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Community Resilience, Climate Change, and Governance in Vermont: An examination of hazard mitigation, emergency response, and water quality policy and practices

Authors: Richard Kujawa*, Saint Michael's College, Vermont, Clare Ginger, University of Vermont
Topics: Environment, Hazards, Risks, and Disasters, Planning Geography
Keywords: community resilience, environmental governance, climate change
Session Type: Poster
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Place-based human-environment relations are in flux as extreme events due to climate change manifest themselves. We explore this in the context of shifting policies and spatial variation in governance capacity and commitment in Vermont.
In 2011, Vermont experienced flooding in the Lake Champlain Basin in the spring, and from Tropical Storm Irene in late summer. In light of these events and anticipated increased intensity of flood events due to climate change, the Vermont State Legislature passed Act 16 in 2013. This law specified regional and municipal-level actions to “encourage flood resilient communities” (43 V.S.A. §4302).

We conducted research to assess how the concept of flood resilience has been implemented in government networks across spatial scales. We analyzed data from state, regional, and local authorities to consider how (1) disaster assistance incentives from the state and (2) technical assistance from regional planning commissions relate to actions taken at the municipal level to promote flood resilience. We use a mixed methods approach that includes quantitative analysis of government documents and surveys, as well as content analysis of reports, websites, and interviews. We incorporate insights from regional planners about the challenges of cross-scale efforts to promote flood resilience. We consider differences between regional authorities in their outreach efforts as these relate to variability in municipal-level policies. Our research provides the basis for a conceptual model to understand how resilience may be made operational in other settings. We conclude with reflections on the challenges of implementing policy to promote resilience across scales of governance.

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