In the fall of 2022, the Lake Champlain Committee, Vermont Natural Resources Council (VNRC), Shelburne Farms and a host of environmental and conservation organizations collaborated on a tribute to Senator Patrick Leahy in recognition of his unwavering support of communities and the environment during his decades-long tenure in public service. The event was held at Shelburne Farms, overlooking the lake he has done so much to protect and attended by over 500 people. Throughout his career in the US Senate, Patrick Leahy has been an unfailing champion for our region’s—and the nation’s—air, water, and land, and for public health. From the Conte National Wildlife Refuge, across the Green Mountain National Forest, to Lake Champlain, his dedication to safeguarding and investing in natural resources has improved our lives.
“Senator Leahy has led work to protect and restore Lake Champlain for four decades through both authorizing and appropriating legislation” stated LCC Executive Director Lori Fisher. “He has left a legacy that will be remembered and revered for generations to come.”
Lake Champlain’s health has always been a high priority for Senator Leahy. He and his wife Marcelle had their first date on the lake. Years later, prompted by Marcelle’s suggestion, they became certified divers and explored Lake Champlain’s underwater depths and historic preserves.
Senator Leahy worked to create and expand wilderness and refuge areas throughout the watershed. These tracts not only protect critical habitat and water quality but they make land available for public recreation. The Senator helped direct over $300 million in annual appropriations to lake research, monitoring, and restoration and tens of millions of dollars in scoping, design, and construction work on environmental infrastructure in the Lake Champlain basin. Senator Leahy was instrumental in establishing Lake Champlain Sea Grant and the Lake Champlain Basin Program (LCBP). LCBP is one of the most successful EPA Geographic Programs. Senator Leahy, along with Senator Jeffords authored the legislation establishing the program in 1990 and reauthorizing it in 2002. Reauthorizing legislation which will further expand the capacity of the LCBP, again authored by Senator Leahy, and co-sponsored by Senator Sanders was introduced in 2022. This program pulls together all of the federal, provincial, state, and NGO partners like LCC working on the lake into a unified work plan.
Ongoing funding secured by Senator Leahy through the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and delivered to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service between 2010 and 2022 has resulted in hundreds of acres of wetland conservation and restoration on tributaries to Lake Champlain, as well as dam removals and riparian restoration.
We are deeply grateful for the tremendous contribution the Leahys have made to lake protection and hope retirement provides them with many more opportunities to explore Lake Champlain’s wonders.