In 2011-2012 Vermont Regional Planning Commissions partnered with the Vermont Department of Forest, Parks and Recreation and the US Forest Service on a project entitled Landscape-Based Forest Stewardship Planning - A Regional Approach. Regional Planning Commissions involved in the project were Addison, Bennington, Lamoille and Two Rivers-Ottauquechee; Lamoille County Planning Commission was responsible for managing the project and leading the participating RPCs. This project used geographic information system (GIS) technology and a stakeholder engagement process to inventory and assess forest resources, identify specific forest landscape types, and produce strategies for each landscape type that will assist regions, municipalities, and forest landowners in the objective of keeping forests as forests. Forest resources were mapped and Regional Forest Stewardship Plans were developed for each of the four participating regions.
Phase 2 of the project (2013-2015) puts those plans into action. Four additional RPCs (see map above left) joined the project to develop their own Regional Forest Stewardship Plans. All eight participating RPCs implemented and tested strategies identified in Phase 1 through statewide, voluntary municipal participation. RPCs worked with 20+ towns to implement tools and strategies that strengthen forest stewardship. Volunteer town boards and regional conservation partnerships learned about forest management issues such as invasive pest preparedness and emerging trends such as the increasing prevalence of backyard saw mills, that can prepare them for changing management conditions.
As part of the multi-year Forest Stewardship project, we:
- Organized a Steering Committee of diverse representatives for the forest products industry, conservationists, consulting foresters, public partners, and enthusiasts.
- Developed a Lamoille County Regional Forest Report
- Created the Forest Stewardship Atlas
- Conducted municipal outreach with the towns of Cambridge, Elmore, and Hyde Park to strengthen forest language in municipal plans and bylaws
Why – Importance of Forests
Forests in one form or another dominate the Vermont landscape. These forest lands have been important to the historical development of the area, continue to provide important resources today, and will be critical assets in the development of prosperous and sustainable communities in the future. In spite of the prominent role that forests play in our communities, they may be overlooked or afforded minimal discussion in Town Plans, often lumped into an all‐encompassing "Natural Resources" section. Because of the extent of forests in our State and because of their pervasive significance in all aspects of the daily lives and overall economic vitality of Vermont, a more thorough "landscape stewardship" approach to forest resource planning is warranted.
Landscape stewardship forest planning combines several key factors to create a comprehensive understanding of resources while developing strategies that will help to achieve the goal of “keeping forests as forests.” The first step in the process is to recognize that forests exist in a variety of different landscape settings. The vast unbroken forested ridgelines of Mount Mansfield and the Northern Green Mountains and the rugged and roadless landscapes of Worcester Mountains are perhaps the most common images of Lamoille County’s forests. At the same time, the wooded banks of the Lamoille River, smaller woodlots interspersed with farm land in rural valleys, and forested parcels in and around villages and downtown centers represent significant forest resources that provide important, yet different values.
A critical component to landscape stewardship planning for forests is to recognize that there are a variety of interest groups and viewpoints that have a stake in the region’s forests. An effective planning process must involve those stakeholders and incorporate the diversity of values represented. Once the forest landscape is understood and values clearly described, a set of strategies designed to protect and enhance the resources that serve those values must be developed. To this end, the Lamoille County Forest Stewardship Steering Committee has played a vital role in developing this report.
Lamoille County Forest Stewardship Steering Committee
The Lamoille County Forest Stewardship Steering Committee oversaw and directed this project. The Forest Stewardship Committee consisted of stakeholders with diverse interests in the future of Lamoille County’s forests, including forest landowners, municipal boards and officials, forest and wood products industries, conservation and wildlife organizations, and consulting foresters. Participants in the Steering Committee include:
Johnson Planning Commission
Wolcott Planning Commission
Johnson Conservation Commission
Elmore Conservation Commission
Staying Connected Initiative
Friends of Green River Reservoir
Lamoille Conservation District
Johnson Conservation Commission
Vermont Land Trust
Morristown Conservation Commission
Lamoille County Planning Commission Board of Directors
VT DEC, Water Quality Division
Butternut Mountain Farm, Consulting Forester
Morristown Development Review Board
Morristown Planner and Zoning Administrator
Lamoille County Forester
Tursini Forestry, private woodworker
Trust for Public Land
The Lamoille County Planning Commission (LCPC) provided staff support for this effort. Two staff members were assigned to this project. GIS Planner Melinda Scott developed a series of landscape scale maps depicting different attributes of Lamoille County’s forests. LCPC Senior Planner Seth Jensen helped to facilitate the Steering Committee’s discussions and developed this final report. Regional Planner Steve Munroe and Assistant Planner Jackie Cassino also assisted with this project.
LCPC is one of eleven Regional Planning Commissions serving Vermont's local communities. LCPC serves the fifteen municipalities comprising Lamoille County. LCPC’s mission is to ensure the protection of the region's environment and conservation of natural resources and to facilitate sustainable economic development for the benefit of all residents and visitors through a coordinated and cooperative planning process at the local level.
As LCPC’s mission statement suggests, the objective of this initiative is not to prescribe any given solution or action to individual communities or landowners. Rather, the objective of this planning effort is to provide information and tools needed by both the public and private sectors to responsibly steward the County’s forests. The following three objectives summarize the overarching goals of this project
Identify Key Forest Resources and Constraints
A necessary first step is to describe and understand the regional context of the forest resources in Lamoille County. The types of forest resources found in the County will be discussed, along with presentation of an overview of prevailing land use patterns and demographic and economic characteristics, including the type and extent of existing forest‐based land uses. The compilation and assessment of forest resource values was based on information derived from consultation with the Forest Stewardship Steering Committee, existing local and State plans, and meetings with municipal Conservation Commissions and other interested parties. Those resource values were mapped at a regional scale using LCPC’s geographic information system. Mapping of these resources on a regional scale represents a departure from many past efforts related to forest stewardship. Forest resources have generally been mapped at statewide scale, which is too coarse to highlight important regional issues, or on a fine parcel level scale on which resources and values that cross property boundaries may not be evident, missing the proverbial forest for the trees. The intermediate regional scale provides a broader landscape level picture of the County’s forest with a level of detail that can still be observed.
Support and Enhance Important Regional Forest Values
Lamoille County’s forests support a wide array of regional values, including their economic value to the forest products and outdoor recreation industries, the value of ecosystem services such as forests role in cleaning air and groundwater, the value of wildlife habitat, and the intrinsic cultural value of forests. A major objective of this project is to strike a balance between these sometimes competing objectives that both satisfies the needs of various stakeholders and strengthens the long term health of the County’s forests and the communities that depend upon them.
Develop Strategies to “Keep Forests as Forests”
“Keeping forests as forests” does not mean that Lamoille County’s forests and their use will not, or should not, change over time. A forested landscape is a dynamic system that is constantly changing. In fact, as discussed throughout this report, sound land management activities may actually improve the current health of Lamoille County’s forests. Rather, “keeping forests as forests” means proactively addressing the challenges and limitations to sound forest management so that the County’s forests may continue to support these important values. This report ends with a discussion of strategies aimed at encouraging responsible forest stewardship into the future.
For an overview of the Forest Stewardship Project, check out the Forest Stewardship Poster
Forest Stewardship Maps