The Agency of Natural Resources consists of three departments:

Environmental Conservation, which administers most of the Agency’s regulatory programs plus several voluntary pollution and waste reduction programs;

Fish and Wildlife, which manages Vermont’s fisheries and wildlife resources, enforces the state’s hunting and fishing laws, and studies and inventories nongame wildlife species and natural communities; and

Forests, Parks and Recreation, which operates the Vermont State Parks system, manages state forests and natural areas, and provides assistance in the areas of forestry, recreation, and conservation education.

• In addition, the Agency’s Central Office includes the Secretary’s Office and supports the departments by providing several administrative, enforcement, planning, information technology, and human resource services.

The Agency’s total budget for fiscal 2002 is $61.6 million, of which $11.3 million comes from the state’s General Fund. The Agency's budget accounts for 1.29 percent of the state budget, a percentage which has remained steady for the past decade.

The Agency of Natural Resources typically distributes more than $25 million in grants and loans annually, money that provides jobs and helps fuel the economy.

The Agency’s Enforcement Division investigates possible violations of Vermont’s environmental laws. Most of the Division’s investigations begin with a complaint filed by citizens who believe they have witnessed a violation of Vermont’s environmental laws.

Through the first 10 months of 2001, the Enforcement Division received 1,044 citizen complaints about problems ranging from illegal backyard burning to the draining of wetlands. As of October 31, 833 complaints were closed (this figure includes investigations carried over from the previous year). Among the closed cases, no violations were found in 306 investigations, violations were voluntarily corrected in 317, and the Agency took enforcement actions in 36.

Through its Environmental Assistance Division, the Department of Environmental Conservation each year works collaboratively with hundreds of businesses, large and small, to resolve pollution issues. As an example, Division staff in 1998 began working with the Green Mountain Spinnery, which operates a custom wool and mohair processing facility in Putney. One step in the conversion of raw fibers to finished yarn involves washing the fibers to remove grease, dirt, and other contaminants. Due to the high concentration of natural oils and grease present on sheep’s wool, wash water discharged to the wastewater treatment plant frequently exceeded permit limits set for oil and grease.

Division staff worked with the Spinnery’s owners, Putney town officials, the wastewater treatment plant operator, and staff from the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Wastewater Management Division for three years to resolve the problem. A team representing all partners researched, tested, and evaluated various options for removing wool grease from the wastewater.

In the end, the problem was resolved by changing the washing process to reduce the volume of contaminated water requiring treatment, and by treating the remaining wastewater with a small ultra-filtration system prior to discharge. The system has been operational now for nearly a year and grease levels have been maintained well within permit limits.

Mercury is a silvery liquid metal used in consumer products such as thermostats, household appliance switches, and fluorescent lamps. It’s also a toxin that can cause serious, and sometimes permanent, health damage.

Mercury can enter the environment through natural means, such as volcanoes and out-gassing from the oceans, and through human actions, such as the burning of coal, the incineration of products that contain mercury, and something as simple as breaking a mercury fever thermometer. When mercury enters a waterway, it concentrates in fish at levels that can be dangerous for people who eat fish, particularly pregnant women and young children, as it can impair nervous system development. Due to mercury contamination, the Vermont Department of Health has issued consumption advisories in recent years cautioning anglers to limit how much fish they eat.

While there are sources of mercury pollution that we can’t control — such as the coal-burning Midwest power plants that discharge it into the atmosphere — there are other sources that we, as citizens of this state, can eliminate.

In early 2001, the Agency of Natural Resources asked Vermonters to collect their old mercury thermometers and exchange them at their local pharmacies for new digital thermometers.

The response was nearly overwhelming. Approximately one out of every seven Vermont families exchanged at least one mercury thermometer, a tremendous response rate. Based on exchanges in other states, the Agency anticipated a need for between 10,000 and 15,000 digital thermometers. Midway through the exchange, as the response rate soared beyond anything seen in other states, we had to quickly order more. By the time we were done, participating pharmacies handed out 33,000 free digital thermometers.

Thanks to the 111 participating pharmacies across the state — more than 90 percent of all pharmacies in Vermont — the Catch the Fever thermometer exchange collected nearly 45,000 mercury thermometers. Because thousands of Vermonters understood the importance of safely disposing mercury, more than 98 pounds of this toxic metal were collected through the exchange.

One of the best ways to improve the health of Vermont’s rivers and streams is to allow streamside woodlands to grow, and this may require no effort on the part of the landowner. Known as a “riparian buffers,” the dense growth of trees, shrubs or combination of vegetation along the edge of a river improves water quality and benefits the fish and other species that live in the river.

As noted on page 12 of this report, today we know streamside buffers are essential for maintaining healthy fish habitat, reducing flood damage, limiting pollution run-off into rivers, controlling phosphorus reaching Lake Champlain and other lakes, controlling erosion, and protecting property.

The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources in 2001 published The Streamside Sentinel, a 12-page introduction to riparian buffers. The document explains the science and benefits of these buffers, notes how farmers, municipalities, and others are working toward restoring soil-binding root systems along Vermont’s waters, and directs readers to sources of additional information.

The Streamside Sentinel, filled with photos and graphics, is an excellent resource for municipal officials, land trusts, anglers, high school students, and all Vermonters interested in the vitality of our state’s natural resources. The Streamside Sentinel is available by calling (802) 241-3770.

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