Joe Presents to Ag Committee Staff DC 2017

The federal budget and the Farm Bill support programs that provide important services for and investment in the Northern Forest. This year Congress is addressing the Farm Bill, which typically renews every five years, and recently approved a new federal budget and Omnibus spending bill. Through our public policy program and leadership of a national network of rural interests, the Center has advocated for elements of both bills to serve the region.

The federal Omnibus spending bill passed in March contained a lot of good news for programs that are important to the Northern Forest:

  • $15 million for the Northern Border Regional Commission (up from $10 million), including $3 million for initiatives that seek to address the decline in forest-based economies throughout the region;
  • $3 million for the Economic Development Administration to collaborate with the Northern Border Regional Commission to support the development of markets for wood products;
  • $600 million for rural broadband;
  • Funding for the Community Forest Program doubled to $4 million. This program has supported the creation of Community Forests in Easton/Sugar Hill/Franconia/Landaff, NH; Barre, VT; and Milan, NH.
  • Sustained funding for many USDA Rural Development programs, which had been targeted for elimination.
  • A “fire fix,” beginning in federal fiscal year 2020, that is intended to ensure stable and responsible funding for federal firefighting activities without eroding budgets that support other parts of the Forest Service mission (such as forest stewardship and state and private forestry.
  • An increase in Forest Legacy program funding by $4.65 million, which will help protect productive forestland from development or other non-forest uses.

Homeowner with new Pellergy wood boilerOver the past 3 and a half years, the Center has helped expand the use of Automated Wood Heat in Vermont by providing financial support or project guidance (or both) for more than 40 wood pellet boilers installations in a wide variety of settings: homes and schools, an office building, a town garage, an auto body shop, and more. This past year we also provided financial incentives to Northeast Kingdom residents for the purchase of 15 wood pellet stoves coupled with bulk pellet storage bins, a setup that brings the convenience of bulk delivery of Vermont-made wood pellets to people who are not able to switch to a central, automated wood pellet boiler.

This spring, with funding from the Northern Border Regional Commission and in partnership with the VT Clean Energy Development Fund—we’ll be contributing to three more projects: a community center in Craftsbury and two schools in the Northeast Kingdom.

Center Vice President Joe Short is facilitating the Northeast Kingdom Regional Tourism Marketing Partnership, a regional group of Chambers of Commerce and non-profits concerned with tourism in Vermont’s three northeastern counties. The participants have joined together to collectively market all that the region offers to visitors, and to make the Kingdom a “must-see” destination for both American and foreign travelers.

In today’s competitive travel industry, few rural communities or businesses acting alone can provide the full range of activities, lodging, food and other amenities that attract discerning visitors and meet their expectations. But as a region, the Northeast Kingdom has a diverse “lifetime of experiences” that sets it apart from other places. It provides high quality services as well as authentic experiences grounded in its beautiful landscape and historic villages. Working together, the participating chambers intend to use sophisticated and consistent marketing to attract visitors and drive new opportunity to the Kingdom’s communities and businesses.

In addition to facilitating the process of establishing the Northeast Kingdom Regional Tourism Marketing Partnership, Joe is sharing what the Center has learned through its destination development work in the Maine Woods, and helping the Vermont group address essential management issues.

Homes, town halls, town highway garages and non-profit owned buildings in the Northern Adirondacks are increasingly being heated with automated wood pellet boilers, thanks in part to incentives and technical support from the Northern Forest Center.Pellergy NY installation

New York is the fourth state in the region to apply the Model Neighborhood approach to increasing the use of automated wood heat, and the program is driving a gradual but steady uptick in its use. The beneficiaries—homeowners, towns, and nonprofits in Clinton, Essex and Franklin Counties—are excited to make the switch and realize the benefits of automated wood heating.

"In the Town of Bellmont, we like to be frugal with our spending, but we also like to keep it local," said Supervisor Bruce Russell. "Installing a wood pellet boiler was an excellent way to meet our goals and provide heat to our Town Hall. I'm very pleased with our decision."