Community Wildlife Program
The Community Wildlife Program provides technical assistance to towns, Regional Planning Commissions, and conservation organizations. We keep tabs on the latest in conservation science and help integrate that information into efforts to protect wildlife, habitat, and the most important lands and waters in Vermont. Whether you are drafting a new town plan, seeking a project partner, or looking to level up your conservation planning, we are here to help.
To schedule a consultation with our staff of Conservation Planners, email Jens.Hilke@Vermont.gov. Consultations and follow-up services are free of charge and sponsored by the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.
Included below are resources and past training for interested Vermonters, including land-use planners, natural resources professionals, and ecological consultants.
- Making a BioFinder Map
- Tips & Tools for Working in BioFinder
- Changing Themes in BioFinder
- Adding a GIS "Shapefile" to display in BioFinder
- Exporting a GIS Shapefile
- BioFinder Flyer
- Making a BioFinder Map (Video)
Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department's Community Wildlife Program is pleased to offer recordings of past webinar topics for interested Vermonters, land-use planners, natural resources professionals, and ecological consultants.
- Go to Spring 2023 Webinars
- Go to Fall 2022 Webinars
- Go to Spring 2022 Webinars
- Go to Fall 2021 Webinars
- Go to Spring 2021 Webinars
- Go to Fall 2020 Webinars
- Go to Spring 2020 Webinars
How Towns Can Manage Conflicts with Beavers
Join the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Community Wildlife Program and wildlife specialist, Tyler Brown, to learn how your town can manage conflicts with beavers. In order to coexist with our state's thriving beaver population we need to become familiar with their natural history, biology, and habitat requirements. Beavers are a keystone species and their wetlands offer many benefits to people and wildlife. Their dam building activities can also create conflicts with private landowners as well as entire towns. There are many strategies to manage beaver activity such as baffles and fencing. Learn how Vermont communities can use town policies to balance the benefits of beaver activity while reducing potential damages to infrastructure. Come explore the world of beavers with us!
Becoming an Environmental Leader in your Town
In order to make real change in your town it is not enough to just understand the science behind land use planning. Real and substantial change occurs when community members rise as leaders and set visionary goals in order to adapt for a changing future. Leaders are people who guide communities to complete tasks that no one individual could have achieved alone. Join the Community Wildlife Program and (partner) to explore what it means to be an environmental leader in your town. We will dive into a variety of leadership styles, phases of group development, and ways to effectively collaborate with diverse groups of stakeholders. In the words of the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, "When the best leader's work is done the people say, We did it ourselves."
Demystifying Subdivision Regulations : Reducing Sprawl Development and Forest Fragmentation
Maintaining an intact network of forests and connecting lands is hugely important for current biological diversity and climate resilience. Subdivision can help towns guide the pattern of development in a community and are an important tool in reducing forest fragmentation and impacts on other natural resources. Subdivision can establish standards for evaluating the impact of land subdivision on natural resources. Within the Mount Ascutney Regional Commission, the vast majority of towns have subdivision regulations that address forest fragmentation. Join us for this deep-dive into an important land use planning tool.
Better Habitat Blocks for Understanding Forest Integrity
Understanding forest pattern in your town is an important first step in conservation and land use planning. That basic pattern has a lot to do with biological diversity and climate resilience. The habitat blocks dataset is the best way to understand that pattern across Vermont. The Habitat Blocks dataset, first created in 2011, is appropriate for understanding the location of our forests, but the 30m resolution doesn't show all of the connecting lands on the edge of the blocks that facilitate wildlife movement. Recently released high resolution land cover data has allowed the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department and its partners to re-map the Habitat blocks with greater accuracy around the edges of the blocks. The new data will be released in fall 2023 and will allow your community to better understand the overall forest pattern and connecting lands in your town related to Act 171 the Forest Integrity law. Join us for a special sneak peek at this new and exciting work.
Land Use Planning for Climate Change
Vermont’s Climate Action Plan calls for an all hands approach and identifies a wide range of actions that municipalities can lead on, especially with respect to our pattern of land use and how that affects both mitigation and adaptation. It can be overwhelming to understand where to begin and what tools might be most helpful. In this session, participants will learn about a range of land use planning tools that can be used to address climate change and some examples of how they’ve been employed.
Using Vermont Conservation Design to Help Plan Your Town's Climate Future
Vermont Conservation Design was first released in 2016 and has been used by towns across the state to identify landscape patterns of connected forests and waters as well as community and species hotspots. Vermont Conservation Design certainly does show these areas of current biological diversity but also speaks to climate resilience into the future. Join Community Wildlife Program staff to learn how these concepts come together and how you can use Vermont Conservation Design on the BioFinder website to better plan for your town’s climate future.
Alive in the Fields: Understanding Grassland Bird Habitat and Protection
Did you know that Vermont is home to eleven species of grassland birds? Did you know that five of these are listed as Threatened or Endangered and the other six are listed as Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN)? That means that many towns across the state need to understand more about these species and their habitats and how to plan land use in a way that works for these species. Join Fish & Wildlife Department Bird Project Leader Doug Morin to learn more about this important topic and what towns can do to protect this piece of natural heritage.
