Forests face a double threat: changing seasons with more weather extremes and development patterns that are dividing large forest blocks into smaller and smaller pieces. When combined, these threats make forests much more vulnerable to stresses like new pests and disease.
These threats could challenge the ecological and the economic viability of Vermont's forests. Luckily, many Vermonters who own forest land are asking how they can protect them. Through conservation and good forest management, we can give forests the best possible chance of continuing to thrive. In turn, healthy forests will deliver great benefits for the fight against climate change.
The Best Insurance: A Diverse Connected Landscape
Property owners who protect and manage healthy forests and the corridors of habitat between them will:
- Reduce Vermont's Net Carbon Pollution. By some measures, Vermont’s forests remove as much carbon dioxide from the air as Vermonters produce in all of their homes, vehicles and businesses combined. A healthy, natural landscape lessens the effects of climate change by soaking up and storing greenhouse gasses and other pollutants over long periods of time. They also shade buildings and reflect solar radiation, keeping the air cooler.
- Help Wildlife Thrive. Wild plants and animals will need to move and adapt to changes in temperature and precipitation. Valley trees like oaks may start growing higher on mountains to find ideal conditions, while bears may need to move farther to find food in summer and den sites in winter. Wildlife need a diversity of conserved habitats and the ability to move between them if they are to survive the transition of a changing climate.
- Slow the Water Down. Intact forests throughout the Green Mountains will help absorb the more frequent and intense downpours that climate scientists expect as a result of climate change. Water intercepted by leaves and absorbed by forest soils flows more slowly to nearby streams, dampening floodwaters downstream and protecting vulnerable communities situated on river banks. Maintaining our forests is one of the best things we can do to make Vermont more flood resilient.
By doing everything we can to support health forests able to adapt to changing conditions, we strengthen the heart and soul of our working landscape.
There is no certainty about exactly how climate change will effect Vermont's forests, but we do know that forest changes are and will be occurring. There are many things we can do and are doing to get ready.
- More Conservation! ANR owns over 350,000 acres of conserved land that we manage for wildlife habitat and sustainable forestry. The Forest Legacy Program and other federal and state programs support protecting new large tracts of land, every year. ANR's recent report on forest fragementation details the challenges ahead.
- Climate Smart Land Stewardship. We can manage working forests well in a time of changing climate. In 2012, ANR's Forests, Parks and Recreation Department began using three plots of state land to test and demonstrate adaptive forest management strategies, from favoring warm-loving species during forest-thinning to maintaining a high level of diversity in the ages and species in forest stands. The results of these demonsitrations and a whole set of recommended land management practices are captured in ANR's first guide to Creating and Maintaining Resilient Forests in Vermont.
- A Connected Landscape. Large and diverse forests with connecting green corridors give our native plants and species the best change of adapting as climate changes. ANR is working with town officials and community leaders all over Vermont to map local habitat and plan for better conservation and connectivity. ANR is also colloborating with the Vermont Agency of Transporation to improve culverts and bridges, remove dams, and plan wildlife underpasses that improve habitat access for land and aquatic species.
- All Hands on Deck Hundreds of Vermonters are trained forest pest detectors, able to locate pests such as Hemlock Wooly Adelgid and Asian Longhorn Beetle that could kill or harm thousands of trees if they establish in Vermont. The risks of these pests grow if trees are stressed from changing climate conditions. Detecting them early is of paramount importance. You can help!
What You Can Do
Keep Vermont’s forests whole!
- Manage your land for wildlife and sustainable forestry through the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program free of charge.
- Enroll in Use Value Appraisal program (Current Use) to get a break on your property taxes for conserving working lands
- Support infill development – avoid the long driveway with the big lawn when building your home or business. Your new house used to be home to so many plants and animals!
- Talk to your town’s select board about getting involved with the Community Wildlife Program and integrate conservation goals into your town plan.
- Leave a legacy of conservation in Vermont. Plan for the future of your land by contacting Vermont Coverts, Vermont Woodlands Association, or Vermont Land Trust.