December 3, Starksboro — Land along 1.5 miles of Lewis Creek, which flows through farmland owned by Peter Briggs, has been protected for clean water. Briggs worked with the Vermont Land Trust and the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to establish a ‘river corridor’ area along the creek.

“Within this area, Lewis Creek is free to meander and flow naturally, without constraint, and no structures can be built along the banks,” explained VLT’s Bob Heiser. “Land within 50 feet of the water must also be kept naturally vegetated.” All of this helps keep the water cleaner and reduce damage from future floods as healthy floodplains hold water and help to slow it down.

Earlier this year, Briggs’ neighbors, farmers Eric and Jane Clifford, also worked with VLT and DEC to protect land along nearly a mile of the creek as it flows through their farm. The conservation easements on the two farms create two continuous ‘river corridors’—40 acres on the Briggs property and 33 acres on the Clifford farm. This land includes both sides of the creek and adjacent wetlands.

Funding for the easements was provided by DEC. “This is a section of river with clay banks that are easily erodible,” said Shannon Pytlik of DEC. “These projects will help to reduce sediment and nutrients from entering Lewis Creek over time as the stream and buffer are restored to their natural state.”

Peter Briggs has established Champlain Valley Hops on the farm, to grow and process hops for craft brewers. Eric and Jane Clifford’s dairy has been in the Clifford family for eight generations.

“More and more landowners are looking into protecting rivers and streams,” said Bob Heiser. “River corridor easements are a way to balance farm operations with ecological protections.”

Protecting the creek has long been a focus in the community. “Lewis Creek Association, with support from the state, towns and property owners, has studied the Lewis Creek for 30 years to monitor stream health conditions over time and to guide restoration and protection project investments,” said Marty Illick, executive director of LCA.

“It’s wonderful news to hear that this lovely stretch of the Lewis Creek is now protected in perpetuity,” added Louis duPont, a founding member of LCA. “As recent storms have clearly shown, this land holds crucial floodplains for the creek as we enter the age of climate change.”