Working to Keep Vermont’s Water Clean: Tree Plantings and Flagging Along Vermont Rivers

two women in masks in field with shovels for tree plantings

When VLT conserves land along river, we often designate “buffer areas” where trees and shrubs will be allowed to grow into woodland. Their roots act as filters to keep the water reaching the river cleaner, prevent erosion, and provide great wildlife habitat (for example, by cooling the water, which trout appreciate).

As part of our expanding focus on land restoration, we have been taking on more tree plantings in these river buffer areas. The COVID pandemic has meant we’ve needed to scale back this year, but we’ve managed some successes!

VLT staff and two ECO AmeriCorps Vermont members recently planted 136 trees and shrubs on a conserved farm along the Huntington River. The river leads to the Winooski River, which then empties into Lake Champlain.

two people in distance planting trees

Planting trees in Huntington

“We planted white pine, red oak, black cherry, nannyberry, and arrowwood,” said Stephanie Long, ECO Americorps member with VLT. “All trees and shrubs came from the Intervale Conservation Nursery.” The goal was to help speed up reforestation along half a mile of the river.

Flagging buffers — so farmers know where they are — is another big job tackled at this time of year. Over two recent days, Stephanie and members of our staff  did a lot of flagging. “The most cumbersome part of flagging the buffers is carrying out the bamboo stakes,” said Stephanie. “Rebecca’s backpack idea has been the best one yet.” This flagging work was done on farms in the Northeast Kingdom and Addison County.

Rebecca Roman, VLT staff, carrying bamboo stakes in a backback.

Rebecca Roman, VLT staff, carrying bamboo stakes to a river flagging project in Bridport.

“We started flagging in the middle of May once field restrictions started to lift, and with the help of some VLT staff we should be done with the list next week,” reported Stephanie. So far this year, the crew has flagged along the Lemon Fair River, Missisquoi River, White River, Lamoille River, Lewis Creek, Little Otter Creek, and  East Creek. That’s a lot of flagging!

woman with cloth mask on face stangin in field with red flagging

Stephanie Long, ECO Americorps member with the Vermont Land Trust, flags a buffer in Troy, Vermont.