Richmond Conservation Reserve Fund

After an earlier attempt narrowly failed to win voter approval, in late 2004 the Richmond Conservation Commission tried again. In a single day at a holiday fair, volunteers gathered enough signatures on a petition that compelled the Selectboard to put an article before voters on Town Meeting Day 2005 calling for the establishment of a Conservation Reserve Fund. The commission then worked with the Selectboard to write the article, setting a funding level of one cent on the tax rate for five years.

This time the measure won approval. By July, 2005, the Conservation Commission and Selectboard had agreed on a policy document detailing the Fund's purpose, criteria for use, the application process and the application form itself. The Conservation Commission reviews funding requests and makes recommendations to the Selectboard, which has final say over applications. Voters must approve any proposal calling for the Town to use the Fund to buy for itself land costing more than $20,000.

Five years later, voters renewed the Fund, and did the same in 2015 and 2020. Each time the measure won by a wider margin, reaching 3.3 to 1 in 2020. The 2020 article called for renewing the Fund for only a single year. Richmond's Town Attorney read Vermont law (32 V.S.A. § 4602) as allowing voters, short of a charter change, to impose taxes only one year at a time. The Selectboard followed his advice.

From 2005 to 2015, expenditures from Richmond's Conservation Reserve Fund totaled $287,424, helping bringing to fruition projects worth a total of $1,629, 557.

Project Contact: Judy Rosovsky, Chair, Richmond Conservation Commission
Project Contact Email:
Year Project Started: 2005
Year Completed: N/A
Project Lifespan: 2005-present
Regional Planning Commision: Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission
Agricultural Land, Citizen Science, Forest Land, Funding, Inventory, Land Protection, Outreach, partnerships, water, wetland, wildlife
Project Accomplishments:

Richmond's Conservation Reserve Fund has enabled a variety important natural, agricultural and historic resources across the town to be conserved. Most projects have been led by outside partners, allowing the Town to act as a funding partner, minimizing its administrative burden while still gaining itself an influential "seat at the table" in conservation planning.

The Fund has also greatly reduced the costs of conservation for Richmond residents. Many funders offer significant support to communities that can show that their residents support conservation. Richmond's voter-financed fund provides important proof of the local commitment to conservation, qualifying projects for significant additional funding. Between 2015 and 2020, every dollar Richmond taxpayers invested in its Conservation Reserve Fund generated $4.67 in funding from other sources – over $1.3 million in all.


Andrews Community Forest (2018)

428 acres of publicly accessible forest with rich wildlife habitat and educational resources, located within one of Vermont’s most important forest blocks

Values: Habitat, recreation, working pastures, timberland, watershed quality, education, scenic

Applicant: Vermont Land Trust

CRF Funding: $75,000

Additional $$ Generated: $780,000

Huntington Gorge (2018)

3.7-acre town landmark, including a dramatic, 40-foot rocky gorge above popular swimming holes and the site of an early 20th-century hydro-electric generating station

Values: Swimming, fishing, scenic, historic

Applicant: Richmond Land Trust, Vermont River Conservancy

CRF Funding: $10,000

Additional $$ Generated: $55,000


Bombardier Meadow (2009)

A 10-acre hayfield at the confluence of the Huntington and Winooski River, adjacent to rare wildlife habitat

Values: Livestock feed, recreation, habitat, water quality, scenic

Applicant: Richmond Land Trust

CRF Funding: $51,500

Additional $$ Generated: $77,000 (Vt. Housing and Conservation Board)

Andrews Farmland (2012)

187 acres of prime agricultural soils along the Winooski River

Values: Working farmland, scenic, flood mitigation

Applicant: Vt. Land Trust

CRF Funding: $10,000

Additional $$ Generated: $197,500


Willis Hill (2014)

20 acres of wetland and steep woodland on Rt. 2 at western entrance to village, backing up to elementary and middle schools

Values: Sledding, skiing, science education, water quality, habitat, scenic

Applicant: Richmond Land Trust

CRF Funding: $64,000

Additional $$ Generated: $67,500 (Vt. Housing and Conservation Board)

$55,000 (private donors)

Johnny Brook Bridge (2018)

Repair of a key link for hikers and bikers using the Cross Vermont Trail

Values: Hiking, biking, bank stabilization

Applicant: Richmond Trails Committee

CRF Funding: $1,000

Additional $$ Generated: $400

Volunteers Green Rip-Rap (2019)

Protect section of bank where erosion threatened public recreational resources

Values: Soil retention, water quality, recreation

Applicant: Town of Richmond

CRF Funding: $20,000

Additional $$ Generated: $117,200


Town Center Portico Renovation (2010)

