A bill that would substantially increase the amount of state-protected lands was advanced through the Senate chamber last week and is now on to the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy.
“This bill proposes to establish State goals of conserving 30 percent of the land of the State by 2030 and 50 percent by 2050,” the bill language states. That means half of all Vermont lands would become off-limits for development in 28 years.
The bill, H.606, is being called the “Community Resilience and Biodiversity Protection Act,” or “CRBPA.” The bill was given a first reading in the Senate on Friday, and now will be discussed by the five members of the committee chaired by Sen. Chris Bray, D-Addison.
Some Vermonters and state lawmakers are expressing concerns about the broad impact it will have on land use in the Green Mountain State in the coming years.
“[It’s a] no from me,” Sen. Joshua Terenzini, R-Rutland, wrote in an email circulated to TNR and other media last week about the bill.
Lynn James Edmunds, a concerned resident of Wallingford, also expressed worries on the email thread. In particular, Edmunds thinks the bill could impact the local Green Hill Cemetery.
“All I can say about it is ‘get ready comrades.’ I presume our planning commission will be asked at some point to adopt this into our town Plan and Zoning if it passes,” Edmunds wrote. “This is how the game is played, and zoning is where we will be asked for our consent to self-inflict this on our community.”
He added: “Most people think zoning is for the common good of their community, but the unseen motive and goal is actually total control of its people.”
Language in the bill indicates that lawmakers are advancing the Community Resilience and Biodiversity Protection Act due to fear of a coming environmental catastrophe.
“Nature is facing a catastrophic loss of biodiversity, both globally and locally,” the bill states. “… According to the United Nations, a million species of plants and 20 animals are threatened with extinction.”
It also says “biodiversity is essential to human survival,” and “human activity has altered almost 75 percent of the Earth’s surface, squeezing wildlife and nature into ever-smaller natural areas of the planet, according to the United Nations.”
Edmunds, writing about zoning in a commentary last week, opined there is a disconnect when zoning policies are written in Montpelier and pushed on individual local communities.
“You must understand, to the extent you feel pressured by your local commission, they are also under pressure from their Regional Planning Commission to implement provisions passed down to them from Montpelier. Consequently, the pressure you feel is ultimately emanating from a menu of bureaucratic desires that may in fact have little or nothing to do with your communities real or authentic needs,” Edmunds wrote.
The bill’s primary sponsor is Rep. Amy Sheldon, D-Addison. She has a business called Landslide Inc., which consults people on land use. Sheldon did not return TNR’s request for comment.
When talking about proposed changes to Act 250 back in 2020, however, she said climate and ecosystems are her priorities. She told WCAX those efforts were to set “a great balance to protect our ecosystem and work on climate issues while also releasing lands for development where we wanted it to happen.”