Years ago, when Tom Kavet’s daughter was doing a school project, she discovered that the water in a raindrop landing on one side of their roof would end up in Lake Champlain and ultimately enter the Atlantic Ocean via the Gulf of St. Lawrence, while a raindrop landing on the other side would begin a journey to the Connecticut River and enter the Atlantic Ocean in Long Island Sound.

Now, the rain that falls on more than 780 acres of surrounding forest—401 acres owned by Tom and 382 by his neighbors Rich and Ann Chalmers—lands not just in two major watersheds, but also on land conserved with VLT.

As friends and neighbors, Tom, Rich, and Ann have always worked together on caring for their forestland and the wildlife that rely on it. Conserving the land was a logical step.

“There are only a few things that you will do in your life that persist beyond your lifetime,” said Tom. “Something like this is a gift you give to generations down the road.”

Over the past 25 years, Tom and the Chalmers have slowly bought smaller parcels of forest as they’ve come up for sale, essentially piecing together land that had been broken up and reversing what has become a disturbing trend for Vermont—the fragmentation of forestland.

“Forest fragmentation is one of the most critical challenges facing Vermont,” said Rich. “Being able to pair with the Vermont Land Trust to ensure our woods remain intact is really important to us.”

In addition to its value to both major watersheds, the land lies in an area of forest that is considered a high priority for conservation because it is deep, interior forest providing expansive territories and travel corridors for wildlife.

“We are working to keep our woods a vibrant, diverse, healthy place for wildlife,” explained Rich, who volunteers as president of Vermont Coverts. “Our approach is to bring more light to the forest floor, encourage diversity, leave lots of coarse woody material and fight invasives wherever we see them.”

The land is also a hot spot for amphibians, with at least 14 vernal pools, including a grouping of 11 pools close to each other. These ephemeral, spring pools are essential for frog and salamander breeding.

Tom, Rich, and Ann work together and with other neighbors to manage the forest, including building trails and jointly buying sugaring equipment. These days the neighbors sugar on the Chalmers’ land. “We don’t make that much—maybe 50 gallons in a good year,” said Tom. “But we do it to be outside at that time of year and for the community connections it brings.”

That sense of community with the forest, the animals, and each other inspired years of rejoining subdivided forest, improving habitat, and now, permanent conservation and the protection of headwaters streams.

“We realized that there was an opportunity to do something particularly special,” said Rich. “We see this as a first step. We’re hoping our neighbors will join us.”

Funded by the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation’s New England Forest and Rivers Fund. June 2017.

Photo by Caleb Kenna