I am delighted we have been shortlisted amongst so many other projects. It is a perfect example of how new technologies can be a powerful tool in the decision making process maximising our efforts to enhance biodiversity on our road verges. The result can be wonderful benefits for biodiversity on the land we manage while providing a real sense of achievement for everyone involved. The system has been used to deliver a vast woodland and hedgerow connectivity scheme at 21 sites along the A30 and A38 in Devon and Cornwall with 10,000 native trees and shrubs filling or reducing gaps in hedgerow and woodland along the roadside. In total the planting has connected over 105 miles of habitat on the verges and wider landscape adjacent to the roads. Tree planting scheme on the A30/A38Last winter a heathland creation scheme was also undertaken, with a vision to connect existing heathland on important sites such as Dartmoor, Bodmin and Goss Moor.A planting scheme promoting habitat for the super rare marsh fritillary butterfly in the Goss Moor area in Cornwall has also been delivered.The system which was developed in conjunction with CEH (Centre of Ecology and Hydrology) picked up second place in the medium/large scale award at the Ciria BIG Biodiversity Challenge ceremony at the Royal College of Physicians in London..Leo added: It sounds complicated but essentially the software crunches our data on habitats and species together with information on the surrounding landscape to find the best locations for habitat creation and enhancement schemes as well as landscape management projects. We look at the populations and habitat connectivity for wildlife such as dormice, bats, endangered butterflies and also species of plants that are of conservation priority and then decide which schemes to prioritise. Images from space and computer wizardry have helped Highways England develop a ground breaking approach to promoting wildlife habitat along trunk roads in Devon and Cornwall.Satellite photos and earth observation techniques have been combined with Highways England wildlife data in a software system that can predict areas where biodiversity schemes will pack the biggest punch.And the system is proving so successful it has been nominated for an environmental award from CIRIA Big Diversity Challenge.Highways England’s ecologist, Leo Gubert, explained: Highways England is committed to a national Biodiversity Plan which is being supported by a £30 million national investment programme over the next five years.The plan recognises road verges and associated land can be managed to provide areas of habitat, relatively free from human access that may be scarce in the surrounding landscape.These road verges can also be used to connect fragmented habitats in the wider landscape, enabling plant and animal populations to move and interact, and so become stronger and more resilient.General enquiriesMembers of the public should contact the Highways England customer contact centre on 0300 123 5000.Media enquiriesJournalists should contact the Highways England press office on 0844 693 1448 and use the menu to speak to the most appropriate press officer.
Vermont families earning less than $48,000 a year may qualify for federal and state tax credits under the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) program that could mean thousands of dollars in their pockets. The Vermont State Treasurer’s Office is joining with other state and federal organizations to remind Vermonters about this credit. January 29 is EITC Awareness Day nationwide.“Surprisingly, the IRS estimates as many as 25 percent of all eligible taxpayers don’t file for the EITC because they are unaware of it,” said State Treasurer Jeb Spaulding. “This special tax benefit for working people of low or moderate incomes has been available on the federal level since 1975 and at the state level since 1987. As Vermonters prepare their 2009 tax forms, I urge them to check their eligibility for this benefit.”The Earned Income Tax Credit is so-named because, to qualify, a person must work and have earned income. Taxpayers may claim the federal EITC as part of completing their 1040 or 1040-A form. For the state EITC, Vermonters must first claim the credit on their federal return and then complete the 2009 Vermont Tax Adjustments and Credits form IN-112.While claiming the EITC does require more steps, claim statistics indicate it is well worth the effort. For the 2008 tax year, the IRS reported that 40,166 Vermont taxpayers received the federal EITC amounting to $66,360,633, making the average refund $1,652. The Vermont Tax Department reports that 39,504 Vermonters claimed the State EITC for the 2008 tax year worth a total of $21,169,683. The average refund was $536. Vermont’s EITC State law allows a resident to receive an additional tax credit of 32 percent of the amount the taxpayer receives from the federal EITC. For example, if a taxpayer received the maximum federal EITC of $5,657, the state EITC would be approximately $1,810.“Many people will qualify for the EITC for the first time this year because their income declined, their marital status changed, or they added children to their families,” said IRS Senior Tax Consultant Christine Curtis. “Additionally, the amount of income a taxpayer may earn and still be eligible for the credit was increased by several thousand dollars, and a third eligibility category for taxpayers with three or more qualifying children was created. The new category enables eligible families with three or more children to receive hundreds more dollars in credit.” Generally, a taxpayer may be able to take the credit for the 2009 tax year if the taxpayer:has three or more qualifying children and earns less than $43,279 ($48,279 if married filing jointly); orhas two qualifying children and earns less than $40,295 ($45,295 if married filing jointly); orhas one qualifying child and earns less than $35,463 ($40,463 if married filing jointly); ordoes not have a qualifying child and earns less than $13,440 ($18,440 if married filing jointly). New this year is the option for taxpayers receiving any refund to purchase U.S. savings bonds through direct deposit. Form 8888, Direct Deposit of Refund to More Than One Account, is used to split a tax refund into two or three financial accounts. Taxpayers may now request a portion of their refund be used to buy up to $5,000 in low-risk, liquid Treasury Bonds, which earn interest and protect owners against inflation. Refunds also may be deposited directly into previously established traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs and SEP-IRAs. Prior to initiating a direct deposit into a retirement fund, taxpayers should check with their financial institution to confirm that it will accept direct deposits and to inform the retirement account trustee of the tax year to which the IRA should be contributed. For example, if a taxpayer intends for a direct deposit to be designated as a 2009 IRA contribution, but fails to inform the trustee, the deposit might be designated as a 2010 contribution. The direct deposit contribution to an IRA must be made prior to April 15, 2010, in order to apply to the 2009 tax year. For Vermonters earning less than $50,000 in 2009, free tax assistance services are available. IRS- certified volunteer tax preparers will work through a statewide network of 64 sites to help taxpayers file their taxes. Last year, the Vermont Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites helped more than 6,000 Vermonters. AARP also offers free tax counseling and preparation services to low- and middle-income-level Vermonters, but especially for those age 60 and older. AARP Tax-Aide served more than 4,200 individual Vermonters last year. A list of free tax assistance sites is available through the State Treasurer’s web site by going to www.MoneyEd.Vermont.gov(link is external) and by calling the United Way Information Line at 2-1-1. The IRS also offers a web site with an easy-to-use interactive tool to help taxpayers determine whether they qualify for the EITC. The EITC Assistant is located at www.irs.gov/eitc(link is external). For more information, call the Vermont Department of Taxes at 1-866-828-2865 (toll-free in Vermont) or 802-828-2865 for local or out-of-state calls.Source: Vermont Treasurer. 1.26.2010