Key parcel along Windmill Ridge is conserved, connecting 1,000+ acres of forestland and trails

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Key parcel along Windmill Ridge is conserved, connecting 1,000+ acres of forestland and trails

Thu, 01/05/2023 - 5:36am -- tim
Hinton Woods will provide forest, climate, recreation and wildlife benefits

Vermont Business Magazine A keystone parcel along the Windmill Ridge in Putney and Brookline has been protected for wildlife, climate, recreation and clean water, the Putney Mountain Association (PMA) and the Vermont Land Trust (VLT) announced Monday.

The two organizations worked together to conserve one of the few remaining gaps in protected land along the Windmill Hill–Putney Mountain ridgeline. The 140 acres connect trails and other public lands, including the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge (Conte Refuge) to the south and the Putney Town Forest to the north. In addition, the newly protected land expands a contiguous block of protected or public woods and wetlands, now totaling over 1,000 acres.

Known as the Hinton Woods, after the Hinton family who owned the property for decades, the land is accessible via a trailhead across the road from the main Putney Mountain parking area. Putney Mountain Association worked with the Hinton family to develop a public trail in 2012, connecting PMA’s trail system from the south to the north. This trail section will be called "Libby's Way" in honor of Libby Mills, PMA’s 2022 Person of the Year and dedicated longtime PMA board member who had a major role in this and many other PMA conservation projects.

“Some dreams do come true!” said Libby Mills. “Thirty years ago, a few PMA board members talked informally with one or two Hinton family members who wanted their Putney Mountain property to be conserved and joined to the original Putney Mountain land across the road. We shared the dream together, but it took decades for the pieces to fall into place, for the expanse of Hinton forest and wetlands to be protected. No question that it was worth the wait!”

“We are honored to support the Putney Mountain Association in their tireless efforts to protect these important lands,” said VLT’s Jennifer Garrett. “We have worked together on multiple projects, conserving nearly 900 acres, and we truly value their focus on connecting people to the land through exploration, learning, and discovery.”

The tract joins several protected properties along the Windmill Hill–Putney Mountain ridgeline stretching from Dummerston to Grafton. These parcels, along with a few that are not conserved, support more than 30 miles of linked trails. The Conte Refuge abuts the property for about a mile along its southeastern, southern, and southwestern sides.

The land will now be open to all for non-motorized recreation such as bird watching, cross-country skiing, hiking, hunting, snowshoeing and wildlife observation, and for educational activities.

Over the past summer, dozens of dedicated volunteers assisted local naturalists with a BioBlitz organized by Putney Mountain Association. They identified moss, fern, invertebrate and bird species, and explored the unique piece of geography in detail.

“These outings served as fascinating educational opportunities for the community members who participated, connecting the community with the process of conserving this land,” said the PMA’s Sam Quintal.

The land contains northern hardwood mixed forest, along with red oak, white pine, and red spruce that give way to mixed hemlock stands on the western slopes. With a deer wintering area and a newly mapped vernal pool where salamanders breed, the Hinton Woods are rich with wildlife. Wetlands straddle the ridge and feed tributaries of Salmon Brook and Grassy Brook, part of the Connecticut River watershed. The land also hosts the Barbed-bristle Bulrush, a plant that has been identified as endangered at both the federal and state levels.

The project was funded by the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board (VHCB), Open Space Institute (OSI), Davis Conservation Foundation, William P. Wharton Trust, and numerous generous private donors.

Gus Seelig, Executive Director of the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, said, “VHCB has been proud to work with the Putney Mountain Association to conserve six properties over more than 20 years, protecting wildlife habitat and permanent public access to 842 acres. The Hinton Woods acquisition fills in an important piece of the puzzle.” 

Hinton Woods is the fifth Windmill Ridge property protected with funding from OSI, and the second supported by OSI’s Appalachian Landscapes Protection Fund (ALPF). The $18 million ALPF, made possible thanks to major support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, seeks to respond to habitat loss and climate change by investing in the conservation of Appalachian Mountain forests.

“The conservation of Hinton Woods marks yet another important milestone in OSI's long-term efforts to protect the forests of the Northern Appalachians in the face of climate change," said Joel Houser, OSI Field Coordinator. "We applaud the Vermont Land Trust and Putney Mountain Association for their efforts to protect the land, which will provide long-term benefits for generations of people and wildlife."

About Vermont Land Trust 

Rooted in Vermont since 1977, the Vermont Land Trust unites land and lives for the enduring benefit of people and the place we share. We have protected more than 620,000 acres of land and foster life-long connections to farms, forests, and community spaces that define Vermont. Learn more at vlt.org.

About Putney Mountain Association

The Putney Mountain Association acknowledges the vital link between human beings and the natural environment. Its central purpose is to conserve wildlife habitat on Windmill Ridge in Southeastern Vermont for present and future generations.

1.2.2023. Putney, VT — Vermont Land Trust. Montpelier www.vlt.org