Founder, Smart Growth Vermont
Lifelong land conservation advocate
In the 1970’s we entered a golden period in environmental commitment: the drafting of Act 250–the protection of farm and forest lands and ecologically precious areas– the environmental laws that were enacted in the 1980’s–and a flourishing of non- profits in land conservation, environmental advocacy, community preservation, and the smart growth movement. The Vermont Housing and Conservation Board became an enabler of projects generated by these groups.
These values, and commitment to them, are being eroded. There continues to be strong citizen support for preserving the special qualities of Vermont: our towns and villages, our farmlands and forests, and the environment. But the constant competition between these goals and the pressures for growth are out of balance. It is necessary to integrate these pressures with our overall goals. But in the last few years the political leadership has yielded too often to the urgency of development.
A few examples: massive real estate development at ski areas, the location of large industrial wind facilities on our ridgelines, the recent attempt to develop major commercial centers at rural interstate interchanges (despite a long standing state policy). Growth–jobs–the fiscal health of the State–these are important and can be accomplished without destroying the Vermont we cherish. Business development must be planned to occur where it will enhance, not diminish, our communities and natural landscape–at a scale appropriate for Vermont.
A renewed commitment by our political leadership to compact growth, and respect for our natural heritage, will be the most essential element in returning to our basic values.