Keeping the Green Mountain State Green: Vermont General Assembly Advances Important Conservation Bill

Audubon Vermont is working in collaboration with a partnership of environmental advocates to advance legislation to conserve 30% of Vermont’s land and waters by 2030 and 50% by 2050.

30x30 (“thirty by thirty”) is a shorthand term for the goal to conserve 30% of our land and waters by 2030. Audubon Vermont supports H. 126, Vermont’s 30x30 initiative, and we are working with a coalition of other environmental organizations to steer the bill through the legislature and establish a conservation plan that best serves the natural environment and Vermonters, present and future.

Vermont is losing thousands of acres of forest and fields to development each year, with significant risks to birds and wildlife. Many birds, like the Scarlet Tanager, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Golden-winged Warbler, and even Vermont’s state bird, the Hermit Thrush, are threatened by the combination of changing climate conditions and a loss of habitat. Across North America, scientists have observed dramatic declines in bird populations, as many as a loss of two billion birds over the past fifty years.

In response to this challenge, to birds and to biodiversity across the United States, the Biden-Harris administration issued Executive Order 14008, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. This Executive Order included what has come to be called, nationally, the 30x30 initiative and charges executive agency officials with creating recommendations and strategies to conserve “at least 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030.”

Subsequently, the National Climate Task Force released a  conservation and restoration strategy, principles, and vision in May of 2021, referred to as the “America the Beautiful” Initiative. More recently, the 30x30 initiative went global in December of 2022, when the UN Convention on Biological Diversity adopted the “Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework” (GBF), which established a 30x30 target focusing on “degraded terrestrial, inland water, and coastal and marine ecosystems are under effective restoration, in order to enhance biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services, ecological integrity and connectivity.”

H.126 shares the same name as its predecessor, H. 606: an act relating to community resilience and biodiversity protection. H. 606 passed in both houses of Vermont’s congress, but failed to become law after it was vetoed by Governor Scott, who expressed the opinion that the conservation tools included in the bill were too narrowly defined.

Audubon Vermont and our partners are again seeking to advance a similar bill which will allow Vermonters to develop a shared vision for the landscape; a plan that will successfully protect working lands, public lands, and conserved lands as part of landscape mosaic, like a patchwork quilt, integral for biodiversity, human collaboration, and ecological health. Vermonters are thoughtful about the land we live on, and this bill will allow us to develop a roadmap for a sustainable future that maintains the verdant and bucolic qualities of our home, satisfies our needs for food, furniture, and firewood, and provides the rich habitat needed by our birds and wildlife.

At the time this article was written, H. 126 is currently pending in the Vermont Senate after receiving an strong affirmative 108-36 vote in the House of Representatives. Please contact your legislators and the Governor, declaring your support for H. 126 and encouraging them to move forward on passing the bill. Find your representatives and their contact information by entering their names or the name of your town here. Contact Governor Scott’s office by phone, fax, or message here. We appreciate your support in creating a greener future for Vermont.

This article was written by Daniel Lee, Audubon Vermont's Policy Intern

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