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Vermont Family Forests



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Conserving The Health Of Our Local Forest Community


Lessons from CHEP

Rewilding in the Northern Forest:
       Cultivating Sustainable Membership in the Forest Community

Through CHEP, Vermont Family Forests (VFF) administers the on-going ecological monitoring of 716 acres of private land in Lincoln, Vermont. Intensively farmed from the late 1700s through the mid-1940s, the land has been self-willed for more than 50 years and will be managed and monitored as such in perpetuity. VFF is also intimately involved with a similarly sized parcel of land (the Waterworks Property) in neighboring Bristol, Vermont. Once managed as the water supply for the city of Vergennes, the Waterworks is now community-held and managed as a working forest under conservation easement. VFF oversees the ecological stewardship of this land.

Though the Colby Hill Ecological Project has only been collecting ecological data since 1998,  these rewilding lands and the research taking place on them already offer many lessons that can inform management practices in ecologically similar forests in Vermont.  Vermont Family Forests has begun work on a hands-on guidebook, appropriate to both high school students and a general adult readership, which draws upon the early lessons gleaned from research studies in the rewilding CHEP forest and applies these lessons to sustainable stewardship of working forests, using the Waterworks as the primary example of such stewardship in action. The book will be of interest and value to readers throughout the northeastern states.

The title for the guidebook is purposefully open-ended, with the idea that the rewilding that the book will help engender is both external (in the forest) and internal (within the person reading/participating in the book). The book is structured around a nine-month schedule, matching the academic calendar. In each chapter, readers encounter an engaging narrative about key elements of a healthy forest community and hands-on activities through which they can explore, experience, apply, and integrate the ideas raised in each chapter.

Read the introduction to Rewilding in the Northern Forest  here.

Creating this book is a long-term project. In the meantime, here are some other resources you can use to understand, engage with, and conserve the health of your forest:


Learn About your Forest’s
Biodiversity and Forest Health Conservation

What you can do:

  1. Use the VFF Forest Conservation Plan Template to create a conservation plan for your forest. Forest management plans vary greatly in the attention they give to biodiversity and forest health. The VFF Forest Conservation Plan template helps you and/or your forester collect biodiversity information that will help maintain your forest’s health while achieving your stewardship objectives.

  2. VFF staff foresters are available to prepare VFF conservation plans. VFF also maintains a list of natural resources professionals interested in providing forest management services that comply with Vermont Family Forests standards.

  3. Attend a VFF workshop or event. We regularly offer workshops related to forest biodiversity and forest health, as well as community celebrations and events.

Explore your forest and learn about the natural communities within it.

Resources for Learning about:

General Ecology, Birds, Mammals, Plants, Reptiles and Amphibians

General Ecology


  • All About Birds. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology website gives great bird information, including songs.

  • eBird. Record your bird sightings and upload your data to eBird, a citizen science project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society. eBird is amassing an immense volume of biodiversity data that scientists are using to understand bird distribution.

  • Birding By Ear and More Birding By Ear, by Richard K. Walton and Robert W. Lawson. CDs available at the VFF Lending Library. Stop by and borrow them!


  • Tracking and the Art of Seeing, by Paul Rezendes. Camden House, 1992.

  • Mammal Tracks, by Lynn Levine and Martha Mitchell. Heartwood Press, 2001.


  • Newcomb's Wildflower Guide, by Lawrence Newcomb and Gordon Morrison (Illust.). Paperback, 1989.

  • Shrub Identification Book, by George W. Symonds and A.W. Merwin, 1980.

  • Tree Identification Book, by George W. Symonds and Stephen V. Chelminski, 1972.



If you’d like an even more in-depth look at plants:

  • Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada, by Henry A. Gleason and Arthur Cronquist, 1991.

  • Illustrated Companion to Gleason and Cronquist's Manual: Illustrations of the Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada, by Noel H. Holmgren, Henry A. Gleason, Patricia K Holmgren (ed.), and Kathleen M. McCauley (ed.). 1991


  • Vermont Reptile and Amphibian Atlas. Created by herpetologist Jim Andrews, who oversees the CHEP herpetology research, this site is chock-full of useful information about reptiles and amphibians. If you spot reptiles or amphibians in your forest, you can upload your findings on this website.

  • Article on "Saturated Soil Salamanders" by Jim Andrews, in the November 2003 VFF newsletter, page 6.