Senator Leahy is committed to preserving Vermont’s working landscape. He will continue to advocate for careful management of our forests, farms, and wilderness, as well as for the people who depend on these natural resources for their livelihoods. Vermont needs a framework of forest and farm policy that utilizes a myriad of conservation tools.
Protecting and Expanding Vermont and the Nation’s Public Lands
Senator Leahy believes that federal land acquisition and management has an important role to play in conserving Vermont's important landscapes, and he has worked to expand federal conservation stewardship in Vermont.
He played a key role in creating Vermont’s only national park, the Marsh Billings Rockefeller National Historical Park. This parcel of working forests and surrounding farmland is a tribute to historic leaders of the New England conservation movement. Marsh Billings Rockerfeller is the first national park to interpret the evolution of conservation stewardship including history, current practices, and future trends. Historic structures at the park have been restored with the Senators assistance and put to use for public education.
Senator Leahy has helped introduce legislation to expand public lands in Vermont, including the Champlain Valley National Heritage Area. He is also an original cosponsor of the Upper Missisquoi and Trout Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, a bill that seeks to further protect portions of the Missisquoi and Trout rivers.
Through both authorizing and appropriating legislation, Senator Leahy has helped to add more than 100,000 acres to the Green Mountain National Forest. He has also worked to expand the declaration boundaries of the forest to include the Taconic range in Vermont. The Green Mountain National Forest has benefitted from Senator Leahy’s efforts to secure funding for construction of new district ranger stations and trail and infrastructure improvement projects. In addition, Senator Leahy has written legislation to permanently protect the most pristine parts of the forest by designating them as National Wilderness Areas.
Senator Leahy has helped to enhance and expand Vermont’s National Wildlife Refuges, including the creation of the 26,000 acre Nulhegan Unit of the Conte National Wildlife Refuge and the recent addition of a mile of shoreline on Lake Memphramegog as a sub-unit of the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge. During the Senator’s tenure, and with his support, both the Nulhegan Unit and the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge have added new headquarter buildings to enhance visitor education and management capacity, and the Conte National Wildlife Refuge has added land in Vermont nearly every year.
One of Senator Leahy’s top priorities during each federal appropriations cycle, including Fiscal Year 2016, is funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and Forest Legacy Program. These federal programs support high priority conservation and recreational land acquisitions by local and state governments, as well as by federal agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service. On March 26, 2015, Senator Leahy led a letter to Chairman Lisa Murkowski and Ranking Member Tom Udall of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies urging strong funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and Forest Legacy Program. To view the full letter, please click here.
Protecting Vermont's Private Working Lands
As the most senior member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry and the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Senator Leahy has helped launch and fund several federal programs that help private landowners across the country manage their land better for the long-term benefit of conservation and the economy. In the 1990 Farm Bill, Senator Leahy established the Forest Legacy Program to prevent the conversion of our most valuable forests to non-forest uses. This program has permanently protected over 76,000 acres of forestland in Vermont alone, and over 2 million acres nationwide.
Senator Leahy was a critical player in expanding conservation programs in the 2008 Farm Bill, including the Wetlands Reserve Program, the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. As a result, millions of conservation dollars have benefited Vermont farmers, and have resulted in better land management and improved water quality.
Annual support secured by Senator Leahy for the Proctor Maple Research Center has helped keep Vermont as the national leader in maple syrup production, generating income for thousands of private landowners while allowing them to keep our hillsides covered with maple trees, and blazing red and orange each year in the fall as they find new ways to offset the effects of climate change.
Protecting Precious Forest Ecosystems around the Globe
Senator Leahy has long championed numerous programs and legislative initiatives designed to protect our precious forests, farmland, and wildlife both in Vermont and around the globe. He has been a longtime supporter of the Tropical Forest Conservation Act, which allows for innovative ‘debt-for-nature’ swaps where the United States relieves the debt of eligible developing countries while, at the same time, generating funds to support tropical forest conservation activities and protecting some of the world’s richest natural treasures. Since the enactment of the Tropical Forest Conservation Act in 1998, the United States has entered into debt-for-nature agreements that have generated millions of dollars to protect tropical forests around the globe. Senator Leahy continues to support efforts to expand this program’s protections to coral reefs and coastal marine ecosystems.
As Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that funds the U.S Agency for International Development and their biodiversity conservation programs, as well as the Global Environment Facility, the Tropical Forest Conservation Act, and other international environmental conservation organizations and programs, Senator Leahy has secured more than $1.2 billion for climate change and global environment programs. This budget provides critical funding for international programs and activities to reduce greenhouse gases and directly protect the biodiversity of tropical forests and wildlife in developing countries.