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.
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:
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.