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Success Story

Continuing the Legacy of Conservation in Vermont through RCPP

Old apple orchard at the northern part of the property. NRCS Vermont photo.

Conservation is hardly a new thing for Delsie Hoyt and her husband Chuck Eaton. Since the 1790s, the Eaton family has stewarded the land in West Fairlee, Vermont. And today, they continue to steward the land as part of a larger partnership effort to maximize the conservation of their  forest land.

Conservation is hardly a new thing for Delsie Hoyt and her husband Chuck Eaton. Since the 1790s, the Eaton family has stewarded the land in West Fairlee, Vermont.

Twenty years ago, a portion of the Eaton property was conserved through a local land trust.

More recently, Delsie and Chuck started working with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Vermont to conserve nearly 420 acres of land, in partnership with the Connecticut Council on Soil and Water, Vermont Fish and Wildlife, the Highstead Foundation and other conservation partners.

NRCS’ Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) afforded these partners the opportunity to play a key role in the conservation efforts that are helping to protect the Eaton family land, while also meeting a common goal for natural resources in Vermont.

RCPP also targets conservation in forest lands, using conservation practices authorized under the NRCS Healthy Forest Reserve Program (HFRP), to address priority resource concerns in Vermont.

One main feature of HFRP is the restoration of forestlands and assorted lands through 30- year or permanent easements on privately owned eligible lands.

Stream that runs through the property towards the east at the north boundary. NRCS Vermont Photo

“We chose the HFRP because of the length of the easement, the long-term oversight on habitat management, and the ability to keep their conservation legacy into the future” Hoyt stated.

As part of the restoration component of HFRP, Delsie and Chuck are working with NRCS to install conservation practices on their land, that help promote the recovery of endangered or threatened species, improve plant and animal biodiversity and enhance carbon sequestration.

To help better manage their land for healthy forests, Delsie and Chuck are applying practices to their land, including brush management, structures for wildlife (specifically winter wrens and cottontail rabbits), early successional habitat management and upland wildlife habitat management.

                    Small forest clearing at the north side of Buck Hill Rd. NRCS Vermont Photo

While the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were studying bats in abandoned copper mines nearby, the Northern Long-eared bat, a target bat species for HFRP, was found nesting on the land.

“There were a lot of surveys, evaluations [and] inventories that had to be done to finalize the easement process. Vermont NRCS worked closely with Vermont Fish and Wildlife to ensure everything was done as it should be. The local staff were helpful, knowledgeable, and reassured us that the details were taken care of,” said Delsie.

The CT Council on Soil and Water Conservation and the Highstead Foundation administered the federal grant that funded the protection of the Eaton parcels. 

With the two easement parcels covering nearly 420 acres of land permanently protected, Delsie looks to continue the family’s conservation legacy and to be a voice for conservation. “We want to expose others to these different programs and learn how they work. The land is still ours and we are choosing to conserve it, responsibly,” said Delsie.

Delsie and her husband hosted an open house on October 21, 2022, bringing several partners and stakeholders together from NRCS, US Fish and Wildlife, Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, Redstart Consulting Inc., Upper Valley Land Trust, Congressman Welch’s office and others to highlight the importance of conservation and help promote efforts to protect Vermont’s forests.

“We are so proud to have helped in bringing this easement to closing, and we applaud the landowners for their initiative and the NRCS for making it possible,” said Lilian Ruiz, Executive Director of the CT Council on Soil and Water Conservation.

To learn more about how to access NRCS programs and services through RCPP, please visit the RCPP webpage or contact your local USDA service center.