Vermont’s New State Forest Will Be Named After Former Senator Jim Jeffords

A new 1,346-acre State Forest will be created in former Senator Jim Jeffords’ hometown of Shrewsbury and will be named after the late senator, The Trust for Public Land and the State of Vermont announced today.

“This will be an enduring and well-deserved tribute to Senator Jeffords’ long legacy of environmental stewardship and land conservation,” said Michael Snyder, Commissioner of Forest, Parks and Recreation.

Rodger Krussman, Vermont Director of The Trust for Public Land, said, “Our mission is to protect land for people and the new Jim Jeffords State Forest, with its rich recreation opportunities for hikers, skiers, hunters and snowmobilers, is a great example of that. The Senator’s leadership in Congress as a champion of clean air, safe drinking water, and the Land and Water Conservation Fund made him a hero to conservationists everywhere. We believe Senator Jeffords would strongly approve protecting this land for Vermonters.”

The project involves the sale by The Trust for Public Land of three separate parcels of property to the State of Vermont, two of which the organization will purchase from private owners. The third, the 266-acre Heathcote property, was generously donated to The Trust for Public Land by Lesley Heathcote of Brattleboro.

The other two properties are the 971-acre Mendon Brook Tree Farm and a 109-acre parcel owned by Lincoln Forestry Co. The total cost of the project will be $1,150,000. Completion of the project is set for this fall.

Jeffords, who passed away last August 18, was a resident of Shrewsbury, a member of the U.S. House from 1975-89, and a member of the U.S. Senate from 1989-2007. Originally elected as a Republican, he later became an Independent. A former Vermont state senator and attorney general, Jeffords also served on the Shrewsbury Volunteer Fire Department, and as Shrewsbury’s Grand Juror, Town Agent and Zoning Administrator in the 1960s. As Representative, Jeffords joined Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Robert Stafford (R-Vt.) in sponsoring the Vermont Wilderness Act of 1984, which designated portions of Green Mountain National Forest as Wilderness and National Recreation Area.

“I know how much Jim loved Shrewsbury, and he did so much to preserve Vermont’s forests. Naming the Jim Jeffords State Forest in a place he loved is a fitting way, and a lasting way, to honor his legacy,” Leahy said.

The new Jim Jeffords State Forest will be a crucial link between Coolidge State Forest and Aitken State Forest, resulting in an 188,000-acre block of conserved land. In addition to recreation for local residents and visitors, the property is used by black bears moving between Aitken State Forest-a key fall feeding area-east to Parker’s Gore and the Green Mountain Bear Corridor. Conservation of this land will also protect wetlands and riparian areas along Mendon Brook and the Cold River, which will enhance flood resiliency upstream of Rutland, heavily damaged by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.

The $1,150,000 cost of the project will come from a variety of sources, including the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, which has contributed $367,000 to date, $425,000 in mitigation funding from an expansion of development around Okemo Ski Area, a $50,000 grant from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and private donations. Vermont Land Trust is also supporting the project with a donation of $25,000, enabled by a restricted bequest from Joan Sibley. Thus far, private and public funds totaling $881,000 have been secured. In addition, more than $400,000 of land value has been generously donated by the landowners. VHCB Executive Director Gus Seelig commented: “We are delighted that future generations will appreciate Senator Jeffords’ great legacy when they hike or hunt in the forest that surrounds the community he called home.”

The Trust for Public Land, in partnership with the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, will be working over the coming months to secure the remaining $269,000 from public and private sources. Shrewsbury residents expressed enthusiasm at the announcement. “Jim loved the outdoors, and he would be pleased to see these woodlands in his home town preserved as public land for future generations to enjoy”, said Hull Maynard of Shrewsbury, former State Senator and Jeffords family friend.

Laura Jeffords, the daughter of Senator Jeffords, said, “We could not be more pleased to see this acreage dedicated to Jim. He worked so hard to preserve the treasured forests of Vermont and would be honored to know his contribution will endure for so many who live and visit this great State.”