Roof and other structural repairs

Value: Historic preservation

Applicant: Town of Richmond

CRF Funding:$35,265

Additional $$ Generated: $65,035

Richmond Hill Cemetery (2010)

10-foot deeded path to provide public access to historic cemetery

Value: Historic preservation

Applicant: Town of Richmond

CRF Funding: $2,500

Additional $$ Generated: --

Congregational Church window restoration (2014)

Protecting 100-year-old stained glass windows

Value: Historic preservation

Applicant: Richmond Congregational Church

CRF Funding: $6,564

Additional $$ Generated: $12,423


Large Habitat Block Study (2009)

Mapping large blocks of uplands wildlife habitat and connectivity among them

Value: Wildlife and habitat conservation

Applicant: Richmond Conservation Commission

CRF Funding:$2,400

Additional $$ Generated: --

Science-to-Action Project (2013)

Identifying public conservation priorities, and inventory/confirm key habitat locations to improve planning & zoning processes

Value: Wildlife and habitat conservation

Applicant: Richmond Planning and Conservation Commissions

CRF Funding: $3,195

Additional $$ Generated: $88,525 (includes in-kind service donations)

Lake Iroquois Plant Survey (2018)

Inventory of invasive plants to gauge spread and plan control

Values: Species diversity, water quality, recreation, habitat

Applicant: Lake Iroquois Association

CRF Funding: $2,000

Additional $$ Generated: --

Richmond Master Naturalist Program (2019)

Citizen science program in support of wildlife habitat and forest health

Values: Wildlife and habitat conservation, water quality, recreation

Applicant: UVM Extension

CRF Funding: $4,000

Additional $$ Generated: --

Project Partners:

Lake Iroquois Association
Richmond Land Trust
Richmond Congregational Church
Richmond Conservation Commission
Richmond Planning Commission
Richmond Trails Committee
Town of Richmond
UVM Extension
Vermont Housing and Conservation Board
Vermont Land Trust
Vermont River Conservancy

Critical to Success:

1. Strong supportive language in the Town Plan for conservation initiatives, and the Fund in particular.
2. Taking the initial measure directly to the voters by means of a petition. At the time, this was needed to overcome Selectboard reluctance to advancing the measure themselves. The Secretary of State's office provided invaluable information on the process for doing this.
3. Broadening the vote by using a separate petition to require the vote to be taken by Australian ballot (all-day voting) instead of through a voice vote on the floor at Town Meeting. Again, the Secretary of State's office supplied key information on this process. (In a subsequent year, voters approved a separate article to make all votes on the Fund be by Australian ballot -- not just that for the upcoming vote.)
4. Financing the Fund with one cent on the tax rate. Though just a small percentage of the total tax rate, this allowed for truly meaningful amounts to accumulate in the Fund, and for much higher matching funds to be won. It was also important to translate that rate into what the added tax would be for homes assessed at $100,000, $200,000 and $300,000 ($10, $20 and $30, respectively.
5. Casting a wide net for qualified projects with a policy that encourages conservation, educational, civic and other organizations and individuals to bring their project proposals to the Town for funding, rather than depending solely on Town boards to plan, execuate and manage projects.
6. Setting solid criteria for the use of the Fund to enable the Conservation Commission and Selectboard to objectively and understandably deny inappropriate requests.
7. Communicating to voters the facts about the measure and the Fund's many accomplishments before misunderstandings could take hold. Tools included a fact sheet (in Q&A format), a Powerpoint for briefing the Selectboard and the public at large, informational postings on Front Porch Forum close to the vote, and ads in the local paper signed by and paid for private citizens supporting the Fund.
8. Visible successes at conserving key resources, often at significantly reduced costs.


Due to a relatively late start, in 2004/2005 the Conservation Commission and Selectboard were stretched to make key deadlines for publishing the articles to be voted upon. Early on, a few residents vehemently opposed to the Town taking a role in conservation distributed fliers full of deceptive information about the proposal. As project successes have grown and understanding of its workings has spread, opposition has greatly diminished.

A new challenge will be long-term planning, especially for large projects, as funding is now established for just one year at a time instead of five years, based on the Town Attorney's recommendation. It is hoped that applicants with large projects in mind -- those exceeding the annual growth of the Fund -- won't be as likely to apply for funds due to uncertainty about the coming year's vote. The hope is that the huge amount of support for the Fund shown in past votes will give applicants confidence in its long-term sustainability of its revenue stream.

Reference Documents: Richmond CRF Information Sheet and Project List (for 2020 vote)