Conservation easements obtained for nearly 1,400 acres of working forests in Windham County

The Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation, working with the The Conservation Fund, recently acquired conservation easements on 1,375 acres of woodlands in three separate parcels in the towns of Townshend, Stratton, and Jamaica.

According to a news release, these easements will support Vermont's timber industry and forest economy, help to build flood resiliency in the Windham region, and protect important Connecticut River watersheds, critical black bear feeding habitat, and other wildlife habitats.

It will also provide opportunities for public recreation and guarantees public access for activities such as hiking, fishing, hunting, and cross-country skiing.

“Piece by piece, these parcels help to knit together a connected forest landscape that builds on the existing network of conserved lands in the region,” said Forests, Parks & Recreation Commissioner Michael Snyder. “These easement parcels add important productive forest lands to the roster of protected land. These lands will remain actively managed in private ownership while at the same time ensuring the many benefits that forests provide.”

These easements were made possible with a grant from the U.S. Forest Service's Forest Legacy Program, which is funded by the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The grant funds, along with a generous landowner donation and a small amount of Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife funding for bear habitat protection, have secured three conservation easements that restrict development and require sustainable forest management on these private properties, which are now protected forever with public access rights secured for dispersed recreation.

Partnering with the Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation, The Conservation Fund played a facilitating role to secure the easements, collaborating with the partners and private landowners and securing the private and federal funding.

Lars Peterson, a longtime landowner of one of the protected said “this unspoiled woodland, with its abundant water and rich flora and fauna, has nourished not only our family, but also the community. With the LWCF-Forest Legacy funding, we've been able to conserve it for future generations and ensure it will remain available for hiking and hunting, and, as the woods have been timbered for over 75 years, helping to support local woodsmen and mills.”

The Conservation Fund, a nonprofit that has worked in all 50 states since 1985 to protect more than 8 million acres of land, including nearly 231,300 acres of forest and recreation lands in Vermont, is continuing its fundraising to complete a fourth, 183-acre conservation easement within the Windham region.

The Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation has committed to acquire this easement if The Conservation Fund is able to fill the current funding gap.

This effort continues to propel the Windham Region Working Forest Initiative to protect productive working forestland in the region for local communities, businesses, and wildlife.

“Completing the Forest Legacy grant project was an amazing accomplishment, but there's still much to be done to protect forestland across the Windham region and Vermont,” said Bethany Olmstead, director of conservation for The Conservation Fund.

The U.S. Congress permanently reauthorized LWCF last year and legislation has been introduced to fully and permanently fund LWCF. If successful, this will provide guaranteed annual funding to the Forest Legacy program and the eight other land protection programs funded by LWCF.

LWCF uses offshore drilling revenue - not taxpayer dollars - to fund important conservation initiatives across the country and is annually funded by the U.S. Congress.

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who was instrumental in creating the Forest Legacy Program as part of the 1990 Farm Bill, thanked Lars Peterson and the other owners “who have - in keeping with Vermont's proud tradition of stewardship - conserved their land to the benefit of Vermont forests, wildlife, and communities. The Conservation Fund and state of Vermont once again have worked together to complete a project that is exactly what was envisioned for this program, now on its 30th anniversary.”

Protecting the Windham Region Working Forest represents an opportunity to link to the Green Mountain National Forest, Green Mountain Wildlife Corridor, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers's Townshend Dam and recreation areas.

To learn more about The Conservation Fund and its Working Forest Fund, visit

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