In the spirit of Thanksgiving, the Upper Valley Land Trust hosted a Volunteer Appreciation Open House on Thursday, November 18. Approximately 75 volunteers helped UVLT with its stewardship work this year. Their time adds up to over 700 hours, and is evidence of an investment in the Upper Valley that cannot be measured in dollars and cents.
UVLT, with the help of its many stewardship volunteers, maintains 18 trails and 7 campsites. Volunteers also help to monitor UVLT’s conservation easements by walking the boundaries of conserved properties and documenting any changes to the landscape. These walks are performed annually on the more than 400 parcels that have been conserved with UVLT over the 25 years of the organization’s existence.
A UVLT volunteer helps to remove invasive plants from a parcel of land in Norwich, known as Gateway.
In addition to the time and energy that land stewards contribute, dozens more community members assist UVLT by leading hikes, organizing events, taking pictures of conserved properties, participating in committee work, and making a variety of in-kind donations. UVLT has a staff of just 9 full-time employees, so volunteer assistance is vital.
UVLT’s Stewardship Coordinator Jason Berard said recently, “I am amazed at the number of hours that volunteers contribute to our work. I am honored to work for an organization with such broad community support.”
At UVLT’s Open House on Thursday, volunteers mentioned favorite Upper Valley lands and the challenges each season brings. In the winter, one volunteer monitor mentioned, “I have to carry a big pack and wear snowshoes, but it’s easier to see animal tracks and signs. It’s also easier to cross water – as long as it’s really frozen. I did fall through once – up to my hip! But I made it out OK.”
In order to join the Upper Valley Land Trust as a volunteer on a trail team, as a campsite steward, or a conservation easement monitor, please contact Peter Helm, UVLT’s Vice President Stewardship at email@example.com or (603) 643-6626 ext. 104. Spring monitor training dates will be posted at www.UVLT.org in early 2011.
When the time came to sell her property, Stephanie Jackson had high hopes that the land could be conserved. She approached the Upper Valley Land Trust to see what her options were, and UVLT consulted Lebanon’s Conservation Commission. UVLT worked with the Jacksons, their realtor, and the Lebanon Planning Dept. to work out the details of the purchase. The Lebanon Conservation Commission contributed the necessary purchase and conservation funds from the Lebanon Open Space Trust (LOST) Fund and the Lebanon City Council voted to accept the property and grant the conservation easement to UVLT.
On Tuesday, November 23rd, after the T’s are crossed and the I’s are dotted, over fifteen acres of land, within walking distance from Colburn Park in downtown Lebanon, will be conserved. The land will be owned by the City and managed by the Conservation Commission, with the easement held by UVLT. The land will be protected from further development, but continue to be available for public enjoyment.
During their ownership, the Jackson siblings, Stephanie and Gordon, have welcomed the public on existing trails within the forest. There is a well-defined path up the hill from Bank Street and Forest Avenue. The trail is just a quarter of a mile long, but provides users with a respite from urban life. Its location along the eastern edge of Lebanon Center makes it easily accessible to the many residents who live nearby, and who may not have easy access to other natural areas.
When the Jacksons were children, the fields were grazed by goats. Today, these fields remain open and include a sizeable patch of blueberries. The area was once a large garden and it’s possible that this space could be used to produce food in the future.
The undeveloped land also provides benefits for water quality and wildlife habitat. Conservation Commission members have noted signs of fox, fisher, deer and many birds. This property, while offering natural habitat to many wildlife species, may also serve as a forested corridor for species traveling northward during migrations. This is critically important since development of land often destroys much of its value for wildlife.
The public is welcome to an official paper-signing ceremony at the Lebanon Opera House on November 23rd at 1 PM. The signing will be followed by light refreshments.
People are a curious species, you know that? I’m guessing you do, since you are a so-called human, yourself, but I must say that I have been watching some strange people who have been pulling out sticks that I have carefully laid and packed into places to stop water flowing out of my pond, and then they throw them up onto the tops of big piles of sticks nearby. Hey people, they don’t do any good keeping water in the pond up there! It really is, silly, you know?
