Get Active for Audubon

Audubon Action ButtonIncreasingly, public issues arise that are of strong and direct interest to Audubon
members in Addison County.  These issues might be at the local, state, national
or international level.  To receive Audubon Action Alerts on state and national
issues of urgency, sign up here.

Current action alerts that could use your support can be found here.

Vermont has a strong tradition of speaking out for what is right and just.  On this website, we will seek to present information on issues about birds and bird conservation that will enable you to be informed advocates with your elected officials or other decision makers.  With your help, we’ll seek to weigh in on those that have a local impact on wildlife conservation, environmental protection, and proactive policy making.

Issues we are following locally:

  • Predation of wildlife by cats.
    • A 2012 Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study (link) estimates outdoor cats kill 1.4 to 3.7 billion birds and 6.9 to 20.7 billion mammals annually in the U.S. This study calls cats the single greatest source of human-caused mortality for birds and mammals.   Indoor cats live longer and healthier lives as well, so if you love wildlife and you love your cats, please keep them indoors. National Audubon also has a policy of promoting keeping cats indoors (link).
  • Forest Fragmentation
    • A recent article in Audubon Magazine (link) describes the problem of Forest Fragmentation on a global scale. Forest Fragmentation is an issue in Vermont as well. Last year, the legislature passed Act 118: An act relating to forest integrity. It called on the Commissioner of Forests, Parks and Recreation to assess the current and projected rates of forest fragmentation and provide recommendations for how best to protect the integrity of Vermont’s forest lands and preserve large blocks of forestland. On Apr. 18 2015, Commissioner Synder released the report (link). You can weigh in on this issue by contacting your local legislators to tell them that large tracts of undisturbed forest are important to you.   

Issues we are following on the State level:

As the Vermont Legislature begins a new session several issues will arise that are of interest of Audubon members in Addison County and Vermont in general.

  • Current Use –  Several modifications of the Vermont Use Value Appraisal Program, known familiarly as Current Use, will be up for a vote. Current use provides property tax abatement to participating forestland owners. With over one million acres presently enrolled, the program is often credited with retaining Vermont’s rural, largely forested appearance. With the promise of more intense storms from climate change, the best natural insurance against flood damage comes from a maximally forested landscape. Forest fragmentation is the greatest threat to Vermont’s wildlife. Ensuring significant acreage to remain forestland long-term is our best strategy against fragmentation.Participating forestland parcels must be at least 25 acres in size. Withdrawals from the program are subject to a penalty, but the penalty is small compared to the tax abatement benefits, and so the program has the potential to be abused by developers parking forested parcels productively for a year or two before withdrawing them prior to development. The program’s intent is to promote long-term participation and forest management. The withdrawal penalty should be stiffened to discourage abuse of the program. A bill providing this safeguard passed the Vermont House last session. The Vermont Senate is uncommitted at present.A second issue is a proposal to prevent landowners in current use from posting their land. While there is a long-standing tradition of access to unposted land, Audubon feels that landowners should have the right to post land, whether they are enrolled in current use or not.A proposed means testing provision might cause wholesale withdrawal of large forest blocks from the program. Audubon believes the program gains significant value by maximizing enrollment acreage, and therefore opposes any means testing provision. Current use should focus on enrolled land rather than on owners of the land.
  • Wind Tower Siting  –  Although no bill has appeared, yet there will most likely be proposals in the legislature in response to the report of April 2013 to the Governor and the General Assembly entitled “Siting Electric Generation in Vermont: Analysis and Recommendations. The report recommends an increased role for regional and local planning entities in the siting process. In the meantime several wind farm projects are under consideration, notably Grandpa’s Knob near Rutland and the Seneca Mountain project near the west Mountain Wildlife Management Area and a portion of the Silvio Conte National Wildlife Refuge in the Northeast Kingdom. The Seneca Mountain project is coming to a vote. Anyone who gets a tax bill from towns to be affected by the project may vote. Audubon has concerns because Seneca Mountain has extensive high elevation spruce-fir forest, a small but recovering population of the pine marten, extirpated until quite recently from Vermont, and breeding Bicknell’s Thrushes, a species currently under consideration for federal listing as endangered or threatened. Climate change will unquestionably impose a growing threat to the ecological health of Seneca Mountain. We believe the ecological impacts of this project need careful study before any vote gets taken.

