House passes 50% land conservation bill vetoed by Scott last year

by Ciara McEneany, Community News Service

House lawmakers passed a sweeping land and water conservation bill March 24, in what is effectively a do-over of legislation vetoed last year by Gov. Phil Scott. 

H.126, which sets a goal of conserving half of Vermont’s land area and waters by 2050, is now heading through the Senate. 

The bill was introduced by Rep. Amy Sheldon, D-Middlebury, who believes Vermont has a critical role to play in the global biodiversity crisis that has seen many species become threatened or disappear entirely. 

“I thought we should apply Vermont’s great experience in the conservation world to what’s become a global and national priority,” Sheldon said. “We play a key role in it so we can also make a difference.” 

Environmental advocates, such as the New England activist group Standing Trees, praised the conservation design that would be put in place if the bill is implemented. 

“This is critical legislation that makes sure that as we continue to grow as a state, that we’re smart about how we balance the management and uses of our lands and waters to make space for all of life in Vermont,” said Zack Porter, the group’s executive director.  

The bill sets goals for conserving 30 percent of Vermont’s total land area and waters by 2030 and 50 percent by 2050. This would include all state, federal, municipal and private lands.  

The bill would also require conservation planners to get input from residents and stakeholders such as private landowners, Vermont housing groups, working lands enterprises and Indigenous groups.

But the Vermont League of Cities and Towns believes the bill does not go far enough to address the state’s prominent housing crisis — and how the conservation measures could interfere with efforts to build more places for people to live.  

“We’re okay with the bill; I wouldn’t say we’re in full support of it, but we understand the motivation and we welcome the reference to housing,” said Karen Horn, director of public policy and advocacy for the league.  

The sticking point for the league, Horn said, is the bill does not go as far as other bills looking to increase housing in the state. When considering which lands should be conserved, Horn said the bill should focus on lands such as floodplains and stormwater management areas before conserving lands that could be used for housing development.

Backers of the bill believe it can support both the need for housing as well as land conservation due to the bill’s requirements of working with the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board in the conservation design process.

“This isn’t an either-or kind of scenario that the bill presents itself,” Porter said. “It’s really an all-the-above scenario. We can provide the housing that we need for Vermonters, and we can provide biodiversity needs.” 

In past sessions, bills like H.126 have made it through the Legislature but have been vetoed by Scott. Both Sheldon and environmental groups believe the bill will pass this session regardless of the governor’s decision.

“Last year we passed a bill out of the House and the Senate, and the governor vetoed it,” Sheldon said. “We did not come back from a veto session, but I believe we probably would have had the votes last year to override, and so we’re trying again this year.”

Categories: Legislation

14 replies »

  1. After the State determines how we can use private lands, will we still be allowed to pay property taxes? My bet is yes!

  2. I think it’s time to have a recall vote on our house representatives and get them out of office before they make it possible for the government to just claim your land which they are headed for! People wake up!

  3. Anytime “backer’s of the bill believe…” It’s trouble. Historically the Vermont legislature does what it can to impede property rights and ignore potential consequence of their actions. True to form, the elitists continue, this session…

    One of Ronald Reagan’s quotes seems fitting:
    “It’s not that liberals aren’t smart, it’s just that so much of what they know isn’t so”

  4. We need 4000 housing units right now and they going in reverse. We need tax incentives for private developers and investors to build and convert units to rental properties. Not take land of line to satisfy some ethereal pompous feel good objective. We have plenty of land set aside, we need living spaces for young families or they will move elsewhere.

    John Lyddy

  5. These commies can buy my house at marked rates, tear it down and leave the lot open land forever. Me, I’ll take the cash and move to America.

  6. We do not have to make up for lack of bio diversity existing internationally. We only need to be accountable for Vermont specific biodiversity. Anyone drive down 89 lately? There is nothing to be seen, except for large expanses of land and forest. Much of Vermont, except for Burlington, Rutland, Middlebury, Montpelier, St. Albans and a few smaller town have any significant or insignificant population or development. I live in a rural area near Middlebury and there is nothing but open land and national forest between Middlebury and Rutland. And if you drive RT 4 from Rutland to Woodstock, there is nothing except for the Killington ski area. Drive from Lake Dunmore, 73 to 100, to Waterbury and there is absolutely nothing but forest, river and open land. This legislation is written and intended to do nothing more than to serve the goals of the United Nations and to end property rights. As the World Economic Forum boasted, “You will own nothing and be happy!”

    • “This legislation is written and intended to do nothing more than to serve the goals of the United Nations and to end property rights.” Absolutely Christine…..maybe these ignorant legislators need to get the heck out of Montpeculiar, Burligrad and such and SEE the forest and the trees. MORE ridiculousness from under the dome.

  7. All I can say is that I’m glad I’ll be dead by the time all their BS goes into full effect. I’m sorry to my grandchildren and great grandchildren, but hopefully they will have moved to a state that practices common sense by then…something that’s severely lacking in our government now.

  8. Maybe we can elect trees to the legislature, that’s all we’ll have left in VT pretty soon

  9. The legislative culture is dedicated to telling us how to exercise our ever diminishing liberty…what to do with our property, how to school our kids, how to run our businesses, what we can and can not do. Laws and regulations have become the everyday tools of an elected majority to manage us…their unenlightened neighbors. It would seem that “unwanted intrusion” is an apt description of most legislative actions we see. Representing a diverse constituency and seeking consensus are not evident. There is simple majority ruling on their agenda of the moment.

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