- Productive farms that make the most of Vermont's fertile soil;
- Thriving farmers' markets that spur our strong local food movement;
- Famed agricultural products that are sold across the country; and
- Millions of acres of forests that drive our maple and timber industries and attract visitors from around the world.
For over two decades, critical public funding administered through the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB)—combined with matching federal funding, and local and private investment—has led to the development of perpetually affordable housing and the conservation of productive farmland, recreational land, natural areas, and historic properties.
VHCB is one of the most successful programs in Vermont's history and is viewed as a national model.
Our protected working lands and our natural areas are the foundation of both Vermont's economy and environment. Right now, more than ever, Vermont cannot afford to let up in protecting our most valuable public assets—our farms and forests.
Why is Public Funding for Conservation Essential to Vermont's Future? Keep reading or jump to the following sections or watch the video below:
• Farms: Protecting family farms creates jobs and fuels our agricultural economy
• Forests: Conservation supports our forest economy
• Water: Conservation is an investment in water quality and our public health
• Energy: Conservation is key to good energy policy
Protecting family farms creates jobs and fuels Vermont's agricultural economy
- Farm and farm-related sectors are responsible for 17 percent of Vermont's gross state product. The USDA reports that Vermont agriculture generates 11 percent of jobs in the state; these jobs account for nearly $60 million in the local economy.
- According to the USDA, each year thousands of acres of productive cropland are taken out of production and converted to other uses.
- The Vermont Land Trust reports that in 2010, all of the 790 conserved farmland parcels with easements held by VLT are in active agricultural use.
- Many farmers use the proceeds from the sale of development rights on their property to expand their operation, reduce debt, build new barns, or transfer the farm to the next generation. When farmers use this money to build new facilities, local contractors are usually employed.
- Farm businesses on conserved land produce over 500 value-added products, support many Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) enterprises and farmstands, and help to create food security for our state. Conserved farms also contribute to retail and wholesale markets, selling food both in and out of state.
- Virtually every state dollar spent on farm protection is matched by federal Farm and Ranchland Protection funds. Last year VHCB investments brought more than $4.8 million of federal matching dollars to Vermont landowners and our economy.
If a farm is put up for sale and it is not protected through conservation it will likely be sold to a developer and then it is gone, forever.
Conservation supports our forest economy
Vermont's working forests are becoming fragmented: large tracts are being divided into smaller parcels, which interferes with our forest economy and wildlife habitat.
- Eighty percent of Vermont's forestland is privately owned and according to the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, the number of Vermont landowners owning less than 10 acres of land continues to grow.
- Every acre of forested land adds $335 to Vermont's economy.1 The over one million acres of public and private conserved forestland added over $300 million to Vermont's economy during 2007.
- According to UVM, since 1992 we have lost .5% of our forests on an annual basis.
- The 2006 national survey of fishing-, hunting-, and wildlife-associated recreation put the total value of these activities at more than $100 million.
- Forest management plans guide the land use practices on conserved forests which ensures a steady rate of return while protecting the forest ecosystem.
- Protecting our forestland prevents fragmentation and secures the future for our forest and recreational industries.
Conservation is an investment in water quality and our public health
A 2007 UVM study highlighted the need for farmland conservation to protect Lake Champlain water quality. The study found that the conversion of farmland to housing endangers Lake Champlain because acre for acre much more phosphorous runs off streets, parking lots, and suburban lawns than off farmland. Construction of expensive sewage treatment facilities is only part of the solution according to the researchers. The answer is to invest in farmland conservation.
Vermont's energy future and economic future are inextricably linked. Many Vermont farmers are at the forefront of devising new methods for creating on-farm energy through methane digesters, wind turbines, and biofuels. By protecting working farms and forests we are creating options for future energy independence and a stronger economy.
Conservation is Strongly Supported Across Vermont
Nine out of 10 Vermonters are concerned about increasing pressure to convert open land to residential, commercial or other development, according to a 2008 Council on the Future of Vermont and UVM's Center for Rural Studies, which polled over 600 Vermonters.
The survey also showed that over 97 percent of Vermonters place the greatest overall value on the state's working landscape and heritage.
Now More Than Ever... Conservation Can't Wait
The conservation of more than 700 farms and thousands of acres of forestland have clearly supported our economy. Continued strategic conservation investments will produce the best economic stimulus—for today and for the long-term benefit of our state. No economic development strategy is complete without conservation and the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board.
When the opportunity to protect land comes along and it is not taken, the chance may never come again