'Climate Change Resilient, Floodwater Smart’ Stewardship: Convening for Action in Vermont

Note to Reader:

Vermont Summit_logoIn March 2015, US Senator Patrick Leahy sponsored the 2nd biennial Leahy Environmental Summit in Burlington, Vermont. Senator Leahy is the longest serving member (40 years) and dean of the United States Senate. His vision for this ‘convening for action’ event is that it will inspire social and structural resiliency for flooding and stormwater issues related to climate change.

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Vision and Desired Outcome: Climate Change Resilient, Floodwater Smart

“The goal of the 2015 Leahy Environmental Summit is to inspire multi­-organizational, regional teams to produce or further develop specific projects, programs, and plans that engage an enthusiastic community to address social and structural resiliency for flooding and stormwater issues related to climate change. Vermont Summit_Phelan Fretz_closing remarks_120pGiven the energy in the room, it is clear that we achieved that goal,” stated Phelan Fretz, ‎Executive Director, ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center at the Leahy Center for Lake Champlain.

To download a copy of the Agenda for this 2-day event, click on Climate Change Resilient, Floodwater Smart

Regional Team Approach

Phelan Fretz explained that 15 regional teams, consisting of over 160 great thinkers and doers from across sectors gathered on the shores of Lake Champlain to work together in true Vermont environmental tradition to create innovative solutions aimed at:

  • Building community engagement that creates social resiliency to natural disaster
  • Understanding the links between climate change, a healthy water system, and managing future stormwater events
  • Inspiring new behaviors ­ both individually and collectively ­ that will result in a stormwater smart citizenry across Vermont and the Lake Champlain watershed
  • Creating new cross ­sector collaborations that will generate ongoing innovation and planning, resulting in a greater structural resilience to flooding issues.
  • Leveraging the strengths of our experiences, future planning, and passion into a model for other communities

To Learn More:

To download information about the ‘regional teams’, click on Project Names and Descriptions.

To access the Summit Blog, click on Experts Talk Resiliency at Leahy Summit

To access photos of the Summit proceedings, visit the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center’s Flickr page.

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True Innovation Happens When….

Senator Patrick Leahy_500pThe Climate Change Resilient, Floodwater Smart initiative is based on a simple notion that when it comes to enterprise innovation and integration, there is nothing that brings out the best in human systems, faster, more consistently, and more effectively, than the power of ‘the whole’,” stated Senator Patrick Leahy. “True innovation happens when strong multi­-disciplinary groups come together, build a collaborative interchange, and explore their different points of strength.”

Stephen Perkins_120p“The design of this Summit was not a typical conference; rather, it was a dynamic, interactive working session. Summit groups, comprised of diverse stakeholders, where all voices across the community are represented, began to design and prototype some of the projects and transform their ideas into realities,” summarized Stephen Perkins,  Director of Development and Community Relations at the Leahy Center for Lake Champlain. He was responsible for organizing the Summit.

Summit Chair Mark Saba - Senator Patrick Leahy - Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell

Summit Chair Mark Saba – Senator Patrick Leahy – Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell

Inspirational Speaker

Senator Leahy invited invited Kim Stephens to provide ‘inspirational remarks’ about British Columbia experience in leading and managing change via inter-regional collaboration.

Kim Stephens_Vermont_Mar2015_narrow_500p“It was an honour to be invited to Vermont by the Senator and his Environmental Summit team to participate in this transformational process,” stated Kim Stephens in his opening comments. He is the Executive Director of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia.

“I appreciated the opportunity to observe history in the making, because that is what I believe it will prove to be. Speaking from experience, I predict that a decade from now the Summit team will be celebrating this milestone event and what it set in motion.”

In his presentation, Kim Stephens distilled lessons learned from British Columbia demonstration applications into a set of guiding principles. The Partnership for Water Sustainability has developed these principles from its “convening for action” experience. The principles provide the framework for an educational approach.

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To Learn More:

To download a PowerPoint version of the “inspirational remarks” by Kim Stephens, click on Building Resiliency in British Columbia: Integration of Natural Systems Thinking and Adaptation to a Changing Climate.

Kim Stephens speaking at the 2015 Leahy Environmental Summit in Burlington, Vermont

Kim Stephens speaking at the 2015 Leahy Environmental Summit in Burlington, Vermont

Keynote Speaker

TSally Jewell_US Secretary of Interior_500phe keynote speaker for the 2015 Leahy Center Environmental Summit was Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell. She heads an agency that serves as steward for about 20 percent of the United States’ lands, including national parks, national wildlife refuges, and other public lands; oversees development of conventional and renewable energy supplies on public lands and waters; is the largest supplier and manager of water in the 17 Western states; and upholds trust responsibilities to the 566 federally recognized American Indian tribes and Alaska Natives.

Secretary Jewell said people in some parts of the country are still burying their heads in the sand and not preparing for the life altering changes affecting the planet. “You’re getting storms that you’ve never seen before; you’re getting winds that you’ve never seen before,” Jewell said. “We’ve got to be adapting. We’ve got to be addressing it. We can share with the public the benefit of green infrastructure.”

To Learn More:

To read media coverage of the event, click on the links below:

Secretary Jewell to Address Leahy Environmental Summit on Water and Climate

US Interior Secretary thanks Vermonters for climate prep

Planning for future flooding events in Vermont

Environmental Summit Focuses on Preparation

Enviromental summit draws in government leaders

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