Survey shows support for farm and forest conservation

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(Host) A newly released survey by the University of Vermont Center for Rural Studies says Vermonters strongly support the conservation of farm and forestland.

The survey of about 450 registered voters found that despite other pressing issues like health care and education, land conservation remains a top concern of Vermonters.

Gil Livingston is with the Vermont Land Trust.

(Livingston) “The magnitude of people’s caring about land and the importance of land conservation has gotten lost somewhat in the public debate over the last several years as we focused on what seemed more urgent concerns.”

(Host) Speaking today on VPR’s Vermont Edition, Livingston said it’s a challenge to balance conservation efforts with the need for economic development. He said conservationists work as closely as they can with local officials.

In Bethel, the Selectboard voted to oppose an effort by the Land Trust to preserve a large farm on the main road into town.

But last year the Land Trust and the state decided to go ahead with a plan to protect the land.

Bethel selectman Eric Benson says his board was concerned the land can no longer be used for economic development and as a source of tax revenue for the town.

(Benson) “I see what’s happening to a lot of portions of Vermont. To me, a lot of areas are turning into a museum state which is really going to have a detrimental effect on the local folks who have lived here all their lives in a high tax state.”

(Host) Benson says Selectboard members met with the representatives of the Land Trust and with the Vermont Secretary of Agriculture to air their concerns.

Gil Livingston of the Land Trust says the decision was made to preserve the land because it was consistent with the Bethel town plan. It was also supported by the Bethel Planning Commission.

Livingston says there’s a growing interest among Vermont towns to focus on land conservation as a tool to bolster local economies and preserve community life.

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