Campaign Launched to Protect 2,700 Acres (VT)

WARDSBORO, Vermont, 2/13/03: The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit conservation organization, announced today that it is launching a campaign to raise $230,000 in private funds by May 2003 to help permanently protect 2,700 acres of forestland on Potter and Upper Podunk Roads along the southern border with Dover. Known locally as the former IP land, the property includes waterfalls, beaver ponds, and 2,700′ White’s Hill.

Last summer, White’s Hill attracted the attention of an individual who was interested in buying the property from New England, LLC for private use and planned to discontinue traditional public access. To help avoid such an outcome, TPL purchased the property in October to hold it off the market until funding could be assembled for its permanent conservation. The purchase price was $1.2 million, slightly less than the independently appraised value of $1.285 million.

“This property has been a high conservation priority for many years, and we are delighted to have a window in which to protect it permanently,” said Julie Iffland, TPL project manager. “We are indebted to the many residents of Wardsboro, including members of the local Pathfinder Snowmobile Club, who have rallied together to support this effort. Without everyone pulling together, public access to White’s Hill could have been lost forever.”

Thanks to the leadership of U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy and the entire Vermont congressional delegation, $1.05 million for the White’s Hill purchase was provided to the Green Mountain National Forest last year. However, those funds were reallocated last July to pay for firefighting out West. On January 23, the U.S. Senate approved an omnibus funding bill that included funds to repay the National Forest and allow the White’s Hill acquisition to move forward. With Senate approval, the bill has now gone to the House of Representatives. Discussions between the two bodies are likely to be finalized in the next few days, and then it will go to President Bush for his signature.

“The strong support of the congressional delegation has been essential to getting this project off the ground. They have been there from the beginning, working hard to secure federal funding for White’s Hill,” continued Iffland.

To fill the $150,000 funding gap and cover project costs, TPL hopes to raise $230,000 from private sources by May of 2003. As part of this effort, Wardsboro resident Donna Sebastian is spearheading a local campaign to raise $30,000 towards the larger goal.

“Residents and visitors alike enjoy recreational activities on White’s Hill and share an interest and concern in conserving the land,” said Donna Sebastian. “We greatly appreciate the donations and other forms of support that many people have already given.” Thanks to a handful of lead gifts, just over $21,000 in gifts and pledges has already been raised.

“I am thrilled that TPL has spearheaded the initiative to conserve this property, and I also greatly appreciate the support of Nancy Bell of The Conservation Fund. We are working now to raise the remaining funds needed to fill the gap, and I hope that anyone who has not yet made a contribution, but is interested in helping, will do so soon,” added Sebastian. Gifts can be sent to P.O. Box 83, West Wardsboro, VT 05360, with checks made payable to The Trust for Public Land/White’s Hill. For more information, contact Donna Sebastian at (802) 896-6302.

Located adjacent to the roughly 1,300-acre Dover Town Forest, which in turn abuts roughly 2,900 acres of National Forest land, the White’s Hill property has been a top acquisition priority of the National Forest for years, primarily because of its importance as black bear habitat. State wildlife biologists have identified nearly all of the property as Bear Production Habitat, which means that it supports relatively high densities of cub producing females. In addition, the steep ridge on the southern side of the land provides the only known connection between core bear habitat in Somerset, Glastenbury, and the Lye Brook Wilderness and habitat in the towns of Dover, Newfane, and Marlboro east of Route 100. In addition to providing habitat for wildlife, the property’s logging roads and snowmobile trails offer excellent opportunities for back-country recreation.

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving land for people to enjoy as parks and open space. Since 1972, TPL has protected more than 1.5 million acres nationwide, including nearly 30,000 acres in Vermont. The Wall Street Journal’s Smart Money Magazine recently named TPL the nation’s most efficient large conservation charity, based on the percentage of funds dedicated to programs, for the third year in a row.