On June 5, 2024
Local News

Public comment sought on long-range management plan for Blueberry Hill and Birdseye Wildlife Management Areas

The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) will host an informational meeting open to the public on Wednesday, June 12, to present a draft long-range management plan (LRMP) for the Castleton Management Unit (CMU) plan for Blueberry Hill and Birdseye Wildlife Management Areas that will guide the management of these lands for the next 20 years.

The presentation will be held on June 12, from 6-8 p.m. at Kehoe Camp, 636 Point of Pines Road in Castleton. Information about the draft plan and public comment opportunities is available online. Officials are accepting public comments from June 12-Aug. 31, 2024.

The 4,725-acre management unit is located in the towns of Castleton, Poultney, and Ira, just 6 miles west of the city of Rutland. It consists of two Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) owned and managed for wildlife habitat and public access by the Fish & Wildlife Dept. in collaboration with the Dept. of Forests, Parks and Recreation. The overarching management objectives described in the LRMP are to:

  • Preserve the ecological integrity and cultural richness of the Castleton Management Unit
  • Foster resilience to climate change
  • Maintain diverse wildlife habitats
  • Promote sustainable outdoor activities centered on fishing and wildlife
  • Manage forests in a manner that sustains habitats, fosters forest health, produces wood products, and contributes to the local economy.

“Other than the Green Mountains, the Castleton Management Unit is a uniquely large, connected area of forest habitat for Rutland County,” said Travis Hart, state and private lands biologist with the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Dept. “Its rocky slopes, abundance of mast [nuts, berries, seeds] producing trees and open areas support a wide variety of species, making them a centerpiece of the ecological communities which surround the management unit.”

“The Castleton Management Unit is a uniquely large, connected area of forest habitat for Rutland County,” said Travis Hart.

Blueberry Hill WMA (1,152 acres) consists of four separate parcels with limited public and management access. Forests in the WMA include hardwood species like oak, hickory, and hornbeam, that provide an important source of food for wildlife, such as wild turkeys and black bears. Its softwood stands also provide crucial winter habitat for white tailed deer.

The much larger Birdseye WMA with five parking areas to support public access. Birdseye WMA (3,573 acres) lies to the south and is made up of two parcels with five parking areas to support public access. It is one of the largest blocks of uninterrupted forest in the Taconic Range. Its defining feature — the rocky summit of Birdseye mountain — is a historic and current nesting site for peregrine falcons, the result of a successful effort to recover the species from population declines in the 1960s.

The parcels that make up the CMU were acquired by the state of Vermont between 1970 and 2016. Blueberry Hill WMA was created in 1970 with conveyances from the Agency of Transportation associated with Route 4. Access to these properties was impacted by the construction of the highway and as a result, they were transferred to the Fish & Wildlife Dept. to be managed as wildlife habitat. Birdseye WMA was created in 1976 with just 580 acres. An acquisition in 2009 increased the WMA size to just over 700 acres. The WMA reached its current size in 2016 with the acquisition of over 2,800 acres.

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