In the fall of 1996 the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation began work revising the Vermont Forest Resource Plan. This effort continues a 50-year tradition of periodically evaluating the condition of Vermont's forest resources and developing an action plan that identifies opportunities for all forest landowners.
David C. Stevens, Director of Forests, initiated this planning effort by inviting 30 individuals to serve on a Forest Resource Plan Steering Committee. The group developed a common vision for the future of Vermont's forests and reached agreement on desired future conditions which must be in place for the vision to be achieved.
The Steering Committee reviewed findings from previous forestry planning efforts, evaluated data on the current condition of Vermont's forest resources, and developed a list of recommended actions after receiving public input from a series of regional meetings. Throughout the process, the Steering Committee promoted open dialogue and communication among committee members and encouraged the department to solicit public comment from all Vermont citizens. Although consensus was sought within the committee, it was not expected nor achieved on every issue. In fact, opinion often varied widely among members. However, after considerable discussion, committee members provided their final individual and collective recommendations in June and December of 1998. The Department then developed the plan taking these recommendations into serious consideration. The resulting plan reflects the wisdom and valuable advice offered by the Steering Committee.
The Vermont Forest Resource Plan 1999-2008 "A Forest That Works for All", builds on the previous planning efforts through extensive public participation, involving a variety of organizations and interested citizens. It presents a vision for Vermont's forest land, provides information assessing the current condition of the state's forest resources, provides a variety of goals, and identifies actions to achieve them.
The 1999 plan differs from the previous plans because the management of forest land has been affected by factors of local, regional, and global significance. These factors include such things as competing public needs for finite resources, increased legislative mandates, new means to assemble and view resource data, and changes in timber harvesting technology and forest product utilization. While these are a few examples of the new and changing areas in forest resource management, the greatest change is the increased public interest in natural resources in general.
The previous state forest resource planning process resulted in "A Commitment to the Future, the 1986 Vermont Forest Resource Plan." Addressing public interest in natural resource decision making, the 1986 Forest Resource Plan incorporated public participation concerning the roles of forest landowners, organizations, and government in meeting mutual goals and objectives. The plan was both implemented and monitored by the organizations that created it. Although not fully achieved, overall the plan was considered successful. While many actions in the 1986 plan are still viable, many changes have taken place since 1986 in both the demands placed on the forest resource and the way the resource is viewed by society. As a public agency, the department has an obligation to update the plan to reflect changes in both the resource and the knowledge and attitudes toward it.
The key components of the 1999 plan are the actions to be carried out in the coming decade. Over 600 possible actions were generated in the preparation of the plan. The program of action presented is the result of the department staff's and the steering committee's work in condensing, combining, refining, and culling the original list.
In general, all the actions relate to one or more of the basic principles upon which the vision statement is based. These principles represent the ecological, economic, and social values arising from forests. The principles are as follows:
All parties involved in the preparation of the plan agreed that the basic departmental functions in the area of forest management, resource protection, and forest product utilization should continue. The role of the department in the management and regulation of private land remains an area requiring further discussion and policy direction during the period covered by this plan. The increased acreage in public ownership and the demands placed on those lands will also require additional policy direction and financial support.
Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation
Conrad M. Motyka, Commissioner
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