Guildhall – February 2, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — Farmers Chris and Hannah Fay were able to expand their dairy farm by selling a conservation easement to the Vermont Land Trust on property they had just purchased. As part of the conservation project, they also donated land to The Nature Conservancy that will become part of the Great Guildhall Swamp Preserve. The Fays had been renting the parcel for several years and using it for hay to support their dairy herd. The sale of the easement made buying the land more affordable.
“We conserved this land because we felt it was a prime development spot and wanted to help protect agriculture in the state,” said Hannah about their decision. “Even if our own kids don’t want to farm the land, it will still be available to feed the growing population.” The Fays manage a 200-cow dairy that is located further north in Maidstone. Their home farm was conserved with the Vermont Land Trust in 2007.
Their new 61-acre parcel is located on the Connecticut River outside the village of Guildhall on Vermont Route 102. It has 26 tillable acres and high quality agricultural soils.
The land was protected through a conservation easement— a legal tool that limits development. Landowners continue to own, manage, and pay taxes on the land and can sell their land; however, the conservation easement permanently remains on the property.
The farm has frontage along two-tenths of a mile of the Connecticut River. The conservation easement ensures that land within 50 feet of the river will not be farmed or cleared. A 50-foot buffer is important for filtering sediments and nutrients from entering the Connecticut River.
The easement also provides for a new Connecticut River Paddlers’ Trail primitive campsite. The trail has campsites and river access points spanning 400 miles from the river’s headwaters to the Long Island Sound. No single entity manages the trail. Instead, a group of partner organizations, including Vermont Land Trust, collaborate with development and stewardship. The Vermont River Conservancy, which has taken a lead role in the trail, will build the campsite with funding from the Upper Connecticut River Mitigation and Enhancement Fund.
The 31 acres of woodland and wetland on the property are adjacent to, and help buffer, the Great Guildhall Swamp Preserve, owned by The Nature Conservancy. This magical natural area has 375 acres of spruce-fir-tamarack swamp and provides habitat for moose, white-tailed deer, snowshoe hare and boreal birds.
As part of the conservation project, the Fays donated an additional 9.5 acres of wetland immediately adjacent to the preserve to The Nature Conservancy.
“It’s not really like a swamp,” said Jon Binhammer, the chapter’s Director of Land Protection. “It is a wetland, but you aren’t slogging through deep water. Visitors will tread on a beautiful bed of sphagnum moss which acts like a giant sponge–soaking up floodwaters that could prove damaging downstream.”
This project was funded by state, federal, and private sources. A Vermont Housing and Conservation Board grant was matched by the federal Agricultural Conservation Easement Program managed by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Private funding came from the Upper Connecticut River Mitigation and Enhancement Fund of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.
“Conserving this piece of land provides so much to the community,” said Tracy Zschau of the Vermont Land Trust. “It protects valuable farmland and supports a family dairy, while protecting water quality, habitat, and expanding recreation.”