Leahy, Sanders and Welch Announce $656,000 in Forest Grants

Vermont’s congressional delegation announced Tuesday that Williston and Richmond have received a combined $656,000 in U.S. Forest Service grants to create town forests.

In a joint statement, Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) said, “We are pleased these federal funds will allow the towns of Williston and Richmond to conserve key tracts of forest, increase public access and improve recreational opportunities for local residents.” 

The federal investment announced by the Forest Service is the result of a national competition that selected only seven projects nationally, including these two outstanding Vermont projects: $400,000 was awarded for the Catamount Community Forest in Williston; and $256,000 was awarded for the Richmond Town Forest in Richmond.  

The federal funding is part of the U.S. Forest Service’s Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program.  This program, created by legislation authored by Leahy in the 2008 Farm Bill, has its roots in Vermont’s long tradition of creating town forests that provide community and economic benefits through sustainable forest management, environmental benefits, forest experiential learning, replicable models of effective forest stewardship, and recreational opportunities.

The Vermont projects are:

Catamount Community Forest, Williston: This 383-acre acquisition will create a town-owned forest for public recreation, wildlife habitat and water quality protection.  This property is already well-used by many and well-known as the Catamount Outdoor Family Center. Its conservation will permanently preserve public access to an extensive trail network that includes paths open to wheelchairs in the summer and sit-skiing in the winter, as well as connections to trails in adjacent forests which include a National Recreation Trail. This land also includes large tracts of intact forestland that are uncommon in Chittenden County and will conserve critical habitat for black bear, otter and bobcat. In addition, keeping the forest intact will reduce the risk of harmful sedimentation into the Winooski River.

Richmond Town Forest, Richmond: This project will conserve Andrews Forestland, which has more than 400 acres of high-quality land with significant natural resources and recreation potential. This land is at the heart of the Chittenden County Uplands Conservation Project, a federally-supported conservation effort that has resulted in the protection of working forest and agricultural lands. Neighboring the iconic Monitor Barns, the Andrews parcel is a conservation lynchpin, abutting more than 5,000 acres of publicly accessible land. The forest hosts a range of wildlife species and a mix of hardwood and softwood that may be harvested for timber and forest products. Conserving the land will also positively impact water quality and increase flood resiliency.

Since the Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program was created in the 2008 Farm Bill, nearly $13 million has been provided in financial assistance to partners in 19 states and territories to develop or expand community and town forests.

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