Vermont Press Releases

The Nature Conservancy secures $255,000 for wildlife habitat in Wolcott

News Release -- The Nature Conservancy
Oct. 17, 2018

Media Contact:
Eve Frankel

The Nature Conservancy Secures $255,000 to Improve Wildlife Movement and Habitat in Wolcott

Oct 17, 2018, Wolcott, Vermont: The Nature Conservancy was recently awarded $225,000 by the Canaday Family Charitable Trust, and in partnership with the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, an additional $30,000 from the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation for a multi-year habitat conservation project in Wolcott, Vermont. The funds will be used for wetland restoration, tree plantings, removal of a defunct bridge, and other enhancements to allow for wildlife movement in a changing climate landscape on lands owned by the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.

The Science

Conservation science shows that climate change is driving species to move 11 miles farther north and 30 feet higher in elevation per decade. The Nature Conservancy is working with partners around the state to ensure wildlife can continue to move in an increasingly fragmented landscape due to development and declining forests. One way to reach this goal is to adapt our transportation system to allow for species movement by installing oversized culverts, maintaining vegetated buffers along river corridors, and connecting known habitat linkage areas.

The Nature Conservancy and its partners deployed game cameras along VT Route 15 and the Wild Branch of the Lamoille River during the last four years to study the behavior of deer, bear, bobcats, and other wildlife moving through the landscape. The research found an abundance of wildlife in the area but also noted multiple obstacles for movement, including lack of tree cover, a derelict bridge abutment blocking the shoreline, and large riprap under the Route 15 bridge.

The Partner Project

The Nature Conservancy, in partnership with the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, Vermont Department of Transportation, and the Town of Wolcott will be working to (1) modify an existing bridge to enable wildlife passage; (2) remove a derelict bridge; (3) restore a wetland; and (4) plant trees on the floodplains of the Wild Branch.

This is the first effort in the eastern US to combine habitat restoration with transportation infrastructure modification for wildlife movement. The project will restore a critical connection between large forest blocks, while also providing water quality, flood retention, and road safety benefits.

“The Nature Conservancy is excited to help Vermont build a wildlife-friendly road network that allows species like bear and bobcat, to shift their ranges in response to climate change. These projects have multiple benefits beyond species movement-- thriving floodplain forests and protected wetlands also provide water quality and flood resilience benefits to people and communities,” said Heather Furman, state director for The Nature Conservancy in Vermont. “The success of this work depends on the power of partnerships as we work together to help people and nature adapt to climate change impacts.”

“Movement corridors between large areas of unbroken forest will be essential for many species as they are adjusting to habitat loss, fragmentation and the broader effects of climate change,” said John Austin, lands and habitat program manager for Vermont Fish &Wildlife. “This project brings together the best of conservation science and on-the-ground improvements to public lands to benefit a wide array of species. . We look forward to beginning the work and assessing its benefits.”

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