VHCB Awards $1,800,293 to Conserve 1,015 Acres of Farmland and Natural Areas

VHCB Awards $1,800,293 to Conserve 1,015 Acres of Farmland and Natural Areas

At a meeting in Brandon on December 13, the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board awarded funding to acquire and conserve 483 acres of natural areas in Bridgewater and Shelburne, to conserve 532 acres of farmland on four farms located in Orange, Franklin, and Rutland Counties, and to develop a planning tool to help towns increase affordable housing in developed areas.

Bridgewater - The Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife will use $150,000 in VHCB funds to acquire and conserve 435 acres of forestland for addition to the Les Newell Wildlife Management Area, protecting headwaters of the North Branch of the Ottauquechee River and a tributary of the Connecticut River as well as five acres of wetlands, and two vernal pools that provide breeding habitat for amphibians like the blue-spotted salamander. The VHCB award will leverage $272,000 in town, state, federal and foundation funds. The property is located in the 60,000-acre Chateaguay-No Town forest block, a remote area used by hunters, trappers, snowmobilers, birdwatchers, and other outdoor enthusiasts. Approximately 30% of this area, which is a priority for conservation, has been protected with state, local and federal funds. The parcel is accessible by a Class IV road along one boundary and the Appalachian Trail runs through the tract. The property will be managed to enhance wildlife habitat, forest connectivity, water quality, flood resiliency, and for public access for wildlife-based recreation.  

Shelburne Pond - Glenn Suokko photo Shelburne Pond, where The Nature Conservancy has protected shoreline and wetlands over a 45-year period.  

Shelburne and South Burlington – With $106,600 in VHCB funds, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) will acquire and conserve 48 acres near Shelburne Pond for addition to the University of Vermont’s Lawrence Achilles Natural Area. TNC is bringing $380,000 in leverage to the project, including municipal funds, local donations, and a large bargain sale from the Ewing family. The property has nearly 3,000 feet of frontage on Muddy Brook, an outlet for Shelburne Pond that drains into the Lake Champlain Basin. The conservation easement will include buffers for surface waters and wetlands and protections for recorded archaeological sites. The property will be managed to protect natural resources and enhance wildlife habitat. Shelburne Pond is one of the largest undeveloped bodies of water in the state.  For over 45 years, TNC has worked to protect most of the shoreline and wetlands associated with the 450-acre pond.

The Vermont Land Trust will use $499,500 in state funding and $565,500 in federal funding through the Natural Resources Conservation Service to conserve 532 acres on four farms. Cropland is rented on three of the farms; the fourth is a livestock operation. Two of the farmland conservation deals will facilitate transfers to new owners and the three farms that have surface waters will include water quality protections in the conservation easements. VLT is working to with partners to explore a wetland restoration project on one of the farms.

The board committed $40,000 to a project led by the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development to develop model municipal bylaws. The model bylaws will help communities of varying sizes address barriers to the creation of affordable housing by updating zoning requirements. This tool for local governments will encourage housing in already developed areas,   supporting both VHCB’s housing and conservation goals. The effort will include case studies of several communities, outreach to municipalities with identified barriers to housing development, dissemination of the model bylaws, and technical assistance.   

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The Vermont Housing & Conservation Board provides loans and grants to Vermont’s non-profit housing and conservation organizations, municipalities and state agencies. Since 1987, VHCB funds have supported the creation and preservation of 12,500 affordable homes and the conservation of more than 350,000 acres of agricultural land, natural areas, recreational land, and forestland and the restoration of 70 historic buildings for public use.