Conservation of Eden Forest Buffers Four Miles of the Long Trail

November 15, 2010
Vermont

More than 5,700 acres of private forest bordering four miles of the Long Trail State Forest, the nation's oldest long-distance hiking trail, have been permanently protected, The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and the State of Vermont announced today.

The property, in the towns of Johnson and Eden in the Northern Green Mountains, now has permanent public access for hiking, hunting, and snowmobiling. Known as Eden Forest, the property will continue to be owned and sustainably managed for timber by the Green Crow Corporation. The state holds a conservation easement, which will permanently protect the land from being subdivided for development.

The idea for the Long Trail dates back to 1909, and the trail was built between 1910 and 1930. It is 270 miles long, and runs the length of Vermont, from Massachusetts to Canada. About 200,000 people annually hike the trail, which is maintained and managed by the Green Mountain Club.

Green Crow Corporation bought the 5,725-acre property land from David Villeneuve in 2006 and worked with TPL on a permanent conservation solution that would keep the land from being developed. The area has been a prime development target because of its low-elevation meadows, well-developed roads, southern exposure, and scenic views.

"TPL is committed to helping communities protect land throughout Vermont's northern Green Mountains and along the Long Trail, and Eden Forest achieves both goals," said Rodger Krussman, TPL's Vermont state director. "TPL is grateful to Vermont and in particular to our congressional delegation, led by U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, for their dedication to protecting Eden Forest."

"We purchased this land four years ago as a long term investment" said Nick Brunet, Vice President of Green Crow Corporation. "Our vision was to maintain the property as a working forest that would continue to produce wood products for the forest industry for generations, as well as all of the other benefits that go along with maintaining open space."

The funds to buy the easement came from the federal government through the U.S. Agriculture Department's Forest Legacy Program (FLP), which funds easements around the country. Eden Forest was the state's top priority for conservation easement protection in 2008 and 2009 and last year, it was ranked 10th nationally out of 47 projects by the FLP. With the support of Sens. Leahy, D-Vt., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., the project received $3.95 million in FLP funds. The Vermont Watershed Grant program also contributed $6,000.

Sen. Leahy said, "This is a great conservation achievement, and I am pleased to see the Long Trail better protected in this, the trail's 100th year."

Representative Welch said, "With its rich natural resources and proximity to the Long Trail and other protected areas, Eden Forest is precisely the sort of land we should be focused on conserving for future generations. This partnership between non-profit, business and government entities demonstrates the potential for collaboration between those who recognize that promoting forestry, recreation and conservation are not mutually exclusive goals."

"The U.S. Forest Service maintains high standards for the Forest Legacy Program to earn the confidence of the American people," said Deirdre Raimo, Northeastern Area FLP program manager. "The Eden Forest FLP project has been through a process that includes assuring the highest quality projects are funded through a National prioritization process, maintaining high standards in acquisition of the land or interests in land, and the State agreeing to monitor the conservation easement in perpetuity. The Forest Service recognizes the hard work of our partners to conserve this important forest land."

"One of the primary goals of Vermont's Forest Legacy program is to protect working forests to sustain their economic, ecological, and social values. That means forests that will be long term, sustainable producers of high quality forest products while providing access to the public for recreational opportunities. Eden Forest embodies these goals," said Sarah Clark, Commissioner, Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation.

"This sale of a conservation easement captures a large portion of the speculative land values and removes the distraction of potential 'higher-and- better-use' considerations," added Brunet. "This allows our foresters to focus more directly on the silviculture, wildlife, water quality, and similar natural resource values in a way that is consistent with our original vision. It is also satisfying to participate in the community, provide opportunities for public recreation and to help maintain the economic health in the Northern Green Mountains."

Protection of Eden Forest creates 30,000 acres of contiguous, unfragmented, conserved forest in Vermont's northern woods, including the Long Trail State Forest, Babcock Nature Preserve, and Atlas Timberlands. Together, these lands are home to a variety of wildlife including black bear, bobcat, gray and red fox, moose, and deer. More than 120 acres of beaver wetlands on Eden Forest provide homes for wood ducks, turtles, many warbler species, and a great blue heron rookery.

"The conservation of the Eden Forest greatly enhances the future ability of wide-ranging mammals such as bear, moose, and bobcat to successfully move through the Northern Green Mountains, one of six vital wildlife linkages in the Northern Forest," said Bob Hawk, Linkage Coordinator of the Staying Connected Initiative. "Those species need to move freely across the regional landscape to survive, between summer and winter food sources, to find mates, and in response to environmental changes."

Hikers, hunters, skiers, and snowmobilers have long enjoyed Eden Forest. The Vermont Association of Snow Travelers manages snowmobiling trails and Lamoille County is renowned for maintaining a large connected network of cross-country ski trails, which could expand further into Eden Forest.

"Eden Forest is a perfect match for the Forest Legacy Program," said Ben Rose, Executive Director of the Green Mountain Club. "The project protects a large area of working forest for public recreation, fish and wildlife habitat, and critical watershed functions, while providing a substantial undeveloped buffer for a big stretch of the Long Trail."

TPL is a national, nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, historic sites, rural lands, and other natural places. Since 1972, TPL has completed 4,500 projects in 47 states, protecting 2.8 million acres, including more than 50,000 acres throughout Vermont. TPL depends on the support of individuals, foundations, and corporations.