Four trail networks alone account for $29.6 million in economic activity and 325 jobs according to a report by the Vermont Trails & Greenways Council. The grand total includes trail tickets and rentals, as well as other likely purchases made by trail-dwellers, like craft beer at a brewery or a lunch at a local restaurant.

Vermont’s state park systems have become more cost efficient in producing outdoor recreation opportunities over time, a new report says. Conducted by researchers at Utah State University, the study examined state park systems in all 50 states between 1984 and 2014, finding that directors and managers in Vermont parks have increasingly improved in efficiently allocating operating expenditures.

Education and the Economy

Campaign for Vermont released a report suggesting that opening up the Vermont school system to international students could result in $350 million in potential savings for Vermont property tax payers.

Private colleges and universities contribute $2.09 billion annually to the Vermont economy. According to the recent study by the Association of Vermont Independent Colleges using FY 2014-2015 data, the state’s private higher education also employs 7,100 people statewide. Check out the VT Digger article for more information.

Working women

Vermont women lose a total of 1.5 billion dollars a year in the gender pay gap. A study released this week by the National Partnership for Women and Families found that women in the state get paid 84 cents for every dollar paid to men, a gap which, if closed, researchers say could bolster the economy. See also the article in Vermont Biz.

Change the Story Vermont, an initiative dedicated to improving women’s economic status in Vermont, released a study that found that businesses run by women tend to be less profitable than those run by men. Vermont women own half as many businesses as their male counterparts, but they still generate more than $2.2 billion annually. See also VT Digger.

Health & Opioid Use

Bennington County was ranked as one of the unhealthiest populations in the state, according to the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps report. While Addison and Chittenden counties are home to Vermont’s healthiest individuals, Grand Isles and Orleans counties fell into 13th and 14th (of 14 counties), respectively. The disparity has been attributed to vastly different socio-economic demographics, and also, in some cases, new waves of addiction to drugs, starting with opiates.

In a study with broad national implications, researchers have linked childhood emotional with opioid use later in life. The study sample was made up of 84 Vermont adults with substance abuse issues. See also an interview with the researchers on Vermont Edition. Check out VPR for more information.

U.S. opioid use may be reaching a plateau, according to a recent review on national and northern New England opioid prescribing patterns in 2013-2014. Conducted by researchers at UVM and Dartmouth-Hitchcock, the study examined opioid use in Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, as well as nationally, finding that efforts to prescribe more prudently may contribute to the shift.

Child Care

A new report by the Blue Ribbon Commission on Affordable Child Care recommends that Vermont should double child care assistance, spending at additional $43.5 million. Based on 15 months of research, the authors find thatmost Vermont families cannot afford high-quality early childhood care and learning. See the also the Burlington Free Press article for details.

In a related study, researchers found that 79% of infants and toddlers who are likely to need childcare do not have accesss, says a recent report by the VT Let’s Grow Kids campaign. Not only does this present a challenge to families with young children, but the research shows that in a six-month period 45% of parents are absent due to childcare issues.

Trees & Maple Syrup

Tree regeneration is essential for sustainable forest management, but it can be hindered by ecological and harvesting effects. A study by UVM researchers on the regeneration responses to management for old-growth characteristics in hardwood-conifer forests of Vermont found that structural complexity enhancement is a successful method for holistic forest management.

Acid deposition in forest soils has proven to be problematic for Vermont’s sugar maples. A lower pH leaches calcium from the tree’s roots, stunting its growth. The state’s maple syrup industry accounted for $330 million of the economy in 2013 and provided 4,000 jobs, stressing the importance for farmers to maintain desirable growing conditions.

Books, Music & Art

The book Abolition & The Underground Railroad in Vermont by Michelle Arnosky Sherburne tells the story of Vermont as the first state to abolish slavery. The book reveals a more complicated history than the welcoming scene that is typically portrayed, including the fact that owning black children was still legal.

The Vermont Research News is a bi-monthly curated collection of Vermont research -- focused on research in the Vermont "laboratory" -- research that provides original knowledge to the world and research that adds to understanding of the state's social, economic, cultural and physical environment.

Send your news items to Editor Kirsti Blow.

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Richard A. Watts