conservation planning

The Fund for North Bennington has adopted new management plans for its woodlands near The Mile-Around Woods and Lake Paran

The Fund for North Bennington (The Fund) adopted new management plans in March 2022 for 332 acres near The Mile-Around Woods and Lake Paran.  These woodlands are managed for long-term conservation and for enjoyment by the community.  

The adopted plans were modified in response to public comments on the draft versions.  The plans along with a summary of public comments and The Fund’s responses can also be found below.

Why are new plans necessary?  An onslaught of invasives threatens the future of our forest and all the wildlife species that rely on it.  While invasive plants are present throughout, more than 284 acres (85 percent) are considered heavily infested.  These invasive species erupt first in the spring then out-grow, strangle and suppress native plants.  They smother the ground and block sunlight. Their berries are the junk food of the woods.  They are nutritionally worthless, but the seeds are dropped elsewhere to spread the plant.  The forest floor will soon be barren – no young trees and limited biodiversity – because few native trees successfully replace the waning mature ones you see on your walks.  The biodiversity crucial to forest resilience is further limited by extensive browsing by deer (they target native plants and avoid invasives).  

What are our goals?  We must create an ecological breathing space for key species in the woodlands. We will focus on removing invasives and limiting their re-growth (an annual task for the foreseeable future) and planting diverse native species to increase the health and resilience of woodlands habitat.  The plans aim to create conditions that allow a broad variety of invertebrates, plants and animals to hold their ground in the face of invasives’ pressure and climate change.  We also plan to monitor our progress, collecting data on a wide variety of ecosystem markers annually.  We plan to share the results of our work with other public and private landowners facing the same challenges.

How will invasives be controlled?  As advised by experts from multiple state and national conservation organizations, a range of techniques will be used.  The means will vary depending on location, degree of infestation and growth stage of invasive species.  Control methods, tailored for the target species, may include mechanical removal (from hand pulling to mulching machines for the towering invasives-only hedge rows), expert application of herbicides (cut-stump painting and focused foliar application) as well as back-pack burning of individual plants.  For the flush of new invasives that will arise from the enormous seed bank, we hope to employ those effective shrub grazers in selected areas: goats.  Chemical applications will be made strictly in accord with standards used by The Nature Conservancy and other leading conservation organizations; public notice will be given prior to application and treated areas will be clearly marked.  The work will be performed over ten years in specific areas identified in the plans.  However, the scope and success of the effort will depend crucially on our ability to secure adequate funding.

Do these plans affect the agricultural fields?  No.  The Fund will be reviewing its management of agricultural fields starting next year.  If you want to be involved in that process, please let us know.

How are the plans being implemented? A report on work performed in 2022 can be found here.