Habitat Stamp Offers Option for Conserving
Posted on 05/28/2015

Op-Ed
The Habitat Stamp Offers a New Option for Conserving Critical Lands in Vermont


One of the many things that makes Vermont special is our abundant wildlife and conserved open spaces. Vermonters treasure conservation but few appreciate the nuts and bolts of how it’s funded. For most of a century, while the public interest in and legislative mandates for conservation have grown exponentially, funding strategies for state fish and wildlife agencies has largely remained unchanged, and mostly rests on the contributions of hunters and anglers. Yet in its nearly 150-year history, the mission of the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department has expanded far beyond its original role of managing game species to include the conservation of all species and the habitats on which they depend.

Simply put: we’ve been tasked with providing an ever broader variety of wildlife-related services to all Vermonters across the state. These responsibilities range from bringing back species such as common loons and American marten, to discouraging snack-seeking bears in suburban back yards and redirecting wayward moose, to fostering a connection to ecology and nature through education programs for both children and adults.

At the heart of all our conservation efforts is the understanding that wildlife and fish need good places to live, just as we do, in order to survive and thrive. Yet as human development takes up more of the land in Vermont and carves driveways and access roads into what remains, cherished wildlife species have a harder time finding suitable homes. Imagine if you had to cross a 4-lane highway on foot with no crosswalks or lights to reach the grocery store or school every day. You can quickly appreciate what challenges wildlife and fish face.

Before we can take on the conservation challenges of the years ahead, we clearly must tackle the need to set aside more unbroken land for the wild Vermont we want to continue to experience. Second, we must find a way to finance conservation that includes all of us whether we are hunters, anglers, hikers, paddlers, birdwatchers or many others who simply appreciate the natural world.

For the last few years, the Vermont legislature has allocated general funds to support the gaps in our operating budget. These funds provide much-needed support to ensure our current work continues but does not provide for purchasing land to provide critical habitats. To help reach this goal, we have developed the Habitat Stamp, a new way for all Vermonters to contribute to habitat conservation in Vermont.

The Habitat Stamp is a voluntary donation of $10 or more that goes towards acquiring and improving habitat on state-owned Wildlife Management Areas. It is available on the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department website on our donations page, and is also an optional add-on while purchasing a fishing or hunting license. The stamp offers anyone who wants to chip in for conservation a chance to help protect land that is home to many species. A single parcel can simultaneously provide deer the cover they need to survive the winter, a shrub for a hermit thrush to nest in, a secluded field for a turkey hunter, a roost for endangered Indiana bats, and a place for a birdwatcher to spot birds.

One of the first critical pieces of land that will benefit from the Habitat Stamp is the Lemon Fair WMA in central western Vermont. Lemon Fare is an incredibly rich habitat for many species, including green and great blue herons and rare four-toed salamanders, as well as waterfowl and deer, and its conservation is only the beginning of the benefits the Habitat Stamp will bring to Vermont’s natural world and those who enjoy it. I encourage you to make the trip to the wildlife management area nearest you (there are 80 across the state) to see conservation in action.

We hope that Vermonters and visitors will also continue to support the valuable work we do, through the Habitat Stamp and other means, to keep Vermont the special place that it is. Help us give wildlife –from bobcats and bears, to birds and brookies – a better place to call home.

Louis Porter is Commissioner of the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. He lives in Calais.
2015 Habitat stamp