Westfield, VT – The Vermont Land Trust (VLT) and the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation (FPR) worked with Dan and Kim Backus to conserve their 514-acre forestland near Westfield Mountain. The project was funded by the Federal Forest Legacy Program.
The Backus’ land adjoins a 3,400-acre property that the Vermont Land Trust conserved in 1999. That land in turn adjoins the Long Trail State Forest and the Jay State Forest, which make up one of five significant forest areas that span both Canada and Vermont. Conserving contiguous forestland is essential for a healthy forest products economy as well as wildlife that depend on diverse, expansive habitats.
“The land will also provide recreational opportunity for our family and the public,” said Dan Backus, as dispersed public access is permanently protected through the conservation agreement. “We have enjoyed having friends and neighbors hunt, fish, hike, and ski here.”
When Dan first bought part of the property in 1982, the farm buildings were in disrepair. He gradually built back the farmhouse and barn, and added a pond, cabin, and sugarhouse to the land. Over the years, he added on more parcels of land, until his property grew to more than 500 acres.
Dan and Kim operate a 3,300-tap sugarbush on the property and plan to add more taps in the coming years. “This will be our 31st year sugaring. My sons both live close by and continue to help with tapping and gathering, and keeping me company at the sugarhouse.”
The Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation now holds a conservation easement on the land, which the Vermont Land Trust helped to create. This legal agreement will assure that the property will continue to be well managed for timber, maple sugaring and wildlife habitat.
The Forest Legacy Program, started by Senator Patrick Leahy, has played an essential role in funding the protection of large stretches of forest in Vermont.
“The Forest Legacy program is another ‘born in Vermont’ idea that continues to benefit our state and the nation,” said Senator Patrick Leahy. “This project is exactly the kind of project that I envisioned when I authored Forest Legacy. It conserves a large block of actively managed forest land for our generation and future generations of Vermonters, while contributing both to Vermont’s forest product industries, and to our outdoor recreation economies. I am doing all that I can to make sure that the Forest Legacy program remains strong for years to come.”
Dan and Kim regularly harvest timber from their carefully managed forest. They keep their forest roads in excellent condition, and are constantly improving the land’s timber resources with help from a professional forester. A portion of the land has farm fields, some of which were conserved. They are used for grazing and growing hay.
The land has nearly a mile of frontage on Mill Brook, and is crossed by more than a mile of unnamed streams. The property will be managed in a way that promotes good water quality.