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Vermont's Commissioner of Forests, Parks and Recreation Is Stepping Down

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Published December 2, 2022 at 12:09 p.m.


Mike Snyder - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Mike Snyder
Updated at 1:45 p.m.

Mike Snyder, the commissioner of the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation for more than a decade, is stepping down at the end of the year.

Julie Moore, secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources, made the announcement in a press release on Friday morning.

“Michael has been a strong advocate for our forest economy, outdoor recreation, and so much of what makes Vermont special,” Moore said. “I’m grateful for his efforts and wish him all the best.”

Snyder spent 14 years as the Chittenden County forester before governor Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, appointed him commissioner in 2011. He was reappointed to the post by Republican Gov. Phil Scott in 2017.

In the statement, Snyder called serving as commissioner “the highest honor of my career.”

“I am very grateful to Secretary Moore and Governor Scott for entrusting me with this role and the opportunity to advance healthy forests, a world-class state park system, and a thriving culture of outdoor recreation in our great state,” he said.

In an interview, Snyder said the decision was a difficult one and entirely his.

“This is a very, very big job, and when you take it seriously, it’s relentless,” he said. He came to realize that while he loved the work, it was also a sacrifice. He and his wife, Kristen Sharpless, have an 8-year-old daughter; he looks forward to spending more time with them, he said.

“I’m married to the most incredible person on the planet, and I like the idea of having more time to support her and her career,” he said. Sharpless is the executive director of the Stowe Land Trust.

The job also made it harder for him to write and spend as much quiet time in the woods as he would have liked. Snyder was a columnist before he became commissioner, and published the book Woods Whys in 2019.

He said he had helped the department navigate some major staff changes, and felt it's in a strong, stable position.

“I don’t know if it’s the right time or the wrong time. It’s just time,” he said.

Snyder has been a passionate advocate for the benefits of Vermont’s 55 state parks, overseeing upgrades to facilities and infrastructure such as new cabins at Little River State Park and the new visitors center at Alburgh Dunes State Park.

He has also been a steadfast supporter of sustainable logging as a way to keep state forests healthy, provide locally sourced wood products and support rural economies in a state that is 78 percent forested.

That's where he sometimes clashed with environmental groups seeking to restrict or limit logging. Vermont has been sued by the Montpelier-based environmental group Standing Trees over its plan to allow logging on 3,800 acres of public land around Camel’s Hump State Forest over the next 15 years.

Synder has defended the timber harvests as responsible, sustainable and in line with state policies for timber production on state lands. He regularly praises the foresters, wildlife biologists and other land stewards in the Agency of Natural Resources as some of the best in the world.

Synder said he doesn’t know what he’ll do next. “I’m looking ahead to the evolution of my conservation and recreation career,” he said.

Correction,  December 3, 2022: A previous version of this story misstated the title of Mike Snyder's book.