By Kirsti Blow, Center for Research on Vermont
In light of the uncertain political atmosphere that poses a threat to Vermont’s climate, a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists reveals how clean energy could work financially for the state. With the basis of existing wind and solar power, the report argues that market demand will drive the expansion of renewable energy—a $7 million initial public investment could swell to $148 million over 15 years with the help of the private sector.
To their part, the state government has passed further legislation concerning Vermont’s energy throughout the past year. The major renewable energy sitting bill was passed in April of 2016, and granted municipalities the jurisdiction to determine the preferred sites of energy projects. Most notably, the bill requires the Public Service Board to create new wind turbine noise level standards, because of complaints from residents.
These energy developments are crucial, as Vermonters have continued to prove their desire to maintain the state’s natural areas. In fact, four trail networks alone account for $29.6 million of the state’s economic activity, according to a report by the Vermont Trails & Greenways Council. The figure includes trail tickets and rentals, as well as other likely purchases, such as craft beer at a brewery or lunch at a local restaurant. The report also indicates that 325 jobs directly stem from trail networks.
In terms of wildlife, moose have been the target of persistent research seeking to understand their susceptibility to winter ticks. Spearheaded by New Hampshire and Maine wildlife conservation organizations in 2014, results have marked something of an epidemic; one moose was found carrying 63,000 ticks, with the “lethal” limit said to be about 50,000 ticks per animal.
The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department issued a press release detailing the study, asserting that the warmer falls and earlier springs associated with climate change are causing a spike in winter tick populations.
Moose will often rub against trees in an effort to rid themselves of the parasites, exacerbating the blood loss and stripping them of their insulating fur. In this manner, many moose die of hypothermia. The state’s moose population has now dwindled from 5,000 fifteen years ago to roughly 2,200 today.
Vermont has pledged to join the study, and thirty cows and thirty calves will be captured in the Northeast Kingdom this month to be fitted with a GPS monitoring system. Seventy-five percent of the $578,000 study will be federally funded by the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act. Up to 60 moose are planned to be tracked through 2019, and researchers will analyze their causes of mortality, as well as reproductive rates, in order to begin organizing conservation efforts.
Kirsti Blow is a sophomore Public Communication major at University of Vermont. She writes the briefs for UVM’s Vermont research newsletter published by the Center for Research on Vermont. Learn more at http://www.uvm.edu/~crvt/. Kirsti is also a local musician in the Burlington area.