The Trust for Public Land, in partnership with the Stowe Land Trust and the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation (FPR), announced the protection of the Hunger Mountain Headwaters – 1,877 acres in Middlesex, Worcester and Stowe, Vermont. The newly protected properties host the approach trail, from the east side of the Worcester Range, to Hunger Mountain and White Rock Mountain – two popular day hikes in Central Vermont. Protecting these properties improves public access to these peaks and secures scenic views, healthy forests and dynamic rivers in perpetuity. FPR acquired the properties through the federal Forest Legacy Program, as additions to C.C. Putnam State Forest, securing critical wildlife habitat, protecting the Winooski River watershed, and creating more than 20,000 acres of contiguous conservation land.
“Wild and remote outdoor experiences are part of what make Vermont a great place for visitors and residents alike,” noted Kate Wanner, project manager at the Trust for Public Land. “This expansion of protection of the Worcester Range – one of the only undeveloped mountain ranges without a ski area or bisecting roads – will safeguard that sense of wildness and exceptional outdoor experiences just minutes away from the capital, and the recreational hubs of Waterbury and Stowe. During this time of uncertainty, access to trails and vast public lands will be essential part of our mental and emotional health, recovery, allowing us to reconnect to nature and our community.”
These properties also provide vital habitat for wildlife, including moose, bobcat and ruffed grouse. Wild brook trout thrive in 12 miles of streams that feed the Winooski River, and the property’s rock outcrops and ledges are thought to be denning sites for bobcat, bear and porcupine.
“Stowe Land Trust’s investment in this landscape-scale conservation effort reflects how much the greater Stowe community values the vastness and wild character of the Worcester Range – even the portions that fall well outside Stowe’s town boundaries,” stated Kristen Sharpless, Stowe Land Trust’s executive director. “We are grateful to landowners, like Charlie and Gibby Berry, whose vision and generous action in conserving their land makes efforts like these possible along with the Forest Legacy Program and many private foundations and individuals who helped to fund the project.” Sharpless also noted, “We are especially pleased that the 109 acres protected in Stowe and previously owned by the Berrys also fall within the Shutesville Hill Wildlife Corridor – an internationally important wildlife corridor connecting the Worcester Range and the Green Mountains – that we are simultaneously working to protect with other local and statewide partners.”
As additions to C.C. Putnam State Forest, the land will be owned and managed by the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation to promote diverse public access opportunities, sustainable forest management, high-quality wildlife habitat, water quality and the function of water systems, and the protection of natural, historical and cultural resources.
“Conservation projects such as this are critical to protect Vermont’s special natural resources,” said Becca Washburn, the department’s director of lands administration and recreation. “We are proud to protect the sweeping hillsides and forested rills of the Worcester Range, to ensure that these unique lands will be open to all Vermonters. We want to thank the Trust for Public Land, Stowe Land Trust and the U.S. Forest Service for all their work to help us conserve this piece of Vermont.”
FOREST LEGACY PROGRAM
This project was made possible by funding from the federal Forest Legacy Program, which is administered by the U.S. Forest Service and funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), and the Ernest E. Stempel Foundation, Conservation Alliance, the Mill Foundation, the Larsen Fund, S&C Harvest Foundation, the MacLeay Foundation, the Lintilhac Foundation, Pinnacle Outdoor Group, the Oakland Foundation, Canadian Friends of Stowe Land Trust, and 109 private individual donors.
Senator Patrick Leahy is a leading member and former chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, who led in creating the Forest Legacy Program as part of the 1990 Farm Bill. Leahy said, “I join all Vermonters in thanking Charlie and Gibby Berry and the other landowners who have conserved their land to the benefit of Vermont forests, wildlife, and communities. Their efforts have helped us add this to the legacy of all Vermonters, now and into the future. The Trust for Public Land and state of Vermont have accomplished a superb project that is exactly what we envisioned for the Forest Legacy Program, now in its 30th anniversary.”
Senator Bernie Sanders added, “I want to congratulate the Trust for Public Land, the Stowe Land Trust, and the state of Vermont for their work to protect the Hunger Mountain Headwaters. Thanks to this conservation effort, the many benefits forests provide – including outdoor recreation opportunities, wildlife habitat, and improved water quality – will be realized in perpetuity. I am proud that federal funding helped make this project possible.”
“It’s always a good day when you are hiking in Vermont,” said Congressman Peter Welch. “This project will ensure that Vermonters are able to access the beautiful Worcester Range for generations to come. Conservation practices are critical to our way of life in Vermont, which is why I continue to fight in the House for full funding of the Forest Legacy Program and the Land and Water Conservation Fund.”