Before we moved to Vermont, we lived in a wooded area north of New York City. Behind our tiny plot, some hundred acres of undeveloped land stretched away. We made it ours by walking in it, eating its berries and building tepee houses with fallen branches.
Then one day, the owner no one had ever seen sold it to a new owner, who put in a road and built fences. We were devastated. Over the years, that forest had become personal. Our outrage was unreasonable but keenly felt.
Today we live in the shadow of iconic Birdseye Mountain, a huge chunk of rocky cliff that’s just become part of the state’s newest Wildlife Management Area. At more than thirty six hundred acres, spanning nearly six miles, it’s one of Vermont’s largest such areas, stretching across mountains in Ira, Poultney and Castleton. Wild and spectacular, it’s home to peregrine falcons and diverse plants and animals including bears and bobcats.
I look at Birdseye from my house every day, and think about how this rugged mountain and surrounding land will never see bulldozers tearing through its forests, or fences keeping us out. All of us will be able to hunt, fish, birdwatch and hike there forever.
And I think about how just eight years ago, a wind project plan went public to construct thirty-three industrial wind towers, each almost five hundred feet high, across the mountaintops of what is now Birdseye Wildlife Management Area.
Thanks to the efforts of people like Annette Smith of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, and Justin Lindholm, who owned the top of Birdseye, the plan was voted down. And in 2013, the land was purchased by the Conservation Fund, and held in trust for the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department while financial support was secured from organizations like the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board and Green Mountain Power among others, as well as numerous generous individuals.
At the recent dedication of the Birdseye Wildlife Management Area, Nancy Bell of the Conservation fund, put it this way: Yes, it’s about the land; but it wouldn’t be ours if it weren’t for the people, people who love the land and gave their all to see it remain wild so we can all enjoy it. And for that, we can all give thanks.