One day last November, I was hunting on a neighbor’s hundred-acre parcel after a snowfall. Just as the sun grazed the treetops, I found fresh tracks. I didn’t have much daylight, but I was sure this was a buck chasing a doe, so I followed until I was trespassing on land that belonged to my friend’s abutting neighbor, a woman who detests hunters and hunting, even though she doesn’t post her land.
This was not a place I wanted to be.
I blundered my way back to my car, keenly aware that while people may respect the imaginary lines we humans draw on the map to demarcate who owns what land, deer don’t. To a white tailed deer, a stone wall is just something to jump over; red paint on a tree is invisible; and a steel pin marking a corner, something to ignore; meanwhile, we humans have chopped the forest into small parcels, which we’ve cleared, paved and believe we own.
Learning to hunt is teaching me otherwise, and the education has led me to serve on the Green Mountain Conservancy, a non-profit whose mission is to acquire and protect wilderness lands in southern Vermont. Our current goal is to create the Deer Run Nature Preserve with over 1,200 acres of conserved of old forest in Dummerston, Brookline and Newfane in two phases.
Phase One includes almost three hundred acres located in the northwest corner of Dummerston and into Brookline. While mostly forested, two power lines cross the property, providing crucial shrub-scrub succession habitat for birds, with over 70 species identified so far, including species whose numbers have been declining in Vermont. There are confirmed deeryards on the property and convincing evidence of bear and bobcat activity.
Green Mountain Conservancy has a purchase and sale agreement on this parcel and expects to close on the land by the end of the year. The Vermont Housing and Conservation Board awarded GMC $150,000 toward the purchase and several private foundations have granted funding to complete the purchase, including legal and closing costs. Private donations large and small have begun to arrive.
With the seller’s permission, GMC board member Roger Haydock has cut a 2-mile trail from Camp Arden Road to the height of land. Despite the steepness of the terrain, the trail never exceeds an eight percent grade, allowing even occasional hikers to enjoy the breathtaking views of Black Mountain and the Dummerston Covered Bridge with modest effort.
Come Hike With Us!
The public is invited to hike this trail on Sunday, July 28 at 2:30 pm. Roger will lead the full 2.2 mile hike, which will take approximately 3 hours. Other board members will be on hand to lead hikers on shorter lengths of the trail. Refreshments and more information about the Deer Run Nature Preserve will be available. The trailhead is on Camp Arden Road about two miles north of the Dummerston Covered Bridge. There will be signs and volunteers to help with parking.
Phase Two will be the acquisition of 636 acres in Newfane, contiguous to the land in Phase One. Once these two properties are conserved, the Deer Run Nature Preserve will span both sides of the Putney Mountain Ridge and include over three miles West River shoreline. As a drainage basin into the West River, the land supports water storage capacity and protects water quality. The forested land is an essential carbon sink critical to ameliorating the effects of climate change. This area is already a critical wildlife corridor between the Connecticut River and the Green Mountain National Forest.
The Deer Run Nature Preserve will provide public access for hiking, hunting and being beyond the sound of traffic. I’ve already fallen in love with this land, where I walk attentively to the ways of the forest and learn the habitat and habits of the white tailed deer.
Volunteer and/or Donate
The Green Mountain Conservancy is a volunteer-run, non-for-profit, organization. Volunteers and tax-deductible donations are both welcome. More information is available at greenmountainconservancy.org.