State Restricts Composting Center on Sacred Land

September 10, 2007

Author: Gale Courey Toensing

Source: Indian Country Today

BURLINGTON, Vt. - A composting business that has been running without a permit on land that is replete with American Indian archaeological sites has been ordered to curtail operations while it seeks state approval to continue.

The state's Natural Resources Board issued a stipulated order to the Intervale Center on Aug. 6, limiting the composting operation to only part of its approximately 19-acre site. The company is not to place more than 4,000 cubic yards of composting material anywhere, use any heavy equipment without the approval of the Division of Historic Preservation, or discharge any of the leachate from its two holding ponds without the authorization of the Agency of Natural Resources while it seeks a land use permit that lays out 10 criteria that a development project must meet, including water pollution, erosion, protection of wetlands and historical resources.

The Intervale Center is a nonprofit organization with 354 acres of farmland, nursery, trails, wildlife corridors and compost production along the Winooski River. Its mission statement is, ''To develop farm-and land-based enterprises that generate economic and social opportunity while protecting natural resources,'' according to its Web site.

But Judy Dow, a member of the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs who brought the permit-less operation the attention of various state agencies, said the Intervale Center is not only operating with a permit, but doing so on land that is sacred to her Abenaki ancestors and unlawfully discharging leachate.