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Legacy Vermont Environmental Groups Combine Forces

Two long time Vermont environmental organizations are joining forces.

The Vermont Natural Resources Council and Vermont Conservation Voters, (formerly the League of Conservation Voters) are forming an alliance they say will strengthen efforts to advance environmental policies.

VNRC is the larger of the two organizations, with 5,000 members and an annual budget approaching $1 million.

VNRC Executive Director Brian Shupe will lead both groups. Vermont Conservation Voters will move into VNRC offices and the two groups will have overlapping boards of directors.

Both organizations focus on environmental concerns, but VNRC is a policy and advocacy group and Vermont Conservation Voters works to elect candidates who support environmental issues.

Representatives of the groups say the different but complementary missions will give them more political and policy clout.  

Shupe says Vermont has made gains in energy policy and groundwater protection, but the state isn’t adequately addressing issues like climate change, water quality, and fragmentation of the working landscape.

“A lot of our legacy as a leader in environmental protection is somewhat outdated,” says Shupe. “A lot of our laws were developed during a time when we didn’t face the stress to the environment that we face today and we need to do a better job of bringing the up to the challenge that we face today.”

The strategic alliance will offer economies of scale to the organizations, but they are also hoping it will appeal to large institutional donors. 

“One of things that we find is that foundations and major donors are always looking to see how efficient you can be,” says Beth Humstone, chair of VNRC’s Board of Directors.

“They always like to see you collaborate with other organizations that have complementary missions, so there’s often a lot of pressure from the funding community to create greater efficiency.”

Two years ago, the anti-sprawl group Smart Growth Vermont merged with VNRC.

Under the alliance VNRC and the Vermont Conservation voters will remain separate non-profit entities.

Steve has been with VPR since 1994, first serving as host of VPR’s public affairs program and then as a reporter, based in Central Vermont. Many VPR listeners recognize Steve for his special reports from Iran, providing a glimpse of this country that is usually hidden from the rest of the world. Prior to working with VPR, Steve served as program director for WNCS for 17 years, and also worked as news director for WCVR in Randolph. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Steve also worked for stations in Phoenix and Tucson before moving to Vermont in 1972. Steve has been honored multiple times with national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his VPR reporting, including a 2011 win for best documentary for his report, Afghanistan's Other War.
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