Banking on Clean Water

river with grasses and trees growing on banks - Lowell - VLT

Partnering with farmers in the Upper Missisqoui watershed

By Rachel Mullis

Tony Brault wasn’t always a farmer. Fifteen years ago, the third-generation butcher bought a small farm and 20 cows to improve the quality and selection at Brault’s Meat Market in Troy, Vermont. Today he owns 200 cattle and a few hundred acres of land along the Missisquoi River.

Tony is also working to improve water quality, together with other farmers in the region.

Over 11 miles of the Upper Missisquoi River protected

Since 2016, landowners have conserved over eleven miles of the Upper Missisquoi. VLT, the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), partner organizations, and landowners have been working together to protect and restore the banks of the river. The Missisquoi drains into Lake Champlain and is a priority in clean water efforts.

To date, the river’s needs have been prioritized on a network of farms, totaling 290 acres where the river is undisturbed and can change course naturally.

Another key element is a 50-foot-wide area along the river. Called a buffer, this is an area where trees and shrubs are growing into woodland. The restored banks benefit wildlife, and absorb floodwaters and runoff. They also boost recreation and tourism, and preserve the natural beauty of this nationally designated Wild and Scenic River.

map showing river with protected lands shaded - Missisquoi River - VLT

“The network of river projects accomplished along the river showcases the value the landowners put in protecting our most important natural resources,” said Staci Pomeroy, a river scientist with the DEC.

A benefit for farmers, too

These projects also benefit farms. The Missisquoi’s meandering nature means water can spill into fields near the river, damaging crops. Farmers receive a financial incentive to retire vulnerable areas. Many farmers invest these funds in infrastructure or more productive land. Tony was able to finish a new barn and manure pit that will help him expand his business.

“We believe so strongly that working landscapes are a part of the solution to water quality,” said VLT’s Tyler Miller. “Project by project, landowner by landowner, we’re seeing a lot of success.”

On Tony’s farm, new fencing is keeping cattle out of the buffer area and 900+ native trees have been planted; over 7,000 more will be planted this spring. “It’s a beautiful river,” said Tony.