Forests for the People, People for the Forests
Town forests are as integral to Vermont's urban forest as the trees along streets and in town parks. Vermont has a long and proud tradition of towns owning and managing forests for public benefit (Town Forest Map, courtesy of the UVM Spatial Analysis Lab). In 1915, the Vermont legislature passed the Municipal Forest Law, authorizing the purchase of land by towns for the purpose of growing timber and wood, but the history of Vermont’s community-owned forests is much older, dating from early periods of settlement when town charters required the designation of public lands for community support. Past utilization of these woodlands varied from wood products; fuelwood; and commercial timber production; to subsidy for local institutions such as poor farms; reclamation of idle lands; and protection of water supplies.
Today, there are over 67,000 acres of forestland owned by 168 municipalities, all open to the public to enjoy - find a town forest near you. The values of town forests are diverse, from watershed protection, wildlife habitat, and forest products to public recreation, outdoor classrooms and neighborhood gathering places. Town forests in Vermont contribute to the regional landscape by keeping productive forestlands in timber management, protecting physical and biological diversity, and maintaining connectivity between larger patches of forest.
All Vermont communities have the potential to own a town forest. Strong and active organizations are standing by ready to provide technical assistance in the creation, protection and management of town forests- see what your community can grow!
If you are interested in creating a new town forest, or need assistance managing an existing one? The Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation's County Foresters and many partners offer assistance to communities.
The Town Forest Recreation Planning Initiative is underway and will result in a tool kit available to towns looking to improve their town forests.