A New Appreciation for Old Forests

By Elle O’Casey

Bill Keeton, Professor of Forest Ecology and Forestry from the University of Vermont was a guest at last month’s Working Woodlands workshop at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. The workshop was cosponsored by Sustainable Woodstock, Vermont Woodlands Association and Vermont Coverts. Vermont Coverts works with landowners across the state to gain their commitment to maintain and enhance diverse wildlife habitat and healthy ecosystems. Professor Keeton’s talk, entitled “Forests, Carbon and Climate Resilience: Approaches for Woodland Management” looked at carbon sequestration, managing forests for carbon, managing for old growth forests, and the market-based context for carbon. Professor Keeton has been conducting long-term research at the park examining how the park forests store carbon. For his talk, Professor Keeton focused on northeastern forests, sharing more about their history and how they store carbon during various stages of growth. (more…)

There’s an App for That

By Elle O’Casey

It’s no surprise to seasoned Vermonters that Fall is on its way. Yet every year around this time, I get a bit angsty. I wonder just how cold it will be this winter. I hypothesize about peak foliage dates and whether the colors will be as good as I remember them from last year. But, above all, I grow fearful of “stick season”, that unsightly time of year Vermonters affectionately turned into an entire season celebrating bare branches and leaf-free woods. But to me, everything feels brown and somewhat raw. I grow worried I will not be able to tell one tree apart from another. Nerd Alert: I am the person who walks through the woods and gets an inordinate amount of joy from naming the species of trees I see along the way. If I know their name, I can consider them friends. In fact, I carry around a quote from John Muir that reads: “Whenever I met a new plant, I would sit down beside it for a minute or a day, to make its acquaintance, hear what it had to tell.” (more…)

Why We’re Helping to Build a Sustainable Community

By Ron Miller

Usually this column describes one of the specific projects that Sustainable Woodstock is facilitating. This week, though, let’s take a step back and look at the big picture: Why is it important to have a local organization devoting so much time, effort and thought to “sustainability”?

The term “sustainable” refers to ways of meeting our economic and cultural needs that can continue for generations. For the past century, affluent modern societies have not lived sustainably; we have been over-consuming precious resources and over-burdening the soil, water and atmosphere with waste by-products, jeopardizing the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Our “ecological footprint” exceeds what the planet’s life support systems can renewably provide. Ecologists call this imbalance overshoot, and historians (Jared Diamond, for example) identify it as a primary cause of the collapse of civilizations. (more…)

Celebrating Our Waterways

By Elle O’Casey

Late August is the time when many of us head to our favorite swimming holes and lakes, hungry to get out on the water and enjoy it while we can. It may be a distant thought to many of us paddling or swimming on Vermont’s ponds, lakes, and rivers, but nearly 45 years ago, a piece of legislation changed US water for the better. In 1972, the Clean Water Act was passed and over time has been hailed as one of the most influential environmental laws in US history. While we as a country have come a long way since the fires on the Cuyahoga River, much is still left to be done when it comes to cleaning up our waterways.

Vermonters, known for ingenuity and a sustainable land ethic recognized the need for action and today, Vermont is positioned as a national leader in cleaning up state waterways. One way the state has taken action to decrease water pollution was the passage of Act 64 in 2015. One element of Act 64 includes agricultural reform, an important component considering that 38% of phosphorus pollution found in Lake Champlain in 2015 came from agriculture and another 18% came from streambank erosion. Act 64’s agricultural reform created a set of required agricultural practices (RAPs) for farms, intended to ‘reduce agriculture’s impact on state waterways’. (more…)