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Lamoille County Planning Commission

 

Forest Stewardship

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) put those plans into action. Four additional RPCs (see map above) 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 from 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

 

The 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 played a vital role in developing this report. 

For an overview of the Forest Stewardship Project, check out the