Conservation in Victory to strengthen climate resiliency and support endangered wildlife habitat
Two key portions of Victory Hill, a remarkable 1,230- acre property in the Northeast Kingdom known for world-class recreation opportunities and its role within a surrounding “biological hotspot” have been permanently protected as of November 16, 2023.
Led by the landowner and Trust for Public Land, the new 592-acre conservation easement and habitat restoration plan will support and enhance sensitive and important land and waters — including mature floodplain forest, white cedar swamps and montane spruce forest.
The property lies amidst 27,000 acres of extensive wetland complexes and habitat for rare and endangered species made up of Victory State Forest, Darling State Forest, and Victory Basin Wildlife Management Area.
“It takes a true community effort to get a 15-year project of this magnitude across the finish line,” said landowner Laury Saligman of Conservation Collaboratives, who has been working toward conserving the property since 2008. “We are deeply thankful to the Trust for Public Land, the NRCS and other supporters for keeping forest conservation in the Northeast Kingdom a top priority.”
According to Two Countries One Forest and the Staying Connected Initiative — bi-national coalitions of more than 80 public agencies, non-profit organizations and academic partners collaborating to conserve, restore and sustain landscape connections across the Northern Appalachian/Acadian Forest region — the area is critical to regional wildlife connectivity for its role in providing a corridor from the northeast corner of Vermont to northern New Hampshire and Mount Megantic in southern Quebec, and east to the forests of Maine and Moosehead Lake.
The new conservation easement will protect upper elevation spruce-fir stands, and low elevation wetland areas around Weir Mill Brook for restoration and wildlife recovery. These protections will also serve as a natural climate tool able to sequester carbon and absorb floodwaters, safeguarding downstream communities – a particular point of concern following the devastating flooding throughout Vermont in the summer of 2023.
The restoration plan also will target recovery of the American marten, which is endangered in the State of Vermont, and only occurs in small numbers in the Northeast Kingdom and a small patch in the southern Green Mountains. Other declining species, such as blackburnian warbler, wood thrush, Louisiana water thrush and Northern waterthrush, will benefit from the conservation practices put into place through this easement.
In addition to its ecological importance, Victory Hill is a destination for the renowned recreational trail network at the center of the property: 640 acres of mountain biking, hiking and backcountry skiing trails, which are a priority for future preservation once regulatory issues are resolved. The 592-acre easement surrounding the network preserves the trail system’s viewsheds and provides refuge for wildlife affected by trail usage.
“The success at Victory Hill is a prime example of how conservation can help deliver a variety of benefits, from climate resilience and wildlife connectivity to strengthening recreation opportunities that can raise awareness of this incredible natural area as well as contribute positively to nearby local economies,” said Shelby Semmes, Vice President of New England Region at Trust for Public Land.
Recognizing the intrinsic value of this unique forestland, Saligman began working towards conserving the property in 2008. She partnered with Trust for Public Land to explore different conservation opportunities, and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Vermont was a perfect fit for her goal to conserve approximately half of her land—the most ecologically important forestland—through the Healthy Forest Reserve Program.
“We are pleased to have worked with Conservation Collaboratives to both protect this important property but also develop the HFRP habitat restoration plan with them that will, over the long term, promote complex, old growth forest conditions for American marten and many other species,” noted Toby Alexander, NRCS State Forester. “HFRP is a unique and valuable easement and habitat restoration program that is specifically targeted to Federally listed species, federal candidate species, and State listed species and their habitat needs.”
Trust for Public Land secured funding through the Long Island Sound Regional Conservation Partnership Program, which focuses on conservation of private lands to protect climate resiliency, carbon storage, water quality and wildlife habitat in the Connecticut River Basin and Long Island Sound Watershed. This was a perfect fit for the landowner’s own goals, as a conservationist and impact investor focused on climate.
The project was supported by the Long Island Sound Regional Conservation Partnership Program, Canaday Foundation, Upper Connecticut River Mitigation Enhancement Grant, and the Lintilhac Foundation. The project was also supported by a grant from the Open Space Institute’s Transborder Fund, established to protect the ecologically significant forests of the Northern Appalachian/Acadian eco-region, an 80-million-acre region spanning the eastern edge of North America and the boundaries of the United States and Canada.
About Trust for Public Land
Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit that works to connect everyone to the benefits and joys of the outdoors. As a leader in equitable access to the outdoors, TPL works with communities to create parks and protect public land where they are needed most. Since 1972, TPL has protected more than 4 million acres of public land, created more than 5,364 parks, trails, schoolyards, and iconic outdoor places, raised $93 billion in public funding for parks and public lands, and connected nearly 9.4 million people to the outdoors. To learn more, visit tpl.org.