If forest conservation, protection, and management is a team sport, then for the past twelve years, Michael Snyder has been our state captain. As recently announced, the Vermont Department of Forest, Parks and Recreation commissioner will leave his post at the end of the month. Audubon Vermont thanks Commissioner Snyder for his tremendous contributions to Vermont, to our public and private woodlands, and to the birds and people who rely on them.
Throughout his tenure, Commissioner Snyder has played a critical role in the protection of Vermont’s public and private forests, and of the diverse benefits they provide. In his conversations with public officials, foresters, biologists, and everyday Vermonters, Commissioner Snyder has often referenced the many ways forests contribute to our quality of life, including clean air and water, carbon storage, and resilience to extreme weather, as well as to Vermont’s economy and cultural identity. Commissioner Snyder has also been a vital contributor to the evolution of outdoor recreation during a period of significant growth, managing both the benefits and challenges associated with securing and maintaining public access to the outdoors.
Wildlife and people together have long stood at the center of Commissioner Snyder’s efforts to promote sustainable forest management across the state. This shared philosophy—what helps birds helps people, and vice versa—has kindled a dynamic partnership between Commissioner Snyder and Audubon Vermont, dating back to his first job as Chittenden County forester. Commissioner Snyder was integral to the development of Foresters for the Birds, an award-winning project that helps landowners manage their forestland for timber and also for songbirds such as the Black-throated Blue Warbler and Scarlet Tanager. Jointly established by Audubon Vermont and the Department in 2008, the program has since grown nationwide.
“The key to a successful program often lies in strong partnerships,” said Steve Hagenbuch, senior conservation biologist and forester at Audubon Vermont. “Foresters for the Birds would not have realized the impact it has in Vermont without Mike’s support. His extensive knowledge and credibility of and within the forestry community was crucial to the development of the program, and his ongoing support has only helped to strengthen it over the years. Because of Mike, Vermont’s forests, and the birds that rely upon them, are in a much better place.”
Commissioner Snyder also made room for bird-friendly forest management in Vermont state law. The Use Value Appraisal program, also known as “current use,” promotes the economic viability of Vermont’s working forests and farms to ensure they can continue to support rural communities and diverse ecosystems for generations to come. Commissioner Snyder approved Audubon Vermont’s habitat management guide, Silviculture with Birds in Mind, as a citable reference for forest management plans under the current use program.
In addition to his landscape-scale contributions to Vermont’s forests, Commissioner Snyder has made his mark at Audubon Vermont’s home, the Green Mountain Audubon Center in Huntington. In 2008, Commissioner Snyder, then the county forester, oversaw Audubon’s first-ever forest management project at the Center, a one-acre patch cut of an area dominated by white pine. This effort set the stage for a larger project in 2012, again supported by Commissioner Snyder, to establish a Foresters for the Birds demonstration area at the Center. Commissioner Snyder has returned to the Center several times since to co-lead management workshops and teach the next generation of ecological foresters.
According to Jillian Liner, Audubon Vermont’s conservation director, Commissioner Snyder’s impact on Audubon includes his influence on her, twenty years ago, when she was a graduate student at the University of Vermont and he delivered a guest lecture to her class. He also influenced Audubon’s executive director, David Mears, who collaborated with Commissioner Snyder while both worked at the Agency of Natural Resources.
“Mike once told me a story, with a grin, about a high school basketball coach who described him as ‘not very fast, but . . . he can’t jump either,’” Mears recalled. “Knowing what a fierce competitor Mike is, I doubt that was true. I can say with certainty that Vermont has never had such a multi-talented commissioner of Forests, Parks and Recreation, one who is as comfortable in the State House as he is in the woods—a Commissioner who has demonstrated repeatedly that he can run and jump with the very best of our public servants to make a real difference for Vermonters.”
On behalf of our members, Audubon Vermont expresses its deep gratitude to Commissioner Snyder for his long-standing commitment to Vermont’s forests, birds, and people, and wishes him the best in his future endeavors.