Knowing Your Options; Choosing the Right Tools for Your Town.
Are you interested in protecting your town's natural resources? Do you have conservation goals in mind and are ready to take action? Maybe you are new to municipal planning and looking for ways to get involved?. Whether you are a town planner, landowner, or renter you can help define conservation planning options. There are many examples of successful regulatory and nonregulatory approaches to land use planning across the state. Choosing the right tools at the right time is essential to meeting your conservation goals and balancing the needs of your town. Join the Vermont Fish and Wildlife's Community Wildlife Program staff and see how you can protect your community's ecology and economy in a changing world.
Forests Matter: Land Use Planning for Forest Integrity
The concept of maintaining intact forest in Vermont is not new and is something that town planning and conservation commissions have been implementing for years. But as rural sprawl has increased forest fragmentation and the VT Legislature passed Vermont's Forest Integrity law (often referred to as Act 171), the topic is receiving increased interest. The Department of Forests, Parks, & Recreation and the Fish & Wildlife Department has worked with partners to put together a video series highlighting this important topic. The video series pulls together interviews from a diversity of professionals in the field; from foresters, biologists to planners and volunteers working at the local level. Please join us for this exciting session.
Climate action-planning: What should towns do to address climate change?
Vermont’s first Climate Action Plan has been released and we have lots to do! But where to begin? And what are appropriate climate-related projects for Vermont’s Conservation Commissions and towns to tackle? Join the Agency of Natural Resources’ Global Warming Solutions Act Coordinator, Marian Wolz, and Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department’s Community Wildlife Program staff to learn more about what is in the Climate Action Plan and what your town can do to address these pressing issues.
Reviewing your Town Plan & Regulations: Lessons Learned from our Comprehensive Review
Every eight years, Vermont municipalities update their town plans to set the vision for moving forward and balancing an array of competing values. Natural resource issues are an important consideration in this balancing act. While every town is unique and different resources are present in each community, a lot can be learned from what other towns have done to address these topics. The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department & Vermont Natural Resources Council have completed our decennial review of every town plan, zoning, subdivision & ordinance in Vermont. Our analysis offers insights into best practices in handling natural resource issues in municipal planning. Join this session to learn more about improving your town plan natural resources chapter.
Reinvigorating your Conservation Commission
There are a broad range of activities that Conservation Commissions can engage in, from stewarding town owned land to advising on land use planning to developing educational programs and volunteer opportunities. With all these options, it can be overwhelming and it requires careful planning to help a Conservation Commission move forward. Sometimes commissions need to take a fresh look at what they're doing and make small adjustments to get the group on the same page or get more people involved. Last year the Association of Vermont Conservation Commissions partnered with the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department to produce a new version of the Conservation Commission Handbook as a reference for commissions to use. This webinar will provide ideas for reinvigorating your commission including outreach, strategic planning and the basics that make Conservation Commission an awesome volunteer opportunity.
Act 171: Selecting Forest Blocks & Habitat Connectors for Your Town Plan
Act 171 requires towns to identify and protect forest blocks and habitat connectors. But what exactly does that mean? And how do you figure out which blocks and connectors are most valuable to wildlife and your community? Join the Community Wildlife Program at Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department to learn a step-by-step selection process. We'll explain the background science and help towns select areas to prioritize that meet Act 171 requirements and make sense for their community.
Reviewing Your Town Plan and Regulations: Lessons Learned from Our Comprehensive Review
Every eight years, Vermont municipalities update their town plans to set the vision for moving forward and balancing an array of competing values. Natural resource issues are an important consideration in this balancing act. While every town is unique and different resources are present in each community, a lot can be learned from what other towns have done to address these topics. The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department & Vermont Natural Resources Council have just completed our decennial review of every town plan, zoning, subdivision & ordinance in Vermont. Our analysis offers insights into best practices in handling natural resource issues in municipal planning. Join this session to learn more about improving your town plan natural resources chapter.
This webinar series focused on building the capacity of town government to organize, prioritize, and achieve conservation success. Participants learned how to form an effective Conservation Commission, how to inventory their town's ecological features, and how to fund conservation projects.
Starting a Conservation Commission
A Conservation Commission is part of municipal government that has a wide purview to engage in all manner of inventory and education related to natural and cultural resources. More than half of Vermont towns already have a Conservation Commission and the activities that Conservation Commissions are engaged in range from land management of town owned forests to land use planning and even development review. Each commission looks a little different and can be incredibly helpful asset to your town.
Starting Your Town Conservation Fund
Did you know that towns can establish dedicated funds to pay for conservation? Join Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department's Community Wildlife Program to learn about what it takes to start a Conservation Fund, where the money comes from, and what to do with yours. We'll share useful tips, inspiring project stories from other towns, and help launch you towards realizing your town's conservation aspirations. This webinar is intended for Vermonters serving on town boards and municipal staff, and is hosted in partnership with the Vermont Association of Conservation Commissions (AVCC).
