Protection of natural resources is a vital part of our work. While we’ve been doing this for many years, we stepped up the pace in 2004 by hiring a conservation biologist to coordinate the work and create a map-based land assessment system.
For every project we undertake, we do a thorough evaluation of potential important natural resources, through map work and often also through field visits.
We’ll often add provisions in conservation easements to address management of special natural features that are found on the land, especially when they are classified as “significant” by the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife. These features could include bogs, cliffs, vernal pools, rare plants or animals, or special kinds of forest. Features are classified as significant when they are rare in Vermont, or they are one of the best examples statewide.
We’re finding that landowners take pride in their important natural areas—their river corridors, forests, wetlands, vernal pools—and can often tell us what animals and plants frequent those special places.
Most landowners are pleased to offer added protections in the easement, knowing that future generations will be able to enjoy the wildlife and natural beauty of their land, as well as the farm and forest resources.
Here are some examples of conservation projects that have incorporated natural resource values:
Rene Boissoneault conserved 241 acres of fertile bottomland along the Lamoille River. When he inquired about conserving his farmland, we checked the maps to see if there might be any significant natural features.
The soils maps and aerial photographs showed two patches of forest—one along the river and one in an old oxbow back from the river—on alluvial soils. This combination meant potential floodplain forest, an uncommon forest type in Vermont.
Our conservation biologist, Liz Thompson, visited the property with Rene and confirmed two high-quality patches of floodplain forest. Knowing their significance as forests, and their importance for wildlife habitat, when Rene conserved his land he chose to have two Special Treatment Areas (STAs) called out in the easement. The STA provisions allow for the occasional removal of trees, but these areas can never be cleared or converted to agricultural use.
Peter and Joanne Langrock conserved 193 acres of farm and forestland. They have conserved their land in three phases, protecting a dry oak forest, an uncommon natural community in Vermont, and a vernal pool (an important breeding site for frogs and salamanders). The vernal pool and the forest surrounding it are protected through a Special Treatment Area, providing the fallen logs and moist shade that these animals need to survive.
This 362-acre parcel, at the junction of three towns, has it all: frontage on Lewis Creek, a variety of wetland communities, dry oak-hickory-hophornbeam forest, mature clayplain forest, caves, cliffs, unique geological features, rich ravines, vernal pools, wildlife travel corridors, habitat for the federally endangered Indiana bat, bobcats, otters, and, yes, nesting ravens.
The Nature Conservancy and the Vermont Land Trust teamed up with the owners of two adjoining properties, to protect this important site. Raven Davis and Ed Everts had owned their land in Charlotte and Hinesburg since the early 1970s, while John Paluska and Cynthia Brown bought several parcels in Monkton in the mid-1990s. The Raven Ridge Natural Area, now owned by The Nature Conservancy, emerged from their mutual interest in seeing the land conserved for its ecological values.
The Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Charlotte Land Trust, all three towns, and local residents all played an important role in the project. This was an excellent example of how our partnerships can work to achieve shared conservation goals.
The Osborns of Craftsbury, whose land is located next to lands asociated with the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, were especially interested in protecting fragile cedar swamp habitat, while also maintaining winter cross-country ski trails on their land.
Liz Thompson and Northeast Kingdom Director Tracy Zschau walked the land with the Osborns and discovered diverse plants and habitats in the swamp.
Northern white cedar swamps are common enough in the Northeast Kingdom, but less so in other parts of Vermont. They are sensitive habitats—soft, mucky ground can easily be rutted and disturbed—and they provide habitat for some very rare plants, including the elusive Calypso, or fairy slipper, orchid.
Several of these swamps, including the Osborns', have been protected with Special Treatment Areas, allowing for logging only when the ground is frozen to protect the fragile environment.
Cheryl and JD DeVos own an organic dairy in Ferrisburg. When they conserved their farm, they added special protections for a floodplain forest and riparian areas on Lewis Creek, and also for an area of valley clayplain forest, an uncommon natural community that occurs on the clay soils in the Champlain Valley.
The property abuts a state Wildlife Management Area, and the easement provides for the eventual transfer of the DeVos’ woodland to the state, should they or subsequent owners choose that route. In any case, the forest will always be forest, providing habitat for clayplain plants and a variety of wildlife species.
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