Issues related to birds and bird conservation at the federal level include:

  • Reauthorization of the Neotropical Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
    • Neotropical Migratory Bird Treaty Act: Formerly funded for five years, but now renewed year by year. Audubon is pushing for a more permanent funding solution (more information).
  • Defense of continued attacks on the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
    • Congressional factions have been recently engaged in attempts to weaken enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Otter Creek Audubon has signed on to a National Audubon letter urging the strengthening of enforcement of this act (more information).
  • Climate change and energy.  (See background articles in Otter Tracks.)
    • Encourage President Obama and your congressmen to continue to oppose the Keystone Pipeline.  TransCanada may try to revive the project by submitting a new proposal. NASA climate scientist James Hanson has said “Essentially, it’s game over for the planet” if the pipeline is built because of the massive amounts of greenhouse gases released. (more information: link 1link 2)
  • Conservation funding for:
    • Land and Water Conservation Fund
      • Provides essential funding for State Wildlife Grants to keep Vermont species of special conservation concern from becoming endangered. Annual funding from royalties from offshore oil and gas depletion revenues of $900 million has been regularly raided by Congress for other purposes (more information).
    • Forest Legacy
      • Provides funding for purchase or easements of important private forest lands threatened by conversion to non-forest uses. Vermont is usually outcompeted for funding by larger states that propose larger acreage programs.
    • Conte Refuge Acquisition
      • Funding will enable purchase of key parcels of Vermont land of major significance to wildlife along the Connecticut River proposed in the Conte Refuge Comprehensive Conservation Plan for inclusion in the Conte Refuge.
    • Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
      • Farm bill budget cuts have reduced the Wildlife Incentive Program by 41%, eliminating program funding in Vermont. Funding for NRCS’ Environmental Quality Incentives Program continues in Vermont, supporting Audubon Vermont’s Champlain Valley Bird Initiative.

Bills favorable to birds and wildlife advancing in the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee during the week of 3 February 2014:

  • Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act (NMBCA) reauthorization through 2019 (S. 969)
  • North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) reauthorization through 2017 (S. 741)
  • National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) reauthorization through 2019 (S. 51)
  • Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act (S. 1080)

Bills passed by the U.S. House during the week of 3 February 2014, part of the current “War on Wildlife” in the House, according to National Audubon:

1. Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Emergency Water Delivery Act (HR 3964) Passed 229-191

  • Summary: Overrides the Endangered Species Act, NEPA, and state laws, sending additional water to farmers in the Central Valley by limiting the use of water for environmental purposes and extending irrigation contracts, sidestepping protections for salmon and steelhead, and undoing the vital San Joaquin River restoration program.

Prognosis: The White House issued a veto threat, and it has met strong opposition from the Senate, where it is not likely to advance. Sen. Feinstein (D-CA) is expected to introduce a less controversial bill to address the drought.

2. Sportsmen’s Heritage And Recreational Enhancement Act (HR 3590) Passed 268-154

  • Summary: Seeks to expand hunting and angling on public lands while waiving NEPA requirements for National Wildlife Refuges, and prevents the EPA from regulating lead ammunition and tackle under the Toxic Substances Control Act, among other provisions.
  • Prognosis: A bipartisan version of the bill from Senators Murkowski (R-AK) and Hagan (D-NC) is expected to stand a far greater chance of becoming law. It would remove the NEPA language, but maintain the lead provision, and includes NAWCA and NFWF reauthorization.

3. Public Access and Lands Improvement Act (HR 2954) – Passed 220-194

  • Summary: Attempts to end the vehicle and access restrictions on North Carolina’s Cape Hatteras, which would be damaging to Piping Plovers and other threatened species, delays grazing permit reviews, undercuts a national Sage Grouse planning strategy, and accelerates salvage logging in the Rim Fire burn area, putting numerous species at risk.
  • Prognosis: It is not expected to advance in the Senate. The White House opposes the bill, but has not issued a veto threat.

Ways to weigh in on these issues:

Sign up for the Audubon Activist Alert system (see above) and send letters or make phone calls.  You can expect clear and simple emails from National Audubon related to the Vermont and federal issues we are following.  They will link you to suggested wording for a letter or phone call which you can send to your legislators.  An important feature is that National Audubon can utilize your zip code and you will get suggested letters or talking points for Vermont issues which your state senators or representative will be working on. We will also post Activist Alerts on local issues to our Facebook page. You can expect 5 or 6 notices on these local issues during the legislative session. Please check the comment period, as timing is everything when things get busy in Montpelier.

Call the Statehouse at 800-322-5616 and leave a short message for your legislators with the Sergeant-at-Arms.

Names, addresses, and phone numbers of our legislators from Addison County can be found on our Links page.

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