Until recently, Vermont Fish and Wildlife was just another name among a murky sea of state agencies that I’d hear and read about occasionally, but didn’t think about much.
And since I neither fish nor hunt, I was even less interested in that agency than the rest.
But twice now in just a few months, Vermont Fish and Wildlife has profoundly enriched my life.
First came the purchase of what’s now the Birdseye Mountain Wildlife Management Area. It spans five mountains over six miles, and we can see much of it right across the valley from our own home. And now, Fish and Wildlife has acquired the north shore of beautiful Sunset Lake in Benson and added it to the existing Pond Woods Wildlife Management Area.
The addition is only fifty acres, but it spans the lakeshore, so it opens up the lake to the public - a lake so deep, cold and pure that it holds the record for the clearest body of water in Vermont. These acres ensure that the lake is forever conserved for everyone’s quiet enjoyment. We can fish, hunt and swim, and soon, kayak and canoe. And we can birdwatch and hike through the rare dry oak forest.
Beyond human enjoyment, the area is crucial to animals that depend on the woods as a secure corridor for migrating between the Adirondacks and Green Mountains.
Lakeshore property is expensive and the Sunset Pond shoreline was no exception. Fish and Wildlife paid three hundred and fifty five thousand dollars for those fifty acres, with most of the funds coming from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board and from the agency’s national budget. But a significant amount was contributed through the agency’s Habitat Stamp program. Jane Lazorchak, who coordinates agency land acquisitions, hopes everyone who appreciates wild places will consider buying Habitat Stamps, not just those who hunt and fish.
The stamps have no actual value - you can’t even mail a letter with one - and they cost fifteen dollars apiece. But many people actually choose to pay more than that, maybe as much as a thousand, because they represent Vermonters’ devotion to conserving our wildlife and the lakes, rivers, forests and mountaintops they depend on.
Seen that way, the stamps are as priceless as the first spring day we’ll spend exploring this newest jewel in the Pond Woods Wildlife Management Area.