|Vermont's natural resources and communities are changing. The challenge of using our natural resources sustainably while keeping our communities vibrant is to understand these changes and to manage or respond to them in ways that will provide a natural environment and a physical and economic pattern of development that are attractive, rich in diversity, and livable in every respect--for us today and for future generations.
The tapestry of Vermonts natural resources and human activities at the end of the 20th Century is the result of millions of years of evolution, global climate changes, geologic forces, and nearly 400 years of change resulting from the arrival of Samuel de Champlain and the settlers who followed him. We now have a pattern of settlement that contains both traditional working rural communities and urban/suburban development.
The rate of growth in Vermont's population, economy, and land development has steadily and significantly increased in recent decades. Vermont's population has grown by 200,000 (40 percent) since 1960; Chittenden Countys population has doubled in that time. Economists are projecting an increase of 20,000 jobs in Vermont by 2003.
Our challenge is to manage growth pressures while sustaining our natural and human communities-- in short, sustaining Vermont's quality of life. Stewardship of our environment is an expression of our values and our culture as Vermonters. Stewardship is tied to the diversity of our natural resources, their capabilities and limitations, their ownership patterns and uses, and also to the vitality of our communities, our health, our use of energy, and our economy.
Sustainability is the production and use of resources to meet the needs of present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs; in other words, we must consider the long-term impacts of our actions. Our goal of sustainability is to assure that Vermont's natural resources are at least as healthy in the future as they are today. Our environment is dynamic, and we must live with changes in our climate, in our animal and plant species, and in our development patterns. We expect that the state's economy will change and grow at a healthy rate, with newcomers and entrepreneurs attracted to Vermont's quality of life moving here to build and grow businesses. Agricultural and forestry operations will continue evolving and supporting large sectors of our states economy.
The nature and location of our transportation investments, our water supply and waste management infrastructure, and myriad land use decisions (such as the construction of shopping centers and destination resorts) will all have substantial effects on what Vermont will look like at the turn of the next century. Individual decisions about where to live will lead to a pattern of development that either sustains our natural resources and communities or consumes our resources faster than they can be replaced.
All Vermonters and visitors to our state have a role in shaping the use of our state's natural resources. Many public and private organizations can make a significant difference in achieving this goal. The Agency of Natural Resources has a mandate to serve as the principal land steward on behalf of the State of Vermont, particularly for those properties owned or managed by the state. Although the Agency owns or has interest in 450,000 acres of state forests, parks, and wildlife areas, about 85 percent of the state is owned by private landowners, the great majority of whom practice good stewardship.
The Agency has long-standing relationships with many of these landowners. Our challenge is to develop and enhance partnerships that focus on sustaining the rich complexity of our natural resources and their relationship with our communities and our economy.
Vermont has made significant strides toward achieving this goal:
1 Biodiversity is the variety of plants and animals, their interrelationships, and the biological and physical systems, communities, and landscapes in which they exist.