A large former hayfield between Route 7 in Colchester and the I-89 Interstate will be restored and preserved as a natural wetland. This 110-acre parcel is within an area known as “Munson Flats”, a wetland complex rich in fish, wildlife, and natural communities. It comprises the meandering Allen Brook and Lake Champlain-influenced wetlands, including seasonally flooded grasslands, wild rice and deep bulrush marshes, various scrub-shrub communities, and large red or silver maple-green ash floodplain forests. The complex is a wildlife haven for all sorts of critters, including waterfowl, wading birds, raptors, turkey, woodcock, deer, moose, otter, beaver, muskrat, mink, and a variety of amphibian and reptile species. The wetlands are also believed to be important spawning areas for warm water fish that reside in Lake Champlain; and a number of rare plant and animal species call Munson Flats their home.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) acquired the agricultural and development rights from the previous landowners through a Natural Resources Conservation Service Wetland Reserve Program. This program compensates landowners in order to restore wetlands that were changed and drained to create drier conditions for agricultural purposes. The plan is to restore the hydrology, topography and natural communities within the parcel to help improve wildlife habitat and restore the wetland’s floodplain function. The work will start this August, where crews from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the VT Department of Fish and Wildlife will remove man-made berms along the Allen Brook to restore its floodplain and create depressions to hold water. The USDA sold the parcel to the State of Vermont, resulting in public access to the land. Parking will be available along Route 7. This is a special opportunity to acquire a large piece of land to be preserved and naturalized within the heart of developed Chittenden County. The public will be able to enjoy a number of recreational benefits, including bird-watching and hunting.
The USDA is performing more outreach to property owners who may not be aware of the Wetland Reserve Program. Private landowners who have ditched, drained, filled or hydrologically-altered wetlands to create drier land for agriculture are eligible for enrollment in the Program, and can apply anytime. Funding is anticipated to be targeted towards more wetland restoration and conservation easement projects within the Lake Champlain Basin. More restoration projects results in an increase in wildlife habitat and water quality benefits in watersheds that are currently battling high amounts of phosphorus loading within the Lake Champlain Valley.
To find out more information about the NRCS Wetland Reserve Program, click the link provided: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/programs/easements/wetlands/?cid=nrcs143_008419