Voice Your Support of the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board!

Below is a letter to the editor of the Journal Opinion by the Chair of Bradford’s Conservation Commission, Nancy Jones:

“In his January 7 State of the State address, Governor Jim Douglas stated that “VT’s commitment to our natural resources is unwavering. Our environmental leadership is a source of pride that sets us apart and gives us a leg-up in a green economy.” He went on to say, “That VT is the healthiest state comes as no surprise. It is our nature to be active, enjoy the outdoors and eat healthy.” But… the bulk of Governor Douglas’s speech was about spending cuts which he will present to the legislature on January 19th, and insiders fear his plan includes de-funding the VT Housing and Conservation Board.

The November/December 2009 issue of National Geographic Travel announced that Vermont was ranked 5th in the world for “destination stewardship”. In ranking destinations, 437 global panelists considered six criteria including environmental and ecological quality, social and cultural integrity, condition of historic buildings and archaeological sites, aesthetic appeal, quality of tourism management and outlook for the future.
“Vermont, more than any other American state, has worked to preserve those qualities and characteristics that make it unique,” commented one panelist. “It has a very effective statewide land trust and the state-funded Affordable Housing and Land Conservation Trust that rehabilitates historic buildings, like old mills, for low-income housing, and purchases conservation easements on farmland and forests. It has limited the spread of big-box retailing and works to retain locally owned retail, such as village stores. If you want to see New England as you imagine it, go to Vermont.”
Since 1987, the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB) has worked with Vermont municipalities and non-profit organizations to conserve more than 376,500 acres of farmland, natural areas and recreational lands and to develop more than 9,700 affordable homes, most of which are located in historic buildings in Vermont’s town and village centers. Most of Bradford’s working farm land has been protected via VHCB funds, over 700 acres of public and privately-owned forest land on Wright’s MT has been preserved forever, thanks to funding from VHCB. Bradford’s revitalized South Main Street and subsequent affordable housing was made possible because of VHCB funding, while simultaneously providing a multitude of jobs that stimulated our local economy.
Governor Douglas emphasized “Fiscal responsibility, efficient government and environmental protection” in his January 7 address. In light of VHCB’s enviable track record, de-funding it would be fiscally irresponsible and inefficient, and would be devastating to the very environment that sets VT apart.

I encourage all Vermonters to ask their legislators to preserve the funding for the VT Housing and Conservation Board.” Find your VT legislators.