VT Governor’s Plan for Motorized Vehicles in Parks Is Rejected

This summer, Vermont governor Jim Douglas said he wanted more ATVs and other motorized vehicles in state parks. Immediately, hundreds of Vermonters contacted state officials to oppose the plan. As of this month, the state had heard from more than 2,000 people about the plan. Four times as many people opposed the governor’s plan as supported it.

On December 15, a committee of the Vermont legislature voted 7-0 to reject Douglas’s plan. “This is a huge victory,” said Elizabeth Courtney, director of the Vermont Natural Resources Council.

Officials Seek Help With Insects Threatening Valley Forests, Jobs

Officials are seeking volunteers to look out for two kinds of insects that could devastate the Valley’s forests and cost jobs in logging, maple syrup making, and related industries. The insects are the Asian longhorned beetle and the hemlock woolly adelgid.

Income from sustainable logging and maple syrup production often prevents land owners from having to sell their land for development.

Thousand Acres in Keene Saved

In Keene, the 1,044 acre Greater Goose Pond Forest has been protected from development. The land is owned by the city and had been vulnerable to being paved. The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests this month permanently protected the Keene forest, which includes a pond, streams, and wetlands.

“This was the work of many people, from the Greater Goose Pond land management committee to the Keene city council that adopted the committee’s recommendations,” said Eloise Clark of the Keene Conservation Commission.

High-Density Housing Looking for a Home in Amherst

In the last few weeks, a housing developer from Columbus, Ohio has approached residents in an area south of the UMass Amherst campus about buying parcels of land on Sunset Avenue for the construction of student housing. Despite a rising need for such high-density, space-efficient housing stemming from the university’s large student population and long-term plans to continue expanding its student enrollment in the coming years, the project has faced criticism from some homeowners in the area.

Vermont Governor Wants More Motorized Vehicles in Parks

Vermont governor Jim Douglas says he wants more ATVs and other motorized vehicles in state parks. In recent weeks, more than a thousand people wrote to Douglas and his employees about his plan. As of July 1, the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources had received 148 letters and about 1,600 e-mails about the proposal. The writers opposed the rule by about 3 to 1.

But at a public hearing in June in Montpelier, about 250 people showed up to support Douglas's plan, far outnumbering opponents.

The comment period ends on July 6. Contact info is at www.anr.state.vt.us/site/html/contact.htm

Huge Park Near Brattleboro, Keene May Be Paved

Pisgah State Park is the biggest state park in New Hampshire. It's a 10 minute drive from both Brattleboro and Keene, and is just a few miles from Massachusetts. On June 8, the New Hampshire Parks Advisory Council released a proposed plan that placed Pisgah State Park in a class which, among other choices for alternative management, includes "disposal," the so-called “C” list.

There will be public hearings, but not in Keene. The closest is in Peterborough:

June 23, 4 p.m.

Peterborough Town Hall
1 Grove Street
Peterborough, NH

There is also the opportunity for written comment:

Governor Loses Vermont Veto Fight

In a victory for middle class workers and farmers, the Vermont legislature on June 2 voted to override governor Jim Douglas's veto of the $4.5 billion state budget. No governor had ever vetoed the budget. In his own budget proposal, offered in January, Douglas attempted to hide a major tax increase: $63 million dollars in new property taxes. His budget would have frozen the state’s education reimbursements at last year’s levels, even though most Vermont towns have already passed school budgets for next year.

Pro-Big Box Greenfield Mayor Voted Out

A major goal of Greenfield Mayor Christine Forgey has been to build a Wal-Mart or a similar “big box” store on an area of open land that’s too far from downtown to easily reach on foot. On April 21, in a primary election, Forgey was voted out of office. In June, voters will choose from two candidates for mayor.

“I was glad the mayor was voted out,” said John Ward, co-owner of the Solar Store www.GreenfieldSolarStore.com on Fiske Avenue in downtown Greenfield. “Open space doesn’t have to be paved just because it’s open space.”

Hadley Residents Asked to Act Today to Save Farmland

These photos, taken March 17, show three ways that farmland has been used in Hadley, Mass. They show McMansions, the "Mountain Farms" strip mall, and an unprotected farm. Activists are proposing a fourth way for western New England: buy and bulldoze rundown single family houses near existing downtowns and replace them with energy efficient, multi-family housing, while permanently protecting farmland from development. Government policies can encourage stores to be built in and near downtowns so people can reach them on foot, or by bicycle or public transit, instead of by car.

Vermont Town Acts to Save Farmland

Voters at Dummerston town meeting March 3 decided to put $10,000 into the town's farmland protection fund. About 200 people were at the meeting. The money can be used to buy land, or to buy development rights.

"This will help the town get money from other sources like the Vermont Land Trust," resident Bill Schmidt said during debate about the measure at the meeting.