The State of Resilience in Vermont

By Rebecca Sanborn Stone, Resilient Vermont Network Coordinator and Principal at Community Workshop LLC

How does Vermont measure up on resilience? What’s working? Where should we go in 2016?

The Resilient Vermont Progress Report, released this summer, evaluates progress on our statewide Roadmap to Resilience. But it’s equally important to hear stories and thoughts from people working on the ground.

That’s just what we did in this month’s Resilient Vermont webinar, focusing on the State of Resilience in Vermont. We heard “lightning talks” from three leaders representing different kinds of resilience projects, and then turned the floor over to our audience to share initiatives they are working on and their thoughts on the path forward.

If you missed it, you can watch our webinar recording and get all the details or read a snapshot of the discussion below.

Here are some important projects and resources from around the state:

  • A new online Social Vulnerability Index helps identify and map towns and regions with high social vulnerability, identified through demographic characteristics, socioeconomic variables, and housing & transportation data.
  • The High Meadows Fund is supporting six watershed collaboration projects around the state, which help communities come together to address flood resilience across town boundaries. A project in the Saxtons River watershed is working to educate landowners and complete riparian restoration projects in four towns.
  • The Vermont Economic Resiliency Initiative helped five pilot communities identify climate-related threats to their local economies and strategies to protect them. The final report offers broadly-applicable lessons for other towns.
  • Community Resilience Organizations (CROs) is a new pilot program helping towns to create local resilience action teams, which break down silos among leaders, build social capital and relationships, and engage volunteers in completing tangible resilience action projects.
  • The Vermont Department of Health is working to address numerous health impacts from climate change, including blue-green algae blooms and extreme heat events.
  • Millions of dollars in federal aid (through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program) have helped Vermont communities buy out flood-prone properties, protect buildings and complete other hazard mitigation steps. ERAF (the Emergency Relief and Assistance Fund) provides state funding to match, and communities can take specific mitigation steps to increase their reimbursement rates.
  • FloodReady is a comprehensive website dedicated to helping towns proactively improve their flood resilience. The site is packed with resources, river corridor maps, and up-to-date data about towns’ flood preparedness steps (including ERAF status). A flood resilience listserve also provides a free channel for people to ask questions and share resources.
  • Regional Planning Commissions are serving as a vital link between state agencies and municipalities by immediately collecting and reporting information on local impacts from storms or disasters, helping towns adopt hazard mitigation plans and policies, and creating regional tactical basin plans that improve water quality and flood resilience.

There are also exciting plans underway for 2016:

  • The Department of Emergency Management & Homeland Security is creating a participatory process to draft the state’s next hazard mitigation plan, and will be seeking involvement from people in all sectors of resilience.
  • The Resilient Vermont Network is coordinating action projects to address critical statewide questions such as communicating about river corridor protections and creating a proactive statewide buyout program.
  • The Network is also planning new activities in 2016, including a spring conference and a project to identify and share case studies of collaborative resilience projects. Stay tuned!

 

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