Trust for Public Land, Vermont Fish and Wildlife Protect Over 350-Acres Surrounding Otter Creek
Trust for Public Land and the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife announced today the protection of 355-acres of unfragmented forest, rare wildlife habitat, and quality outdoor recreational space in Wallingford.
The property includes 107 acres of wetlands, 100 acres of floodplain and 1.25 miles of the Otter Creek, Vermont’s longest river, and will be an expansion of the Otter Creek Wildlife Management Area. Protection and restoration of these aquatic features will improve flood resiliency and water quality and protect the public investments downstream in the Wallingford Village Historic District and City of Rutland.
“This is an incredible opportunity to expand the Otter Creek Wildlife Management Area— providing permanent public access for recreation and helping build stronger, more climate-resilient communities for Vermonters,” said Shelby Semmes, VP for the New England Region for Trust for Public Land.
The public will have access to the property, managed going forward by Vermont Fish and Wildlife, for hunting, fishing, wildlife watching, hiking, snowshoeing and skiing.
“The Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife is thrilled about this expansion of the WMA that conserves important wildlife habitat and improves public access to land for hunting, fishing, bird watching and other outdoor activities” noted Will Duane, Land Acquisition Coordinator for Vermont Fish and Wildlife. “ This project represents a high spirit of collaboration between the Department, the Trust for Public Land, the Vermont Rivers Conservancy, and the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board. State Agencies and private organizations partnered to share expertise and resources resulting in a highly successful conservation outcome.”
The property contains a diverse mosaic of natural habitats, critical to wildlife and rare plant communities as they adapt to a changing climate. Waterfowl, raptors, and other birds can be found on the property’s significant wetlands, oxbow ponds, and Otter Creek; while populations of 16 species of rare plants are found within 8 State-Significant rare natural communities on the property, now permanently protected under a conservation easement co-held by Vermont River Conservancy and Vermont Housing and Conservation Board.
“It was a pleasure to work with Trust for Public Land and Vermont Fish & Wildlife to expand the Otter Creek Wildlife Management Area for the public to enjoy throughout the seasons. Vermont River Conservancy looks forward to forever stewarding the 100+ acres of wetlands and floodplains, the small tributaries, and the important Otter Creek,” stated Erin De Vries, Co-Director of Vermont River Conservancy.
In 2011, protected wetlands and floodplains further down the Otter Creek Basin prevented $1.8 million of flood damage in the town of Middlebury during Tropical Storm Irene. With increased precipitation and extreme storm events due to climate change, protecting and restoring wetlands, floodplains and upland forest is critical to protecting local communities, like Wallingford where essential buildings—their fire station, elementary school, and town garage—are all vulnerable to flood risk.
Trust for Public Land is proud to play an important role in protecting properties like this from development and fragmentation and expanding public access to the outdoors. This project was funded by the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, USFWS Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration (Pittman-Robertson) Fund, Vermont Habitat Stamp, Conservation Alliance, and generous private donors. A portion of the project will also leverage a federal Forest Legacy Program grant, helping conserve approximately 4,000 acres in northern Vermont.
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.