Preserving Vermont’s forests key to state climate action plan
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The Vermont Climate Council’s first official climate action plan made it clear forests and working lands will be key players in meeting carbon reduction goals.
Vermont has 4.5 million acres of forests. Forests are a natural carbon sink, pulling in 5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. That’s a lot considering Vermonters emit 8 million metric tons annually.
“But none of that is guaranteed,” said Mike Snyder, the commissioner of the Vermont Department of Forest, Parks and Recreation.
Snyder says that’s because the forests are vulnerable to the changing warmer and wetter climate.
But the state’s climate action plan notes the importance of resilience and the value in our working lands, roughly 70% of which are forests.
“So what are the policy options for ensuring that future of our healthy vibrant fully functioning forests that do so much?” asked Snyder.
According to the plan, they want to adapt to climate change that is already here and, of course, correct for the future.
The council notes they want to focus on nature-based solutions.
Snyder says the value forests have and the need to optimize their natural abilities is nothing new.
“The forestry profession, forest science, forest managers, have been tuned in to what we call adaptive management, adaptive civil culture, adaptive climate resilience civil culture,” Snyder said.
The plan has five rough outlines for protecting, adapting and optimizing our green landscape. It includes planning ahead to make both private and public forests resilient, or strategically conserving land.
“We protect them, learn to better live with them and continue to benefit from them,” said Snyder.
The action plan is drafted and now funding comes next, with the experts behind the report looking for state legislation to make strategies happen.
“Education, outreach, incentives, support for a modern forest economy, that’s sort of the web that holds it all together and provides an economic mechanism for forestland and keeps it viable because there are costs and pressures on that land,” said Snyder.
Programs like the county forester program help educate and offer support to private landowners looking to protect their trees.
The “Current Use” tax law currently protects more than 2 million acres of private forests by making it financially responsible to do so. Snyder says we just can’t go backward.
“I think we can do more with more and with more collaborate understanding and support, there is a lot of return on investment here, I would say,” said Snyder.
Snyder says it is time to start thinking about forests less as a forestry issue, but as a Vermont issue because it touches on all livability in the state.
He says he will continue to offer his department’s services, but also plans to continue to keep Vermont’s forests that are here green.
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