Kingdom Heritage Lands at 20 Years
Twenty years ago, the largest land sale in modern Vermont history resulted in the protection of some 132,000 acres of woods in far northeastern Vermont. It is one of the largest and wildest swaths of forest in the state.
Initially known as the Champion Lands after the paper company that had owned and logged it, the property has since been renamed the Kingdom Heritage Lands. Success at this scale happens only when many organizations, funders, and agencies work in tandem. VLT played a major role in raising the $8.5 million paid for the property, and today manages the conservation easements that protect 84,000 acres that remain in private ownership.
The land falls into three major units: the Silvio O. Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, the state’s West Mountain Wildlife Management Area, and land owned by the Weyerhaeuser Company.
At the time it was conserved, some people were concerned that logging jobs would be lost and hunting, snowmobiling, and other activities might be restricted. “By and large, all the fears people had have not emerged,” says VLT forester Dan Kilborn. “Jobs and traditional recreation are both still very much a part of this land.”
“It was important to listen to what the community needed from the property, because a place that people really care about was being permanently protected.”
Ecologically, the Kingdom Heritage Lands are a gateway to the northern boreal forest, home to rare animals such as Canada Lynx and iconic animals like moose. Dozens of bird species inhabit or migrate through it. Rare plants and ecological features found nowhere else in the state are found here. Culturally, the land is vital to the soul of the Northeast Kingdom. A big part of the region’s forest industry is based here. And some of the region’s best hunting and fishing is here, along with miles of trails for snowmobiling and hiking.
Matt Breton, a physical therapist, hunter, and author who has hunted on the land for more than a dozen years, says there’s no other place quite like it in Vermont.
“I like the ruggedness, the remoteness,” he says. “Those lands are really a boon to us now and will be 100 years from now.”
Story by Tom Slayton. Photos by Caleb Kenna.