Vermont land managers are required by law to develop standards and sideboards for state land management but have failed to do so
For Immediate Release: June 14, 2022
For Additional Information: Zack Porter, Executive Director, Standing Trees, firstname.lastname@example.org, 802-552-0160 Jamison Ervin, email@example.com, 802-999-9792 Jim Dumont, firstname.lastname@example.org, 802-349-7342
MONTPELIER, VT – On Tuesday June 14th, Standing Trees and many concerned Vermont citizens delivered a formal petition and accompanying letter to the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources demanding a moratorium on logging in Camel’s Hump State Park and surrounding state lands until the State of Vermont completes legally-mandated rulemaking. According to statute, Vermont’s Commissioner of Forests, Parks, and Recreation (FPR), Michael Snyder, as well as the Commissioner of Fish and Wildlife (F&W), Chris Herrick, are required to promulgate rules – that is, a set of safeguards and standards developed through a robust public process – to govern public land management. No such rules have ever been issued. In recent years, the state has illegally moved forward with logging across thousands of acres of State Forests, State Parks, and Wildlife Management Areas, including a recently-released plan to log 3,750-acres on and around Vermont’s most iconic mountain: Camel’s Hump.
“In the face of climate, water quality, and extinction emergencies, the State of Vermont must promulgate rules to govern public land management, and it cannot legally log a single tree in the Camel’s Hump Management Unit until it comes into compliance with the law,” says Zack Porter, Executive Director of Standing Trees, a Montpelier-based organization working to protect and restore forests across New England with a focus on public lands. “It’s a free-for-all on Vermont’s state lands. The Agency of Natural Resources has effectively removed the ‘public’ from public lands by refusing to establish any limits to their power. The Governor’s recent veto of H606, the Community Resilience and Biodiversity Protection Act, makes it even more apparent that the state is failing to take the Vermont Climate Action Plan, Vermont Conservation Design, the State Hazard Mitigation Plan, and other land management obligations seriously. If the state won’t act, we will.”
According to Vermont law, the Commissioner of Forests, Parks, and Recreation, at the direction of the Secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR), “shall adopt and publish rules in the name of the Agency for the use of State forests, or park lands, including reasonable fees or charges for the use of the lands, roads, camping sites, buildings, and other facilities and for the harvesting of timber or removal of minerals or other resources from such lands…” Such rules are necessary to uphold the State’s requirement “to manage and plan for the use of publicly owned forests and park lands in order to…promote and protect the natural, productive and recreational values of such lands, and provide for multiple uses of the lands in the public interest.” 10 V.S.A. § 2603.
“Rulemaking, in Vermont, involves the publication of an environmental impact statement addressing the proposed rule and alternatives to the proposed rule, and then public comment, following by submission to the legislature,” according to James Dumont, Esq., of Bristol, VT, Standing Trees’ attorney. “To date, no rules have been issued to regulate timber harvest or removal of other natural resources. The environmental full disclosure required by law has not occurred.”
“We hope ANR will make legal action unnecessary by agreeing to halt implementation of the Camel’s Hump timber management plan until rules have been adopted following environmental full disclosure, public comment, and legislative review,” added Dumont.
Dumont also explained the legal effect of FPR and F&W’s reliance on written policies that were issued in 1995 and 2008 without going through rulemaking. “The Vermont legislature passed into law a requirement that whenever an agency has been relying on a written policy that was not adopted through rulemaking, if 25 or more persons request that the public rulemaking and environmental full disclosure process be followed, the State must do so.” In this case, he says, “FPR and F&W are relying on obsolete written policies that never went through rulemaking and environmental full disclosure. Rulemaking is way overdue.”
Although it’s only the most recent example, the new Camel’s Hump Management Unit Long Range Management Plan is instructive for understanding how state land planning has gone awry. Among other issues, the new plan:
proposes thousands of acres of logging and road construction in important Lake Champlain headwaters, ignoring FPR-commissioned research on best management practices to improve water quality and reduce flood danger, jeopardizing downstream communities;
proposes logging in forests that may be occupied habitat for the Northern Long-eared Bat, listed as endangered under the Vermont Endangered Species Act and which the US Fish and Wildlife Service also recently proposed for listing as Endangered;
ignores Vermont Conservation Design and the recently-released Climate Action Plan by failing to designate new areas that will be permanently managed to restore Vermont’s native old-growth forests to store carbon and protect biodiversity.
Duxbury resident, Jamison Ervin, noted: “The proposed logging in the Camel’s Hump Management Unit makes no sense – it is neither in alignment with the state’s goals laid out in Vermont Conservation Design, nor with Act 153, the Vermont Global Warming Solutions Act. It is a reckless plan rooted in thinking from the past century, not with the reality of our biodiversity and climate crisis. Moreover, as a Duxbury resident, I am very concerned that the logging trucks, carrying more than 500 million pounds of logs, threaten our roads and bridges, and that the cleared forests will increase our vulnerability to the next Irene.”
Standing Trees has asked the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources to respond within 30 days.
Based in Montpelier, Vermont, Standing Trees works to protect and restore forests on New England’s public lands.