Projects Will Be Part of 50-State Report
WASHINGTON — Just days before the release of a 50-state report outlining some of the country's most promising ways to reconnect Americans to the natural world, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today highlighted two projects in the state of Vermont that will be included in the final report — representing what states believe are among the best investments in the nation to support a healthy, active population, conserve wildlife and working lands, and create travel, tourism and outdoor-recreation jobs across the country.
Provide critical watershed and floodplain protection in the Winooski River Watershed Project and Establish the Connecticut River as a National Blueway are among 100 projects nationwide that will be highlighted in next week's report — two in every state — as part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative to establish a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda and reconnect Americans to the outdoors.
The report is a result of 50 meetings with governors and stakeholders held by Salazar and other senior Interior officials to solicit ideas on how to best implement AGO in their states. These projects were identified for their potential to conserve important lands and build recreation opportunities and economic growth for the surrounding communities as part of close engagement with Gov. Peter Shumlin and the state of Vermont, as well as private landowners, local- and tribal-elected officials, community organizations and outdoor-recreation and conservation stakeholders. The full 50-state report will be released in the coming weeks.
“Under the America's Great Outdoors Initiative, we are listening to the people of Vermont and communities across America and working with them on locally-based projects that will conserve the beauty and health of our land and water and open up more opportunities for people to enjoy them,” Salazar said. “My staff and I have been asking each governor for the most promising projects to support in their states, and we will do all we can to help move them forward.”
The two projects in Vermont highlighted by Salazar in the forthcoming report are:
Winooski River Watershed Project
The project will bring together state, regional, and local partners and stakeholder groups to conserve private working lands and provide flood control. The Winooski River watershed is located in Vermont's most populous areas, with several major cities and towns relying on it for public drinking water. This past spring, parts of the Winooski River rose to historic levels, and floodwaters washed out roads, damaged structures, over-ran wastewater treatment facilities, and caused significant nutrient and sedimentary pollution, some of which ended up in Lake Champlain. The watershed is also home to many important working farms and forests and wildlife habitat.
A major initiative of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources is to help communities protect their riparian corridors by taking advantage of the natural protection from flood damage. This project will help protect communities from the real economic burdens of future flooding, enhance recreational opportunities that connect people to water and the land, stimulate economic development, and create green jobs. The project will target critical watershed and floodplain protection areas for acquiring conservation easements. It will also provide technical and financial assistance to farmers and forest landowners to incorporate best management practices and develop watershed-management plans.
The Connecticut River's 410-mile journey from the Canadian border to Long Island Sound links four New England states: Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire. The river is the centerpiece of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge that encompasses the entire watershed, and many Vermont towns and cities are clustered along the stream. Making new access points in Vermont and designating the Connecticut River as a National Blueway will increase environmental awareness and recreational use of the river and help to draw more citizens to the river.
The report will also include potential actions by Interior and its bureaus to support the projects identified. In Vermont, for example, the Department could provide added funding for a Vermont project in the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge to promote connectivity in the Connecticut River watershed and the Northern Forest. Designate parts of the Connecticut River in Vermont as a National Blueway. Along the Winooski River, the Department could provide financial and technical support to the wildlife habitat conservation and recreational access aspects of the project.
The Department of the Interior will work with each of its key bureaus – including the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – to direct available resources and personnel to make these projects a reality.
“The America's Great Outdoors Initiative turns the conventional wisdom about the federal government's role in conservation on its head,” Salazar said. “Rather than dictate policies or conservation strategies from Washington, it supports grassroots, locally driven initiatives.”
For more information on the President's America's Great Outdoors initiative, click here.
To view a map of the projects already announced, click here.