Simmer Family Farm Expansion and Conservation Along the Passumpsic River
Barnet,Waterford, and St. Johnsbury. Thomas and Virginia Simmer. Conservation easement sale. 111 acres.
Tom and Ginny Simmer's farm, located between the bustle of I-91 and the bucolic Passumpsic River, was conserved with VLT in 2006. Since then, the family's stewardship has been rewarded with a growing dairy operation. Due to the interest of their youngest son, Josh, in joining the family business, they sought new land to add to their farm.
When the neighboring Lamothe Family Dairy came up for sale, the Simmers bought the land and worked with VLT and the Passumpsic Valley Land Trust to sell a conservation easement on 111 acres that span more than a mile of the river across three towns. It provides the family with riverbottom tillage, infrastructure to support an increased herd size, and additional housing. "This purchase is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us," said Tom Simmer. "Our family is grateful for the support of Lamothe family and the Vermont Land Trust to help make our expanded farm a viable and sustainable enterprise that our community can be proud of."
The Simmers granted special ecological protection for the river and are allowing public access to the river frontage for the benefit of passing boaters. A 50-foot-wide zone along the Passumpsic was established to protect habitat and water quality; farming and timber harvesting will not occur in this area. Funded by the Freeman Foundation and the Upper Connecticut River Mitigation and Enhancement Fund of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. Project support from the Passumpsic Valley Land Trust. (November 2012)
Nulhegan Abenaki Obtain First Tribal Forestland in More Than 200 Years
Barton. Abenaki Helping Abenaki, Inc. Conservation easement sale and assistance with land purchase. 65 acres.
The Nulhegan Abenaki tribe, with more than a thousand members, was officially recognized by the State of Vermont in 2011. The tribe had not owned any land for more than 200 years, so it was with great celebration that a tribal nonprofit Abenaki Helping Abenaki took ownership of the first Nulhegan tribal land in modern times. Tribal members worked with VLT and other partners to raise the money needed to purchase and conserve the 65-acre parcel, located off May Farm Road in Barton.
The land will serve as an economic, educational, and cultural resource for the tribe. Meetings and celebrations will be held there, as will education programs for both tribal and non-tribal children. The land's previous owner had a small sugaring operation, which will be expanded by the tribe and will serve as a source of income. The tribe will also grow vegetables using small-scale traditional Abenaki agricultural methods in existing clearings. The forest will provide other economic benefits such as firewood for those in need, hunting opportunities, and a place to gather traditional medicinal plants. The land also has a trail system that will be open to the public for pedestrian recreation. Funded by private donations, the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, the Vermont Community Foundation's Innovations and Collaborations Grant program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through the State Competitive Wildlife Grant Program (Staying Connected), the Vermont Chapter of the Sierra Club, and the Open Space Conservancy Inc., an affiliate of the Open Space Institute, which established the Community Forest Fund with a lead grant from Jane's Trust. (December 2012)
Landowner Protects Canaan Stream
Canaan. Emily Edwards. River corridor easement sale. 22 acres.
Emily Edwards worked with VLT and the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation's Ecosystem Restoration Program (DEC) to protect nearly a mile of Leach Stream. DEC identified the stream as a sensitive and erosive waterway that would benefit from restoration. Emily's farmland is located on Route 114 and was originally conserved with VLT in 1998. As part of the river restoration program, she sold a river corridor easement to VLT on 22 of these acres. This overlay easement limits activities that can be done to the land along the stream with the goal of reducing erosion and flood damage further downstream. Armoring and other activities that would control the flow of water are prohibited. This buffer will help protect the Village of Canaan from flooding by protecting a floodplain where flood waters can be stored. In addition, the easement designates a 50-foot-wide area along Leach Stream that will remain undisturbed and will move as the stream meanders over time; this buffer will increase shade on the water and enhance aquatic species habitat. Funded by the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation. (July 2012)
Canaan Gets a New Community Forest
Canaan. Neil Tillotson Trust and Tillotson Corporation. Conservation easement donation. 364 acres.
The Town of Canaan took ownership of 424 acres of forestland to create the Canaan Community Forest. The land, which had been owned by the Tillotson family for generations, was donated to the town by the Neil Tillotson Trust and the Tillotson Corporation, subject to a conservation easement held by VLT on 364 acres of the property. The new Canaan Community Forest is part of a much larger block of conserved land, as 15,000 acres across the border in Quebec were similarly conserved and donated for municipal ownership at the same time by Neil Tillotson Trust and Tillotson Corporation.
Under town ownership, the community forest will generate income with sustainable timber harvests, promote recreation, protect the local water supply, and serve as an outdoor classroom for students. "We would like to start a natural resource vocational training program using the property," said Essex North Supervisory Union superintendent Chris Masson. "We could build a good cross-country ski trail, keep the snowmobile trail open and build a sugarhouse for students to run. We're very grateful for the generosity of Neil and Louise Tillotson." VLT and a team of resource experts worked with the community prior to the land transfer to design a conservation plan that met Town needs. Partners included Julie Renaud Evans of the Northern Forest Center, Matt Langlais, Essex and Caledonia County Forester, and Mike Welch of the Northern Community Investment Corporation. Supported by the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund of the New Hampshire Community Foundation, and the Freeman Foundation. (August 2012)
Couple Conserves Family Land in Coventry
Coventry. Gary and Joyce Robinson. Conservation easement donation. 124 acres.
Gary and Joyce Robinson donated a conservation easement on productive and scenic land located on Airport Road in Coventry. The land has been in Gary's family for many years; his parents milked cows there until the early 1980s. While the Robinsons no longer operate a farm themselves, their land still plays an important role in the working landscape of Coventry. Today, a neighbor farms the 50 acres of hayfields, which contain high quality agricultural soil. The 73 acres of managed woodlands contain a mix of hardwoods, with some softwood stands, that have provided for multiple harvests over the years. Gary and Joyce, along with their two children, felt that conservation was a good complement to their family's long stewardship of this property. Supported by the Freeman Foundation. (December 2012)
Landowners Conserve Wolcott Pond Frontage
Wolcott. Oran Young and Gail Osherenko. Conservation easement donation. 60 acres.
Gail Osherenko and Oran Young donated a conservation easement on 60 acres on Wolcott Pond, adjacent to East Hill Wildlife Management Area. In addition to 1,750 feet of pond frontage, the property also includes seven acres of sensitive wetlands and a vernal pool, which offers essential breeding habitat for amphibians. Before the conservation of Gail and Oran's land, only 30 percent of the pond's frontage was protected; now that number is close to 50 percent. Conservation ensures that water quality, wildlife habitat, and wetland values are protected for the long term.
The land is also part of a wildlife corridor that is recognized as one of the seven most important corridors across a three-state region by state and non-profit organizations working on the Staying Connected Initiative. The land's protection will positively impact many species of wildlife that move across this landscape. Gail and Oran hope that their decision to conserve will inspire their neighbors to consider conservation. "We look forward to the protection of more land in the area: land that supports sustainable agriculture and forestry and also protects water quality and wildlife habitat," said Gail. Supported by Freeman Foundation, The Green Mountain Fund (a donor-advised fund of the Vermont Community Foundation), and a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through the State Competitive Wildlife Grant Program (Staying Connected). (December 2012)
✦ Denotes conservation easements co-held by VLT, VHCB, and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets.