For Immediate Release: January 4, 2017
Winhall and Jamaica – The Gale Meadows Wildlife Management Area grew by nearly 200 acres when the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department bought forestland in Winhall and Jamaica and conserved it with the Vermont Land Trust. Now, with the added land, both wildlife and the public can enjoy over 900 acres of permanently conserved land.
The mostly forested land has gentle, rolling terrain, an extensive wetland, and is accessible from Skinner Swamp Road. More than 100 acres serve as a wintering area for deer.
The Fish & Wildlife Department worked with landowners Mike and Joan Dritz, who sold the property to the state.
“This land includes a magnificent wetland, gorgeous trees, rolling hills and beautiful views,” said Mike Dritz. “It has been this way for centuries and needs to stay preserved for all to enjoy. We know this will remain a treasure for Vermont and Vermonters.”
Funding for the purchase of the land came from sales of state Waterfowl Stamps as well as the newly-created Vermont Habitat Stamp program, and grants from the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
The Gale Meadows addition adds to a 2000-acre block of unfragmented forest that includes state and privately conserved lands that link to the Green Mountain National Forest.
“The health and abundance of wildlife depends on having good habitat,” said Louis Porter, commissioner of the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. "Protecting connected habitat as we did here is essential for large mammals like bear and moose that must travel distances to eat and breed.”
The land will be accessible to the public for recreation, including fishing, bird-watching, hunting, walking, skiing and snowshoeing.
“This area has a remote, backcountry feel to it,” said Porter. “The woodlands around the pond are popular for deer, ruffed grouse, and snowshoe hare hunting and many will enjoy watching wildlife or just getting out on the land.”
As part of the funding agreement with the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, a conservation easement was placed on the property. The easement is co-held by the Vermont Land Trust and Vermont Housing & Conservation Board and reflects the approach the department takes towards stewarding this Wildlife Management Area. It recognizes the perpetual commitment made by all parties to the future health of this important piece of habitat. The Vermont Land Trust will be responsible for ensuring these protections are upheld.
“We’ve walked the land and have documented its many special features,” explained Jennifer Garrett from the Vermont Land Trust. “Along with excellent wildlife habitat, there are two types of wetlands that are important to protect because they are relatively uncommon on the Vermont landscape. Also, the black-backed woodpecker, a bird rarely seen in Vermont outside the Northeast Kingdom, has been observed at Gale Meadows on at least two occasions.”
Gale Meadows Wildlife Management Area had its founding with conservationists Henry and Alice Green, who originally bought the land in 1945. The Greens were instrumental in creating Gale Meadows Pond in the mid-sixties; at 195 acres, it is the third largest waterbody in southern Vermont behind Harriman and Somerset Reservoirs.
In the early 1990s, over 300 acres around the pond were protected by the Vermont Land Trust with funding from the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board. The Fish & Wildlife Department inherited the Greens’ remaining acreage in 1996. The Greens’ legacy resulted in 707 conserved acres and a beautiful pond with public recreation.