Vermont Nature Conservancy closes on Black Mountain land

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DUMMERSTON >> When it comes to the ongoing effort to preserve Dummerston's Black Mountain, three numbers loom large for The Nature Conservancy — 883, 126 and 1,009.

The first number is the Black Mountain acreage now owned by the Montpelier-based conservancy after recently closing on a 280-acre purchase. And, within weeks, the organization will complete purchase of another 126 acres, carrying the organization's total holdings past the 1,000-acre mark.

The purchases will allow the conservancy to provide additional, official hiking routes. More importantly, they will ensure that the land in question will remain unspoiled.

"The geology and ecology of the place is really pretty spectacular, and preserving it is our main goal there," said Jon Binhammer, the conservancy's protection director.

Black Mountain looms 1,280 feet over the landscape, and its granite dome and unique vegetation also stand out. That's why preservationists have worked so hard to conserve the land, and The Nature Conservancy has been looking to expand its holdings.

That effort has taken a big step forward with the long-awaited purchase of the ZFR property, touted as a "crown jewel" of the conservancy's holdings.

"We have closed on that 280-acre parcel," Binhammer said.

Advocates say features of the new conservancy property include a beaver pond and a "seasonal creek cascading over solid granite." The purchase also will allow the conservancy to offer another officially marked hiking opportunity to the mountain's western summit.

"As part of this, we're hoping to reopen a loop trail on the property," he said. "We have to go through some permitting for that."

The conservancy also is close to adding another key parcel.

"We are under contract and are closing in mid-January on the Stahl property, which is 126 acres," Binhammer said.

The conservancy has worked with the Friends of Black Mountain Committee to complete both land purchases.

Fundraising for the $900,000 project continues but is "very close" to the finish line, officials said. Donations by check can be sent to The Vermont Nature Conservancy, 27 State St., Montpelier VT 05602; Binhammer said the memo line should note, "For Black Mountain."

"We're in the public phase of the campaign now," Binhammer said. "We're accepting smaller donations from people ... and those will make up the last bit of fundraising."

"We've received very generous donations from some anonymous donors and many small gifts from local members and supporters," he added.

Financial assistance for the purchases included $245,000 from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board. There also was a $135,000 grant from the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.

"(The state's) interest was in protecting the rare natural communities there and protecting the public access for sportsmen and women," Binhammer said.

Additionally, the Open Space Institute contributed $150,000 through its Resilient Landscapes Fund.

"That is specifically for areas that have been determined through a scientific process to be more resilient to the impacts of climate change," Binhammer said.

Contact Mike Faher at 802-254-2311, ext. 275.


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