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  • AASHE-STARS

The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System™ (STARS) is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance.

Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 75.27
Liaison Katie Lavin
Submission Date Jan. 28, 2016
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.0

Sterling College (VT)
OP-10: Landscape Management

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00 Kelly Jones
Manager
Buildings and Grounds
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Figures required to calculate the total area of managed grounds::
Area
Total campus area 430 Acres
Footprint of the institution's buildings 1.16 Acres
Area of undeveloped land, excluding any protected areas 390 Acres

Area of managed grounds that is::
Area
Managed in accordance with an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Plan 0 Acres
Managed in accordance with a sustainable landscape management program that includes an IPM plan and otherwise meets the criteria outlined 0 Acres
Managed organically, third party certified and/or protected 38.84 Acres

A copy of the IPM plan:
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The IPM plan :
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A brief summary of the institution’s approach to sustainable landscape management:

To keep grass down to a mangeable level, we use brush hoggers, mowers, goats, and sheep. All work in the forest is guided by a forest management plan, influenced strongly by the principles of Silviculture, written by a forester, and implemented as part of multiple courses—in fact, during their Sterling experience, every student will utilize the forest as a classroom.


A brief description of how the institution protects and uses existing vegetation, uses native and ecologically appropriate plants, and controls and manages invasive species:

We have a full-time student position who is conducting monitoring of invasive species and developing a management plan, which will be enacted by All College Work Days as well as the Work position every year thereafter. Invasive species control and potential spread is considered by the Lands and Energy committee on campus. The College faculty is involved in outreach to the local community, educating them on invasive species on their land.


A brief description of the institution’s landscape materials management and waste minimization policies and practices:

Cut landscape materials goes into compost (grass & leaves), we don't do anything with brush except let it rot out in piles.


A brief description of the institution’s organic soils management practices:

At Sterling College we work to increase the soil quality of our land with a focus on increasing the health of the biological system found in the soil that nurtures the plants that we grow. We monitor many soil quality factors yearly such as earthworm count, aggregate stability, water infiltration, nutrient and organic matter content etc. We work on feeding a diverse biological system using cover crops, biochar, compost, compost tea and other organic amendments and apply conservation tillage management practices when ever possible.


A brief description of the institution’s use of environmentally preferable materials in landscaping and grounds management:

For landscaping and grounds management, we use local and sustainable materials as our grounds are part of our living laboratory. We reuse whenever possible. We manage our farmlands with both tractor and draft horses.


A brief description of how the institution restores and/or maintains the integrity of the natural hydrology of the campus:

Stormwater is an issue for the broader community and Sterling College’s land base plays a significant role in the town management of runoff from rain events and snow melt. The Sterling College overall mission reflects our commitment to land and water quality through sustainable and innovative land use practices.

Ninety percent of our 480 acre main campus and 100% of our 307 acres of off campus property is open space and includes forest, grassland, and wetlands which serve to capture much of the community’s stormwater runoff. The college’s total impervious surface (parking areas, walkways, roofs) is only 1.8 acres of our 480 acres, but we are very conscientious of our stormwater runoff. As we continue to grow as well as renovate our buildings and infrastructure, we are intentional about locating new construction to contour with the landscape, using Low Impact Development (LID) and Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) such as drip line trenches which discharge into natural swales.

Wetlands play a critical role in stormwater retention and filtration and over 350 acres of the college campus are State and National Designated Wetlands, including the Northern White Cedar Swamp on the main campus and Bear Swamp in Wolcott, Vermont. These wetlands are protected by law and not only provide valuable ecological services, but are important natural areas for conservation and natural history research at the college.

Sterling College is currently working with the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to develop a Nutrient Management Plan (NMP) for the barns in our Rian Fried Center for Sustainable Agricultural and Food Systems. This plan will help us capture runoff and ensure there is no nutrient loading into nearby waterways. (The NMP will be developed in the summer of 2015.)

Several of Sterling College buildings stormwater runoff feeds into existing drains which flow through a main culvert into a small ditch managed by the town. This ditch travels 100 yards to a larger ditch alongside our significant wetland complex. Stormwater is naturally filtered through this area and then slowly migrates down slope for half mile towards the Black River. A recent survey of the Black River resulted in no significant impact from this practice.

The Sterling College Lands and Energy Committee is revamping the Sterling College Land Use Plan during the 2015 spring semester and there will be a more specific stormwater management plan associated with the overarching plan. This will be an opportunity for the college community, including faculty, staff, and students, to reevaluate our current LID practices and plan for the implementation of the latest GSI techniques available to our region and landscape.


A brief description of how the institution reduces the environmental impacts of snow and ice removal (if applicable):

Oddly enough, in northern Vermont, this is quite the issue. We use no salt. We use minimal sand; we truck out snow to a remote parking lot and let it melt.


A brief description of any certified and/or protected areas:

On campus is a Vermont class two wetland (mapped on the National Inventory Wetland Map) -- the Cedar Swamp -- which is protected by state wetland law. We value it as a "wilderness area" on the main campus. Nature trails wind through the thick stands of cedar trees, and wildlife sightings are common. Cedar trees love wet soil, and there is often standing water in parts of the swamp, home to frogs, salamanders, and aquatic invertebrates.


Is the institution recognized by the Arbor Day Foundation's Tree Campus USA program (if applicable)?:
No

The website URL where information about the institution’s sustainable landscape management programs and practices is available:

Sterling College was recognized as a Vermont Tree Farm in 1996. This recognition is for sustainable forestry which provides wildlife, water, wood and recreation benefits. The Vermont Tree Farm program is part of the American Tree Farm Program.

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution and complete the Data Inquiry Form.