In 2019, Seth and Diane Butler attended an agricultural grant-writing workshop hosted by PMNRCD looking for assistance implementing a riparian buffer and exclusion fencing project on their new farm. The Butlers had recently begun managing a 270-acre farm in Pawlet, Vermont that had been in Diane’s family for generations and conserved the property through the Vermont Land Trust.
The Butler’s property, now named Deep Roots Farm, consists of hay fields, pastures, and woodlands, and is located just 3 miles away from the Village of Pawlet. This area of Pawlet is in the Flower Brook Watershed, which is a tributary to the Mettowee River and eventually feeds into Lake Champlain. Through years of gathering water quality sampling data, PMNRCD and partners have identified the Flower Brook Watershed as an area in need of best management practice implementation due to the high nutrient levels found in the brooks there. The Flower Brook watershed is also of high priority due to its vulnerability to climate change and potential for flood damage downstream.
The project consisted of 6,440 feet of exclusion fencing, encompassing a 7.4-acre buffer planted with 2,085 trees and shrubs, and the work included removing a small berm on the lower stretch of stream, and improving a farm road to reduce erosion draining to the stream at the crossing.
The scope and documented need for the project allowed PMNRCD to coordinate with a variety of partners to complete the different aspects of the project. Implementation funding was provided through Trees for Streams, a state-wide program funded by an Agency of Natural Resources Buffer Planting grant through the Vermont Association of Conservation Districts, the private foundation PUR Projet, and funding from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
In the spring of 2020, PMNRCD worked to move the project forward. Forested riparian buffers have many benefits for the health of the landscape; they protect water quality by filtering runoff, increase available wildlife cover, food supply, and connectivity, improve many aspects of aquatic habitat, and reduce erosion and flooding damage by connecting waterways to their natural floodplain. With the exception of apples and blueberries that were included, PMNRCD planted all native trees and shrubs, including types of dogwood, willow, maple, oak, and viburnum species. Many of these plants came from local Vermont plant nurseries such as the Intervale Conservation Nursery in Burlington and the Champlain Valley Native Plant Restoration Nursery in Poultney.
In addition to assisting PMNRCD’s planting crew with the buffer, the Butler family also constructed the exclusion fence and removed the small berm. Exclusion fencing has many water quality benefits. In this project, the fencing limits the contact the Butler family’s livestock has with the stream and only allows crossing at designated areas where the stream is stable. This conservation practice will help reduce future bank and soil erosion and prevent widespread nutrient runoff.
PMNRCD continually works with area farmers and partner organizations to implement projects and practices that have water quality benefits and will enhance the farming experience from an economic and ecological perspective. Please contact PMNRCD if you are interested in becoming involved or would like to learn more about their work.