The benefits of land conservation must be available to all Vermonters.
Vital communities depend on broad access to affordable and healthy food, clean air and water, safe and affordable housing, and the spiritual and recreational benefits of land.
Through the protection of land, we are committed to engaging Vermonters of all income levels as beneficiaries of our work.
In the case of farmland, land values in Vermont have increased dramatically, making it more difficult for farmers to gain access to productive and affordable farmland. To address this, we have created the Farmland Access Program which uses conservation as a tool to sell farms at affordable prices to qualified farmers.
Through the program, we have matched nearly a dozen new farm enterprises with affordable farmland. Also as part of the program, the Vermont Foodbank purchased the Kingsbury farm in Waitsfield and committed to creating a farm operation that provides a wide variety of fresh produce for distribution to food shelves in the central Vermont region.
Access to Forestland
Those who are most likely to make their living from Vermont's forest have become the least able to afford to own the land. Fragmentation of the region’s productive forestland, coupled with increasing value (and therefore costs) of forestland ownership are shifting the demographics of landownership towards higher income, non-resident property owners.
We are working with partner organizations and individuals to create community ownership and other models of forestland ownership that make it possible for more to share in the benefits.
The conserved 115-acre Little Hogback Community Forest is owned by a group of individuals and families who have formed a limited liability corporation with 16 member-shares, eight of which are owned by low-income families. These shareholders have access to Little Hogback for hiking, skiing, no-trace camping, bird watching, picnicking, deer hunting, and for firewood.
We also protect forestland for public ownership in the form of town forests in many Vermont communities including Marshfield, Middlesex, Waitsfield, and Marlboro. These forests are used for hiking, hunting, education, firewood, and sustainable management.
Affordable Housing and Other Community Uses of Land
We work to conserve places that offer public access to water for fishing and swimming, trails to hike, town greens to gather on, and land for the development affordable housing.
We completed one of our first community projects with the conservation of a public swimming area in Calais in 1982. The town of Calais now owns the Curtis Pond swimming area which is also popular as a local gathering place and picnic area. Several other local swimming holes have been protected for public use since that time.
In 2004, we donated 20 acres of land to the Gilman Housing Trust for the construction of six affordable, single-family homes in the town of Jay. We also sold the adjacent area to the town of Jay for public use as a local park. The Jay Peak ski area will always draw crowds to the town but we wanted to help make Jay a place where Vermonters could afford to live and recreate.
In Craftsbury, you will find a low, broad yellow building, carefully designed and colored to fit into East Craftsbury. This building is home to the Craftsbury Community Care Center, an assisted-living facility with 24 apartments that are home to elders who have long lived in this area or have local connections. The center was made possible when we donated eight acres in the village that were a part of the Brassknocker Farm. As part of this 1995 project, East Craftsbury residents and the Vermont Land Trust worked together to protect more than 700 acres of land while creating the elder care center and expanding the town cemetery.