GUILFORD -- As a local staffer for Vermont Land Trust, Joan Weir has been working to conserve Vermont's farms, forests and community properties for 15 years.
But that doesn't mean that she and her husband, George, made a snap decision to permanently conserve 287 acres of woodland they own in Guilford.
Weir says she and her husband "pondered, this, like many landowners do." In the end, they decided to donate a conservation easement to the land trust in order to protect the property in perpetuity.
"I think the both of us were really struck by the location of where this property is," Joan Weir said. "It's really in this little valley that kind of remains secluded and remote. It's not an area that's been developed."
Her husband put it this way: "Some places deserve to remain the same."
The Weirs reside in Williamsville but own the land in question, which is described as a "large working forest, managed for long rotations of hardwood timber."
The parcel abuts other conserved lands and borders the Green River just below Guilford's historic Green River Covered Bridge.
Both of the Weirs have professional connections to land management and conservation.
George Weir is a consulting forester. And Joan Weir, who previously worked for Windham Regional Commission, has served as Vermont Land Trust's regional director for southeastern Vermont since 1999.
Most recently, she has participated in efforts to find new owners for the Bunker Farm and Elysian Hills Tree Farm, both in Dummerston. Those projects are still in progress, with the sale of the Bunker Farm likely to be finalized this spring.
Preserving forests is a different matter than conserving farms. Weir said that, while the land trust often purchases conservation easements for farm land, there are no funding mechanisms to support conserving woodland.
Therefore, "ours was a donation," she said. "Probably 20 or 40 percent of our work at Vermont Land Trust is through donations."
A conservation easement does not change the Weirs' ownership of the Guilford forest land. But it means that they and any future owners cannot develop the property.
Vermont Land Trust administrators said there is inherent value in a conserved, but still productive, forest: It supports local loggers and mills while also providing wildlife habitat and preserving scenic vistas.
Still, Joan Weir said she recognizes that the decision to pursue a conservation easement -- whether via sale or donation of development rights -- is a decision that can take time and much consideration.
Some property owners work through that process quickly. Others, she said, need more time.
"As with many things, it's easy to kind of put off a decision that might have such long-range impact," Weir said. "That's been my experience, in working with landowners. It's a very individual decision."
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.