Staff and volunteers planting American Elm saplings in Vermont, June 2008.
Vermont Elm Tree Planting Staff and volunteers planting American Elm saplings in Vermont, June 2008. © TNC

Newsroom

Growing Coalition of Vermont Organizations Urge Legislative Action To Both Advance COVID Recovery and Support Our Environment

  • Phil Huffman
    Director of Government Relations & Policy
    The Nature Conservancy in Vermont

Rebuilding a Resilient Vermont

As the Legislature nears ‘cross over,’ the traditional midpoint of its annual session and a moment of legislative reckoning, a broad coalition of Vermonters is urging legislators to support several key initiatives that will help the state achieve a vibrant economic recovery from COVID while addressing climate change and other pressing environmental challenges.

The health of our families, economy, and communities is inextricably tied to the health of our environment and climate—including clean air and water, thriving food systems and working lands, functioning ecosystems, and access to the outdoors.

Our growing coalition believes Vermont’s future must be centered on investing in programs, policies, and projects that create jobs while addressing climate change and protecting our priceless lands and waters, and ensure an equitable and just transition for underserved and underrepresented communities. Through these actions, we can create a more resilient, equitable, and vibrant home for ALL Vermonters.

We are pleased by progress in the legislative session thus far toward supporting these values and our three priority areas (listed below) through both proposed investments in existing programs, and development of new policies:

  1. Strategic investments in technology, career training, job growth and other assistance to create a more renewable, sustainable, and energy efficiency modern economy for all Vermonters.
  2. Investing in Vermont’s working and natural lands to bolster a critical part of our economy and our landscape.
  3. Ensuring that all Vermonters have access to clean and healthy air, water, soil, and outdoor spaces.

Investments in existing programs

Several of Governor Scott’s proposed investments of one-time funds and other revenues signal important commitments to revitalizing our economy, enhancing the well-being of Vermonters, and bolstering our communities. These include significant new funding for:

  • Land conservation and affordable housing through the VT Housing and Conservation Board,
  • Home weatherization for low- and moderate-income families,
  • Improvements to recreational infrastructure and access on public and private lands through the Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative (VOREC) and other initiatives,
  • Implementation of the Global Warming Solutions Act,
  • Support for working farm and forest businesses through the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative,
  • Investments in renewable energy targeted to low- and moderate-income Vermonters through the Clean Energy Development Fund (CEDF).

These investments have the potential to yield much needed job growth in the energy, construction, working lands, and outdoor industry sectors while also providing environmental benefits. We urge the Legislature to support these proposals from the Governor, and hope to see future sustained funding for these initiatives that are good for Vermonters, the economy, and the environment.

New policies

In addition, two policy bills that are making their way through the legislative process align with the values of the Rebuilding a Resilient Vermont vision and deserve attention:

Transportation Modernization Package within the Transportation Bill

As Vermont’s greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise as compared to our neighboring New England states, the transportation modernization package within the Transportation Bill creates opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, provide Vermonters with greater access to lower-cost transportation options, and expand electrical vehicle adoption. 

Better Places (H.159)

The Better Places bill identifies public spaces as essential for economic activity and public health. This bill would leverage public and private funding to spark community revitalization projects from village greens, to trails, and libraries.

Vermont continues to serve as a national model for following science and data to inform the management of our ongoing public health crisis. Science also shows that climate change will disproportionately impact the most vulnerable Vermonters such as our seniors, low-income families, BIPOC communities and those living with disabilities.

As we begin to tackle the next chapter of our recovery, we urge elected officials to prioritize innovation and initiatives that support our state’s local economy and our irreplaceable environment for the benefit of all Vermonters.

The Nature Conservancy in Vermont

Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility

ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain

Conservation Law Foundation

Vermont Center for Ecostudies

Vermont Rivers Conservancy

Audubon Vermont

Greensboro Land Trust

Lewis Creek Association

Connecticut River Conservancy

The Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund

Vermont Sierra Club

Duxbury Land Trust

Vermont Natural Resources Council

Renewable Energy Vermont 

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries and territories: 38 by direct conservation impact and 34 through partners, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.