VHCB Awards $2,673,850 to Conserve Farmland, Expand Public Recreational Opportunities, Improve Water Quality, and Restore the Historic Fairbanks Museum

October 8, 2020

Contact:  Gus Seelig, 828-3201; @email; Jen Hollar, 802-793-7346; @email


VHCB Awards $2,673,850 to Conserve Farmland, Expand Public Recreational Opportunities, Improve Water Quality, and Restore the Historic Fairbanks Museum

At a meeting on September 16, the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board awarded $1.18 million in state funding and nearly $1.5 million in federal funding to protect 646 acres of farmland in South Burlington, Sheldon and Starksboro, to support a new recreational network in Cambridge, to expand a Wildlife Management Area in Vernon, to restore riparian land and improve water quality in Morgan, and to help restore historic details at the Fairbanks Museum in St. Johnsbury.  

“These VHCB awards will leverage private and federal funds for projects in towns around Vermont,” said Gus Seelig, VHCB Executive Director. “While the pandemic strains families, farms, businesses, and communities, VHCB investments ensure access to the outdoors, protect the environment, generate economic activity and keep Vermont strong.”

Fairbanks Museum, St. Johnsbury
St. Johnsbury
- The Fairbanks Museum will use $80,000 in VHCB funds to restore exterior features of the building. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and located within St. Johnsbury’s historic district, the mission of the museum is to “inspire wonder, curiosity and responsibility for the natural world.” Approximately 30,000 visitors annually and 12,000 students enjoy the Lyman Spitzer Jr. Planetarium, the STEM Lab, and the Butterfly House. The Fairbanks recently received a Save America’s Treasures grant from the National Park Service, as well as funding from the Northern Borders Regional Commission and the US Economic Development Administration. Next Spring, pending successful fund-raising efforts, construction will commence on the Science Annex, a three-story, 6,080 square foot addition to house classroom and exhibit space, a stair tower, elevator, and ADA compliant restrooms. The addition will be the first in Vermont to use mass timber, a construction technique using laminated wood structural members that reduce carbon emissions as compared to building with concrete and steel.

Cambridge Junction – The Vermont River Conservancy will acquire and conserve 5.5 acres along the Lamoille River with $26,600 in VHCB funding, establishing a new access point for the Paddlers’ Trail, a network of river access points, primitive campsites, and portage trails from the Lamoille River’s headwaters west to Lake Champlain. Together with the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail, which when complete will extend from Swanton to St. Johnsbury, these recreational assets increase economic and community vitality while providing permanent public access, floodplain and water quality protections. The Vermont River Conservancy will manage the property in partnership with the town of Cambridge and will continue to pursue conservation opportunities along the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail.

South Burlington – The Vermont Land Trust will use $164,000 in VHCB funding and $1,048,000 in federal funding from the Natural Resources Conservation Service to conserve 189 acres of farmland on two parcels that will be conveyed to the Vermont Agrarian Commons, and then leased to Bread & Butter farm. The City of South Burlington has committed their largest conservation grant ever for this project. Vermont Agrarian Commons, a subsidiary, land-holding entity of Agrarian Trust, a national non-profit organization, will raise funds, acquire and own the conserved farmland, and lease it to Bread & Butter farm (and/or to individual farmers or farm enterprises) with affordable 99-year terms, allowing the farmers to focus on capital improvements and on growing their business. Bread & Butter Farm sells CSA shares, raises grass-fed beef, and has a farm store and café, and various educational programs. The easements include special protections for wetland and riparian areas, as well as public access to a planned trail system around the properties.

Morgan –The Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) will acquire and restore 163 acres of farmland in the Memphremagog watershed, just north of Lake Seymour, using $250,000 in VHCB funding. A stream that traverses the property is a primary tributary for spawning and nursery waters for game fish. Collaborating with the Agency of Agriculture and other partners, DFW plans to remove the barn and manure pit and restore native vegetation along the stream. Access for hunting and fishing will be improved with signage and a parking area. A stream crossing for a VAST trail on the property will be improved. The conservation project will improve water quality in the Lake Memphremagog Basin, protect wildlife habitat and provide for permanent public access.  

Starksboro – The Vermont Land Trust will use $513,000 in VHCB and NRCS funding to conserve 300 acres of farm and forestland on the east side of Route 116 at the Clifford Farm, which was established in 1796.  Eric and Jane Clifford are 8th generation farmers, milking 235 cows, raising 170 young stock, and growing crops on 450 acres. The conservation easement will include water quality protections on wooded streams that are tributaries of Lewis Creek.

vnrc-north-branch-cascadesWorcester and Elmore – The conserved 72-acre North Branch Cascades property, with more than a mile of frontage on the North Branch of the Winooski, was donated to the Vermont River Conservancy (VRC) by the Vermont Land Trust in 2018. VRC has raised more than $250,000 from federal, state and private sources towards project costs and will use an award of $15,500 in VHCB funding for stewardship and associated costs. The property is located within a contiguous block of protected lands spanning tens of thousands of acres, including the CC Putnam State Forest. VRC has been developing a mile-long pedestrian trail along this section of the North Branch, providing public access to a spectacular series of waterfalls, cascades, pools, and swimming holes. The trail work has incorporated storm water management measures, installing stone stairways to prevent erosion, and protecting native vegetation and geologic features. Two parking areas have been constructed at either end of the trail, and interpretive signage and an ADA compliant outhouse/privy have been installed. The new recreational trail, 3,000 feet of which is ADA accessible, has been widely used by the public since opening in 2019.

Vernon – With $156,250 in VHCB funding, the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife will acquire 446 acres for addition to the 1,460-acre Roaring Brook Wildlife Management Area, serving to connect three separate parcels within the WMA, protecting critical wildlife habitat, improving public access for recreational activities such as hunting, fishing, trapping, hiking, wildlife viewing, and snowmobiling on a VAST Trail running through the property, and facilitating forestland management. A separate, 28-acre parcel along the western edge of Lily Pond will be also be acquired and conserved, protecting a state-significant natural community with associated rare plants and animals, found nowhere else in the state.

The Vermont Housing & Conservation Board supports the creation and preservation of affordable housing and the conservation of agricultural and recreational land, forest land, natural areas and historic properties.