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Vermonters Pack Statehouse for Town & Tribal Forests and Affordable Housing

February 23, 2012
**Note from Nulheganaki:  Not mentioned in this article is the specific partnership between the Northeast Kingdom’s Nulhegan Abenaki Tribe and the Vermont Sierra Club.  These partnerships shouldn’t be taken for granted.**
 

One Hundred and Fifty Vermonters Pack Statehouse/

Call For Affordable Housing & Land Conservation

By The Vermont Sierra Club

 

Montpelier, Vermont, February 23rd, 2011- An effort by conservation and affordable housing advocates to demonstrate an outpouring of public support for the Vermont Housing and Conservation Fund met with great success.  On Thursday morning more than 150 Vermonters packed room 11 of the Statehouse to voice their support for this program, and to hear from the Governor and other elected officials on this issue.  The event was organized by the Vermont Housing and Conservation Coalition and was supported by the Vermont Sierra Club and its partners in the Our Forests Our Future campaign.

 

The Vermont Housing and Conservation Fund, which was established in the late 1980s, provides resources for the construction of low income housing and for forest and farm conservation.  In response to Hurricane Irene Governor Peter Shumlin has suggested that a portion of these resources to be used to buy damaged homes located within floodplains, and to convert these parcels back into a more natural state. Presently, the Governor is calling for a 1.2 million dollar increase to this fund.  If the Governor’s recommendation is accepted by the General Assembly, the fund would see a total of $14,000,000 for the coming year.

 

The Vermont Sierra Club, which is supporting the Governor’s efforts, mobilized for this event with solidarity from 350 Vermont and the Vermont Workers Center as part of the Our Forests Our Future campaign.  All three organizations had members at this event.  The Our Forest Our Future campaign is seeking to create a mosaic of new town and Abenaki forests in Vermont as a means to help build wildlife migration corridors and to make our forests more resilient in the face of climate change.  Our Forests Our Future, which is also endorsed by the Vermont AFL-CIO and the two state recognized Abenaki tribes, contends that community forests not only help in the fight against climate change through carbon sequestration, but can also serve the social and economic needs of local people.

 

“We envision new town and Abenaki forests not only providing wildlife with a more robust habitat, but also providing low income and elderly Vermonters with free or affordable firewood to heat their homes, public/tribal revenue for social programs through sustainable logging, and a public place for Vermonters to take deer, moose, and other game to feed their families. The Vermont Housing and Conservation Fund is one of the major places where funding for such projects can be found, and that is why we are supporting this. For us, it is about the environment, about economic development, and Irene recovery,” said David Van Deusen, Conservation Organizer with the Vermont Sierra Club.

 

At the event, in addition to Governor Shumlin, a number of law makers spoke out in favor of the Vermont Housing and Conservation Fund.  These included LT Governor Phil Scott-R, House Speaker Shap Smith-D, Senate Pro Tem John Campbell-D, and Northeast Kingdom Senator Vince Illuzzi-R.

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