STOWE — On Nov. 10, the Vermont Outdoor Business Alliance presented its inaugural Trailblazer Award to Sen. Leahy, a beautiful wooden topo map of Vermont created by Treeline Terrains, a new business out of Middlebury. The annual award recognizes someone who has made a significant impact on Vermont’s outdoor recreation landscape and related economy.
Since first heading to Washington in 1974, Sen. Leahy has helped to grow the Green Mountain National Forest by more than 100,000 acres, helped establish the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area, the White Rocks National Recreation Area, created Vermont’s first and only National Park — the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, and also secured funding for a new GMNF headquarters that is being built near the Long Trail in Mendon, scheduled for completion in 2022.
And that’s not all.
The 26,000 acres of the Nulhegan Basin added to the Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge and that mile of shoreline on Lake Memphramegog recently added to the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge came about thanks to Sen. Leahy’s advocacy. He also worked to protect the Upper Missisquoi and Trout Rivers.
And thanks to Sen. Leahy’s work, Vermont has seen more than $70 million in federal aid to clean up Lake Champlain.
Nor has it been all big projects. Sen. Leahy has been the driving force behind the Northern Borders Regional Commission, which creates annual community grants that have helped fund projects in rural areas around the state, including the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail.
One of Sen. Leahy’s lasting legacies is the Forest Legacy Program (FLP), part of the 1990 Farm Bill. Since 1990, FLP has conserved more than 2.8 million acres of forestland across all 50 states and the U.S. territories. The more than 20 FLP projects in Vermont include conservation of the Green River Reservoir, the Chittenden County Uplands and the 7,000-acre Eden Forest.
Using the historic Vermont town forest system as a model, Senator Leahy also led the creation of the Community Forest and Open Space program (CSP) as part of the 2008 Farm Bill and has been the lead congressional advocate for annual funding of the program since its authorization. Vermont has completed eight community forest projects, more than nearly any other state — most recently the Huntington Town Forest.
Sen. Leahy has also successfully supported full funding and permanent authorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), the flagship federal land acquisition and outdoor recreation program. He was, most recently, an original sponsor of the Great American Outdoors Act.
As editor of Vermont Sports Magazine Lisa Gosselin recently wrote in that publication, “it is hard to think of someone who has done more to protect the natural landscape and outdoor recreation in our state and nationwide than Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).”