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Winooski Conservation District staff and volunteers planted 0.6 acres of riparian buffer along McCabe’s Brook in the LaPlatte River in Spring 2020.

Beginning in 2020, Vermont’s Natural Resources Conservation Districts planted 34.25 acres of native trees and shrubs across the Lake Champlain Basin through the Conservation District-led Trees for Streams Program. Funded in part by the Lake Champlain Basin Program (LCBP), the Trees for Stream Program supports the restoration of streamside habitat, or riparian buffers, to meet Vermont’s clean water goals.

Funding awarded to the State Natural Resources Conservation Council (NRCC) was distributed to Conservation Districts within the basin to identify, develop, and implement streamside buffers. Through 13 projects on private and publicly owned lands, the Franklin County, Lamoille County, Orleans County, Otter Creek, Poultney Mettowee, and Winooski Conservation Districts planted 22% more acres than their original planting goal.

According to the Lake Champlain Basin Program’s 2021 State of the Lake report, 18% of phosphorus inputs to the basin come from stream bank sources and erosion. Riparian buffers are a cost-effective method to filter nutrient and sediment runoff to surface waters, control erosion, improve fish and wildlife habitat, maintain water temperature, and give rivers and streams critically needed space to maintain their natural dynamic condition. 

To protect natural communities and reduce the spread of invasive species, the plantings featured locally sourced, native species selected for their soil type, anticipated impact on water quality, state and partner input, and longevity. In addition, landowners agreed to maintain the plantings for 10 years, ensuring long-term success and resiliency. 

Misty Koloski, a dairy farmer in Newport Center, worked with Orleans County Conservation District to revegetate 2.3 acres in Spring 2020. She said “Our experience with this project was certainly positive and the outcome great. Working with the Orleans County NRCD Director and the tree planting contractor’s was seamless. I was very pleased with the professionalism and methodology including selecting the species for the project. We appreciate that there were elderberry trees included for the birds! With the assistance provided planting a riparian buffer and putting up a fence to get the heifers out of the stream our family organic dairy is positioned to improve the watershed and the small game habitat around our farm.”

Funding for the Trees for Streams program was supplemented by the efforts of volunteers, communities and towns, and the expertise of technical specialists. Additional support and collaboration came from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Intervale Center, the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, the VT Agency of Agriculture, the VT Department of Environmental Conservation, and PUR Projet.

Lake Champlain Basin Program’s partnership with the NRCC and Conservation Districts has grown the statewide Trees for Stream program, which plays a vital role in protecting Lake Champlain’s tributaries, engaging communities, improving water quality and flood resilience, and enhancing wildlife habitats. Individuals interested in learning more or working with their local Conservation District on tree plantings can find contact information here.


Orleans County Conservation District and volunteers standing alongside a recently planted streamside buffer in Newport.

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Vermont’s Natural Resources Conservation Districts were created by the Vermont Soil Conservation Act of 1939. Today, Vermont’s 14 Conservation Districts work directly with landowners, communities, and partner organizations to conserve, protect, and use Vermont’s natural resources. Conservation Districts promote water quality through education, agriculture, forestry, watershed protection, and urban conservation programs.

The State Natural Resources Conservation Council (NRCC) is a state Agency serving Vermont’s 14 Natural Resources Conservation Districts. NRCC’s mission is to advance conservation and water quality efforts in Vermont by providing strategic guidance and operational support to conservation districts, contributing a local perspective on state conservation policies, and facilitating the sharing of information among members and partners.

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This project was funded by an agreement LC00A00394 awarded by the Environmental Protection Agency to the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission in partnership with the Lake Champlain Basin Program. NEIWPCC manages LCBP’s personnel, contract, grant, and budget tasks and provides input on the program’s activities through a partnership with the LCBP Steering Committee. Although the information in this document has been funded wholly or in part by the United States Environmental Protection agency under agreement LC00A00394 to NEIWPCC, it has not undergone the Agency’s publications review process and therefore, may not necessarily reflect the views of the Agency and no official endorsement should be inferred. The viewpoints expressed here do not necessarily represent those of NEIWPCC, the LCBP Steering Committee, or EPA, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or causes constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.