No one tracking why climate migrators are moving to Vermont

Published: Sep. 12, 2022 at 5:13 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 12, 2022 at 6:46 PM EDT
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CORINTH, Vt. (WCAX) - We’ve told you before about climate migrators, people fleeing climate change happening in real-time. Many find their way to Vermont, which doesn’t yet have severe wildfires, drought or flooding.

Our Kevin Gaiss takes you to Corinth to meet one family who moved here almost two years ago and are continuing to settle into their new home.

Deep in Corinth, new Vermonters are still putting their roots in. The mid-September calm is starkly different than only a few years ago.

“In 2020, that was the fourth year in a row we had to evacuate,” said Sasha Hom of Corinth.

Two years ago, back in California, it was air quality choking them out.

“The air quality would get so bad they would cancel soccer, they would cancel schools,” Hom said.

Then, their breaking point-- the lighting fires in 2020.

“Yeah, that one was really close,” Hom said. “My son, he thought it was a monster. It’s pretty intense seeing one that close.”

So she, her husband and their four kids packed up and decided to come east, closer to some of his family. After brief stints bouncing around New England, Vermont positioned itself as a safe space.

“There was just water coming out of the like tube things, like spring water and I was like whoa, they are just giving water away for free here,” Hom laughed. “It was like abundant and lovely in that sense.”

Hom and her family are not alone. Out of 5000 new Vermonters that the census measured between 2020 and 2021, we know some cite climate as a reason to move here.

The state still does not track in-migration due to climate change. The Vermont Natural Resources Council says that’s likely because we have systems in place already to welcome new Vermonters. But the VNRC says more can be done.

“In order to be welcoming and engaging to new folks coming in, it would be really helpful to know who they are, where they are coming from,” said Kati Gallagher of the VNRC.

Gallagher says data-driven planning around climate migrators is in our best interest. Without it, we could damage the very thing people come to Vermont for.

“Fragment our forests, increase our greenhouse gas emissions, contribute to water pollution, all those types of things that folks are trying to escape in other parts of the country,” Gallagher said.

Back in Corinth, Hom says they have had a steady stream of visitors who want to see what Vermont is offering, and she hopes as more decide to move here they can contribute to Vermont’s healthy future.

“Take care of this land, inhabit this land, working together, instead of an us versus you,” Hom said.

She says she misses family and friends in California, but she enjoys the security that comes with the Green Mountain State.

“It feels like a different kind of home, certainly,” she said.

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