Monkton land rolled into new preserve

MONKTON — After years of planning, conservationists in Vermont are celebrating the creation of a new wildlife preserve on 362 acres at the intersection of Charlotte, Monkton and Hinesburg.
The conservation project is known as “Raven Ridge,” and was stitched together from a donation of more than 160 acres from Charlotte and Hinesburg landowners Raven Davis and Ed Everts, as well as the purchase of 201 acres from Monkton landowners John Paluska and Cynthia Brown.
The Vermont Land Trust and the Vermont chapter of The Nature Conservancy teamed up on the project, valued at $1.2 million, and members of both organizations are celebrating the conservation of what they say is an ecologically rich island of wildlife in the otherwise largely developed Champlain Valley.
Raven Ridge runs north to south just northwest of Cedar Lake in Monkton. The conservation project, which is owned by The Nature Conservancy, stretches south from Lewis Creek along the scenic ridge, and includes a large swath of wetland south of Rotax Road in Monkton.
The ridge is topped by rock formations that are home to ravens, porcupines and bobcats. Where the land drops off steeply on both sides of the ridge, beaver, otter and mink have taken up residence in the wetlands. Other habitat types included in the preserve include vernal pools and valley clay plain forests, and the region is also home to the federally endangered Indiana bat.
“In this one relatively small place, you’ve got incredible diversity,” said Emily Boedecker, the director of philanthropy and marketing for The Nature Conservancy in Vermont.
The two conservation groups patched together funding for the $1.2 million project from a number of sources. They received a $500,000 federal grant for protecting the Indiana bat habitat, and raised matching funds from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, the Charlotte Land Trust, grants from all three towns, and donations from more than 200 individuals.
“It’s a beautiful story of just everybody pitching in at the level that they could,” Boedecker said.
Of the $1.2 million, roughly $711,000 was spent to purchase the Paluska-Brown property in Monkton.
Though The Nature Conservancy owns the land, it was originally the Vermont Land Trust that landowners in the area approached to talk about conserving the parcel. As the ecological value of the land was better understood, though, the VLT realized that the project might be better suited to outright ownership — a model The Nature Conservancy uses — rather than the conservation easements typically used by the land trust.
Now that The Nature Conservancy owns the property, the conservationists have plans for marking boundaries and putting in a small parking area off of Rotax Road. Eventually they hope to build more trails and an information kiosk.
“It’s well worth a visit,” Boedecker said. “It’s an absolute gem from the wildlife perspective. It’s just so rich and diverse.”
Reporter Kathryn Flagg is at kathrynf@addisonindependent.com.
CORRECTION: The photograph that accompanied this story “Monkton land rolled into new preserve” originally misrepresented the extent of the new 362-acre wildlife preserve. The ridge in the background of the photograph belongs to the new Raven Ridge preserve, but the land in the foreground is privately owned. We regret the error.

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