Conservation organizations team up to grow town forest to over 1,100 acres within large swath of priority forestland
HINESBURG, VT— The Town of Hinesburg worked with the Hinesburg Land Trust, the Vermont Land Trust (VLT), and the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board (VHCB), to purchase 291 acres from the Carse Land Company to expand the existing 834-acre Hinesburg Town Forest today. The resulting 1,125 acres were permanently protected for the enjoyment of community members and visitors.
“So many people love this land and enjoy it as a place to get out into the forest,” said Bob Heiser, VLT’s Champlain Valley Regional Director. “It is so great to know that this forestland will always be there for wildlife and people to enjoy.”
The Hinesburg Town Forest, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, hosts over 15 miles of trails and serves as a popular destination for hiking, biking, hunting, birding, and more.
“A big thank you to all who supported and worked on this project,” said Pat Mainer, Chair of the Hinesburg Town Forest Committee. “The generosity of so many individuals and organizations is a testament to the importance of adding to and conserving the Hinesburg Town Forest. People proved that they value forever protecting wildlife habitat, water quality, and places to recreate in a natural setting.”
The Hinesburg Land Trust, VLT and local community volunteers led a successful fundraising campaign, raising over $238,000 from grants and gifts. These funds, along with a grant of $225,000 from VHCB and a $20,000 contribution from the Town of Hinesburg, covered the cost of the 291 acres that were added to the Hinesburg Town Forest, permanent conservation of the expanded town land, and the establishment of a new Hinesburg Town Forest Management Fund.
Multiple times in its history, the Town Forest was threatened by proposals to sell off and potentially develop the land. A permanent conservation easement, held by VLT and VHCB, will ensure the land remains undeveloped and accessible to wildlife, community members and visitors.
The expanded Town Forest lies within a 4,400-acre stretch of connected forestland identified as a priority for conservation by the state of Vermont. It features vernal pools, unique natural communities, and miles of headwater streams in the Lake Champlain Basin.
“Preserving connectivity within Hinesburg’s largest area of contiguous forest has been a priority for our organization since its beginning,” said Paul Wieczoreck of the Hinesburg Land Trust. “This significant block of undeveloped forest is a major step in achieving that goal.”
The newly added land connects trails on the Town Forest to another 10 miles of multi-use trails on private land south of Lincoln Hill Road and to the VAST trail. It also secures access to the Town Forest from the south, and adjoins the 1,100-acre Fred Johnson Wildlife Management Area to the southwest.
“This substantial addition to the town forest helps to prevent forest fragmentation—a big issue as we face the challenges of a changing climate. The benefits of improving access for recreation and ensuring protections for wildlife habitat and water quality make this a great all-around package. We’re glad to participate and we congratulate the town on this wonderful achievement,” said Vermont Housing & Conservation Board Executive Director Gus Seelig.
The 291-acre addition was sold to the Town by the Carse Land Company, founded by the late Henry H. Carse, who served in the Vermont legislature and locally as the town moderator and on the town school board. His son, Henry R. Carse, shared that his father “envisioned the forest lands of Vermont as shared resources of the community. Throughout his life, he practiced wise stewardship of the land and of our natural environment. I think that he would be pleased to know that the Town of Hinesburg, a community he loved and served for many years, will now continue that stewardship in his memory.”
Photo: Caleb Kenna