MONTPELIER, VT (Jan. 13, 2022) – The Open Space Institute (OSI), the Vermont Land Trust (VLT), and the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation today announced the protection of more than 6,500 acres of critical forest in central Vermont. Conservation of the property safeguards migratory habitat for a range of sensitive species, while securing regional opportunities for recreation.
The “Worcester Woods” property spans 6,500 acres, of which OSI contributed to the protection of 2,550 acres. With habitat for animals including neo-tropical songbirds and endangered bat species, the land also contains hardwood forests and wetlands as well as a network of streams and ponds — much of which will be open for hunting, fishing, trapping, skiing, and hiking.
OSI contributed to the property’s protection through its Transborder Fund, the only private conservation fund focused on cross-border wildlife migration between the United States and Canada. The land’s location near the Canadian border creates a key conservation link within an internationally significant wildlife corridor that connects the Green Mountains with the forested lands of the Northeast Kingdom and beyond.
Including the Worcester Woods property, OSI’s Transborder Fund has awarded 36 grants totaling more than $2.4 million and the protection 58,000 acres in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Quebec in Canada; and U.S. states of Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire.
“This groundbreaking project is a phenomenal example of what can happen when public and private partners come together to get international conservation done, for good and forever,” said Jennifer Melville, OSI vice president. “Because wildlife carry no passports and observe no man-made jurisdictions, we must work together to protect the last wild places near the border that they call home.”
“It’s a rare opportunity to be able to protect a large swath like this—one that is part of a regionally significant block of forestland,” said Carl Powden, Northeast Regional Director of the Vermont Land Trust. “Conserving these lands delivers benefits at the level of the landscape — something that’s increasingly important for wildlife, forest health, and climate.”
In addition to OSI, the property received significant support from the federal Forest Legacy Act.
“This is a great accomplishment and exactly the kind of project I envisioned when we wrote the Forest Legacy act,” said Senator Leahy, who led the creation of the Act in 1990, and who has personally strongly supported funding for the Worcester Woods acquisition. “I could not be more pleased and proud than to see this large swath of rich and diverse forest land in the heart of Vermont forever conserved to the benefit of future generations and the planet. I congratulate the Vermont Land Trust for their years of work and thank the Meyer Family for this accomplishment.”
Conservation of the land will also secure pedestrian public recreational access for generations to come.
The Meyer family, owners of the Deer Lake Timber Company, acquired these lands in the 1950s from a lumber company and kept the forest intact and productive for six decades. In 2014, the Meyers sold the land to VLT at less than appraised value to support the land’s conservation.
The property contains habitat for breeding songbirds and large mammals, and drains into the Winooski and Lamoille watersheds that flow into Lake Champlain. The land shares a boundary with the Putnam State Forest to the west, and abuts other large, forested tracts, some of which are in the process of being conserved.
The Vermont Land Trust plans to sell the land, with the conservation protections in place, to private landowners. Proceeds from the sale will be used to further the protection of large forests across the state.
This was the last forestland conservation project completed by Carl Powden of VLT, who unexpectedly passed away on January 12, 2022. Carl was a charismatic, visionary leader with a dry wit who devoted his career to protecting Vermont’s forests and working lands. The conservation of Worcester Woods is one of Powden’s pinnacle accomplishments.