The Valley and the state got an amazing gift this week with the news that a 2,085-acre parcel of land that abuts Camel's Hump State Park will be purchased by The Trust for Public Land and given to the state.
Known as the Dowsville Headwaters, the parcel runs from approximately the end of Sharpshooters Road near the end of North Fayston Road on the Fayston-Duxbury town line over to the state park. It encompasses high elevation lands above Dowsville and Ward Hill Road in Duxbury.
It is the headwaters of Dowsville Brook and a vast undeveloped tract of high elevation wilderness land. Conservation of this land has significant impacts for wildlife habitat and will specifically safeguard habitat for Bicknell's thrush, black bear, bobcat, ruffled grouse and wild brook trout.
It has significant natural resource value as well. Protecting this parcel means protecting 8.2 miles of headwater streams and 142 riparian acres.
The land is already heavily used by recreationalists of all types and it has seven acres of trails. The parcel's roads are already used for four-season recreation and will now provide easier Mad River Valley access to Camel's Hump State Park. The land is already used for hiking, skiing, biking, horseback riding, snowmobiling, hunting and fishing.
While the project enjoyed vast and broad support locally, regionally and throughout the state, it was presidential action that finalized it.
The conservation of Dowsville Headwaters was secured last week when Congress passed and President Obama signed into law the 2015 spending bill. That bill included the $2.5 million appropriation in the federal Forest Legacy Program which is earmarked for this purchase.
Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy led the effort to create the federal Forest Legacy Program in 1992 and his support for it over the last two decades has helped make sure it stayed in the federal budget during that often contentious process.
Say what you will about this Congress and our president, but they certainly gave all of us in Vermont an amazing and excellent holiday gift!