Food is one of our basic needs, so it makes sense that many of these movements focus on it. No less essential to society, however, are other goods and services, which small groups of people in communities across the nation are trying to encourage with “buy local” campaigns. It makes sense that our other basic needs – water and shelter – can also be met locally.
That’s the basic premise behind the Vermont Town Forest Project, which was founded by the Northern Forest Alliance in 2004 “to help communities across Vermont maximize the community benefits derived from their town forests and to help support the creation of new town forests statewide.”
These benefits include everything from watershed protection, forest products, and wildlife habitat to public recreation and community rallying points. They function in the same way town commons have for centuries in New England and New York. Every community member is responsible for their stewardship, and every member also benefits from their presence.
The concept of town commons, and even town forests, is not a new one. In fact, the enabling legislation for creating town forests in Vermont was enacted in 1915. But these forests haven’t been on the top of everyone’s mind. At least until lately. Now, thanks to projects such as the Vermont Town Forest Project, they are experiencing an exciting revival.
… Hinesburg is fortunate to own not one but two town forests: the
“older” (it dates to 1940), composed of 837 acres of mixed woodlands,
and the “newer” (just purchased), with 301 acres boasting extensive
wetlands and calcium-rich soils.
Hinesburg’s forests exemplify town forest potential. They have
recreation: world-class mountain biking trails, along with skiing,
hiking, and horseback riding. They also serve as outdoor classrooms,
both for local teachers and for the University of Vermont, whose
students have conducted dozens of projects there.
And the older forest also has active forest management: one recent
harvest took out white ash, which was then milled and kiln-dried
locally and installed to replace the floor of the Hinesburg Town Hall,
which had been sanded so many times that the tongue of each
tongue-and-groove board was exposed. All this at a total cost of $2.48
per square foot, about what you’d pay commercially.