News Releases

July 27, 2012

Celebration of Johnson Farm and New Wildlife Management Area in Canaan & Lemington, VT

The Johnson Farm in Canaan, Vermont, has been a mainstay of the local farming community for more than 30 years. When Bill and Ursula Johnson were looking to retire, they approached the Vermont Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy to explore options to protect the 849 acres of farmland and natural area along the Connecticut River.

In partnership with the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, plans to conserve a working farm on 583 acres and create a new state-owned Wildlife Management Area (WMA) on 266 acres were unveiled late last year. Essential funding for this conservation deal included the largest single grant yet made in the 49-year history of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation’s Upper Connecticut River Mitigation and Enhancement Fund, significant investments from the Vermont Housing and Conservation and funding from the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, Pew Charitable Trusts, and the Department of Environmental Conservation.

With the completion of this conservation project more than six miles of river frontage, a 600 head working dairy farm - the largest in Canaan and Lemington, and new recreational access to a pristine reach of the upper Connecticut River, have been permanently secured.

On Friday August 3, 2012, the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, The Nature Conservancy and the Vermont Land Trust will host an open house and field day to celebrate the successful completion of this ambitious project. The general public is invited to join the celebration, and be among the first to tour the farm, with new owners Cy and Andrea Nelson, and to visit a section of the new WMA.

The celebration begins at 11a.m., and tours of the farm and natural area will conclude at approximately 2:30 p.m. Light refreshments will be provided, and guests are invited to bring a picnic lunch to enjoy. RSVP’s are requested at johnsonevent@vlt.org, or call (802) 223-5234.

The WMA, still to be named, is only the third WMA on the banks of the Connecticut River in its 200 mile journey along Vermont’s eastern border. In this northern location where the river runs free of dams and impoundments lush wetlands, oxbow ponds and floodplain forest provide a haven for wildlife, songbirds and water fowl. Public Access, to be managed on the farm and natural area by the VTFWD, will be enhanced with the creation of a new boat access and primitive canoe campsites.

“The Johnson property possesses distinctive natural heritage and agricultural characteristics, and is treasured locally for waterfowl hunting and fishing,” said Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Patrick Berry. “The combination of conserving critical wetland and shoreline habitat, protecting important agricultural lands, and providing permanent public access for a myriad of outdoor recreational activities is representative of Vermont’s core values. This property is an excellent addition to our statewide system of Wildlife Management Areas.”

The Johnson Farm, now under the management and ownership of Cy and Andrea Nelson, is in good hands. The Nelsons, third-generation dairy farmers from Derby, VT, were selected by the Vermont Land Trust during a competitive application process. The Nelsons have hit the ground running on the farm, currently milking a herd of over 200 cows and employing five full-time workers. Their current operation and plans for the future will be detailed during the farm tour on August 3rd.

Reflecting on the outcome of their decision to conserve the Farm he has managed with his wife for the last 30 years, Bill Johnson said: "It is our hope that this transition of ownership will preserve for future generations the values that we have held for our land: independent ownership of the agricultural assets for food production, support for the local community, protection and enhancement of the wildlife and natural habitat, improved water quality, and open access to ensure that this land can be enjoyed forever.”

Source: Department of Fish and Wildlife
Last Updated at: July 27, 2012 13:13:56