The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources has reopened the public comment period on a draft plan for a group of public lands in the Camel's Hump area of central Vermont. During the initial public comment period from October 25th through January 15th, the Agency received over 500 written comments. Several comments called for more time to submit feedback on the plan. In response, the Agency is accepting additional comments through Friday, April 13, 2018.
"This plan has received a great deal of attention, and we're glad Vermonters are expressing their passion for our public lands," said Jason Nerenberg, District Stewardship Forester who leads the district's interdepartmental stewardship team. "We've heard both enthusiastic support as well as serious concerns from the public. Our staff is already organizing comments and is in the process of forming responses to all the input we've received. During this additional public comment period, we're asking people to provide focused feedback by referencing specific parts of the plan. This detailed feedback will allow Agency staff to address specific ideas and determine how to best incorporate feedback in the plan."
Land management plans are drafted for all Agency of Natural Resources lands. These plans determine the course of action to protect natural resources, provide recreational opportunities for the public, produce sustainably-harvested forest products, and conserve high-quality wildlife habitat on public land. The Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation (FPR) and the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) periodically reassess the plans, engaging the public in this process.
Vermont FPR and DFW staff completed a draft long-range management plan for the Camel's Hump Management Unit in October 2017. Camel's Hump Management Unit (CHMU) comprises 26,000 acres and represents one of the largest areas of undeveloped forest in the state of Vermont, supporting a diverse range of wildlife and wild plant species. It is also a beloved piece of public land which hosts thousands of visitors a year who enjoy a wide variety of outdoor adventures and opportunities. The draft plan includes Camel's Hump State Park, Camel's Hump State Forest, Robbins Mountain Wildlife Management Area, and Huntington Gap Wildlife Management Area. Highlights of the plan were presented at four public involvement meetings - November 9 in Bolton, November 15 in Huntington, and November 29 and December 13 in Duxbury. The meetings were well attended, attracting more than 120 interested parties.
The draft plan calls for focused expansion of hiking, mountain biking, and cross-country ski trail networks, as well as the potential management of localized backcountry ski glades. At the same time, the plan restricts rock climbing in a small portion of the Natural Area to protect a unique community of cliff-dwelling plants and identifies large portions of the Natural Area that would not be open to new trails or recreational uses. Recreational use of the CHMU has been one of the primary uses of this parcel of public land and this demand is expected to grow, placing increased pressure on natural communities and infrastructure such as roads, trails, and parking lots. Resource assessments in the draft plan address this, while setting forth a system for monitoring and evaluation and recommending management strategies to protect natural resources and enhance infrastructure while allowing for appropriate public use.
In addition to recreation planning, the plan also underscores the importance of sustainable forest management. It proposes several forest management projects in limited areas, all based on modern silvicultural practices, and all intended to produce multiple public benefits including wildlife habitat improvement, maintenance of forest health, and support for Vermont's working landscape.
The draft plan is available for review at goo.gl/PchBei. Written comments will be accepted through Friday, April 13, 2018 and can be submitted electronically to ANR.CamelsHumpComments@Vermont.gov or through the mail to the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation, 111 West Street, Essex Junction, VT 05452-4695.
Media Contact: Jason Nerenberg, District Stewardship Forester, Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation, Agency of Natural Resources, (802) 498-4342