Vermont House Passes Legislation to Update Current Use Program, Help Protect Forests and Address Climate Change
Montpelier – Today the Vermont House of Representatives passed legislation (H.697) to update the state’s Use Value Appraisal Program (also known as Current Use) to better protect forests and help mitigate climate change. The bill passed third reading on a vote of 100-40, and now heads to the Vermont Senate.
This legislation would create a new subcategory in the Use Value Appraisal Program called “reserve forestland.” This would provide new options for landowners to manage qualifying parcels to create old forest conditions. It would expand the Ecologically Significant Treatment Area (ESTA) category of forest land by allowing parcels that have ecologically significant features to be enrolled without a requirement for timber harvesting, in alignment with a new category developed by Commissioner Snyder of the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation.
Jamey Fidel, Forest and Wildlife Program Director for Vermont Natural Resources Council, noted “H.697 would strengthen the Current Use program by increasing the amount of forest land that is eligible in a way that is responsible, practical, and equitable.”
H.697 would benefit Vermont by:
- alleviating the pressure of property taxes to convert old forests to more intensive uses;
- protecting critical wildlife habitat; and
- aligning the program with the goals of the Climate Action Plan to promote old forests that help to mitigate climate change.
Fidel added: “This bill takes the important step of expanding landowners’ options to conserve ecologically significant parcels of land and manage them for old forest characteristics through the Current Use Program. Over time, these parcels will help mitigate climate change, provide important ecosystem services, and help keep Vermont’s forests intact. We appreciate Chair Amy Sheldon, Rep. Seth Bongartz, and the House Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife Committee as well as Forests, Parks & Recreation Commissioner Michael Snyder’s leadership on this important issue.”