H. 233, a bill related to forest integrity, addresses forest fragmentation and better maintain intact, healthy forests. Our forests provide billions in revenue to the state, but as they become more fragmented, they lose their ability to maintain water quality, provide recreational opportunities, provide habitat for wildlife, and support our rural working landscape and forests large enough to support forestry.
The existing Act 250 criteria related to forests fail to adequately protect our forests from fragmentation. The bill adds new criteria to Act 250 to require large development projects that are already going through Act 250, such as large subdivisions consisting of more than 6 or 10, to either avoid or minimize the fragmentation of the state’s highest priority contiguous forest blocks, and habitat connectivity areas. If going into a forest block a developer would be required to avoid, or, if not possible, minimize, or if not possible mitigate impacts on forest blocks.
In addition, new legislation (H.424), is on the Governor’s desk to create a commission of six legislators (3 House members and three Senators) along with an advisory panel of citizens to review Act 250 with the objective of ensuring that over the next 50 years Act 250 continues to support all Vermont’s economic, environmental and land use planning goals. The commission will report back to the legislature on Dec. 15, 2018, including draft legislation.