Opinion: River Watch lauded for promoting clean waters and healthy forests
The Addison County River Watch Collaborative (ACRWC) is a thrilling example of local people learning about, systematically monitoring, and conserving a commonly-held local resource — flowing water.
Local forest-based wood certainly is a local forest good. Hopefully it will remain so long into the future. Wood is the foundation of a Vermont forest-based manufacturing sector that contributes over $1.5 billion annually to the Vermont economy. Customers from the world over buy our light-colored, diffuse-porous, wood products that grow well in our rich, well-watered forests.
The Vermont forest-based economy — including both forest-based manufacturing and forest-based recreation — adds over $3.5 billion to our state’s economy annually. Of that, over $1.9 billion (55 percent) of those revenues are now generated by forest-based recreation.
People come to Vermont to fish, swim, kayak and otherwise recreate in our lakes, rivers and streams. It is becoming increasingly clear that clean, cold, highly oxygenated water is an essential forest ecosystem service and forest product. In fact, it may well be Vermont’s premier forest product. There are many reasons for this.
High-quality, oxygen-rich, flowing waters from Vermont’s forested headwaters keep our lowlands well-watered. Bristol and many other communities tap into these high quality forest-based water sources for their municipal water supplies.
In addition to providing superb water supplies and recreation opportunities, healthy headwater streams provide excellent habitat for the macro-invertebrate populations, which are essential for our coldwater fisheries.
The quality of water flowing from our forested watersheds is an excellent indicator of overall forest health. When the streams are clean, clear, and cold, this indicates that the soils in the watershed from which they rise are stable, uncompacted, and carbon-rich. It also suggests that we are being good stewards of our “working forests.”
High-quality flowing waters also indicate that riparian zones and corridors are intact and providing ample filtration, shade and cover.
In our neck of the woods we seem to have so much water that we sometimes take it for granted. In places like California — where water is regularly in critically short supply — water is valued at over $50 per acre-foot per year for agricultural purposes. In Vermont that would be equivalent to well over $150 per acre per year. Compare that to the $75 per acre per year in revenues generated from maple sugaring tap rentals in a well-stocked maple forest or the average stumpage growth of $20 per acre per year in a stand of timber.
In sum, clean, flowing waters from healthy forests very likely are Vermont’s premier forest product. Keeping forest-based waters clean is the economically vital, ecologically sustainable, and socially responsible thing to do.
Thanks to the Addison County River Watch Collaborative’s volunteers for keeping their highly skilled eyes on our flowing waters. And special thanks to the Addison Independent for informing us about and helping us celebrate the Collaborative’s great work.
Vermont Family Forests