College launches ecological reserve

Measure designed to protect 130 acres from timber harvesting and development

MARLBORO — Marlboro College says it has officially designated approximately 130 acres of forested land north of the campus as an ecological reserve, preserved from any further timber harvesting or development.

The property is protected by decree of the Marlboro College Board of Trustees, who met Nov. 4 to discuss the proposal drafted through a collaboration of faculty, students, and staff.

“This ecological reserve recognizes our forested landscape as a unique and treasured resource for the college community, now and for years to come,” Marlboro President Kevin Quigley said in a news release. “Having this protected forest so close to campus is a strong signal to our current and future students regarding the college's dedication to sustainability.”

“The forested area north of campus is a jewel for the Marlboro College community and central to its identity,” said the community proposal to the trustees.

The proposal expanded on the community's goal “to recognize the ecological, recreational, educational, and aesthetic importance of the land to the college community, as well as to the greater Marlboro community, and to provide protection for the land.”

The Marlboro College Ecological Reserve is a product of more than a decade of collaborative, community efforts, involving members of the Environmental Advisory Committee, natural science faculty, students in the life sciences, and others.

The land was initially removed from Vermont's Use Value Appraisal Program (UVA, or “current use”) to establish the reserve, following the recommendation of the college Town Meeting in 2004.

“Marlboro College has the potential to serve as a model for living well within the landscape, with forested lands in the new reserve as well as in UVA, in which timber harvest occurs,” said Jenny Ramstetter, biology professor and member of the EAC. “Particularly in this time of climate change and increasing forest fragmentation, it is important to protect New England's forests and the ecological process they support.”

Student Daniel Medeiros, a junior and also a member of the EAC, said, “The woods were, for me, one of the primary draws to attend Marlboro. I think that my fellow students as a whole are very happy to see some of the forest protected.”

The size of Marlboro's new ecological reserve falls within the range of other college and university reserves, but it stands out for being established through these community-led efforts.

It is also unusual in that it is immediately adjacent to campus and includes the elimination of all timber harvesting. Based on community input, the reserve will remain open to currently accepted activities, including recreation, education, research, and maple sugaring using traditional methods - with buckets, not plastic tubing.

The reserve is an ecologically important area that includes rich northern hardwood forests, vernal pools, a hemlock ridge, and patches of large maples and oaks and other species and processes supported by this diversity.

It receives significant use by students and other community members for hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, spiritual renewal, and aesthetic appreciation. It is also a key resource for students in the life sciences doing research on forest ecology.

“For many of the classes we teach, the forest in the reserve will continue to serve as inspiration and an experiential learning site,” Ramstetter said. “We now have the potential to set up long-term ecological projects, and eventually the forest will serve as an old-growth forest study site with unique soil qualities, nutrient and carbon cycling, and species compositions.”

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