I have also heard a rumor that there may be another creature on its way down to my pond sometime soon. It might be made of metal, and be on treads instead of feet? I have heard someone give it a name like excavator or escalator or something like that, which sounds somewhat suspicious to me! I do remember the people talking about moving part of the big dirt dam, so I think that must be what they are up to. Human nature really is odd…. They go through all the effort decades ago to build a big dirt dam, and now decide that they actually don’t want it anymore! Well, I have enjoyed using it instead, but I realize that people will do what they do, and even if I don’t completely understand their strange ways, I will happily go about my duties every day and work on my own dam instead, thank you very much.
Hi there! I’m a beaver. The place where I live is a pretty great spot for a beaver like me; it has a perennial stream, which I believe some humans decided to name Zebedee. It’s a nice big pond, and nearby forests with great softwood trees, mixed hardwoods, and shrubs that give me lots of building materials and food! When I was out searching for a good place to create my home, I discovered an added bonus here – it turned out that a whole lot of my construction work had already been done by people! Did you know that I’m a builder? Perhaps you did, but I must say, the big pile of dirt that created a dam across Zebedee Brook is much more than I would have done! Sure, I use mud to plug the little spaces between sticks when I make my own dam, but this man-made dam, well, now that’s a lot of dirt! Even though it is more than I need, I wasn’t about to let it go to waste! I have made my own beaver-style dams around it, since I knew that was a way to get more bang for my buck… (…teeth, that is!). I am a clever beaver, after all.
Want to know more about me? Well, I might have to tell you more a bit later, since I’m pretty busy, especially this time of year when my family and I are getting ready for winter. We’re really busy this year. Do you know why? Some people have decided that the big dirt dam that we have been using to make our pond extra big should go away! Goodness! I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’m not a lazy beaver. I’m sure I can handle the task of rebuilding my pond home even if that dam goes away, but man, people just don’t want it to be easy for us, now do they? Anyway, I should probably get back to work… !
I took the opportunity to greet November in the field with UVLT Conservation Mapping and Field Specialist, Amber Boland. On Monday, November 1st, Amber and I headed to the village of Strafford, VT to work on the baseline documentation report (BDR) for a parcel of land in the middle stages of conservation. In order for UVLT to hold a conservation easement on a piece of land, a BDR must be created, detailing specific features of the property, such as boundary lines and natural resource value. Once the easement is in place, the BDR is the tool that will guide the stewardship staff in their annual monitoring visits to the parcel. This means that an important aspect of Amber’s job is to accurately describe the land, which can only be done with her feet on the ground!
This particular property is a combination of several tracts of land on both sides of the road and including many a hilltop. Our goal for the day was to circumvent as many of the individual tracts as we had time for, paying particular attention to the corners. Amber keeps a record of what she sees by marking each boundary corner with a GPS point, a photo, and a brief description. We began the day by crunching through frosted leaves with traces of snow from the night before, over the icy cold brook, and straight up the hillside to the property line. Although at times the sun fought its way through the trees, the gusts of snow flurries kept us moving to stay warm.
By mid-morning we moved on to tract number two. Unlike the first tract, which was covered in forest, tract number two is a pasture for a herd of cattle. Our steep accent began in the trees, taking care to step around various sizes of cow patties and move low hanging branches out of our path. Up, and up we went, closer and closer to the tree line. When we finally left the forest we found ourselves in a recently grazed open field. Keeping an eye out for four legged neighbors, we continued with heavy steps and labored breathing to the crest of the hill. The sight of rolling pasture gave way to heavily wooded forest with hazy blue mountains in the distance, making the climb well worth my tired legs. It’s not every day that one gets to take in the magnificence of nature and call it work .
We finally ran into the herd more than halfway around tract number two. We decided not to take a chance and turned back toward the other boundary line. This involved shimmying back under the barbed wire fence from whence we came, taking care not to get snagged. Making our way across the road, we passed an old stone foundation and wondered what would possess someone that long ago to build so far outside of town. Perhaps it was the babbling stream that ran nearby, or the breathtaking view of the mountains afar, but whatever the reason, we’re not the first to think this place is special.
By mid-afternoon Amber and I had recorded the boundary lines of three separate tracts, totaling almost 200 acres, and had been up and down many a steep hillside, through forests of pine, hemlock, and beech, traversed pastures with steaming landmines, and braved howling winds and spitting snow. In total, we hiked approximately 6.5 miles all in the name of land conservation. Amber’s fieldwork means that UVLT can move forward with the conservation easement and then a prominent hill and historic farmland above the village of Strafford will forever be protected.
-Megan Chapman, Events and Outreach Intern
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