Economic stimulus / Permit activities / Enforcement / Fish and wildlife
State forests and parks / Strategic planning / Spotlight On: Skip Flanders
The total Agency of Natural Resources budget for fiscal year 1998 is $47.2 million, of which $9.1 million comes from general state taxes (Figure 1). The Agency's allotment represents 1.1 percent of the total state General Fund, or about $15.50 per Vermonter.
The following information provides more detail on how the Agency spends its funds, and what Vermonters receive for their money. This information is one of the ways that the Agency provides accountability to all Vermonters.
In fiscal year 1997, the Agency helped boost Vermont's economy by providing environmental improvement funds (grants and interest-free loans) totaling more than $25 million to Vermont municipalities, small businesses, and organizations (Figure 2). These funds not only enhanced Vermont's environment, they also purchased Vermont goods and services and provided jobs for Vermonters.
The Agency's Department of Environmental Conservation administers 38 permit, license, and registration programs and met its performance goals for timeliness of review in 91 percent of the 6,179 applications received in 1996. The Department distributes a customer survey with most permitting actions. From the 460 responses received in the first 10 months of 1997:
The Permit Handbook, a comprehensive guide to all state regulatory programs, is available from the Environmental Assistance Division, at 802-241-3589, and on the Internet at http://www.state.vt.us/anr. In addition, the Small Business Compliance Assistance program, in place for about one year, provides phone and limited on-site assistance to small businesses.
Through the first 11 months of 1997, the Agency had received 1,288 citizen complaints about problems ranging from illegal backyard burning to the draining of wetlands. Of the complaints closed during this 11-month period (which included some complaints filed in late 1996), no violations were found in 276, violations were voluntarily corrected in 278, and enforcement actions were taken in 56.
Fish and wildlife
Vermonters donated $130,000 on their 1996 income tax returns to the Nongame Wildlife Fund, created to protect and preserve Vermont's rare, threatened, and endangered species. Since 1986, the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources' ability to protect these and other threatened and endangered species has been made possible primarily because of contributions to the Nongame Wildlife Fund. Due in part to these donations, biologists were able to report that four endangered birds in Vermont had successful nesting seasons in 1997, with the common loon, osprey, peregrine falcon, and common tern populations all producing record numbers of offspring. Contributions to the fund can be made on the Vermont income tax form, on hunting and fishing license applications, through the purchase of conservation license plates, or directly to the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The Vermont conservation license plate, featuring a peregrine falcon, has been in use for almost one year. The plate costs $20 more than standard plates, and as of November the state had sold about 3,761 plates, generating approximately $47,700 to be evenly split between the Nongame Wildlife Fund and a new Watershed Grants Program Fund. Watershed grants will be awarded in January 1998 for projects that:
State forests and parks
Years of debate and negotiations over bear habitat, ski area development, and hiking trail protection in the Killington region culminated December 1, 1997, when a momentous series of land transactions took place. Under these agreements, the state conveyed 1,050 acres at the base of the mountain to Killington, Ltd., property the company will develop as part of its proposed new village.
In return, the company turned over 2,948 acres, including Parker's Gore, to the state, most of which will be managed for bear habitat, and $375,000 for state acquisition of an adjacent parcel which also contains bear habitat. The state then conveyed to the federal government a conservation easement over a portion of Parker's Gore and other state-owned land to provide protection for the Long Trail / Appalachian National Scenic Trail corridor. (In a separate transaction, the City of Rutland sold an easement to the federal government which will allow the rerouting of the trail to the western side of the ridge between Killington and Pico Peak.)
The multi-party agreement will also allow the long-discussed interconnect between Killington and Pico Ski Areas to go forward, and Killington will be able to withdraw water from the nearby Woodward Reservoir for snowmaking.
Part of the Agency of Natural Resources' mission is to "lead, so that others will follow..." One way we've attempted to do this is through our Pollution Prevention and Resource Conservation Plan, which describes actions the Agency will take to decrease the environmental impact of our offices and operations.
In the first year of the plan, we began a suite of actions to decrease energy use at our offices by 10 percent. We negotiated vendor contracts for vehicle maintenance and office cleaning supplies that use environmentally friendly materials. All documents must be copied double-sided to reduce paper use. Office paper and envelopes are chlorine-free and made with 100 percent recycled fiber with a minimum 50 percent post-consumer content. We also began a community bicycle program to encourage employees to bike to their errands at noontime. We have a long way to go to meet the goals of the plan, but 1997 was a solid beginning.
Through a strategic planning process begun three years ago, we have identified seven areas that most need improvement. In 1997, the first year of implementing our strategic plan, we chose to focus on three of the seven priorities. These are listed below with strategies for action recommended by focus groups comprised of private citizens and agency employees.
We invite comments and questions from Vermonters about our strategic planning process. Please call the Agency's Planning Division at 802-241-3620.
The Agency ensures that its management ranks are filled with well-trained, capable leaders through its Leadership and Management Training Program. Now in its sixth year, this intensive, four-year program combines formal training with self-guided study. Graduates have gone on to become division directors, section chiefs, and project managers.
Skip Flanders, formerly a section chief in the Wastewater Management Division, became the Director of the Waste Management Division in 1996, the same year he graduated from the Leadership and Management Training Program. He manages a division of 50 employees who are responsible for the state's solid and hazardous waste programs.
Skip set his sights on a public service career upon college graduation. He has made significant contributions during his 28 years with the state to improve Vermont's environmental quality, particularly its water resources. His work has ranged from designing wastewater treatment plants to pioneering a permit system for large leach fields and spray irrigation systems. Skip is a life-long learner who makes an effort to share new knowledge and skills with his co-workers. According to Skip, his biggest reward is "taking what you've learned and applying it to others to help them grow and learn."