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People need forests. Forests need you.

Updated: Dec 8, 2023

Looking back at another year of successful advocacy in 2023.

Hikers and canoeists enjoy the view of Vermont's Green Mountain National Forest.
Hikers and canoeists gaze out on the Green Mountain National Forest during an outing at Standing Trees' fall gathering.

When thinking about how to begin my year end thank you letter, the word “community” came to mind. I often think of Standing Trees as a community of individuals who care about the protection and restoration of forests. Before moving forward with this thought, I checked the definition of community in the Merriam Webster dictionary - “1: a unified body of individuals: such as a) the people with common interests living in a particular area; b) a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society; c) a body of persons of common and especially professional interests scattered through a larger society…”

Then I looked up the term community in Britannica and found this: “Community, in biology, an interacting group of various species in a common location. For example, a forest of trees and undergrowth plants, inhabited by animals and rooted in soil containing bacteria and fungi, constitutes a biological community.” And reading further, found this: “Among the factors that determine the overall structure of a community are the number of species (diversity) within it, the number of each species (abundance) found within it, the interactions among the species, and the ability of the community to return to normal after a disruptive influence such as fire or drought. The change of biological communities over time is known as succession, or ecological succession.”

What would our forests be if they had not been impacted by logging and other detrimental activities? What will they be if we allow them to grow and prosper? That is what we are working for.

So, it dawned on me that we are a “community” working to protect a “community” - a unified body of individuals with the common interest of protecting and restoring the communities of forests. We came together because of our concern for what is happening in our forests on federal and state public lands. We have stayed together because the threats to our forests have only grown. And we have grown because other like-minded individuals are drawn to our work.

This is a special community that is working hard not for any personal or financial gain. We work hard because we care about the forest community. Every time I walk in the forest, I marvel at its complexity, beauty, and the life it supports. What would our forests be if they had not been impacted by logging and other detrimental activities? What will they be if we allow them to grow and prosper? That is what we are working for.

Here are some highlights of the accomplishments of the Standing Trees community in the last year:

1. Grassroots organizing, education, and coalition building. Building a movement for wild public lands in New England is core to our mission. Over the past calendar year, Standing Trees:

  • Engaged hundreds of people in 17 education and action-oriented events, including 12 in person, and 5 via zoom. Events included expert presentations, outings in threatened landscapes, rallies and marches, and our annual gathering in Chittenden, VT.

  • Dramatically increased the level of public participation in federal and state comment processes. Standing Trees’ efforts led to a new record for unique comment submissions to the Green Mountain National Forest during their comment period for the Telephone Gap logging project in February, 2023, generating over 1,500 individual comments, as well as over 13,000 petition signatures. More recently, 501 people commented on the Sandwich Vegetation Management Project in the White Mountain National Forest, with 82.4% of comments in opposition to the project. In addition, a total of 51 organizations from across the US signed onto a letter of opposition.

  • Leveraged and helped to lead three coalitions: 1) Save Public Forests is a New England-wide coalition to protect public lands; 2) Stop Vermont Biomass focuses on ending our reliance on biomass electricity, with an emphasis on shutting down the McNeil power plant in Burlington; and 3) the Climate Forests Coalition is a national group of 150 organizations united to stop mature and old-growth forest logging on federal public lands.

2. Public Land Legal Defense. On the legal front, Standing Trees is currently partnering with a variety of experts and attorneys to protect and restore forests on federal and state lands. Over the past year, we:

  • Engaged in litigation against the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation and the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, resulting in a commitment by the state to begin rulemaking for state land management, a process that is expected to go public this winter.

  • Submitted comprehensive comment or objection letters for Forest Service logging projects including the Telephone Gap Integrated Resource Project, the Tarleton Integrated Resource Project, the Peabody West Integrated Resource Project, the Sandwich Vegetation Management Project, and the Lost River Integrated Resource Project.

  • Investigated threats as well as opportunities to protect New England’s National Forest Inventoried Roadless Areas, many of which are actively being logged or are targeted for future logging.

  • Submitted formal information requests related to the management of - and inadequate protections for - the federally-endangered Northern Long-eared Bat, which is threatened by logging across its range in New England.

3. Legislative and Policy Advocacy. Standing Trees has had incredible success in advancing legislation and regulations that will foster a new paradigm of land management in New England. In the last year, Standing Trees:

  • Passed Vermont's nation-leading Community Resilience and Biodiversity Protection Act, or Act 59, which sets a visionary goal for protecting 30% of Vermont’s land area by 2030, and 50% by 2050, including the establishment of “Ecological Reserves,” off limits to logging, in upwards of 10% of Vermont’s forestland.

  • Increased pressure on the Biden Administration and US Forest Service to promulgate rules that protect more than 50 million-acres of mature and old-growth forests from logging on National Forests across the US, including the Green and White Mountain National Forests.

  • Catalyzed the first major reforms to Vermont’s Use Value Appraisal Program, which now has a “reserve forestland” category that allows landowners to manage their properties for uses other than logging. This new category went into effect in July 2023. We are disappointed that the state has narrowly constrained who can qualify, but we will keep working to expand eligibility in the years ahead.

  • Partnered with New Hampshire state legislators to develop legislation that would require mapping of mature and old-growth forests on state lands.

  • Advocated for stronger protections for State Forests and Reserves managed by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation through that state's process to develop new "Climate Oriented Forest Management Guidelines."

Our community would not exist without your commitment, energy, financial support, and time. The members of our community bring many skills and talents to bear to achieve our goal - the protection and restoration of the forest community on federal and state lands.

Thank you for all that you do.

Mark Nelson,

Standing Trees Board Chair

Ripton, VT

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