Year of the Tree, Year of the Habitat event series

In 2012, the conservation commissions of two neighboring towns West Fairlee and Thetford organized a series of educational events called 'Year of the Tree' that provided various interactive activities or talks that revolved around the theme of trees. The purpose of this event series was to raise interest about the various projects that the two conservation commissions were involved with as well as spark an interest in people of all age groups about Vermont's natural resources. The purpose of this event series was to spark an interest in people of all age groups about Vermont's natural resources and in turn,heighten awareness of the good work conservation commissions do. Typical event types include guided walks, experiential educational activities, workshops and talks that bring attention to various connections to the central theme. Typically, events start in the spring, take a brief hiatus in the summer, and begin again through the fall. Since the 'Year of the Tree' series in 2012, each year has had a different theme; the year 2013 exhibited the 'year of habitat' and 2014 was the 'year of water.' The event series is ongoing, however the 2015 theme has yet to be solidified. The event series is ongoing and some recent talks have attracted as many as 200+ people

Project Contact: Peggy Willey
Project Contact Email:
Project Lifespan: 2012-present
Thetford, West Fairlee
Regional Planning Commision: None
Outreach, partnerships, Walks and Talks, water, wetland, wildlife
Project Accomplishments:

Over the past three years, the Thetford and West Fairlee conservation commissions have put on 16 events across the three themes. This in and of itself is an accomplishment, however the greatest value of these events is the impacts they have on conservation work in the future. Through making the work that the two conservation commission are involved with more visible to the public and increasing awareness of the value of local natural resources, commission leaders hope that there will be a ripple effect of interest. While heightened awareness of natural surroundings is intangible, an increase in support through financial means would be a concrete way of measuring progress over the years.

The two conservation commissions make an effort to attract a broad age distribution to the various activities and events. Coordinating the timing of the event with typical openings in the schedule of families in the area proved effective. Sunday afternoons around 3pm was found to be a convenient time for many families that were then able to bring their kids to nature walks or interactive activities. Providing food and snacks is also a critical component to sustaining the attention of young participants.

Project Partners:

West Fairlee Conservation Commission
Thetford Conservation Commission
Guest speakers representing numerous other organizations

Critical to Success:

This event series was made possible with the time and effort of passionate volunteers from the two conservation commissions as well as those in the community that are interested in the various conservation concerns being addressed. The partnership between the two conservation commissions was critical for the events' success as well. With pooled financial and human resources, the partnership is able to put on a wide variety of exciting events. With the two towns working closely together, there has been an increase in town-town connectivity and communication over time. This connectivity is critical for conservation success given the inherent connectedness of ecosystems.


Most challenges for the partners revolved around the logistics associated with promoting programs. With various weeknights being taken up by meetings of other town groups, finding the least used night of the week was occasionally a struggle. By promoting the events with a listserve of over 200 people among other publicity avenues, the two conservation commissions increased awareness of the coming program, and established the series as a local attraction.