1,900 acres in Caledonia County and close to 7,400 acres on the Northfield Mountains in central Vermont, both priority areas that add to large blocks of conserved forest.
Make a difference here in Vermont
Who benefits from natural climate solutions? It’s all of us—particularly the most vulnerable who live in densely-populated, low-lying areas. It’s also the plants and animals who call Vermont home.
If 2023 is a harbinger of things to come, we must do more. With your help, we can double our efforts over the next few years, increasing our pace of protection and restoration. Our land and water – and our flood-prone communities – can’t wait.