Leahy Notches Key Victories For Lake Champlain And Vermont In Appropriations Bill

Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy Monday announced several key victories for programs that support Lake Champlain, conservation initiatives, and historic downtowns across Vermont.  The programs were funded through the Appropriations Committee bill on the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, for Fiscal Year 2018, which was released on Monday afternoon.  The bill will now be negotiated to reconcile differences between the Senate and House bills prior to being considered by the full Senate. 

Leahy said:  “While I am deeply disappointed that the overall bill has bowed to the anti-science know-nothingism of President Trump by slashing environmental programs and denying the reality of climate change, I am glad we were able to secure funding for programs that are vitally important for Lake Champlain and conservation efforts across our state.  As Vice Chairman, I will continue to fight against the Trump agenda and work to restore the cuts that are in this bill as we continue through the appropriations process.”

The Senate bill contains:

  • $4 million increase, for a total $8.4 million, for the Lake Champlain Program;
  • $8 million increase, for a total $444 million, for the EPA Geographic Programs;
  • $3 million increase for a new federal Historic Revitalization Grants program;
  • $100,000 increase, for a total $489,000, to administer and implement the Lake Champlain Sea Lamprey Control Program;
  • $35 million increase, for a total $106.5 million, for U.S. Forest Service Capital Improvements; and
  • $1.8 million for Forest Service Acquisition of Rolston Rest.

President Trump’s budget would have eliminated all of the EPA’s Geographic Programs, abandoning a significant portion of federal support for ongoing regional clean-up projects in areas like Lake Champlain, the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico that partner with local programs to find solutions.  In large complex ecosystems like Lake Champlain, stopping investments into cleanup efforts would have reverberating consequences that would result in losing the progress we have made.  As one of the Geographic Programs, the Lake Champlain Program grants millions of dollars to local communities and organizations for pollution prevention and education work.  Blue green algae monitoring by the Lake Champlain Committee, storm water structures at the Shelburne Community School and Smilie School in Bolton, support for the Franklin County Farmers Watershed alliance, planning work to solve combined sewer overflows in Vergennes, and green storm water infrastructure in Rutland County’s Moon Brook are a few examples of more than 90 projects supported in 2016.   

The $3 million for a new federal program to support historic preservation is based on the Village Revitalization Initiative (VRI), championed by Leahy through a partnership with the Preservation Trust of Vermont. Since its establishment, the VRI has rehabilitated 27 historic community buildings in the hearts of 25 Vermont town centers and has leveraged nearly $27 million toward total project costs.  This effort garnered the National Advisory Council on Historic Preservation’s (ACHP) Chairman’s Award for Achievement in Historic Preservation, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation Richard H. Driehaus Award in 2011 and 2014.

The U.S. Forest Service manages national forest land like the Green Mountain National Forest.  The increase to the capital improvement accounts would allow for trail repair and construction of new facilities to increase public access.  The current Supervisor’s office and visitor center for the Green Mountain and Finger Lakes National Forest has occupied leased space in downtown Rutland for the past 25 years.  A portion of the increase in the capital improvement fund to a total of $106.5 million will likely be used to construct a permanent facility on Route 4 in Mendon, Vermont, which has been a priority of the service since the 1990s.  

The bill includes $69.5 million for the U.S. Forest Service for land acquisition through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), including $1.8 million for the acquisition of Rolston Rest, which is a critical link in Vermont’s statewide trail networks and connects major tracts of the Green Mountain National Forest. This National Forest acquisition in Chittenden will reopen the property to public access and protect the wild character and scenic views of the Long Trail and the Catamount Trail, as well as protect rare species and water quality, while preventing habitat 

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