On September 1, 2021
Local News

Appalachian Trail protected in Killington

Conservation of 629-acres on both sides of the National Scenic Trail ensures
natural character, recreational access and critical wildlife habitat

The Conservation Fund, in partnership with the National Park Service (NPS), announced the protection of 629 acres surrounding the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (AT) in Killington. The property has been conveyed to NPS from The Conservation Fund thanks to funding from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

In addition to securing the immediate viewshed and day-hike entry on both sides of a 1.3-mile stretch of the AT, the conserved land will continue to provide recreational access for hiking, biking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing.

“This acquisition highlights the power of partnership in preserving and protecting the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. The National Park Service thanks all those involved for their commitment and support to secure this property and its critical viewshed for the enjoyment and benefit of all,” said Wendy Janssen, Appalachian National Scenic Trail superintendent.

The Conservation Fund, a national environmental nonprofit, purchased the property in 2014 through its Working Forest Fund, with support from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, as part of 30,000 acres of former industrial timberland threatened by conversion across Vermont, New York, New Hampshire and Maine. The organization managed it as a sustainable working forest until the NPS could secure the necessary LWCF funding to acquire and protect the land. The land is now being managed by the USDA Forest Service as part of the Green Mountain National Forest (GMNF) and provides critical habitat for black bears, moose and migratory birds, as well as important wintering areas for deer.

“The GMNF is excited about the new acquisition along the Appalachian Trail in Killington because the lands will provide extra protection of the trail and add valuable wildlife value and habitat connectivity along this high use trail section,” said Christopher Mattrick, Rochester and Middlebury District Ranger.

Courtesy Green Mountain Club
The Thundering Falls boardwalk, pictured here, leads up to the acquired land.

This latest acquisition complements decades of local efforts to conserve over 16,000 acres of natural lands in the region and enhance protection for the AT corridor, including 1,017 acres adjacent to the state-owned Les Newell Wildlife Management Area that The Conservation Fund conveyed to NPS in 2012 through the Chateauguay No Town Conservation Project

“The rugged ridgeline traversed by the Appalachian Trail in the Chateauguay region is at the heart of this high priority and vulnerable landscape of wilderness amidst an increasingly developed area of Vermont,” said Sally Manikian, The Conservation Fund’s New Hampshire and Vermont representative. “The Conservation Fund’s efforts over the last three decades to ensure habitat connectivity, recreational beauty, and watershed protection here have been driven by partnerships and bolstered by local community support. We are grateful for the LWCF funding and the ongoing support of Vermont’s U.S. Congressional delegation.”

This is one of Vermont’s first conservation wins since the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act in 2020, which fully and permanently funded the LWCF. LWCF is a bipartisan program that conserves ecologically and scenically valuable land across the U.S. — including many of Vermont’s iconic natural places, like the GMNF, Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.

Sen. Leahy, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and a longtime champion of the Green Mountain National Forest, said: “I congratulate and thank The Conservation Fund, the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service on this important conservation achievement. This trail in Killington is perhaps the most important gateway to the Appalachian Trail and to the National Forest in Vermont and the region. Securing these lands is a gift to everyone, and especially to those using the trail today, and tomorrow. This is a legacy for generations of Vermonters now, and to come.”

“We have a long history of conservation in Vermont,” said Sen. Sanders. “And it’s because of conservation efforts like this that we are able to safeguard our ecological heritage, our proud tradition of working the land, our local economies, and some of the most extensive, accessible and scenic outdoor spaces in the U.S. This is a major environmental win for our state since passing the Great American Outdoors Act in 2020, which fully and permanently funded the Land and Water Conservation Fund. I am proud that this federal funding helped make this project possible and is doing exactly what it is meant to do: protecting our natural resources for generations to come.”

“Vermont’s outdoor recreation opportunities are world-renowned and our shared commitment to conservation and sustainability is critical to our way of life,” said Rep. Welch. “The protection of these acres around the Appalachian Trail will preserve Vermont’s wildlife and ensure this historic area remains accessible and safe for recreators. I have long supported the Land and Water Conservation Fund because these investments continue the vital work of protecting and conserving Vermont’s natural environments. I’ll continue to fight in Congress for the conservation of the great outdoors here in Vermont and the significant social, health, and economic benefits they provide.”

A national leader and advocate for the protection of environmentally sensitive areas through the financing of land acquisition, the Richard King Mellon Foundation has been instrumental in accelerating efforts to permanently conserve at-risk working forests across America.

“The Richard King Mellon Foundation has a long history of habitat conservation in New England and across the nation,” said Sam Reiman, the Foundation’s director. “Coupled with those protection efforts is an activation program to make those landscapes open and available to the public, while promoting sustainable rural economic development. By augmenting the corridor adjacent the Appalachian Trial, this project embodies both approaches.”

Management and stewardship of the AT in the Northeast is accomplished by a unique array of partnerships, all of whom helped design and implement this acquisition. Through a partnership agreement between the NPS and the U.S. Forest Service, the lands will be added to the GMNF Appalachian Trail Corridor management unit. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the Green Mountain Club support the AT in Vermont through stewardship and maintenance.

“The 629-acre Killington addition to the Green Mountain National Forest provides critical habitat protection and recreational access,” said Dennis Shaffer, director of landscape conservation at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. “The Conservation Fund’s leadership and investment in this important landscape along the Appalachian Trail will benefit generations into the future. Efforts such as this are dependent on the collaboration of numerous conservation organizations and agencies. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy applauds The Conservation Fund for the long-term commitment required to bring this project to completion.”

Courtesy National Park Service Conservation Fund
Map shows the acquired 629 acres of conservation land on both sides of the AT in Killington.

 

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