Former Bennington Banner and Brattleboro Reformer editor Sabina Haskell has been chosen by Gov. Phil Scott to be the next chairwoman of the state's Natural Resources Board.

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MONTPELIER — A former editor of the Bennington Banner and Brattleboro Reformer has been appointed to one of the top environmental posts in Vermont state government.

Sabina Haskell was named chairwoman of the Natural Resources Board by Gov. Phil Scott on Monday.

Haskell previously served as deputy secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources from 2007-10 in the administration of Gov. Jim Douglas. She succeeds Diane Snelling, who stepped down as board chairwoman earlier this year.

The Natural Resources Board serves a critical role in the oversight and administration of Act 250, the state’s land-use planning law. Haskell comes to the office at a time when the state faces a housing shortage, and some are calling for changes to the law allowing for faster approval of needed housing projects. Others say Act 250 must be defended vigorously to protect the state’s natural resources, particularly fresh water.

“Act 250 is something that is just part of our ethos and our heritage. Our whole environmental identity stems from Act 250,” Haskell said Monday. “At the same time, we are blessed with lots of [federal] ARPA money in infrastructure bills that are coming.”

That said, Haskell does not foresee the need for “significant changes” in Act 250 to make that work possible, although some updating will help to “allow for things everybody agrees we need, such as housing.”

“Generally we agree more than we disagree. There’s common-sense ways to approach it,” Haskell said. “I will really look to the team to help me. ... I’ll follow their guidance.”

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In the announcement, Haskell thanked Scott “for the opportunity to play a leadership role in Vermont’s environmental future, where we protect all that is important and cherished by Vermonters, and where we also make everyday life more affordable, accessible and inclusive for all Vermonters.

“It is doable if everyone comes to the table to work together to meet the opportunities — and finite timelines — of federal funding to make both strategic investments in our economic future while protecting our Vermont environmental heritage.”

Haskell comes to the Natural Resources Board from the state Department of Liquor and Lottery, where she has been deputy commissioner since May. She has also worked in public affairs for the Vermont Student Assistance Corp. and for Fairpoint Communications.

A graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Haskell previously reported for and edited all three of Vermont News & Media’s publications, then owned by MediaNews Group, including the Manchester Journal. She was editor of the Banner from 2002-04 and of the Reformer from 2005-07. She also worked for the Rutland Herald.

“Sabina will bring significant management experience and a fresh perspective to the board that will help deliver consistent, clear and predictable outcomes to Vermont’s legacy land-use law,” Scott said in a statement. “She will be focused on bringing clarity to the Act 250 process and streamlining permits, which will be essential in moving projects forward, especially under ARPA funding and deadlines.”

Scott also announced he had appointed Wendy Knight as commissioner of the Department of Liquor and Lottery, where she had served as a deputy commissioner since April, and Andrew Collier as its deputy commissioner.

Knight served as Vermont’s commissioner of the Department of Tourism and Marketing from 2017-19 and was also vice chairwoman of the Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative.

Greg Sukiennik covers government and politics for Vermont News & Media. Reach him at gsukiennik@benningtonbanner.com.

Greg Sukiennik has worked at all three Vermont News & Media newspapers and was their managing editor from 2017-19. He previously worked for ESPN.com, for the AP in Boston, and at The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, Mass.


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