Unfolding over the past year, we’ve experienced something at Northern Woodlands that serves as a symbol for everything that we’ve stood for since we began publishing this magazine 11 years ago.
It began when a member of our Board called to tell us of a family that owned 100 acres of woodlands in East Burke, Vermont; they wanted to donate the property to an organization that would conserve it and use it to help educate people about the natural world. He had suggested to them that Northern Woodlands would be an appropriate steward of their vision.
In August of 2004, the family of Edward J. Oresky conveyed this land to Northern Woodlands – it was a gift outright, embodying full trust both in us and in the future of the land itself.
Our Board discussed the best way for us to use this gift in a way that honored the spirit with which it was given. We decided that we weren’t the ones to make best long-term use of the land; with limited resources and a full plate of program work, active management of forestland and a hands-on outreach and education program there was more than we could take on. And other organizations throughout the Northern Forest are doing this kind of work really well.
The Board voted to place a working forest conservation easement on this property and market it, looking for a buyer who would understand and support the spirit of the gift.
We worked with the Vermont Land Trust, a skilled and visionary organization that has protected hundreds of thousands of acres of Vermont’s working landscape, to design a conservation easement that would protect the land’s ecological values and make provision for its productive and educational use. Concurrently, we received a grant from the Freeman Foundation to cover the easement’s legal, administrative, and stewardship costs, thus assuring that, when sold, the full proceeds of the sale would support Northern Woodlands’s program work.
Readers of Northern Woodlands probably noticed a small advertisement in our spring issue: “Conserved Land for Sale.” Following a handful of inquiries, we got a phone call one day from Ric Prescott and Sally Calamaio of East Burke. They loved the idea that the land would be permanently protected, and spoke of their wish to build a home there and use the property as an outdoor classroom for the East Burke School, a private school where Ric serves as headmaster. In short order, the deal was done.
Most folks who know the forest and its associated economy spend at least some time worrying about its future; we’re always on the lookout for hopeful signs. And what could be more hopeful than this story? We receive a generous gift that will help us to sustain our work. A productive tract of forestland is conserved. A local couple sets their roots further into hometown soil. And young people will use the land to learn about its natural wonders, economic productivity, and ecological integrity.
Our thanks go out to all who made this story possible; score one for the future.