Investment of $500,000 made to help wildlife cross Route 100 on Waterbury-Stowe town line

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WATERBURY — The Route 100 scenic byway connects visitors and residents to some of Vermont’s most beautiful landscapes.

It also bisects a forested landscape that animals such as bear, moose, and bobcat need to thrive.

Concern for the future of these animals led a partnership of community members, municipalities, conservation groups, and state agencies to protect the last remaining forested corridor connecting the Green Mountains and Worcester Range.

The “Shutesville Hill Wildlife Corridor” crosses Route 100 on the Waterbury–Stowe town line and is the only viable connection between the Green Mountains and Worcester Range.

It is one of the five most important wildlife crossings in the state and a critical part of an international network of connected forest habitats in the northeast.

Three of the partnership’s members—Stowe Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy, and Vermont Land Trust— along with dedicated community members have raised $500,000 to cover the costs of permanently protecting three to five key properties in this critical area.

“It has been fantastic to see the initial enthusiasm and support from landowners, as well as our local and regional communities, for protecting this wildlife corridor,” says Kristen Sharpless, executive director of Stowe Land Trust. “We hope that the success of this kick-off effort will be an inspirational catalyst for additional conservation work that is needed to protect this critical area.”

The Lackey tract is one of the few remaining undeveloped parcels with frontage on highly traveled and fast-developing Route 100 and was sold to TNC for under appraised value.

“Conservation science shows that species are moving an average of 11 miles north and 30 feet in elevation in response to a changing climate. Wildlife does not adhere to borders, so TNC is working here at this location, throughout Vermont, New England, and across the Canadian border, to ensure that wildlife pathways are secured in a shifting landscape,” said Jim Shallow, director of conservation for TNC.

Chris Curtis and Tari Swenson conserved 63 centrally located acres in the corridor, ensuring the land will remain undeveloped and continue to have visitors like the mother bear and her two cubs that were spotted on a recent visit.

Eric and Dale Smeltzer donated a conservation easement on 287 acres that abut Mt. Mansfield State Forest and are host to several headwater streams and wetlands.

“Knowing that we are part of a large region-wide project is very exciting,” said Dale Smeltzer. “Conserving property in this wildlife corridor makes us feel more connected to our forestland—as if we’re now managing it with more purpose for the future.”

“Conserving these properties was only possible due to generous landowners who are protecting their forestland and wildlife habitat,” said Bob Heiser, regional director for VLT. “We hope that protecting these key properties will inspire others to consider doing the same.”

The Stowe Land Trust is actively working with the Trust for Public Land on the Hunger Mountain Headwaters project to conserve a 109-acre property nestled up against the Worcester Range in Stowe, and an additional 1,800 acres in Middlesex and Worcester.

Both properties will be added to the adjacent CC Putnam State Forest and will add quality forested habitat on the eastern edge of the wildlife corridor.