Natural Resources Inventories
For towns, organizations, and landowners looking to better understand their land, conducting a Natural Resources Inventory is a great place to start. Whether you are interested in wildlife, wetlands, or forest blocks, a natural resources inventory can help you identify what matters most and where it occurs on the landscape. Join Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department's Community Wildlife Program to learn how you can effectively kickstart this process and get the most out of your time and resources. This webinar is intended for Vermonters serving on town boards, municipal staff, conservation organizations, and interested Vermonters, and is hosted in partnership with the Vermont Association of Conservation Commissions (AVCC).
The River Corridor, Floodplains, and Riparian Habitat
The network of streams and rivers across Vermont is critically important for climate resilience. These places are dynamic systems, constantly changing and home to incredible biological diversity as well as many other functions and values. In this collaborative presentation, join a panel of planners from the Agency of Natural Resources to learn about these unique ecosystems at several scales: as part of a larger watershed and network of connected lands and waters, as a unit for town planning, and as dynamic places for river processes.
This webinar series focused on two themes: 1) Land-use planning for forest integrity and wildlife connectivity; and, 2) Wildlife habitat management at multiple scales. Participants explored maps and data, learned about useful applications and case studies, and left with a better understanding of how their community and land fits into regional efforts to protect Vermont’s native species.
Updating Your Town Plan for Forest Integrity (Act 171)
Since January 1, 2018, towns and Regional Planning Commissions are required to identify forest blocks and habitat connectors, as well as plan for development in those places in ways that minimize forest fragmentation. This requirement asks towns to look at the larger patterns of forests and dive into the science of what is known about connectivity in their region at multiple scales. Some of the data involved is immediately actionable, but some of the models warrant caution and additional research. Tune in to hear how Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department can help your town interpret available data and translate it into actionable planning and policy.
Wildlife Road Crossings
In this webinar, join Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department biologists as they explore the science and planning of wildlife road crossings. Learn about the field science of road ecology and what years of camera trapping along roads, bridges and culverts has taught us. Explore the computer models in Vermont Conservation Design to understand wildlife road crossings in a landscape context. Find out how Vermont towns are improving and planning for wildlife movement across local roads.
Seeing Beyond Boundaries: Understanding Your Land At Different Scales
Join Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department biologists to see your land at different scales. Begin on the ground, hearing from landowners about their stories from the land. Zoom out to gain a different perspective using BioFinder to see the ecological context in which your land sits. Learn how understanding land at different scales can provide insights into how you manage your land.
Woods, Waters & Wildlife: Putting the Pieces Together
Join Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department biologists to explore the community- and species-scale natural heritage components that might occur on your land. Learn about different kinds of woods, waters, and wildlife, and how you can use BioFinder to understand how these pieces of the landscape fit together. Hear stories about landowners and get inspired to manage your land in an ecological way!
Enhancing Your Backyard, Back Forty, and Beyond
Join Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department biologists to learn tips and tricks for enhancing wildlife habitat on properties of all sizes, from large parcels to small backyards. If you are interested in learning about creating pollinator habitat, making your land a better home for wildlife, and being a part of conserving Vermont species — this is the webinar for you!
This webinar series focused on the BioFinder mapping tool and the underlying science of Vermont Conservation Design, a statewide effort to identify the most ecologically important lands and waters of Vermont. Participants explored maps and data, learned about useful applications and case studies, and left with a better understanding of how their land fits into regional efforts to protect Vermont’s species from a changing climate, forest fragmentation, and habitat loss.
Intro to Biofinder 3.0: The Go-To Resource for Exploring Vermont’s Biodiversity
Have you ever wondered how your backyard or woodlot fits into the bigger picture? Are you interested in learning about your town’s wildlife habitat and its most important ecological areas? Join Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department's Conservation Planners to learn about BioFinder, a free online portal, mapping tool, and go-to resource for exploring Vermont’s biodiversity. You'll learn what's new with the recently released version of BioFinder 3.0.
Using BioFinder 3.0 for Land-Use Planning
Join Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department's Conservation Planners to learn about BioFinder 3.0, a free online portal showing the state’s most important ecological areas and biodiversity data. We’ll explore how BioFinder can help planners access important ecological data, identify significant forest blocks and habitat connectors, and comply with Act 171. This workshop is intended for members of conservation commissions, planning commissions, development review boards, as well as professional planners and interested citizens. Join us as we work towards planning a vibrant, ecologically healthy future in Vermont.
Vermont Conservation Design for Ecological Consultants
Join in to hear a panel of Agency scientists and regulators discussing Vermont Conservation Design (VCD), a statewide prioritization of the most ecologically important lands and waters in Vermont. VCD offers a practical vision for maintaining ecological function in Vermont, capturing both current biological diversity as well as those resilient landscapes most important for maintaining biological diversity into the future. We'll show you how to access VCD data through the BioFinder mapping portal, a useful tool for remotely reviewing project sites and understanding the ecological context in which they occur. We’ll also discuss how VCD data and maps can bring value to your projects and clients and how the Agency of Natural Resources is using VCD in its regulatory review.