Town Forests

Forests for the People, People for the Forests

Vermont has a long and proud tradition of towns owning and managing forests for public benefit. 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 uses of these woodlands included harvest for wood products, firewood, and commercial timber production, to provide for local institutions such as poor farms, for reclamation of idle lands, and for protection of water supplies. 

Today, over 67,000 acres of forestland are owned by 168 municipalities, all open to the public to enjoy. 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.

Town Forest Assistance

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!

Hinesburg Town Forest Kiosk in snow

Town Forest Recreation Planning Toolkit

This toolkit provides all the resources needed to replicate this planning process in other communities. With the help of this toolkit, our goal is to support sustainable, forest-based recreation in town forests statewide.

View Toolkit