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Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge

In the eastern U.S., the creation of national parks, forests, and wildlife refuges occurred by purchasing back property that had once been distributed to settlers by the government or by the Crown. For the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge in Swanton and Highgate, the only federal refuge in Vermont, that process began in 1943. Over the years, the Conservancy has played a key part in securing land for the refuge.  

The largest wetland on Lake Champlain, Missisquoi Marsh spreads across the delta of the Missisquoi River. Miles of silver maple forest line the river’s banks, and the refuge’s Maquam Bog is the state’s largest lowland bog. Lake Sturgeon spawn in the Missisquoi River and the refuge includes Vermont’s only Black Tern colony as well. Where the river enters Missisquoi Bay, you’ll find Shad Island, home of the largest great blue heron rookery in Vermont (and a purchase of the Conservancy).  

Most of Vermont’s spiny softshell turtles, an endangered species, are also found here, and with the Nature Conservancy of Canada (separate from The Nature Conservancy), we are protecting softshell turtle nesting areas on their side of the border.  

A naturally productive place like the Missisquoi was important to native peoples, and the Abenaki lived and hunted there for thousands of years. In modern times, when developers began subdividing and building on ancient Abenaki burial grounds in the area, we bought the property for conservation and for eventual repatriation of their cemetery to the Abenaki.

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