Conservationists hold county summit

MIDDLEBURY — A group of conservation commission members from towns across Addison County met at the Addison County Regional Planning Commission offices in Middlebury on Saturday, April 7, for a conservation summit. The meeting was planned and organized as a gathering of members of town conservation commissions to learn about the work of others around the county.
Conservation commissions are advisory bodies that exist in many towns across the state. Broadly, they are established to help communities protect and enhance their natural resources. In 1977, Vermont passed the enabling legislation to establish municipal conservation commissions. Today there are just over 100 conservation commissions in Vermont.
Under state law, municipal conservation commissions may do things like make inventories of the town’s natural resources, receive gifts of land for conservation purposes, assist and advise the local planning commission and selectboard on natural resource issues, and encourage the public’s understanding of their local environment through educational activities. Projects that a town conservation commission can become involved in will vary depending on the needs of the community.
The Addison County Conservation Commission Summit had 22 people in attendance representing 11 towns (Bristol, Cornwall, Ferrisburgh, Lincoln, Middlebury, Monkton, New Haven, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham and Starksboro), the Addison County Regional Planning Commission and the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. Each conservation commission had an opportunity to share the projects they were working on and conservation issues specific to their town.
Monica Przyperhart from the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, presented information about how conservation commissions can get involved with Acts 171 and 174 for their towns, how town policies or initiatives fit in with state-level policymaking, and resources available to help with these and other projects.
Even though the meeting was early on a Saturday morning, participants said the discussion and participation was lively. There were several ideas about how the various conservation commissions could work together, such as protecting forest connector blocks across the county and other initiatives.
The group agreed to meet again in the future in order to continue to share ideas, information, and successes in protecting Vermont’s natural resources.

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