Flood Resiliency in the Mad River Valley & America’s Great Outdoors

The America’s Great Outdoors program is a federal conservation initiative undertaken by the Obama Administration. This program came to the Mad River Valley in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, and has enhanced a number of preexisting local projects including the planting of trees in riparian buffers, culvert replacements, and working with landowners to introduce cover crops on agricultural lands. Although only lasting a few years, the AGO’s efforts aided in the completion of a number of these projects, some of which are progressing heavily into the future.

Project Contact: Joshua Schwartz
Project Contact Email: joshua@mrvpd.org
Year Completed: 2013
Project Lifespan: 2011-2013
Duxbury, Fayston, Moretown, Waitsfield, Warren
Regional Planning Commision: Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission
land_management, outreach, partnerships, water, wetland
Other Keywords: restoration, resilience
Project Accomplishments:

The AGO specifically helped in a large planting of trees in riparian buffers (2300 trees planted between 2012 and 2013), lead by Friends of the Mad River. Additionally, the AGO was able to help set up partners and funding for a number of local projects. Although the bulk of these projects were not started by the AGO, the AGO provided horsepower to these projects and convened conversations about MRV specific resilience & restoration.

One of the most successful post-Irene efforts (not associated with the AGO, but part of a larger body of work going on at the time) includes the documentary “Hill Farming in Vermont’s Mad River Valley”, which highlights research on the history of Hill Farms in the area, looking at the role of agriculture in the community and on the landscape. In 2013, this documentary received acclaim as Project of the Year by the Northern New England Chapter of the American Planning Association and Vermont Planners Association.

Project Partners:

US Fish & Wildlife Service
Natural Resources Conservation Service
US Forest Service
Vermont Agency of Natural Resources
Vermont Department of Agriculture
Winooski Natural Resource Conservation District
Friends of the Winooski River
Friends of the Mad River
Moretown, Waitsfield, Warren & Fayston town governments.
Mad River Valley Planning District
Mad River Watershed Conservation Partnership
Vermont Land Trust

Critical to Success:

Local leadership was a huge contributor to these projects’ success. Although the AGO program was able to assist, it was the local efforts on the ground that were truly essential.


One of the main challenges with AGO specifically has been keeping up momentum; the project has failed to do so, and thus AGO does not remain very involved with local efforts. Another challenge with AGO had been bringing so many different partners together. In doing this, it was often difficult to work on everyone’s goals and objectives. Although there was a lot more potential for the AGO to assist, it was difficult to do so because the relationships between partners were so new. Moreover, a lack of a defined leadership structure made things more complicated.