VHCB Invests $5.1 Million in State and Federal Funding to Protect 2,100 Acres Farmland, and Conserve 3,100 acres Habitat and Recreational Lands in Ira, Poultney and other Vermont towns
Karen Freeman, VHCB
Press Release Compliments of NRCS Conservation Partner, the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB)
July 3, 2013, VERMONT - At meetings in May and June, the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board committed $4.2 million in state and federal funding to conserve 2,100 acres of farmland on 19 farms in Franklin, Chittenden, Addison, Washington, Lamoille, Rutland, Grand Isle and Essex Counties. VHCB matched $1.5 million in state funds with $2.7 million in federal funding for farmland protection from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). In each case, the farmers will sell conservation easements, limiting any future development to the terms of the easement. As a result of these funding commitments, the Vermont Land Trust will conserve farms in Bristol, Panton, New Haven, Milton, Essex Junction, Cambridge, Johnson, Hardwick, Jericho, St. Albans, South Hero, Fayston, Pawlet, Guildhall, and Maidstone. Together, the conserved farms include more than six miles of river frontage. Eight farms involve transfers to new owners, and several involve new enterprises with young farmers.
Vicky Drew, State Conservationist with NRCS, said, “We are proud to partner with Vermont’s Farmland Conservation Program to keep Vermont’s best farmland in agricultural use. Also, conserving land along rivers increases our flood resiliency and can protect important wildlife habitat.”
In South Hero, the former Willey Farm will be acquired by a four-person partnership including farmers Eric and Hannah Noel. The acquisition is contingent on VHCB funding for the purchase of development rights, which will be leveraged with private funds raised by the South Hero Land Trust. The Noels are moving their diversified, grass-based organic livestock and vegetable operation from Highgate to South Hero, expanding the operation in the process.
In Rutland County, The Conservation Fund has raised $1.65 million and will raise an additional $1.14 million to match a VHCB commitment of $600,000 to assist in the acquisition of 2,874 acres in Ira and Poultney for the Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife, to add to the Bird Mountain Wildlife Management Area (WMA). The Department considers this unfragmented, rugged landscape—part of the Taconic Mountain range—a “Rare and Irreplaceable Natural Area” under Act 250. This acquisition will almost quintuple the size of the WMA, offering hugely expanded opportunities for hunting, fishing, trapping and wildlife viewing in the region.
The Conservation Fund’s Nancy Bell said, “This is a very special area to the local communities and we are thrilled its natural resource and public recreation values are acknowledged and will be protected by this grant.”
Marisa Mauro, owner of Ploughgate Creamery, LLC, is purchasing the former Bragg farm in Fayston through Vermont Land Trust’s Farmland Access Program, with VHCB funding for the conservation easement. She will be producing artisanal butter, soft cheese and whey-fed pork on the farm, which includes a landmark historic barn. The town of Fayston is contributing to the project, and VLT completed a fundraising campaign to raise additional support.
Marisa said, “This is an exciting opportunity to establish my dairy business in a beautiful community that has demonstrated strong support for local food operations.”
VHCB also approved funding for seven projects that will provide permanent public access to trails, protect important natural areas, and restore a historic community building:
· The Lake Champlain Land Trust will acquire a six-acre bluff surrounded by wetlands along Lake Champlain in Alburgh.
· The Vermont Rivers Conservancy will purchase an easement on land in Westminster along the Connecticut River, which will include a campsite as part of the Connecticut River Paddler’s Trail.
· The Vermont Land Trust and the Friends of the West River will use VHCB funds to purchase and conserve 21 acres in Brattleboro along the West River, including a section of the West River Trail.
· The Nature Conservancy will add to three existing preserves, in Pawlet (North Pawlet Hills), Bristol (Deer Leap), and Manchester (Mt. Equinox Natural Area).
· The Town of Plainfield will use VHCB funds to help complete renovations to the historic Plainfield Town Hall, used by the community for public meetings, musical and theatrical performances.
Gus Seelig, Executive Director of the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board said, “These funding commitments represent the breadth of VHCB’s conservation mission, encompassing wildlife habitat protection, farmland conservation, public recreation opportunities, and the preservation of historic public buildings. With these elements intact, future generations of Vermonters will be able to appreciate the working landscape, natural areas and community landmarks that are fundamental to our identity and to the tourism and agriculture sectors.”
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The Vermont Housing & Conservation Boardmakes loans and grants for the creation of permanently affordable housing and for the conservation of Vermont’s agricultural and recreational land, natural areas and historic properties. Since 1987, VHCB has awarded funds for the creation of nearly 11,000 affordable homes, the conservation of more than 600 farms, 400,000 acres of land and 58 historic buildings restored for community use. www.vhcb.org