The Willowell Foundation and The Nature Conservancy announced today that 109 acres of the Foundation’s educational preserve in Monkton, VT will be forever preserved with a conservation easement held by the Conservancy and the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife.
For Matt Schlein, Executive Director of the Willowell Foundation it was a satisfying moment. "This is a happy conclusion to seven years of Willowell trying to conserve in perpetuity the most ecologically sensitive parts of our Monkton property,” said Schlein. “As an organization dedicated to finding a balance between human and natural communities, it was an exciting opportunity for us to partner with The Nature Conservancy in this endeavor.”
Located in the Lewis Creek watershed at the foot of Hogback Mountain, the protected area includes a significant white cedar swamp natural community and areas of valley clayplain forest. Hidden from view orchids thrive in the wetlands, including the rare and uncommon white adder’s mouth, rams head and showy ladies slippers.
One mile of riparian shoreline along Pond Brook is included in the deal, and with funds from the Clean and Clear initiative 10 acres of marginal meadow will be restored to wooded swamp. In addition, it abuts 325 acres of already conserved land enhancing the importance of this parcel for wildlife, birds and amphibians that need a variety of wetland and wooded habitat to survive.
Jon Binhammer, director of land protection for the Vermont chapter of The Nature Conservancy said, “The wetlands and lowland softwood forest at this site are one of the ecological jewels of northern Addison County. We are grateful to the Willowell Foundation for their commitment to conservation.”
The lands being conserved were part of a parcel purchased by the Willowell Foundation from a developer for use as an educational preserve to model sustainable and ecological land use. Schlein also serves as Director of the Walden Project, a high school program modeled on the writings of Henry David Thoreau. As part of the curriculum, high school students spend the entire year on this tract of land, observing the seasons in conjunction with their intensive work in writing, the social sciences, and environmental studies.
In addition to bringing his own students to the Monkton land, Schlein also sees the educational uses of the land growing. “We believe this will be a great resource for the local community, especially the schools. We plan to work with teachers and students to find projects that will put them on the front line of reforestation, improvement of riparian buffers, and other land based ecology projects.”
The conserved land is open to non-motorized public uses. Plans are currently underway to improve access to the piece and implement a management plan.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.