The Association of Vermont Conservation Commissions is a non-profit organization whose mission is to support Vermont’s conservation commissions and to encourage the establishment of more conservation commissions in the state. AVCC is a membership organization, with conservation commissions as well as individuals as members. Founded in 1990, AVCC is overseen by a volunteer board of directors.
Karen Freeman (Chair) is the Conservation Director for the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, overseeing the organization’s work in the conservation of agricultural lands, natural and recreational areas, and historic properties. Karen is a 25-year staff member at VHCB, and prior to that has held positions including Cooperative Extension Agent for Penn State University and executive director of a regional leadership training program. She also works to connect the working lands economy with music as a member of the Farm Aid Vermont board and founding member of Music Guild International, a Vermont-based non-profit organization.
Keil Corey is the Outreach and Communications Coordinator at VT Natural Resources Council. Most recently, he worked as VNRC’s Membership and Outreach Coordinator and as the Community Energy and Climate Action Organizer with the Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network. Before VNRC, Keil worked on wildlife migration projects in Grand Teton National Park with the National Parks Conservation Association and on environmental policy issues that included electronic waste, hydrofracking, and health issues related to climate change with the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter. He also has spent time working in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Nicaragua, and studied Natural Resource Management and Human Ecology in the Brazilian Amazon. Keil is also a member of the Montpelier Energy Advisory Committee, which is working to make Montpelier the first net zero state capital in the country.
Karen Douville served on the Hartford conservation commission (HCC) for 17 years (and attended every AVCC annual meeting). During that time the HCC implemented educational outreach thru annual newsletters, brochures, seminars, and annually donated conservation books for Hartford’s village and school libraries. The HCC was also instrumental in Hartford’s adoption of shoreline protection regulations, wildlife corridor overlay zoning district, and the creation of forestry and conservation zoning. She is a founding member of Linking Lands Alliance, a grass-roots group working on wildlife habitat and connectivity in 10 towns in the Upper Valley. She also works closely with Vermont Coverts and the Ottauquechee Natural Resource Conservation District.
Laura Farrell serves on Monkton’s Conservation Commission and is chair of the town’s Agricultural and Natural Areas Committee, which helps facilitate land conservation. She is a consulting wildlife biologist working on issues that arise when wide-ranging carnivores interact with human-influenced landscapes. Her recent research focused on modeling landscape connectivity for bobcat and lynx and detection of Vermont’s mesomammals. Currently, Laura is working on a collaborative project for the Vermont Transportation Agency that aims to identify ways to make transportation infrastructure more accessible to wildlife and enhance landscape connectivity around roads, and she is consulting on the impacts of telecommunications sites on connective wildlife habitat. She received her PhD in biology from the University of Vermont in 2012.
Melissa Gaydos (Treasurer) became a member of the board in March 2016 and was recently appointed as the Treasurer in May. Melissa currently lives in her hometown of West Berlin, VT and works at the National Wildlife Federation’s Northeast Regional Center as the Wildlife Adaptation Coordinator. Through her work she promotes the application of climate-smart conservation practices in wildlife and habitat conservation and restoration throughout the Northeast Region, from New Jersey to Maine.
Jens Hilke works for the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department as a Conservation Planning Biologist. He helps towns, regional planning commissions and non-governmental organizations with their conservation planning efforts. This includes help with GIS natural resource mapping, advice on prioritizing significant natural features and help with implementing town conservation goals. Jens did his undergraduate work at Connecticut College in Environmental Sociology and then got a Masters in Botany from the University of Vermont as a Field Naturalist. Jens has taught high school science in Vermont, New Hampshire, and New Jersey and for a study-away program in Thailand, Southeast Asia.
Bob Hyams currently serves on the Hinesburg Conservation Commission. Previously to that, he spent 10 years on the Charlotte Conservation Commission, and served as chair for four. During his tenure on the commission, the panel has created an on-line, interactive habitat map, gone through two cycles of town plan revisions, continuing stewardship of key town resources, ambitious community outreach programs, and a current effort to reclassify a Lake Champlain wetland as Class I. Bob is an active member with the Vermont River Conservancy, a founding partner of FSC Markets and Yourfarmstand.com, and regularly provides consulting and management services for invasive species control.
Nancy Jones (Secretary) is Chair of the Conservation Commission in Bradford. She is also a Co-Chair on Bradford’s Conservation Fund Committee, which works to preserve precious natural resources and helps private landowners cover the up-front costs of conserving their land in Bradford. She is a retired teacher who taught Biology at Oxbow High School for 20 years, and taught in elementary schools in the U.S. Virgin Islands for 13 years.
Cynthia Scott is a member of the Enosburg Conservation Commission as well as a local watershed group. She also served for many years as coordinator of the Missisquoi River Basin Association, working with community members in Franklin and Orleans counties on projects to improve water quality such as tree planting and water sampling. She now works part-time for the Northwest Vermont Rail Trail Council, a volunteer organization that supports the Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail, a 26-mile all-season multi-use recreational path.