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Mid-life crisis- The Agency of Natural Resources is feeling its age.

Created in 1970 by Gov. Deane Davis to oversee stewardship of Vermont’s
precious environment, the agency seems almost lost amid the rush of
change and environmental threats that have come Vermont’s way in the
years since.

As a youngster in the ’70s, the agency operated in a farming state
beginning to feel the nudge of growth.

Today Vermont is a far different place.

Easier highway access to New York City and Boston has increased
development pressure. Big-box stores offer affordable shopping, but pose
special risks to Vermont’s traditional landscape. The loss of farms puts
open land at risk. Increased suburbia threatens downtowns and village
centers. The development of technology, such as wind turbines and
transmission antenna, jeopardize our mountaintops. That’s the short list.

It’s coming so quickly there’s almost a sense that if you blink, the
state will have changed in that instant.

The Agency of Natural Resources is understandably feeling pressure amid
all this change. This agency, with its $70 million budget and more than
600 employees, has the potential to shape Vermont’s landscape into the
future. It must be well positioned to deal with these new challenges.

A committee of stakeholders has been appointed to review Vermont’s
environmental laws to ensure they meet modern demands. Members will make
sure the agency has the staff and funding to enforce those laws. And it
ought to find ways for the various departments of Fish and Wildlife,
Environmental Conservation and Forests and Parks to interact more easily.

Every decision must be guided by one overriding principle – to
safeguard the uniqueness that is Vermont.

Vermonters treasure the open fields, forests, lakes and mountains. We
love the small-town lifestyle and treasure our village centers. We like
to believe our air is cleaner and our water purer than anywhere else.

The environment is also Vermont’s golden goose, drawing up to $1.4
billion annually from tourists and businesses coming for the quality of
life offered to employees. Any changes to the Agency of Natural
Resources must be based on a fundamental understanding of the value of
that landscape.

Vermont needs growth, but in a well-planned fashion. Vermont needs
technology, but implemented on a manageable scale. Vermont needs
housing, stores and highways, but structured in a way that preserves as
much as possible the village-center heritage we love.

This state is at increasing risk of becoming Anywhere Else, U.S.A., and
that would be a tragedy. The committee overseeing the review of the
Agency of Natural Resources must ensure that doesn’t happen.

Editorial Staff