For Client Standing Trees, Student Attorneys File Extensive Comments to Protect Wild Area's Mature Forests from Unneeded Logging, Citing Flooding Risks, Lack of Environmental and Climate Impact Analyses
The Environmental Advocacy Clinic at Vermont Law and Graduate School and public-land protection nonprofit Standing Trees are calling on the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources to reconsider its plan to log public lands in the Worcester Range, one of the most ecologically significant forests in northern New England.
On Feb. 2, student attorneys filed on Standing Trees’ behalf extensive comments citing state and federal laws under which the agency’s plan for logging cannot proceed.
The draft plan proposes to open 8,641 acres for logging — half of the so-called “Worcester Range Management Unit” — and cut more than 20 percent of those acres over the next 20 years.
The area at issue includes, in the agency’s words, “Well-known recreation destinations, including Mount Hunger, Perry Hill trails in Waterbury and Elmore State Park. There are also boundless opportunities for hiking, hunting, mountain biking, universally accessible trail use, fishing, snowmobiling, and skiing, as well as remote backcountry experiences.”
The filed comments emphasize the agency’s obligations to disclose and minimize the adverse impacts of logging on forest health, water quality and endangered species habitats. They highlight that the agency must also consider how logging would exacerbate flood dangers to downstream communities, including Montpelier, Waterbury and others devastated by historic floods in 2023.
“Our laws require a complete environmental review for good reason,” Vermont Law and Graduate School Assistant Professor Diana Csank said. “The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources can make a better decision and issue overdue rules so that plans like this comport with public environmental interests and applicable laws going forward.”
“The Worcester Range has been thriving and rewilding without any heavy-handed interventions for the past century,” Standing Trees Executive Director Zack Porter said. “This forest presents a one-of-a-kind opportunity for the State of Vermont to take a giant leap towards meeting its own goals for protecting and restoring high-functioning, old forest ecosystems. We are grateful to work with the Environmental Advocacy Clinic to outline precisely how Vermont can still do the right thing for this critically important landscape.”
“We are in good company,” James Dumont, Standing Trees’ counsel, said. “Former State Naturalist Charles W. Johnson (1978-2000) wrote in VT Digger about the historic ‘opportunity’ facing Vermont: ‘No longer is forestry a science applied only to the growing and harvesting of trees, but to whole environments in which they live, including the people associated with them. Being a forester now is a balancing act, juggling science, art and even public relations.’ As our comments explain, the law requires this balancing to include meaningful public disclosure of environmental impacts and, ultimately, the protection of public lands for current and future generations.”
Student attorneys Katlyn Schafer and Logan Keen drafted the comments in collaboration with Csank, Dumont and Porter, with assistance from student attorneys Hannah Weisgerber, Ashton Danneels and Taylor Scott Berkley, and clinic program coordinator Taylor Cox.
Vermont Law and Graduate School, a private, independent institution, is home to a law school that offers ABA-accredited residential and online hybrid JD programs and a graduate school that offers master’s degrees and certificates in multiple disciplines, including programs offered by the Maverick Lloyd School for the Environment, the Center for Justice Reform and other graduate-level programs emphasizing the intersection of environmental justice, social justice and public policy. Both the law and graduate schools strongly feature experiential clinical and fieldwork learning. For more information, visit vermontlaw.edu, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Standing Trees is a grassroots membership organization that works to protect and restore New England’s forests for the benefit of the climate, clean water, and biodiversity, with a focus on state and federal public lands in Vermont and New Hampshire. For more information, visit standingtrees.org, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
James A. Dumont is an attorney based in Bristol, Vermont with more than 40 years of experience in statewide environmental law matters. For more information, visit dumontlawvt.com.