Halifax Conservation Commission
P.O. BOX 127, WEST HALIFAX, VT 05358
Regular Meeting, Thursday, January 6, 2022, at 6:30 PM
Meeting location: Zoom (https://us02web.zoom.us/j/7814490827
or call +19292056099,,7814490827#) and Town Office,
246 Branch Road, West Halifax, VT
Attendees: Stephan Chait (Chair; SC), Dov Towler (Member; DT), Lesley Pollitt (Treasurer; LP), Laurel Copeland (Clerk; LC), Linda Huebner (LH), Penfield Chester (PC), Mary Horne (MH).
CALL TO ORDER at 6:33 pm
CHANGES AND/OR ADDITIONS TO AGENDA – none
APPROVAL OF PREVIOUS MEETING MINUTES
Regular Meeting Minutes of October 28, 2021, were approved with 1 correction; in old business, SC said he would ask Skip Lisle to assess it.
Conservation Commission Annual Report – This report goes into the Town Annual Report. SC appreciates the input commission members provided on his earlier draft. No further changes were offered.
Conservation Commission Appointments – Appointments are staggered at Commission formation so that not all terms expire simultaneously. All renewals are for 4 years. Current terms: SC 2019-2023, LC 2019-2023, JC 2019-2022, DT 2021-2025, LP 2021-2025.
Topics for 2022 – In the Annual Report, SC identified 3 possible events for 2022 (a) Rich Holschuh’s Indigenous Peoples cultural presentation, (b) recommendations for Flood Resiliency, (c) Emergency Planning for Animals. Other topics? DT proposed (d) Invasive Species Identification and Abatement including EAB, phragmites, Japanese knotweed, etc. We could look for Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) entities that deal with these and involve them. LP thought this topic might make a good follow-up education effort to the beaver flyer we put out last year. LC and LP volunteered to find resources for invasives’ identification and abatement. PC suggested the Woodland Association as another good resource and source of a presenter. Someone like Sam Schneski (Windham County Forester) might do a presentation. SC can ask Margo Ghia at Windham Regional Commission. LC will ask Sue Kelly, Halifax Tree Warden, for input.
Protecting Culverts – Finding a Cost-Effective Solution for the Town – Conflicts at or near beaver ponds at Hatch School Road, Pennell Hill Road, Jacksonville Stage Road and Deer Park Road. On Nov 22, 2021, Michael Fournier, Halifax Road Commission, arranged for Tyler Brown from ANR (Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department (VFWD) Furbearer Project Technician) to visit our problem culverts/passages. Pete Silverberg also attended. At the first location on Hatch School Road, Tyler said it might cost $600 or so to build a solution there. The Town of Halifax would have to chip in half the cost. This would be less than the usual outlay by the Halifax Road Crew to deal with the problem (~$3,000/year); it is also less than the estimated cost of a flow privately contracted control device. The group then visited the other 3 locations (Deer Park, Pennell Hill, Jacksonville Stage). Deer Park culvert was damaged during repeated clean-outs. It was an extremely expensive culvert. The SB will discuss protecting these culverts. Tyler is not opposed to trapping and killing the beavers. The constructions (and trapping) have to occur on private property, so the property owners must be involved. LH commented that it may be legal in Vermont to relocate beavers in Vermont, although relocating them is difficult. SC spoke of an informative book named “Eager: The Surprising Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter” by Ben Goldfarb. LC commented that Gates Pond beavers appear to have died last fall because a small breach in the dam was not repaired, and the pond drained to a low, muddy level. LH commented that in MA the flow control devices the state installed were poor quality, so the devices failed, bolstering the case of the trappers. SC noted we could do fundraising to assist landowners with flow controls. Pennell Hill’s device was torn apart and restructured (incorrectly) by an unknown person so that it no longer works. The road crew has tried to keep the culvert unclogged, but it clogs up again, and part of the road gets washed out. Jacksonville Stage Road is particularly problematic because the beavers built their dam in such a way–right across the roadside ditch–that prevents Tyler from building a solution. The culvert there is fine, but the road is subject to flooding next to the beaver dam. LH offered BeaverSolutions.com, Mike Callahan’s website, as an additional source of information about resolving human/beaver conflicts, commenting that, although he does build flow control devices, he works primarily in Massachusetts.
Status of Act 250 – no change yet but we will keep an eye on further efforts to change it. The effort that was defeated last year would have centralized all meetings and public hearings in Montpelier. Currently Act 250 meetings and hearings occur all in 9 districts around the state. LP asked what changes were being proposed and by whom. The Vermont General Assembly is looking at changes, possibly in the number of acres that must be involved to invoke Act 250 protections. Change might favor developers over environmentalists.
Vermont Disaster Animal Response Team (VDART) and Emergency Planning for Animals – LP updated the commission. If a Town wants to get FEMA funding, there must be a plan for the animals in place. Would the Conservation Commission like to meet with our town Emergency Management Director (Paul Blaise) to discuss? LP will compose an email for the Commission. LC will get Paul Blaise’ email address (Paul Blaise, email@example.com, 802-368-7757).
OTHER BUSINESS – What is the status of the Ash Tree Inventory? The inventory is on hold because the state took down the online database and map to work on the website. We are waiting to hear from Joanne Garton, the Ash Tree Inventory trainer. LC and Sue Kelly are available to help interested persons. LC made a website with information and links on how to inventory the ash trees of Halifax: Halifax Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) Ash Tree Inventory Training https://czresearch.com/EAB. The town can cut trees on the public right of way (within 25’ of the centerline of town roads), and the power company can cut them within 10’ of power lines & poles.
HEARING OF VISITORS – None. Happy New Year & Thank You!
ADJOURNMENT at 7:29 pm.