Salisbury conservation fund would protect key parcels, say advocates

SALISBURY — Members of the Salisbury Conservation Commission are pitching the idea of a local conservation fund that would allow the community to perpetually protect select local properties that have special environmental, scenic, recreational, agricultural and/or wildlife qualities.
Local residents Preston and Chris Turner have generously donated $5,000 in seed money for the proposed fund, according to commission member Heidi Willis. Preston serves on the conservation commission, while Chris is the community’s Green-Up Day organizer.
“It’s in the birthing stages,” Willis stressed of the fund.
Organizers recently presented the town selectboard with ideas on how to subsidize and use the proposed fund. They said the fund could be sweetened through occasional voluntary contributions, fundraising, grants from public or private sources, and/or municipal funds voted at annual or special town meetings.
Neighboring Middlebury is one of several Addison County communities to maintain a conservation fund.
Proposed fund uses include:
•Protecting and enhancing town water resources, including surface and ground waters, riparian and shoreland areas, floodplains and river corridors.
•Supporting biological diversity and protecting and enhancing wildlife habitat.
•Providing outdoor recreational opportunities.
•Spearheading conservation projects.
•Providing local matching funds needed to leverage private, state or federal grants for significant conservation projects.
•Purchasing lands or conservation easements in Salisbury, in cooperation with landowners and/or nonprofit organizations.
“A major benefit of this Conservation Fund is that it will help attract additional funds for conservation projects because many state, federal and private sources of conservation funding require a financial match from the community,” conservation fund boosters stated in a recent proposal narrative. “The conservation fund positions our town to take advantage of these opportunities for the benefit of current and future generations.”
The conservation commission would manage the funds. Transactions would need selectboard approval.
Willis hopes the fund earns townwide support and continues to grow to benefit future generations of Salisbury residents.
“We need to live mindful of the planet that gives us life,” she said.
In other Salisbury Conservation Commission news, the panel is working with its counterparts in neighboring communities, and with state environmental officials, to re-designate the so-called  “Cornwall Swamp” as a Class 1 wetland.
Cornwall Swamp Wildlife Management Area is currently designated a Class 2 wetland. It’s located along the west bank of Otter Creek in the towns of Cornwall and Whiting. It’s part of a vast swamp in the flatlands of the Otter Creek Valley. The 1,566-acre wildlife management area is part of a larger wetland that touches Middlebury, Leicester, Brandon and several other communities, Willis noted.
Advocates said a Class 1 designation — which must be granted by the state Legislature — would give greater protections to the swamp area, which Willis called a “jewel of its kind” in New England.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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