By John Herrick, VTDigger.org
The “2015 Vermont Forest Fragmentation Report to the Vermont Legislature April 2015” was released last week, which highlighted Vermont’s shrinking woodlands. The report was prepared by the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, pursuant to Act. 118 of 2014.
Forests cover 75 percent of the state, a broad area compared to historical clearings that made way for agriculture in the 19th century. But now, Vermont’s forest cover is declining. Since 2007, the state has lost about 75,000 acres of forestland, or about 1.6 percent, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
Growing residential development—and the roads, driveways and utilities that come with the homes—continues to carve Vermont’s forests into smaller blocks. Between 2003 and 2009, the amount of land in parcels of 50 acres or more decreased by 4 percent, or about 34,000 acres, according to a report by the Vermont Natural Resources Council. During the same period, the cost to own an acre of forest increased by 73 percent, according to the VNRC.
Today, 80 percent of Vermont’s forests is privately owned, the report states. Meanwhile, “the number of landowners is increasing, the size of the parcels is decreasing and the age of owners is increasing,” according to the report. The cost to own land is a significant factor in whether forests are preserved by landowners, the report states.