A map of Black Mountain with the proposed acquisition.
A map of Black Mountain with the proposed acquisition.

DUMMERSTON -- The Nature Conservancy has a purchase and sale agreement for a 275-acre parcel on Black Mountain, and the group is working to get its financing together to complete the purchase.

Nature Conservancy Vermont Chapter Protection Director Jon Binhammer said the parcel is undeveloped and lies within a bowl surrounded by land that is already protected by the Nature Conservancy.

Binhammer said Black Mountain is one of the most geologically unique pieces of land in southern Vermont, and said if the group is successful in acquiring the new parcel, it would protect the area and leave it open to hikers, birders and hunters.

"This parcel is nothing short of spectacular. It is a beautiful piece of property," Binhammer said. "This mountain is an ecological gem in southern Vermont."

The Nature Conservancy has already conserved almost 600 acres on Black Mountain and the group maintains a kiosk and hiking trails.

Black Mountain is a pluton that formed between 345 and 395 million years ago. The exposed granite dome today is covered with a thin crust of sandy soil and the area contains plants that are not found anywhere else in Vermont.

Binhammer called the south facing mountain one of the hottest and driest places in Vermont and it has plants and trees that are typically found along coastal plains. The area is home to a scrub oak that is similar to the one found on Cape Cod and there are patches of mountain laurel, which is not found elsewhere in Vermont.

"It feels different and it smells different than places you visit in Vermont," Binhammer said. "This is a piece we want to protect for its natural features and also to keep it open to future hikers."

Binhammer said the parcel is owned by the Zuk family from Connecticut, and he said the Nature Conservancy has been eyeing the land for more than two decades. Every year, Binhammer said, the Nature Conservancy reached out to the family to see if they were interested in selling. A few years ago members of the family finally said they were interested in selling the land. The family at first wanted about $1 million, far more than the group thought it was worth, and a 2012 appraisal put the value at about $436,000.

Binhammer explained that the Nature Conservancy typically acquires small pieces and is able to stitch land acquisitions together to protect larger tracts.

This piece, he said, is a large, undeveloped parcel that is close to other land owned by the Nature Conservancy, and if the land deal successful it will bring the group's holdings on Black Mountain to about 1,000 acres.

The Nature Conservancy has been awarded a $135,000 grant from the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department and has additional applications in for other grants. Between $75,000 and $100,000 has to be raised through local donations.

The Dummerston Selectboard recently signed a letter of support for the Fish and Wildlife grant, which gives the department a conservation easement over the property The Fish and Wildlife Department easement ensures that the land remain open to the public.

The group has the land under contract and needs to close the deal before Aug. 1

For more information, or to donate to the acquisition, contact Binhammer at jbinhammer@tnc.org or call 802-229-4425.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 279.