Citizens seek to conserve land

  • Published in News

Two land parcels for sale along Northfield Ridge in Moretown, one parcel on Herring Brook and the other on South Hill, have community members interested in conserving the land for recreational use.

The Herring Brook parcel is 2,228 acres with an asking price of $2,890,481, and an estimated timber value of $2,567,000. The parcel on South Hill is 776 acres at an asking price of $1,299,231 with an estimated $900,000 in timber value.

At the Moretown Select Board meeting on Monday, February 4, a group of community members came before the board to discuss the two parcels. The group will be coming to the select board for a letter of endorsement if conservation efforts proceed.

Karen Horn, a member of the Moretown Planning Commission, is also a part of this group and said that the group is looking to provide long-term recreational and traditional use as well as conserve the land.

3000 ACRES

“This group came together when the Fountain Forestry lands were put on the market this fall. It comprises approximately 3,000 acres of land along the ridge in Moretown and is an area that people have hiked, hunted, skied, snowshoed and biked for decades. The ridge running through Moretown is an exceptional undeveloped forest bloc and wild place that defines us in so many ways. Our municipal plan endorses efforts to protect those places and we hope that with the state's renewed interest in forest blocs, habitat corridors and outdoor recreation, there might be assistance to put together a project that provides for all the varied uses of the land today,” said Horn.

DISCUSS OPTIONS

The group of Moretown residents met six times since last fall to discuss different options for working with potential purchasers to conserve land and access to it on the Northfield Mountain Range. The group also has Kate Wanner, of the Trust for Public Land (TPL), who worked with Warren on conserving land near Lincoln Gap and the Dowsville headwaters, and Liza Walker, Vermont Land Trust, whose organizations are instrumental in conserving land and access around the state.

After hearing the presentation, select board member Rae Washburn commented that he and his family have hiked through the woods near Herring Brook for decades. Washburn expressed his wishes that the land be conserved and used by community members recreationally as the land is beautiful.

“The Trust for Public Land is working to purchase the Lincoln Peak property in Warren as an addition to Green Mountain National Forest, as we did with Blueberry Lake. TPL does not own land permanently, only temporarily until we can transfer it to a public agency for permanent protection. This part of the Northfield Range is outside of Green Mountain National Forest’s acquisition boundary, so it cannot become federal land,” said Wanner.

Wanner said the group has been reaching out to large timberland owners who may be interested in working with them and are interested to hear more from the community.

The group came before the board to share their research and progress. In their next steps the group hopes to find a buyer who is interested in working with a community-based group to protect the land and seek out its recreational opportunities. The group is also looking into grants and funding such as the Vermont Outdoor Recreation Communities pilot grant program (2018), which makes grants of $10,000 to $100,000 available to fully leverage community outdoor recreation assets to achieve an “outdoor recreation-friendly community” designation from the Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative.

In the long term, Wanner has high hopes for the land: “We hope the properties will remain unposted, unfragmented forest, providing flood resiliency, wildlife habitat and carbon sequestration, and help retain Moretown’s rural character. If a buyer is willing to sell a conservation easement and continue to provide public access and potentially new trails, even better.”