The new VT Conservation Design mapping (VCD) from VT F&W

VT Conservation Design Blocks

VCD page at VT F&W


New maps derived from previous Habitat block mapping and the new landscape conservation and climate resilience mapping across the northeast by the US F&WS and USFS are integrated for Vermont and available from VT F&W in a report and as GIS layers.  

Connected habitat for movement and climate resilience

A landscape-level conservation design for Vermont is a practical approach to protecting and enhancing ecological function into the future.  Maintaining and enhancing ecological function across the landscape is fundamental to conserving biological diversity.  The lands and waters identified in this project are the areas of the state that are of highest priority for maintaining ecological integrity. Together, these lands comprise a connected landscape of large and intact forested habitat, healthy aquatic and riparian systems, and a full range of physical features (bedrock, soils, elevation, slope, and aspect) on which plant and animal natural communities depend.

Coarse Filter Approach

The coarse-filter conservation approach can provide for the habitat needs of many of Vermont’s species, allowing for efficiency in conservation planning and design. We have high confidence that this conservation design identifies areas essential for the long-term functioning of Vermont’s landscape and the species it contains. Very rare species, whose distribution on the landscape is too infrequent and unpredictable to be captured by most coarse filters, and species with very specific habitat needs require additional considerations.

Ecological function

The ability of plants and animals to thrive, reproduce, migrate, and move as climate changes and the ability of natural ecosystems to function under natural processes – is served by high-quality terrestrial and aquatic habitat, natural connections across the landscape, a wide variety of habitat features from low elevation to high, clean water, and healthy rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, and wetlands.

What will these areas regulate?

Statutory Requirements

  • A state planning goal has been added addressing forest connectivity and habitat block language.  4302 (b)(6)(B): Vermont’s forestlands should be managed so as to maintain and improve forest blocks and habitat connectors.
  • A Regional Plan must now comply with 4348 (a)(2)(F) which states: Indicates those areas that are important as forest blocks and habitat connectors and plans for land development in those areas to minimize forest fragmentation and promote the health, viability, and ecological function of forests. A plan may include specific policies to encourage the active management of those areas for wildlife habitat, water quality, timber production, recreation, or other values or functions identified by the regional planning commission.

Used in the review of Act 250 permits (not local zoning permits)

Used in TRORC review/approval of town plans and planning process

TRORC Training

In November 2022, TRORC held a training on Forest Blocks that was attended by many of our towns across the region.

Features in the VCD

Landscape Features

Natural Community and Habitat Features