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view from mountain in fallApril 12, 2017

Fish & Wildlife Dept.'s Largest Conserved Land Project in Fifteen Years

Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department recently added nearly 3,000 acres to Bird Mountain Wildlife Management Area in Ira and Poultney, bringing the total publicly-conserved area to more than 3,600 acres. This is the largest addition to a Vermont wildlife management area in more than a decade.

The wildlife management area includes the iconic Bird's Eye Mountain, a well-known nesting site and habitat for peregrine falcons, as well as the surrounding lands.

A celebration will take place to commemorate the purchase on Saturday, May 6 from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., starting at the Education Center at the Kehoe Green Mountain Conservation Camp in Castleton, Vermont. The celebration will conclude with easy walks to tour the newly conserved property. The event includes light refreshments and is free and open to the public.

"Our wildlife and beautiful landscape are vital to the quality of life here in Vermont, and important to our economy and tourism sector," said Governor Phil Scott. "This significant addition of protected land to the Bird Mountain Wildlife Management Area is, therefore, incredibly exciting news for Rutland County and Vermont."

Bird Mountain Wildlife Management Area is part of a larger connected area of 4,100 acres of conserved land that includes Blueberry Hill Wildlife Management Area and West Rutland town forestproperties.

"Large connected habitat blocks, such as the ones at Bird Mountain, are essential for wildlife such as bears, songbirds, bobcats, and brook trout," said Louis Porter, commissioner of the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.

Porter also highlighted the economic benefits of the conservation project to Vermonters. "The newly expanded Bird Mountain Wildlife Management Area will serve as an economic engine in central Rutland County for many years to come," said Porter. "These lands are popular with hunters, hikers, birdwatchers, and snowmobilers. This expansion will provide additional recreational opportunities and a year-round boost to regional tourism."

Hunting, fishing and wildlife watching contribute $712 million to Vermont's economy annually, according to a report from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

The land was purchased with funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Program and a grant from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board. Additional funds were provided by The Conservation Fund, Green Mountain Power, the Lintilhac Foundation, the Vermont Wild Turkey Federation, donors to Fish & Wildlife Department's Habitat Stamp Fund, and a large donation from the Vermont Community Foundation. The project will not need additional public funding in the upcoming state budgets.

Commissioner Porter thanked the many partners that were involved in the project, "Conserving this land wouldn't have been possible without a generous grant from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board early in the project. We also owe a huge debt of gratitude to The Conservation Fund, as well as the people from the communities of Ira and Poultney for supporting state ownership early in the process."

The Conservation Fund, a national conservation organization with an office in Vermont, initially purchased and held the property for three years while the partner organizations worked together to finalize the purchase.

"The landscape is at the heart of who we are as Vermonters. It shapes our communities and inspires and restores our spirits," said Nancy Bell, Vermont/New Hampshire director for The Conservation Fund. "The forests, mountains and streams of Bird's Eye are dear to the towns of Ira, Poultney and neighboring Castleton. The communities love this land and committed to its conservation for future generations for wildlife habitat and recreation."

The project received tremendous support from townspeople in Ira and Poultney. A series of Vermont Association of Snow Travelers (VAST) trails exist on the property that are popular for riders from all over the region.

Tom Coloutti is the vice present of the Poultney Valley Snowmobile Devils, the local VAST chapter with nearly 300 members. According to Coloutti, roughly a third of the club's riders travel from out of state, providing a boost to the local economy in the winter when the riders patronize local businesses. "These trails have been here as far back as I can remember, so I'm glad to see that they'll remain open for everyone to enjoy," said Coloutti.

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 Housing and Conservation Board and the Vermont Land Trust, the entities responsible for ensuring these protections are upheld. It reflects the approach the Fish & Wildlife Department takes towards stewarding this wildlife management area and recognizes the perpetual commitment made by all parties to the future health of this important piece of habitat.

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