Amos G. Baehr | Contributor

In a regime of “alternative facts” are you engaging the application “fundamental truth”? In an era imagining the inhabitation of Mars are you attending to your habitat here on Earth? The Charlotte Conservation Commission is captivated by these challenges. So how are we engaging truth and sustaining our human habitat? In the last two years we have built a team that includes an artist, a teacher, an ecological economist, a farmer, a law student, a former state resource manager, a journalist, a community activist and a Charlotte resident with a legacy of four generations. This diverse team is motivated by the truth that sustaining our habitat is increasingly a matter of life and death around the planet, and the threat is growing toward Charlotte.

Our first public event this year was the celebration of the Seguin Bridge restoration. In the video record of that event (visible on YouTube if you google “charlotte covered bridge youtube”) the charge of the Conservation Commission is stated as the nurture of land and the nurture of our connection to the land.
In pursuing that charge the Conservation Commission attends to development in our habitat, advising the Planning Commission on impacts of building patterns and specific building projects. The Planning Commission, however, is trapped in the legacy of 400 years of land speculation. The French, English and Spanish colonialist pursued land grants and funded colonists with the expectation that property values would always go up. Our early understanding of democracy was that ballots were cast by property owners. Westward expansion of the U.S. was compelled by the need to protect land claims from European powers. That was the historical expedient, but its legacy in a human habitat choked with 7,500,000,000 people is self consuming.

Four hundred years of legacy is an ominous challenge, but the Conservation Commission is considering how to reintegrate economy and ecology under the new imperatives of climate instability, mass extinction and expanding population. Watch for invitations to deliberate on development policy in the coming months.

The greater part of the commission’s energy is directed toward celebrating the beautiful place we call home. This winter we began investigating travel routes and road crossings of wildlife. We are sure that the residents of Charlotte already possess a wealth of this knowledge, and we are eager to have you share it with us. The working group for habitat connections is an opportunity for you to join us with very little obligation.

We are also enlisting citizens in an inventory of Charlotte plants and animals with a project on the I-naturalist website, an opportunity to share with each other around the natural community so many of us cherish. The commission partners with the Lewis Creek Association on water quality and invasive species control in nooks and crannies of our town that are often overlooked. We hope to increase our collaboration with not only the Planning Commission but also the Charlotte Park and Wildlife Refuge Committee, the Energy Committee, the Charlotte Land Trust and the tree warden to increase the quality and stability of our human habitat and to illuminate the connection between economy and ecology.

Finally, the commission is concerned about diminishing harvests of the services our habitat provides. Those services include clean waters in Lewis Creek that we can splash on friends and family, serene sunsets at Whiskey Bay that settle the soul, vistas from Mount Philo that offer inspiration and perspective and, last but not least, property values that support social and cultural stability.

We welcome you at the Charlotte Conservation Commission as we discuss these matters. We meet every fourth Tuesday of the month, with special scheduling during November and December due to holidays. Walk-ins are welcome for 10-minute comments at the beginning of our 7 p.m. meetings. Call or text Amos at 802-343-6035 for an extended time on the agenda. Our discussions range from meaningful to mundane, but you are always welcome, and we have openings on working groups that can be limited, non-voting opportunities to making our habitat ever more nurturing.