An ecological gem known as Southern Lake Champlain Valley is tucked among three mountain ranges at the southern headwaters of Lake Champlain. Where the lake narrows, a medley of small towns and family farms commingle with biologically rich forests, dramatic cliffs, wetlands and rivers. Three ecological regions also converge here, creating incredible natural diversity in a relatively concentrated area. The Nature Conservancy recognizes the Southern Lake Champlain Valley as one of its Last Great Places, making it a national conservation priority.
Development is causing habitat loss and fragmentation in this landscape. Its ecological integrity is also threatened by invasive species, incompatible management practices, agricultural practices that degrade water quality, forest pathogens and poaching of threatened species.
The Southern Lake Champlain Valley supports an impressive diversity of plant species, with plant communities ranging from rare clayplain forests, to large expanses of northern hardwood forests, to high-quality wetland communities.
Many rare species thrive in this exceptional habitat, and tens of thousands of migrating birds travel through each year. Peregrine falcons, five-lined skinks, eastern timber rattlesnakes, bobcats and black bears inhabit the valley. A surprising array of aquatic species, including 12 species of native freshwater mussels and the globally rare eastern sand darter, live in the Poultney River.
Our Conservation Strategy
To preserve the viable and functional Southern Lake Champlain landscape, three chapters of The Nature Conservancy—Eastern New York, Adirondack and Vermont—are working together to implement the following strategies:
- Restore and protect clayplain forest and riparian systems.
- Advance conservation of and connectivity between the forested systems in the landscape.
- Reduce, prevent and manage establishment of invasive species.
- Advance scientific knowledge that will lead to informed decision-making by the Conservancy and other partners in management strategies.
- Manage Conservancy properties to maintain viable populations, communities and systems, and to ensure a positive experience by those who visit.
- Engage community members in conservation activities.
What the Conservancy Is Doing
- Managing more than 9,000 acres of preserve land in Southern Lake Champlain Valley, and providing outreach programs and educational opportunities for visitors and local college and school groups.
- Working cooperatively with state and federal agencies to research and implement alternatives to using TFM (a chemical used to control sea lampreys that may harm native mussels and sand darters).
- Using cutting-edge science to identify key habitat for species such as bobcats and bears, and other areas vital to ecological processes.
- Restoring clayplain forest and native plants to the landscape through the Champlain Valley Restoration Nursery, which was created in 2002 by The Nature Conservancy and the Poultney-Mettowee Watershed Partnership. This small native plant nursery grows seedlings from locally collected seeds, then plants them on Conservancy property and on local farms that are enrolled in federal cost-share programs.
- Volunteers are contributing thousands of hours to map and control invasive plant species.
Environmental Protection Agency, Poultney-Mettowee Watershed Partnership, Washington County Soil and Water Conservation District, Poultney-Mettowee Natural Resources Conservation District, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s NRCS, Vermont Department of Conservation’s Water Quality Division, Vermont Fish and Wildlife, Champlain Valley Clayplain Forest Project, Castleton State College, Green Mountain College, Whitehall Chamber of Commerce, Vermont Land Trust, local landowners, volunteers and citizens.