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VHCB Grants Address Water Quality and Help Farmers Transfer Farms to the Next Generation

http://www.vhcb.org/press/10-5-2016.html

At a meeting on October 5, the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board committed $233,468 in state funding and $633,500 in federal funds from the Natural Resources Conservation Service to conserve 490 acres of farmland in Franklin, Rutland, Washington, and Windsor Counties. The conservation easements for each of the five farm projects will include water quality protections for surface waters and riparian areas. Two of the farm projects will involve transfers to younger farmers. The Vermont Chapter of the Nature Conservancy will contribute $265,000 to two of the farm projects as part of a collaboration with the Keurig Green Mountain Company aimed at protecting and restoring water quality in Lake Champlain.

“We are pleased that each of the five farm projects to be conserved by the Vermont Land Trust will have water quality-related easement protections,” said VHCB Executive Director Gus Seelig, who also noted that three of the projects will use federal Regional Conservation Partnership Program funds targeted to farms within the Lake Champlain watershed. Another priority for VHCB has been to facilitate the transfer of farms to the next generation. “Conserving the land makes the farms more affordable to young farm buyers,” said Seelig. “It’s gratifying that two of the farms funded this month involve transfers to the next generation of farmers.”

The Board also committed $125,000 to the Town of Waitsfield to support an effort to add 110 acres to the 640-acre Scrag Town Forest. The acquisition would protect water quality, open up new trails to the summit of Scrag Mountain, and provide for development of a parking area at the trail head. Other funding for the project includes $256,650 from the federal Community Forest Program and $65,485 in private fundraising. The community will need to raise $40,000 in additional funds and receive town approval from Waitsfield to successfully complete this project.

One of the projects funded on October 5 is a former dairy farm in Calais that will be conserved by the Vermont Land Trust and sold to a farmer selected in a competitive process through VLT’s Farmland Access Program. The easement will protect a river corridor and wood turtle habitat and will provide permanent public access along Pekin Brook, a popular fishing stream. VHCB’s commitment of $130,609 in state and federal funds to protect the 129-acre farm will be matched by $30,000 from the Calais conservation fund and $60,000 from The Nature Conservancy and Keurig Green Mountain; $10,430 will need to be raised locally.

In other commitments, the Board approved $20,000 in funding to help the City of Newport hire a real estate consultant to advise the city following termination of a planned downtown redevelopment that was to use EB-5 investor funds. The site is across the street from the library and adjacent to the courthouse, in the heart of downtown, in an area that may be suitable for mixed residential and commercial development.

VHCB also granted $50,000 to the Committee on Temporary Shelter (COTS) to assist that organization in a project at the former Burlington College campus on North Avenue in Burlington. The site will host 14 new efficiency and studio apartments for very low-income and homeless individuals, a new day station to be used by homeless people, and offices for COTS, which has raised more than $2 million for the project. The VHCB contribution will help address budget shortfalls due to environmental contamination and structural deficiencies in the existing building.

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photo: Scrag Mountain, Waitsfield - courtesy of Sinuosity.net

The Vermont Housing & Conservation Board makes loans and grants for affordable housing and for the conservation of agricultural and recreational land, forestland, natural areas and historic properties. More information at www.vhcb.org