Action Alert | Your Voice is Needed to Protect Wetlands
Protecting wetlands is a longstanding priority for the Lake Champlain Committee (LCC). These areas of interface between shoreland and water are a vital part of the lake’s ecosystem. Wetlands:
- Provide critical habitat and food for fish and wildlife
- Filter sediments, pollutants and nutrients to clean water
- Control flooding
- Recharge groundwater
- Prevent erosion
- Stabilize shorelines
- Protect drinking water
- Store carbon
- Maintain biodiversity
- Provide recreational and educational opportunities
Despite their ecological, economic and recreational value, as much as 50% of the Lake Champlain Basin’s wetlands have been lost to development and draining since colonial settlement of the region. The greatest present-day threats to wetlands are development, draining and clearing for farming, invasive species, timber harvesting, and climate change.
Legislative Review of Vermont Wetlands Regulations
The statute and regulations governing wetlands in Vermont can be confusing and even contradictory at times. In the 2019 Legislative Session, both the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (AAFM), brought proposals to the Legislature to alter the wetlands statute. Unfortunately, the AAFM proposal would have weakened wetlands protections by expanding farm exemptions and the ANR proposal did not go far enough to protect small wetlands. LCC testified extensively and raised our concerns about both proposals.
As the Session drew to a close, significant questions remained. A Legislative Study Committee on Wetlands was created consisting of members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees and members of the Senate Natural Resources & Energy Committee and the House Natural Resources, Fish & Wildlife Committee. This group met five times over the fall and early winter in an effort to develop recommendations for the Legislature. The Committee will make decisions this week and LCC remains concerned that protections for wetlands could be compromised.
Wetland Laws Need to Be Strengthened, Not Weakened
The current policy of the state of Vermont is no net loss of wetlands. This State policy should be modernized with a goal of a net gain of wetlands by encouraging both protection and restoration.
Rather than expanding exemptions to fill or drain wetlands, policies should focus on promoting the restoration of wetlands to reap the ecosystem service benefits they provide.
Please Contact Members of the Legislative Study Committee on Wetlands by 12/13/19 AM
Legislators serve the people and respond to citizen input. Email committee members today to let them know:
- Vermont needs a modern goal of a net gain in acres of wetlands through protection and restoration
- Strengthen Vermont’s wetland laws—don’t weaken them with more exemptions for farming and development
Committee Members to Contact:
Representative John O’Brien, Legislative Bio
Representative Carolyn Partridge, Legislative Bio
Representative Amy Sheldon, Legislative Bio
Representative Harvey Smith, Legislative Bio
Senator Christopher Bray, Legislative Bio
Senator Mark MacDonald, Legislative Bio
Senator Christopher Pearson, Legislative Bio
Senator Robert Starr, Legislative Bio
Thanks for your help!
The LCC Team