Deb Markowitz: A healthy environment helps sustain a healthy economy

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Deb Markowitz, the Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources.

There was more good news this month for Vermont – with unemployment numbers reaching a low of 4 percent and the news that Vermonters are first in the nation for eating our vegetables and getting exercise. It’s no surprise to us. At ANR we are deeply aware of the connection between healthy lifestyles, our pristine natural environment with easily accessible mountains, forests, lakes and streams, and a thriving local economy.

Vermont tops the nation in green jobs. These include green energy jobs (we are ranked number one for solar job creation), agriculture (Vermont sales of agricultural products has grown 15 percent in the last five years and the number of farms and acres in production is expanding significantly every year) and forestry. Forest-based manufacturing in Vermont provided 12 percent of the manufacturing payroll and employed 16 percent of manufacturing employees in 2005. Not only did the industry contribute $1 billion in value of shipments to the economy, while employing more than 6,300 people, but forests also provide the backdrop for Vermont’s tourism and outdoor recreation industries.

Vermont’s land-based economy and its promise of a prosperous future for our children and grandchildren did not happen by accident.

 

Outdoor recreation accounts for more than 12 percent of the gross state product and also contributes to our good jobs record – including more than 35,000 jobs. Outdoor recreation accounts for nearly $200 million in annual state tax revenue and produces more than $2.5 billion annually in retail sales and services across Vermont. And it’s no wonder – Vermont’s Department of Tourism boasts that Vermont has more than 1,000 miles of hiking trails; there are more than 50 state parks, 100 campgrounds and 8,000 campsites; there are 19 downhill ski areas, nine with more than a 2,000-foot vertical drop, and more than 30 cross-country ski areas. Vermont has 18 mountain biking clubs and a statewide network of trails and there are more than 6,000 miles of snowmobile trails. People from all over the world come to Vermont to fish in our lakes, ponds and streams and to hunt for deer, moose, turkey and waterfowl.

Vermont’s land-based economy and its promise of a prosperous future for our children and grandchildren did not happen by accident. Vermont’s land use planning laws help us to maintain our traditional settlement patterns of a village center surrounded by working lands and forests. Our commitment to meaningful environmental regulations ensures that our land, air and water remain clean for future generations (and it drives us to clean up areas that may have suffered from historic pollution.) Investments in our state park and state forest systems and our commitment to tax policies and land conservation programs that encourage landowners to keep their land undeveloped have been essential to our success; and broad support for the partner organizations that develop trail networks and create recreational opportunities all make a difference.

It is often said that when the economy booms, Vermont lags behind. It is also true that when the economy crashed we do better than our neighbor states. A reliance on a land-based economy creates a stability that is good for Vermonters, helping to making our state a leader in health, outdoor recreation and economic stability.

Comments

  1. David T. Gross :

    This commentary showcases how we all wish the world viewed the State of Vermont and how the ANR performed its duties. However, when local citizens become involved in “on the ground” environmental issues in their community, they quickly find that the ANR is not their ally. When and if they finally receive a response from an appropriate state official, they get an explanation of why that particular official’s office cannot help because …. (fill in some policy here). More than likely the citizens’ inquiries will be met with a deafening silence, even as they learn that the businesses associated with a questionable development have an ongoing and open dialogue with the ANR. NEVER does the ANR reach out to these groups of concerned community members and offer to met with them and, lord forbid, actually visit the location in question. Meanwhile, the State of Vermont and the ANR continue to promote their advertising campaign of environmental responsibility, wetland protection, and flood resilency.

    In short, if your agencies are so hamstrung by regulations, policies, and practices that you cannot effectively counter the ongoing erosion of Vermont’s natural environment, then be honest and come right out and say so. Stop insulting our intelligence with these “feel good” narratives and initiatives that will never be implemented, either due to design or intent.

  2. Kathy Nelson :

    Here is a puff-piece from a chair-warmer in Montpelier who probably got someone to write this for her. Vermont forests, lakes, rivers, mountains and ridgelines ARE precious and that’s why we need to protect them from Deb Markowitz’ ANR and their industrial wind developer associates.
    Such blatant hypocrisy from Markowitz does Vermont no good at all.

  3. Annette Smith :

    Perhaps the Secretary would like to explain why the Agency has entered into an MOU with a Massachusetts solar developer to site a 2 mW solar project on a field that is almost entirely Class 2 wetlands. The MOU with ANR was submitted in the PSB docket yesterday and can be read here: http://vce.org/ANR%20MOU%20Barton%20Solar%20Rebuttal%20Testimony.pdf. This MOU was negotiated behind closed doors with no input by anyone other than the developer and ANR staff. I consulted with an environmental expert who works in other states who said this would never be allowed in New Jersey or Pennsylvania. So much for Vermont’s pristine environment.

    Ironic that she cites planning laws. Here’s a video of the recent public hearing of one of GMP’s Rutland solar projects, sited in a zoned residential area. http://youtu.be/nV-7Pb0Enr0. The neighbors are all polite and rational. The law is not. The Charter Hill site also has wetlands issues, and the site drains to Combination Pond which is an issue in the water quality of Moon Brook.

    Vermont has a disconnect between ANR’s professed environmental protections and what is happening with renewable energy development. Those of us who dare speak out or ask questions are accused of being climate change deniers funded by the fossil fuel industry.

    Somehow there must be a change in how Vermont protects its environment and allows development, guiding it to appropriate sites. Right now, the state’s environmental policies are schizophrenic and the environment is being sacrificed in the name of “green” which means money for mostly out of state investors while GMP sells the RECs out of state and cannot claim it is renewable energy for Vermonters.

    • Craig Gilborn :

      Good for Annette! Craig G., Mt Tabor

  4. Lynn Nila :

    Where I reside, there is a pristine river that attracts plenty of attention about the “misdeed” of the town trying to protect people and property during a hurricane crises . However, I personally absolutely abhor those who deliberately throw trash into the river (fishermen and youth drinkers disposing of their “evidence”) and if I see them do it I will often scold them for doing so. I was told by my overeducated neighbors with state agency connections that, ” there is no law against throwing trash into the river” with the implication that I am behaving irrationally and am considered to be harassing those people. There really is a lot of lip service to keeping Vermont clean and beautiful, but I am beginning to believe laws are being implemented to thwart the good intentions of those who try to be the good stewards of the land in favor of those who are wealthy enough to make Vermont their personal playground with no expectations of respect or reverence for what makes Vermont property-rich.

  5. Lars Woodson :

    “Our pristine environment.” Pristine means “unspoiled” or “in its natural condition.” Markewitz needs to get out of her office. Clearly she had never boated on Lake Champlain; fished or walked our major rivers (especially those the state allowed to be gutterized after Irene); or hiked near any one of several ski areas that are intent on building as much energy-dependent infrastructure and artificial “parks” as as possible. Ironically, some of the few areas that can still reasonably be called pristine, like the Seneca Mountain Range, are now targeted for industrial wind development, seemingly with the blessing of Markowitz’ agency. What a load of crap.

  6. Vanessa Mills :

    HOW exactly does this cavernously hollow rhetoric jive with what is actually happening with the actual, on-the-ground (and in the Lake, in the mountains, ridgelines, wetlands, watersheds, valleys, and affected water quality, etc) reality of Vermont’s environment?

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