If you’re in a fishing boat on Lake Champlain, the boundary between New York and Vermont can seem quite blurry, so blurry that fishermen from either state can fish anywhere on the lake with only their own state’s fishing license.
But in almost every other regard, the distinction between these two states could hardly be sharper, despite their four centuries of shared history. Some examples: New York is the 3rd largest state in population, while Vermont is 49th; five Vermonts could easily fit inside the land mass of New York; and then there’s the matter of the Yankees and Red Sox.
Understanding the differences between New York and Vermont will be very much on our mind this year as we tackle two new stand-alone publications. We have begun work on two versions of The Place You Call Home, one for New York and one for Vermont. Like their predecessors, each of these publications is designed to be an owner’s manual for landowners, both veterans and newcomers. In March 2006, we introduced this concept, with an edition of Place for the Upper Valley region of New Hampshire and Vermont. Then, eight months later, in partnership with the Watershed Agricultural Council, we came out with the Catskills version.
Each of those publications was distributed through various channels to as many as 20,000 landowners who own at least 10 acres of land. Readers responded enthusiastically:
Through our reader survey, we obtained valuable statistical information. We learned, for instance, that 46 percent of the readers made significant changes in the way they cared for their land. That is a wonderful validation of the impact of our work, that people are putting into practice the practical tips and guidance we provide.
We also confirmed our understanding of how important wildlife and wildlife habitat are to the many thousands of people who own land in the Northeast, because 77 percent of the readers identified themselves as wildlife watchers. The percentage who described themselves as hunters/anglers, hikers, snowshoers/cross-country skiers, or environmentalists was considerably smaller. Clearly, an interest in seeing wild animals in their natural setting is the strongest link among all of us, no matter where we live.
The Upper Valley and Catskill editions of Place were for sub-regions. And it’s because of the successful response that we have gotten the go-ahead on these new statewide versions. The go-ahead is in the form of seed funding, which is paying for the research and some of the writing. We will be seeking additional funds to complete the writing, secure the photographs and illustrations, and then move into the design and printing.
It will be instructive for all of us to be working on these two simultaneously. I lived my first 25 years in New York, so I am familiar with central New York, western New York, the Adirondacks, and New York City, having called each of them home. As I begin my research, it’s like going home, but with the perspective of having spent my last 20 years in Vermont.
In both the New York and Vermont Place, we plan to publish a comprehensive statewide resource guide. This will be a handy directory to all of the natural resource professionals – both government and private – who can help landowners make the right decisions on their land. It will also provide contact information for all of the membership organizations that are providing services, outings, guidance, and inspiration to the thousands of people who love these outdoors.
We plan on making an online version of these resource guides available on our website. The web seems to be the perfect medium for this type of guide – in an instant, people can get in contact with a tracking expert in Ithaca or a consulting forester in Charlotte. But we’re pleased that studies show that the best way to get information about stewardship to landowners continues to be through printed publications. People still like to sit down in front of the fire with a nice book or magazine, and read about what they’ll see tomorrow when they head out the door.