Opinion: Different approach needed for Lake Champlain cleanup
The Addison Independent recently reported that the federal government has committed $45 million on the cleanup of Lake Champlain in Vermont. Our great lake is worth it and I applaud this bold initiative.
This could be one of the most important conservation efforts undertaken in Vermont if the restoration efforts are carefully crafted and implemented. But success will require doing things much differently than we have done in the past. Simply spending the funds on conservation practices will not achieve the desired results of a clean and clear Lake Champlain.
The funding represents an enormous amount of money but boils down to less than $20 per Vermont basin acre. To put that in perspective, some farm fields now fetch rents of $200 per acre per year.
To succeed the funding must be used to change the nature of our relationship with the land. The good news is that the land is on our side. It still has remarkable capacity for self-renewal.
The challenge is to develop and act upon a land ethic that respects that capacity. To that end, the USDA can and will be an important agent in the effort. But we need new players to become involved and a new way of approaching land conservation in Vermont.
Citizens and our educational institutions must be much more actively involved and engaged in the process. Mapping, monitoring and effective regulation are essential elements too. The whole basin must be included. And we must move from thinking of the land as “ditched watersheds” to “spongy catchments.” The stakes are high and the to-do list is long.
All of this will require new faces and very significant change. Let’s get on with it.
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