Conserving the Mad River Valley's wildlife habitat will be the goal of a new partnership between the Mad River Valley Planning District and the Forests, Wildlife, and Communities Project (FWC).  

This partnership will address habitat conservation at a variety of levels from individual woodlots to the town and regional planning level over the course of the next year. The Forests, Wildlife and Communities Project is a coordinated effort of Audubon Vermont, Vermont Natural Resources Council, Vermont Coverts, the Northern Forest Alliance and the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department.

The FWC project's partnership with the Mad River Valley Planning District will create a coordinated approach to wildlife education and conservation by producing landowner workshops and habitat assessments, community mapping and conservation planning sessions, and town forest celebrations to promote the conservation of forest habitat.  

"The Mad River Valley citizens put a high priority on conserving wildlife and this partnership will provide many opportunities for people to take an active role in maintaining The Valley as a haven for wildlife," said Linda Lloyd, director of the Mad River Valley Planning District.

"We are excited to be partnering with the Mad River Valley Planning District as we launch our Forests, Wildlife and Communities project. Vermont's Wildlife Action Plan identifies the loss of habitat due to degradation, conversion, fragmentation or lack of needed successional stages as one of the greatest threats to all types of wildlife. This partnership will coordinate and maximize the unique skills each organization brings to the challenge of protecting Vermont's wildlife," added Jim Shallow, Audubon Vermont's conservation and policy director.

Vermont's Wildlife Action Plan was created by the Department of Fish and Wildlife in cooperation with over 60 partner organizations. The plan presents a comprehensive blueprint for maintaining and restoring Vermont's wildlife populations. The plan also recognizes that actions need to be taken at multiple levels to address threats confronting Vermont's wildlife. The FWC project seeks to implement Vermont's Wildlife Action Plan by addressing the need to maintain and enhance unfragmented forest habitat and the wildlife that depends on it.

Over the coming months, there will be a number of workshops taking place for landowners and community members. These opportunities are designed to provide citizens with the tools for making decisions on their own property and within their community.  

Audubon Vermont and Vermont Coverts have developed a series of four workshops that will help individuals manage their woodlots with an eye toward improving wildlife habitats. The first of these workshops will be held on January 26 at the Lareau Farm in Waitsfield and will help individuals create a vision for their forestland. Subsequent workshops will focus on identifying forest-dependent wildlife, wildlife monitoring and invasive plant control.

Vermont Natural Resources Council (VNRC) in coordination with the Department of Fish and Wildlife will hold a community forum the evening of February 25 at the Big Picture Theater to collect local input from citizens regarding wildlife in The Valley. This input will be coordinated with existing information and data at the local and statewide level. Follow-up presentations by VNRC and the Department will provide recommendations for conservation planning to residents, local decision makers and interested organizations.  

"Our hope is to coordinate this effort with as many interested parties as possible in the Valley," said Jamey Fidel, VNRC's forest and biodiversity program director. "Approaching forest habitat conservation in this manner will create a community-wide approach that will support individuals and local decision makers as they make land use and planning decisions that can benefit forest-dependent wildlife," Fidel added.

The Northern Forest Alliance (NFA) will focus its energy on municipally owned forests as demonstration sites for wildlife stewardship and habitat education.  Upcoming workshops will occur on town forest parcels in The Valley, highlighting the role that public land can play in promoting wildlife conservation. "We are eager to actively engage Vermonters in efforts to protect and enhance wildlife in the Mad River Valley," said George Gay, director of the Northern Forest Alliance.    

The Valley's youth will also be given opportunities to learn about The Valley's wildlife and forest habitats by working with the NFA's Town Forest Project to identify wildlife species living on local town forests. And the third- and fourth-grade students in Moretown Elementary School will be working with Audubon Vermont during the winter and spring to learn about forest birds that breed in the area.

The FWC Project is supported by a grant from the Wildlife Action Opportunity Fund of the Wildlife Conservation Society funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The FWC Project was selected from a pool of over 500 submissions nationwide.