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Vermont Family Forests
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Conserving The Health Of Our Local Forest Community

CHEP Neighborhood Biodiversity
Outreach Project

Managing for Biodiversity Conservation
Across the Landscape

As a landowner, there are many things you can do to conserve your forest’s health. You can maintain water quality by carefully planning and maintaining your access roads. You can boost forest soil health by avoiding soil compaction, grazing, and rutting, thereby conserving site productivity. You can maintain snags, dens, large downed woody debris, and vernal pools, which offer habitat for wildlife. But no matter how well you manage your own forest, the health of its native biological diversity depends largely on forest health on a broader level that extends well beyond the boundaries of your property – what ecologists call the “landscape scale.”

In several Vermont communities, residents are collaborating to plan for forest management that maintains contiguous forest tracts, wildlife corridors, riparian buffers, and wetlands across the

landscape. In Newfane, Vermont, for example, landowners began talking together about maintaining wildlife habitat. These conversations led to creation of the Newfane Wildlife Habitat Improvement Group (WHIG), an affiliation of landowners that includes 50 properties covering 7,000 acres in three towns. WHIG landowners coordinate management plans to maintain natural communities, wildlife habitat, and travel corridors.

Lincoln’s Colby Hill area not only links the Champlain Valley lowlands to the spine of the Green Mountains, but also bridges two significant blocks of conservation land in the Green Mountain National Forest—the Bristol Cliffs Wilderness and the eastern flanks of Mount Abraham. In the coming months, CHEP will be talking with landowners in this region to explore the idea of collaborative planning to help ensure that natural communities and wildlife corridors on these low-elevation mountain lands remain healthy and intact. Lincoln’s landscape is a special place that attracts people with deep interest in land stewardship, and the impetus of the Colby Hill Ecological Project primes the area for cooperative “neighborhood” management.

Ecological diversity is high in the Colby Hill area, with a mosaic of many natural community types, including various upland forest communities, forested and open wetlands, shallow to deep soils, seepy to dry slopes, and sandy to ‘heavy’ loam flats. Plant life, small mammal populations, and insect and spider assemblages have been seen to differ among all these different parts of the landscape.

Maintaining connections with natural forest cover and maintaining large areas of the different natural communities is important to the survival and proliferation of many native species. Because genetic exchange and population dynamics occur at large scales, they require intact landscapes where ecological processes can flow across property boundaries. Learning ‘what’s where’ on the land is the first step in understanding where human management activities can be most critical, and working together as neighbors is one of the best ways that we can maintain the natural resources we value.