Wildlife Corridor Protected in Green Mountains
State and Conservation Organizations Connect Habitat in Green Mountain National Forest and Okemo State Forest, across Route 155
December 28, Mount Holly, VT — The Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation added nearly 350 acres to Okemo State Forest, helping to protect a 100-mile wildlife corridor extending from Massachusetts to Warren and Lincoln. The newly conserved property connects the protected public lands of the southern Green Mountain National Forest, Okemo State Forest, Coolidge State Forest, and the northern Green Mountain National Forest. This connectivity helps ensure that animals will have the uninterrupted habitat needed to find food, mates, and new territory.
The Mount Holly Conservation Trust, Vermont Land Trust, and the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation worked together to purchase the land, restore habitat, conserve the parcel, and add it to the Okemo State Forest.
This land is the source of the West River, Branch Brook, and Mill River. Its healthy high-elevation forest, streams, and wetlands support an abundance of wildlife, as well as numerous dispersed recreation opportunities for the public. The protected property also hosts a portion of a VAST trail and the Catamount Trail.
“This is one of two remaining parcels needed to complete a more than 30-year effort with many, many partners to conserve a strategic, state-significant wildlife corridor,” said Commissioner Louis Porter of the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, whose department works closely with the Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation, and is responsible for the conservation of wildlife and wildlife habitat. “This project is a keystone in this effort and a testament to what Vermonters can do for conservation when they work together!”
In May 2019, the Vermont Land Trust bought the property from Ian and Kathryn McLean who generously sold it at a deep discount. The land trust conserved and transferred the land to the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation to be sustainably managed as part of Okemo State Forest.
“It’s exciting to see this ambitious project completed,” said Tracy Zschau, Vice President for Conservation at the Vermont Land Trust. “Partnering to protect forests, like the Okemo Wildlife Corridor, is key to supporting healthy habitat, recreational opportunities and the climate resilience of our land.”
The Mount Holly Conservation Trust spearheaded ambitious private fundraising to cover the cost of buying and permanently conserving the land. The State contributed to the campaign with funding from the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation; the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department; and the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board. Funding from the federal Forest Legacy Program also helped to complete the project.
Private donations from more than 120 individual Vermonters made this conservation project possible. Adding to this, the Vermont Community Foundation provided an anonymous $100,000 challenge grant and $20,000 from the Lyman Orton Fund, both of which were critical early donations to the project. Another early anonymous gift of $150,000 put the effort on the path to success. The project also received funding from the Davis Conservation Fund, Vail Corporation’s Epic Promise, and the Anthony Marro Trust.
“This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create uninterrupted habitat, preserving wild places that make Vermont so special, and we’re grateful to our fundholders for investing in our shared future,” said Dan Smith, president and CEO of the Vermont Community Foundation.
“We’re inspired by the opportunity to protect the wild places of Mount Holly, and secure a small local effort to combat the effects of climate change,” noted Brigid Sullivan, President of the Mount Holly Conservation Trust’s board of directors. “At the same time, we’re also inspired by the fundholders and donors who choose to support our work.”
Photo by Alistair McCallum